Werewolf by Night – The Complete Collection volume 3


By Doug Moench, Bill Mantlo, Marv Wolfman, Steven Grant, Michael Fleisher, Mark Gruenwald, Yong Montaño, Don Perlin, Frank Robbins, Carmine Infantino, Steve Leialoha, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tom Sutton, Win Mortimer & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1158-4 (TPB)

As Marvel slowly grew to a position of market dominance in 1970, in the wake of losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators – Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby – they did so less by experimentation and more by expanding proven concepts and properties.

The only real exception to this was a mass release of horror titles rapidly devised in response to an industry-wide downturn in superhero sales. This move was handily expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules.

Almost overnight, nasty monsters (as well as narcotics and bent coppers – but that’s another story) became acceptable fare within four-colour pages and, whilst a parade of 1950s pre-code reprints made sound business sense (so they repackaged a bunch of those too), the creative aspect of the contemporary fascination in supernatural themes was catered for by adapting popular cultural icons before risking whole new concepts on an untested public.

As always, the watch-word was fashion: what was hitting big outside comics was to be incorporated into the mix as soon as possible.

When proto-monster Morbius, the Living Vampire debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #101 (October 1971) and the sky failed to fall in, Marvel moved ahead with a whole line of scary superstars – beginning with a werewolf and traditional vampire – before chancing something new via a haunted biker who could tap into both Easy Rider’s freewheeling motorcycling chic and the supernatural zeitgeist.

With its title cribbed from a classic short thriller from pre-Code horror anthology Marvel Tales #116 (July 1953), Werewolf by Night debuted in Marvel Spotlight #2. It had been preceded by masked western hero Red Wolf in #1 and followed by the afore-hinted Ghost Rider revival, but this hairy hero was destined to stick around for a while. Marvel had a long-time tradition of using old (and presumably already copyrighted) names and titles when creating new series and characters. Hulk, Thor, Magneto, Doctor Strange and many others all got notional starts as throwaways before being re-imagined as major characters…

This third copious trade paperback and eBook compendium compiles more moody misadventures of a good-hearted young West Coast lycanthrope who briefly shone as an unlikely star for the entire length of a trading trend, Werewolf By Night #31-43, Giant-Size Werewolf #5, Marvel Premiere #28 & 59, Spider-Woman #6, 19 & 32, Marvel Team-Up #93, Ghost Rider #55, and Moon Knight #29-30: ending his solo run and gathering the many guest shots the lycanthrope enjoyed afterwards, collectively spanning July 1975 to April 1982.

Jack Russell is a teenager with a thankfully rare but very disturbing condition. On her deathbed, his mother revealed unsuspected Transylvanian origins to her beloved boy: relating a family curse which would turn him into a raging beast on every night with a full moon… as soon as he reached his 18th birthday.

And so it began…

After many months of misunderstanding as Jack tried to cope alone with his periodic wild side, Jack’s stepfather Philip Russell expanded the story, revealing how the Russoff line was cursed by the taint of Lycanthropy: every child doomed to become a wolf-thing under the full-moon from the moment they reached eighteen.

Moreover, the feral blight would do the same to his little sister Lissa when she reached her own majority…

As Jack tried and repeatedly failed to balance a normal life with his monthly cycle of uncontrollable ferocity, he met his eventual mentor and confidante Buck Cowan, an aging writer who became Jack’s best friend after the pair began to jointly investigate the wolf-boy’s history. Their incessant search for a cure was made more urgent by little Lissa’s ever-encroaching birthday. Along the way Jack even found a steady girlfriend who understood his needs. Of course, Topaz was a mystically empowered terror with family issues from hell…

During their researches they clashed swords with many monsters – human or otherwise – including off-the-rails cop Lou Hackett, who had been going increasingly crazy in his hunt for a werewolf nobody believed in, and fellow lycanthrope Raymond Coker who had found a shocking remedy to their condition…

For one werewolf to lift his curse he/she had to kill another one…

Following a context-expanding Introduction from former Marvel editor Ralph Macchio, the shaggy suspense resumes with Giant-Size Werewolf #5 which shifted into full-on fantasy mode. Scripted by Doug Moench and illustrated by Yong Montaño, ‘Prologue: I Werewolf’ recaps Jack’s peculiar problems before ‘The Plunder of Paingloss’ discloses how the leaders of dimensional realm Biphasia – permanently polarised between night and day – instigate a ‘Bad Deal with the Devil’s Disciple’ on Earth when demonist Joaquin Zairre kidnaps the werewolf…

With the beast dispatched though a ‘Doorway of the Dark Waters’, Jack is soon a pawn in a sorcerous war where ‘Fragile Magic’ on the world of light and darkness allows him and his allies to raid the ‘The Ark of Onom-Kra’ and expose a secret tyrant in ‘Silver Rain, Sardanus and Shadow’

Returned to the real world, Werewolf by Night #31 (July 1975) offers a turning point as ‘Death in White’ (Moench & regular artist/co-plotter Don Perlin) sees Jack plumb depths of utter despair after a skiing weekend turns into a nightmare when the werewolf stalks a little girl and Buck nearly dies trying to save her…

WBN #32 (August 1975) then introduces mercenary Marc Spector who is hired by criminal capitalists, equipped with a silver-armoured costume and weapons and tasked with capturing Russell or his animal other as ‘…The Stalker Called Moon Knight’ (Doug & Don with the assistance of Howie Perlin).

The bombastic battle and its ferocious sequel ‘Wolf-Beast vs. Moon Knight’ received an unprecedented response and quickly propelled the lunar avenger to prominence as Marvel’s edgy answer to Batman: especially after the mercurial merc rejects his employers’ entreaties and lets the wolf, as well as collateral hostages Lissa and Topaz, run free…

Next up is a uniquely odd attempt to create a team of terrors. Marvel Premiere #28 (February 1976) introduced the initial iteration of The Legion of Monsters in ‘There’s a Mountain on Sunset Boulevard!’ courtesy of Bill Mantlo, Frank Robbins & Steve Gan.

When an ancient alien manifests a rocky peak in LA, the werewolf, Man-Thing, Morbius and Ghost Rider are irresistibly drawn into a bizarre confrontation which might have resulted in the answer to all their wishes and hopes, but instead only leads to destruction, death and deep disappointment…

In Werewolf by Night #34 (October 1975, by Moench & Perlin) another extended eerie suspense saga sees Jack, Lissa, Topaz and Buck’s girlfriend Elaine Marston brave a haunted house in search of a cure for Cowan’s werewolf-caused coma.

Elaine had lost her first husband to the doomed domicile and it takes a lot to bring her back. That triggering event is the dying Buck muttering the name of deceased spiritualist Belaric Marcosa – who apparently still roams the hell-house where ‘Not All the Shades of Death nor Evil’s Majesty’ can rein in his sadistic games…

Braving the unknown, the terrified quartet fetch up to the mansion and are soon enduring ‘Evil in Every Stone, No Longer Hiding’; becoming enmired in a war between ‘Marcosa in Death’ and the trapped spirits of the countless victims he has tortured and destroyed.

Their horrific psychological ordeal eventually results in victory for Jack and his companions as ‘The End’ produces a miraculous recovery in the dying Buck and the cessation of Marcosa’s phantom depredations…

With tastes changing, WBN #38 takes a sharp change of direction as Jack exiles himself to the wilderness, only to stumble on a desperate fugitive fighting to save his baby from a murderous gangster who had taken up with his former wife. In the midst of such mundane matters, Jack is visited by a trinity of infinite beings who threaten to alter his existence forever and ominously warn that ‘Rebirth Also Kills’

The celestial visitants are also in touch with former werewolf Raymond Coker as he squats in a hut in distant Haiti, and even appear to Lissa and Topaz as they tend the still-recuperating Buck.

The “Three Who Are All” are subtly ensuring all players are in place for a game of cosmic consequences and in #39, when Jack races back to his friend, he finds Coker and mystic troubleshooter Brother Voodoo waiting. No sooner are introductions made than an army of zuvembies (posh name for magical zombies, okay?) attack and Russell learns that ‘Some are Born to the Night’

Portentous proclamations of unfulfilled destinies propel the adventurers and Topaz back to Haiti where obsessed former cop Vic Northrup is looking for answers to Lou Hackett’s death. Ahead of them all is an infernal pit nurturing a shocking travesty of life with resurrected wizard Dr. Glitternight in charge of all the ‘Souls in Darkness’

Revealed in WBN #41 as a former member of the gestalt which was once “Five Who Are All”, Glitternight’s fascination with monster-making is at last explained as the arcane abomination’s attempts to dominate reality are spectacularly thwarted through the return of the missing fourth celestial as well as the indomitable resistance of Brother Voodoo and Jack in ‘…And Death Shall be the Change’

Key to their eventual triumph is the moment when Russell discovers how to transform into a werewolf in full control of his mental faculties; at will, day or night…

Returning to America, the Werewolf-by-Choice naturally decides to become a superhero and moves to New York in time to stumble onto a plot by the Masked Marauder. Also on scene, is a certain Armoured Avenger and, after the usual misunderstandings, Jack is shaggy knees-deep in trouble with ‘The Marauder and the Man of Iron’

The tale – and the series – concludes in Werewolf by Night #43 (March 1977) as ensorcelled fang-&-claw unite with high-tech wizardry to destroy an awesome animalistic automaton and end the ‘Terrible Threat of the Tri-Animan’

Despite the rather lame and ill-considered attempt to reinvent the series at the last, this moody masterpiece of macabre menace and all-out animal action covers some of the most under-appreciated magic moments and terror tales in Marvel history: tense, suspenseful and solidly compelling. The public and numerous creators must have agreed with the sentiment as Jack Russell became a regular on the guest circuit, popping up in many other ascendant titles.

One such cameo was Spider-Woman #6 (September 1978, by Marv Wolfman, Carmine Infantino & Rick Bryant) as arachnoid outcast Jessica Drew battled ancient sorceress Morgan Le Fay. ‘End of a Nightmare!!’ saw the duel impinge on Russell just as he locks himself away for the three nights of the full moon when his newfound sentience is overwhelmed by lunar lunacy. Cue vicious, inconclusive clash…

In Spider-Woman #19 (October 1979) Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant, Infantino & Mike Esposito unleashed ‘The Beast Within’ when newly-directionless Jessica stumbles into the Werewolf again, just as Russell is hunting murderous super-criminal The Enforcer. The resultant collaboration is less than stellar and far from harmonious…

Carrying on as a clandestine crusader, the Werewolf allies with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #93 (May 1980) as Grant, Tom Sutton, Infantino & Jim Mooney detail how the webslinger stumbles into Jack’s pursuit of the Enforcer only to encounter another old enemy: demented sewer-dweller Tatterdemalion. ‘Rags to Riches!’ pits the mismatched heroes against the deranged dreg before the wallcrawler is diverted by seductive sociopath Dansen Macabre, leaving Jack to soldier on until Spider-Woman #32 (November 1980), where he unwillingly subjects Jessica Drew to ‘The Fangs of Werewolf by Night’, thanks to mind-bending villain Dr. Malus and creative team Michael Fleisher, Steve Leialoha & Mooney…

Ghost Rider #55 (April 1981, by Fleisher & Perlin) sees the Werewolf’s hunt for Tatterdemalion again derailed when the lycanthrope is mistakenly intercepted by Johnny Blaze in his demon biker incarnation, after which a vignette from Marvel Premiere #59 in the same month finds Jack and Lissa forced to suffer ‘Full Moon on the Highway!’ (by Grant & Win Mortimer, April 1981) after a traffic spill delays their rush for isolation and safety.

Since his WBN debut, Moon Knight had developed into a cult classic character, lurking in his own dark corner of the Marvel Universe and allowing moodier, more experimental fare to blossom.

Moon Knight #29 and 30 (March and April 1982) offered some of the most potent material of his initial run, and most visceral art of the entire decade in ‘Morning Star’ and ‘The Moonwraith, three Sixes and a Beast’ by Moench & Bill Sienkiewicz wherein Jack Russell is targeted by a publicity-hungry band of militant Satanists led by the cunning Belial.

This savvy deceiver tries to turn the Werewolf into the biblical Beast of the Apocalypse to usher in the end of days and bolster the flagging support of his congregation. When the fugitive Russell’s flight brings him to New York, it’s just as the full moon robs him of his usual control of the predator within…

Ultimately, however, Fist of Khonshu and Wild Thing table their differences long enough to end the threat of the mobster-like cultists and save the world. …And when the fur and fists finish flying, the Werewolf lopes off into the unknown…

This classic compendium concludes with a bonanza of bonus features, beginning with Sienkiewicz’s stunning back cover portrait of the best from Moon Knight #29; assorted pin-ups, original art/ covers and text features taken from the various issues gathered here.

This moody masterpiece of macabre menace and all-out animal action covers some of the most under-appreciated magic moments in Marvel history; tense, suspenseful and solidly compelling. If you feel the urge to indulge in a mixed bag of lycanthropes, bloodsuckers and moody young misses – this is a far more entertaining mix than many modern movies, books or miscellaneous matter…
© 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Werewolf by Night – the Complete Collection volume 2


By Gerry Conway, Mike Friedrich, Tony Isabella, Doug Moench, Mike Ploog, Don Perlin, Pat Broderick, Vigilio Redondo, Yong Montaño & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-30290-

As Marvel slowly grew to a position of market dominance in 1970, in the wake of losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators – Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby – they did so less by experimentation and more by expanding proven concepts and properties.

The only real exception to this was a mass release of horror titles rapidly devised in response to an industry-wide down-turn in superhero sales. The move was handily expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules.

Almost overnight nasty monsters (plus narcotics and bent coppers – but that’s another story) became acceptable fare within four-colour pages and whilst a parade of 1950s pre-code reprints made sound business sense (so they repackaged a bunch of those too) the creative aspect of the contemporary fascination in supernatural themes was catered to by adapting popular cultural icons before risking whole new concepts on an untested public.

As always, the watch-word was fashion: what was hitting big outside comics was to be incorporated into the mix as soon as possible.

When proto-monster Morbius, the Living Vampire debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #101 (October 1971) and the sky failed to fall in, Marvel moved ahead with a line of scary superstars – beginning with a werewolf and traditional vampire – before chancing something new via a haunted biker who could tap into both Easy Rider’s freewheeling motorcycling chic and the supernatural zeitgeist.

With its title cribbed from a classic short thriller from pre-Code horror anthology Marvel Tales #116 (July 1953), Werewolf By Night debuted in Marvel Spotlight #2. It had been preceded by masked western hero Red Wolf in #1 and followed by the afore-hinted Ghost Rider, but this hairy hero was destined to stick around for a while.

Marvel had a long-time tradition of using old (and presumably already copyrighted) names and titles when creating new series and characters. Hulk, Thor, Magneto, Doctor Strange and many others all got notional starts as throwaways before being re-imagined as major characters…

This copious trade paperback and eBook compendium compiles more moody misadventures of a good-hearted young West Coast lycanthrope who briefly shone as an unlikely star for the entire length of a trading trend, Werewolf By Night volume 1 #16-30, Giant-Size Creatures #1, Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #2-4, and a melange of monochrome material from Monsters Unleashed #6-7: all collectively spanning April 1974 to June 1975.

Jack Russell is a teenager with a thankfully rare but very disturbing condition. On her deathbed, his mother revealed unsuspected Transylvanian origins to her beloved boy: relating a family curse which would turn him into a raging beast on every night with a full moon… as soon as he reached his 18th birthday.

And so it began…

After many months of misunderstanding as Jack tried to cope alone with his periodic wild side, Jack’s stepfather Philip Russell expanded the story, revealing how the Russoff line was cursed by the taint of Lycanthropy: every child doomed to become a wolf-thing under the full-moon from the moment they reached eighteen.

Moreover, the feral blight would do the same to his little sister Lissa when she reached her own majority…

As Jack tried and repeatedly failed to balance a normal life with his monthly cycle of uncontrollable ferocity, he met his eventual mentor and confidante Buck Cowan, an aging writer who became Jack’s best friend after the pair began to jointly investigate the wolf-boy’s history. Their incessant search for a cure was made more urgent by little Lissa’s ever-encroaching birthday.

In the course of their researches they crossed swords with many monsters – human and otherwise – including off-the-rails cop Lou Hackett, who had been going increasingly crazy in his hunt for a werewolf nobody believed in, and fellow lycanthrope Raymond Coker who had found a shocking remedy to their condition…

For one werewolf to lift his curse he/she had to kill another one…

Following an Introduction from former Marvel editor Ralph Macchio, the suspense resumes with Jack in Paris. Seeking a cure in his Balkan homeland, but instead clashing with vampire lord Dracula, Jack and his new girlfriend Topaz (a powerful, mystically-attuned psychic and psionic) were enduring a tiresome – and crucially untimely – forced stopover in the City of Lights…

This leads to an impromptu clash with a modern-day incarnation of the Hunchback of Notre Dame (he doesn’t sing and he’s not very gentle here) and ‘Death in the Cathedral!’. Scripted by Mike Friedrich and inked by Frank Chiaramonte, this bombastic battle was co-originator Mike Ploog’s farewell performance as artist in residence.

WBN #17 was by Friedrich & Don Perlin, with Jack and Topaz escaping Paris only to fall into the Committee’s latest scheme as the blustering Baron Thunder and his favourite monster ‘The Behemoth!’ tried to make the werewolf their plaything again.

The Committee were a long-term adversary: a cabal of crazy capitalists who wanted to own the werewolf because he could scare the public, allowing them to create a panic-crazed sales boom…

The tale concluded in ‘Murder by Moonlight!’ as the secret of Jack’s mystery neighbour is exposed when Thunder attacks again, aided by witch-queen Ma Mayhem. However, it was all a feint for the Committee to kidnap Lissa who would, one day soon, become a werewolf too…

Whilst searching for her, Jack then falls foul of two undead film-stars haunting the Hollywood backlots in #19’s ‘Vampires on the Moon’ after which Giant-Size Creatures #1 moodily re-imagines a failed costumed crusader to introduce a new creepy champion in ‘Tigra the Were-Woman!’ (by Tony Isabella, Perlin & Vince Colletta).

Here Greer Nelson, one-time feminist avenger The Cat, is “assassinated” by Hydra agents, revived by ancient hidden race the Cat-People and becomes an unwilling object of temporary affection to the feral and frisky moonwalker Jack Russell…

Following ‘Waiter, there’s a Werewolf in my Soup!’ a text piece also from Giant-Size Creatures that explains the genesis of Marvel’s horror line, WBN #20 debuts writer Doug Moench to wrap up all the disparate plot threads in ‘Eye of the Wolf!’: a rushed but satisfactory conclusion featuring a whole pack of werewolves, Thunder, Ma Mayhem and lots and lots of action.

With the decks cleared, Moench began to make the series uniquely his own, beginning with #21’s ‘One Wolf’s Cure… Another’s Poison!’ wherein he starts playing up the ever-encroaching 18th birthday of little Lissa before deftly engineering the final reckoning with off-the-rails cop Lou Hackett, who had been going increasingly crazy in his obsessive hunt for the werewolf…

With the stage set for some truly outrageous yarn-spinning we abruptly divert to a brace of sidebar shorts taken from Monsters Unleashed #6 and 7.

Here Gerry Conway wrote prose yarn ‘Panic by Moonlight’ and concluding instalment ‘Madness Under a Mid-Summer Moon’ (with spot illustrations by Ploog and Pat Broderick & Klaus Janson) detailing how a gang of bikers picked the wrong night to home-invade the flashy singles complex Jack Russell lived in…

The tantalising diversion is bracketed by the painted covers of the monochrome magazines and Gil Kane’s cover for earlier collection Essential Werewolf By Night volume 2.

With Moench at the helm and almost exclusively pencilled for rest of the run by the criminally underrated Don Perlin, the midnight comics mysteries resume the Vince Colletta inked Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #2 as ‘The Frankenstein Monster Meets Werewolf By Night’.

Roaming the streets of New York in ‘Prisoners of Flesh!’, the recently resurrected massive mute monster hops a freight train west after overhearing of a mystic named Danton Valya who can transplant souls into new bodies…

He arrives in Los Angeles just as Jack Russell discovers Lissa has been abducted by Valya’s Satanist cult ‘To Host the Beast’ before cataclysmically clashing with the monster who has only to let the diabolists sacrifice the werewolf and Lissa to gain his heart’s desire…

Tragically the noble artificial man has more compassion than the cultists and prefers his own sorry existence to benefiting from ‘The Flesh of Satan’s Hate!’

Werewolf By Night #22 (Moench, Perlin & Colletta) then introduces crazed murder-maniac Atlas, who stalks and slays many of Buck’s movie friends. Moreover, when Russell’s hairy Other encounters the ‘Face of the Fiend!’, Atlas beats the beast unconscious and in the morning light bleary Jack is subsequently arrested for the latest murder…

Lieutenant Vic Northrup was a good friend of deceased former Hackett and knows Russell is hiding something, but eventually has to release him for lack of evidence. Picking Jack up from the station, Buck reveals he has gleaned the inside story of Atlas and his own historical involvement in the story, just in time to become the next target…

Fortuitously, the werewolf is on hand when Atlas attacks and the battle explodes into LA’s streets where disbelieving cops have to admit that ‘The Murderer is a Maniac!’

In #24 Buck introduces Jack to fringe scientist Winston Redditch who claims to have chemically isolated the constituents of the human psyche and thus might be able to suppress Jack’s periodic bestial outbursts. Sadly, the boffin accidentally ingests the serum himself and unleashes ‘The Dark Side of Evil!’

The remorseless sadistic thug he becomes calls himself DePrayve and fights the werewolf to a standstill, giving Northrup an opportunity to capture the hirsute “urban legend” which has stalked the city and drove Hackett crazy…

From WBN #25 the art took a quantum leap in quality as Perlin – already co-plotting the stories – began inking his own pencils. When the beast busts out of custody ‘An Eclipse of Evil’ sees Redditch turning his warped attention to the lycanthrope as a potential guinea pig for further experimentation, only for both the feral fury and dastardly DePrayve to be targeted by a deranged vigilante and “protector of purity” calling himself The Hangman

The horrific three-way clash results in ‘A Crusade of Murder’, with Redditch hospitalised, the vicious vigilante in custody and battered, bloody-yet-unbowed Jack still free and still cursed…

Eschewing chronological order for the sake of unbroken continuity-clarity, January’s Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #3 pops up here and reveals a ‘Castle Curse!’ (inked by Sal Trapani) in which Jack returns to Transylvania after receiving a monster-infested vision of former love interest – and psionic powerhouse – Topaz in ‘Spawned in Dream… Slain in Nightmare!’

Jack drags Buck and Lissa ‘Home to Slay!’ in the Balkans, finding the old family home under siege by pitchfork-wielding villagers who have all their worst fears confirmed when he goes hairy and gets hungry, before finally tracking down Topaz in the care – and custody – of a gypsy matriarch with an arcane agenda of her own.

The blood-crazed old witch has a tragic connection to the Russoff line and is exploiting Topaz’s restored powers to enact a grisly ‘Vengeance in Death!’ upon the villagers by raising an army of zombies.

The chain of events she set in motion can only end in slaughter…

Werewolf By Night #27 (March 1975) began a chilling and fantastic extended eldritch epic with the introduction of ‘The Amazing Doctor Glitternight’. Back in the USA, Jack’s feral alter ego runs loose on the isolated Californian coast and is drawn to a cave where a bizarre wizard makes monsters from what appears to be fragments of Topaz’s soul…

The eerie mage is actually hunting for Topaz’s dead stepfather Taboo and will not be gainsaid, even after Jack’s uncontrollable were-beast slaughters his monstrous masterpiece…

The wizard intensifies his campaign in ‘The Darkness from Glitternight’, heaping horrors upon Jack and friends before capturing Lissa on her birthday and using dark magic to turn her from simple werewolf into ‘A Sister of Hell’

The spectral re-emergence of Taboo proves a turning point as wolf battles hellbeast and everybody clashes with Glitternight before a ‘Red Slash Across Midnight’ seemingly results in a cure for one of the tortured Russell clan…

April’s Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #4 offers a long-delayed and anticipated clash with living vampire Morbius: beginning with ‘A Meeting of Blood’ (Moench & Virgil Redondo) with the former biologist tracking his old girlfriend Martine and discovering a possible cure for his own exsanguinary condition.

Unfortunately, the chase brings him into savage and inconclusive combat with a certain hairy hellion and the solution is forever lost…

Also included in that double-sized issue is Moench & Yong Montaño’s ‘When the Moon Dripped Blood!’, wherein Jack and Buck stumble across a group of rustic loons all-too-successfully summoning a ghastly elder god. Although great at consuming and converting human offerings and acolytes, the appalling atrocity is seemingly no match for a ravening ball of furious fangs and claws…

This second sinister compendium concludes with a bonanza of bonus features: Arthur Adams & Jason Keith’s Werewolf By Night Omnibus cover, original art pages by Ploog & Chiaramonte, Perlin & Colletta and all-Perlin, plus werewolf art by Perlin & Joe Rubinstein and Paul Ryan & Rubinstein taken from various iterations of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

This moody masterpiece of macabre menace and all-out animal action covers some of the most under-appreciated magic moments in Marvel history; tense, suspenseful and solidly compelling. If you feel the urge to indulge in a mixed bag of lycanthropes, bloodsuckers and moody young misses – this is a far more entertaining mix than many modern movies, books or miscellaneous matter…
© 1972, 1974, 1975, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Werewolf by Night – the Complete Collection volume 1


By Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Roy & Jean Thomas, Mike Ploog, Werner Roth, Ross Andru, Tom Sutton, Gil Kane, Gene Colan & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-30290-839-3

Inspiration isn’t everything. In 1970, as Marvel consolidated its position of market dominance – even after losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby – they did so with a wave of new young talent but less by experimentation and more by expanding proven concepts and properties.

The only real exception to this was the mass creation of horror titles in response to the industry down-turn in superhero sales – a move expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules.

Almost overnight nasty monsters (and narcotics – but that’s another story and a different review) became acceptable fare within four-colour pages and whilst a parade of 1950s pre-code reprints made sound business sense (so they repackaged a bunch of those too) the creative aspect of the contemporary fascination in supernatural themes was catered to by adapting popular cultural icons before risking whole new concepts on an untested public.

As always, the watchword was fashion: what was hitting big outside comics was to be incorporated into the print mix and shared universe mix as readily as possible. When proto-monster Morbius, the Living Vampire debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #101 (October 1971) and the sky failed to fall in, Marvel moved ahead with a line of scary superstars – beginning with a werewolf and a vampire – before chancing something new in a haunted biker who could tap into both Easy Rider’s freewheeling motorcycling chic and the supernatural zeitgeist.

Werewolf By Night debuted in Marvel Spotlight #2 (preceded by western masked hero Red Wolf in #1, and followed by the afore-hinted Ghost Rider) although the series title, if not the actual star character, was cribbed from a classic pre-Comics Code short suspense-thriller from Marvel Tales #116, July 1953.

Marvel always favoured a long-time tradition of using old (presumably already copyrighted) names and titles when creating new series and characters. Hulk, Thor, Magneto, Doctor Strange and many others all got nominal starts as throwaways in some anthology or other…

This copious compendium collects – in paperback or eBook formats – the early adventures of a young West Coast lycanthrope and comprises the contents of Marvel Spotlight #2-4, Werewolf by Night volume 1 #1-15; a guest-shot in Marvel Team-Up #12 and material from the appropriate half of a horror crossover with Tomb of Dracula #18, cumulatively spanning February 1972 through 1974.

Following an informative, scene-setting Introduction by long-term Marvel Editor Ralph Macchio, the moonlit madness begins with the landmark first appearance, introducing teenager Jack Russell, who is suffering some sleepless nights…

‘Werewolf by Night!’ (Marvel Spotlight #2, February 1972), was written by Gerry Conway and moodily illustrated by Mike Ploog from an outline by Roy & Jeanie Thomas, describing the worst day of Jack’s life – his 18th birthday – which begins with nightmares and ends in something far worse.

Jack’s mother and little sister Lissa are everything a fatherless boy could hope for but new stepfather Philip and creepy chauffeur Grant are another matter…

That night at his party Jack has a painful seizure and flees into the Malibu night to transform for the first time into a ravening vulpine man-beast. The next morning, he awakes wasted on the beach to discover that his mother has been gravely injured in a car crash. Something had happened to her brakes…

Creeping into her hospital room he is astonished as she relates the story of his blood-father; an Eastern European noble who loved her deeply but locked himself away three nights every month…

The Russoff line was cursed by the taint of Lycanthropy: every child doomed to become a wolf-thing under the full-moon from the moment they reach eighteen years of age. Jack was horrified and then realised how soon his sister would reach her own majority…

With her dying breath Laura Russell made her son promise never to harm his stepfather, no matter what…

Scenario set, with the traumatised wolf-boy transforming for three nights every month, the weird, wild wonderment began in earnest with the beast attacking Grant the chauffeur – who had doctored those car-brakes – but refraining, even in vulpine form, from attacking Philip Russell…

The second instalment sees the reluctant nocturnal predator rescue Lissa from a sick and rowdy biker gang (they were everywhere back then) and narrowly escape the police only to be abducted by a sinister dowager seeking knowledge of a magical tome called the Darkhold. The eldritch spell-book is the apparent basis of the Russoff curse, but when Jack can’t produce the goods he’s left to the mercies of ‘The Thing in the Cellar!’

Surviving more by luck than power, Jack’s third try-out issue fetches him up on an ‘Island of the Damned!’: introducing aging writer Buck Cowan, who became Jack’s best friend as they jointly investigate the wolf-boy’s stepfather.

The elder Russell had apparently sold off Jack’s inheritance, leaving the boy nothing but an old book. Following a paper trail to find proof Philip had had Laura Russell killed leads the pair to an offshore fortress, a dungeon full of horrors and a ruthless mutant seductress…

That episode ended on a cliffhanger, presumably as added incentive to buy Werewolf by Night #1 (September 1972), wherein Frank Chiaramonte took over inking with ‘Eye of the Beholder!’

As ruthless freak Marlene Blackgar and her monstrous posse capture the entire Russell family looking for the Book of Sins, once more a fearsome force of supernature awakes to accidentally save the day as night falls…

With ‘The Hunter… and the Hunted!’ Jack and Buck deposit the trouble-attracting grimoire with Father Joquez, a Christian monk and scholar of ancient texts, but are still hunted because of it. Jack quits the rural wastes of Malibu for a new home in Los Angeles, trading concrete for forests but life is no easier.

In #2, dying scientist Cephalos tries to harness Jack’s feral life-force to extend his own and lives but briefly to regret it. Meanwhile Joquez succeeds in translating the Darkhold, but his accomplishment allows an ancient horror to possess him in WbN #3 during ‘The Mystery of the Mad Monk!’ Whilst the werewolf is saddened to end such a noble life it feels far happier dealing with millionaire sportsman Joshua Kane, who desires a truly unique head mounted on the wall of his den in the Franke Bolle inked ‘The Danger Game’.

Half-naked, exhausted and soaked to his now hairless skin, Jack must next deal with Kane’s psychotic brother who wants the werewolf for his pet assassin in ‘A Life for a Death!’ (by Len Wein & Ploog) after which ‘Carnival of Fear!’ (Bolle inks again) finds the beast – and Jack, once the sun rises – a pitiful captive of the mystic Swami Calliope and his deadly circus of freaks.

The wolf was now the subject of an obsessive police detective too. “Old-school cop” Lou Hackett is an old buddy of trophy-hunter Joshua Kane and every bit as charming, but his off-the-books investigation has hardly begun when the Swami’s plans fall apart in the concluding ‘Ritual of Blood!’ (inked by Jim Mooney).

The beast is safely(?) roaming loose in the backwoods for #8’s quirky monster-mash just as an ancient demon possesses a cute little bunny in ‘The Lurker Behind the Door!’ (Wein, Werner Roth & Paul Reinman), before neatly segueing to a slight but stirring engagement in Marvel Team-Up #12 wherein Wein, Conway, Ross Andru & Don Perlin expose a ‘Wolf at Bay!’

When webspinning wallcrawler meets the Werewolf they initially battle each other – and ultimately malevolent mage Moondark – in foggy, fearful San Francisco before Jack heads back to LA and ‘Terror Beneath the Earth!’

Here Conway, Tom Sutton & George Roussos delve into an impeding and thoroughly nefarious scheme by business cartel the Committee. These out-of-the-box commercial gurus somehow possess a full dossier on Jack Russell’s night-life and hire a maniac, sewer-dwelling sound engineer to execute their radical plan to use monsters and derelicts to boost sales in a down-turned economy.

However, the bold sales scheme to frighten folk into spending more is ended before it begins since the werewolf proves to be far from a team-player in the wrap up ‘The Sinister Secret of Sarnak!’

Werewolf by Night #11 revelled in the irony as Marv Wolfman signed on as writer for ‘Comes the Hangman’ – illustrated by the incredible Gil Kane & Sutton – in which we learn something interesting about Philip Russell and the Committee, whilst Jack’s attention is distracted by a new apartment, a very odd neighbour and a serial kidnapper abducting young women to keep them safe from “corruption.”

When the self-deluded hooded hero snatches Lissa, he soon finds himself hunted by a monster beyond his wildest dreams…

Concluding chapter ‘Cry Werewolf!’ brings in the criminally underappreciated Don Perlin as inker. In a few short months he would become the strip’s penciller for the rest of the run, but before that Ploog & Chiaramonte returned for another session, introducing a manic mystic and a new love-interest (not the same person) in #13’s ‘His Name is Taboo’.

An aged sorcerer coveting the werewolf’s energies for his own arcane purposes, the magician is stunned when his adopted daughter Topaz finds her loyalties divided and her psionic abilities more help than hindrance to the ravening moon-beast.

‘Lo, the Monster Strikes!’ pits the wolf against Taboo’s undead – but getting better – son and sees revelation and reconciliation between Philip and Jack Russell. As a result, the young man and new girlfriend Topaz set off for Transylvania, the ancestral Russoff estate and a crossover confrontation with the Lord of Vampires.

Tomb of Dracula #18 (March 1974) begins the clash in ‘Enter: Werewolf by Night’ (Wolfman, Gene Colan & Tom Palmer) as Jack and Topaz investigate a potential cure for lycanthropy, only to be attacked by Dracula. Driven off by the girl’s psychic powers the Count realises the threat she poses to him and determined to slay her…

It concludes with Werewolf by Night #15 and the ‘Death of a Monster!’ (Wolfman, Ploog & Chiaramonte) as the battle of beasts resolves into a messy stalemate, but only after Jack learns of his family’s long connection to Dracula…

Supplemented with an unused Ploog cover for Marvel Spotlight#4, Gil Kane’s pre-corrections cover to ToD #18 and previous collection covers by Ploog & Dan Kemp, this first volume also includes a wealth of original art pages (20 in total) by Ploog, Sutton and Andru. A moody masterpiece of macabre menace and all-out animal action, this compilation covers some of the most under-appreciated magic moments in Marvel history: tense, suspenseful and solidly compelling. If you must have a mixed bag of lycanthropes, bloodsuckers and moody young misses, this is a far more entertaining mix than many modern movies, books or miscellaneous matter…
© 1972, 1973, 1974, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Essential Werewolf By Night volume 2


By Doug Moench & Don Perlin with Bill Mantlo, Virgil Redondo, Yong Montaño, Frank Robbins & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2725-3

As Marvel slowly grew to a position of market dominance in 1970, in the wake of losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators – Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby – they did so less by experimentation and more by expanding proven concepts and properties.

The only real exception to this was an en bloc wave of horror titles rapidly devised in response to an industry-wide down-turn in superhero sales. The move was handily expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules.

Almost overnight nasty monsters (plus narcotics and bent coppers – but that’s another story) became acceptable fare within four-colour pages and whilst a parade of 1950s pre-code reprints made sound business sense (so they repackaged a bunch of those too) the creative aspect of the contemporary fascination in supernatural themes was catered to by adapting popular cultural icons before risking whole new concepts on an untested public.

As always the watch-word was fashion: what was hitting big outside comics was to be incorporated into the mix as soon as possible.

When proto-monster Morbius, the Living Vampire debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #101 (October 1971) and the sky failed to fall in, Marvel moved ahead with a line of scary superstars – beginning with a werewolf and traditional vampire – before chancing something new via a haunted biker who could tap into both Easy Rider’s freewheeling motorcycling chic and the supernatural zeitgeist.

Werewolf By Night debuted in Marvel Spotlight #2 (preceded by masked western hero Red Wolf in #1, and followed by the afore-hinted Ghost Rider) although the title, if not the character, was actually cribbed from a classic short thriller from pre-Code horror anthology Marvel Tales #116 (July 1953).

Marvel had a long-time tradition of using old (and presumably already copyrighted) names and titles when creating new series and characters. Hulk, Thor, Magneto, Doctor Strange and many others all got notional starts as throwaways before being re-imagined as major characters…

This copious compendium compiles and completes in moody monochrome the remaining adventures of a good-hearted young West Coast lycanthrope who briefly shone as an unlikely star for the entire length of a trading trend, gathering between two soft covers Werewolf By Night volume 1 #22-45, Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #2-5, and a strange team tryout from Marvel Premiere #28 collectively spanning October 1974 to March 1977.

Jack Russell is a teenager with a thankfully rare but very disturbing condition. On her deathbed his mother revealed unsuspected Transylvanian origins to the kid: and explained a family curse which would turn him into a raging beast on every night with a full moon… as soon as he reached his 18th birthday.

After many months of misunderstanding as Jack tried to cope alone with his periodic wild side, Jack’s stepfather Philip Russell expanded the story, revealing how the Russoff line was cursed by the taint of Lycanthopy: every child doomed to become a wolf-thing under the full-moon from the moment they reached eighteen.

Moreover the feral blight would do the same to his little sister Lissa when she reached her own majority…

As the lad tried and repeatedly failed to balance a normal life with his monthly cycle of uncontrollable ferocity he met his mentor and confidante Buck Cowan, an aging writer who had became Jack’s best friend when the pair began to jointly investigate the wolf-boy’s history. Their incessant search for a cure was made more urgent by little Lissa’s ever-encroaching 18th birthday.

In the course of their researches they had crossed swords with many monsters – human and otherwise – including off-the-rails cop Lou Hackett, who had been going increasingly crazy in his hunt for a werewolf nobody believed in, and fellow lycanthrope Raymond Coker who had found a shocking remedy. For one werewolf to lift his curse he/she had to kill another one…

Written entirely by Doug Moench and pencilled for most of the run by the criminally underrated Don Perlin, the midnight mysteries resume here with the Vince Colletta inked Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #2 where ‘The Frankenstein Monster meets Werewolf by Night’.

Roaming the streets of New York in ‘Prisoners of Flesh!’, the massive mute monster hops a freight train west after overhearing of a mystic named Danton Valya who can transplant souls into new bodies…

He arrives in Los Angeles just as Jack Russell discovers his sister has been abducted by Valya’s Satanist cult ‘To Host the Beast’ and cataclysmically clashes with the monster who has only to let the diabolists sacrifice the werewolf and Lissa to gain his heart’s desire.

Tragically the noble artificial man has more compassion than the cultists and prefers his own sorry existence to benefiting from ‘The Flesh of Satan’s Hate!’

Werewolf By Night #22 (Moench, Perlin & Colletta) introduced a crazed murderer dubbed Atlas who stalks and slays many of Buck’s movie friends. However when Russell’s hairy Other encounters the ‘Face of the Fiend!’, Atlas beats the beast unconscious and in the morning light Jack is arrested for the latest murder…

Lieutenant Vic Northrup was a good friend of the deceased Hackett and knows Russell is hiding something, but eventually has to release him for lack of evidence. Picking Jack up from the station Buck reveals he has gleaned the inside story of Atlas and his own historical involvement in the story, only to become the next victim…

However, the werewolf is on hand when he strikes and the battle explodes into LA’s streets where disbelieving cops had to admit that ‘The Murderer is a Maniac!’

In #24 Buck introduces Jack to fringe scientist Winston Redditch who claims to have chemically isolated the constituents of the human psyche and thus might be able to suppress Jack’s periodic bestial outbursts. Sadly the boffin accidentally tries the serum himself first and unleashes ‘The Dark Side of Evil!’

The remorseless thug he becomes calls himself DePrayve and fights the werewolf to a standstill, giving Northrup an opportunity to capture the hirsute “urban legend” which has stalked the city and drove Hackett crazy…

From WBN #25 the art took a quantum leap in quality as Perlin – already co-plotting the stories – began inking his own art. When the beast busts out of custody ‘An Eclipse of Evil’ finds Redditch turning his warped attention to the lycanthrope as a potential guinea pig for further experimentation, only for both the feral fury and dastardly DePrayve to be targeted by deranged vigilante and “protector of purity” The Hangman

The horrific three-way clash resulted in ‘A Crusade of Murder’ with Redditch hospitalised, the vicious vigilante in custody and battered, bloody but unbowed Jack still free and cursed…

Eschewing chronological order for the sake of unbroken continuity-clarity, January’s Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #3 pops up here and reveals a ‘Castle Curse!’ (inked by Sal Trapani) which sees Jack return to Transylvania after receiving a monster-infested vision of former love interest – and psionic powerhouse – Topaz in ‘Spawned in Dream… Slain in Nightmare!’

Jack drags Buck and Lissa ‘Home to Slay!’ in the Balkans, finding the old family home under siege by pitchfork-wielding villagers who have all their worst fears confirmed when he goes hairy and gets hungry, before finally tracking down Topaz in the care – and custody – of a gypsy matriarch with an agenda of her own.

The blood-crazed old witch has a tragic connection to the Russoff line and was exploiting Topaz’s restored powers to enact a grisly ‘Vengeance in Death!’ upon the villagers by raising an army of zombies. The chain of events she set in motion could only end in death…

Werewolf By Night #27 (March 1975) began a chilling and fantastic extended saga with the introduction of ‘The Amazing Doctor Glitternight’. Back in the USA Jack’s feral alter ego runs loose on the isolated Californian coast and is drawn to a cave where a bizarre wizard is making monsters from what appears to be fragments of Topaz’s soul…

The eerie mage is hunting for Topaz’s dead stepfather Taboo and will not be gainsaid, even after Jack’s uncontrollable were-beast slaughters his eldritch masterpiece…

The mage intensifies his campaign in ‘The Darkness from Glitternight’ heaping horrors upon Jack and friends before capturing Lissa on her birthday and using dark magic to turn her from simple werewolf into ‘A Sister of Hell’

The ghostly reappearance of Taboo proves a turning point as wolf battles hellbeast and everybody clashes with Glitternight before a ‘Red Slash Across Midnight’ seemingly results in a cure for one of the tortured Russell clan…

April’s Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #4 offers a long-delayed clash with living vampire Morbius beginning with ‘A Meeting of Blood’ (Moench & Virgil Redondo) as the former biologist tracks his old girlfriend Martine and discovers a cure for his own exsanguinary condition.

Unfortunately the chase brings him into savage and inconclusive combat with a certain hairy hellion and the solution is lost…

Also in that double-sized issue was Moench & Yong Montaño’s ‘When the Moon Dripped Blood!’ wherein Jack and Buck stumble across a group of rural loons all too successfully summoning a ghastly elder god. Although great at consuming and converting human offerings and acolytes, the appalling atrocity is seemingly no match for a ravening ball of furious fangs and claws…

Werewolf By Night #31 (July 1975) was a turning point as ‘Death in White’ (Moench & Perlin) has Jack plumb depths of utter despair after a skiing weekend turns into a nightmare when the werewolf stalks a little girl and Buck nearly dies trying to save her.

With the same cover-date and catching up at last, Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #5 shifted into full-on fantasy mode. Illustrated by Montaño, ‘Prologue: I Werewolf’ recaps Jack’s peculiar problems before ‘The Plunder of Paingloss’ discloses how the leaders of dimensional realm Biphasia – permanently polarised between night and day – instigate a ‘Bad Deal with the Devil’s Disciple’ on Earth when demonist Joaquin Zairre kidnaps the werewolf…

Dispatching the beast though a ‘Doorway of the Dark Waters’, Jack is soon a pawn in a sorcerous war where ‘Fragile Magic’ on the world of light and darkness allows him and his allies to raid the ‘The Ark of Onom-Kra’ and expose a secret tyrant in ‘Silver Rain, Sardanus and Shadow’

Returned to the real world Werewolf By Night #32 (August 1975) introduces mercenary Marc Spector who is hired by criminal capitalists, equipped with a silver-armoured costume and weapons and tasked with capturing Russell or his animal other as ‘…The Stalker Called Moon Knight’ (Moench & Don Perlin with the assistance of Howie Perlin).

The bombastic battle and its ferocious sequel ‘Wolf-Beast vs. Moon Knight’ received an unprecedented response and quickly promoted the lunar avenger to prominence as Marvel’s edgy answer to the Batman: especially after the mercurial merc rejected his employers entreaties and let the wolf, as well as hostages Lissa and Topaz, run free…

Next up is a uniquely odd attempt to create a team of terrors. Marvel Premiere #28 (February 1976) introduced The Legion of Monsters in ‘There’s a Mountain on Sunset Boulevard!’ by Bill Mantlo, Frank Robbins & Steve Gan.

When an ancient alien manifested a rocky peak in LA, the werewolf, Man-Thing, Morbius and Ghost Rider were drawn into a bizarre confrontation which might have resulted in the answer to all their wishes and hopes, but instead only lead to death and disappointment…

Werewolf By Night #34 (October 1975, Moench & Perlin) began another eerie suspense thriller as Jack, Lissa, Topaz and Buck’s girlfriend Elaine Marston braved a haunted house in search of cure for Cowan’s werewolf-caused coma.

Elaine had lost her first husband to the doomed domicile and it took a lot to bring her back. That triggering event is the dying Buck muttering the name of deceased spiritualist Belaric Marcosa who apparently still roamed the hell-house where ‘Not All the Shades of Death nor Evil’s Majesty’ could rein in his sadistic games…

Braving the unknown the terrified quartet fetched up to the mansion and were soon enduring ‘Evil in Every Stone, No Longer Hiding’; becoming enmired in a war between ‘Marcosa in Death’ and the spirits of the many victims he had tortured and destroyed.

Their horrific psychological ordeal eventually results in victory for Jack and his companions as ‘The End’ produces a miraculous recovery in the dying Buck and the cessation of Marcosa’s phantom depredations…

WBN #38 took a sharp change of direction as Jack exiled himself to the wilderness only to stumble on a desperate fugitive fighting to save his baby from a murderous gangster who had taken up with his former wife. In the midst of such mundane matters Jack is visited by a trinity of infinite beings who threaten to alter his existence forever and ominously warn that ‘Rebirth Also Kills’

The celestial visitants are also in touch with former werewolf Raymond Coker as he squats in a hut in distant Haiti and even appear to Lissa and Topaz as they tend the still recuperating Buck.

The “Three Who Are All” are subtly ensuring all the players are in place for a game of cosmic consequences and in #39 when Jack races back to his friend he finds Coker and mystic troubleshooter Brother Voodoo waiting. No sooner are introductions made than an army of zuvembies attack and Russell learns that ‘Some are Born to the Night’

Portentous proclamations of unfulfilled destinies propel the adventurers and Topaz back to Haiti where obsessed Vic Northrup is still looking for answers to Lou Hackett’s death. Ahead of them all is an infernal pit nurturing a shocking travesty of life with the resurrected Glitternight in charge of all the ‘Souls in Darkness’

Revealed in WBN #41 as a former member of the gestalt which was once “Five Who Are All”, Glitternight’s fascination with monster-making is at last explained as the arcane abomination’s attempts to dominate reality are spectacularly thwarted through the return of the missing fourth celestial as well as the indomitable resistance of Brother Voodoo and Jack in ‘…And Death Shall be the Change’.

Key to their eventual triumph is the moment when Russell discovers how to become a werewolf in full control of his mental faculties; at will, day or night…

Returning to America, the Werewolf-by-Choice naturally decides to become a superhero and moves to New York in time to stumble onto a plot by the Masked Marauder. Also on scene is a certain Armoured Avenger and, after the usual misunderstandings, Jack is shaggy knees-deep in trouble with ‘The Marauder and the Man of Iron’

The tale, the series and this essential edition all conclude with Werewolf By Night #43 as ensorcelled fang-&-claw unite with high-tech wizardry to destroy an awesome animalistic automaton and end the ‘Terrible Threat of the Tri-Animan’

Despite the rather lame and ill-considered attempt to reinvent the series at the last, this moody masterpiece of macabre menace and all-out animal action covers some of the most under-appreciated magic moments and terror tales in Marvel history: tense, suspenseful and solidly compelling.

If you must have a mixed bag of lycanthropes, bloodsuckers, aliens, masked mystery men and moody young misses – this is a far more entertaining mix than most modern movies, books or miscellaneous matter…
© 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 2007 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire


By Jason Aaron & Roland Boschi (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4235-5

In the early 1970’s, following a downturn in superhero comics sales, Marvel shifted focus from straight costumed crusaders to supernatural and horror characters with one of the most adaptable and enduring proving to be a certain flaming-skulled vigilante dubbed the Ghost Rider.

Carnival stunt-cyclist Johnny Blaze had sold his soul to the devil in an attempt to save his foster-father from cancer. As is always the way of such things Satan, or arch-liar Mephisto as he actually was, followed the letter, but not spirit, of the contract and Crash Simpson died anyway.

When the Demon Lord came for Blaze only the love of an innocent saved the bad-boy biker from eternal pain and damnation. Temporarily thwarted, the devil afflicted Johnny was with a condition which made his body burn with the fires of Hell every time the sun went down and become the unwilling, unknowing host for outcast and exiled demon Zarathos – the Spirit of Vengeance.

After years of travail and turmoil Blaze was (temporarily) freed of the demon’s curse and seemingly retired from the hero’s life. As Blaze briefly escaped his pre-destined doom, a tragic boy named Danny Ketch assumed the role of Zarathos’ host and prison by a route most circuitous and tragic…

Over the years a grim truth emerged: Johnny and Danny were actually half-brothers and both the Higher Realms and Infernal Regions had big plans for them. Moreover the power of the Ghost Rider had always been a weapon of Heaven not a curse from Hell…

This riotous, rollercoaster grindhouse supernatural thriller collects the 6-issue miniseries Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire (from August 2009 to February 2010) by Jason Aaron & Roland Boschi, featuring a horde of fan-favourite villains, a variety of previous fire-headed hosts, a gaggle of grim guest-stars and assorted Spirits of Vengeance in a bombastic, Hell-for-Leathers romp which concluded a long-running saga.

It all began when usurper Archangel Zadkiel – thanks to his unwitting dupe Danny Ketch – finally achieved his appalling ambition: ousting God to become the new Supreme Power of the universe. The sinister Seraph hadn’t reckoned on a motley crew of sinners and worse, led by Blaze, who were utterly resolved to stop Him…

With covers and variants by Jae Lee, Phil Jimenez, Das Pastoras, Dustin Weaver, Greg Land and Christian Nauck, the dark drama begins when Zadkiel’s angels raid a satanic fertility lab and slaughter all the infants and children. The victims were all prospective Antichrists, but one escaped…

When Hellstorm – a fully grown, naturally conceived Son of Satan – arrives, he finds himself in a peculiar position. Having spent his entire rebellious life battling his sire, Daimon Hellstrom and has no desire to aid the Evil One’s schemes, but by his murderous acts Zadkiel is actually trying to unmake Biblical Prophecy.

God always intended for an Apocalypse to finish His Divine Plan, and the usurper’s coup is actually beyond all concept of right and wrong. Thus the die is cast and Hellstorm must, albeit reluctantly, find the last Earthborn heir of Hell and ‘Save the Antichrist, Save the World’

Simultaneously, Blaze, accompanied by mystic Caretaker/combat nun Sister Sara, is tracking Zadkiel’s angelic agents, determined to find a door to Heaven and confront the renegade face to face. They also want to kill Johnny’s brother Danny, whose pig-headed hubris has led to Zadkiel replacing God and occupying the Vault of Heaven…

When the bikers wipe out a brace of boastful rearguard cherubim and learn of The Plan, they immediately change tack, joining the hunt for missing Anton Satan (AKA Kid Blackheart) to save him from the wrath of the Pretender God…

Oblivious to the threat Anton is exactly where you’d expect an Antichrist to be: making millions as the youngest executive at a Wall Street Hedge Fund. His cruel, calm arrogance is soon shaken, however, when a Seraphic Assassin bursts in only to be promptly eradicated by occult terrorist Jaine Cutter and her “Breathing Gun”: another player determined to restore the Biblically-scheduled Armageddon.

She, however, has severely underestimated Zadkiel’s determination and sense of proportion and drags the protesting Hell-brat straight into an angelic ambush. And far across the country someone is gathering a small army of Ghost Rider villains. They already have Orb, Blackout and The Deacon on board…

With tormenting demons replacing his lost arms, Master Pandemonium is a living doorway to Hell, but even he had no idea what true suffering was until Danny Ketch kicked his door in, looking for a quick introduction and shortest route to the Big Bad Boss of Gehenna…

Now, three days later in New York, Hellstorm explosively saves Cutter and Anton from the ruthless Flight of Angels, but when the self-serving kid bolts he runs right into the newly returned Ketch.

Blaze and Sister Sara arrive moments later and all parties very reluctantly agree to suspend hostilities for a team-up in ‘Are You There, Devil? It’s Me, Danny.’

The anti-Ghost Rider Squad is growing too. Freshly signed up are Zadkiel’s own flame-headed fanatic Kowalski AKA Vengeance, plus Scarecrow, Madcap, motorised maniac Big Wheel and a savagely sentient steam-shovel called Trull

Thanks to Pandemonium, Ketch has met the Devil and made a deal. In return for preserving the last extant Antichrist from Zadkiel’s forces, Satan will provide the brothers with access to Heaven and give them their shot at restoring the previously incumbent Deity…

After brutally working out their operational differences in time-honoured fashion, Johnny and Danny at last unite just as ‘The Brothers Ghost Rider’ are bushwhacked by Big Wheel and Trull (an alien mind-force which could possess any mechanical contrivance: tractor, bulldozer, chainsaw…)

The catastrophic clash brings the boys to a temple which is a gateway to the Eternal Realm, but thanks to Blackout they miss their chance to use it…

Meanwhile in a hidden location the secret sacred order of Gun Nuns prepare for their last battle…

‘Here Comes Hell’ starts in the Jasper County Sheriff’s holding cell where Scarecrow and Madcap have just slaughtered all the other occupants. Outside, Hellstorm, Sara, Jaine and obnoxious Anton have entered the quiet town, seeking safety and a useable satanic sanctuary to stash the kid in.

Zadkiel’s converts are waiting for them and a deadly duel ensues. In the melee Anton shows his true colours by attacking Sara and allying with Master Pandemonium even as Vengeance and the Orb lead an army of killer angels, demons and zombie bikers against the primed-for-martyrdom Gun Nuns protecting a fully operational highway to Heaven…

‘Sole Reigning Holds the Tyranny of Heaven’ finds the triumphant, power-drunk Zadkiel remodelling Paradise to his own gory tastes and fitfully rewriting snippets of Creation when the Ghost Riders storm in through the nun’s gate…

Meanwhile on Earth equally blockbusting battles break out as Hellstorm and Cutter at last suspend their truce and renew their personal vendetta. Elsewhere Kid Blackheart brutally uncovers Sister Sara’s impossible hidden destiny as a living portal to Heaven, and utilises her to transport battalions of demons to conquer Kingdom Come…

The occult overdrive thus rockets to a cataclysmic conclusion as Zadkiel personally smashes the invading Spirits of Vengeance in ‘If You Can’t Lower Heaven, Raise Hell’. With the streets of Heaven knee-deep in blood, even a pep talk from his own dead wife and kids cannot keep Blaze battling against the new Omniscience, but when the Legions of Hell attack and Danny incites all the previously expired Ghost Riders to rise, Johnny sees one last chance to make things right…

Fast, frantic, irreverent, satirically funny, violently gratuitous and clearly not afraid to be daft when necessary, this is a fabulously barmy, two-fisted eldritch escapade in the manner of TV’s Supernatural or Angel that will reward any fans of raucous road thrillers, magical monstrosity tours and the minutiae of Marvel’s horror continuity.
© 2009, 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ghost Rider – Danny Ketch Classic volume 1


By Howard Mackie, Javier Saltares & Mark Texeira with Jimmy Palmiotti (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3735-1

In the early 1970’s, following a downturn in superhero comics sales Marvel shifted focus from straight costumed crusaders to supernatural and horror characters and one of the most enduring was a certain flaming-skulled vigilante dubbed the Ghost Rider.

Carnival stunt-cyclist Johnny Blaze had sold his soul to the devil in an attempt to save his foster-father from cancer. As is always the way of such things Satan, or arch-liar Mephisto as he actually was, followed the letter, but not spirit, of the contract and Crash Simpson died anyway.

When the Demon Lord came for Blaze only the love of an innocent saved the bad-boy biker from eternal pain and damnation. Temporarily thwarted, Johnny was afflicted with a body that burned with the fires of Hell every time the sun went down and became the unwilling host for outcast and exiled demon Zarathos – the Spirit of Vengeance.

After years of travail and turmoil Blaze was liberated from the demon’s curse and seemingly retired from the hero’s life.

As Blaze briefly escaped his pre-destined doom, a tragic boy named Danny Ketch assumed the role of Zarathos’ host and prison by a route most circuitous and tragic…

From that dubious period of fashionably “Grim ‘n’ Gritty” super-heroics in the early 1990s comes this slight but engagingly fast-paced horror-hero re-imagining courtesy of writer Howard Mackie and artists Javier Saltares & Mark Texeira, which quickly secured the new Ghost Rider status as one of the hottest hits of the period.

This first Danny Ketch Classic volume reprints issues #1-10 of the revitalised series spanning May 1990 – February 1991, and opens, following a reminiscence from the author, with the bonanza-sized introductory tale ‘Life’s Blood’ which sees young Danny and his photographer sister Barbara looking for Houdini’s tomb in the vast Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn on the eve of Halloween.

Unfortunately they stumble into a bloody criminal confrontation between ninjas and gangsters over a mysterious briefcase. Discovered, the siblings flee but Barb is hit by an arrow, whilst the case itself is snatched by a juvenile gang who plague the wooded necropolis.

The ninjas and their macabre leader Deathwatch are the victors of the fire-fight and are soon hunting for their hard-won prize and the witnesses…

In an adjacent junkyard Danny is helplessly watching Barb bleed out when his attention is caught by a glowing pair of eyes. Closer inspection reveals them to be an arcane design on the gas-cap of an abandoned motorbike. The ninjas, having caught the girl who stole the briefcase, are closing in on the Ketch kids when Danny, his hands soaked in his sister’s blood, touches the glowing bike symbol and is inexplicably transformed into a spectral horror, burning with fury and indignation – a Spirit of Vengeance hungry to assuage the pain of innocent blood spilled with inhuman vitality, toting an infinitely adaptable bike chain and a mystic “Penance Stare” which subjected the guilty to unimaginable psychic pain and guilt…

The Blazing Biker makes short work of the ninjas, but when the police arrive and find him standing over the dying Barbara, they naturally jump to the wrong conclusion…

As the Ghost Rider flees on a bike with wheels of fire, causing spectacular amounts of collateral carnage, Barb is rushed to hospital, where a re-transfigured, bruised, bleeding and totally confused Danny finds her the next morning…

In the richest part of Manhattan, Wall Street shark and psionic monster Deathwatch makes a ghastly example of the man who lost his briefcase twice even as his rival for its possession, criminal overlord Wilson Fisk, similarly chastises his own minions for failure.

The contents of the case are not only hotly disputed but utterly lethal and both factions will tear Brooklyn apart to get them…

Meanwhile the teen thieves known as the Cyprus Pool Jokers find three canisters in that purloined case and hide them all over the vast cemetery, unaware that both Deathwatch’s ninjas and the Kingpin’s hoods are hunting for them. At Barbara’s bedside Danny is plagued by guilt and anger. Unable to help his comatose sister the lad determines to investigate what happened to him. When he awoke the blazing bike had returned to a normal configuration and now Danny climbs aboard and heads back to Cyprus Hills to look for answers just as the competing packs of killers are turning the streets into a free-fire zone.

Riding straight into the bloodbath, Danny sees his bike gas-cap glowing again and, almost against his will, slams his palm onto it, unleashing his skeletal passenger once again…

Devastating the assembled mobsters and murderers, the Ghost Rider then takes wounded Cyprus Pool Jokers Ralphie and Paulie to hospital and another pointless confrontation with the authorities…

‘Do Be Afraid of the Dark!’ finds open war between Deathwatch and the Kingpin’s forces for the canisters neither side possesses, with the Ghost Rider roaming the night tackling the increasingly savage hunters on both sides. The girl Paulie has admitted that she has no idea where two of the containers could be, since the Jokers split up to hide them and she’s now the last of them…

The urban horror escalates when Deathwatch’s metahuman enforcer Blackout joins the hunt: a sadistic man-made vampire with the ability to manipulate fields of complete darkness. This psychotic mass-murderer targets entire families and starts his search by “questioning” the cops who attended the initial battle in the graveyard…

Danny is on the verge of a breakdown, snapping viciously at his mother and girlfriend Stacy and utterly unable to share the horror that his life has become. Between days at Barb’s bedside, and nights as the slave to a primal force obsessed with blood and punishment, Ketch is drowning…

When Blackout tracks down the recovering Ralphie, the Ghost Rider is too late to save the young felon’s parents and only just manages to drive the vampire away before the boy too succumbs, leading to the inevitable final clash in ‘Deathwatch’, wherein the Wall Street dilettante’s forces find the canisters before being overwhelmed by the Kingpin. Ever pragmatic, the ninja-master simply surrenders, but the wildly unpredictable Blackout refuses to submit and slips into a berserker rage of slaughter, before escaping with the containers and terrified hostage Paulie.

The albino maniac knows the canisters contain a toxin that will wipe out New York and harbours an impossible plan to use them to kick-start an atomic war which will produce a nuclear winter on an Earth he would inevitably rule. However his delusional dreams are ended when the Ghost Rider appears and engages the vampire in blistering battle.

Incensed beyond endurance, Blackout savagely bites the blazing biker, but instead of blood sucks down raw, coruscating hellfire which leaves his face a melted, agonising ruin and burns the canisters to harmless slag…

Issue #4 found Danny, unable to resist the constant call to become the Furious Flaming Apparition, decide to lock up the cursed motorcycle beyond the reach of temptation in faraway Manhattan, only to find it had a mind of its own when a clash between a biker gang and an old Thor villain trapped both Ketch and an car full innocent bystanders in a subterranean parking garage. ‘You Can Run, but You Can’t Hyde!’ taught the troubled young man that the Rider was a cruel necessity in a bad world, an argument confirmed by the beginning of an extended subplot in which children began vanishing from the streets of Brooklyn…

The very epitome of Grim‘n’Gritty stopped by for a two issue guest-shot in #5-6 as ‘Getting Paid!’ and ‘Do or Die!’ saw a mysterious figure distributing free guns to children, drawing the attention of not just the night-stalking Spirit of Vengeance but also the merciless, militaristic vigilante Frank Castle, known to criminals and cops alike as The Punisher.

The weapons are turning the city into a deadly battleground, but the cops and unscrupulous TV reporter Linda Wei seem more concerned with stopping the Ghost Rider’s campaign against the youthful killers than ending the bloodshed. Danny decides to investigate in his mortal form and quickly finds himself in over his head, but for some reason the magic medallion won’t transform him. He is completely unaware how close he was to becoming the Punisher’s latest statistic…

The situation changes that night and the flaming-skulled zealot clashes with the Punisher before uniting to tackle the true mastermind – a manic anti-nationalist, anti-capitalist terrorist known as Flag-Smasher.

With the insane demagogue determined to unleash a storm of death on Wall Street, the driven anti-heroes are forced to briefly unite to end the scheme and save the “bad” kids and the system that created them…

‘Obssesion’ in #7, illustrated solely by Texeira, saw the return of animal-trainer and contortionist the Scarecrow, who had barely troubled Iron Man, the X-Men and Captain America in his early days, but after having slipped into morbid thanophilia had become a death-preoccupied maniac who presented a truly different threat to the mystic agent of retribution.

A far greater menace was seen – or rather, not seen – with the return of Blackout who silently stalked Danny Ketch, savagely slaughtering everybody who knew him. Not even the police guards at Barbara’s hospital bedside could stop the fiend with half-a-face…

Through dreams Danny debated his cursed existence with the Spirit of Vengeance in #8’s ‘Living Nightmare’ (Mackie, Saltares & Texeira) constantly bemoaning his fate but seemingly unable to affect the implacable, terrifying being he couldn’t stop becoming. Adding to his fevered nights were visions of Deathwatch, Barbara and the vile psycho-killer Blackout.

As Blackout continued to murder anybody coming into contact with the troubled Ketch – who was seemingly paralysed by his dilemma – girlfriend Stacy neared the end of her training as a cop, and her father increased patrols to catch the blazing Biker. Impatient and scared, the Cypress Hills Community Action Group took controversial steps to safeguard their streets by hiring maverick private security company H.E.A.R.T. (Humans Engaging All Racial Terrorism – truly one of the naffest and most inappropriate acronyms in comics history) who promptly decided Ghost Rider was the cause of all the chaos and went after him with an arsenal of high-tech military hardware and a helicopter gunship…

The Spirit of Vengeance was already occupied, having found Blackout attacking a girl, but their final showdown was interrupted when the fiery skeleton was attacked by a colossal Morlock (feral mutants who live in tunnels beneath New York) who mistook the saviour for the assailant…

Issue #9 guest-starred the X-Factor – a reformed X-Men team comprising Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman and the Beast who uncover the mystery of the missing children in ‘Pursuit’ (with additional inks by Jimmy Palmiotti) when they follow the Ghost Rider and Morlocks under the city.

Tragically, Blackout too is on the Blazing Biker’s trail and finds in the concrete depths even more victims to torture Danny Ketch’s breaking heart and blistered soul before their climactic last clash…

This volume ends on a thematic cliffhanger with ‘Stars of Blood’ as Danny begins a new phase of life reconciled to his burden. When a series of horrific murders are attributed to a publicity-seeking serial killer named Zodiak, the boy begins investigating the deaths and discovers that the haunted gas-cap is again inactive, although it does transform him later when he stumbles over a couple of kids fighting…

Arcanely active again, the Ghost Rider then follows a convenient tip to the astrological assassin and discovers a far more prosaic reason for the string of slayings before an inclusive and unsatisfying battle with the insufferable, elusive Zodiak.

Meanwhile across town, the humiliated H.E.A.R.T. team accept a commission from Deathwatch to destroy the Spirit of Vengeance, whilst in the western USA the previous victim of the curse of Zarathos is riding his motorcycle hard, determined to get to New York and destroy the latest Ghost Rider as soon as possible…

To Be Continued…

This expanded re-issue of the 1991 Ghost Rider Resurrected trade paperback also includes the cover and introduction to that volume, pin-ups by Saltares, Texeira & Palmiotti and a full cover gallery and, despite being markedly short on plot and utterly devoid of humour, does deliver the maximum amount of uncomplicated thrills, spills and chills for action-starved fight fans.

If you occasionally feel that subtlety isn’t everything and yearn for a vicarious dose of simple wickedness-whomping, this might well be the book for you…
© 1990, 1991, 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ghost Rider: Fear Itself


By Rob Williams, Matthew Clark, Brian Ching, Lee Garbett & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-499-7

In recent times Marvel has eschewed colossal braided mega-crossover events in favour of smaller, themed mini-epics but following the release of the Captain America and Thor films – not to mention the upcoming Avengers celluloid blockbuster – the time obviously seemed right to once more plunge their entire Universe into cataclysmic chaos and rebirth.

This collection gathers the prologue an 5-issue miniseries which reintroduced the Ghost Rider to contemporary continuity and can even be read without reference to the Fear Itself core volume and subsequent spin-off books (stemming from the 30-odd regular titles, miniseries and specials the saga expanded into).

In the main storyline an antediluvian Asgardian menace resurfaces and by possessing a selection of Earth’s heroes and villains sets in motion a terrifying bloodbath of carnage to feed on the fear of mankind and topple the established Norse pantheon. With that much spiritual energy unleashed its no surprise that other supernatural entities begin to feel threatened…

Years ago carnival stunt-cyclist Johnny Blaze sold his soul to the devil in an attempt to save his foster-father from cancer. As is always the way of such things Satan – or arch-liar Mephisto, as he actually was – followed the letter, but not spirit of the contract. Crash Simpson died anyway and when the Dark Lord came for Johnny only the love of an innocent saved the bad-boy biker from eternal pain and damnation.

Temporarily thwarted Johnny was afflicted with a body that burned with the fires of Hell every time the sun went down and became the unwilling host for outcast demon Zarathos – the spirit of vengeance.

In later years Blaze briefly escaped his doom and a tragic boy named Danny Ketch assumed the role of Zarathos’ host and prison.

Now in a classy fright-fest by Rob Williams (Cla$$war, 2000AD’s Low Life) and artists Matthew Clark, Brian Ching, Lee Garbett & Sean Parsons, with additional art from Valerio Schiti, the Angel from Hell possesses a new host and is unleashed again to punish the guilty, beginning in the Prologue issue ‘Give Up the Ghost’ wherein the emotionally shattered but still valiantly heroic Blaze – once again bonded to the flaming phantom – is tricked by the mysterious adept Adam into surrendering the curse to a more than willing new vessel…

As the fear-mongering “Worthy” decimate the planet and humanity’s psyche, a female Ghost Rider roars through the ruins on her flaming bike saving the innocent and destroying the things which prey on mortals, but finds her match in the transformed Asgardian herald Skadi

Meanwhile the liberated Blaze is confronted by his lifelong tormentor Mephisto who reveals that he is not the only Great Big Liar in creation: Adam, who claims to be the First Man, has a plan for the new Ghost Rider which will alter mankind forever…

Adam wants to eradicate all sin on Earth using the gullible, girlish novitiate acolyte Alejandra as his weapon but that is actually an even worse proposition and fate than anything any devil could devise…

Driven by conscience, Blaze makes another Devil’s Bargain to save humanity whilst the sheltered child who now contains the Ghost Rider begins to carry out Adam’s plan with staggering success.

Raiding Adam’s hidden temple. Blaze joins forces with British Zombie wizard Seeker – who knows far more than he’s letting on – just as Adam’s devoted disciple begins to find her own mind and path…

With the planet sliding swiftly into physical cataclysm and psychic Armageddon can the disparate forces of Free Will unite in time to save us all from salvation…?

The book ends on a superbly powerful human note as the mortal who eventually retains the power of Zarathos goes on a mission of old-fashioned vengeance only to be confronted with the most appalling of father figures…

Cool, action-packed, mightily moving and wryly witty, this is a splendid reinvention of a character who has been in equal amounts both the best and worst of Marvel’s mighty pantheon and one well worth a little of your time and money.

Ghost Rider: Fear Itself is scheduled for British release on January 12th 2012.

™ & © 2012 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. Italy. A British Edition by Panini UK Ltd.

Essential Tales of the Zombie vol.1


By Steve Gerber, Pablo Marcos & various (Marvel)
ISBN 0-7851-1916-7

Inspiration isn’t everything. In fact as Marvel slowly grew to a position of market dominance in the wake of the losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators, they did so less by experimentation and more by expanding proven concepts and properties. The only real exception to this was the en masse creation of horror titles in response to the industry down-turn in super-hero sales – a move expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules.

The switch to sinister supernatural stars had a number of benefits. Most important it brought a new readership to comics, one attuned to the global revival in spiritualism, Satanism and all things spooky. Almost as important, it gave the reprint-crazy company an opportunity to finally recycle old 1950s horror stories that had been rendered unprintable and useless since the code’s inception in 1954.

This comprehensive moody monochrome tome collects the contents of Tales of the Zombie #1-10 and pertinent portions of Dracula Lives #1-2 but, despite targeting the more mature black and white magazine market of the 1970s, these are oddly coy horror stories for a generation born before “video nasties” and teen-slasher movies, so it’s not likely that you’ll need a sofa to hide behind…

The collection commences with ‘Zombie!’ illustrated by unsung legend Tony DiPreta: one of those aforementioned, unleashed 1950s reprints which found its way as cheap filler into the back of Dracula Lives #1 (August 1973). In this intriguing pot-boiler criminal Blackie Nolan runs for his life when the man he framed for his crimes animates a corpse to extract his revenge…

A few months earlier Marvel Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas had green-lighted a new mature-reader anthology magazine starring a Walking Deadman, closely based on a classic 1953 Stan Lee/Bill Everett thriller originally published in Menace #5. Tales of the Zombie #1 had a cover-date of July 1973 and contained a mix of all-new material, choice reprints and text features to thrill and chill all the voodoo devotees of comics land.

The undead excitement begins with ‘Altar of the Damned’ by Thomas, Steve Gerber, John Buscema & Tom Palmer, introducing wealthy Louisiana coffee-magnate Simon Garth as he frantically breaks free of a voodoo cult determined to sacrifice him. He is aided by priestess Layla who usually earns her daily bread as his secretary. Unfortunately, the attempt fails and Garth dies only to be brought back as a mighty, mindless slave of his worst enemy Gyps – the petty, lecherous gardener fired for leering at the boss’s daughter…

Next comes a retouched, cunningly recycled reprint of the aforementioned Everett ‘Zombie!’ yarn, adapted to depict the Garth as the corpse walker rampaging through Mardi Gras before exacting a far more permanent punishment on the ghastly gardener, after which the Dick Ayers limned ‘Iron Head’ saw a deep sea diver take a decidedly different look at the native art of resurrection…

‘The Sensuous Zombie!’ is a cinematic history of the sub-genre and ‘Back to Back and Belly to Belly at the Zombie Jamboree Ball!’ an editorial tribute to Bill Everett after which Kit Pearson, Marv Wolfman & Pablo Marcos revealed the secret of ‘The Thing From the Bog!’ whilst Tom Sutton applied a disinterred tongue to his cheek for the blackly comic story of ‘The Mastermind’.

Gerber, Buscema & Syd Shores then returned to the saga of Simon Garth in ‘Night of the Walking Dead!’, as the murdered man’s daughter lost the amulet which controlled the zombie to a psychotic sneak thief…

Pertinent portions of Dracula Lives #2 follow as ‘The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans!’ by Thomas, Gene Colan & Dick Giordano relates the Lord of Vampires’ clash with the undying mistress of magic Marie Laveau (tenuously included here as the charismatic bloodsucker strides past the recently deceased Garth on a crowded Mardi Gras street) before Tales of the Zombie #2 unfolds in its gory entirety.

Gerber & Marcos led off with ‘Voodoo Island!’ as daughter Donna Garth took ship for Port-Au-Prince, determined to learn all she could about the dark arts whilst the shambling cadaver of her father was drawn into the nefarious affairs of criminal mastermind Mr. Six. By circuitous means the mindless but instinct-driven Garth also ended up in Haiti just as a madman turning women into giant spiders decided Donna would be an ideal test subject… Luckily the one-time coffee-king’s best friend Anton Cartier was a resident and an expert on Voodoo lore…

‘Voodoo Unto Others’ by Tony Isabella & Winslow Mortimer tells a grim but affecting tale of the law of the Loa whilst ‘Acid Test’ by Stan Lee & George Tuska is another 1950’s thriller culled from Marvel’s chiller vaults, followed by a text feature trumpeting the company’s “next big thing” with ‘Introducing Brother Voodoo’ by Isabella.

It was back to contemporary times with the stunning graveyard re-animator yarn ‘Twin Burial’ by Chuck Robinson & Ralph Reese, balanced by creepy Colan classic ‘From Out of the Grave’ after which Chris Claremont asked ‘Voodoo: What’s it All About, Alfred?’ in an expansive prose piece, before Gerber & Marcos concluded the Garth mini-saga in ‘Night of the Spider!’

Issue #3 found the Zombie still lurching around Haiti in ‘When the Gods Crave Flesh!’, encountering a manic film director and his histrionic starlet wife who wanted to expose Voodoo to the judgemental celluloid eye of Hollywood.

Bad, bad, bad idea…

Claremont scripted a prose shocker next, contributing part 1 of ‘With the Dawn Comes Death!’, lavishly illustrated with stock movie stills before ‘Net Result’ provided another Atlas-era atrocity (by DiPreta) whilst Isabella & Vincente Alcazar excelled with a new epic of samurai-against-dragon in ‘Warrior’s Burden’.

‘The Night of the Living Dead Goes on and on and on’ provided an in-depth analysis of the movie that restarted it all by Don McGregor, and Bill Walton limned the Fifties fear-fest ‘I Won’t Stay Dead’ before Doug Moench & Enrique Badia crafted a grim period piece of perilous plantation peril in ‘Jilimbi’s Word’ after which ‘Tales of the Zombie Feature Page’ closed the issue with a Steve Gerber interview and a critique of George A. Romero’s film Codename: Trixie – which we all know today as The Crazies

Tales of the Zombie #4 (March 1974) opened with ‘The Law and Phillip Bliss’ as the mystic Amulet of Damballah irresistibly drew Garth back to New Orleans at the unwitting behest of a down-and-out with a grudge, swiftly followed by another movie feature by McGregor, this time examining the spooky overtones of current James Bond flick ‘Live and Let Die’, after which Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler, Vic Martin & Win Mortimer crafted a comicstrip film-thriller in ‘The Drums of Doom!’

Fantasy author Lin Carter explored popular modern supernatural proliferation in his article ‘Neo-Witchcraft’, ‘Courtship by Voodoo’ (by Isabella & Ron Wilson) recounted Egyptian romantic antics, and Moench & Mortimer disclosed the downside of desecrating graves for fun in ‘Nightfilth Rising’.

John Albano & Ernie Chua (nee Chan) told the tragic tale of ‘Four Daughters of Satan’ before ‘The Law and Phillip Bliss’ concluded in a cathartic slaughter of high-priced lawyers, whilst ‘the Zombie Feature Page’ highlighted the work and life of artist Pablo Marcos,

‘Palace of Black Magic!’ saw Phil Glass lose the amulet and control of Garth to crimelord Mr. Six and the Zombie become a terrifying weapon of sinister Voodoun lord Papa Shorty, until his new master’s own arrogance led to carnage and a kind of freedom for the Dean Man Walking, after which issue #5 continues with Moench’s filmic tribute article ‘White Zombie: Faithful Unto Death’ and a Russ Heath Atlas classic ‘Who Walks with a Zombie?’

The concluding instalment of Claremont’s prose piece ‘With the Dawn Comes Death!’ preceded another text infomercial ‘Brother Voodoo Lives Again…’ and new western horror story ‘Voodoo War’ by Isabella, with moody art from Syd Shores & Ayers, and ToTZ# 5 finished on a gritty high with ‘Death’s Bleak Birth!’ a powerful supernatural crime thriller by Moench & veteran illustrator Frank Springer.

Tales of the Zombie #6 (July 1974) opened with a handy update of events thus far before launching into Gerber & Marcos’ ‘Child of Darkness!’ wherein the anguished ambulatory remains of Simon Garth interrupts a hidden Voodoo ritual and encounters once more the Mambo Layla, who tried in vain to save him before his death and revivification. Even together though, they are unprepared for the vicious thing lurking in the swamp’s deepest recesses…

Gerry Boudreau then explored the history of the genre by critiquing Hammer Films’ ‘The Plague of the Zombies’ followed by a hilarious photo-feature on Zombie/blacksploitation movie ‘Sugar Hill’ and Claremont’s article on all things undead in ‘The Compleat Voodoo Man’.

Brother Voodoo had initially run in Strange Tales #169-173, from September 1973 to April 1974, ending on a cliffhanger which was concluded here with the Moench, Len Wein, Colan & Frank Chiaramonte epic ‘End of a Legend!’ as the Man with Two Souls finally defeated Voodoo villain Black Talon before ‘The Voodoo Beat’ by Carla Joseph rounded up a selection of movies and books then available regarding all things Cadaverous and Fetishy…

Moench & Alfredo Alcala provided a fill-in tale for the wandering corpse in ‘The Blood-Testament of Brian Collier’ as Garth shambled into a High Society murder-mystery, after which an article from the Village Voice by Kenneth Dreyfack on ‘Voodoo in the Park’ follows, notable to comics fans because it was illustrated by future great Dan Green, closely followed by Moench & Mortimer’s comics featurette ‘Haiti’s Walking Dead’ and ‘Inside Voodoo’ a book review by Claremont. The issue ended with ‘A Second Chance to Die’ – a classy short thriller by Carl Wessler & Alcala.

Tales of the Zombie #8 (November 1974) opened with a similar frontispiece feature by Isabella & Michael Kaluta ‘The Voodoo Killers’, whilst Gerber & Marcos returned to the title character with ‘A Death Made of Ticky-Tacky’ as Garth and Layla at long last reached New Orleans and fell foul of bored urban swingers looking for a different kind of good time. ‘Jimmy Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ offered a chilling prose vignette by David Anthony Kraft, liberally illustrated by Kaluta.

‘Night of the Hunter’ by scripter Larry Lieber and rendered by Ron Wilson, Mike Esposito & Frank Giacoia saw a corrupt prison guard realise he’d tortured and killed the wrong black man when the victim’s brother turned up straight from the sinister heart of Haiti.

‘Tales of the Happy Humfo’ was another article on Voodoo by Claremont, spiced up with Kaluta drawings and Alcala again shut the show down with ‘Makao’s Vengeance’ a slick jungle chiller scripted by David Kraft.

The first issue of 1975 opened with ‘Was He a Voodoo-Man?’ by Isabella & Mortimer, after which the author then scripted the stunning Zombie headliner ‘Simon Garth Lives Again!’ illustrated by Virgilio Redondo & Alcala, whilst Claremont & Yong Montano contributed the second chapter in the saga; ‘A Day in the Life of a Dead Man’ for the ubiquitous Alcala to ink before Isabella & Marcos concluded the Garth extravaganza with ‘The Second Death Around’. As an added bonus Moench & Alcala also designed a swampy slaughter-party in ‘Herbie the Liar Said it Wouldn’t Hurt!’

Tales of the Zombie #10 (March 1975) led with a Brother Voodoo tale by Moench & Tony DeZuniga wherein the Lord of the Loa struggled to prevent ‘The Resurrection of Papa Jambo’ (the scheduled Simon Garth saga having been lost in the post at time of printing), with medical nightmare ‘Eye For an Eye, Tooth For a Tooth’ by Conway, Virgilio Redondo & Rudy Nebres; Wessler, John Warner & Alcazar’s death-row chiller ‘Malaka’s Curse!’ and the great Tom Sutton’s macabre ‘Grave Business’ bringing up the rear.

The horror boom was swiftly waning by this time and the advertised 11th issue never materialised. An all-reprint Tales of the Zombie Super-Annual was released that summer with only the cover reproduced here.

Peppered with vibrant Zombie pin-ups by Marcos and Sutton and covers by Boris Vallejo and Earl Norem, this intriguing monochrome compendium, although a little dated, does contain what passed for Explicit Content in the mid 1970s, so although the frights should be nothing for today’s older kids, the occasional nipple or buttock might well send them screaming over the edge.

However with appropriate mature supervision I’m sure this groovy gore-fest will delight many a brain-eating fright fan…

©1973, 1974, 1975, 2006 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Essential Werewolf By Night volume 1


By Gerry Conway, Mike Ploog, Doug Moench & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-1839-8

Inspiration isn’t everything. In fact as Marvel slowly grew to a position of market dominance in the wake of the losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, they did so less by experimentation and more by expanding proven concepts and properties.

The only real exception to this was the en mass creation of horror titles in response to the industry down-turn in superhero sales – a move expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules. Almost overnight nasty monsters (and narcotics – but that’s another story) became acceptable fare within four-colour pages and whilst a parade of 1950s pre-code reprints made sound business sense (so they repackaged a bunch of those too) the creative aspect of the contemporary fascination in supernatural themes was catered to by adapting popular cultural icons before risking whole new concepts on an untested public.

As always the watch-world was fashion: what was hitting big outside comics was to be incorporated into the mix as soon as possible. When proto-monster Morbius, the Living Vampire debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #101 (October 1971) and the sky failed to fall in Marvel moved ahead with a line of scary superstars – beginning with a werewolf and a vampire – before chancing something new in a haunted biker who could tap into both Easy Rider’s freewheeling motorcycling chic and the supernatural zeitgeist.

Werewolf By Night debuted in Marvel Spotlight #2 (preceded by western masked hero Red Wolf in #1, and followed by the afore-hinted Ghost Rider) although the title, if not the character, was cribbed from a classic monster-short thriller from Marvel Tales #116, July 1953.

Marvel had a long-time tradition of using old (presumably already copyrighted) names and titles when creating new series and characters. Hulk, Thor, Magneto, Doctor Strange and many others all got nominal starts as throwaways in an anthology…

This copious compendium collects in moody monochrome the early adventures of a young West Coast werewolf and includes Marvel Spotlight #2-4, Werewolf By Night Volume 1 #1-21, Giant-Size Creatures #1, a guest appearance in Marvel Team-Up #12 and the appropriate half of a horror crossover with Tomb of Dracula #18 and begins with the landmark first appearance which introduced young Jack Russell, a teenager with some very disturbing dreams…

‘Werewolf by Night!’ (Marvel Spotlight #2, February 1972, written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Mike Ploog from an outline by Roy & Jeanie Thomas) described the worst day of Jack’s life – his 18th birthday, which began with nightmares and ended in something far worse.

Jack’s mom and little sister Lissa were wonderful but his new stepfather Philip and the creepy chauffeur Grant were another matter… That night at his party Jack had a painful seizure and fled into the Malibu night transforming into a ravening vulpine man-beast. The next morning he awoke wasted on the beach to discover that his mother had been gravely injured in a car-crash. Something had happened to her brakes…

He crept into her hospital room and she told him the story of his blood-father; an Eastern European noble who loved her deeply but locked himself away three nights every month… The Russoff line was cursed by the taint of Lycanthopy: every child doomed to become a wolf-thing under the full-moon from the moment they reached eighteen. Jack was horrified and then realised how soon his sister would reach her own majority…

With her dying breath Laura Russell made her son promise never to harm his stepfather, no matter what…

Scenario set with the wolf-boy transforming for three nights every month, the weird, wild wonderment began in earnest with the beast attacking Grant the chauffeur – who had fixed those brakes – but the beast-boy refrained, even in vulpine form, from attacking Philip Russell…

The untitled second instalment saw the monster rescue Lissa from a skeevy biker gang (they were everywhere back then) and narrowly escape the police only to be abducted by a sinister dowager seeking knowledge of a magical tome called the Darkhold – an eldritch spellbook that was the basis of the Russoff curse, whilst the third tryout issue ‘Island of the Damned!’ introduced Buck Cowan, an aging writer who became Jack’s best friend as the pair began to jointly investigate the wolf-boy’s stepfather.

The elder Russell had apparently sold off Jack’s inheritance leaving the boy nothing but an old book. Following a paper trail to find proof Philip had had Laura Russell killed led the pair to an offshore fortress, a dungeon full of horrors and a ruthless mutant seductress…

That episode ended on a cliffhanger, presumably as added incentive to buy Werewolf By Night #1(September 1972) wherein Frank Chiaramonte took over inking with ‘Eye of the Beholder!’ as deadly freak Marlene Blackgar and her monstrous posse captured the entire Russell family looking for the Book of Sins. Once more, as night fell a fearsome force of supernature awoke to accidentally save the day…

With ‘The Hunter… and the Hunted!’ Jack and Buck left the grimoire that had caused so much trouble with Father Joquez, a Christian monk and scholar of ancient texts, but even so they were still hunted because of it. Jack left the rural wastes of Malibu for a new home in Los Angeles, trading concrete for forests but life was no easier.

Dying scientist Cephalos wanted to harness Jack’s feral life-force to extend his own and lived but briefly to regret. Meanwhile Joquez succeeded in translating the Darkhold, but his accomplishment allowed an ancient horror to possess him in ‘The Mystery of the Mad Monk!’ and whilst the werewolf was saddened to end such a noble life it felt far happier dealing with millionaire sportsman Joshua Kane, who wanted a truly unique head mounted on the wall of his den in ‘The Danger Game’ (inked by Franke Bolle).

Half-naked, exhausted and soaked to his now hairless skin Jack next had to deal with Kane’s psychotic brother who wanted the werewolf for his pet assassin in ‘A Life for a Death!’ by Len Wein and Ploog, before ‘Carnival of Fear!’ (Wein, Ploog & Bolle) found the beast a captive of the mystic Swami Calliope and his deadly circus of freaks. The wolf was now the subject of an obsessive police detective too. Lou Hackett was an “old-school cop” – an old buddy of trophy-hunter Joshua Kane and every bit as charming: but his off-the-books investigation had hardly begun when the Swami’s plans fell apart in the concluding ‘Ritual of Blood!’ (inked by Jim Mooney).

The beast was safely(?) loose in the backwoods for #8’s quirky monster-mash when an ancient demon possessed a cute little bunny in ‘The Lurker Behind the Door!’ (Wein, Werner Roth & Paul Reinman) before returning to LA and ‘Terror Beneath the Earth!’ (Conway, Tom Sutton & George Roussos) and impeding a nefarious scheme by business cartel the Committee. These out-of the-box commercial gurus somehow had a full dossier on Jack Russell’s night-life and a radical plan to use monsters and derelicts to boost sales in a down-turned economy.

However their bold sales scheme to frighten folk into spending more was over before it began as the werewolf proved to be far from a team-player in the wrap up ‘The Sinister Secret of Sarnak!’

Werewolf by Night #11 saw Marv Wolfman sign on as writer for ‘Comes the Hangman’ (illustrated by the incredible Gil Kane and Tom Sutton), in which we learned something interesting about Philip Russell and the Committee, whilst Jack’s attention was distracted by a new apartment, a very odd neighbour and a serial kidnapper abducting young women to keep them safe from “corruption.” When he took Lissa Russell the hooded maniac soon found himself hunted…

The concluding chapter ‘Cry Werewolf!’ introduced the criminally underappreciated Don Perlin as inker, who would in a few short months become the strip’s penciller for the rest of the run, but before that Ploog and Chiaramonte returned for another session, introducing a manic mystic and a new love-interest (not the same person) in ‘His Name is Taboo’. An aged sorcerer wanted the werewolf’s energies for his own arcane purposes but his adopted daughter Topaz found her loyalties divided and her psionic abilities more help than hindrance to the ravening moon-beast.

‘Lo, the Monster Strikes!’ pitted the wolf against Taboo’s undead son and saw revelation and reconciliation between Philip and Jack Russell. As a result the young man and new girlfriend Topaz set off for Transylvania, the ancestral Russoff estate and a crossover confrontation with the Lord of Vampires.

Tomb of Dracula #18 (March 1974) began the clash in ‘Enter: Werewolf by Night’ (by Wolfman, Gene Colan & Tom Palmer) as Jack and Topaz investigated a possible cure for lycanthropy, only to be attacked by Dracula. Driven off by the girl’s psychic powers the Count realised the threat she posed to him and determined to slay her… In Werewolf by Night #15 ‘Death of a Monster!’ (Wolfman, Ploog & Chiaramonte) the battle of the beasts resolved into a draw, but only after Jack learned of his family’s long connection to Dracula…

Sadder, wiser but no less accursed, Jack headed back to America with Topaz but a unplanned stopover in Paris led to an impromptu clash with a modern incarnation of the Hunchback of Notre Dame (he doesn’t sing and he’s not very gentle here) in Ploog’s farewell performance ‘Death in the Cathedral!’

Issue #17 ‘The Behemoth!’ by Mike Friedrich and Don Perlin, saw Jack and Topaz escape Paris only to fall into the Committee’s latest scheme as the blustering Baron Thunder and his favourite monster tried to make the werewolf their plaything again, before the secret of Jack’s mystery neighbour was revealed in ‘Murder by Moonlight!’ as Thunder attacked again aided by witch-queen Ma Mayhem. However that was all a feint for the Committee to kidnap Lissa who would, one day, be a werewolf too…

Whilst searching for his sister Jack fell foul of two undead film-stars haunting the Hollywood backlots in #19’s ‘Vampires on the Moon’ whilst Giant-Size Creatures #1 re-imagined a failed costumed crusader to introduce a new hairy hero in ‘Tigra the Were-Woman!’ (Tony Isabella, Perlin and Vince Colletta) as Greer Nelson, one-time feminist avenger The Cat, was “killed” by Hydra agents, revived by ancient Cat-People and became an unwilling object of temporary affection to the feral and frisky Jack Russell…

Following ‘Waiter, there’s a Werewolf in my Soup!’ a text piece also from Giant-Size Creatures that explained the genesis of Marvel’s horror line, WBN #20 brought aboard Doug Moench to wrap up all the disparate plot threads in ‘Eye of the Wolf!’, a rushed but satisfactory conclusion featuring many werewolves, Thunder, Mayhem and lots and lots of action.

With the decks cleared Moench began to make the series uniquely his own, beginning with #21’s ‘One Wolf’s Cure… Another’s Poison!’ as the writer began playing up the ever encroaching 18th birthday of little Lissa and engineered the final reckoning with off-the-rails cop Lou Hackett, who had been going increasingly crazy in his hunt for the werewolf…

With the stage set for some truly outrageous yarn-spinning (all covered in a second Essential volume) this first compendium ends with a slight but engaging Marvel Team-Up #12 wherein Wein, Conway, Ross Andru and Don Perlin produced ‘Wolf at Bay!’ as the Wall-Crawler met the Werewolf and battled malevolent Mage Moondark in foggy, fearful San Francisco.

Topped off with the werewolf’s text entry from the Marvel Universe Handbook and an unused Ploog cover for Marvel Spotlight #4, this moody masterpiece of macabre menace and all-out animal action covers some of the most under-appreciated magic moments in Marvel history; tense, suspenseful and solidly compelling. If you must have a mixed bag of lycanthropes, bloodsuckers and moody young misses – this is a far more entertaining mix than many modern movies, books or miscellaneous matter…

© 1972, 1973, 1974, 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.