For most people, the struggle to control the beast within is merely metaphorical, but for Jack Russell, that struggle is real. Marvel Comics fans best know Russell as the star of "Werewolf by Night," a series that ran for forty-three issues in the 1970s. Since then, Jack and his lycanthropic alter ego have made sporadic appearances, the most recent being in "Moon Knight" #20. This January, the full moon rises again for Marvel's most famous werewolf as writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Mico Suayan reintroduce Jack Russell to a new generation of readers in the four-issue "Dead of Night Featuring Werewolf by Night" miniseries, from Marvel's mature readers MAX imprint. CBR News spoke with Swierczynski about the project.
Jack Russell is a character that comes with over thirty years' worth of continuity, but new readers don't need to worry; the MAX "Werewolf by Night" miniseries is a fresh start. "This is a complete reboot in the MAX universe," Swierczynski told CBR News. " It's not that I didn't love the previous incarnations of Jack Russell, but I wanted to start from (no pun intended) scratch (okay maybe I intended that a little)."
Previous "Dead of Night" series like "Man-Thing" and the current "Devil-Slayer" have also occurred in separate continuities, but they have included little tips of the hat to other Marvel characters and concepts, like A.I.M. and the first Devil-Slayer, Eric Simon Payne, who recently appeared in the pages of "Avengers: The Initiative." Swierczynski plans to include some similar mentions in his "Werewolf by Night" series, but the writer wants to the book to have a more realistic feel.
To that end, Swierczynski won't be playing too heavily with the mystical elements that permeated the original "Werewolf by Night" stories. "It's not that I didn't like the mystical/sorcery stuff in the original series, but I wanted to go in a completely different direction," the writer said.
When readers first meet the new Jack Russell, he's a man with a single driving ambition. "Jack's lone goal is to keep the werewolf inside him away from innocent people," Swierczynski explained. "He has a fairly interesting-if a little extreme-way of doing this, but I don't want to reveal it just yet.
What Jack does, though, is exactly what I would do if I were in his situation (if I had the cash)."
In Swierczynski's "Werewolf by Night," there are two innocents about whom Jack Russell is especially concerned. "All Jack wants to do is lead a normal life with his fiancee, Cassie, who's pregnant with their first child. But there are people who know all about Jack's capabilities," the writer revealed. "In fact, they've been keeping tabs on him since birth, and now they've got big plans for him."
Jack's fiancee, Cassie, is a new character that Swierczynski created especially for the miniseries. "She's hot, pregnant, and loves nail guns," he remarked. "Who else would shack up with a werewolf? Okay, actually, she doesn't know Jack's dirty little secret, and he would very much like to keep it that way. But one late night, she hears a snarling, chuffing sound from the living room, and--well, you'll see."
Duane Swierczynski is no stranger to dark and gritty storytelling. The writer currently pens the ongoing "Cable" series, and his other comics work includes one-shot stories featuring Moon Knight, The Punisher and Wolverine. On top of that, Swierczynski is also the author of several bestselling crime novels. But even with his reputation for brutal yarns, the writer's fans still may find the tone of "Werewolf by Night" to be surprisingly dark. "It's probably the grimmest thing I've ever written," Swierczynski revealed. "There's not a lot of happy-go-lucky in Jack's life."
Because werewolves are ravenous beasts armed with razor sharp claws and teeth, stories featuring the monsters tend to be quite bloody and visceral. And with "Werewolf by Night" being published under Marvel's MAX imprint, Swierczynski is enjoying the freedom to give his series the appropriate amount of gore and ultra violence. "Bring your slickers, boots and face masks. It's going to be like a Gallagher concert, only with bodily fluids," the writer stated. "And a lot of that is thanks to Mico Suayan, who knows how to get down and get gory. I love his work on this series, just like I loved his 'Moon Knight art'. What Mico can do with human bodies--I'm just in awe. He's Ed Gein with a fine arts degree."
Working on "Dead of Night Featuring Werewolf by Night" is especially satisfying to Duane Swierczynski, because the original series had a profound impact on the writer, having introduced him to the world of comic books. "'Werewolf by Night' was the first comic I ever read. It was a book and record set from 'Power Records" (no idea if this was Luke Cage's 1970s indie label, or what)," Swierczynski said. "The opening pages of the book and record set was this fantastic sequence where Jack, in werewolf form, is fleeing from an L.A. cop who starts blasting away at him. The bullet grazes his arm as he leaps a fence, and--man, just seeing those images and hearing it play out on the record just blew my little kid mind. Right there, embedded in that sequence, were the two things I'd grow up to love: crime and horror."
Swierczynski hopes to continue dabbling in the world of four-color horror. The writer is eager to revisit the world of Jack Russell as well as take a crack at another one of Marvel's famous monsters. He revealed, "I've had a longtime mancrush on Man-Thing."
"Dead of Night Featuring Werewolf by Night" debuts in January from MAX Comics.