Sunday, October 25, 2015

Marvel Horror - I, Werewolf!

I have been wanting to read the Werewolf by Night saga for several years now, but something else always gets in the way. But finally at least I sat down and read through these delicious stories of the teenager Jack Russell who on his eighteenth birthday is afflicted with is the family curse -- lycanthropy. Becoming the furry protagonist of the title he lopes into the moonlight and slashes and chews his way through enemy after enemy as the mystery surrounding his origins slowly comes to light.

What sets this story apart is the narrative choice to use first person, to tell the story from Jack's point of view. It allows for an oddly effective entree into the nightmare of losing control and becoming effectively a wild animal for several nights of each and every month. To that end the original title was "I, Werewolf" though I agree that the ultimate title "Werewolf by Night" is much stronger.  Created by Roy Thomas, the earliest issues are written by Gerry Conway and later Len Wein and most appropriately Marv Wolfman.

What sets this story apart from many of the other Marvel horrors of the era is the singularly compelling artwork of Mike Ploog, a devotee of the Will Eisner school who brings that Eisnerian sensibility to the nighttime world of our teenage werewolf.

In the early issues of Marvel Spotlight we meet Jack, his sister Lissa and his step-father who may or may not be an enemy. But there are enemies galore as lots of sinister baddies want to access the Russell (originally "Russoff") family secret, a magic tome called "The Darkhold". The attempts to lay hands on this form the basis for the earliest stories.

By the time Werewolf by Night gets its own title the story progresses and eventually the Darkhold fades and we meet various types who want just to hunt a werewolf, bring a monster to mad justice, or use the werewolf's powers for their own ends. The furry anti-hero confronts a lot of creeps who are worse than him.

Eventually Ploog leaves and artists like Tom Sutton and Gil Kane fill in before Don Perlin steps up. Along with Perlin comes a writer named Doug Moench and these two take the werewolf to all new and even weirder places. More on that later.

Here are some juicy Werewolf by Night covers to savor.

More Werewolf by Night later today.

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1 comment:

  1. Ploog wasn't just a "devotee" of Will Eisner, he worked with Will for two years on the US Government's PS Magazine which used comics to demonstrate various how-to maintanence techniques to military personnel!
    (An ironic side note: the late Murphy Anderson took over from Eisner as the packager of PS)


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