Essential Werewolf By Night, Vol. 1

Essential Werewolf by Night, Vol. 1Essential Werewolf by Night, Vol. 1 by Gerry Conway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, cheesy fun from the heyday of Marvel’s monster comics in the 1970s! In these collected issues, Jack Russell, cursed with lycanthropy, fights mutants, monsters, witches, sorcerers, and even Dracula. The cast of supporting characters are fun, too, including Jack’s sister Lissa, who is constantly being kidnapped, but who is also the first one to figure out Jack is a werewolf; his friend, the reporter Buck Cowan, who I suspect is actually dating Jack’s sister behind his back, despite the fact that she’s only 17, because she’s always hanging out at Buck’s house; and Jack’s ridiculously horny neighbors at the “singles condo” where he lives, who are always trying to get him in the sack.

While the individual stories are kind of formulaic and forgettable, it’s intriguing to see how many important elements of the Marvel universe got their start in WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, most importantly the Darkhold, a book of dark magic reminiscent of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, and the sorceress Topaz, whom Jack frees from servitude to the evil wizard Taboo and has a brief romantic relationship with.

I have one big issue with this collection, though, and it’s the main reason I’m only giving it three stars. In my opinion, this book suffers greatly from being printed in black and white. There’s a lot of text in narration boxes — sometimes the comic is grossly overnarrated, with box after box filled with overwrought descriptions of what we’re already seeing in the panels — and the art can often be rich with detail. However, the black-and-white printing makes it hard on the eyes, and sometimes the result is that it’s difficult to discern exactly what’s going on in a panel. I got frustrated by this quite often.

Luckily, there are color collections available now. They’re more expensive, obviously, but if you’re interested in WEREWOLF BY NIGHT and the price isn’t a deterrent, I would recommend those books instead. Still, no matter which version you read, a lot of kitschy, if forgettable, 1970s horror fun awaits you.

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