Great Moments In Comic Book History: The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night

From 1954 to 1971, comic book readers across America were safe from werewolves. The Comics Code Authority, that set of rules instituted to get Dr. Frederic Wertham to stop declaring comic books to be the greatest menace to the American way of life since the horseless carriage, forbade any supernatural characters. Werewolves were not allowed to fight alongside or against any of the super heroes published by D.C., Marvel, or any of the other comic books companies governed by the CCA.

The CCA started to relax their rules in 1971, especially after Marvel published an issue of Spider-Man that did not get the CCA’s seal of approval because it featured a friend of Peter Parker’s getting hooked on drugs. When the issue not only sold well but also generated a lot of negative publicity about how out-of-touch the CCA was with what comic book readers were actually having to deal with, the CCA started to relax their rules.

Marvel reacted by introducing a whole host of supernatural characters who had previously been banned under the CCA. Throughout the 70s, Captain America, Spider-Man, and others often shared their pages with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and sometimes even Satan himself.

Werewolf by Night was Marvel’s first werewolf. (The title had previously been used before the CCA went into effect, back when Marvel was still known as Atlas.) He made his first appearance in the 2nd issue of Marvel Spotlight. By day, he was Jack Russell. He was also Jack Russell by night, unless there was a full moon. Then, he was Werewolf by Night! He was different from most Marvel characters in that he lived in Los Angeles instead of Manhattan. However, one thing that he did have in common with a surprisingly large amount of comic book heroes is that his story started with a mugging.

At first, Jack thinks this was just a dream. It’s only later in the issue that his mother confesses that Jack’s father was a werewolf and apparently, the curse has been passed down. Jack is not happy to hear that and after promising to never attack his stepfather, Jack runs off into the night. Later, when Jack nearly breaks his promise, he realizes that a werewolf cannot have a family. A werewolf must always be alone.

From such simple beginnings, one of Marvel’s most venerable characters was born. Many of the Marvel horror characters disappeared after a few issues but Werewolf by Night has remained an active member of the Marvel Universe. Though my favorite Marvel werewolf remains Man-Wolf, Werewolf By Night has had his moments. My personal favorite was when he, Spider-Man, and Franenstein’s Monster teamed up to take down the Monster Maker. It’s not easy being a werewolf but Jack Russell (and, when the series was recently rebooted, Jake Gomez) has always done his best.

Marvel Spotlight Vol.1 #2 (February 1972) — “Night of Full Moon — Night of Fear

Writers — Roy Thomas, Dean Thomas, Gerry Conway

Penciler and Inker — Mike Ploog

Letterer — John Costanza

Editor — Stan Lee

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider

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