Friday, October 24, 2008

WEREWOLF WEEK Concludes: Furry-ous First Friday presents Moon Knight!

Welcome to the wild and way-out wind-up to WEREWOLF WEEK! You just knew Marvel Comics' Jack Russell, Werewolf By Night would show up this week, didn't ya, Groovester? Well, he does, just not in the way you thought! One can never be too sure what will happen next as...keeps on truckin'!

After almost every writer in the Marvel Bullpen got a shot at writing Werewolf By Night, Doug Moench (him again?) came on board with issue #20 (May, 1974) and stayed on until the mags final issue (#43, December, 1976). Along the way Moench tossed some oddball villains at our hairy hero. Folks and fiends like DePrayve, Dr. Glitternight, and Jesalla of a Thousand Years all tried to take Jack Russell's animorphic alter ego. But in ish 32 (May, 1975), Moench and co-creator/artist Don Perlin introduced a new villain who turned out to be so popular, he's still around--and in his own title--today! Yep, none other than Marc Spector...Steven Grant...Jake Lockley...MOON KNIGHT!

Now, the story behind the story of Moon Knight's creation is, for once, pretty simple. Moench needed a new villain for Werewolf By Night. He thought the villain should actually be an anti-hero rather than a straight-up villain (I mean, c'mon, he's hunting a werewolf, fer cryin' out loud--to most folks the werewolf is the bad guy!), so he actually created a super-hero who's main reason for existence is to destroy werewolves. His costume, his weapons, his whole m.o. is based on the fact that he's going to hunt down a werewolf.

Over the years, fans and even historians (who should know better) have accused Moench and Marvel of creating Moon Knight as a Batman rip-off. That's just a load of jive, man! You don't have to take Ol' Groove's word for it, just paste your peepers on what Doug Moench, himself, has to say:

"You know, it’s a really odd thing for me because Batman has always been my favorite DC character. But on the other hand, you have to remember that the evolution of Moon Knight is odd. He started out as a villain in “Werewolf by Night.” Right there that dictates several things. If he’s going to be going up against a werewolf he’s gotta be a night character because if they’re going to fight it has to be at night. Right there, night character. Batman’s also a night character, but he was the furthest thing from my mind. What else do you connect to a werewolf? The moon. That spelled out the colors of the costume. Jet and silver. Black and white. All these other things that were focused only on werewolves and has nothing to do with Batman. Some people think of one other thing that Steven Grant is a millionaire and Bruce Wayne is a millionaire. Well don’t forget, Batman doesn’t have three separate identities like Moon Knight does and only one of them is a millionaire. Each one was selected for reasons other than thinking about Batman. The cab driver – I needed someone on the street who could pick up tips, find out what the underworld was up to. The mercenary – that gave him his background and his ability to do globetrotting adventure stories that I wanted to do time to time. And then who pays for all of this? A millionaire with a base to put his helicopter and all that other stuff. But I think the real connection was made when Bill Sienkiewicz took over the art. And Bill, don’t forget, was drawing exactly like Neal Adams who was associated with Batman. And you had actual swipes of Batman poses done by Neal Adams that Bill would throw into Moon Knight and on a subliminal level, it’s like well, this looks like Batman. But it was not meant to be Marvel’s answer to Batman...this is a guy who was hired to hunt down a werewolf! What is the one thing that hurts a werewolf? Silver. You drive a silver knife into him or you shoot him with a silver bullet. Well, we couldn’t use guns for any of the heroes in Marvel books at the time. So silver bullets were out. Blades? You can slice people up, that’s fine." (You can read the whole interview this quote was taken from at the awesome Comic Foundry website, by the way.)

Besides, anyone worth his F.O.O.M. membership card knows that Nighthawk is Marvel's answer to Batman. Sheesh.

Okay, enough lecturing. Groove on this, baby! From Werewolf By Night #32, its Moon Knight vs. Werewolf, courtesy Moench and Perlin! And that's just for starters! The next few pages relate how Jack Russell's recent ski-trip turned into a near tragedy. Thanks to his lycanthropic leanings, Russell had nearly killed his best friend. After visiting the hospital, he decided to pay his step-father a visit, where he runs into a most unexpected visitor...

In ish 33 we learn that Moon Knight and Werewolf battled all night, until our hirsute headliner changed back into Jack Russell. That got MK to thinking about the fact that he wasn't fighting a monster so much as a poor soul trapped in a monster's body. Being a mercenary, he turned Russell over to his bosses in the Committee, but quickly learned that they were planning on using Russell for murderous ends. MK set the Werewolf free, and our crescent crusaders busted bad on crooked Committee.

Fandom flipped out, man! MK looked so cool, shucks, MK was so freakin' cool! He was another harbinger (along with the Punisher and Wolverine) of the "bad boy" superhero craze that would soon become so overdone by Marvel. But back in 75/76, Moonie was the man! He got a two part try-out in Marvel Spotlight (issues 28-29, March-May, 1976), and then started popping up all over the place. In the Defenders, Spectacular Spider-Man, Marvel Two-In-One, Captain America--and then he got his own back-up feature in The Hulk! magazine. After a couple of issues, a new artist by the name of Bill Sienkiewicz took over the penciling chores, and Moon Knight went from a cult-favorite to a craze! He received his own mag in 1980, and has been pretty active in the Marvel Universe ever since. There's even talk of a Moon Knight TV series.

All this because a werewolf needed someone to fight for a couple issues!

1 comment:

  1. I wish the pages of this comic would enlarge when clicked on.... like some of your other posts.



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