Reporting on the release of the sadly short-lived 80s television series WEREWOLF on DVD (due out just in time for Halloween!) got me to thinking about the spin of the heroic werewolf. Not the sympathetic werewolf. They’re always sympathetic. I’m talking a story wherein the werewolf is a genuine good guy, a face (in wrestling terminology, a “face”, short for “babyface”, means simply the good guy). He may be constantly struggling to hold that line, sure, constantly tempted to give in to his bloodlust. Yet he manages to overcome it, to remain, in a relative sense, innocent. WEREWOLF was the first time I’d ever come across the concept, on film, second, on a technicality, to the Michael J. Fox movie TEEN WOLF. (This latter was a comedy, though, so does it count?) It’s been done plenty since then (lookin’ at you, Wolfcop!) but who did it first?
They explored the concept in the WEREWOLF BY NIGHT comicbook series, too. But I doubt the latter was the first time it had ever been done. Paul Naschy as Waldemar Daninsky comes to mind; Naschy’s werewolf sometimes played the face. The first occurrence of the concept probably appears in one of the medieval werewolf fantasies, like that of Saint Patrick and the friendly werewolves of Ossory. Tracing down the specific, very first occurrence would be difficult if not impossible, but I feel safe in saying it originated in the Middle Ages in Europe. Anyone aware of an earlier example, please send it in.