Published on May 15th, 2017 | by Steven Roman1
Howling: From Cinema to Comics, courtesy of Space Goat: An extensive Review
In the 1980s, werewolves appeared to be the Next Big Thing for Hollywood features. You had Teen Wolf (1985), with Michael J. Fox; Teen Wolf Too (1987), the forgettable sequel; Wolfen (1981), based on the novel by Whitley Strieber; The Company of Wolves (1984); Silver Bullet (1985), based on the Stephen King/Bernie Wrightson illustrated novella Cycle of the Werewolf; and Full Moon High (1981), to name just a few.
But the…er, leader of the pack was 1981’s An American Werewolf in London, from writer/director John Landis of Animal House and The Blues Brothers fame (and later Twilight Zone: The Movie infamy). An ode to the Universal monster movies of the 1930s and ’40s, with just a touch of Hammer Horror from the 1960s, the horror-comedy starring David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, and Jenny Agutter was a hit with moviegoers and horror fans alike, with most of the attention and praise focused on effects designer Rick Baker’s Academy Award–winning monster effects—the topper of which was Naughton’s full-on transformation into a wolfman in a brightly-lit room.
And then there was its lower-budgeted—but just as equally praised—cousin, The Howling, also released in 1981. Based on the 1978 novel by Gary Bradner, the movie adaptation was handled by director Joe Dante (Piranha, Gremlins, Twilight Zone: The Movie) and screenwriter John Sayles (Piranha, Battle Beyond the Stars), with effects designer—and Baker protégé—Rob Bottin (Piranha, John Carpenter’s The Thing) in control of the werewolfery (on which Baker acted as consultant).
Starring Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, and Dennis Dugan, it involves TV reporter Karen White (Wallace), who’s assaulted by serial killer Eddie Quist (a pre–Star Trek: Voyager Robert Picardo), whom she’d been investigating. Traumatized by the attack and the sight of Quist being gunned down by the police, she agrees to go for counseling at The Colony, a retreat run by therapist Dr. George Waggner (Macnee). Accompanied by her husband Bill, and later joined by her best friend, Terri, and Terri’s boyfriend, Chris Halloran (Dugan), Karen tries to find some peace of mind—which never comes. Her growing unease isn’t helped by the presence of one member of The Colony in particular: Marsha Quist, a nymphomaniac (played by Elisabeth Brooks) who’s set her sights on Karen’s husband. Even worse for Karen, it turns out that Marsha isn’t just a sexual predator (cue Hall & Oates’s pop hit “Maneater”), she’s Eddie Quist’s sister—and a werewolf. And she’s not the only member of The Colony with a penchant for howling at the moon…
In my opinion, The Howling is a better film than American Werewolf, if only because Bottin’s transformation effects are a lot scarier than American’s, not to mention that Dante set out to make a straight-up horror movie with humorous notes, instead of a horror comedy—and succeeded. Unfortunately, rather than nurture this new, popular franchise they had on their hands, the studio decided to immediately tarnish it by crapping out a series of terrible sequels over the years, each entry progressively worse than the last. Wasn’t there anyone who could make a decent sequel to The Howling?
Which brings us to The Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen #1, on sale July 26 from Space Goat Publishing. Written by Micky Neilson (World of Warcraft) and illustrated by Jason Johnson (Knight Rider), it’s the first issue of a sequel miniseries that picks up three weeks after the events of the Dante film and deals primarily with two returning characters: Chris Halloran—still coming to terms with his nightmarish experience at The Colony—and Marsha Quist, who, as you can probably guess, is the titular werewolf queen in this miniseries….or at least a werewolf with queen-like aspirations. Marsha, we learn, is on the hunt for a relic called the Hand of Akkara; although no explanation is given in this issue for why, there’s little doubt this MacGuffin will provide her with the mystical power to become a true queen—it’s just how those kind of things work. And at some point in the miniseries, it’s a given that Chris’s and Marsha’s paths will intersect—it’s just how these kind of stories work.
Storywise, Neilson provides the sort of follow-up that movie fans expected to see in ’81. Marsha, a prime example of the quintessential ’80s bad girl—sexy, dangerous, savage, poured into a black-leather dress—was one of the few survivors of The Howling; it only made sense that fans would want to see her in a sequel. Unfortunately, that never happened with any of the seven (!) god-awful follow-ups, not even in the direct sequel Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf—a 1986 celluloid disaster primarily known for its end-credits loop of lead actress Sybil Danning ripping open her blouse to expose her breasts (a scene from earlier in the film).
Don’t believe me? Go ahead, take a look…
I have a feeling her co-star, acting legend Christopher Lee, left that one off his résumé…
As for the artwork, Johnson—with the assistance of colorist Milen Parvanov—does a stellar job in establishing the horror mood required for what is, at the outset, a character-driven story. But fear not: when Marsha decides to get her lycanthropic freak on, Johnson is equally as good at illustrating werewolf mayhem.
Bottom line? With an intriguing story and great-looking art, The Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen #1 appears to be the proper sequel to the classic movie that werewolf fans have always wanted. It might not have a Sybil Danning boob-loop, but it does have a variant cover by comic-art legend Bill Sienkiewicz (New Mutants, Elektra: Assassin), and that’s even better!
The Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen #1
Written by Micky Neilson
Art by Jason Johnson
Main cover art by Yvel Guichet and Carlos Eduardo
Publisher: Space Goat Publishing
32 pages • full color
On sale July 26, 2017