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Number One With a Silver Bullet: The Best and Worst Comic Book Werewolves

This Friday, the release of “Wolfman” brings werewolves back to movie theaters for the first time since… well, since November, actually, when that kid with the abs fought the guy who sparkles for the love of the girl who pouts a lot.

So does this mean that werewolves are the new vampires? Maybe not, but since vampires vs. werewolves is the perfect supernatural metaphor for the eternal conflict between effete hipsters and musclebound jocks that plagues the hearts of pre-teen girls, we’re guessing that there might be more coming down the pike soon. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to prepare you for the the oncoming lycanthropocalypse, we’ve turned once again to ComicsAlliance Senior Writer Chris Sims to give us a rundown of the best (and worst) of the comic book werewolves!

CAPWOLF

Considering that legendary writer-editor Mark Gruenwald‘s run on “Captain America” lasted a solid ten years, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that his stories occasionally veered into the outright strange. This is especially the case towards the end of the run, which saw Cap saddled with a suit of hilarious ’90s armor, a couple of new sidekicks, and an unfortunate brush with Crystal Meth. The most famous oddity of Gruenwald’s tenure, though, and the one that readers always point to as one of the most bizarre moments of the Core Marvel Universe, is “Man and Wolf,” a six-part epic that saw Cap become Capwolf!

And judge us all you want, folks, but seriously: We love Capwolf.

Is it completely insane? Yes. But it’s also a highly enjoyable, insanely over-the-top story that involves hoverbikes, Dr. Druid, a Wolverine appearance, and Captain America leading a rag-tag army of werewolves to overthrow evil super-sorcerors. Oh, and it’s also an Infinity War tie-in.

Really, what more could you possibly want from comics?

OZ

Back before Seth Green split from the cast of Buffy to bring the world “Robot Chicken,” Daniel “Oz” Osbourne was probably our favorite character on Buffy, owing largely to Green’s delivery of some of the show’s best dialogue. We’re particularly fond of the scene where he calls to find out if a bite he got while playing around with his cousin might have some supernatural aftereffects:
Aunt Maureen? Hey, it’s me. Um, what? Oh. It’s, uh… actually it’s healing okay. That’s pretty much the reason I called. Um, I wanted to ask you something. Is Jordy a werewolf? Uh-huh. And how long has that been going on? Uh-huh. What? No, no reason. Um… Thanks. Yeah, love to Uncle Ken.

Unfortunately, Oz’s reappearance in the comics hasn’t had quite the zing of his television counterparts. We were really hoping to see some irony-laden werewolfin’, but when Oz finally shows up in Season 8, he’s given up his hairier side for something a little closer to zen mastery, and while that not only means that we only every get one panel of wolf-on-soldier action…

…it also takes away the sardonic wit that made us like Oz in the first place. Heck, we’re not even sure if he’s either of those werewolves in the panel above! Going purely by the comics, Oz just doesn’t cut it.

Bigby Wolf

As the literal Big Bad Wolf of the fairy tales, Bigby’s less of a werewolf and more of a wereman, spending most of his time as the rumpled, unshaven ex-sheriff of Fabletown in Vertigo’s long-running hit, “Fables.” It’s safe to say that he’s mellowed out considerably from his days of knocking down houses eating grandmothers–which was a big factor in striking up a relationship with his current wife, Snow White–but he’s still known to huff and puff on occasion. He’s been at the center of every big “Fables” story arc, from his initial role as a detective to training the Fabletown army to take back the Homelands.

Also, he once ripped the head off of a Nazi Frankenstein.

And that will never not be awesome.

WEREWOLVES ON THE MOON

One of the marks of a “high concept” book is that it says what it is right in the name, and the concepts don’t get a whole lot higher than last year’s three-issue mini-series from Dark Horse, “Werewolves on the Moon versus Vampires.”

The idea of sticking Werewolves on the moon is one that’s cropped up at least a few times over the years–Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross did it in “Earth X” and it’s also the premise of “Full Moon Fever,” a graphic novel by Joe Casey, Caleb Gerard, and Damian Couceiro–but as far as we know, “WOTMVV” (pronounced “WOT-muh-vuh-vuh” by devoted fans) is the only one where they fought vampires in a moon castle on giant tank treads in the future.

We just wish it had been a little more crazy.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT

There are a lot of pun names in comics, but very few are as egregious as the civilian identity of Werewolf by Night, Jack Russell. Beyond the name, though, Jack’s saddled with a whole host of character problems: As one of the bronze-age horror-themed super-heroes that never quite caught on in the way that Ghost Rider or even Man-Thing, did, Werewolf By Night (which begs the question of when else would he be a werewolf) sort of fell into a generic role as the designated werewolf of the Marvel Universe. He’s about as garden variety as you can get, if your garden involves the curse of lycanthropy.

Recently, his affiliation with the Legion of Monsters has seen him cropping up in the pages of “Punisher” as part of the CA-favorite “Franken-Castle” arc, where he’s been squabbling with the undead vigilante:

It hasn’t really worked out well for him.

MAN-WOLF

Man-Wolf, on the other hand, is about as far from garden variety as you can get. We hesitate to use the term “best character ever,” but just look at that picture.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with M-Dubs, here’s the lowdown: John Jameson — son of J. Jonah Jameson, America’s favorite newspaperman — was an astronaut who, after scrapping with Spider-Man a couple of times at his dad’s behest, found a giant ruby from another dimension on the moon that latched onto his throat and turned him into the werewolf, then transported him to Other Realm, a dimension where he ruled as Stargod by Conanning the living crap out of spearmen who rode peagasi.

And then he hooked up with She-Hulk.

How there were custom vans that didn’t have the picture above airbrushed onto them, we will never, ever know.

THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN

Created by Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard, “The Astounding Wolf-Man” actually had one of the best new-reader friendly gimmicks of all time: the first issue debuted as a Free Comic Book Day book, allowing readers a risk-free chance to jump onto a new book from the creatof of “Invincible” and “The Walking Dead.”

Unfortunately, it lost us shortly thereafter. We love Howard’s art, but Kirkman’s signature twists — which had done so well on “Invincible” — came at the reader so fast that they barely had time to process them, and while that breakneck pace can work really well to shake things up, nothing ever stayed the same long enough for readers to grow attached to what was going on. In effect, major changes, deceptions, and double-crosses were the status quo.

Even so, the rapid-fire pace of it (and the occasional attempts at out-bloodying his other two comics) can be a fun, popcorn-action comic. It’s just not our thing.

MARV WOLFMAN

We could swear we had documentation on this one somewhere, but after a bit of research, we’re forced to admit that “New Teen Titans” and “Crisis on Infinite Earths” writer Marv Wolfman is not, in fact, a werewolf. And we know this because of the Comics Code.

Back when he started with DC’s horror magazines, editor Gerry Conway added a bit to the interstitial dialogue from the mag’s “host” about how the next story came from “a wandering Wolfman.” As the Comics Code forbade references to werewolves, they demanded that they clarify that “Wolfman” was, in fact, the creator’s name, and that he was not afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy.

…at least, that’s what they thought before the doors locked at the 1992 San Diego Comic-Con Teen Titans Midnight Madness party on the night of the Full Moon.

The horror… the horror

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