Let’s go back to the early days of the super-hero movie trend, to the first X-Men movie from 2000. (Spoilers ahead, but it’s been nearly 15 years.)
That movie featured Wolverine and Rogue as our viewpoints characters, and it built a friendship between, which culminated in Wolverine—at great risk to his own health—allowing Rogue to borrow his healing ability so she could recover from life-threatening injuries. I can’t find that scene on YouTube, but this is the music that plays during the moment.
I’m guessing that scene was inspired by the events of Uncanny X-Men #172 and 173 from 1983, which were written by main X-architect Chris Claremont and drawn by Paul Smith. This pair of issues serves a double purpose—to follow up the excellent Wolverine miniseries Claremont had just completed with artist Frank Miller, and to establish Rogue as a bona fide X-Woman. By the way, that Wolverine miniseries influenced aspects of The Wolverine movie from 2013, but that’d be a whole other article.
Rogue only joined the team in #171, and before that, she was primarily known as the bad guy who stole Ms. Marvel’s powers and memories—in an Avengers comic, since no competing studios were keeping Marvel’s mutant and non-mutant characters apart. Ms. Marvel was a friend of the X-Men and of Wolverine in particular. In today’s comics, Ms. Marvel has become Captain Marvel and is more popular than ever, and she’s set to star in her own film in 2018. But the ‘80s were not kind to her.
The rest of the X-Men begrudgingly accepted Rogue’s membership at the insistence of Professor X. Wolverine was busy in his miniseries at the time, so he only learns of this at the beginning of #172. The X-Men – especially Wolverine – still aren’t happy with Rogue, but Wolverine’s fiancée, Mariko, doesn’t judge her and instead accepts her unconditionally. (Yes, that Mariko—the one we saw in The Wolverine.)
After the X-Men are poisoned, Wolverine and Rogue are the first the recover. Wolverine heads off to confront the Silver Samurai (kind of like the villain in The Wolverine, but no, not a big suit of robotic armor), and he reluctantly takes Rogue along as a sidekick, but he still doesn’t like her or trust her. She’s still the cocky kid who hurt his friend. And Rogue indeed behaves like a cocky kid at first, going so far as to tease Wolverine with a near-kiss. Not something a girl should be doing when her slightest touch steals powers, memories, and health.
But when the villain Viper (another character from The Wolverine!) takes aim at Mariko with a powerful laser gun, Rogue does something heroic for the first time. She swoops in front of the blast and takes it, giving Wolverine time to get Mariko to safety.
Rogue had gotten used to being invulnerable, but this thing actually hurts. But she holds her ground, taking the punishment. After all, Mariko was the only one who was actually nice to her.
By the time Viper’s gun overloads, Rogue’s in terrible shape. She might even be dying. Wolverine offers to let her take his healing factor, even though he’s badly wounded himself. She tries to refuse, but he insists. Whereas Professor X told everyone that Rogue is an X-Man in #171, Wolverine’s actions now show us she’s earned her place. It ultimately happens because someone showed her kindness, thereby motivating her to be a bit better, which in turn allows Wolverine to forgive her.
It’s a great moment in X-Men history, wonderfully executed. It’s not surprising it found its way into the first movie. While the movie scene looks great and is bolstered by a terrific score, its impact is diminished by the fact that the film characters had already bonded. Movie Wolverine had demonstrated that he cared about movie Rogue’s wellbeing, or he wouldn’t have been at the Statue of Liberty trying to save her in the first place.
But the comic scene shows us the moment Rogue earned Wolverine’s trust. It’s a much more successful payoff, one that cements a friendship that would endure for many, many years’ worth of comic book storylines.