As the Marvel Cinematic Universe nears the end of its Phase 4, several of the movies and television projects are veering more into outright horror than typical superhero derring-do. Among these is Werewolf by Night, a Disney+ original television special set to revolve around the monstrous antihero of the same name. And more than simply introducing Jack Russell and his lycanthropic alter ego to the MCU, Werewolf by Night is set to bring even more horror-oriented Marvel characters to the shared cinematic universe that could reverberate across the MCU in the years to come.
Here is a quick overview of Werewolf by Night, from his comic book origins and role in the main Marvel Comics continuity to what exactly the feral figure is capable of. Beyond the printed page, Werewolf by Night is about to make a big splash in the MCU and here’s where Jack Russell and his supporting cast could potentially turn up next.
Who Is Werewolf by Night?
Jack Russell was created by Roy Thomas, Jeanie Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Mike Ploog in 1972’s Marvel Spotlight #2 before receiving his own solo ongoing series Werewolf by Night later that year. With the industry’s self-censorship organization, the Comics Code Authority, relaxing its standards for wide publication going into the ‘70s, Marvel Comics was able to incorporate more horror into their titles, with Werewolf by Night being published alongside series like Tomb of Dracula. The vampire supervillain’s legacy would help inform Jack’s, right down to his family’s origins in Transylvania.
Jack was cursed to inherit the curse of the werewolf, transforming for the first time after he turned 18. Jack’s family was linked to lycanthropy after one of Jack’s family members read the magical Darkhold during a full moon in the first half of the 20th century, prior to Jack’s parents emigrating to the United States from Transylvania. Living as a drifter as he struggled with his monstrous curse, Jack battled a shadowy organization known simply as the Committee who wanted to capture him to harness the power of the werewolf for themselves.
Throughout his wanderings, Jack would constantly flit between a supernaturally themed superhero to an out-of-control beast that savagely attacked anyone that crossed his path. This led him to alternately ally himself with characters like Doctor Strange and Captain America – even going as far as to serve on superhero teams like the Midnight Sons and Legion of Monsters – but also battle against fellow heroes, including the West Coast Avengers, Morbius, and Moon Knight. Among Werewolf by Night’s more recurring enemies included Dracula and the supervillain team Night Shift.
A second superhero going by the Werewolf by Night moniker is Jake Gomez, created by Taboo, Benjamin Jackendoff, and Scot Eaton in 2020’s Werewolf by Night #1 (vol. 3). Jake’s family is similarly cursed with lycanthropy, with Jake first transforming into a werewolf after his 13th birthday. Jake uses his powers to defend his ancestral Hopi tribal lands in the American Southwest from criminals, leading him to be targeted by the sinister conglomerate Life Pharmaceuticals.
Werewolf by Night’s powers & abilities
Initially, Jack’s bout of lycanthropy had all the hallmarks of a classic werewolf: Transforming uncontrollably on nights with full moons, feral attacking anything in sight, and regaining his human form as night surrendered to the dawn each morning. In a 1976 storyline running through Werewolf by Night #38-41 by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, a magical ensemble known as the Three-Who-Are-All give Jack the ability to transform into a werewolf at will, no matter what the lunar phase is, and maintain his mental faculties in his transformed state. While this quickly proves invaluable, Jack still is unable to control himself whenever he transforms during a full moon.
While transformed into the Werewolf by Night, Jack possesses superhuman strength, speed, and endurance, along with enhanced senses that allow him to see in the dark and track things based on their scent. Werewolf by Night wields razor-sharp claws and fangs capable of shredding light metals, with Jack seen tearing through cars and other metallic objects before. Perhaps most impressively, Werewolf by Night has an accelerated healing factor that allows him to recover from most grievous injuries, once surviving having his head blown off by Deadpool. Werewolf by Night does have a weakness to silver, due to the precious metal’s mythical purity, as well as a vulnerability to magic.
How Werewolf by Night Fits in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Set to premiere on Disney+ this October, just in time for Halloween, Werewolf by Night stars Gael García Bernal as the monstrous superhero, reportedly as the MCU iteration of Jack Russell. The special is directed by prolific composer Michael Giacchino, Werewolf by Night unveiled its first trailer at D23 Expo 2022, showcasing a story told in a black and white format similar to Universal monster movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Judging by the trailer, the special features plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor along with some of the bloodiest violence in the MCU to date.
Jack is revealed to be part of an order of occult monster hunters who are summoned to Bloodstone Castle on a dark and stormy night following the death of their leader. The ensemble is tasked by their new leader Verusa (Harriet Sansom Harris) with stopping the monster lurking in the castle among them while competing with one another for access to a powerful relic. Among the group is fan-favorite monster Elsa Bloodstone, with the swampy superhero Man-Thing and officers from the Time Variance Authority (TVA), introduced in Loki, all visible in the trailer, with the TVA attempting to subdue the beast with stun batons only to find themselves as his latest prey.
Where Werewolf by Night may be headed next
There are currently no plans for Werewolf by Night announced by Marvel Studios beyond the Disney+ television special. Given the presence of the TVA, this could suggest Werewolf by Night may take place in a separate timeline from the main MCU that could be explored further in the upcoming Loki Season 2 as the TVA tightly regulates all the divergent timelines under various Kang variants. With Loki Season 2 expected to premiere in 2023, the werewolf and his supporting cast may make a surprise appearance.
Though Moon Knight has not confirmed plans for a second season, the character was introduced in 1975’s Werewolf by Night #32 by Doug Moench and Don Perlin. Should the lunar themed superhero make a return, this connected origin may make an on-screen team-up with Werewolf by Night a distinct possibility. Perhaps more tangentially, the role of the Darkhold in Jack’s cursed backstory could similarly lead him to meet Doctor Strange whenever the Sorcerer Supreme shows up next in the MCU, given the pair’s shared comic book history. And with Blade slated to star in his own MCU movie, the vampire hunter would make for a natural ally to the werewolf with a heart of gold.
With Werewolf by Night coming to the MCU, the shared universe is doubling down on its horror inclinations after Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opened the door for the genre exploration. Things are already starting to get scary in the MCU and Werewolf by Night is looking to deliver some terrifyingly bloody thrills.
Directed by Michael Giacchino, Werewolf by Night premieres Oct. 7 on Disney+.
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