Marvel is about to take a very dark turn with Werewolf by Nighthis next horror special.
The first time we heard about the project was last year. Werewolf by Night debuted an impressive trailer at Disney’s D23 Expo… and it looks like Marvel is finally embracing the dark side of it.
Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Werewolf by Night is a black and white horror film that will quicken the pulse of retro horror fans. A spooky house, old-school calling card, and gloomy lighting are reminiscent of the monsters from classic Universal movies. Werewolf by Night goes for the jugular with its style of horror inspired by the 30s and 40s.
During the D23 panel, Marvel boss Kevin Feige called the project “scary fun” and compared it to the classic ’80s horror film Poltergeist. Frequent MCU composer, Michael Giacchino, que dirige Werewolf by Nightalso said that “it has the right level of scares.”
A retro horror movie with a Marvel twist, Werewolf by Night looks set to take the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a totally unexpected direction…and it’s just in time for Halloween, too. But who exactly is Jack Russell? How did he become a werewolf? And, more importantly, how will this new horror-inspired Marvel movie fit in with the rest of the MCU?
What is Werewolf by Night?
Marvel’s answer to the classic monster movie, Werewolf by Night is the story of a werewolf. We’ve all seen the movies An American Werewolf in London, Dog Soldiers, or even the 1940s classic The Werewolf. Werewolf by Night is inspired by all of them and many more.
Werewolf by Night tells the story of Jack Russell, a man whose ancestors became werewolves after a chance encounter with Dracula…and a werewolf he had taken prisoner in his castle in Transylvania. It is the classic story of a man who is bitten by a werewolf, which passes the curse on him. (And yes, by the way, Dracula does exist in the Marvel comics.)
Jack Russell, however, simply has already been born with the curse.
Although there are two different versions of Werewolf by Night following a 2020 reboot, it is the original version of Jack Russell that is reportedly appearing in the upcoming Halloween special. A good choice considering the film’s obvious roots in early horror film tropes.
Jack’s lycanthropy makes him a dangerous man, often depicted as unable to control his savage werewolf alter ego after turning for three days at the appearance of each full moon. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a werewolf story., albeit with a Marvel twist. And while the character ended up fighting Spider-Man, various Avengers, and even became a member of the Midnight Sons, he’s still not a superhero. Instead, he is a comics version of the old tragic story. And it has been around for quite some time.
The Werewolf Origin Comics
The original Jack Russell version of Werewolf by Night first appeared in the comic book anthology Marvel Spotlight #2 in 1972. A coming of age story with a horrific twist, Jack realizes his powers after transforming in werewolf on his 18th birthday.
She may be from Los Angeles, but it turns out Jack has a Transylvanian origin…
After a car accident, Laura, Jack’s mother, confesses everything on her deathbed. Twenty years ago, he met and fell in love with Baron Russoff during his student travels in Transylvania. However, it was soon revealed that the Baron was a werewolf… and after fathering two children with Laura, he was killed by the local villagers shot with silver bullets.
Of course, Jack inherited lycanthropy from his father., which remained dormant until his 18th birthday. Now the young man is forced to transform into the wild beast every night for three days on every full moon.
In the end, Jack works for months trying to find a cure for his lycanthropy to save her sister, Lissa, from the same fate. After failing, he ends up spending time as a traveler, learning more about his past while struggling with his transformations.
Over the years, Werewolf’s origins have become even more entangled with those of other heroes: it turns out that his ancestors were responsible for finding the pages of the Darkholdand turn them into the indestructible book of dark magic that we know today
Werewolf powers and abilities
Before turning 18, Jack was a normal boy… but once his lycanthropic powers were activated, he got a superhuman sense of smelleven in his human form.
However, it’s as a werewolf where Jack really shines.
His transformation turns Jack into a huge two-meter beast, with superhuman strength, speed, stamina, agility, and senses. It is extremely durable (except for the old silver bullets) and even has an accelerated healing factor, capable of taking wounds that would kill a human and recovering quickly. Like most werewolves, he has sharp teeth and claws that can tear through flesh and bone, as well as some metal.
Unfortunately, Jack usually loses his human intellect during his transformation and becomes a wild beast. However, over the years, Jack has mastered his transformation using magic items and sheer perseverance to gain control over his werewolf alter ego.
At various times in the comics, Jack has obtained the ability to transform into a werewolf at willsomething very useful when facing enemies with superpowers.
Over the years, Jack has also become a master of the occult. His knowledge of other monsters and ancient practices has grown as Jack researched his own family history, as well as through his attempts to find a cure.
His only weakness is silver– Like other werewolves, he is vulnerable to silver bullets and can even die from a shot to the heart. A glancing hit with a silver weapon will take much longer for Jack to heal than one with a normal weapon.
Werewolf, Avengers, Man-Thing and the Marvel Universe
Obviously, Jack has been part of several superhero teams because it wouldn’t be Marvel any other way.
Over the years, he has met many heroes, such as Iron Man and Spider-Woman, among others. But his first notable team-up came just a year after the character’s debut, in 1973’s Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1 #12 comic.
In it, the Werewolf meets none other than Spider-Man himself to confront the wizard Moondark, who had hypnotized Jack and teleported him to the Golden Gate Bridge to fight Spidey. The two quickly dispose of the wizard, but this union of superpowers opened the door for more crossovers in the future.
Of course, we’ve seen the Werewolf team up with other Marvel monsterslike Frankenstein’s Monster (yes, he exists in the Marvel universe too), Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, and even Morbius the Living Vampire.
In fact, the Man-Thing can be glimpsed in the Werewolf by Night trailerwhich is sure to delight Marvel horror fans who can’t wait to see more of these monsters in the live-action treatment.
Most notably, he joined Dr. Michael Morbius in his version of the Midnight Sons supernatural team, alongside Hailstorm, Jennifer Kale, and Man-Thing during the Marvel Zombies series.
Later, he teamed up with Man-Thing, the Manphibian, and N’kantu, the Living Mummy, as part of the Legion of Monsters, a group that banded together to fight those who would otherwise wipe out all monsters in the Marvel Universe. .
werewolf too joined the Night Shifta team of supervillains who first appeared in 1987’s Captain America #330. He eventually turned against them after resisting their leader’s mind control powers, but not before facing off against Captain America, Moon Knight, and the Avengers.
Werewolf by Night continues the MCU’s descent into terror
It all started with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Directed by Deadpool filmmaker Sam Raimi, it leaned heavily into horror tropes throughout.
We saw a zombified Doctor Strange, the horror of Gargantos, and even the Scarlet Witch herself hit us with a scare The Ring would be proud of. Y it is Wanda Maximoff who is apparently linked to the origin of Werewolf…
Jack Russell’s ancestors restored the Darkhold, the ancient text that makes Wanda the Scarlet Witch, allowing her to harness the dark magic it contains. Whether or not this aspect is explored on screen, fans of the comics will no doubt discover the reference.
And then there’s the jaw-dropping appearance of Man-Thing in the first trailer for Werewolf by Night. Man-Thing is the classic creature of tragic horror: a young biochemist who is forced to inject himself with an experimental serum that transforms him into the slow-moving, swamp-dwelling plant creature.
Along with the upcoming introduction of Blade, it looks like Marvel Is Finally Embracing Its Darkest, Horror-Inspired Charactersopening up a world of dark magic and gothic leanings to create a corner of the MCU that we’ve never seen before.
It’s ironic that DC has struggled for so long to bring its Justice League Dark to the big screen, especially now that Marvel seems to have embraced the inclusion of its retro monsters. Werewolf by Night is a clear step into new territoryas Giacchino creates a 1930s black-and-white horror film within the Marvel universe.
And as the movie’s monster hunters gather to take down the monster in their midst, you have to wonder if the Werewolf or the Man-Thing will find their way into the rest of the MCU. That is yet to be seen. But with Mahershala Ali stepping up as Blade, it could be the start of a darker and more terrifying period for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.