If you resolved to eat better in 2015 and you don’t mind a little hair in your food, consider this recipe for Greek Style Leg of Werewolf courtesy of Mythical Creatures Butcher Shop. This dish is high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and is nutritious for everyone except the werewolf. If you’re not quite sure where to hack into that werewolf corpse in your freezer for the best cut of meat, don’t worry – the recipe comes with a handy chart. (more…)
News that the President of Argentina adopted a young Jewish man in order to prevent his becoming a werewolf exploded online last week, getting coverage on dozens of news sites despite being a conflation of unrelated tradition and myth. Mixup or not, the story has already given me reason to write what I bet will be the weirdest Werewolf News headline of 2015. (more…)
I recently had a chance to email some questions to the creators of the werewolf comic Feeding Ground, and writers Swifty Lang and Chris Mangun were kind enough to respond in detail. Read on for a deeper look at the care and detail that’s gone into constructing the world, characters and mythos of Feeding Ground.
Andrew: Feeding Ground is influenced by the imagery of Mexico’s Día de los Muertos and the aesthetics of EC horror comics. EC’s Tales from the Crypt comics were loaded with zombies, vampires and other “classic” American monsters, and Mexico’s myths are about creatures like the duende, the culebre and everyone’s favourite, the chupacabra. When putting together the story for Feeding Ground, what was it about the werewolf that stood out against such a diverse array of monsters?
Of all the monsters and myths, both of Latin origin and of the EC horror ilk, none carry the capacity like the werewolf to act as a kind of metaphor for the human will of the people pitted against the pressures of this politically charged region. Inherent in the character of our werewolves is this complex transformative struggle between the powerless and the powerful… between the solitude of choice and the need for pack “belonging.” In this harsh landscape, men are forced to change themselves, to join gangs, leave their family, and even kill to survive. The werewolf only amplifies this in a way that makes this human transformation more visible. A zombie couldn’t hold up in this device, it’s just not a social monster or a “thing” consciously dealing with the depth of human choice and consequence. The story of FEEDING GROUND traverses the experience of a broken down society, one that has failed to provide for basic human needs and continues to wrong those that live within its borders. Where our story and monsters hopefully takes the reader is where our characters must go within themselves, through brush and beast, in order to move their lives, forget all their belongings, cross harsh terrain only to belong to a society that may or may not treat them better.
The modern superstitions surrounding Mexico’s were-coyote-like nagual seem to be a mixture of pre-Columbian Aztecan myths and European werewolf myths introduced by the influx of Spanish culture during the Colonial Period. How did these pre-existing myths, ancient or modern, influence the writing for Feeding Ground?
While our comic acknowledges a rich back-story of the historic collision of pre-Columbian and European myths present in this region our comic is set firmly in the present. It deals more with modern themes such as Capitalism, which has created new circumstances for both the rich and the poor and thus requires new acts of rebellion, new kinds of myths. But, at the same time, Pre-modern myths were an outgrowth of slave economics and created very specific desires, most importantly freedom and the promise that the oppressed could one day live a better life. Our story is influenced by this struggle, not only to believe in this myth, but be the driving fuel behind why ordinary men and women leave everything behind, to walk towards what history has called the “Promise land.” The idea, for those that there is no greater freedom than the ability to transform one’s circumstances (or body), to have a will stronger than the modern man, or even wreak havoc on the town that wronged you or someone you love is very appealing.
A few months ago, Swifty mentioned that werewolves were “the least represented monster” during the “Horror Renaissance” of the previous decade. There was certainly a lack of compelling werewolf stories and movies during that time. Why do you suppose that was? Is it harder to tell an interesting story about werewolves than it is to write about other horror creatures?
Swifty: Werewolves have been beholden to specific rules of transmogrify that are limiting as opposed to liberating. The conception of the moon as catalyst and silver bullets and wolf’s bane as destructive agents have created a lumbering monster that is at best horrified by its own existence and at worst has stripped the agent of free will completely. Without the choice of transformation there is an absence of moral questioning. That is an insipid beast. This has also led to individuation of the creature that is frankly clumsy. This beast seemed to fall out of fashion because it had been marginalized as a creature with both limited ability and visual inventiveness. Something like the Predator was frankly way cooler. A werewolf never appeared sillier than Jack Nicholson leaping from window sills in Mike Leigh’s Wolf.
I think an equally fair question is why was horror marginalized to a fringe between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties? The werewolf has worked in a comedic context (American Werewolf in London) and also as a metaphor for puberty (Ginger Snaps) but with the destruction of the concept of the pack, family loyalty, obligation you are no longer exploring what is most fascinating about a group dynamic; the basic need for individuation among a mass and culpability. This conceit is something wrought with drama. The pack versus the individual was tackled with incredible success in my mind in the book Sharp Teeth. Obligation to a group and the need for security amongst the huddled is something so primal and universal that it transcends being human, and is linked directly to the animal world. This is a horrible thought in its own right. The werewolf presents the opportunity to reflect the neediness of existence, and the compromises we make to belong.
It really depends on what one finds interesting. If one is out to create senseless splatter, which is the norm among most horror, a horror of the body, as opposed to exploring monstrosity and internalizing the effect of change, the task becomes more difficult. Axe wielding, brain chomping, teeth gnashing, they can all be conveyed in a very visceral manner. What one has to be more delicate about is maintaining that shred of humanity amidst the ability to cause so much destruction. Establishing a believable pecking order and flushing out all the politics of group dynamics is probably the greatest challenge. Think how difficult it is to get any human group to communicate effectively and portraying that dynamic with honesty. Now add unmitigated primal urges.
Werewolves are commonly used in storytelling to represent the dangers of indulging in man’s baser instincts (whether we’re talking about “man” as a species separated from its origins in nature, or “man” as the biological sex generally more prone to violence and “animal” behavior). You’ve said that with Feeding Ground you’ve “created a new werewolf mythology that specifically relates to gender (our women kick ass)”. Without giving any spoilers, can you explain a little more about your werewolf mythology’s basis in gender? Señora Busqueda definitely has some kick-ass strength, whether she’s defending herself or doing what’s necessary to keep her family safe… it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see her as a mama wolf protecting what’s hers.
Swifty: The current role of the female wolf in werewolf mythology is a reflection of both the natural order and Patriarchal thinking. ‘She’ is the property of the Alpha, and it is her as a possession that signifies status amongst the pack. While this does exist in the animal kingdom and the concept of ‘arm candy’ is definitely prevalent among human beings, FEEDING GROUND allows us to really explore and explode that conception. Women’s cycles are clearly linked to the moon, and throw in the werewolf and you are left with a hapless creature that is victim of both biology and circumstance. She-wolves, in some sense, are less powerful than the princess in the tower. So the opportunity arises to examine what makes women unique and stronger than men. Without giving too much away, choice is power and it is a direct affront to victimhood. But even more so, restraint reveals true mastery of one’s world.
Thanks for your time, guys! Issue one of Feeding Ground comes out September 29th. Check it out– I’ve read it and it’s fantastic.
I’ve been a fan of werewolves since I was old enough to pronounce the word, and I’ve been bored with the “classic” werewolf stories of old for nearly as long. My elementary school library had two books about werewolves, both of them mainly concerned with Peter Stumpp and La Bête du Gévaudan. Those were not interesting subjects for a young werewolf fan who had just watched “An American Werewolf in London”. I learned to associate werewolf legends and tales from before 1930 with tedious history lessons, crazy guys with beards and religious persecution, and only recently have I unlearned that narrow point of view, thanks largely to the classic werewolf anthology The Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849, edited and introduced by Andrew Barger.
I think this is a great little book, and you’ll probably feel the same way if you agree that reading and knowledge are awesome. The five stories in this anthology contain the seeds of werewolf myths we accept (and in some cases defend) as canon today, so I’m not in a position to review their contents as I would modern fiction. That would be like a gaming site reviewing the original Pacman or Donkey Kong according to today’s standards, and like Tycho, I’m more inclined to take off my hat in reverence than scrutinize the seemingly rudimentary nature of the work. It comes as a relief, though, that these five tales are entertaining and interesting on the merits of the storytelling alone.
My favourite story of the lot is also the first: “Hugues the Wer-Wolf” by Sutherland Menzies. According to Barger’s introduction, this is the first known werewolf story in which the now-classic “cut off a werewolf’s paw and look for a human missing a hand the next day” gambit is used, although the titular werewolf fakes his way through the limb-counting in a way that I’d never heard of before. “The Man-Wolf” by Leitch Ritchie is the toughest read of the book if you’re not wearing your 19-century glasses, but it was also the most fun, with some truly likable characters and subtle deadpan humour. Catherine Crowe’s “A Story of a Weir-Wolf” is a beautifully-described tale about love, jealousy, treachery and a young woman who performs a redemptive act so hardcore she makes San look like a trembling waif. The last two stories, “The Wehr-Wolf: A Legend of the Limousin” and “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains”, were also good, although the former was a bit chaotic and tended to spin its wheels a bit, while the latter concerned an antagonist whose lycanthropy wasn’t strictly integral to the tale. Still, there’s virtually no filler, which makes “Short Stories” a short but satisfyingly dense and rewarding read.
Each story is introduced with a summary of Barger’s research concerning the tale’s history and literary background. These intros serve as bumpers and set the proper context for each story– without them, the varied styles and tones of the stories would make for a disjointed reading experience. Barger’s enthusiasm for the material is evident on every page: the commentary and the depth of the research which informs it makes it clear that he isn’t publishing this anthology simply to cash in on the current werewolf / monster craze. He posits that these stories have value, both as examples of writing from a nascent period of horror fiction and as the genesis of the ideas that form our modern vision of the werewolf. I agree with him. The lesson here? Don’t let your seven-year-old self dictate your reading list.
Buy, borrow or skip?
Buy if you’re a literary scholar, a student or a book geek like me and you have an interest in the history of werewolves. This is required reading.
Borrow if you found this web site while Googling “Warcraft Cataclysm worgen” or “werewolf costume” and you read all the way to the end of this review– we’ll make a book nerd of you yet.
Werewolves and Vampires Duke It Out In New York Magazine – Roukas Dissects the Radness and Ramifications
Werewolf Vs. Vampire by Bryan Baugh.
This month’s New York magazine features a short article on werewolves by Jeff Vandam. While the “article” is only a page long, and while I would sooner expect The New Yorker to run a feature on Rambo, I was nevertheless happy to see some lycanthropic goodness in a mainstream magazine. Unfortunately, the article quickly becomes a classic werewolves vs. vampires retro-drama. Guess what? Count Chocula wins, and Edward Cullen wins the mark of cultural favor over David Naughton’s David Kessler and Jack Nicholson’s Will Randall. And while everyone is allowed to have a personal preference when it comes to monsters, I believe that the hairy-handed gents are made out of culturally richer and more enduring stuff than vampires are.
The Wolfman is out now! If you’re killing time before your showtime comes up (you are going to see it, right?), I recommend that you level up on your Wolfman history with this interactive timeline from Universal and Substance.
While cartoony and childish on the surface, this short feature is a frightening venture into the subconscious of the animal that is man. And please, be honest; there are likely a few people here who have thought something along the lines of: “I was sitting in my huge leather armchair watching telly, and thinking how marvelous it would be to be a werewolf.” Savor and enjoy!
Fangs and Fur is a new documentary by Italian filmmaker and wildlife photographer Michele Cogliati. In the 10-minute made-for-web film, Cogliati discusses the historical link between wolves, werewolves, human serial killers and cannibalism.
“The wolf is a pack hunter and a daylight predator,” Cogliati explains. “The werewolf is a lone hunter and often depicted as a night stalker. I have a few answers to justify these remarkable differencies that I’d like to share.”