AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: Marvel’s Werewolf by Night
Werewolf by Night was Marvel’s werewolf anti-hero. In stories he was usually just referred to as Werewolf. He debuted in 1972 in Marvel Spotlight #2.
Werewolf by Night’s origin story goes something like this: Jack Russell (like the dog, get it?) begins having strange dreams the weekend of his 18th birthday. He storms out of the house the night of his birthday party when he begins feeling sick and a strange transformation starts to occur. Jack’s mother goes out in the car to look for him during a rain storm. Jack’s mother crashes and, on her deathbed, tells Jack that his real father was a Baron. The males in this Baron’s family happened to be cursed to turn into werewolves. The Baron’s curse was passed on to Jack and began to manifest itself when he turned 18. After dropping this bomb in his lap, Jack’s mother dies, but not before forcing Jack to promise not to harm his abusive stepfather. Jack, of course, says yes then later discovers that his stepfather orchestrated his mother’s car crash in order to inherit the Baron’s fortune. Jack goes out as the wolf and kills the goon his stepfather hired to rig the car’s brakes. When confronted with his stepfather and being unable to kill him because of his mother’s promise, the story ends with Jack having to run away howling in frustration because his werewolf form is so lame that it can’t kill someone his mom said not to.
The character would prove popular and after several more appearances in Marvel Spotlight, Werewolf by Night would get his own self-titled book several months later in late 1972.
Issue #1 is very similar to his Marvel Spotlight stories. In this story, Jack encounters a sorceress who turns his wolf form into stone like Medusa. However, when the sun comes up Jack transforms back into human form which breaks the spell. The rest of the story is Jack tracking down the sorceress and stopping her. An inauspicious start to a VERY ’70s, but very fun, comic book series.
Throughout its run, Werewolf by Night featured Jack going up against all types of supernatural creatures. He would face off with vampires many times. He even clashed with Dracula himself in a two part crossover in 1974. It started in Tomb of Dracula #18 and finished in Werewolf by Night #15.
Jack went up against vampires again in issue #19.
How great is that cover (click it to see it bigger on Flickr)? Vampires vs Werewolves…ON THE MOON! It doesn’t get much more bad ass than that. However, *SPOILER ALERT*, the moon in the story is actually just a set in a movie studio. They aren’t actually on the moon. Disappointing, yes, but there is a fairly cool vampire/werewolf fight at the end.
Werewolf by Night would get a gritty reboot (is there any other kind?) in 1998 with a very ’90s, very angsty six issue mini-series. He would even be reunited with his former Legion of Monsters team member, Ghost Rider, in issue #6. Actually, it’s unclear whether it was a six-issue mini-series or if the title was just canceled after six issues. It’s honestly easy to believe the latter because the book was terrible.
In 2007, Marvel tried to revamp The Legion of Monsters with a series of one-shot comics, one of which included Werewolf by Night. I’ll talk about that series of comics tomorrow when I discuss The Legion of Monsters.
Jack Russell’s wolfy alter ego still shows up from time to time in the Marvel Universe. He recently appeared in one of the Marvel Zombies mini-series events a few years ago. Although he may not have his own title, he is far from retired.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.