blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Marvel Spotlight (1971) #3


There is no backup story in this issue, just Jack Russell’s third adventure as Werewolf by Night. Writer Gerry Conway—through Jack and the werewolf’s narration—is very clear about it; the first outing as the werewolf was two months ago, meaning we’re skipping Jack’s second Larry Talboting and going straight to the third.

There’s not much story to the adventure, starting with the werewolf interrupting a biker gang trying to assault Jack’s sister, Lissa. His evil stepfather, Phil, only appears briefly. Conway’s keeping the family stuff on the back burner. The story this issue’s all about setting Jack up for this next adventure, not this one.

Once the first lycanthropic night passes, Jack tries to hitchhike home and finds himself with a Peter Lorre-type who takes him to one of those desolate European castles all over L.A. The Peter Lorre-type’s wife, Angela (not Harkness), starts torturing Jack for information about the Darkhold, which she thinks is Jack’s inheritance.

Jack, however, doesn’t know what she’s talking about, so she sics her pet Frankenstein monster on him. There are various fights between the werewolf and the monster, some convenient black magic gone wrong, and Jack’s promise (to himself and the reader) he’s going to track down this Darkhold book.

In other words, a bridging issue, but one so early, who knows where the story’s headed. Conway sticks to his narrative approach from last issue—the werewolf thinks a lot, Jack talks a bit to himself but doesn’t think a lot—at least until the narration-heavy second half, where Jack’s recollecting has to move the story along from set-piece to set-piece.

The story’s not the point, however. The point is Mike Ploog's absolutely phenomenal artwork. It’s getting to see Ploog do his own Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, page after glorious page. Of course, there are some great Ploog expressions, but since most of the comic has monsters fighting, the emphasis is on the action.

It’s wonderful.

The finale’s a tacked-on mess, with Ploog and Conway rushing through a resolution in one page, but right up until it, the comic’s a visual delight. Ploog gets to do strange action—werewolf versus bikers–and then the more traditional monster versus monster action. Whether the modern California setting or the dark castle setting, Ploog does a great job. The figure drawing, the expressions, and the settings; it’s breathtaking work and more than makes up for the story being perfunctory.

Also… Conway (and his editor, Stan Lee) don’t seem to know what the word “penultimate” means; they just know it’s a fifty-cent word. But it comes on that lackluster last page, just punctuating it being a disappointing finish.

Ignore all missteps for the masterful Ploog art.

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