Well, the day finally came. The day that I finally bought the first appearance of my favorite wacky Bronze Age villain! As some of you know, there was a podcast episode where my partner and I discussed our Top 5 Wacky Bronze Age Villains! If you haven’t listened to that one yet, please do, and I’ll only say that this guy is my number one, but I won’t reveal the others! The Tatterdemalion is by far the craziest villain for me and he really is an oddity.
In this first appearance, he’s more of a sinister villain that’s on a mission for a “higher power.” The higher power is called Sarnak, and for some insidious reason, he wants the Werewolf! The first attempt to kidnap Jack doesn’t go well, but after a night in jail, Jack gets accosted a second time by the Tatterdemalion, and some other hellish goons!
This crazy tale was written by Gerry Conway, a guy more known for writing drama like “The Death of Gwen Stacy.” He can write any genre though, and this horror story is proof. The artwork is a huge part of why this one is awesome though, and we have Tom Sutton to thank for that (and the letters, and cover along with Frank Giacoia inking)! Some very vibrant colors by George Roussos, and editor Roy Thomas!
During the 1970s, there were a few different things that were hot commodities. In comics, one of them for sure was horror. Vampires, monsters, demons, mummies, witches, and of course, werewolves! In 1972, Marvel decided to create their own werewolf character that would be not only a creature of destruction, but one of tragedy as well. Jack Russell would turn twenty-one years old, and turn into a werewolf under a full moon from here on out.
Early on, the book centered around Jack trying to figure out why this happened to him. He very quickly realized that a certain book was involved, and that unless he finds The Darkhold, he may never get any answers. In what’s basically a werewolf dropped in the middle of the Island of Dr. Moreau, Jack is confronted by a strange island full of surprises, and by the end of the issue, he’ll be between a rock and a hard place.
In this early second age of horror for Marvel comics, Gerry Conway (writer) is one of the men that was tasked with writing these titles off and on (between his epic Spider-Man run and other superhero titles as well). Not to belittle Conway’s efforts, but Mike Ploog (cover and interior art) was outstanding during this period with his horror work. He had runs on this title/character, Monster of Frankenstein, Man-Thing, and Ghost Rider, and they were all exquisite. The creative team is rounded out by veteran Sam Rosen (letters).
*Note- there was also a lot of input on the early issues of the horror books by Writer/Editor Roy Thomas, and he definitely deserves credit as well.
In my time-honored tradition of spotlighting goofball villains, this one is a doosie! When the front cover of a comic book exclaims…”The Peril of Paingloss,” it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re in for something wacky. That said, Werewolf by Night could fight a troupe of clowns and I’d buy it, so maybe I’m not the best measuring stick for this one. Moving on, Jack Russell and his confidant, Buck Cowan, end up embroiled in some mystical mayhem that almost kills the two of them! Yes, by the mighty Paingloss (try to hold back your laughter)!
I didn’t know who the creative team was on this one until I got it home and checked it out. I wasn’t shocked to see the name Doug Moench (writer) in the credits. He did plenty of work on this title and during this period for Marvel. You could always count on a solid script/story with him at the helm. The artist is one that I’ve seen before, maybe once or twice, and Yong Montano (pencils/inks) definitely delivered in this issue. The letterer is another name that doesn’t evoke the Bronze Age feel, but Marcos Pelayo does a fine job. The rest of the cast is the usual bunch of stalwarts in Len Wein (editor), George Roussos (colors), and a wonderful cover by Gil Kane (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks)! There are a couple of back-ups as well, and one features art by the legendary, Joe Orlando!
Everyone likes certain comics for a specific reason. The story, the artwork, the characters, and so on. Sometimes it’s as simple as a splash page, as is the case for me and this issue. I enjoy this title from beginning to end, no matter who the creative team happens to be on any particular issue. The work by Mike Ploog is obviously incredible, but by this time, he’d bowed out, and others took the reigns. Speaking of the reigns, in this particular issue, we see Jack and his handler/friend/lover, Topaz, as they’ve bitten off a bit more than they can chew with Baron Thunder! Not only is he the head of the secret group known only as “The Committee,” but he has a new ally on his side and completely under his command—The Behemoth!
Of course people have their favorites when it comes to creators, but I love a few characters so much, I can enjoy them almost all the time, no matter who is behind the steering wheel. It was only four issues long, but “Mischievous” Mike Friedrich (writer) kept the book moving forward. He’s one of those guys that gets lost among the giants of the era, but he certainly did a fine job. The artwork was by veteran “Dapper” Don Perlin (pencils and inks). I’ve always admired his work and when I look deep, I see a man who gave everything he had to an industry that didn’t always treat its creators fairly. Two more of my favorite creators in “Titanic” Tom Orzechowski (letters) and “Genuine” George Roussos (colors) round out the solid team that gave us this eerie read! A book needs a cover, and if you’re going to do it right, get Gil “Sugar” Kane and “Fearless” Frank Giacoia for the job!
Although there’s no specific reference in the comic book itself, Marvel Spotlight #4 (1972) is definitely an homage to the H.G. Wells book “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” That fantastic story has been adapted to the big screen a few times, with varying results, but in this case, it was a resounding success. The issue is only the third appearance of this character (Jack Russell/ the werewolf), and his supporting cast, but you already feel attached to him and his troubled life even in that short amount of time. The story follows Jack to an island, almost like the very same one in the Wells book.
If there was ever any doubt about the talent of Gerry Conway (and just for Spider-Man, there shouldn’t be), read his horror work, and you’ll be hard-pressed to not be impressed by his work. As if that wasn’t enough of a selling point, you get the absolutely eerie artwork of Mike Ploog, that is nothing short of a visual feast! Toss in the letters of comic book mainstay, Sam Rosen, and you’ve got one heckuva comic book!
It’s time once again, to bark at the moon! Another tale in the twisted life of Jack Russell is upon us, and this time, we’ll see a beheading, a hanging, skeletons, rats, and a squad of ghost cops! Well, and just to be clear, we’ll see a werewolf as well! I love necromancer type characters, and virtually all magic practitioners in comic books. Why this is, I have no idea, but the sorcerer supreme, Doctor Strange is my all-time favorite. The villain in this story, is a man named Belaric Marcosa. The dude wasn’t around very long, but he was a great villain for Werewolf by Night. And besides, the dude was so cool, he had two rubies imbedded in his two front teeth!
The awesome villain was created by Doug Moench, and Don Perlin. These two guys (especially Perlin) get very little credit for their work on this title, but if you really take a long look at their run, it’s chocked full of weirdo characters that made this book so good. Don’t just forsake everything past the early issues, because if you do, you will be doing a disservice to yourself! Written by Doug Moench, art by Don Perlin, colors by George Roussos, letters by Debra James, and edited by Marv Wolfman! Enjoy!
It’s time for some werewolf action! There are very few books that can hang with Werewolf by Night (vol. 1) in the all-time greats of horror comics from the 1970’s (The Tomb of Dracula being the best). This title started out with some fantastic creators on it. The names Ploog, Conway, Wolfman, Kane, and others, brought this character to life and gave him a world to play in, and share with other great characters from the Marvel Universe, as well. Later (issue #20 or so), you had a different creative team take the reins, and put a spin on the book that was unexpected, but was a ton of fun! That team was Doug Moench and Don Perlin! This issue was a battle between the Werewolf by Night, Jack Russell, and a strange nemesis called “The Hangman.” This kooky guy is all sorts of crazy, and believe it or not, he’s crazy enough to keep the werewolf at bay for a while!
The creative team on this one was nothing short of spectacular. You get ‘Marvelous’ Marv Wolfman writing, Pencils by the great Gil Kane (RIP), inks by the underrated Don Perlin, Mr. Tom Orzechowski lettering, and Linda Lessmann on colors! Of course, we have Roy ‘The Boy’ Thomas editing, as was the norm in the early 1970’s. Sometimes I wonder how some of these creators from that era had time to sleep! Check out this incredible cover by John Romita! Well, without further interruption, let’s take a look at some Werewolf by Night! (Insert crazy howl here)! Enjoy!
Wow, if you can find another decade that had as many off-beat (but crazy cool) characters created in it, please, let me know. In this issue, we see the return of Doctor Glitternight. This wild character is from the minds of Doug Moench and Don Perlin, and their run had some really zany moments that most people can’t even dream of trying to write, let alone make any sense of, but they did it wonderfully!
In this issue, Moench (writing) and Perlin (pencils & inks?), show us how to get down in Haiti with Brother Voodoo! The team (Brother Voodoo, Werewolf by Night, and Topaz) are trying to save the life of Raymond Coker. In doing so, Topaz gets turned into a demon, and tries to kill everybody! You get werewolves, zombies, demons, a sorcerer, and Brother Voodoo to cap it all off! It seems (by the credits) that Perlin inked himself in this issue, and sometimes when artists that normally do a lot of pencils ink themselves, it doesn’t turn out for the best for some reason. But in this case, it looks pretty solid. Actually, the first splash page kind of reminds me Gene Colan (check it out and see if I’m wrong!). Credits also include – Ed Hannigan & Tom Palmer (cover), Debra James (letters), Janice Cohen (colors), and Marvelous Marv Wolfman (editing).
It’s no secret to anyone that follows me on Twitter, or is friends with me on Facebook, that I love horror comics. Mostly old school, Bronze Age stuff, but even some of the more recent books as well. So, listen, today is my birthday, and that means I’m going to post some random images of one of my favorite horror characters, Werewolf by Night (Jack Russell)! There have been many artists who’ve lent their talents to this great character, and I’ll try to be as diverse as I can using only my collection as material (as always but yes, I own a lot of black & white reprints, and do search out color shots on the web from time to time for my blog). So here’s to you Jack, may the fleas stay away and the dog biscuits be scrumptious! Enjoy!
Cover by Neal Adams
artist- Leonardo Manco
artist- Juan Doe
cover by Patch Zircher
artist- Mico Suayan
cover by- Greg Land
artist- Don Perlin
artist- Mike Ploog