Born the second son of wealthy landowners John and Elizabeth Howlett in Alberta, Canada during the late 19th Century, James Howlett was a frail boy of poor health. James was largely neglected by his mother, who was institutionalized for a time following the death of her first son, John Jr., in 1897. He spent most of his early years on the estate grounds and had two playmates that lived on the Howlett estate with him: Rose, a red-headed girl who was brought in from town to be a companion to young James, and a boy nicknamed "Dog" who was the son of the groundskeeper, Thomas Logan. Thomas Logan was an alcoholic and was extremely abusive to his son. The children were close friends but as they reached young adulthood, the abuse inflicted upon Dog warped his mind. His actions would lead to a tragic chain of events. that started as the three neared their adolescent years when Dog made unwanted advances toward Rose and James reported it to his father. In retaliation Dog killed James's pet dog. This in turn resulted in the expulsion of Thomas Logan and Dog Logan from the estate.
Thomas Logan, in a drunken stupor, invaded the Howlett estate with his son and attempted to take Elizabeth Howlett (implied to be his former lover) with him. John attempted to stop him and Thomas Logan shot him down in cold blood. James Howlett had just entered the room when this occurred and for the first time his mutation manifested; his claws extended from the backs of his hands and he attacked the intruders with uncharacteristic ferocity, killing Thomas Logan, and scarring Dog's face with three claw marks. Elizabeth Howlett, who was already an emotionally disturbed woman, took her life immediately afterward with a blast from Thomas's gun. Fearing for their safety, Rose fled the estate with James, who appeared to have been deeply traumatized and had somehow repressed or forgotten most of the memories of life back at the estate. Dog falsely reported to the police and James's grandfather that Rose had murdered John Howlett II and Thomas Logan. The eldest Howlett, shunned James and with no family left, took Dog in as his ward. However, Dog was already a burgeoning psychopath and it was too late for his character to evolve down any other path.
In the years that followed, James and Rose took refuge in a British Colombia mining colony under the guise of being cousins. James also assumed the name of "Logan" in order to hide his identity. As the hard work of mining toughened his body, and his mutant powers developed, he grew to be unusually strong and ferocious. He was immune to the elements and even ran with the wolves in the forest, learning to hunt as an animal hunts. "Logan" became a valuable and admirable figure amongst the small community of miners due to his hard work and strong ethics, earning him the respect of his peers, including the foreman Smitty, who became a surrogate father figure to James. During this period, James developed strong feelings for Rose, but could not act on them for the sake of their guise as cousins. Smitty, who had been mentoring James all these years, had also grown close to Rose, and the two eventually fell in love and became engaged, much to the scorn and surprise of James, who later accepted the situation for the sake of Rose's happiness. Meanwhile, the elder John Howlett was in failing health and asked Dog to find Rose and his grandson so he could make peace with them before he died. Dog agreed. However, Dog (who has become a physically formidable man himself) decides to track them down so he can kill James.
Dog hunted James and Rose down so easily that it seemed he had a preternatural skill for tracking. On then night that Smitty was due to leave the mining town with Rose, Dog (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Logan's future nemesis, Sabretooth) finally found and confronted James. Dog reminded James of his past, and that faithful night back on the estate that had changed all their lives so. The two fiercely fought in the middle of the street and despite being the physically stronger of the two Dog was eventually overpowered by the enraged James. As Dog laid unconscious, James unsheathed his claws for the first time in public, to the shock of everyone watching, and was about to deal the deathblow until Rose leapt in to stop him but was accidentally was impaled by his claws. Horrified, "Logan" held her in his arms as she died. He then fled into the woods where he lived in self-imposed exile with a pack of wolves, presumably for many years.
Logan possesses memories of being a Samurai in Japan, a mercenary operative for the Central Intelligence Agency, and a "wild man" in the Canadian wilderness. Due to extensive memory implants given to Logan through the Weapon X program, any or all of these memories are suspect. Logan has at least one memory of meeting Captain America (Steve Rogers) in World War II while he was in the Canadian Army which has been verified as true. Sometime after World War II, Logan was taken by a group of scientists led by Dr. Cornelius as part of the Weapon X program. Cornelius was hired to perfect and use a technique that would bond the indestructible element adamantium to human bone cells. Logan's skeleton was bonded to the adamantium, and he was indoctrinated into the Weapon X assassin program.
Wolverine was conscripted by Department H, and for his first mission was sent against the incredible Hulk. Wolverine was subsequently approached by Professor Charles Xavier, who was looking for mutants to help his students, the X-Men, escape from the island-being known as Krakoa, which had captured them. Wolverine left Alpha Flight to accompany Xavier and rescue the captured X-Men. After Krakoa was defeated, Wolverine decided to stay with the X-Men, for reasons which included that he had fallen for Marvel Girl (Jean Grey). Logan remained with the X-Men for quite some time, at one time being their field commander, and encountered adversaries such as Proteus (Kevin MacTaggart), Magneto (Magnus), the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Brood, the Reavers, demons from the dimension of Limbo, the Marauders, the Morlocks, and even Dracula on one occasion.
After his encounter with the mutant assassin Omega Red, Logan began to question the memories he possessed, but his searches to find his true identity and memories proved fruitless. During an encounter with the mutant Magneto on his space station called Avalon, Wolverine slashed Magneto with his claws. Magneto retaliated, using his powers of the magnetic field to tear the adamantium out of Wolverine's skeleton, causing extensive injuries. These injuries shorted out Wolverine's healing factor for a time, and Logan also discovered that the claws that he believed a result of the Weapon X project were in fact part of his actual bone structure due to his mutation. These bone claws became Wolverine's main weapons until his skeleton later became grafted to adamantium again.
As a result of his injuries, Logan left the X-Men for a time. He visited Muir Island at the request of Kitty Pryde, and was also attacked by Cyber. During the Phalanx invasion, Logan and Cable were asked by Charles Xavier to find and rescue the captured X-Men. They joined with Cyclops (Scott Summers) and Jean Grey returning from their honeymoon (and secretly the future) and freed their teammates in Tibet. Later, Logan was kidnapped by Tyler Dayspring, calling himself Genesis, who wanted to make Wolverine one of his new Horsemen. Genesis had acquired adamantium by destroying the body of the mercenary known as Cyber, and had planned to recreate the bonding process used on Logan years ago. This time, however, Logan's body rejected the adamantium, and he regressed for a time to a feral-like state.
Logan regained his lucidity and rejoined the X-Men. Logan was subsequently kidnapped by the would-be conqueror Apocalypse (En Sabah Nur) and forced to fight the savage assassin Sabretooth for the mantle of the Horseman Death. Knowing that he might be able to resist Apocalypse's programming and that Sabretooth would be a very dangerous villain with the support of Apocalypse, Logan fought and defeated his nemesis. As a result, his skeleton again was laced with Adamantium. Under the control of Apocalypse, Wolverine fought the X-Men ferociously in his Death persona. But with the help of his teammates, he eventually broke free from Apocalypse's control.
While on the Weapon Plus satellite, Logan was able to access detailed files on his past. However, it was a trap, and only Jean's manifestation of the Phoenix was able to save them. Wolverine greatly mourns Jean's loss, was not pleased with Cyclops and Emma Frost's relationship, but has remained a valued member of the X-Men, serving on as many missions as he can while also doing solo operations.
Wolverine was ambushed by the Hand and Hydra. Transformed into a killing machine and outfitted with several devices, he battled various other heroes and killed both Hornet and Northstar. S.H.I.E.L.D. was eventually able to deprogram Logan, and he was sent to oppose Northstar, who also had been resurrected by Hydra. While on a mission in the Savage Land, he met the recently reformed Avengers and eventually accepted membership.
Recently, Wolverine unnerved many high level officials, including those of S.H.I.E.L.D., by his sporadic movements in and out of the grid, with the tensions mounting in what seemed to be Wolverine's attempted assassination of the prime minister of Japan. Eventually it was revealed that Wolverine's true target was not the prime minister, but his bodyguard, the Silver Samurai. During an interrogation that began during their battle, and ended shortly after Logan severed the samurai's arm, Wolverine received some more information that led him back to Department H. Despite what he had originally thought, it was not the carelessness of his captors that allowed him to escape; rather, the Winter Soldier seemingly interfered with the operation in such a way that allowed Logan's escape. Wolverine tracked down the Winter Soldier in Serbia for information, but was rendered unconscious after a struggle after which the Winter Soldier revealed that he had earlier murdered Logan's pregnant wife.
Wolverine is a mutant who has an accelerated heafactor, no matter how fatal the damage, with incredible speed. He has superhuman strength, endurance, agility, refelxes, and keen senses. He also has natural claws bonded to element Adamantium.