VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Alexander
Who's up for a howling good time? Today we're breaking down the Werewolf by Night Origin Story. For this list, we'll be looking at this furry hero's history as he gets ready to roar his way through the MCU.
Werewolf by Night Origin Story
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re breaking down the Werewolf by Night Origin Story.
For this list, we’ll be looking at this furry hero's history as he gets ready to roar his way through the MCU.
Let us know in the comments if you want us to break down the origins of any other Marvel character!
Before Marvel rose as a huge name in comics, the werewolf by night was first introduced. The company Atlas Comics actually howled out the idea for his story all the way back in 1953. However, they were discouraged from continuing with the character due to the formation of the Comics Code Authority. The self-imposed maxims were created to police the type of content in comic books, which happened to include monsters like ghouls, vampires, and, you guessed it, werewolves. It wasn’t until after the CCA rules became less strict in 1971 that this forgotten character was dusted off. Now under the umbrella of Marvel comics, the moon rose on a new hero.
But we aren’t quite to “Werewolf by Night” just yet. Generations before he’d transform, a normal guy named Grigori Russoff royally ticked off Dracula. The unlucky man was cursed with lycanthropy for messing with the famous blooduscker. Since Grigori’s children were already born, the werewolf bloodline was only passed down in the form of a dormant gene. It stayed under wraps until Grigori’s descendant, Gregor, had an unfortunate run-in with the Darkhold. The grim book helped make him a full-on werewolf. Although Greogry sent his wife and two children to Los Angeles for their own safety, lycanthropy still ran in the family.
After having to take a new name and live with an unpleasant family member, Gregory’s son Jack Russell turned into a wolf on his eighteenth birthday. Oh, and before you ask, it’s apparently a total coincidence that the name “Jack Russell” is also a dog breed. The funny irony of his name stands in stark contrast to his dark story. During one transformation, Jack’s mother tries to find him and gets in a car accident that leaves her with fatal wounds. But the young man soon realizes the vehicle incident that claimed his mom’s life was planned by two men he was close to. Although Jack got revenge on one of the men, his final promise to his mother prevented him from the second. This left the young werewolf torn up and desperate to find a cure for his condition.
Jack did a pretty good job at keeping a low-profile. Since he only transformed under the full moon, he learned to lock himself up so he didn’t hurt anyone in the craze. Considering the furry form came with increased strength, durability, and reflexes, his relatively low-body count is pretty impressive. Jack eventually learned how to trigger the transformation without the use of the moon while staying relatively in control. This development allowed him to act as something of a vigilante. Over time, Jack joined forces with noteworthy heroes like Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man. But, just when it seemed he’d gotten the hang of things, a mad scientist’s experiment made Jack’s lupine form immensely more powerful - and also that much harder to control.
Since there was no cure in sight and he had a very temperamental beast-mode, a desperate Jack sought out the one person who knows monsters best: Morbius. The vampire Doctor convinced Jack to join a crew full of people like him called the Midnight Sons. Together, the misfit monsters became something of a horror-themed Avengers. They understood each other more than anyone else could. As a team, they quelled each other’s more dangerous impulses all the while helping those in need. Jack’s exploits with the Sons also led to a few noteworthy team-ups with Marvel’s other popular lunar hero Moon Knight.
After his stint with the group, Jack became a lone-wolf again. Pun fully intended. For some reason, he found himself inexplicably drawn to New York City. But he wasn’t the only one. But he wasn’t the only one. As it turns out, the mutant Wolfsbane was there too. By having a child, there was a buildup of mystical energy served as a dog whistle to nearby packs. However, Jack admirably defended Wolfsbane so she could give the child a normal upbringing. Unfortunately, after her kid came out more feral than human, she rejected it. So, with no one left to watch the kid, Jack took it upon himself to raise the cub in the way of the wolf.
Protecting Wolfsbane’s child was just the first step to Jack’s journey towards full-time heroism. He also teamed up with Morbius again. Since the Midnight Sons had disbanded by then, they formed the much more aptly named Legion of Monsters. Instead of simply fighting evil, they actively sought out misunderstood creatures who’d been wrongfully persecuted. Think of them as the X-Men for things that go bump in the night. Admittedly, their new journey was far from a bloodless way of life. But Jack and the team managed to do a lot of good for monster-kind.
All of Jack’s efforts set a semi-decent example for a new kid who wanted to howl in the universe. In 2020, Jake Gomez took over the Werewolf by Night moniker in a new four-issue miniseries. Jake was younger, had no control, and was overall an absolute danger to everyone around him. He was basically like a younger Jack. The emphasis on Jake's uncontrollable powers brought longtime readers back to the early days of the “Werewolf by Night” stories. Refreshingly, it also featured a more scientific adversary as opposed to just a supernatural threat. While Jake’s time under the moon was comparatively brief, there’s still time for him to find his pack in the greater Marvel universe.
But Jack will be the first to step into the moonlight in a major way in the MCU. Despite the character’s dense history in the comics, Werewolf by Night has only leapt off the page a handful of times. His sporadic guest appearances in animated programs have mainly been cameos that fail to explore his rich backstory. But we have a feeling that the Disney+ Halloween special will change that trend. After we watch Jack Russell get hunted, there’s no telling where he’ll go in the MCU. Will he have an awkward conversation about the Darkhold with Scarlet Witch? Or will he leap across rooftops with Blade and Moon Knight? While Jack’s possibilities after his special are endless, we know for sure that this story is the start of a new era for the Werewolf by Night.