This was going to be another ‘scratched itch’ post, because for years after I learned of their existence, I’d been wanting to read the Man-Wolf stories from Creatures on the Loose that preceded the oh-so-excellent two-part conclusion to the story in Marvel Premiere #45-46.
However, as I read through the contents of the Man-Wolf: The Complete Collection (a book that – like the Tigra book I recently posted about – I’m almost convinced Marvel published just to make me happy), I noticed something really interesting. Namely, whoever was in charge of putting the contents of this book together (and the credits page really doesn’t help clearing up who that was) attempted as much as possible to do so in such a way that it reads sort of like a complete, coherent story or saga.
To some extent, this reflected what writer David Anthony Kraft, working back in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, was trying to do with J. Jonah Jameson’s lycanthropic son. Neither attempt was, unfortunately, entirely successful.
As many know, it all got started in the pages of Amazing Spider-man 124-125, in which we learned that astronaut John Jameson was a werewolf, which was due to a gem that he found on the moon during a moon-walk and kept as a souvenir pendant around his neck. This two-parter was a self-contained story, with Spidey ripping off the gem and apparently curing Jameson of his lupine affliction. But Marvel never let a good, or even bad, character go to waste, so Man Wolf returned in the pages of Giant-sized Super-heroes #1, thanks to the machinations of everybody’s favorite living vampire, Morbius.
Then not long afterward he became the headliner in Creatures on the Loose. Initially, it was par for the course for the younger Jameson, as the stories were the typical tortured-soul werewolf fare. But then in issue no. 33, David Anthony Kraft came on as the writer (while some fella named Perez began doing the art), and things started to get interesting. Kraft did some cool things with Man Wolf…
…taking the character in a more science fictiony direction which then it took a turn toward sword & sorcery, culminating in those two glorious issues of Marvel Premiere, mentioned above. It’s there that we finally learn the mystery of the moon-gem: it’s actually something called the Godstone, which is from an extra-dimensional world called the Other Realm – that can be reached by a portal on the Earth’s moon. When Man Wolf passed through that portal, he regained his human mind while retaining his werewolf form, and all of the people he meets there call him the Stargod. He has to help them overthrow a madman named Arisen Tyrk who’s taken over the Realm. (For those of you who may have read the Defenders from around that time, yes, this is tied to the Harrison Turk/Lunatik story arc).
Back in the late ‘70s, those were the first Man-Wolf stories I’d ever read, not counting the Power Records record and comic that combined his original appearances in ASM #124-25. To this day, I think the sword-wielding science fantasy werewolf should have become the new normal for Man Wolf – but it was not to be.
Marvel editorial was apparently uninterested in this direction. So just as those two issues of Marvel Premiere were coming out Dec. 1978/Feb. 1979, a story developing in Amazing Spider-man #188 and then concluded in #s 189-190 (cover dated Jan-Mar. 1979) also featured Man-Wolf, but he was again the howling, growling, mindlessly savage werewolf.
However, here’s where it gets a bit weird, at least if you read these stories in the order in which they’re reprinted in the complete collection book: two issues of Marvel Team-up, 36 and 37 are inserted between Marvel Premiere #46 and an excerpt from Spider-man 188. These two issues, in which Spidey teams up with Frankenstein’s monster to fight a rather one-note mad scientist and then Man Wolf, were actually released in 1975 (covered dated Aug/Sept.), and in fact overlapped with the last issue, #37, of Creatures on the Loose (cover dated Sept. 1975). The MTU stories were written by Gerry Conway, who apparently didn’t know or didn’t care what Kraft was doing with the character in that other title. It’s really a case of poor editorial coordination, since Len Wein was editing both books.
The MTU issues were probably placed here in the collection because at the end, an unconscious Man Wolf is spirited away by SHIELD agents, who are supposed to give him the best possible care. This sort of fits in with what happens in ASM #188, in which he is being held in stasis in a cryonics lab in NY. However, the events in MTU #36-37 are not referenced at all, while the Marvel Premiere story is briefly mentioned in ASM #190. Honestly, the whole collection would have flowed much more smoothly if these two issues of Marvel Team-up hadn’t been included. Anyway, the story in ASM (written by Marv Wolfman, with art by John Byrne and Jim Mooney) ends with Jameson, atop the Brooklyn Bridge, wriggling from Spider-man’s grip in an attempt to commit suicide and then mysteriously disappearing in a flash of light.
Where he apparently went was revealed in the pages of Savage She-Hulk, in issues 13-14 (cover dated February and March, 1981), written by none other than David Anthony Kraft. Basically, there was another crisis in the Other Realm, and She Hulk kind of gets shanghaied into helping out. A decent run-down of those two issues would require a separate post, since Kraft pretty much threw everything but the kitchen sink into them (including Hellcat from the Defenders and perennial 1970s supporting character Richard Rory). Suffice it to say, She-Hulk. Man Wolf and the gang save the Other Realm, and everyone who needs to gets transported back home. The whole thing is, however, underwhelming and fails to recapture the magic of Kraft’s earlier Man-Wolf stories.
And then the book closes with Spectacular Spider-man Annual #3 (1981, on sale in July of that year). Kraft actually wrote that story as well, even though Man Wolf is once more a mindless raging beast, and the story ends with John Jameson (once more) being cured of his lycanthropic affliction, thanks to help from Spidey and Dr. Curt Conners (who, refreshingly, doesn’t turn into the Lizard). So John Jameson at long last gets cured of being a werewolf and has a chance at a normal life, and Spidey can finally stop worrying about stuff like this happening:
And that was the conclusion of the not-quite saga of Man Wolf. Personally, though, I wish this guy had stuck around…