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Marvel Comics: Things to Know About ‘Werewolf by Night’

This spooky season, we’re being blessed with a ghoulish Marvel special. Werewolf by Night hits Disney+ on 7th October, and I for one can’t wait to sink my teeth into this monstrous special. But while we wait for Jack Russell to grace our screens, let’s have a look at some of the fun comic facts about ‘Werewolf by Night’

Werewolf by Night issue #1 cover
Werewolf by Night #1 cover from 1972

The Origins of a Werewolf

No Monsters Allowed

Jack Russell first appeared on our pages in February of 1972. But this feels late for this character to appear, right? A werewolf (or any kind of monster) feels like the perfect character for a comic book. Well, this is all thanks to the Comics Code Authority of 1954. Among other things that feel very outdated now, things like vampires, zombies, ghosts and werewolves were strictly prohibited.

But in 1971, they relaxed the rules and finally allowed monsters. And that’s when Werewolf by Night appeared in Marvel Spotlight #2. After a good reception from issues #2-4, Jack Russell was given his own series in September 1972.

A Rose by Any Other Name…

While Jack Russel is a truly apt name for a canine crusader, this wasn’t his original family name. Gregory Russoff married a woman named Laura, and the pair had two children, Jacob and Lissa. When lightning strikes the Russoff’s Transylvanian Castle, Gregory escapes in wolf form and attacks some nearby villagers.

After Gregory is killed with silver bullets, Laura flees to LA to her brother-in-law Philip, whom she later married. Once his mum and uncle married, Jacob Russoff became Jack Russell, and he would eventually become Werewolf by Night.

Runs in the Family

Unlike many other lycanthropic characters, Jack Russell wasn’t bitten by a werewolf and transformed. Jack’s lupine alter-ego comes from a family curse, brought to the Russoff family by his ancestor, Grigori, in 1795.

After refusing to acknowledge Vlad Tepes Dracula (more commonly known as Dracula) as the most important, Dracula kills Grigori’s wife Louisa. Grigori ambushes Dracula to seek his revenge, but he’s turned into a werewolf by Lydia, a werewolf who was once imprisoned by Dracula.

Grigori did eventually remarry, and there were many rumours as to why lycanthropy didn’t pass on to their descendants. This was until 1930 when Gregor Russof found the catalyst that triggered the curse hidden in his family. Grigori turned into a werewolf on the full moon, and the family curse was in full force.

A Dark Hold on the Russoffs

What in the Marvel Universe could possibly be strong enough to spark a dormant curse? Why, it’s none other than the Darkhold, of course! Gregor was able to find the Darkhold scrolls in 1930 and bound them back into a book. He decided that the best time to read about the origins of lycanthropy would be during a full moon. This rookie mistake brought about the Russoff curse once more and doomed his family to a life of nighttime lupine activities.

Not only did Gregor bring the cure out, but he also thought it would be an amazing idea to transcribe a lot of the Darkhold into his own personal diary, and he essentially created a copy of the Darkhold. Gregor then spent his life trying to contain the werewolf side of him. He even sold off part of his estate, including Wundagore Mountain, but he’s never able to find the cure.

Decades later, Jack Russell eventually learns about the Darkhold and sneaks into what was once his family’s Transylvanian castle to steal it. After retrieving the book, he takes it to his friend, Father Ramon Joaquin, to translate it. But all does not go to plan, and a previous owner of the book, the Mad Monk Aelfric from the 12th century, posses Father Joaquez. The possession kills him, and the Darkhold disappears.

The legion on Monsters
Jack Russell as Werewolf by Night with some of his best buddies, the Legion on Monsters

The Company of Wolves

Bark at the Moon

On Jack’s 18th birthday, his mother was critically injured in a car crash. Before she dies, she tells Jack about who his real father is, his family, and the Russoff curse. Over the next few years, Jack transforms into a werewolf for the three nights of each full moon.

In the beginning, Jack only became the Werewolf during the full moon. He would lose almost all of his human nature and become a savage beast. However, over time, his ability to transform and control his wolfish side has changed.

Later, he transformed under any kind of moonlight, but his control would wax and wane with the phases of the moon. In some phases, he had a great deal of control, but he would still revert to the savage persona during the full moon.

He eventually merges with his werewolf form and is able to control it to a greater extent. However, this control does still change depending on the phase of the moon. He’s also able to transform at will, usually by imagining the image of a full moon.

When he transforms outside of a full moon, he can maintain his human aspects, such as his intellect and his speech, and looks a little more human. But during the full moon, he still goes full werewolf and becomes much more lupine in appearance.

Friends Who Slay Together

While Jack Russell would generally keep to himself, he did find some friendships along the way. He befriends and works with other supernatural characters, such as Morbius the Living Vampire, Ghost Rider, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Man-Thing. While he’s not always with them or on the team, he’ll step in to fight the good fight if needed.

Over time, he’s been a member of a few different teams, such as the Legion of Monsters, Midnight Sons, A.R.M.O.R, and the Howling Commandos Monster Squad. He’s fought many foes, both supernatural and not, and has even helped out in Monster Metropolis.

Jack has also been a bit of a ladies’ man throughout the years and has won the hearts of a few different women over time. He’s had romantic flings with Elsa Bloodstone, Martine Bancroft, Topaz, and even a one-night stand with Deadpool’s wife, Queen Shiklah.

Werewolf by Night
Jack Russell on the run as Werewolf by Night

The Power of the Wolf

Unleash the Beast

Jack’s wolf form gives him more than just claws, teeth and fur. He also has superhuman strength, stamina, speed and reflexes. While he’s in a non-full moon wolf form, he’s able to lift somewhere in the region of 1,500 lbs. The full moon elevates his powers, and he can lift 1 ton. He can also use his strength to jump around 18 feet into the air from a crouching position.

His superhuman stamina and durability give him the extra edge, and he can work at peak capacity for hours without getting tired. He’s also able to withstand low calibre bullets, falls from great heights, and exposure to extreme temperatures.

Another power that comes in handy for the Werewolf is his healing abilities. He can heal from most injuries at a much higher rate than a human can and within shorter amounts of time. His healing factor also means that he can recover from massive tissue damage easily and without scarring. In fact, after Deadpool found him in bed with Queen Shiklah, he shot Jack’s head off. But Jack was grew a new one back. Even if it did look like a little cub for a short time.

We All Have a Weakness

We can’t all be perfect, and Jack Russell is no exception. While his lycanthropy gives him enhanced abilities, he also has some weaknesses that come with it. Sunlight can cause him some minor irritation, and he still has the urge to transform under a full moon, while holding no control over the Werewolf. He’s also vulnerable to magical attacks.

His biggest weakness is that of all werewolves; silver. While he can fully recover from most injuries caused by normal weapons, any kind of injury from silver weapons will take much longer to heal, and a fatal injury from these weapons would definitely kill him.

Gael Garcia Bernal as Jack Russell in Werewolf by Night
Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Things to Come

Jack Russell has a long history in the Marvel Universe, and he’s finally making his debut in the MCU in just a couple of days. We still don’t know what aspects of his backstory have been changed for his on-screen adaptation, but he’s still a lovable character with a wolfish secret. He may not be the most well-known of the supernatural Marvel heroes, but it’s only a matter of time before he becomes one of our new favourites.

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