Friday, October 30, 2015

And the Autumn Moon is Bright: Werewolves in Comics

Recently, I read a column where someone asked the writer a question about werewolves in superhero comics, and the writer identified himself as a vampire fan more than a werewolf fan. Well, I like vampires fine, and I know zombies are the monster du jour in the public zeitgeist right now, but for me? It's all about the werewolf. I feel like werewolves are about the internal struggle of humanity between its better nature and its baser instincts, and since the person is not always he monster, it allows an incite into the person who is the monster, whether they fight the monster or embrace it. Also, you get to turn into a giant wolf or wolfman. How cool is that?

So, I spent the past couple weeks digging through my collection to pull out some of the best werewolf comics I could find. I'm avoiding a couple of the more obvious ones that are either not full on werewolf stories but more superhero stories (the infamous "Capwolf" story where Captain America becomes a werewolf, for instance, or the excellent Batman #255, "Moon of the Wolf," which was also adapted into a great episode of Batman: The Animated Series), although I am going to hit a couple of those, but mostly I'm sticking to horror and comedy versions, because there are a couple of really good werewolf comedy stories. So, if you want to check out some interesting werewolf stories, read on.

The Astounding Wolf-Man

So, not everything Robert Kirkman writes is Walking Dead or Invincible, these massively long running series, but that's not to say they aren't great comics. The Astounding Wolf-Man, which ran for twenty-five issues, was co-created by Kirkman and Jason Howard, who went on to work with Kirkman on Super Dinosaur and is now the artist on Warren Ellis's Trees,  is the story of Gary Hampton, a wealthy family fan who, while on vacation, is attacked by a werewolf and decides that he wants to use his powers to become a superhero. I know I said above I was avoiding superhero stories, and while Kirkman's story has a lot of superhero in it,there is a hart of horror to it, both because Gary's archfoe is a vampire, Zechariah (this won't be the last werewolf vs. vampire story on this list), but because much of Gary's struggle is with the beast within. Because while he can transform pretty much at will any night, when the full moon rises he becomes an out of control monster, and much of the series has to do with the ramifications of what Gary has done in werewolf form. There's a whole series of events involving another elder werewolf, plus a lot of action and superheroics. Kikman wrapped up most of the plot threads of the series, which is collected and available in four trade paperbacks, and Wolf-Man does occasionally pop up as a supporting or background hero in various books in the Invincible family.


A four issue mini-series from Boom Studios from a couple years back, Curse asks the question of how far someone will go to save someone they love. Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel write the story of Laney Griffin, a former football star who has fallen on hard times, not just financially but also in that his son is dying of an illness he can barely afford to pay the hospital to treat. But when a series of savage killings occur, and a price is placed on the head of man or animal that is committing them, Laney goes on the hunt. And he finds the killer is a bit of both, a werewolf who has lived for centuries. And so Laney captures the werewolf and spends time considering if the curse could be the salvation of his son, while others hunt the monster and Laney is caught up in other peoples plans. It's a solid story, but the art is what really gabs you. Colin Lorimer draws the lion's share, but Riley Rossmo, whose work on many other great horror comics makes him a  modern master, creates a rangy, long limbed terror in his werewolf design that is unique to the series and makes it a standout.


Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnel craft a story of one young woman's horror in Riven. Opening in Romania, readers see an American couple desperate to find a baby to adopt, and they are given Katya, a seemingly normal young girl, but the orphanage is... off. Flash forward ten years to a teen Katya, now Katy, who after an accident enters a coma where once a month, tied to the full moon, she has strange spike in brain activity. Waking from the coma after five years, Katy recovers from years of inactivity faster than anyone expected, yet still, once a month, has fits where she now can tell people she sees horrors. Katy watches a werewolf killing, and she soon realizes that the killings are getting closer. Katy is another example of someone who seems to be fighting with her own urges, although within Katy they seem less violent and more about her own awakening sexuality, which is another aspect often linked to werewolfism, especially in women (the film Ginger Snaps is a great example of this). But after she is attacked by a stalker, Katy is aided by someone who has come from Romania to help her. From here the story becomes an international chase as Katy returns to Romania to find the truth about her family, the werewolf, and what it all means to her. Followed by her adoptive family and her friends, the stage is set for a bloody confrontation with her biological family. Hampton draws the story as well as co-writing it, and his painted art is beautiful and terrifying. His werewolf is traditional, a monstrous, huge wolfman who dwarfs all around him or her. An original graphic novel, the book is still available from Dark Horse Comics.

Scary Godmother: Wild About Harry

Looking for a werewolf story that's a little more friendly to the young ones? Well, try Scary Godmother: Wild about Harry. Scary Godmother was created by Jill Thompson, an artist best known for these books and her work with Neil Gaiman on The Sandman, and is about Hannah Marie, a little girl who discovers that monsters aren't as scary as she thinks when she meets the Scary Godmother, a witch, and her monster friends. Harry is the resident werewolf, whose both a geek who lives in his gypsy mother's basement and a glutton. But when Harry's mom gets sick of him mooching, she throws him out, and the mini-series follows Harry's (failed) attempts to survive in the world. This isn't a scary story, but a very funny one, as all he Scary Godmother stories are, and is good all ages fare. It is collected in the Scary Godmother Comics Stories volume. Also, as we talk about Jill Thompson books, you should check out Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, the first collection of Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's stories of a group of animals who defend their town against evil spirits and monsters. It features a story of a dog and his werewolf-boy that is touching and sad, and everything else in it is just as good.

Werewolf By Night

Comicdoms most famous werewolf is Jack Russell, the seventies horror hero known as Werewolf By Night. Yes you could probably argue Wolfsbane of the X-titles has larger fan base, but she's a mutant, not a supernatural werewolf, so for a Halloween post she doesn't really count. While admittedly not as strong a title as Marvel's horror masterpiece Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night is still a great series. It follows jack Russell as he searches for a cure for his lycanthropy, while doing his best to control his feral form on the three nights a month he changes; picture the Incredible Hulk TV series if Banner was a werewolf and fought a lot of monsters. He is supported by Topaz, an empath and mystic who was a love interest as well as ally. Russell would meet and crossover with Dracula, finding ties between his history and that of the count. After first appearing in issues two through four of Marvel Spotlight, Russell's own series ran a respectable forty-three issues. One of the series most lasting legacies is that issue thirty-two introduced Moon Knight, while Marvel Spotlight #4 introduced the concept of the Darkhold, the Mavel Universe's answer to the Necronomicon, a book that has popped up in nearly all of Marvel's horror and supernatural series at one point or another. Werewolf by Night continues to appear semi-regularly throughout the Marvel line, most recently in Mark Waid's Daredevil run, proving you can't keep a good werewolf down.

Werewolves On the Moon Versus Vampires

Again, welcome to a more comedic take on the werewolf. This is a very funny story about three werewolf buddies, Ted, Jeff, and Stan, who figure that if they only change when the moon is full, if they're ON the moon, they'll be in wolf form all the time. And while they're right, there are a few things they didn't count on: one is Maggie Pilgrim, a Moon Patrol captain. The other is a nest of vampires. A fun three issue mini-series, the werewolves are likable, if a bit dim, and the stakes are high despite the comic being a comedy. Alas it is out of print in trade, and the promised sequel Werewolves on the Moon: Moon Mummy Madness has never materialized either, but I would sure read that.

Wolf Moon

Cullen Bunn and Jeremy Haun crafted this year's Vertigo mini-series Wolf Moon around the concept that the werewolf curse doesn't just reshape flesh, I reshapes lives. Not he curse in the way we're used to seeing it, the werewolf in Wolf Moon jumps to a new host every month, destroying everything around them and then leaving them to pick up the pieces. Dillon Chase is a former host of the wolf, who has allied himself with others o try to track it down and kill it. But he's not the only one hunting the wolf, and as he nears another hunter who may or may not be a serial killer murdering former hosts, Dillon has to make some choices about his life and how he can reshape it. Vertigo has been the home of so many great horror comics, it's nice that they were able to add a werewolf series to their catalog, and Wolf Moon is an interesting take on the classic werewolf myth.

The Wolves of Saint August

"The Wolves of Saint August," originally presented in Dark Horse Presents, then reprinted as a prestige format, and currently in Hellboy Vol. 3: The Chained Coffin, is Hellboy's biggest encounter with werewolves, as he goes to investigate a murdered priest and a haunted chapel, only to find a story of a long lasing curse. I'm calling this out for two reasons, despite it being a much shorter work then the longer works I've featured here. One is it's the first appearance of Kate Corrigan, my favorite of the B.P.R.D. cast members. And secondly, you've got Mike Mignola drawing werewolves! How cool is that?

This is just scratching the surface (bad pun not intended but absolutely embraced) of werewolves in comics. There are two series I skipped because I plan to feature them in the future: Joe Kelly's Bad Dog and Art and Franco's Patrick the Wolf Boy that are as different as night and day from each other but are two great comics with a werewolf in the lead.

And that's it for this year's Halloween posts. Enjoy the holiday tomorrow, and we'll see you again. If you survive... ooooOOOOoooo. Ok, you'll all survive, so just have a great time.

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