blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Werewolf by Night (1972) #12


Don Perlin makes his first appearance in the Werewolf by Night credits, and I felt the tinge of inevitability. He’s inking Gil Kane’s pencils; about the only okay thing ends up being Wolfman Jack. Kane and Perlin’s regular people are pretty bad, Perlin’s fault, but Kane’s layouts for the action aren’t very good, not Perlin’s fault. But the real disappointment this issue is writer Marv Wolfman. He’s got absolutely nothing going with the main plot, the new villain, the Hangman. And then the subplots stumble too.

The main plot fails because the Hangman doesn’t turn out to be a very good villain for Werewolf. Since Wolfman Jack can’t understand what’s going on—he’s found a Christian fascist psychopath vigilante with kidnaps the women he saves—writer Wolfman compensates with lots of monologuing from the Hangman. It’s not good monologuing, especially since at some point the Hangman becomes afraid of the werewolf, only we never see that moment occur in the comic. Somewhere between the werewolf dodging a blow and the Hangman outrunning the cops, he becomes terrified. Only Wolfman doesn’t write the monologuing like he’s terrified, just fanatical. Maybe Wolfman thinks he’s doing a transition, but he’s not.

Of course, the Hangman monologues are much better than the regular people’s dialogue. Wolfman’s Jack Russell is an entitled white bro asshole who’s potentially racist to the first regular Black character in the book. Maybe the guy is being a dick to him, but Jack’s barbed responses don’t not seem racist. Luckily, there are two girls who think he’s hot stuff, and he spends the day flirting with them, even though—the comic reminds us—he’s technically got a lady.

Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old (or younger) sister Lissa has told mid-forties Buck about Jack’s lycanthropy, and Jack blows them off for the chicks after his fight with the Hangman in front of them. Plus, step-dad Phillip is still off being tortured. Wolfman revved all the existing subplots only to let them go cold again, an issue later. He really was just keeping the pans hot.

Strangely, Wolfman’s Jack Russell narration is fine, sometimes near good—it can’t quite get there because the plot’s failing—it’s some of the best Jack narration in ages. We also get the first mention of Marvel superheroes existing in the real world. Jack thinks about how he’s not Spider-Man.

Anyway. I was expecting the art to be the most disappointing thing, but it’s the writing. Bummer.

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