Werewolf by Night somehow manages to straddle being an utter debacle on every possible level while simultaneously being perfectly in sync. Writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin have reached simpatico like Moench gave in to Perlin’s art and just started describing it in the narrative instead of trying to make it fit the pre-existing story he had in mind. Only once does Moench slip—when Perlin thought they were making just eighteen Lissa Russell into an old woman.
Also, Perlin doesn’t draw the Haitian mystic lady as a Black woman, but instead as some vaguely—well, actually, vaguely European in a particularly problematic way too—white hag. But Moench’s dialogue is… well, he embraces doing his version of an old Haitian lady’s dialect. It’s cringy even for a comic from 1975.
But the silly main plot, which has Wolfman Jack fighting “weredemon” Lissa, it’s kind of great. It’s not good. Moench throws out a bunch of established continuity, like the werewolf knowing Lissa’s his sister, so her being even smellier as a weredemon would probably help. And the narration—Jack, fully narrating the werewolf fight he’s observing first-hand but, you know, not because he’s narrating the panel action—has this repeated dream device. Jack remembers all the times he and Lissa wrestled when they were kids, which doesn’t sound like the siblings at all. The one time Moench finds some real emotion, he ignores it, and the rest of the time, there’s some weird patriarchal shit going on too.
At least Jack doesn’t think about how he wishes she’d have married his forty-five-year-old bestie Buck Cowan instead of turning into a werewolf like him.
Oh, the demon thing… Old Scratch hisself cursed the Russell family with lycanthropy, so the weredemon should be the standard.
Doesn’t matter. Something about the way Moench writes that narration of Perlin’s mostly bad but still somehow vibrant and active panels just works. Maybe Moench’s dismissal of canon? Though Jack being a shitty misogynist about psychic ex-love interest Topaz (he doesn’t dig her now she’s not as mystically powerful because he’s a twerp) sucks.
It might just be symbiosis—and Lissa’s extremely long birthday subplot having such a bullshit conclusion—but I do wonder if the book’s finally found the formula.
It’s a successful comic—you get your two bits worth—but it’s not a good one.
Maybe Moench just paced it well. It’s definitely not worth going back to figure out its (almost infinitely asterisked) success.
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