Werewolf by Night (1972) #8

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Did Marvel have a market research department in the seventies? Was there some editorial edict to make Werewolf by Night aim younger? Despite being about a teenager who just turned eighteen and presumably feeling the weight of adulthood (legally, anyway), protagonist Jack Russell isn’t. Since the comic only ever shows him on his werewolf days and nights, he mostly walks around half-dressed, whining about the werewolf being hungry last night and sleeping away the day because the comic’s got no ideas.

Or maybe writer Len Wein was just going for a riff on schlock and failed because guest penciler Werner Roth has no sense of humor.

The issue opens with Wolfman Jack running off from the burning circus, leaving sister Lissa and pal Buck behind to answer the questions for the cops. Lissa’s less explicit about knowing Jack’s the werewolf. She just gazes out at the mountains, implying she knows her brother’s out there furry and hungry. Then Lissa and Buck are gone, their requisite page in. Wein also checks in on seemingly evil, murderous step-dad Phillip, who gets a threatening phone call (like he’s been getting since his second issue) and a visit from copper Lou Hackett. Hackett wants to talk to the family about a werewolf!

Presumably, these plot lines will be important later, but I’m worried I’m presuming a lot.

The main story is about Jack happening into a cave with a locked door at the end. When he hears noises behind it and opens it, but the chamber inside is empty except for a skeleton holding a book. Jack settles in for some light reading before he turns into the werewolf—for all the complaining about the werewolf’s constant hunger; otherwise, it doesn’t seem like Jack would eat at all—and reads about yet another Southern California warlock who called another demon into Marvel 616. The warlock locked the demon in the chamber and stayed inside until he and the demon died. The timeline’s shaky but maybe the demon picked the guy’s bones clean over the years.

Jack doesn’t realize he’s messed up, so he falls asleep, waking up to turn into the werewolf and discover there’s a very talkative demon he needs to fight.

The demon taunts the werewolf for, I don’t know, half the issue while they duke it out. The taunting is where it feels like Wein is targeting younger readers. It’s distinct, Bond villain taunting, but it’s contentless blathering.

Roth’s pencils leave a whole lot to be desired. It’s unclear if Paul Reinman’s inks help or hurt. It doesn’t matter. The issue’s entirely disposable.

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