Jack Russell discovers his true nature when he transforms into the feral hybrid known as Werewolf by Night and becomes a howling, hirsute hero.
A Family Curse
While reports of lycanthropy (werewolf-ism) in the Russoff line stretch back many centuries, the first confirmed manifestation is Grigori Russoff in 1795. Vlad Tepes Dracula, AKA Dracula, slays Grigori’s wife, Louisa, after he refuses to acknowledge Dracula’s primacy. Grigori ambushes and destroys Dracula, but Lydia, a werewolf formerly imprisoned by the vampire lord, turns him into a werewolf. Grigori takes a second wife, Krisztina, but accounts vary as to why lycanthropy fails to pass to his descendants. Sometime prior to May, 1930, Grigori’s descendent, Gregor, obtains the legendary Darkhold scrolls, binding them back into book form. Reading lycanthropy’s origins in the Darkhold under a full moon triggers the dormant curse, turning Gregor into a werewolf. Gregor further transcribes much of the Darkhold into Grigori’s diary, essentially creating a Darkhold copy, which he uses as his own diary.
Perhaps seeking a cure, Gregor sells part of his estate—including Wundagore Mountain—to Jonathon Drew, who shares it with partner Herbert Wyndham, AKA High Evolutionary. The Russoff werewolf slays Jonathon’s wife, Meriem, and Wyndham designs a suit of silver-coated armor to protect himself, enabling Russoff’s capture. Wyndham helps Russell keep his lycanthropy safely contained for decades, but in 1958, Russoff uses the Darkhold to summon Chthon to cure him. The sorcerer Magnus forces Russoff to banish Chthon, who lashes out with a parting blast, slaying Gregor.
Decades later, Gregor’s son, Gregory “Gregor” Russoff, marries Laura, the former girlfriend of Gregory’s younger brother, Philip. Part of a witch’s coven including Lilia Calderu and Margali Szardos, Laura uses the Lunar Pendant to help Gregory control his transformations for a time. Gregory and Laura have two children together, first Jacob (later Jack) and then Lissa within two years of marriage. When lightning strikes Russoff’s Transylvanian castle during a full moon, the werewolf Gregory escapes confinement and attacks some villagers, while others track down and kill him with silver bullets. The villagers stone Gregory’s mother, Maria, and drive her from the village, living with Roma (“Gypsies”) and learning magic. After Gregory’s death, Laura finds Philip—who had moved to Los Angeles, anglicizing his name to Russell—and they marry after a year; Jack and Lissa remained unaware of Philip’s past.
Approximately 15 years later, the criminal Committee learns of Gregory’s curse and blackmail Philip, threatening to reveal his secrets. To protect Laura’s name, Philip pays them but has second thoughts and cancels the payment, causing the Committee to send their agent Max Grant to kill Laura. Critically injured in a car crash on Jack’s 18th birthday, Laura tells Jack about his true father and the werewolf curse, making Jack promise not to harm Philip, before dying. Having inherited lycanthropy, the night before, Jack slays Grant, but also wrongly blames Philip. Laura leaves Castle Russoff in Jack’s name, but Philip, the trustee, sells the castle to Miles Blackgar, who had it moved to an island off California’s coast.
Jack spends the next few years transforming on the three full moon nights into savage werewolf form. He learns of the Darkhold from Nathan and Agatha Timly, who briefly kidnaps the Werewolf and meet grisly ends. Befriending writer Buck Cowan, Jack sneaks into Blackgar’s castle and steals the Darkhold, encountering Miles Blackgar and his daughter Marlene, whose petrifying power slays both Blackgars. After fighting off the deformed Cephalos’ plot to drain his power to stabilize Cephalos’ form, Jack has Father Ramon Joaquez translate the Darkhold. The priest dies after being possessed by the Darkhold’s former custodian, 12th century Mad Monk Aelfric, and the Darkhold vanishes.
A Wolf in Man’s Clothing
Under moonlight, Russell transforms into a werewolf, a large powerful man-wolf hybrid possessing enhanced human physical abilities, including strength, speed, stamina, agility, reflexes, etc. He also has sharp claws and fangs that can rend even cinderblock or soft metals to shreds. He has enhanced senses, especially his vision which extends into ultraviolet and infrared ranges, allowing him to judge an individual’s physical and mental state.
The werewolf is resistant to many forms of conventional injury and virtually impossible to kill, though he can be wounded, he recovers from non-fatal wounds 10 times faster than humans. He is vulnerable to magical attack, particularly to assaults involving silver due to its mystical “purity.” Those bitten or scratched by werewolves generally become werewolves as well. Although, there are many instances where those wounded by Russell have not become werewolves. It’s possible that Russell can control lycanthropy transmission under certain circumstances.
Russell’s control of his werewolf form varies with phases of the moon along with other factors. Initially, he only turned into a werewolf under the full moon’s light, and in werewolf form he was bestial and savage, possessing the barest hint of his human form’s emotions and desires. At other times, still transforming under moonlight, he can control his werewolf form; however, under the full moon’s light, he loses control of his werewolf form, which returns to its bestial, savage persona. Eventually, he merges with his werewolf form, gaining the best qualities of both his aspects; as such, he can transform at will, fully or an isolated portion he chose. Sunlight still causes him minor irritation, and he feels an increased urge to transform during full moons. Nonetheless, Russell’s control continues to wax and wane, the Werewolf remaining most savage under the full moon. In some instances, Russell’s allies have doused themselves in wolf pheromones to allow the savage Werewolf to recognize them as friends. At one point, Jack has a vision of Hell when transforming into the Werewolf.
Russell has above average intelligence with limited occult knowledge. While his human form generally has average to slightly above average abilities, these have sometimes eventually elevated to peak human levels, with his durability making him an enhanced human. Jack Russell is a skilled motorcyclist and frequently travels by motorcycle in human form, as well as in werewolf form when he has his full human intelligence.
Jack faces off with mad monks, big-game hunters, a traveling freak show, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Often, he battles supernatural creatures, slippery sorcerers, and the criminal Committee who desires to enslave him. He even goes up against their mercenary Marc Spector, AKA Moon Knight, who possesses the power of the moon. Although, the seeming villain sees the humanity in Jack and in realizing that the Committee was bad news, lets him go.
While the Werewolf could not be said to have recurring enemies, he has earned the enmity of such luminaries as Vlad Tepes Dracula, AKA Dracula, the mutant Victor Creed, AKA Sabretooth, Desmund Druid, and the followers of the dreaded tome known as the Darkhold.
Though generally a loner and a drifter because of the lycanthropy, Jack Russell earns the admiration, friendship, and sometimes love of several people throughout his travels. Women in particular find him handsome and engaging, and he wins the hearts of a few, including Elsa Bloodstone, Martine Bancroft, a girl named Roxanna, and the mysterious Topaz. He is also close to his sister Lissa and his niece Nina Price, AKA Vampire by Night.
Jack teams up with several different macabre misfits to fight crime and investigate supernatural strangeness, including Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Legion of Monsters alongside Dr. Michael Morbius, AKA Morbius the Living Vampire, Johnny Blaze, AKA Ghost Rider, and Ted Sallis, AKA Man-Thing.
He also joins the Agents of Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response (A.R.M.O.R.)’s new incarnation of the Midnight Sons. Recruited by his ally Morbius, he fights alongside Son of Satan Daimon Hellstrom, AKA Hellstorm, sorceress Jennifer Kale, and Man-Thing.
As a werewolf himself, Jack joins other werewolves as well as Night Shift, Sarnak’s Army of Terror, and the Howling Commandos monster squad to battle supernatural threats. He even teams up with Greer Nelson, AKA Tigra, and the pair go up against the subversive organization Hydra.
Always on the Run
Jack encountered Joshua Kane, who hunted the Werewolf, and his brother, Luther Kane, who offered to prevent Lissa from becoming a werewolf. Though, Kane would only help in exchange for Jack kidnapping billionaire recluse Judson Hemp; he also met mentalist Swami Rihva—who sought the Werewolf’s blood to reveal the treasure-map of the ancient sorcerer Kaman-Ru on his “Bloodstone"—the possessing demon Krogg, Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man, and Moondark the Magician. Jack then fought the sonic-weapon-wielding Sarnak, his first brush with the criminal Committee who wished to enslave the Werewolf.
After fighting the sociopathic Harlan Krueger, AKA Hangman, Jack was entranced by Topaz, the familiar of the sorcerer Taboo, who sought the Darkhold. Taboo had used the tome decades before to grant his son, Algon, a golden touch, but had lost the book in mid-spell, trapping Algon in a mindless state. Lacking the Darkhold, Taboo transferred Philip’s mind into Algon, but both Algon and Taboo died, restoring Philip, who explained Laura’s death and reconciled with Jack and Lissa. Traveling to Transylvania alongside Topaz, with whom he had bonded, Jack discovered the Russoff diary/Darkhold copy, the Werewolf battled Dracula, and the book was lost in the Alps.
Jack and Topaz encountered the kyphotic Half-Mad before returning to the United States, and Jack fought the Committee’s Behemoth robot and then Ma Mayhem, assisted by werewolf Raymond Coker. Jack joined the newly-mutated Tigra against Hydra, battled vampires Louis Belski and Liza Pyne, opposed Ma Mayhem and her ally Baron Thunder, and joined Coker against Lou Hackett (a policeman transformed into a werewolf by a magic ring), who was killed in the struggle. The Werewolf joined Frankenstein’s monster against the Satanic Brotherhood of Baal (who had abducted Lissa), then fought the disfigured Steve Rand, AKA Atlas, and the Jekyll/Hyde-like DePrayve. Jack briefly returned to Transylvania following Topaz’s psychic summons and encountered Maria Russoff, who used Gypsy magic to raise zombies to slay the villagers who had driven her off. Maria sacrificed herself to save Jack from her zombies upon learning he was her grandson.
In Blackgar’s Castle, Werewolf, Topaz, and a repentant Taboo spirit fragment battled the necromancer Glitternight, who transformed Lissa Russell into a were-demon; the process of curing Lissa purged her of the threat of lycanthropy, though she would still pass it on to her children. After battling Morbius, the Living Vampire, and slaying the demon worshipped by Brad Wrangle, the Werewolf was briefly transported to the divided dimension Biphasia by Satanist Joaquin Zaire, and he aided Paingloss against the sorcerer Sardanus. During a subsequent ski trip, the Werewolf nearly slew Buck Cowan, after which he was captured by the Committee-paid mercenary Marc Spector, AKA Moon Knight, who set him free when he realized Jack’s humanity and the Committee’s intentions.
The Werewolf joined Ghost-Rider, Man-Thing, and Morbius, in unwittingly slaying the benevolent alien Jaard, AKA Starseed, who intended to cure them all. The Werewolf, Topaz, and others then battled and were nearly driven mad by 19th century black magician Belaric Marcosa’s ghost, but they freed the trapped spirits of Marcosa’s enemies, who destroyed him, and the grateful spirits healed Buck.
The enigmatic Three Who Are All (Burning Snake, Goat Child, and Hooded One)—an ancient extradimensional group believed to represent cosmic parallels to the Elder Gods, who had formerly included Glitternight and a fifth member, Fire-Eyes—sent Jack, Topaz, Coker and Jericho Drumm, AKA Brother Voodoo (later Doctor Voodoo), to Haiti, where the Werewolf and Fire-Eyes seemingly destroyed Glitternight. In the process, Jack gained control of his Werewolf persona, though he still only transformed under moonlight, and lost control during the three nights of the full moon. The Werewolf joined with Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, against the Maggia’s Masked Marauder and his Tri-Animan, and he teamed with Jessica Drew, AKA Spider-Woman, against Morgan le Fay, who sought the Darkhold; the mercenary Charles Delazny, AKA Enforcer; and mad scientist Dr. Karl Malus, who briefly controlled Russell against her.
Russell also joined Spider-Man and Ghost Rider against the Tatterdemalion, former agent of Sarnak. After being temporarily captured alongside several costumed adventurers by the Locksmith, Russell began mutating into more savage and lupine form, a late effect from Malus’ treatment. He fled Satanists Schuyler Belial, AKA Morning Star, and his Left Hand Path, who wished to use his blood to become werewolves, then sought aid from the now-human Morbius in controlling his savage self, leading to a battle with the Avengers West Coast. With Iron Man’s assistance, Jack later saved Lissa from Morgan le Fay’s attempt to possess her.
Subsequently mind-controlled into joining the mostly criminal Night Shift by Dansen Macabre, Russell stayed with them, allowing Macabre to keep the Werewolf tractable. Russell was the only member who knew their leader, Maximilian Quincy Coleridge, AKA the Shroud, was using the group to oppose other criminals and to prevent them from harming innocents. After encounters with Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, Moon Knight, and the Avengers, the Werewolf eventually developed resistance to Macabre’s powers and turned on the Night Shift, after which he went solo. After battling Bruce Banner, AKA the Hulk, in the Midwest, Jack contacted his father Gregor’s spirit to cure his lycanthropy but was told he would die unless he accepted his beast. During the ensuing battle with the religious zealot Silver Dagger and the Braineaters, a cult of werewolves transformed in the past by Russell, Jack fully accepted his wolf-self, granting him full control and the best of both selves.
Russell assisted Dr. Stephen Strange, AKA Doctor Strange, against the alien Possessors, the Night Shift against an LA street gang, and Daniel Ketch, AKA Ghost Rider, against a new group of Braineaters; Jack also narrowly survived a battle with Sabretooth, and fought an unidentified Wendigo in Canada. Russell was captured by criminal scientist Tilda Johnson, AKA Nightshade, who used his blood to create the Moonchildren, AKA Night Patrol, a group of werewolves in Starkesboro, Massachusetts. Captain America—also transformed into a werewolf—freed Russell and led the werewolves to defeat Nightshade’s master, Dredmund Druid, who had used the Godstone (former gem of John Jameson, AKA Man-Wolf) to briefly become the powerful Starwolf. The Moonchildren were cured, after which Jack was captured by unidentified parties, who also used his blood to mutate others into werewolves and have them fight in a gladiatorial arena below the upscale Manhattan club Lu'pine. Moon Knight freed Russell and the other werewolves, allowing them to take vengeance on their captors.
Drawn into a conflict involving the Spirits of Vengeance associated with the Midnight Sons, Jack was slain by Switchblade (the insane Darkhold-powered Eric Brooks, AKA Blade), but revived once Professor Louise Hastings broke Switchblade’s spell. Russell befriended the again pseudo-vampiric (and now demon-possessed) Morbius, had a vision of advertisements on the moon causing mass insanity, and fought the Lilin Goblins, Calvin Zabo, AKA Mister Hyde, and the sadist Morphine. Jack also had an affair with Morbius’ undead former girlfriend Martine Bancroft.
Jack again began losing control of the Werewolf, locking himself in a cage under full moons, and even glimpsing visions of Hell as he transformed. From the Cult of the Third Moon’s dying leader, Walter Clark, Russell learned that only the legendary Wolfblade could control his lupine self. With the aid of mysterious benefactor Smedley, Russell recovered all three parts of the Wolfblade, battled the original Wolf Demon, Vârcolac, in a branch of Hell, completed the puzzle by reaccepting both selves, and seemingly regained control. However, after Jack visited friends Freddie and the disfigured Lump, Smedley sent him to investigate a series of killings, and evidence pointed to Jack as the killer. As Russell mutated further, Smedley said Jack hadn’t been careful enough in his wish to be freed from the wolf demon and that he must embrace the disease, or it would destroy him. Uncertain how to accomplish this, Jack found a confidant in Lump, who cared for the Werewolf as he hid out in the sewers. While Jack’s new girlfriend, Roxanna, remained unaware of his dual existence, the Werewolf was tracked down by a pair of detectives, escaping only after they were slain by the Cult of the Third Moon.
Jack later assisted his niece Nina Price, AKA Vampire by Night, in escaping S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, though both Jack and Nina subsequently served in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Howling Commandos monster squad.
Striking out on his own again, Russell briefly dated the supernatural-powered Elsa Bloodstone, then drove to Salvage, Alabama, where he saved the young werewolf Rhona Stuart from local werewolf hunters, taking her with him to Birmingham. Jack was later recruited, along with Hellstorm, Jennifer Kale, and Man-Thing, by Morbius into a new Midnight Sons. The Sons were sent to recover Earth-2149 (“Marvel Zombies”)’s Deadpool’s disembodied head, which had escaped custody aided by the Simon Garth zombie and was spreading a zombie plague/virus (to which Morbius vaccinated the Sons).
Following destroying a zombie virus-afflicted Piranha and its Men-Fish allies, the Sons tracked zombie Deadpool (“Z-Pool”) to the island Taino, where Samuel Barone, AKA Black Talon, sought to sell Z-Pool to Parker Robbins, AKA the Hood, as a weapon of mass destruction. Influenced by his demonic benefactor, Dormammu, Robbins brought Night Shift to Taino, and they engaged the sons, while Z-Pool spread the zombie plague anew. Morbius’ intended cure instead caused the zombies to coalesce into a viral cloud, infecting via contact or streaming “rain.” Jack contracted the zombie virus from the vaccine, but Kale imbued Jack with pure moonlight, the Werewolf change somehow holding the virus in check, and the Sons contained the zombie plague within Garth.
Jack, Morbius, and Man-Thing later joined a Legion of Monsters army based out of the Monster Metropolis in the Morlock tunnels, seeking to protect the world’s monsters from Robert Hellsgaard and his team, Hunter of Monster Special Force. Morbius worked to cure Jack of the zombie virus, including attempting to use Spider-Man’s blood, and a reanimated Frank Castle, AKA Punisher, now known as Franken-Castle, helped oppose Hellsgaard’s forces.
Still working with the Legion of Monsters alongside Morbius, Elsa Bloodstone, and N’Kantu, AKA Living Mummy, Jack faced the Dimensional Man and they all battled virus-infected monsters. Jack and Elsa went to Hell but suffering a mortal wound, he traveled to Monster Metropolis hoping for medical care, which he received. They also help Thaddeus Ross, AKA Red Hulk, in Monster Metropolis when the native monsters attacked him after he had arrived there. Jack and his allies discovered that Red Hulk was plagued by the spirit of Doc Samson, AKA Dark Samson, and helped him be rid of him.
Jack was next invited by Flash Thompson, AKA Agent Venom, to a meeting of supernatural and mystical heroes to host an intervention with the new Defenders, a group of powerful ladies with ample experience fighting beasts and bad guys. Venom and the others thought the new Defenders needed their guidance, but really wanted to encourage them to disband. Their intervention was interrupted by the Defenders themselves who were mid-battle with a group led by Sylvie Lushton, AKA Enchantress. The group jumped into the fray to help but the ladies had it on lock down and refused their aid.
Later, he answered a silent call to attend the birth of the werewolf-like mutant—Rahne Sinclar, AKA Wolfsbane’s child—and ended up protecting both mother and child from would-be abductors. More recently, the Werewolf literally lost his head in an encounter with a jealous Wade Wilson, AKA Deadpool, after having an affair with the mercenary’s demonic wife Shiklah, but Russell survived and revived due to his unique condition.