BY MATT TUCK, BLOGGER SUPREME
FB@ The Comic Blog
Vampires and werewolves could be just the beginning of Marvel’s monster invasion, and the upcoming Halloween special may be prepping for an unexpected team up.
THEY’RE COMING TO GET YOU, BARBARA
Ever since Marvel announced its Blade reboot with two-time Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali as the eponymous Daywalker, fans have wondered if the MCU is shifting toward the horror side of things. Longtime comic readers are fully aware of the company’s extensive horror comics history that goes all the way back to the Golden Age and Marvel’s predecessor, Atlas Comics.
With images of Blade slashing blood-thirsty creatures that go bump in the night, fans theorized who (or what) else would be coming to the MCU. Lo and behold, Marvel announced its Halloween Special that will star the Jake Lopez Werewolf By Night. Recently, another casting has raised its head on the internet, and it could be the first indication of an overlooked supernatural team coming to the MCU: the Howling Commandos.
If you don’t remember them, you’re not alone. This team is not to be confused with Nick Fury’s original World War II-era Howling Commandos. The modern Commandos first appeared in the aptly named Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos #1 in 2005. Instead soldiers fighting Nazis, this group is made up of tongue-in-cheek takes on classic monsters, like Frankenstein’s Monster, the Living Mummy, and the Warwolf. It’s that campiness that makes them prime candidates for the MCU as the Howling Commandos are a comedy act waiting to happen.
Still wondering about the Howling Commandos? Let’s break down the original lineup.
VAMPIRE BY NIGHT
FIRST APPEARANCE: AMAZING FANTASY, VOL. 2, #10
The backbone of the entire Howling Commandos possibility is the recent casting news for the Marvel Halloween Special. Earlier this week, the news broke that Marvel Studios is bringing Vampire By Night to the Halloween special alongside the previously announced Werewolf By Night.
Who is the Vampire By Night? In 2005, Marvel introduced Jack Russell’s niece, Nina Price. As the story goes, she was afflicted with the same curse as Jack, the original WBN. It all came from their ancestor, who was corrupted by the Darkhold before being bitten by a werewolf that was serving Dracula. I believe Nina and Jack’s great-great-great-whatever answered to the name of Lucky.
In a case of true comic book logic, Nina inherited the family’s werewolf curse, but she was bitten by a vampire. Instead of turning her into a full-time bloodsucker, the two curses had a few drinks, went back to the werewolf curse’s doghouse, and made an all-new curse. Instead of turning into a werewolf every night, Nina transforms into a vampire.
If you were a vampire with a werewolf curse, what would you do with your newfound abilities? That’s right - join a superteam with other campy characters, the Howling Commandos. At least she’s getting out and making friends.
FIRST APPEARANCE: MENACE #5
Long before The Walking Dead ushered in the age of zombies, the shuffling, brain-hungry living dead were entrenched in pop culture, thus giving birth to the Zombie in the Golden Age.
First appearing in 1953’s Menace #5, Simon Garth would rise from the grave for Atlas Comics. It wasn’t until the Bronze Age’s horror revolution that Simon would shuffle his way into Marvel Comics (and our hearts). Along with the other classic monsters introduced at the time, the Zombie debuted for Marvel in Tales of the Zombie #1 in 1973.
In true Stan Lee flare, this was no ordinary zombie. Instead, he was an undead superhero with magical healing powers and super strength. Most of the time, he is controlled by a voodoo-powered amulet, but Simon can control his own actions when the amulet is not in use.
From an investment standpoint, the Zombie’s early issues should have your attention. Along with being a candidate for Marvel’s Halloween special, he could appear in the upcoming Marvel Zombies cartoon series. After all, Simon Garth does have ties to the Marvel Zombies in different iterations of the story.
FIRST APPEARANCES: (CYBERTEK) ASTONISHING TALES #26; (VINCE MARCUS) HOWLING COMMANDOS #1; (MARTIN REYNA) SHIELD, VOL. 3, #9
Over the decades, there have been three different characters to use the name Warwolf. The original was created in 1974. Using the codename War-Wolf, this version was a remote-controlled cyborg assassin with a gray wolf’s brain (because that makes sense) who was sent to kill Deathlok.
In 2005, the Warwolf concept was dusted off (minus the hyphen). This time, instead of a cyborg with a wolf’s brain, Vince Marcus was a soldier who could transform into a werewolf. You may want to finish that last sentence with, “when the moon is full,” but you would be wrong. No, this Warwolf only changes when the planet Mars is visible (you know, Mars is the Roman god of war). If being in control of a werewolf weren’t enough for Vince, he also carries an energy pistol.
Finally, there’s the most recent Warwolf, Martin Reyna. He is a SHIELD agent with a device that allows him to change into a werewolf on command, so no need for the moon or Mars or any curses (but where’s the fun in that?).
The more I think about it, the cyborg assassin with a wolf’s brain who shoots plasma beams from his eyes may be the coolest choice.
FIRST APPEARANCE: THE MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN #1
Frankenstein’s Monster has a convoluted history with Marvel. Before there was Marvel, he first appeared in 1950’s Marvel Tales #96 under the Atlas Comics banner. While Atlas is the predecessor to Marvel, this isn’t the same Frankenstein that would appear in the Marvel-616. That character would appear in 1973’s The Monster of Frankenstein #1 during Marvel’s horror renaissance that occurred when the Comics Code Authority loosened its grip on literary characters appearing in comic books. Then again, Frank appeared prior to MOF #1 when he met the X-Men in the infamous X-Men #40. As the story goes, that version of Frankenstein was revealed to be an android created by aliens for whatever reason. Is it any wonder why the X-Men comics were floundering in the 1960s?
To complicate matters a bit further, the Frankenstein’s Monster that joined the Howling Commandos is actually a clone of the original Frankenstein’s Monster. Safe to say, Frank’s Marvel history is enough to give Kang’s origin a run for its convoluted money.
THE LIVING MUMMY
FIRST APPEARANCE: SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS #5
In the early 1970s, Stan Lee was in love with the classic horror characters. The result was some of the weirdest stories in all of Marvel as the old Universal Studios monsters were merged with the modern world of superheroes. While many of these comics are collector’s gold because of their uniqueness, the two worlds meshed like oil and water.
During the Bronze Age, Dracula faced off with practically everyone on the Marvel roster. At one point, the lord of all vampires squared off with anyone from Spider-Man and the X-Men to Thor and the Silver Surfer, none of which made much sense at all in the grand storytelling scheme. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a version of the classic Mummy graced the pages of Marvel, though the Living Mummy wouldn’t prove to be quite as marketable.
Where the Living Mummy failed in the Bronze Age comics, he could very well succeed in the MCU. While I don’t expect him to be the star of his own movie or series, he could be one of many comic reliefs in the Halloween Special or a Howling Commandos series in the future. Either way, it will have a direct impact on his key issues.
For horror fans like myself, we may have gotten our hopes up too soon. Any of us expecting Marvel to go headfirst into the scarier side of its stories were sorely mistaken. While the studio could make a decent superhero movie with a horror flare under the PG-13 rating, Disney isn’t going to let that happen. Like practically every other Disney movie ever made, the Marvel movies are full-fledged family comedies with a sprinkle of action and adventure. That is why their takes on the characters tend to lean more toward the Silver Age rather than the more serious tones established in the 1980s and ‘90s.
All that being said, the Howling Commandos from 2005 work well within the Disney formula. They’re unique takes on familiar horror characters that are more funny than scary, which will keep things family-friendly, especially for parents with young children.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and the Blogger Supreme. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.writer.