Sunday, 15 September 2019

Werewolf by Night #20. Eye of the Wolf.

Werewolf by Night #20
A recurring theme on this blog, over the years, has been me posting the covers of Werewolf by Night and declaring I can recall nothing of the contents, leading me to conclude it has to have been the most forgettable comic of my youth.

And yet, it has to have been, along with The Eternals, the US Marvel comic I had the most number of issues of. This tells me it must have been one of my favourite comics.

But now, at last, I can partially cure my amnesia because I have, in my hands, a copy of Werewolf by Night #20. How well I remember this from my childhood, with its cover image of an irate werewolf tearing the bars from its prison cell, as bystanders look on in horror.

Of course, when I say, "remember," what I mean is remember the cover, because the contents themselves are as mysterious as ever.

I do recall, however, that I did read it quite a few times in my younger days. Therefore, I, clearly, derived some pleasure from it.

And now I'm about to discover just why it caused that pleasure.

Werewolf by Night #20, Wolf Cop
It's night time and Jack Russell's having a walk in the dark, pondering his problems, including the kidnapping of his sister Lissa, by a man called Baron Thunder, a name only someone in a comic could ever have.

As Jack walks, he's approached by his neighbour Raymond Coker and they have a chat about them both being werewolves.

But, unknown to the pair, they're being watched by another werewolf who's actually a cop called Lt. Hackett. Thanks to a magic ring, Hackett can transmogrify at will and still retain his normal personality, which is a shame, as his normal personality seems to be quite abysmal.

Later, for reasons I'm not totally clear about, Jack's given an identical ring and the address where Baron Thunder lives. Thus informed, he sets off to rescue Lissa.

Werewolf by Night #20, Baron Thunder
Needless to say, it doesn't go well and he's about as much use with his normal personality as he always is without it but, thanks to dumb luck, the Baron's house burns down and Jack and Lissa escape, although Jack loses the ring as he leaps out of a window to flee the flames.

It's a terrible admission to make but, given Werewolf by Night's less than stellar reputation, I actually enjoyed this.

Although there's nothing sensational about the plot, I like the fact that every single thing that happens in it relates to a whole group of ongoing storylines. Whether it be the kidnapping of Lissa, Raymond Coker's problems or Lt. Hackett giving Jack a hard time, we're given a set of characters who seem to have a life beyond the confines of the comic.

Werewolf by Night #20, a mysterious ring with an eye on itOf course, there's nothing unique about that. It was the standard way of handling most 1970s created Marvel titles but it works especially well here, probably because the werewolf's adventures in themselves are never going to be that interesting and that extra dimension is, therefore, seriously needed.

The chief disappointments are that, yet again, the werewolf fails to win a fight (was there ever a Marvel protagonist who was more useless in a punch-up than their werewolf was?) and that Jack loses the ring as he escapes the fire. A few more issues of the werewolf having normal intelligence would have been appreciated.

The artwork by Don Perlin and Vince Colletta is simple and does its job with minimum fuss. It's not the sort of art that wins awards, gets people talking or rushing out to buy the next issue but I do have a soft spot for artists like Perlin, Sal Buscema and Bob Brown who just concentrate on telling a story. As long as they have the right inker, they can be effective.

Werewolf by Night #20, the death of Baron Thunder, by fire
Doug Moench's script, meanwhile, could hardly be described as gleaming but also it does its job.

The one thing that does baffle me, though, is Gil Kane's rather magnificent cover. It relates in no way, shape or form to the comic's contents, creating the impression that it was drawn for a totally different story which never saw light of day.

25 comments:

Charlie Horse 47 said...

A transmorgifying ring??? Is transmorgify a word? Or was it, perhaps, borrowed from Calvin and Hobbes which is the only other place Charlie has seen it?

Anyone else have regrets Kane didn't show us the insides of Werewolf nostrils with that cover?

Steve W. said...

Charlie, I can officially confirm that transmogrify is indeed a real word.

Killdumpster said...

Charlie, Gil just did the cover. Don Perlin did pencils on the interior.

Killdumpster said...

Their really aren't that many Gil Kane covers that had nostril overload. I only recall about a 1/2 dozen.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Charlie, Gil Kane drew a couple of whole issues of Werewolf By Night - track down #s 11 and 12 if its lycanthropic nostril action you're after.
Written by Marv Wolfman no less - you'd think with a name like that he'd have got the gig from the first issue. A pity he didn't, as his short stint - leading into a Tomb of Dracula crossover - was ok (not something you can usually say about Wolfman's work, but Marvel-style horror seems to have bought out the best in him).

Anyhow, interesting review Steve, as I always assumed the comic's less than stellar reputation was down to the Moench/Perlin run. Mainly because I read the ones with Dr Glitternight, which really stand out as some of the poorest Marvel comics of the 70s (and its not like there isn't a fair bit of competition), while most of the earlier issues at least have Mike Ploog.

-sean

Anonymous said...

AAWWWOOOOOOOOOOO

Cool post, Steve! I've got a few issues of this comic.
Man, it was a weird, funky little mag. Anybody remember Dr. Glitternight? He was this bald dude who hovered in the air with this funky get-up that made him look like a big kite.
What was his deal? What was he after? God only knows.
Old Wolfy sure had himself some screwy villains, I tell ya.

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie and I are astounded that folks can remember this stuff from 45 years ago.

Charlie read some here and there and can't remember jack diddly about Wolfie.

I always wondered if the Kubert School of Comic Art allowed one to, say, major in superheroes (vs. werewolves) and minor in lycanthropic nostril action?

Anonymous said...

"Charlie and I"?!?
What, there's two of you now?!?

Infinite Charlies on Multiple Earths? Sean, you gotta talk to him. He's going off the reservation. You're supposed to be the voice of reason here.

M.P.

Anonymous said...

Dunno M.P. - at least the "I" there means he did actually use the first person. Maybe thats an improvement?

-sean

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, memory loss doesn't seem like a good sign...

-sean

Anonymous said...

We kid because we love. But back in the mid-'80's, as a teenager, I sent away for the literature from the Kubert School. I had a drawing board and a T-square and I was practicing up to be a comic book artist.
I was big into Kirby and Buscema, but I liked Starlin and Byrne too.
You know what's hard to draw? Buildings. How do those guys draw New York City? I dunno. Buscema hated drawing buildings. "Just give me Conan and leave me alone."
I don't think I woulda been any good at it, but what stopped me is that I couldn't imagine a way to come up with the money.
Ironically, I eventually ended up in New Jersey anyway, for two fun-filled months courtesy of Uncle Sam.
The "Garden State" my ass! Whatta ya growin', smokestacks?

M.P.

Steve W. said...

MP, I agree. It was definitely the thought of having to draw buildings that put me off becoming a comic book artist.

That and clothes.

Anonymous said...

For me drawing buildings wasn't the hard part, it was actually making enough money regularly. I worked on a few kids comics for a while, and considering the time involved its not that well paid, particularly as you've no guarantee of work from month to month.

-sean

Killdumpster said...

I went to a tech school for architectural drafting, and it was immensely helpful in drawing buildings in my homemade comics.

Marvel just couldn't keep the "superhero theme" out of their horror. Most of the villains were just plan goofy, and most forgotten. At least we got Moon Knight out of the series.

If only they would have kept more of the horror aspect, and had more artists who had an EC type feel. If only Ploog did more issues. Bernie Wrightson would've been great on that book.

Speaking about Bernie Wrightson...

"Step right up!" "While supplies last!"
FREE Bernie Wrightson FRANKENSTEIN Hologram promo cards from the early 90's!!! Free to all, oh my brothers, to the followers of Steve Does Comics!!!

Back in the day a $10 value, maybe more now...BUT I DON'T CARE!!

Just email your mailing address to K*I*L*L*D*U*M*P*S*T*E*R (AT GMAIL DOT COM), semi-krypted, so just make everything lower-case letters, emit the asterisks, and make the dotcom regular.

If there's any paranoia about emailing your address, email me and I'll send you mine and you can send it on a postcard. I fragging love post cards anyway.

All I ask is you folks keep my secret identity. Reimbursement on postage is appreciated, but not necessary.

"Supply IS Limited!!!" "Order NOW!!!!"

Killdumpster said...

By the way, Steve, the werewolf did have a few victories, though mostly inadvertent.

Killdumpster said...

Off topic, like we don't do that, lol, Ric Ocasek died yesterday.

The Cars first album was phenomenal.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I was wondering, based on Red Skull's dismal deployment of the Cosmic Cube what would happen if he got hold of a transmogrify ring?

Charlie thinks he would turn himself into a bunny rabbit?

Killdumpster said...

I dunno Charlie, I think the ring was mostly a werewolf thing.

Granted, werewolf Red Skull would've been cool. Cap was a werewolf once.

Anonymous said...

The Cars sure had some great songs, K.D. I'm with ya there.

If I had a Cosmic Cube or a "Transmogrify Ring", Charlie, my first order of business would be to take care of the bald patch on top of my head.

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

The Cars rocked! Their first album was battled tested and simply superb. A little googling tells me that they did better in the UK than the US, chart wise. Also, all those "big hits" of The Cars never got so high in the charts in the US which is weird given the extensive airplay on the radio, frat parties, etc.

Charlie loved the first album too except for that one song on the first side "I'm in touch with your world" that really killed the pace / beat of that side. He says it was a clunker and should not have been there. The chix would stop dancing when that dog came on.

I got to see them at Purdue. Quite the show. Ric had some guitar that was just a rectangle.

I should'a brought Charlie. He'd a loved it.

Anonymous said...

Is this the Earth-One Charlie or the Earth-Two Charlie we're talking to here?

Or (gasp) the Shazam Universe Charlie from Earth-S...

M.P.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Earth-C M.P., the one Captain Carrot comes from.

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie and I live Earth 3 / S (the one inhabited by Quality's comic heroes).

In fact, Charlie is practicing his karate moves with Chop Chop from the Blackhawks as he prepares for a duel with Bruce Lee, as I type.

I prefer the life of The Spirit and an anxiously seeking a very attractive female that would allow me to spank her as the Spirit did in 1940. I ain't having any luck.

But if you guys want to see the Charlie - Chop Chop throw downs, let me know and I'll get you in.

Anonymous said...

Er... ok Charlie.

Sorry to hear you're not finding much fulfillment with the spanking - can't you just pay for that kind of thing these days?
Or, you know, maybe see your therapist more often instead...?

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

When you chaps think I am speaking of me as Charlie in the 3rd person I am actually speaking of him in his 3rd person. Not sure why that is hard to figure out?

Charlie is Charlie, in the 3rd person, when I type about him. It is not me in the 3rd person.

I am me. You are you. Charlie is Charlie.

Hope that clarifies everything!

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