Beware! When the night falls and the moon is full, the Marvel Universe is stalked by the Werewolf By Night! And now, that same primal terror who has hunted the horror wing of Marvel Comics since the '70s has clawed its way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the release of October 7's Werewolf By Night Special Presentation, a Marvel Studios streaming special now on Disney Plus.
The Werewolf By Night Special Presentation brings in not just the eponymous werewolf, but other Marvel Horror characters including Man-Thing and Elsa Bloodstone to pay homage to the classic black-and-white Universal Monster movies of the mid-20th century.
And when it comes to Werewolf By Night's comic book history, that's the same vibe he's had since his heyday of the '70s, as one of a few important Marvel Horror characters who were introduced following the loosening of restrictions that had been placed on the depiction of creatures like werewolves and vampires in comics.
Who is Werewolf By Night, and how does he connect to the larger Marvel Universe in comics? We've got the answers right here.
Who is Werewolf By Night?
As with many Marvel Comics characters, there are a few people who have become Werewolf By Night over the years, but it's the original, Jack Russell, who has the longest history in the Marvel Universe.
Yes, Jack Russell like the breed of dog - though Gerry Conway, who wrote Werewolf By Night's first appearance in 1972's Marvel Spotlight #2, has stated over the years that he was not aware of the dog breed's existence when he picked the name.
The original concept for Werewolf By Night was created by longtime Marvel Comics writer and editor Roy Thomas and his wife Jeannie Thomas, following the relaxation of regulations placed by the Comics Code Authority on the type of horror characters allowed to be shown in comic books.
Werewolves and vampires were banned from the early '50s to the early '70s for complicated social reasons, leading Marvel to often use weird tricks to get vampire and werewolf-like concepts past censors. But once those classic horror characters were allowed back in, Marvel Comics wasted little time bringing in Werewolf By Night - whose name was actually chosen by Stan Lee.
In Werewolf By Night's first appearance, writer Gerry Conway and artist Mike Ploog establish that Jack Russell is the American descendant of the Russian family the Rusoffs, a long line of occultists.
One of the Rusoffs, Gregor, was cursed with lycanthropy - turning into a werewolf - after messing around with the magic of the Darkhold, the same tome of forbidden magic seen in WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The same curse is passed down to Jack Russell, the latest werewolf in the family line.
Werewolf By Night in the Marvel Universe
Werewolf By Night's first superhero-infused horror adventures were a big hit, leading to an ongoing Werewolf By Night title which ran for 43 issues through the '70s, and eventually began crossing over into the Marvel Universe - with recent MCU character Moon Knight even making his first appearance in Werewolf By Night #32.
(Many issues of Werewolf By Night were not coincidentally written by legendary Marvel Comics writer and one-time editor-in-chief Marv Wolfman, with the tagline "At last - a Werewolf written by a Wolfman!").
Werewolf By Night became one of Marvel Horror's first big tentpoles alongside the title Tomb of Dracula, with Jack Russell serving as a central character for the introduction and expansion of new aspects of the Marvel Horror wing.
Over the decades, Werewolf By Night has come back to the Marvel Universe a few times, interacting with Iron Man, Doctor Strange, X-Men villain Sabretooth, Spider-Woman, and even the Avengers - fully solidifying Jack Russell as both a Marvel Horror icon and a part of the larger Marvel Comics superhero continuity.
The second and most recent Werewolf By Night is Jake Gomez, introduced in a new Werewolf By Night #1 in 2020. Created by writers Benjamin Jackendoff and Taboo (as in Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas) and artist Scot Eaton, Jake Gomez is a member of the Hopi Tribal Nation, who lives on a reservation on indigenous Hopi land in Arizona, whose lycanthropy is tied into the traditions of his culture.
Werewolf By Night in the MCU
Werewolf By Night comes to the MCU played by Gale Garcia Bernal, accompanied by a bevy of other monster-hunting characters, including Elsa Bloodstone, the heir of a great Marvel monster-slaying dynasty.
The premise is simple - hunt the monsters that lurk on the grounds of Bloodstone Manor, including Werewolf By Night and Marvel's swampy creature the Man-Thing,
Marvel Studios has been building a horror wing in the MCU for a little while now with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Moon Knight, and the upcoming Blade film. But Werewolf By Night will be the studio's first full, direct foray into the genre - complete with plenty of nods and references to classic monster movies.
And there are few more appropriate characters to do that with than Werewolf By Night, whose inclusion in the MCU could go on to crossover into the wider, more superhero-focused stories we know and love - just like in the comics.
In the mood for something spooky? It's the perfect season to dig into the best horror comics of all time.