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Interview: Brian LaBelle Talks the Petition to Erect a Wolverine Statue in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Written by Jude Terror on Wednesday, September 24 2014 and posted in Features

Interview: Brian LaBelle Talks the Petition to Erect a Wolverine Statue in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

It's the Canadian sensation that's blowing up the internet, and we've got the man behind it all right here on The Outhouse!

Last Friday, we reported on a petition to erect a life-sized statue of Wolverine in front of City Hall in the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. As it turns out, this isn't the first time an attempt to build a Wolverine statue in Edmonton was made. Over a year ago, Brian LaBelle started a petition to build a statue of Wolverine that was 1000 feet tall as a satirical critique of the funding of a new hockey arena. According to LaBelle, the starters of the new petition are joining with him on a campaign to build a more reasonable ten to fifteen foot statue, and he was willing to stop by The Outhouse and answer a few questions despite our asinine nature and bad reputation, and we were willing to have him despite his love of Wolverine, The Outhouse's least favorite comic book character, and his unnecessary placement of the letter "u" in words where it doesn't belong, driving our American spellcheck crazy. It's an uneasy alliance, to say the least.

Here's what he had to say:

So you’re the guy responsible for this petition to build a statue of Wolverine? Tell us how it started.

I was upset about the funding agreement the city of Edmonton was pursuing with Oilers owner Daryl Katz for a new hockey arena in our downtown core. Rather than just whining on twitter, I channeled my inner Jonathan Swift and used the arguments in favour of funding the arena to write a satirical petition calling for a 1000' tall statue of Wolverine downtown instead. I thought people may read it and laugh (and some did), others took it completely seriously and were actually on board for an X-Men statue three times larger than any other structure in the city. After some thought it became clear that a 10' - 15' statue could be possible and that's what I've been working towards for the past year.

Are you connected to the new petition?

No. I have spoken with the guys who started it and they were unaware I'd been working on this for a year so they're both excited and eager to join the team.

Why Wolverine?

Why not? He's arguably the most famous fictional Albertan in the world. I'd argue he's right up there with Wayne Gretzky (who's actually from Ontario and has lived in the US as long as he lived here) and Bret "the Hitman" Hart. Can you name anyone else from Alberta?

My ideal location for the statue would be somewhere near our Stollery Children's Hospital and if any of the sick kids in there feel even the smallest amount of inspiration from seeing this huge statue of a guy with a mutant healing factor, I think that would be a good thing and we should get it built.

But Wolverine is a dick. Surely there’s a better Canadian hero. What would Dave Coulier think of this?

He'd probably tell me to "Cut. It. Out."

Wolverine is known for killing his children. Do the people of Alberta support child murder?

We're historically a very conservative province but even Albertans aren't in favour of capital punishment which is probably why we sent him to America - like when Cyclops secretly put him in charge of X-Force. We knew he was going to have to kill some bad guys at some point so we got him to do it in your country so we'd have plausible deniability. It was pretty subtle, you guys didn't even notice.

Come on though. Wolverine is a killing machine. He’s always going on berserker rampages, cutting people up. But then he preaches at other heroes, like Cyclops, about killing Charles Xavier while possessed by a bird-themed cosmic space god, or involving children in mutant wars when Wolverine has had no less than three teenage girl sidekicks over the years (which, come on, that’s a little creepy in and of itself. How do you defend this guy?

He's the best there is at what he does and if he's going to be a hypocrite, you know he'll be the best and biggest hypocrite out there if necessary. In his defence, he's managed to show some growth in the 7000 books he has appeared in in the last few months.

Seriously though, let’s look at Age of Ultron, the miniseries by Brian Bendis from a year or two ago. Ultron has taken over the world, and The Avengers are going back in time to try to stop it. Before leaving, they tell Wolverine, “whatever you do, don’t go back in time and stab Hank Pym (creator of Ultron) to death.” Like one freaking second after they leave, Wolverine is like, “Alright, who knows how to work this time machine, bub?” And then he goes right back in time and stabs Hank Pym to death. And all the other Avengers are like “Oh, Wolverine!” He just gets away with this stuff! Is that really the type of superhero you want representing your province?

Had he not killed Hank Pym, he would have never destroyed the space time continuum. No Angela, no Spider-Man 2099 in present day, no merging of the 2 Galactus', no Avengers travelling into the future... Whatever amazing "Crisis on Infinite Marvel Earths" event is coming down the pipeline would never happen if Wolverine hadn't done that. As a fan of all multiverses, I fully support his decision and I'm actually interested in seeing when it's all going to explode into an "event" with 122 tie-in's and crossovers.

Okay, okay. So how did this go from a 1000 foot statue to a life size one? Which, for Wolverine, is like four feet tall, right?

5'3". 1000' is too big, too expensive and too ridiculous to actually pull off. Between 10' and 15' is actually achievable and what we're aiming for. It's the only way we had any chance of actually erecting this monument to Wolverine here.

What goes into getting a statue like this constructed and maintained?

There is a LOT of work. Much more than I could even imagine on my own. Before we even get into construction, there's the question of where it will go. Private or public property? Would it meet the criteria to be displayed on public property? Who insures it against theft, vandalism or potential injury to others? Can it be added to the city's public art collection? What are the criteria around donations to the city? The actual construction of the statue will probably be one of the easiest pieces of the entire puzzle. The only question is whether it would be done by a local artist or would we contract the creators of the Robocop statue (who are actually located just up the highway from here in Calgary)? My personal hope is that I can recruit former Edmontonian, former co-owner of the Edmonton Oilers & designer of the Oilers third jersey, Todd McFarlane, to create a 12" maquette of Wolverine that we could base the statue on. As for maintenance, that would be largely dependent on whether or not we build on private property and the owner takes on the cost and/or if the city accepted it as a donation. A non-profit group may need to be created with the sole purpose of funding the maintenance of the statue on private or city property. I'm giving a fairly large overview of this, to get into all the fine details could probably actually be a separate series of articles. Suffice to say, it's actually a LOT more complex than the average person, including myself before I started this process, probably thinks it is.

Are there any any copyright issues that need to be worked out with Marvel to make this happen? You may remember there was a small kerfluffle with DC when the makers of a memorial statue in Ottawa wanted to use the Superman logo.

I have thought of that. I was previously under the impression that if something were a "one-off" piece of art that wasn't being mass produced and people were not being charged to view so nobody was profiting on it, that was within the law but I may very well have been wrong and that's another volunteer committee that would need to form. I'm very hopeful that Marvel/Disney would see that I'm not treating this like a joke, I want to be respectful to their character and to the people in my city and portray him in a way accurate to the comics and is something that looks interesting and fun and isn't an eyesore. We'd obviously be completely willing to work with them in every capacity. I actually hope some of the creators who have worked on Wolverine over the years see this and take it as a compliment that there are fans of their work in the fictional home of this character who would be willing to try and organize something like this. 

And if people want to help make this happen, what should they do?

As of this moment, they can follow us on twitter at @WolverineStatue. I hadn't planned to go public with this information just yet and hoped to have a website and several other things in place before giving it a big push but it's out there now and is what it is. I'm organizing a meeting at the beginning of October for interested volunteers to meet and form committees to look after the various aspects of the project. The guys who started the new petition are on board, a few folks who I met with about the last petition have also been doing some behind the scenes work and I think we'll get a few more interested people out as well. Once the location is secured, the kickstarter to pay for construction of it will begin.

This Wolverine statue… It’s going to be… how should I put this… it’s not going to have an R rating is it? Like that Korean Spider-Man statue with the boner?

No. As I said, I'd ideally like to see this somewhere close to, nearby or at our Stollery Children's Hospital. I think tourists would check it out when they were here, kids in the city would think it was pretty fun and it could work well as part of a playground people could make random trips to. I also think at least a couple of the younger kids who end up having to stay at the Stollery will be somewhat aware of Wolverine and know that one of his powers is to heal and if they can gain some inspiration from that, even just a little, then it makes for a perfect storm of awesome, relevant reasons and fun to build a statue of Wolverine there for everyone.

Would you say that Wolverine is similar to the Oilers in that he's ineffective at offense, is atrocious at defense and is openly laughed at by other heroes?

I'd probably be more inclined to say he's similar to the Oilers in that he's recently been in a slump but when you look back at the history and records associated with him, you have to respect the fact that he was an absolutely dominating force and driver of cultural change within the comic book community for most of the eighties and nineties much the same way that the 1979-1980 - 1989-1990 Oilers were here in Edmonton.

If the statue ever gets good at hockey, do you plan on trading it to LA?

You truly have no comprehension of the number of hearts the mere mention of "The Trade" just re-broke all over Edmonton.

So there’s nothing we can do to convince you to make like, a Snowbird statue or something like that instead?

I could see that on top of a lighthouse in Resolute Bay, actually. Maybe this will just be the first of many super-hero statues to come? After we build it and the people come, maybe other Canadian cities will take note? We could add a Sasquatch statue, there could be a Marina statue in Gander, Northstar & Aurora in Montreal, a Guardian statue in London Ontario, a Vindicator & Shaman statue in Calgary... I think the nerds of Canada could make it happen.

Well, we don't understand it, but we support your right to demand this statue. Wait, Canadians have rights, right? Just checking.

We do, Wolverine even fought to defend them during both world wars as a member of the Canadian military.


There you have it, folks. As much as The Outhouse despises Wolverine because of what he did to our beloved Cyclops, who are we to tell these Canadians they can't erect a statue for their greatest hero? If you're interested in contributing to the effort to get this done, do as the man said and follow @WolverineStatue on Twitter and stay tuned for further instructions.

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