Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Retro-View: Werewolf By Night #20 (Marvel Comics)

Werewolf By Night #20 (Aug. 1974) has one of my favorite covers from the entire run of that classic series, but like so many Marvel Comics books from way back when, the scene depicted on the cover doesn't actually occur inside the book. You'll just have to appreciate the lovely Gil Kane/John Romita cover on its own merits.

"Eye of the Wolf!" picks up story elements from Giant-Size Creatures #1, with the Werewolf (Jack Russell) encountering an acquaintance named Raymond Coker, who also suffers from lycanthropy, in a city park. The pair are unaware that they are being watched by yet another werewolf, but this one somehow manages to retain his mental faculties through use of an enigmatic ring.

It is revealed that Russell's sister, Lissa has recently been captured by the villains, Baron Thunder and Ma Mayhem. Later at his apartment, Jack is visited by police Lt. Lou Hackett who posits his theory that Coker is the werewolf who has been preying on the city. Russell is forced into agreeing to help nail his friend, and then glumly heads out for a consoling dinner with his lady friend, Clary Winter. Soon a gentleman calling himself Geraldo Kabal eyes the beauteous Clary, going so far as to offer her a ring; but this rings presence powerfully affects Jack, who instantly makes a grab for it and slips it onto his own finger.

Information gleaned from Kabal sends Jack frantically dashing off to rescue Lissa from an eerie mountaintop manor, and once he arrives Russell wishes that he had the werewolf's strength, if only he could retain his senses. With no preamble, and no full moon in effect, Jack instantly transforms into his furry alter ego, and for the first time he remains aware of who he is - the result of the mysterious rings influence.

The werewolf bursts into the cryptic mansion and is attacked by the combined forces of May Mayhem and Baron Thunder. Without benefit of his bestial nature, the Russell-controlled Werewolf is nearly bested by the Baron, but in the end he hurls the larger man into a towering control panel which topples over upon him, sparking an electrical fire that not only consumes the entire building, but also sets off a series of explosions that decimate the mountainside. Lissa and Jack barely manage to escape the conflagration, but in leaping clear, Jack's newfangled ring is torn from his hand and lost in the fire. Shucks!

This issue is entertainingly written by Doug Moench, who crafts a tense, exciting reading experience from start to finish, and the visuals by Don Perlin and Vince Colletta are really, really enjoyable. There isn't anything like a '70's Marvel horror comic out there these days. All too often, as these horror characters are utilized, modern day editors and creators feel the need to revamp them as more mature, more adult or more graphic-oriented than they were first presented. The simple charm inherent in the 1970's versions are usually cast aside to the detriment of the better, old-school-style originals.

Hit the back issue bins (or eBay) and pick up a few Werewolf By Night issues, and then revel in the days when this type of Marvel monster was simply an unabashedly good comic book.

1 comment:


Damn! Not even iron/steel bars can hold the werewolf! It's funny, this is one of those comic covers I had never seen before, even though I should have...Gil Kane (and Romita)is one of my fave artists. As far as covers, I am partial to a couple by Ploog, # 5 where he is fighting real wolves in the moonlight, and issue 15(?) anyway, the one where he's fighting with Dracula is a sweet cover, too!