As a fan of horror, it is exciting to see a franchise known for producing some of the best superhero movies ever to be more heavily adopting elements of the genre into its more recent titles and upcoming Marvel movies, too. For instance, we saw Sam Raimi return to his roots with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in 2022 and fans are eagerly awaiting some vampire hunting in the upcoming Blade reboot with Mahershala Ali. However, it appears that we will soon be blessed with the most potent and traditional example of chills and thrills in the MCU in the form of Werewolf by Night.
The Disney+ original Halloween special (and directorial debut of Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino) stars Gael García Bernal as a man cursed to take on an animalistic appearance at will (usually), but uses these abilities as a force for good. This highly anticipated, upcoming Marvel TV program will mark the MCU debut of the titular lycanthropic superhero, who has actually led a pretty amusing history in the comics for decades. Before Werewolf by Night premieres on Disney+ on Friday, October 7, 2022, we shall take a look at all of the most important details you should know about this underrated character straight from the pages of Marvel Comics, starting with where he comes from.
Werewolf By Night Is A Transylvanian Native
Created by writers Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, with artist Mike Ploog, Werewolf by Night (who is also often referred to as simply “Werewolf”) made his first official Marvel Comics debut in Marvel Spotlight #2 in February 1972. The three-part origin story was such a hit that the character would soon earn his own title that lasted 43 issues over the course of five years. Werewolf by Night’s alter-ego is Jack Russell, which is very apt name, indeed, but he was actually born as Jacob Russoff — a name that originates from Transylvania and is, itself, haunted by a curse that affects most under the same lineage.
Werewolf By Night’s Lycanthropy Is Part Of A Family Curse
The cause of Jack Russell’s animalistic alter ego can be traced back to the 1700s, when Grigory Russoff pled vengeance against Count Dracula himself for the murder of his wife, Louisa, and he succeeded. However, soon after, he was bitten by Lydia – a female werewolf living in the count’s castle – and inherited her lycanthropic curse that would later be passed down unto many of his descendants.
This included Jack Russell’s biological father, Gregory Russoff, who activated the curse from within him by reading a passage from the Darkhold (which viewers of the aforementioned Doctor Strange sequel will recognize as a big no-no. To protect his family from the danger he could potentially bring them, Gregory had his wife, Laura, and their children leave Transylvania to live in Los Angeles, where Jacob (now Jack) would grow up and, by 18, discover his strange, inherited abilities.
Werewolf By Night’s Lycanthropy Gives Him Various Superhuman Abilities
Being a werewolf gives a person more than just some pointy ears, a long snout, and an extra abundance of hair to deal with, especially in Jack Russell’s case. As Werewolf by Night, he has the power to lift more than a 1500 pounds, run fast enough to be nearly invisible in darkness, smell living creatures from at least 100 feet away, and heal bodily damage with greater speed and efficiency than the average human.
Some of these abilities are even stronger during a full moon (particularly in how Jack could then lift up to a whole ton), but the downside is that he loses much of his cognitive abilities, takes on a far more animalistic appearance, and is unable to control his transformations, which has been known to put him in trouble.
Moon Knight Debuted As An Enemy Of Werewolf By Night
One person who was put to the task of hunting down Werewolf by Night was Moon Knight, in the 32nd issue of the lycanthrope’s self-titled series, which also marked the Marvel Comics debut of the character whom Oscar Isaac would later play in a Disney+ series of the same name.
However, this version of the anti-hero was a mercenary hired by an organization known as “The Committee” to kill Jack, only to help him escape their clutches. The modern iteration of the character would also come to the Werewolf’s aid in Mike Diodato’s 2008 run of Moon Knight, in which Marc Spector prevented Jack’s blood from being used for bioweapons research by rescuing him and bringing him back from his primitive form.
Werewolf By Night Formed The Legion Of Monsters With Other Creepy Marvel Heroes
I am not sure what the likelihood is of seeing the MCU’s interpretation of Moon Knight cross paths with its upcoming iteration of Werewolf by Night, but we do know that the Disney+ special will see him interact with one of his more bizarre allies: Man-Thing. In fact, the half-man, half-plant creature was involved in a collective of other monstrous do-gooders that called themselves the Legion of Monsters. Other members of this creepy crew included Morbius, the Living Vampire, and the motorcycle-riding demon-hunter, Ghost Rider — the latter of whom probably has a better chance of crossing paths with Gael García Bernal’s Jack Russell at this point in time.
Werewolf By Night Has Crossed Paths With Many Traditional Horror Characters
Jack Russell has also been known to team-up with or face off against a few monstrous characters who are not exclusive to the Marvel Comics Universe. For instance, the aforementioned Count Dracula is, basically, his archenemy, which is certainly a no-brainer considering the fact that the lord of the bloodsuckers was indirectly responsible for the curse that made him Werewolf by Night in the first place. Jack has also come at odd’s with none other than the hulking creature brought to life by Victor Frankenstein, and he once joined forces with Iron Man to save his sister from the evil Arthurian enchantress, Morgan le Fay.
Werewolf Has Worked With And Dated Monster Hunter Elsa Bloodstone
However, not all of Jack Russell’s associates are fellow monsters. In fact, he has collaborated with, and even shared a romance with, Elsa Bloodstone, who normally specializes in the capture or destruction of such creatures. The Werewolf by Night special will, reportedly, also mark the MCU debut of the monster hunter — as played by Outlander cast member Laura Donnelly — which we can infer will spark some awkward interactions between her and the title character.
Based on the trailer for Werewolf by Night and its obvious references to classic, black-and-white monster movies of Hollywood’s golden age, it is hard to say exactly how faithful the special will be to the character’s storied history in Marvel Comics. However, if it does apply this refreshingly old-school cinematic approach to a story that still honors what kind of person the character is, things should not get too hairy.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.