Ask Chris #262: Where Oh Werewolf; Do Werewolves Make Everything Better?
Q: Are there any superheroes who can't be improved by making them also a werewolf? -- @daveexmachina
A: My friends, I am being 100% real with you when I say that questions like this are exactly why I started writing this column in the first place.
So let's see here. If you go back and look at my work over the past ten years, it's probably going to be pretty clear that when it comes to your classic Halloween monsters, werewolves don't really do much for me. I am and will always be a Dracula man, but I can't deny that throwing in some extra hair, a couple of claws, and an uncontrollable monthly blood lust is something that could make pretty much any character in comics a whole lot more interesting. Which, now that I think of it, is probably why it's actually happened way more than you might remember.
Seriously, when I started thinking about a few of my favorite superheroes, it was harder to think of one who hadn't been subject to the dread curse of lycanthropy than it was to find one who had. Even with the Comics Code's strict prohibition against it until the mid '70s --- the same weird quirk of the Code that caused Marv Wolfman to be the first credited writer on a Big Two book since there was a concern that impressionable young readers might mistake him for an actual wolfman --- superhero comics more than made up for lost time once they got the chance, slapping a fresh coat of fur and a set of fangs into every superhero that they could.
The most famous, of course, is probably Captain America, who spent six issues as "Capwolf" back in the early '90s. It's a story with a bad reputation, but it's gloriously over-the-top, even without the part where he fights Cable for reasons that I'm still not quite sure I understand. Suffice to say that this is a story that went as far as having him leading a gang of similarly lupine heroes like Wolfsbane and Wolverine as part of an extremely short-lived team called the Wolfpack.
Please note that this was neither the first nor last time that Wolverine would be lumped in with wolves on account of his name being just close enough that we all agree to never acknowledge that real wolverines are just big mean weasels. But anyway.
The point is, while Capwolf is certainly one of the more notable examples, it's not the only one by a long shot. Think of your favorite comic book character, and if they've been around long enough, there's a good chance they've spent some time as a wolf at some time in their career. Superman? Assuming that we're not counting the times that he had the heads of various other animals, he was still a full-on werewolf for a minute back in 1986. Judge Dredd? "Cry of the Werewolf" legitimately holds up as one of the best Dredd stories of all time. And Jimmy Olsen? Jimmy Olsen? That dude was a werewolf twice.
Someone at DC was so stoked about Jimmy Olsen becoming a werewolf --- presumably Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel and Curt Swan --- that they did two stories with that plot within eight months of each other. If we're talking about whether or not it's an improvement, those guys are pretty hard to argue with, and in all honesty, if it was a permanent part of Jimmy Olsen's character that he just straight up turned into a wolfman once a month --- a wolfman in a suit and tie, no less --- and all of his pals had to deal with that, I would read those stories even harder than I already do.
Tragically, as we all know, not every character can be Jimmy Olsen, so while fifth-dimensional lycanthropy might work for him, that's no guarantee that it'll work for everyone --- even if the evidence is starting to stack up in favor of werewolves being the ultimate storytelling device.
If all of those stories are what we're going by, then I'm ready to finally come down on firm no: There are no superheroes that could not be improved by making them werewolves, at least for a little while. Aquaman? Turn that guy into a sea-wolf and show the fish of the same name how rad that could actually be. Even Batman could probably benefit from the enhanced senses in his crusade against crime, and his main interaction with werewolves over the years has been to kick them in the face at every opportunity.
But then again, there's a problem with this line of thinking, and the --- get ready for it --- silver bullet for all of this evidence is that it tends to be temporary. As much as superheroes might have a surprising tendency to become werewolves, they have an equal tendency for curing themselves within about eight pages. The only characters who stay werewolves are the ones who were only created to be werewolves in the first place. Jack Russell, for example, was doomed to run around in green pants as Werewolf By Night from the moment he had that name, so you can't really compare his story to bolting a werewolf onto an existing character. It's an experiment that doesn't really have much of a control group.
As a quick side note, though, bringing up characters who are already werewolves does raise the question of how they'd be affected by a big change like this one. Would Werewolf By Night just become Werewolf By Night And Day, or would he actually become some kind of double werewolf? And if so, what would that look like? Would he just split into two werewolves, or would he be like a centaur but for werewolves? I'm not sure, and really, if we start going down that road, the question is going to become "are there any characters who wouldn't be improved by making them two werewolves," and that's outside the scope of what you asked in the first place.
But for the record, the answer to that one is no. No there is not.