Yes, a Wolfman wrote comics about a wolfman and a vampire.

§ June 26th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, superman § 12 Comments

I’m continuing my look at the last pre-Byrne reboot Superman stories not by Alan Moore or Steve Gerber. Last time was Action Comics #582, and now here’s the other ongoing solo title, Superman #422 from August 1986:


I’m pretty sure you’ve seen that Brian Bolland cover before…probably one of the most striking in Superman’s history, and I promise you if you were scanning the shelves the month that came out, your eyes would’ve gone right to it. And if you didn’t throw it into your “buy” pile you had a stronger will than I, as I definitely dropped some coin of the realm on it.

I’ve written a little about this issue before, in an article I wrote for another site back in 2006 but I’ve since reprinted here. I didn’t really say much about the story itself, focusing instead on that masterfully worrisome if potentially misleading cover.

The story in this issue is written by Marv Wolfman, channeling his Tomb of Dracula-era scripting powers to give up some horror-toned captions for the opening pages of this issue:


As you can see, we’ve got ourselves a werewolf in Metropolis. And it’s not long before Superman investigates, and he and Mr. W. Wolf get into a scrape. Superman is injured, so he concludes


And he heads to his Fortress of Solitude to run data on his super-conmputer, but not before thinking


…which, um, excuse me, Mr. Superman, wasn’t one of your former girlfriends an actual mermaid? And of all the wild stuff you’ve seen and experienced, you’re drawing the line at “werewolf?” C’mon, son.

Anyway, we get more clashes with said werewolf, in which we get the reason for that cover:


…as well as some shocking, at leaset for a 1980s Superman comic, nudiness from our star. Though the Comics Code-mandated crosshatch shorts in that one panel don’t convince the eye very well that it’s supposed to be shadows, but What Can You Do?

Anyway, if I may spoil the surprise twist here, it turns out there’s a cadre of scientists who somehow created a serum to turn people into werewolves, including themselves. Thus, the supernatural “magic” aspect of Superman’s injuries in battle had a scientific origin, which…blurs the whole “Superman is vulnerable to magic” idea at work here, which is addressed in-story:


…so I guess Science just created a magical werewolf? Or something? there’s some handwaving going on in here trying to justify it, but man, I don’t know. But like I suggested to Superman above, I suggest to myself “I’m drawing the line here?”

Ultimately, Superman defeats the werewolf scientists with the help of that first werewolf we met, who was actually on the run from those scientists, and wasn’t a bad guy after all. Just under the thrall of a science-y magical lycanthropic formula potion. These things happen, I guess.

Along the way we got another batch of nice Curt Swan art, because it’s always pleasant to see his work, even if the disparity between Wolfman’s 1970s-horror-comics-style somewhat overwritten captions contrast with Swan’s generally bright and cheery style. It all looks fine and professionally done, of course.

The big surprises are theh inkers…well, Larry Mahlstedt in my mind is more associated with his finishes on Keith Giffen’s pencils over in Legion of Super-Heroes, but at least he’s from within the superhero genre. It’s Tom Yeates also doing some inking that seems pretty wild, given his prevalence in other genres. Particularly horror, since he did draw about a dozen issues of Saga of Swamp Thing prior to this. But that’s probably one of the reasons he’s on this issue, to provide a little moodier tone to the art. …Or they needed to finish these pages and he was available. Either/or.

This story gives us kind of our final “magic hurts Superman” story for the pre-Crisis era, blurred definition of “magic” or not. The Byrne reboot does establish that particular vulnerability again, I believe with the reintroduction of Mr. Mxyzptlk in Superman #11 in 1987. It’s that blurriness of definition that’s interesting, expanding the range of what can or can’t hurt Superman to a certain extent. But it’s more likely that, if the Super-titles had continued on as-is, that specific idea would have been dropped.

Unless there’s the implied idea that Mxyzptlk’s powers are simply based in a physical science far beyond ours given his fifth dimensional origins, on top of Arthur C. Clarke’s “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” but let’s save that for another time.

‘Til then, let me leave you with this panel that I, as a long-time comics blogger, find very relatable:


 
 

special thanks to Bully the Little Stuffed Werebull for production assistance!

12 Responses to “Yes, a Wolfman wrote comics about a wolfman and a vampire.”

  • Chris B says:

    If memory serves me correct, and apologies if this has already been mentioned, but wasn’t that cover part of a batch that Bolland drew where he just came up with cool Superman illustrations and then the story was written based on it? Obviously they would be looking for a reason to use it because it’s so awesome! I know there was bit of a practice back in the day, come up with a cool cover, then write a story around it.

  • philfromgermany says:

    I vividly remember the caption ye ole Wizard magazine in their price guide section put under this cover: “I got the beans above the frank, I got the beans above the frank”. They were pure class, but the cover was intriguing so I sought this issue out.

  • Thom H. says:

    Funny that Mr. Wolf didn’t leave his clothes behind when he changed into Superman’s suit. I guess he put it on over his own suit? Seems uncomfortable, but who can fathom the choices of a savage science-magic werewolf.

  • IIRC, pre-Crisis Superman was categorically invulnerable to most things, but he was as vulnerable as any normal human to the exceptions, so if you got yourself a set of magic brass knuckles you could slug him silly.

    Post-Crisis Superman was not so much “invulnerable” as “very tough,” but aside from kryptonite the exceptions were less meaningful: he might have been a bit more affected by, say, magic fire compared to regular fire, but the difference wasn’t as dramatic.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Though the Comics Code-mandated crosshatch shorts in that one panel don’t convince the eye very well that it’s supposed to be shadows”

    I thought it was supposed to be him using coal black, or smearing dirt on himself, so he looked less naked, at least from a distance.

    “if the disparity between Wolfman’s 1970s-horror-comics-style somewhat overwritten captions contrast with Swan’s generally bright and cheery style”

    An odd combo! Looks good, though. Except his face is off-model, in that one flying panel. Looks older and like someone else.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    That is one creepy–although exquisitely rendered by Brian Bolland–Superman cover.

    I’m kinda surprised that the Comics Code Authority approved panels of Supes in the altogether, but even more surprised to learn that Supes goes commando under his costume…

    Tom Yeates’ inking over Curt Swan’s pencils is very intriguing–I dig it!

    Larry Mahlstedt is a great inker…and “The Great Darkness” inker…he’s definitely one of the best ’80s inkers.

  • RAR says:

    Regarding Superman’s skepticism about werewolves: It should be noticed that he had had at least two run-ins with werewolves before. The one in JIMMY OLSEN #142 and #143 was actually a sort of clone who became a werewolf after watching horror movies (it was a Kirby story), so that does not really count. However,the one in WORLD’S FINEST #214 (October 1972) was a standard werewolf. This was a left-over Vigilante story that was padded out with new scenes of Superman, so perhaps Superman filed it away in his memory as “not my problem.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    In Jimmy Olsen no. 44 Jimmy became the “Wolf-Man of Metropolis,” so that should count as another time that Superman encountered a werewolf.

  • DK says:

    “Let’s see, I’ve dated a mermaid, met aliens too numerous to count, I know the Spectre and Doctor Fate personally, tangled with literal Gods, been to a magic island of all women, met my doppeganger from a parallel dimension, but a WAREWOLF?!?! Come on!”

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Werewolf?”

    “There, a Wolf!”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ Snark Shark

    “I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a pina colada at Trader Vic’s.

    His hair was perfect.”

    –Warren Zevon

  • Snark Shark says:

    AIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW WEREWOLVES OF LONDON!

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