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Werewolf by Night (Early) (Marvel Comics)

Werewolf by Night

(Profile #1 - Earliest)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Werewolf by Night appeared in 1972, as part of Marvel Comics’ wave of horror- and occult-themed louche characters. It had the Ghost Rider, Tigra, the Son of Satan, etc.

Though he’s not a major character by any means, he’s probably the major comic book werewolf character. And well, werewolves are a solid, working archetype.

Sequencing

This profile is part of a chronological sequence, which should be read in order. Said sequence goes :

  1. Werewolf by Night (Jack Rusell) – Earliest – this here writeup.
  2. .
  3. Werewolf by Night (Jack Rusell) – Classic.

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Background

  • Real Name: Jacob Russoff, naturalized to Jack Russell.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Maria Russoff (grandmother, deceased), Baron Gregory Russoff (father, deceased), Laura Russell (mother, deceased), Philip Russell (step-father), Lissa Russell (sister).
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Los Angeles area.
  • Height: 5’10” Weight: 200 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue (Red as wolfman) Hair: Red (Brown as wolfman).


Powers and Abilities

Jack Russell is a young man in good physical condition.

He’s an excellent climber and gymnast. He is also a competent driver, usually successful at performing basic vehicular stunts when the need arose.

Wolfman strength

The transformation to werewolf form increases Jack’s physical abilities. However, these enhancements do not reach the superhuman levels that they would later in his career. Indeed, in one of his first fights he was outmuscled and nearly killed by a human opponent, albeit one with the apparent might of a circus strongman.

Other fights likewise emphasized that his abilities were largely within the range of a normal person in excellent physical condition. The werewolf is also a very basic fighter, albeit an extremely acrobatic one.


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The werewolf is often outmatched against strong men, trained martial artists, or even a handful of ordinary unarmed people. He only prevails in such circumstances by inadvertently exploiting the fear that almost invariably comes upon these foes when they realize his true nature. His claws and teeth sometimes help, though he seldom employs these natural weapons to full effectiveness.

In battle against the almost-superhumanly strong and durable brutes (in DC Heroes RPG terms, STR & BOD 06) he frequently encounters during this period, it is often sheer luck that saved the wolf.

Sometimes these moments of good fortune are simple accidents such a missed shot striking his opponent instead of him. There have been more esoteric incidents such as a lightning bolt striking an upraised opponent’s metal weapon just before he could land the killing blow.

Wolfman durability

Jack’s werewolf form lacked most of the normal resistance to injury of werewolves in popular media. Despite numerous statements that a wolfman such as Jack could only be killed by silver weapons, he in fact demonstrated no more immunity to injury nor faster healing than any normal person in good health would.

The wolf was almost killed by mundane weapons and bare-handed attacks on several occasions. Their lingering effects were the same for both Jack and the wolf. A grazing bullet wound to the leg hindered both the wolf’s and Jack’s mobility for several days afterward. Conversely, silver bullets did no more noticeable damage than normal ones.

Our game stats assume that during this time the curse would have prevented Jack from dying if his injuries were fatal — unless the injuries were caused by silver — but otherwise conferred no healing benefits. This is consistent with observed events while still recognizing the werewolf’s resistance to fatal injuries as described in the mythology of the series.

As the series progressed, he became slightly more sensitive to silver weapons. They did not inflict more damage, but they had an extra “sting” to them that infuriated the werewolf even more than usual.

The wolf also tended to spend his increasing Hero Points  pool on Last Ditch Defense. He was injured and even stunned as easily as before, but even highly trained and well-armed fighters such as Marc Spector had to inflict an incredible beating for an extended period to finally knock the werewolf unconscious.

Other wolfman qualities

While in werewolf form, Jack benefits from enhanced senses. These include more acute hearing, extraordinary night vision, and the ability to track scents.

The wolf is also immune to the hypnotic powers of vampires. It is unclear if this is a general trait of werewolves in the Marvel Universe or if this trait is unique to werewolves of Jack’s lineage.

Werewolf by Night (Marvel Comics) iconic transformation sequence

Jack was immune to possession by the demon Strogg, who blamed this failure on Jack already being host to “the spirit of the wolf.” This was likely a limitation of Strogg’s more than a general immunity on Jack’s part.

As a counter-example Jack’s sister Lyssa was corrupted by demonic possession while in werewolf form and Jack himself was subjected to various other types of mystic control on numerous occasions.

Infectious bite

Like most werewolves of myth, Jack could pass on his curse by biting others. He would not learn of the people he had affected until much later in his life. During his first adventures, Moon Knight had increases in strength dependent on the level of moonlight that were believed to be the result of the werewolf’s bite.

Given subsequent retcons in Moon Knight’s origin, it is more likely that this was an early example of Khonshu’s influence over him. Supporting this is the fact that Moon Knight’s increased strength grew throughout the month as the moon became fuller. This is exactly how his later episodes of increased strength under Khonshu’s influence functioned.

If these surges were due to the werewolf’s curse, they would probably not have have triggered at all except during the nights of the full moon.

Since the transmission of the curse did not arise until later and was only featured in a few inadvertent cases, it may be simplest in DC Heroes RPG terms to handle this as a Power Complication Subplot.

Animalistic Mindset

The werewolf shared most of Jack’s memories but only at the most basic level. For example, he might remember that he liked or disliked someone and why, but only in the simplest terms. This person was good because she was family, that person was bad because he hurt someone Jack loved, etc.

Similarly, the werewolf might remember that it was important to go to a particular place to find someone even if he did not understand why that was so. The transformation to werewolf also impaired Jack’s ability for abstract reasoning. He still had the same intellect, but struggled to make complex logical deductions. He also lacked the capacity for trained skills such as operating a vehicle.

The werewolf could still put two and two together. For instance he quickly learned that Guns Are Bad and instinctively dodged them whenever someone aimed one at him.

The lack of abstract reasoning ability and inability to make human speech also limited the wolfman’s ability for Character Interaction. He was only capable of Intimidation attempts and was usually himself unresponsive to any Interaction attempts against him other than that.

Jack’s memories of his activities as a wolfman are similarly constrained. He usually only has a vague sense of what occurred, much like a dimly-remembered dream.

Aggressive Tendencies

One of the werewolf’s most driving instincts was his urge to attack pretty much any living thing that moved. In DC Heroes RPG terms, this is represented by his Irrational Hatred. In most cases, particularly with innocent bystanders or people Jack cared for, this was only a minor compulsion which Jack could usually ignore.

Werewolf by Night (Marvel Comics) fights a wolf

However, if the werewolf encountered someone or something that could be a potential rival, the Drawback became Serious as the werewolf sought to establish his territorial imperative. This latter case could be someone who was already attacking him, someone who was a danger to Jack or Jack’s loved ones, or even simply encountering another predatory animal such as a wolf or a shark.

A combination of the above, such as a rival predator (human or animal) threatening a member of Jack’s family, elevated the compulsion to a Catastrophic level, overriding all other considerations.


History

On the eve of his 18th birthday, Jack Russell dreamt that he prowled the streets of Los Angeles as a werewolf. He killed a mugger and then fled from a policeman who started shooting at him. When Jack awoke, he was startled to find a scratch on his arm where the policeman’s bullet had grazed him in the dream.

That night at his birthday party Jack realized to his horror that he had not been dreaming before. The transformation to his werewolf form began again. As he fled the house, he noted the oddity that their chauffeur Grant was working on the family car very late at night.

Say goodbye to conventional ways

The next morning Jack learned that his mother Laura had been in a car accident. Her brakes given out while she was searching for him. When Jack visited her in the hospital, Laura told him of his true father, Gregory Russoff. Laura had met and married Baron Gregory while studying abroad in Transylvania.

Their life on his castle estate was idyllic except for one disturbing fact. Once every month, Gregory would lock himself into an isolated tower of the castle for 3 consecutive nights without explanation. Two years into their marriage, after Jack was born and while Laura was pregnant with his sister Lissa, a lightning bolt struck the tower.

That night, a werewolf killed one of the local villagers.

The villagers sought the help of the baron, known for his education in occult matters, only to find the shattered chamber. They assumed the beast had taken the baron as well and began hunting the countryside armed with silver bullets. The next night, they gunned the werewolf down and discovered that it had in fact been Baron Russoff.

After her confession, Laura begged Jack to respect his step-father, whom she believed to be a good person. Just as Jack made this promise, night fell and he began to change again. In the last fading moments of rational thought, Jack made the connection between his mother’s accident and Grant’s unusually-timed work on her car.

The more you understand, seems the more like you do

Fleeing the hospital as the werewolf, Jack’s only thought was to take revenge by killing both Grant and Philip, whom he believed had plotted the accident with Grant. An intuition based on an overheard conversation by Jack led the werewolf to the warehouse that Grant was hiding in. There he killed the chauffeur after a difficult fight.

Werewolf by Night (Early) (Marvel Comics) recap banner 1

Philip arrived shortly thereafter with a pay-off for the people Grant represented.

Jack heard the hesitation in Philip’s voice as he called out for Grant and his dismay over Laura, who had died from her injuries. The werewolf sensed that Philip might have been as much of a victim of Grant’s associates as Laura had. This uncertainty and the memory of his mother’s plea were enough to dissuade the werewolf from attacking.

For the next two months Jack estranged himself from his family. Uncertain of Philip’s loyalties and desiring not to hurt anyone, Jack isolated himself at their beach house.

This interlude came to an abrupt end when Lissa came to visit Jack, followed by biker thugs looking for easy prey. Jack, in his werewolf form, fought off the three men long enough for the police to arrive.

The werewolf was forced to flee from the cops and suffered a leg wound in the process. The next morning, Jack was met by Nathan Timly, who understood Jack’s condition and offered to help him. Jack accepted only to be imprisoned at the Timly mansion by Nathan’s sorceress wife Andrea and their disfigured manservant Kraig.

Andrea sought the Darkhold, a mystical tome owned by Baron Russoff. However, Jack knew nothing of it. He escaped, but not before the accidental deaths of Nathan and Kraig. Andrea subsequently perished when she attempted a ritual without the Darkhold’s help.

You never get away…

Soon afterward Jack was contacted by reporter Buck Cowan, who was researching a story on the Darkhold. He brought news that after Laura’s death Philip had sold Baron Russoff’s castle to a man named Miles Blackgar. Blackgar had then moved the castle to an island of the nearby Monterey Coast.

Jack went out to the island to investigate. He was captured by Blackgar, who was using the Darkhold for fiendish experiments on indigents. He was attempting to discover a cure for his daughter Marlene’s mutant power, which uncontrollably and permanently turned people to stone when she made eye contact with them.

The Blackgars’ plans were disrupted by the emergence of the wolf. Marlene stopped his rampage by turning the werewolf to stone, but his transformation back into Jack reversed the effect. Buck Cowan then spirited Jack off the island with the Darkhold in their possession.

The Blackgars’ subsequent attempt to retrieve the book ended abysmally when the werewolf ducked away from eye contact with Marlene only to leave her and her father looking at her in the mirror behind him. Both Blackgars were turned into living statues. Buck later sold those to an art gallery.

… everybody wants you

The next few months brought Jack into conflict with numerous people seeking to exploit his condition or drawn to him by his connection to the Darkhold.

  • Mark Cephalos was a genius seeking to drain the werewolf’s bio-energy to help ease his own medical condition.
  • The possessing spirit of Aelfric the Mad Monk arose from the Darkhold to threaten the entire world. It had in fact been Aelfric’s spirit that had triggered the emergence of the family curse in Gregory Russoff.
  • Legendary hunter Joshua Kane sought out the wolfman to stalk prey he had never chased before.
  • Kane’s brother Luther offered a cure to Jack in exchange for the werewolf’s services as an assassin.
  • The circus mystic Rihva put Jack under his hypnotic control to use the wolf as the “Wildman of Borneo” in a unique sideshow attraction.
  • The wolfman inadvertently released the demon Krogg from its imprisonment in a cave. He was then forced to fight off Krogg’s attempts to drain his life force.

Though outmatched in one way or another by all of these threats, the werewolf managed to emerge victorious through a combination of perseverance and large measures of luck.

The Werewolf by Night running in a street

During this same time Jack strengthened his friendship with Buck Cowan. Buck’s help in trying to contain the werewolf while Jack sought a way to undo the curse was greatly appreciated, as was the reporter’s ability to lighten the mood with his persistent optimism. His sister became aware of his curse and offered her support as Russell searched for a cure.

Everybody needs you

Jack then became directly entangled in the machinations of the Committee. This cabal of businessmen sought to duplicate the werewolf’s traits within themselves to gain improved physical health and vigor.

Not wishing to share this boon with others, the Committee instead told hirelings that they wished to create a state of fear analogous to wartime in order to spur consumer purchasing.

Their first such minion was Sarnak, Master of Sound. He could control others’ minds with a whistle that produced unique sonic frequencies. Sarnak was ostensibly to build a Legion of Fear out of the disfigured homeless people to produce the public terror that the Committee desired.

They also told Sarnak to capture Jack under the false pretense of making the lycanthrope the center piece of the his terrorist group.

The Legion of Fear kidnapped Jack and Sarnak used his control whistle to enslave the wolf. This plot was soon foiled when Russell managed to escape during the day and secure a sonic screen from one of Buck’s contacts. The screen neutralized the effects of Sarnak’s whistle on the wolf.

When he attacked Sarnak, the rest of the Legion of Fear was likewise freed from his control. The Legion killed Sarnak in retaliation for their enslavement.

Everybody leads you

Soon afterward the Committee themselves were manipulated by the sorcerer Taboo, who sought to capture Jack in order to acquire the Darkhold. Taboo had lost the mystic tome to Jack’s father when the Baron led his fellow townsman to attack the evil magician’s sanctuary.

Frustrated when Jack told him that the Darkhold had apparently been destroyed during the battle with Aelfric, Taboo attempted to murder him. He was blocked by his familiar, a young lady known as Topaz. Taboo later tried to kill them both only to die by accident during the ensuing melee.

That harrowing sequence of events compelled Philip Russell to explain the history of the Russell family and the truth behind recent events. Philip Russell was Baron Russoff’s brother. He had been romantically involved with Laura prior to her meeting and marrying Gregory.

Everybody bleeds you

Philip moved to America after Gregory and Laura were betrothed, naturalizing his last name to Russell. After Gregory’s death, Laura came to Philip. Their prior romance was rekindled and he married her, taking his brother’s children as his own.

Werewolf by Night (Early) (Marvel Comics) in a crystal ball

Philip then revealed that Laura’s death was a result of the Committee’s plots. They had blackmailed her with the threatened revelation of the family curse. Philip had paid them at first, wanting to spare Laura any further pain. When he refused to make further payments the Committee had their man Grant kill her in retaliation.

Having laid his secrets out before Jack, Philip was able to reconcile with him and Lissa. The family agreed to work together in resisting the Committee’s future schemes.

Get around town…

This new understanding of his family history motivated Jack to finally make the long-contemplated trip to his ancestral grounds in Transylvania. He was accompanied by Topaz as the two had become lovers. Topaz was also a positive influence on the wolf, who was soothed by her mystic abilities and thus less likely to commit needless violence.

While researching the Russoff family heritage, Jack and Topaz came into conflict with Dracula. Intrigued by Topaz’s ability to mystically deter him from assaulting her, Dracula kidnapped Topaz to learn her secrets.

She could not help him, being unaware herself of the source of her powers. The wolfman then arrived at Castle Dracula and attacked the count. He was greatly overmatched by Dracula’s might. Yet he did distract the vampire long enough for Topaz to use her powers to compel the count’s retreat.

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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Design Notes

Unlike the standard approach, I have placed Jack’s normal stats first and then his progressive werewolf stats. This is intended to provide a clear view of his development.

The werewolf’s Invulnerability was not directly demonstrated but is inferred from various statements — see Powers and Abilities for details.


Jack Russell

Dex: 04 Str: 03 Bod: 03 Motivation: Unwanted Power
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 04 Occupation: Trust fund beneficiary
Inf: 03 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 011 HP: 030

Skills:
Acrobatics (Athletics)*: 04, Vehicles (Land, Sea)*: 04

Advantages:
Rich Family.

Connections:
Buck Cowan, freelance reporter w/ Omni-Connection (High); by the time of the wolf form had reached the post-Transylvania level Jack had also acquired Connections to Topaz (High) and Raymond Coker (Low).

Drawbacks:
Alter Ego (Uncontrollable, triggered by moon rise on the three nights of the full moon each month and reversed at sunrise), SIA (Forgetting when the three nights of the full moon have begun).

Note:
HPs are shared with the Alter-Ego.


Werewolf by Night (early lupine form)

Dex: 04 Str: 04 Bod: 04 Motivation: Run Free
Int: 03 Wil: 03 Min: 04 Occupation: Predator
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: N/A
Init: 013 HP: 030

Powers:
Analytic Smell/Tracking Scent: 04, Claws: 05, Extended Hearing: 02, Invulnerability: 08, Iron Will: 08, Jumping: 01, Ultra Vision: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Claws represents the Werewolf’s teeth as well as his claws (+0 FC).
  • Invulnerability only activates at full negative BODY (-04 Current BODY or lower) and can only raise Current Body to a maximum of 0 (-2FC).
  • Invulnerability cannot remove damage inflicted by silver weapons or objects (-1FC).
  • Iron Will can only be used to resist the hypnotic abilities of vampires (-2FC).
  • Ultra Vision only offsets low-light penalties. It does not allow sight in total darkness or the ability to see invisible objects (-2FC).

Skills:
Acrobatics (Athletics, Dodging): 05, Thief (Stealth)*: 04

Advantages:
Iron Nerves, Lightning Reflexes, Luck.

Role-Playing Note:
The werewolf usually applied his Luck bonus to various uses of the Dupe Maneuver, representing coincidental events at critical moments. The most frequent form of this was an enemy taking a bullet or a thrown knife meant for the wolf.
The common alternative was an attacking opponent tripping over the werewolf or a conveniently placed obstacle and thus accidentally hitting someone else or hurting themselves by colliding with a hard object.

Connections:
None.

Drawbacks:
IA (Not using Claws in combat — see “Never Bring Claws…” in part #2), IH (See “Aggressive Tendencies” in part #2), MIA (Returning to the wilderness), Miscellaneous (Animalistic Mindset — see part #2 for details), SPR (Incapable of speech, though he can still growl and howl), Strange Appearance (See “That Ain’t a Mask” in part #2).


Subsequent stats and technical notes

These are in .

By Roy Cowan.

Source of Character: Marvel Essentials Werewolf by Night vol. 1 & 2.

Helper(s): Vincent Bartilucci, Frank Murdoch, Quintanads.

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