Meet Jack Russell, Marvel's Werewolf by Night
Who is Werewolf by Night? Read on to learn more about Jack Russell, whose family curse has sent him on a lifetime of supernatural adventures.
The Marvel Universe can be a scary place, especially when characters like Werewolf by Night emerge from the darkness. Ever since Jack Russell first transformed into a werewolf, the howling hero has protected the darkest corners of the Marvel Universe from supernatural threats – while going on an occasional rampage himself.
Now, Werewolf by Night will face one of his oldest sparring partners, Moon Knight, for a long-awaited rematch in this October’s MOON KNIGHT ANNUAL (2022) #1 by Jed MacKay and Federico Sabbatini. Before that epic showdown brings Russell face-to-face with Marc Spector, let’s take a closer look at Werewolf by Night and his lycanthropic lore.
The Darkhold’s Curse and Werewolf By Night
Jack Russell debuted in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT (1971) #2 by Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog, which was based on a story by Roy Thomas and Jean Thomas, before graduating to his own series: WEREWOLF BY NIGHT (1972). Born in Transylvania as Jacob Russoff, Jack is the descendant of Grigori Russoff, who was turned into a werewolf after fighting Dracula in 1795. Although the werewolf’s curse remained dormant for generations, it was reactivated by Jack’s grandfather Gregor after he copied the Darkhold, an ancient book of arcane evil power. Under a full moon, that curse turned Gregor, his son Gregory, and their adult descendants into feral werewolves with animalistic appearances and supernatural abilities like enhanced strength, lightning-fast agility, and a considerable healing factor. They also inherited the traditional lycanthropic weakness to silver.
Gregory went on to have two children, Jack and Lissa, with his wife Laura, before he was killed during one of his werewolf transformations. Laura moved with the kids to the United States, where she married her late husband’s brother, Phillip Russell. Upon learning about the family’s curse, an economics-obsessed criminal organization called the Committee tried to blackmail Phillip shortly before Jack’s first transformation into the Werewolf. After he refused, the Committee fatally wounded Laura, who told Jack about the family’s curse with her dying breaths. In a fit of grief and lupine rage, Jack transformed into the Werewolf again and avenged his mother’s death.
Werewolf by Night’s Allies and Enemies
Throughout his subsequent solo adventures, Russell tried to minimize the damage from his rampages, all while facing supernatural threats and those who wanted to use his abilities or steal his family’s copy of the Darkhold. In addition to fighting the Committee and its numerous agents, Russell battled villains like Dracula, the order-obsessed Hangman, fellow werewolf Raymond Corker, and the powerful demonic sorcerer Doctor Glitternight.
As a human, Russell had several close allies, including the writer Buck Cowan, the sorceress Topaz, and his sister Lissa, who was eventually freed of the family curse. In addition to memorable team-ups with heroes like Iron Man and Spider-Woman, Russell’s Werewolf worked with Greer Grant in her first mission after she was transformed into the feline Tigra in GIANT-SIZE CREATURES (1974) #1 by Tony Isabella and Don Perlin. The Werewolf also joined forces with his fellow monstrous antiheroes Morbius, Man-Thing, and Ghost Rider as the short-lived Legion of Monsters in MARVEL PREMIERE (1972) #28 by Bill Mantlo and Frank Robbins.
Moon Knight and Werewolf by Night
During his first appearance in Doug Moench and Don Perlin’s WEREWOLF BY NIGHT (1972) #32, Moon Knight set out to hunt Russell down. Shortly after adopting his Moon Knight persona, mercenary Marc Spector was hired by the Committee to capture Russell alive for $10,000. Moon Knight tracked down and eventually knocked the Werewolf out after a brutal battle, thanks to the silver in his weapons and spiked gauntlets. But after taking Russell to the Committee’s headquarters, Moon Knight had a change of heart when he saw the group’s plans for the Werewolf and helped him escape.
After Russell briefly got more control over his lupine body, the Werewolf reemerged in a far more monstrous form and met Moon Knight again in MOON KNIGHT (1980) #29-30 by Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz. In that seminal story, Russell was targeted by Schuyler Belial and his Followers of the Left Hand Path cult, who wanted to capture him and ritualistically use his blood to become werewolves themselves. Although Russell asked Moon Knight for help, the Werewolf viciously attacked Khonshu’s avatar before the cult captured them both. Ultimately, Moon Knight and the Werewolf freed themselves, and the Werewolf killed Belial before running into the night.
Moon Knight and the Werewolf faced each other a few more times over the years, with the two coming to blows as often as they met. One of Spector and Russell’s most brutal encounters came in MOON KNIGHT (2006) #20 by Mike Benson and Mike Deodato Jr. During a kidnapping, Russell’s blood was used to empower the competitors of an underground werewolf fighting ring. When Moon Knight tried to rescue Russell, the Werewolf viciously tested his limits before the pair parted ways.
Marvel Zombies and the Legion of Monsters Reborn
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Werewolf by Night struggled to control his lupine impulses, and he held his own against a formidable Avengers team in Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom’s WEST COAST AVENGERS (1985) #5. By CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #330 by Mark Gruenwald and Tom Morgan, Russell kept his wild side in check with the Night Watch, a team of outcasts that the vigilante Shroud used to covertly disrupt criminal organizations.
As Russell got marginally more control over his Werewolf form, he reunited with Morbius and they formed the Midnight Sons with several other supernatural heroes. Together, they helped stop a zombie outbreak in MARVEL ZOMBIES 4 (2009) by Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker. Shortly after that, the Werewolf joined the reformed Legion of Monsters and helped them resurrect the undead Franken-Castle in Rick Remender and Tony Moore’s PUNISHER (2009) #11. Alongside his one-time paramour Elsa Bloodstone and the Legion, Russell also helped protect the Monster Metropolis, an underground haven for mythological creatures.
When the X-Men’s Wolfsbane was pregnant with a half-Asgardian wolf-child, Russell briefly protected her from supernatural predators in X-FACTOR (2005) #222 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino. Later, Deadpool shot Russell in the head after finding him in bed with his wife Shiklah in DEADPOOL (2015) #17 by Gerry Duggan and Mike Hawthorne. Then, when Shiklah and a monster army overran Manhattan, the Werewolf and the Legion fought against invading vampires.
Since then, Russell has largely stayed out of the spotlight, while Jake Gomez emerged as a new Werewolf by Night. But with a rematch with Moon Knight on the horizon, it won’t be long before the howls of Russell’s Werewolf echo around the Marvel Universe once more.
Don't miss Werewolf by Night's next rematch with Moon Knight in MOON KNIGHT ANNUAL (2022) #1, on sale October 26!
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