blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Werewolf by Night (1972) #18


I really haven’t been reading the creator credits well enough. First, I thought this issue was Doug Moench writing; it’s Mike Friedrich. Second, I thought it was Don Perlin’s first issue as full artist (penciler and inker), but he had that role last time. Third, he’s got an inker: Mike Royer. I blame the Don Perlin and Mike Royer art; it’s like an anti-Mozart effect. Instead of listening to the music for a temporary IQ bump, you look at the misshapen heads in Werewolf by Night and lose points.

I assume they come back but possibly not until you’re done reading Werewolf by Night and the book’s not even half over.

So, some of the problem with talking about Perlin art is Perlin is a punchline. At his very best, he exhibits the chops to do an Archie fill-in. One with a lot of adults making comedic mad expressions. This issue’s surprise villain is not the other werewolf (teased on the cover) but “Ma Mayhem,” the foremost witch in California. The Committee—led by Baron Thunder—has sent her to collect Wolfman Jack. She arrives just as copper Lou Hackett arrives to question Jack about being a werewolf, and Jack saves Hackett from her, well, her hatchet.

She’s got a bag of weapons for werewolf fighting, but she wasn’t prepared for another one to drop in.

Jack’s seventeen-year-old sister Lissa has arrived downstairs to witness the werewolf fight, and to get Ma Mayhem’s attention; she just has to get a Russell werewolf; they didn’t say it had to be Jack.

The issue starts with a flashback to the late 1700s when Baron Russoff (pre-Americanization) suffers his monthly lycanthropy, so it all ties in. I thought the Tomb of Dracula crossover revealed a limited family curse time, but it might have been the pre-TOD origin. The Russell family curse has changed at least three times in the two years since the character debuted.

The most incredible thing in the book is thinking about how Friedrich was probably writing it Marvel-style, meaning he was writing to match the Perlin and Royer art. There’s a mini-riot late in the book, and Friedrich reminds the reader it’s taking place in the pitch black so no one can see they’re fighting werewolves, but it’s bright as day. Sure, Linda Lessmann’s coloring plays a part, but Perlin and Royer don’t get lighting either.

So knowing Friedrich knew what he was bringing forth, he gets a little slack. He also does make Jack racist to his Black next-door neighbor, so he gets a point for that one (before Friedrich showed up, Jack was straight-up racist).

The art’s disappointing, but it’s never not going to be disappointing, which will become the latest curse for Werewolf by Night. Significant asterisks aside, it’s a nearly okay combination of silly action, werewolf action, and Bond villainy.

It’s a Seventies comic, after all.

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