The Wolfman

So my plan was to talk to Jonathan Maberry at the Writers Coffeehouse in Philly this past Sunday, but as luck (of the bad kind) would have it, he’s been battling the flu for several weeks and could not attend. This post is therefore not going to be quite as interesting as I had intended. I sincerely hope that Jonathan feels better soon!

I saw The Wolfman, the remake of the classic 1941 Lon Chaney movie, once early last year and promptly forgot most of it. The novelization is, as I expected, much more engaging. Jonathan uses some lovely turns of phrase, and I also enjoyed the way in which he tied the ancient myths of the Goddess of the Hunt to the Wolfman’s transformation. As far as archetypal monsters go, I truly feel that the werewolf has not been done justice; read the book The Beast Within by Adam Douglas, and you’ll see what I mean. Most stories that involve werewolves (there is a sorry lack of good fiction specifically about this creature) have followed a pattern similar to The Wolfman; they focus on the physical transformation rather than the mythic and psychological aspects that make it such a fascinating monster. Two recent treatments that I found fairly compelling have occurred not in film or fiction but–you guessed it–in video games. Both Dragon Age: Origins and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim feature werewolf quests that speak to this mythic nature, with echoes of a past in which the line between human and beast was not so clearly drawn.

Though, being an editor, I found myself editing in my head whenever a word was repeated, a sensory barrier used, or a sentence written as passive when it could have been active, Maberry wrote a perfectly acceptable novelization given the source material. I found both Gwen and Lawrence to be rather unlikeable given how soon after Ben’s death they’re pawing at each other (as it were), but again, that’s the fault of the source. The character that held my attention the most was Sir John; he is an experienced hunter who has seen countless animals roaming their natural habitat. After years of having Singh lock him up during the full moon, he realizes that the urges of the werewolf are no less natural than those animals he has hunted. He is a predator hunting his prey, no more and no less. That the prey is human, and that not being at the top of the food chain is unacceptable to most humans, is always the werewolf’s downfall.

Maberry was obviously limited in what he could do with this particular story, since it had to follow the movie script. The novel served its purpose in that sense, but I’d be much more interested in reading his own take on the werewolf legend.