“I’m the best there is at what I do… but what I do isn’t very nice.” For decades, that has been the mantra of Wolverine, a character who went from a side-guy to one of the most iconic in comic books. Originally a minor character, Wolverine was pushed thanks to his work in X-Men to become a breakout. Short but tough as hell, he had a fantastic hidden history as his healing factor allowed him to survive any wound and come back. It also meant he aged slower, so he was nearly 200 years old. Add in his skeleton covered with an unbreakable metal and sharp claws and you had one very amazing fighter. He also had an honorable streak and wrestling with whether he was more animal than man yet his struggles won fans over by the multitudes. In a fight, he was seen slashing up guys by the dozens and overcoming most any odds so it’s no wonder he’s come out on top in many a fight.
But not every one. Often, there are threats even Wolverine has a tough time facing. While he’s great with most forces, throw him against someone cosmic and it’s a different story. Major bad guys like Apocalypse have managed to beat him down badly. Magneto famously tore the metal off his skeleton, which nearly killed him. Wolverine’s tussles with the Hulk are legendary with the Jade Giant often leaving him for dead. But then there are times when he’s been taken down by some surprising folks, hero and villain alike. Here are fifteen characters you may not know have taken down Wolverine, showing how sometimes, he really isn’t “the best” after all.
15. Doctor Octopus
This long-time Spider-Man foe is notable for his mechanical arms that make him a far more capable fighter than his chubby build would indicate. For a while, he had arms made out of adamantium (the same unbreakable metal as Wolverine’s skeleton and claws), which meant it would have been hard to cut them. Though they never crossed paths, Octopus can say he beat Wolverine down. In a controversial storyline, Doc Oc managed to put his mind into Peter Parker’s body, pushed to become a hero in his own right. Of course, he was still Otto Octavius with his arrogance pushing him as the “Superior” Spider-Man. He was fighting a genetically engineered spider monster when the X-Men showed up. Otto was concerned one of the telepaths on the team might read his mind and figure out the truth. So when Wolverine got into his face about this, Spider-Man stunned everyone by nailing Wolverine with a massive blow that sent him flying off. In a funny bit, Otto defended himself to the X-Men with “you know he had it coming” and they had to shrug in agreement. It was a unique moment as it showed that, if push came to shove, Spider-Man could beat Wolverine easily and it took Octopus to prove that.
Originally, Venom was a full-on villain. Disgraced when Spider-Man exposed his greatest story as a fake, reporter Eddie Brock was considering suicide. He found himself joined by an alien symbiont that Spider-Man had previously rejected. Together, Venom dedicated himself to destroying Spider-Man. However, the character’s awesome look won fans over and he shifted to more of an anti-hero, often protecting those he deemed innocent while giving brutal “justice” to those he felt had wronged him. It should be no surprise that in his heyday, Venom tackled Wolverine, the two fighting it out majorly in a storyline. While Wolverine’s claws are razor sharp, the alien is able to shift its shape around, allowing Venom to block or even absorb Logan’s claws. His strength also helps as he gives Wolverine some very hard shots that knock him down badly and gets some nasty cuts of his own in. Most other battles ended in a draw but Venom showed that when it came to being ruthless and wild, he could almost outdo Wolverine.
13. Molly Hayes
Runaways was a major hit for Marvel with its cool setup. A group of friends hanging out discover their parents are dye-in-the-wool supervillains; time travellers, aliens, crime lords, super scientists, the works. Calling themselves the Pride, the group basically runs the West Coast and were preparing a major sacrifice for some dark powers. Going on the run, their kids try to handle the question of whether they’re destined to be evil too. Molly is the youngest member of the team who discovers she’s a mutant with super-strength and throws herself into the hero game as she’s been following them for so long. In one issue, the team helps Cloak, who’s been framed for attacking his partner, Dagger, and is being hunted by the Avengers. Confronted at a church, Molly at first goes full fangirl upon meeting Wolverine. When he makes it clear he wants Cloak, Molly first cries like a baby…then with a single punch, sends Wolverine flying and into the snowy street. That’s right, Wolverine got his butt handed to him in one blow by a ten-year-old. That one has to sting.
The early run of Chris Claremont’s X-Men had him treating Wolverine much differently than we know today. Wolverine was shown younger, as more of a punk with a harsh attitude and not overly bright. Often, he would throw himself into a fight without waiting for orders and it would end up badly for him. Such a case was when the X-Men found themselves transported to a distant galaxy in a battle with the alien Shi’ar. Their mad emperor was trying to use M’Kraan Crystal to take over the universe, not realizing its forces could wipe out all existence. The X-Men faced Jahf, a three-foot tall alien who declared himself the guardian of the Crystal and warned them to leave or die. Laughing, Wolverine moved in, ignoring Cyclops’ warning to stay back. With a single punch, Jahf literally sent Wolverine flying into near orbit, crashing so hard it took a while for him to bounce back. Artist John Byrne didn’t like it as he would push Wolverine into more the capable fighter with Claremont than helping him improve. Still, getting smacked around by someone even shorter than him had to be an embarrassment for Logan.
A tendency of comic book writers is to make a new character a big deal by having them take down an established character. With the Avengers, it’s Captain America and with the X-Men, it’s Wolverine. Gambit had been introduced in 1990 as a mysterious figure with his Cajun background and the power to charge up anything into a kinetic blast. Chris Claremont boosted him majorly as he and Wolverine fought in the Danger Room with Gambit actually knocking Logan down and putting a staff to his throat. It was hand-waved with Wolverine’s healing factor shaky and affecting his fighting skills, but still a big push. Gambit also fought Wolverine in his own later title with a cool bit where he charged up one end of his staff, stuck it into Logan’s mouth and let it explode. The sneaky Cajun has bounced around a bit from thief to hero but showed how beating Wolverine is a move he’s got in his cards.
The Man Without Fear has never backed down from any opponents and he and Wolverine have some stuff in common. Both trained in the ninja arts and possessing enhanced senses, they’ve worked well as teammates; not to say they haven’t had conflicts. In a storyline where Wolverine is brainwashed into serving Hydra, leading a team of ninjas against various heroes, we see Daredevil beat Wolverine. Logan leads a team of ninjas to attack Daredevil at his home and he does his best to handle this horde of enemies. He actually holds his own against Logan before shoving him backward where he’s impaled on a sword. At least it’s a bit more even rather than another issue where Daredevil throws his billy club into Wolverine’s throat and easily takes him down. It shows how capable DD is and how even Logan can have an off day.
9. Kitty Pryde
Introduced under the legendary run of Chris Claremont and John Byrne, Kitty was a bright and eager 13-year-old with the power to “phase” through solid objects. She went by code names like Ariel and Sprite and her spunky attitude won fans over. In a 1985 mini-series, Kitty travels to Japan to check on her father only to find he’s gotten into some trouble with gangsters. She’s kidnapped by Ogun, who turns out to be a demonic ninja who’s centuries old and was once a teacher of Logan’s. He brainwashes Kitty, transforming her into a ruthless warrior. Tracking her down, Wolverine faces what he thinks is a typical ninja but is startled when his claws seem to do no good. Logan already suspects the truth but is still stunned when he rips off the mask to see a snarling Kitty. Without hesitation, she stabs Wolverine right through with her sword, a blow even his healing factor has a hard time dealing with. Luckily for Wolverine, his old ally Yuiko is on hand to help stop Kitty and save Wolverine. He helps Kitty overcome her brainwashing and defeat Ogun. It was a major shift for Kitty as she took the new name Shadowcat and showed how tough she could be to take Wolverine down like that.
Brian Michael Bendis made no secret that Jessica Drew was his favorite character as a kid. As he rose to stardom as a writer, Bendis decided to push her back to prominence after years on the sidelines. He thus had Jessica as an agent of SHIELD helping the reformed Avengers and talked into donning her old costume. Jessica went with the team on their first mission to the Savage Land, but was separated when their plane crashed. Hearing an attacker, she automatically reacted, fighting hard and thrusting what she thought was a knife into his throat. It turned out to be Wolverine, his own claws sticking through his neck. He later joined with the team and Bendis defended the move as showing off how tough Jessica was. To be fair, it was later revealed this was a Skrull posing as Spider-Woman, but it was still a bit much to see Wolverine taken down so quick.
Again, a common thing X-Men writers enjoyed doing to try and show off a new character was to have them beat on Wolverine. Marrow was pushed as a major new character for the team and was a member of the Morlocks, mutants who hid under New York because of their mutations. In her case, Marrow had the power to grow bones out of her body and use them as weapons. This gave her a harsh attitude, clashing with the X-Men several times before she was brought along as a new member. This led to her and Wolverine clashing in the Danger Room, Wolverine pushing Marrow along until she finally snapped and buried one of her bones into his throat. It was sold as a shocking move with Wolverine letting out a howl of agony that rocked the X-Men, but Marrows’ tenure with the team never really lived up to that potential, making this an odd choice for a victory.
6. The Punisher
It’s no surprise these two anti-heroes have clashed a few times over the years. Their very first encounter took place in the jungles when each mistook the other as a member of a smuggling team and had a brief fight. They’ve worked together more, each respecting the other as a tough soldier and willing to do what it takes to win. But in a controversial issue of Garth Ennis’ run on the Punisher, they had a major showdown involving Wolverine taking exception to the Punisher trashing some gun runners. Wolverine wasn’t quite shown in the best light here, as we saw him as more of a dumb punk and acting on instinct, making the Punisher easily able to handle him. This included firing a shotgun at Wolverine’s face, exposing his metal-covered skull. Wolverine kept coming at him, so the Punisher shot off his legs. Then, for the grand finale, he ran Wolverine over with a steamroller. Wolverine’s writers weren’t happy about this, so they had Logan beat the Punisher down in a rematch in his own comic to show how evened up they are.
5. Conan the Barbarian
The archetype of so many warriors over the years, Conan has been an icon for decades. From novels to movies and comics, the Barbarian has enthralled readers with his never-say-die attitude and fighting against all odds. A match with Wolverine may seem odd but it happened in an issue of Marvel’s What If? series. During the climax of the famed “Dark Phoenix Saga,” Wolverine was sent bouncing around realms in the home of the alien Watcher. In this special, one portal ends up thrusting Wolverine back in time to Conan’s era. Each mistakes the other for an enemy, leading to a savage battle. Wolverine’s claws are sharp but Conan has fought demons, monsters and other enemies and is able to overcome Wolverine with his strength. He ends up stabbing Logan and leaving him for dead. However, Wolverine heals, coming back in a berserker rage as they go at it harder. This rematch ends in a tie when an evil wizard sends Conan into the future and leaves Wolverine stranded in the past. So he may have lost but Wolverine got a great consolation prize: the gorgeous fighter Red Sonja.
4. Squirrel Girl
Originally created as a one-shot joke for a 1992 storyline by none other than Steve Dikto, this character is self-explanatory. A quirky girl whose power is to talk to squirrels and has the same powers and agility. After years away, she returned in the early 2010s with the funny idea of her suddenly turning into a bad-ass capable of taking down Doctor Doom and even Thanos. That she kept to her funny ways made her appealing and soon built a fan following. In Avengers, she was hired to be the babysitter for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ child while they worked with the team and showed herself to be a capable heroine in her own right. When Wolverine put the Avengers through some “training,” Squirrel Girl decided to throw herself into it as well. This led to Wolverine, the bad-ass X-Man getting his lungs handed to him by a woman who talks to squirrels. He actually brushed it off as just another notch in her column and accepted that when it comes to being the best, Squirrel Girl actually tops him.
It’s one of the odder crossovers in comic book history but a notable one. In 1996, Marvel put together a storyline where the X-Men find themselves thrust through time and space to land on the U.S.S. Enterprise. There are some obvious storylines (the Beast is named Hank McCoy so naturally he and Bones have some clashes) and we even see Kirk hitting on Jean Grey. Of course, the two groups forge an alliance as old X-Men foe Proteus is joining the reality-warping Gary Mitchell to become a massive cosmic threat. The big bit is when Wolverine tries to attack and it looks like some red shirts are going to eat claws. But then Spock comes along and takes Wolverine down with the Vulcan neck pinch. The sight of the ultimate brawler of the Marvel Universe dropped down in an instant is crazy and fans have argued as to whether even Spock could be strong enough to beat Wolverine like that. It’s a whacky encounter but does fuel the argument as to whether Marvel or Star Trek would have the upper hand in a meeting.
2. Deathstroke the Terminator
Back in the early 1980s, DC and Marvel did a set of specials teaming up characters. At the time, the hottest books on the market were X-Men and The New Teen Titans so a team-up between them made perfect sense. The storyline has Darkseid, the cosmic baddie of the DCU, trying to reform Dark Phoenix, the cosmic destroyer that was once Jean Grey. To achieve this, Darkseid hires Deathstroke the Terminator, a genetically enhanced super-soldier turned mercenary to track down places where Phoenix used her powers and gather remnants of them. The X-Men don’t want it to happen and Wolverine actually taps Deathstroke on the shoulder to ask for a light. Deathstroke is impressed by how Wolverine got so close without him noticing and goes on the attack as they trade shots for a bit. The X-Men are good but Slade Wilson is backed up by Parademons who overwhelm the team, allowing Deathstroke to nail them with a wide shot to take them down. He and Logan clash later in the special to more of a draw but Deathstroke showed he could pull off a rare win over Wolverine.
Sometimes, the biggest beat-downs aren’t physical, they’re mental and emotional. In which case, no one has put the pain on Wolverine more than this long-time Spider-Man B-list foe. In the “Old Man Logan” storyline, the various Marvel super-villains finally get their acts together, forge a major alliance and wipe out the heroes. Fifty years later, America is divided into messy areas that make Mad Max look like Disneyland and an aged Logan is a farmer who refuses to use his claws. Pressed by a blind Hawkeye, Logan finally tells why. On the night the villains attacked, Wolverine was at the X-Mansion when a pack of nearly forty bad guys invaded. Wolverine leapt into the fight, slashing and gutting them left and right while wondering where the hell everyone else was. It came down to him and Bullseye, fighting for over an hour before Wolverine delivered the deathly blow…
At which point, a dying Bullseye whispered “Why would you do this to your friends?” He then turned into Wolverine’s friend, Jubilee. Enter Mysterio who revealed that the entire thing had been a massive illusion and Wolverine had actually just slaughtered all his fellow X-Men. In one move, this “second-string” bad guy had caused Logan to murder his own friends, giving a mocking thanks to Wolverine for the service. A devastated Logan wandered into the night and spent fifty years refusing to ever use his claws again. It’s a stunning turn that shows just what it takes to defeat Wolverine so immensely.