Today I want to talk about the benefits of just being a part of a team, even for the most rebellious among us.
I’m pretty sure we all know Wolverine. Short, muscular, and with thick facial hair the envy of young men everywhere, Wolverine has all the necessary components of a true badass. He has an unbreakable skeleton, regenerative healing power, and two foot long retractable blades which can emerge from his fists at will.
Wolverine is the definition of the rebellious anti-hero. He’s tough, a loner, is often seen with a half-finished cigar, and is known for pithy lines like, “I go…where I wanna go” or “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice.” Even his “real identity” is only one name, Logan. The combination of tough guy attitude, neat powers, and generally fantastic writing has earned him his own movie, multiple comic series, and a top ten ranking in multiple “best of” comic character listings.
With such cool powers and a distrust of all kinds of authority, the knee jerk reaction is to assume Wolverine would most often be found by himself, eschewing authority and, well, going where he wants to go.
However, the Wolverine featured in the comics rarely appears on his own and also seeks out teams, even when joining is not strictly to his advantage.
After first appearing as a Hulk nemesis, Wolverine appeared with the X-Men, a team with which he remains affiliated. In addition, he has been a member of Alpha Flight, the New Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., the New Fantastic Four, and many, many more.
These associations are not merely temporary expedients. Wolverine invests in the teams, accompanies them even when the missions are not in his best interest, and, when he does quit a team, he generally parts on good terms. As Robert Putnam, renowned sociologist, notes, this sets Wolverine apart from the American/Canadian society he represents. According to Putnam, Americans today are joining fewer groups and investing less time in groups than they did even 2 decades ago. But while Americans were joining fewer organizations, Wolverine was joining more.
As American joining dropped most precipitously, more and more comics about teams came out. It’s becoming harder to find heroes unattached to teams in Marvel and DC comics, even as the youngest generations of Americans remain less likely to join groups themselves. This is unfortunate, because Putnam demonstrates that greater connectivity in society, aka social capital, is highly correlated with honesty, altruism, volunteering, and philanthropy.
 Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone.