Why Edmonton Might Eventually Get a Statue of Wolverine

If you haven’t heard yet, there’s an online petition to erect a 1,000-foot statue of X-Men member Wolverine in downtown Edmonton. The request is audacious and absurd and unlikely to happen, yet becoming less unlikely with every new electronic signature (1,491 so far).

Also, the idea of placing a rather large superhero forged from metal in a town square to boost morale isn’t without precedent: Metropolis, Illinois, has a 15-foot Superman statue, Detroit is getting a 10-foot RoboCop after some dutiful citizens ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a library in the Chicago area is currently asking the public to help fund the construction of a 9-foot incredible Hulk.

According to the Marvel Universe, Wolverine was born in Alberta, so it just makes sense that his shrine should be established there, too. Perhaps his irascible figure will even be carved out of adamantium.

The petition was started by a regular man named Brian LaBelle, who was upset with his city councillors after they decided to build a new downtown hockey arena for the Edmonton Oilers with the aid of taxpayer money. LaBelle felt this was unfair, since the team’s owner, pharmacist business person Daryl Katz, was already a billionaire.

“I’m not anti-arena, but I am anti-this-current-arena-funding model,” LaBelle told the Edmonton Journal earlier this month.

Over the phone, LaBelle explained that, yes, while this movement began as a silly protest, things have changed since then. He now wonders if the provincial capital could actually benefit from a tourist-attracting structure similar to Paris’s Eiffel Tower or New York’s Statue of Liberty. Minus antennas, all the tallest office buildings in Toronto stand at less than 1,000 feet, meaning a colossal replica of Wolverine overlooking the city of Edmonton at that height would be nothing short of spectacular, and probably a bit frightening.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you’d have to be an idiot not to sign this petition,” remarked one online commenter about LaBelle’s bold proposal.

With a growing number of supporters behind him, LaBelle’s considered bringing his petition before those very same wayward city councillors to argue that his project could fulfill the same advantages put forth by the arena proponents, as both investments would rejuvenate downtown, increase property values, and provide a reason for out-of-towners to make the pilgrimage. He’s sent an email to Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and tweeted at sexy actor Hugh Jackman for help, but has yet to hear back from either of them.

“Apparently there’s a 60-foot statue somewhere in Japan of a robot from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, and 4.5 million people went to go see it in the first four weeks after it was unveiled,” said LaBelle, who’s a child and youth care worker by day.

At the moment, LaBelle, along with a local comic book store owner, are planning to create an official website and launch their own Kickstarter campaign to build their statue. Knowing that he’ll eventually have to hurdle trademark issues, LaBelle said he’d like to raise $75,000 and place their creation near the Stollery Children’s Hospital, if everything works out. Also: He thinks they’ll aim for a 12-foot statue, as opposed to the initial 1,000. “So just a little bit bigger than RoboCop.”

LaBelle also pointed out that Edmonton once paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a giant aluminum baseball bat, so maybe the idea of adding a giant comic book character to the city’s landscape isn’t so far-fetched. It gives him hope, at least.

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Paul Hiebert is the Editor-in-Chief of Ballast.