After comic books were put on trial in the 1950s, comic book companies created the Comics Code Authority to regulate the content of comic books in the United States. Part of the rules included:
- No comic magazine shall use the words “horror” or “terror” in its title.
- All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
- All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
- Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
- Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
After the Code relaxed its rules in regard to monsters in the early 1970s, Marvel Comics had a Horror Renaissance and began publishing comics such as Tomb Of Dracula, The Son Of Satan, Man-Thing, Ghost Rider, Morbius and Werewolf By Night.
The Werewolf By Night title comes from a 5 page story published by Atlas Comics’ Marvel Tales #116 from 1963. The modern version of the story premiered in Marvel Spotlight #2 (1972) and was about a young man named Jack Russell (gotta love that name!) who, upon his 18th birthday, fell victim to a curse passed down by his father. Three nights a month on the full moon Jack became a werewolf. The original idea came from Roy Thomas while the series name was suggested by Stan Lee. The first creative team on the book was Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog. Artist Mike Ploog’s unique style became synonymous with the character. After 3 issues appearing in Marvel Spotlight, the Werewolf graduated to his own Werewolf By Night series. Issue #32 of this title introduced Moon Knight who would go on to his own series later.
The lycanthropy curse first manifested in Jack Russell’s ancestor, Grigori Russoff, in 1795. After Grigori ambushed and destroyed the vampire lord Dracula, he was mutated into a werewolf by Lydia, a werewolf formerly imprisoned by Dracula. Sometime prior to May 1930, Grigori’s descendant, Gregor, obtained the legendary Darkhold scrolls, binding them back into book form. Reading lycanthropy’s origins in the Darkhold under a full moon triggered the dormant curse, mutating Gregor into a werewolf. Decades later, another Gregor Russoff married Laura, the former girlfriend of his younger brother Philip. Jacob (later Jack) was born in Media?, Transylvania, soon after, and Laura was pregnant with Lissa within two years of marriage; however, when lightning struck Russoff’s Transylvanian castle during a full moon, the werewolf Gregor escaped confinement and began attacking villagers. They tracked down and killed Russoff with silver bullets.
After Gregor’s death, Laura found Philip – who had moved to Los Angeles and anglicized his name to Russell – and they married after a year; Jack and Lissa remained unaware of Philip’s past. Critically injured in a car crash on Jack’s 18th birthday, Laura barely had time to tell Jack about his true father and the curse of the werewolf, making Jack promise not to harm Philip, before dying.
Later, towards the end of his series and due to lagging sales, Jack Russell gained some amount of control over his transformations (except during the full moon when the beast was in total control) and he even managed to keep his human mind. The werewolf/super hero angle couldn’t save the book and it was cancelled after 43 issues.
Now, Marvel Studios has chosen the Werewolf to introduce its monsters to the MCU. On October 7th Disney+ will air the Werewolf By Night Halloween Special. The movie is rumored to feature other horror characters such as Man-Thing and Elsa Bloodstone. The plot has been shrouded in secrecy so it is unknown what changes Marvel will inflict upon the characters. The trailer for the special was released at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con and has a very stylish look to it but there is not enough information in the trailer to be able to ascertain what the story may be. Check out the trailer below and tune in to the special this Friday.
Meet Jack Russell Werewolf By Night
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