It’s WEREWOLF WEEK on Horror Bound! Why? Because WHY NOT?! Werewolves never get as much love as Zombies or Vampires and we’re here to bring them more attention. All of this week we’ll be pumping out werewolf themed content. Join us all over social media as we celebrate!
What’s up Horror Bound loyal? We here at the site love werewolves, so much so, that we’re hosting a whole week of material in their honor. And if you’re like us, you probably dig ‘em as much as we do. But have you ever wondered whatever happened to some of your favorite werewolf properties? Because I know I have. So I went ahead and delved into some of my favorite werewolf IP’s, across all media, to answer, “Whatever happened to…”
Fruit Brute - breakfast cereal
If you grew up in the 80’s, every morning was focused around two things: Watching cartoons and eating your favorite sugar filled cereal while you watched cartoons. Not surprisingly, one of my favorite go to cereals had to be Cocoa Puffs and anything from General Mills’ monsters cereal product line. You know the ones I’m talking about, Count Chocula, and the rest of the bunch. But did you know, aside from the big three, that there was also a mummy and werewolf brand? But since it’s not Mummy week here on the site, we could only be talking about Fruit Brute.
Fruit Brute was the fourth character launched in the line of wildly popular monster cereals and was depicted by our flagship character this week, a werewolf. Whereas the rest of the gang had pretty distinctive flavor profiles (blueberry, strawberry, and chocolate), Fruit Brute was marketed as a “fruit flavored” cereal, whatever that means. Deeper research into the storied brand reveals that the marshmallows were actually lime flavored and what kid under ten liked lime? Except for maybe in an ice pop or something. Even artificial lime flavoring can’t compare to the flavor stylings of strawberry or blueberry. I don’t remember eating Fruit Brute as a kid myself, but when it relaunched in 2013 I found it to be all too similar in taste to Froot Loops.
Maybe that’s why the brand only lasted a mediocre eight years. That, and his character design was laughable: decked out in rainbow striped overalls, Fruit Brute resembled some sort of country bumpkin. I mean, come on, man! Have some dignity; you’re a man-eating hellhound after all. Even after the relaunch, sadly, Fruit Brute was discontinued once again a short year later, not even to return seasonally with the rest of his monster cereal family. But I still proudly don a Fruit Brute pin on my laptop bag to this day in remembrance of our old sugary canine friend.
Wolf Lake - TV show
If you remember the Fox vampire drama, Kindred: The Embraced, based upon the popular role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade, then you may also remember that just five years later, CBS had a go with the horror drama with its short-lived series, Wolf Lake. That’s right, readers, long before the likes of True Blood and Hemlock Grove; the broadcast networks were trying to get something going in the realm of horror drama on the small screen.
Enter Wolf Lake, a series about a small town in the Pacific Northwest where inhabitants that survive the initial metamorphosis are treated like local royalty and even live in a separate part of town in the lap of luxury. Rival packs battle for supremacy over the dwindling forestlands as the lesser humans battle for survival from the rabid wolf attacks plaguing the area.
Sounds awesome, right? And it should have been too. Wolf Lake spared no expense in the production department, shooting in the picturesque landscapes of Vancouver and the surrounding territory. The cast was no slouch either with Lou Diamond Phillips in the lead, flanked by strong support in the likes of Graham Greene, Tim Matheson, Bruce Mcgill, a teenage Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Sharon Lawrence, who had just wrapped a successful stint of six years on ABC powerhouse NYPD Blue. To keep costs down, the werewolves were of the four legged kind (so, just normal sized trained wolves or wolf hybrids), instead of opting for the much more expensive bipedal kind which would have required elaborate makeup and/or visual effects.
Unfortunately, like the previously mentioned Kindred: The Embraced, all the production value and drama wasn’t enough to keep viewers tuned in past one season. CBS only aired five of the initial nine episodes before it was cancelled. Six months later, short lived syndicated network, UPN, picked up the series and ran all nine episodes of the single season (that’s one whole episode more than Kindred, so suck that Vamps!). Wolf Lake would then disappear from viewing entirely until Syfy bought the rights to re-air it in syndication in 2006. Fans would have to wait another six years before a DVD release would make it to store shelves. Upon doing research for this piece, it was the first I heard of the DVD release, which I now expect to add to my own collection very soon.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Tabletop role-playing game
So, we know that the Kindred: The Embraced tv show was based on the popular tabletop RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade. However, there was also a lycanthrope-based game in the same line called Werewolf: The Apocalypse.
Published just a year after Vampire: The Masquerade by the likes of White Wolf Publishing, Werewolf: The Apocalypse allowed you to play as a werewolf in a fictional world much like our own, but described as “gothic-punk” in its setting and including other ghastly creatures like the aforementioned vampires, mummies, ghosts, and fae. Much like the vampire species in Masquerade were referred to as The Kindred, the werewolves in Apocalypse were given the moniker of Garou. Actually, most of the mechanics, lore, and setting were identical to that of Masquerade since they took place in the same world and were just White Wolf’s way of producing a different set of rules where you could play as another of these iconic horror monsters. In fact, it didn’t take long before players were writing campaigns themselves that mashed the multiple game worlds of these two as well as the worlds established in Mage, Changeling, Wraith, and all the other White Wolf published game guides.
Similar to the class system in Dungeons and Dragons, the Garou in Apocalypse were broken down into tribes and your tribe affiliation was what determined your personality and abilities. So for example, if you were a member of the Glass Walker tribe, you were the most technologically proficient, probably a hacker or something similar and if you were a member of my personal favorite tribe, the Uktena, then not only were you descended from the indigenous peoples of the Americas, but you were more prone to deal in mysticism, much like a shaman. Aside from choosing from the thirteen tribes, a player would also choose the phase of the moon they were born under, which would also grant other special abilities. In addition to the two forms we most associate with werewolves (the two-legged hominid and the full on, four-legged wolf), there were two other forms (not including plain old human) a player could assume: a dire-wolf like form and a caveman-like form. From there, character customization got pretty deep as you can imagine.
Subsequent editions of the main module included the introduction of new tribes, lost tribes, as well as supplements changing the era the game was set in to periods like the Wild West and the Dark Ages. I still have my hardcover edition of the revised edition and I’ve probably read it cover to cover multiple times, but never found the right group of people who had that rare combination of eccentricity and uninhibited abandon to join me in a game.
After the initial game was discontinued after twelve years, a newer version entitled Werewolf: The Forsaken was released in 2005. Although thematically similar to the original game, in Forsaken characters played as werewolves called the Uratha whose duty were to “maintain a balance and prevent ingress between the spirit worlds and the material world.” Whatever that means. In addition to the RPG and all its supplemental gameplay material, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, as well as the other properties in the White Wolf Publishing “World of Darkness” series, spawned quite a few original novels set in their respective worlds that are still available today. A collectible card game was also released in 1995, due in part to the popularity of Magic: The Gathering, and two video games were announced, went into production, but never saw the light of day. Currently, a new video game is in development, but no further details as far as release or gameplay are known.
Werewolf by Night – Marvel comic book
I first came across Jack Russell, Werewolf by Night, back in the 90’s while trying to acquire the first appearance of one of my fave comic book characters, Moon Knight. I was trying to get a complete run of every Moon Knight issue ever released and that had to include his first appearance, which occurred in Marvel’s Werewolf by Night issue number 32. I had never heard of this character before and only read this one issue to find out the origin story of Moon Knight. I would cross paths with the cursed Lycan once again not long after, when he would go on to join forces with my number one favorite comic book hero, Ghost Rider, in the now legendary story arc, Rise of the Midnight Sons. The more I came across this character, the more I wanted to know about him.
Werewolf by Night came out of the renaissance of horror comics established at Marvel shortly after the loosening of the Comics Code Authority in the 70’s. (For more on my brief history of horror comics in the Marvel Universe, check out my write-up of their Crypt of Shadows one-shot here ). Once again, it was safe to put all manner of monsters within the pages of your favorite books. Thus, Werewolf by Night made his first appearance in Marvel Spotlight #2 way back in 1972. This was a multi issue story arc meant to introduce our antagonist to the world and give us a brief origin story.
As it goes, Jack Russell was a descendant of Grigori Russoff who was the first to bring the curse of the lycanthrope to the Russoff family when he fought Vlad Dracula, yes, that Dracula, and was bit by one of his werewolf servants back in late eighteenth century Transylvania. However, the curse only manifests itself in the family line once the eighteenth birthday is reached. Then it’s just like the old legend goes: full moon, change, mindlessly attack people, and repeat. Yet, our hero makes it a point to chain himself up each month so as not to hurt anyone. What a guy. Sparing you the weird and strange manner in which it occurs, I’ll just say that eventually his curse is partially broken and Jack then becomes able to change at will and maintain his human intellect while in wolf form. This is when his crime-fighting career takes off.
Soon after the original run in Spotlight, he gets his own series and it runs for 43 issues and five solid years. After that, for the next twenty years or so, Werewolf by Night is relegated to mostly guest appearances and a few story arcs in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents before getting his own series again in 1998. Unfortunately, that run only lasted six whole issues. Since then, you can find our protagonist wandering once again in the grittier corners of some of the other popular titles as a special guest or something else less glamorous. Werewolf by Night never became a member of any of the big Marvel teams, or even the small ones (West Coast Avengers, anyone?), because; let’s face it, that wasn’t the world he inhabited. Therefore, he did go on to team up with some of the heroes in the darker edges of the Marvel universe like Blade, Son of Satan, Morbius the Living Vampire (soon to be a major motion picture starring Jared Leto in the title role), and my favorite, the aforementioned Ghost Rider. There are plenty of “collections” out there released by Marvel Comics in recent years where you can still catch the adventures of Jack Russell if you missed them the first time around. I suggest you do.
Underworld Lycans spin-off - Movie
No, you didn’t miss any big announcement or anything. Admittedly, this is more of a dream, wish list, request, plea, rant! But let’s face it; one of the coolest depictions of werewolves in the last decade or so has to be in Len Wiseman’s big budget, Hollywood, action movie franchise Underworld. But if you’re like me, as awesome as Kate Beckinsale’s ass kicking Selene was, the rest of the vampires were total douchebags, especially that Kraven fucker! And in the original film when we’re treated to the flashback of lead werewolf Lucian’s reason for plotting against vampire elder, Viktor, all these years… dude, then we really want to see the vamps pay, big time.
That’s why the third film in the franchise is easily my favorite. In Rise of the Lycans, we finally get to see Lucian, Raze, and the rest of the Lycan brood kick some vampire fangs in. Although Underworld III wasn’t a critical success, it about tripled its production costs making it an easy box office hit. Directing duties on the third entry were handled by one of my favorite Production Designers, Patrick Tatopoulos, with Wiseman writing and producing. Yes, the CGI werewolves got way out of control in this one, but the franchise had always opted for the digital kind in an effort to keep costs down. Besides, how else can you do that final battle scene of hundreds of Lycans raiding the Vampire stronghold, but with CGI, right?
With the Lycans finally taking center stage in this entry, coupled with some fat theater receipts, I was sure a Lycans spin off film taking place in the modern world of the original film was a sure thing. Alas, I never got that film. Instead, I got two more Selene led sequels, the recent of which I still haven’t seen, and an ongoing lack of werewolf appearances, although Kris Holden-Reid’s mega Lycan, Quint in Underworld: Awakening was pretty badass (although still CGI’d).
So there you have it, my friends. I hope I answered some of your burning questions about these forgotten werewolf properties of yesteryear or piqued your interest in some of the ones you never heard of. As we can see, Werewolves are still the bastard stepchildren of the monster universe, clawing day in and day out to earn some respect in the crowded horror universe. And if I sound a little biased, it’s probably because I am. For far too long the vampire has worn the crown, but with the popularity of such recent franchises as Lost Girl, Penny Dreadful, and Being Human, the werewolf is slowly gaining some credible steam… even if it is as a co-star.
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