Book of the Day - 5/11/04
Werewolf by Night #3 Jan 1973
- Overstreet 2006 (9.2) NM- Price: $45 -
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After mentioning Marvel horror line and outlining the change from classic horror stories to more superhero influenced characters with a horror slant, I thought it might be time to display an example of the new direction focusing on one of the core titles; Werewolf by Night. In making the shift, Marvel would introduce all the Universal movie horror staples to their roster. Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy all received their own titles. The Werewolf would be honored as being the first though.....
Started as a try-out in Marvel Spotlight #2, the origin follows Jack Russell, a normal California guy, who discovers that his family has been cursed to become werewolves after they turn 18 years old. Seems a distant relative became cursed after confronting Vlad Dracula 18 centuries before and during their confrontation being bitten by a werewolf. The curse remained dormant in future generations until Jack's Dad came upon a magical evil scroll, the Darkhold, and upon studying the text, reawakened the curse. Talk about bad luck! The guy turns 18 and can't even legally cruise the bars on his birthday. The title would follow Jack in trying to find a cure to the curse or trying to stop himself from causing havoc after he's changed. All the while fighting bad guys or making things right out of a bad situation. Very similar to the 1970s live action Hulk television in tone with the exception that Wolfy met more superhero oriented characters. Werewolf by Night would continue in Spotlight for two more issues before being granted it's own title.
Werewolf by Night #3, "The Mystery of the Mad Monk", was written by Steve Gerber and illustrated by the great Mike Ploog. In a continuation of the perpetual "find a cure" storyline, Jack has given the Darkhold to a priest friend to examine in the hope of discovering a way to reverse the curse. The book is bad news though. A "spirit" in the book, who we find out quickly enough is the Mad Monk of the title, takes over the priest's body and goes about trying to change 1970s Earth into a new Dark Age. Well Wolfy arrives and isn't too amused. The Monk conjures up a Minotaur creature, named Dragonus in typical Marvel fashion, and sics him on Wolfy. After a fight that lasts a couple of pages, Dragonus trips over Wolfy, and falls head first into the Monk goring him with his horns The Monk changes back into the priest before dying. Wolfy scoops up his sister, who conveniently shows up before the fight, and leaves in search of his next adventure. Pretty much that's it other than an expanded origin of the Mad Monk.
The comic storyline is typical of all the Marvel horror characters of the time. Meet bad guy, fight bad guy, beat bad guy, and go on to the next bad guy next issue. The star of this issue is Ploog though. Ploog did wonderful work in the early 70s on this and other "dark" titles such as Ghost Rider and Man-Thing before moving out of the comics spotlight. He art has recently reappeared in the CrossGen comic "Abadazad" and looks as if he's only gotten better. Hurry out and discover this gem before CrossGen's current money problems torpedo it.
I was a big fan of this title as a young kid and followed in sporadically as I got older. Of note, and correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure someone will), I don't believe that Jack/Wolfy killed anyone on purpose throughout the title's 43 issue run. Not surprising in a 70s comic but seems kind of weird not happening in a werewolf title. Regardless, I recommend you search out the back issues bins for early issues of Werewolf by Night to marvel at one of the best artists of the 1970s....