My Misspent Youth — Werewolf By Night #31 by Doug Moench and Don Perlin

I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.

Like a modern action movie determined to not dink around with cerebral concerns such as character and context, Werewolf By Night #32 begins abruptly in the heat of battle. Our protagonist — a fellow with the tag Russell, with a Jack in front of it — is in the lunar-influence form that gives the series its name, and he’s being pummeled in an alleyway by a crusader who’s caped in ghostly white. This masked brute making his first appearance in the pages of the mighty Marvel is introducing by the title of the issue’s story: “The Stalker Called Moon Knight.”

Doug Moench had taken over writing duties on Werewolf By Night about one year earlier, working with artist Don Perlin. Moench capably cooked up gruesome imaginings appropriate for a comic book that was essentially a monster movie for the spinner rack. But there was also an obvious awareness that the stories were more likely to provoke howls of joy from Marvel mavens if there felt like there was a least a little connectivity to the overarching superhero saga that dominating the pages coming off the publisher’s printing press. When Jack Russell transformed into a furry, furious figure, he was bound to look like every wolfman variant from all beams of popular culture. He could tangle with do-gooders and ne’er-do-wells that resembled the conflict-drivers bedeviling the Avengers and their kindred. In the magnificent, two-toke logic of Marvel in the nineteen-seventies, Moench decided if he was going to introduce a sort of superhero into the mix to tangle with a werewolf, that masked man should be themed around the moon.

Lunar Crusader Rabbit explains that he was hired by a group of crimes bosses impressed by his history: “Soldier of fortune, mercenary, veteran of three African wars, five South American revolutions. Brief flirtation with the C.I.A., weapons expert, versatile practitioner of virtually all the martial arts, ex-prizefighter, marine commando for eight years prior to beating a lieutenant within an inch of his life… et cetera.” The man known as Mark Spector gets around. The crime bosses give him a costume and array of weapons, promising him ten thousand dollars if he captures and delivers Jack Russell.

With all that background properly dispensed, the comic returns its attention to the urban rumble between Russell and Moon Knight.

It turns out Moon Knight is particular well-equipped to take on a werewolf, even one as formidable as Jack Russell. As bystanders look on, Moon Knight pummels Jack into unconsciousness. He captures his quarry.

As to what happens next, well, to find out you’ll need to plunk down your coins to get the next issue, true Believer. This was just the beginning for Moon Knight. In this first appearance, he was a fairly simple and single-minded character. He would endure, gracing many more pages, and his adventures would grow far more complicated.

Previous entries in this series (and there are a LOT of them) can be found by clicking on the “My Misspent Youth” tag.

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