Anthony “Bitzawolf” Pepe || Interview With a Werewolf

What got you into werewolves and how old were you when you discovered them?

Phew, this is hard to answer with certainty. I’ve always been really interested in wolves and werewolves since I was at least 10 or 11. I can’t recall one single notable piece of work or moment that introduced me to werewolves. Maybe it was just a seed planted from those werewolf-based nursery rhymes that started my interest. Though I’ve always enjoyed monster characters in video games, and I bet that had a bigger solidifying influence. Creatures like the Vortigaunt in Half-Life and Gen Mo’Kai in Unreal Tournament.

 

 Do you share the same love of other types of shapeshifters?

Oh Definitely! I really find it interesting how shapeshifters are present in stories from so many different cultural backgrounds. Sometimes they’re wolves, sometimes coyotes, sometimes bears, foxes, or monsters! Though werewolves are closer to my heart because I just love the lupine form, but the power to shapeshift will always interest me. Seeing Nightcrawler and Mystique in the X-Men films was the first notable experience I had with shapeshifters being more than just human-animal hybrids or rampaging monsters. They had complex emotions and thoughts about their lives that I could relate to and used their shapeshifting abilities in ways that exemplified the struggle. Sure, they could change how they look, but what left an impression on me was that they needed to accept how they looked in their natural state and they contended with what it means to their identity when you can literally look like anything. On a related note, I’m very excited to see Wolfsbane and I hope her character is done well!

 

What do you think it is that attracts you to werewolves?

I grew up with a lot of trouble based on how I looked due to visible medical issues out of my control. I sided more with werewolves, shapeshifters, and monsters because they too didn’t fit the human society mold. Now as I try to refine parts of myself and determine who I want to be, I see a lot of these same struggles in werewolves. They can try to be human, but there’s always their inner-beast lurking below. Their wild side itching to get out. That’s something I will always relate to. Additionally, changing body shapes to match your personality, feelings, or impressions of how you see yourself is so powerful and self-affirming.

 

Do you prefer a gory werewolf tale or a more serene, nature loving version?

I lean towards nature loving versions. I wish there were more mainstream nature loving werewolf media, but I’m guessing most people just think of werewolves as mean vicious monsters. The biggest problem I have with gory werewolf tales is how it encourages ideas of wolves being mean, scary, threatening animals while instead they’re typically afraid of humans. This is an issue because I’m a proponent of returning wolves back to their original habitat and ending hunts on them. On the other hand, horror is a fun topic I’ve been exploring more lately and there’s certainly entertainment to get out of letting werewolves go nuts like rabid beasts. It’s satisfying to read or watch in gory detail how a werewolf will maul their enemies.

 

 What does the ideal werewolf look like in your opinion? Give some Cinematic examples if you have any.

I know it’s a common guilty favorite in the werewolf community, but the werewolves in Van Helsing look the best in my opinion. I love how clear the canine features come through and the perfectly just-brushed look of the fur. It’s quite impressive for CGI work! Even the supporting grey werewolf in the movie looks cool. However, to prove I have at least some decent tastes I will say Dog Soldiers had the second best looking werewolves. They looked more realistic with the matted, dirty fur and monstrous proportions.

 

What should a werewolf NOT look like in your opinion?

That’s an easy question! I’m not a fan of the humanoid variants (I can hear the readers now, “wow. What a surprise, after saying Van Helsing is your favorite.”) I dislike body forms similar to the classic Wolfman and to an extent the Underworld series; although that series is lacking for many other reasons. I feel ambivalent towards the werewolf from 2005’s Cursed who more resembles a werebear. If your werewolf is modeled after a Neanderthal with some extra long hairs and a funny looking, smooshed nose, then you won’t be grabbing my attention.

 

Give a cinematic example of a werewolf that didn’t quite meet your expectations.

We’ve already covered werewolf looks, so I’m going to dive into defining thematically disappointing werewolves. The first that comes to mind is 2005’s Cursed. The whole quest of having to kill the original werewolf (then having that body bizarrely burst into flames at the end) is so overdone by now. It ties into the concept of an alpha-wolf (which isn’t a real thing) and it’s supporting a toxic masculine culture. I’m just so tired of that theme in werewolf movies. The one good part of Cursed was how the protagonists handle little bursts of lycanthropy throughout the story even if they never fully transform. I think that’s an interesting concept that isn’t frequently explored. It allows breathing room for the character to develop and show us how they’re responding to their new form. I love lycanthropic stories that tie in mental changes and challenges to the physical ones as that’s a theme I can relate to very closely.

 

Stepping away from the cinematic side of things, what is your favourite werewolf novel and why?

Thankfully I’m a bit more well versed when it comes to werewolf novels. I love book stores and always peruse the horror section for new werewolf entries. Over time I’ve added a few to my permanent collection and have given away others that didn’t impress me.

My favorite novel so far is Wolfbreed by S.A. Swann. It features a female werewolf protagonist who overcomes a severely traumatic experience and serves as the hero of the story. What I like the most about this novel is how it focuses on the werewolf being a fully rounded character with complicated emotions and problems outside of being a very, very, angry beast when the time calls for it. I highly recommend it, although be aware of a content warning for sexual abuse.

Some runners-up would be The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice and Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavan. The Wolf Gift has some great world building but is otherwise a kind of typical superhero-werewolf story. Werewolf Cop gets mentioned for its good storytelling and displaying the struggle the protagonist has with becoming a werewolf (although that book has some fair criticisms aimed at it for being misogynistic).

Lastly, an honorable mention to Red Moon by Benjamin Percy. I loved the world they built – werewolves living openly among humanity (although they’re medicated to prevent transformations) and it featured interesting subplots with corrupt politicians and a rebel werewolf group. The author even developed a unique way to explain the werewolf contagion! However, I dropped the book about halfway through because the main characters didn’t feel compelling or interesting, which is a shame for such an interesting world.

 

Back to cinema, what is your favourite werewolf film?

Dog Soldiers is certainly my favorite movie. It features aesthetically pretty werewolves with a touch of monstrous-ness, the story is engaging, and overall it feels well produced. Dog Soldiers is an iconic werewolf movie and an absolute must-watch. Spoilers ahead – I especially like the twist ending where the woman who appears to be the soldiers’ saviors instead turns out to be the leader of the werewolves and this entire experience has only been a fun game. They’re just toying with their food! I love that kind of good writing where an honest twist catches you off guard and changes the dynamic of the whole movie.

 

Do you have any werewolf related songs to recommend?

I love music, but I don’t have any unique favorite jams that are werewolf related. I’m a big fan of ambient and instrumental music so how about I offer general spooky tunes to fit that werewolf ambiance?

Carpenter Brut is a recent discovery, but their Escape from Midwich Valley is high energy and spooky! I recommend their entire discography.

Naturally I have to bump my brother who’s a musician. I recommend Music for Full Moon (https://soundcloud.com/harryiv/music-for-full-moon

 or Music for Lahna (https://soundcloud.com/harryiv/music-for-lahna

. Both pure instrumental and forest/werewolf inducing.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a wide variety of mostly popular music that focuses on werewolves, take a listen to this neat community-built werewolf playlist – http://www.mood.gg/choosechamp?championname=Warwick

 

Do you have a particular favorite werewolf artist, what is it about their art that you love?

I honestly could not pick a single favorite werewolf artist. I just love the werewolf art community as a whole in any medium – writers or visual work. Everyone brings a unique, interesting take but none of them stand out as far above the others. Fun folk like JD, Howlitzer, Lauren (HamsterToybox), Lycanthropeful, Growlbeast, WolfskullJack, Werewolf_V, Lew (Evil Viergacht), I could go on. I like all styles and interpretations.

I love JD’s story telling and personality-filled characters. Howlitzer’s interesting takes on the emotional impacts of a shape-shifter. Lauren’s iconic style and comics. GrowlBeast’s extra fluffy wolves. WolfskullJack’s intense attention to detail and themes on horror.

 

What do you think of the way representation of werewolves has changed over the years? (In both literature and cinema.)

Lately, the changes in representation have been good and exciting! Switching from only monstrous takes to romantic stories and family-friendly stories (like many animated ones lately) is not one I strictly want but it’s exciting nonetheless. I’m hoping this will open the doors toward more serious content that explores werewolves as an entire social being instead of just a scary creeper.

 

Tell me something that makes the werewolves in your works unique. What makes them special?

This is a difficult question to answer because I’m very new to making werewolf art, only about 5 months in since I’ve seriously made efforts towards it. What I can say is that I work in 3D art, which is fairly unique. I use two different styles – a physically based version (more realistic) and a comic style with strong lines and cell shading.

What I want to work my art towards is what makes me smile and happy: monstrous werewolf bodies showcasing a wide variety of emotions not just snarly and angry (though those are very fun to make). I’d like to focus on placing werewolves into peaceful scenes like in forests or mountains. Living out there as wild creatures might, and I’ll take inspiration from my studies on wolf behaviors.

 

 What are you other passions within the horror genre or out of it?

Within the genre, I don’t have too many related passions. I do love a good tall-tale or creepy story. Usually folk tales or modern ghost stories. Stories you want to believe are true and give you a good fright, but you know they likely aren’t.

Outside of the genre I’m a big fan of video games, game theory, and computer graphics. You’ll also often find me exploring the wilderness nearby – hiking through mountains and forests with the occasional camping adventure.

 

Tell me about your most recent werewolf related work.

My latest piece is for the upcoming Werewolf Versus issue, which unfortunately means I can’t share it yet (additionally unfortunate since it’s my best work yet)!

My most recent public work was back in January for the relatively popular WerewolfWednesday hashtag on Twitter! I also did some work playing around with glowing eyes back in February.

The glowing eyes are the result of a study on some new 3D techniques. The trick is used to create liquid and smoke simulations, which has a lot of potential for creating interesting content that I haven’t seen in the werewolf art community yet!

 

 Who is your favourite character within your own work and why?

Surprisingly I don’t have any established characters yet! It’s an unfortunate circumstance of focusing on improving my artwork before getting into any world-building. I have written short little stories depicting forest-dwelling werewolves who live solitary lives with their significant others in cabins. It was a cute little romantic piece and I’ll always have a soft spot for those two.

Lately, I’d have to say I’m most happy with my female werewolf, but that’s only because she’s the most well-done werewolf so far.

 

Do you have any big upcoming plans relating to werewolves? Any new works on the way?

Yes! This is looking to be a very exciting 2018! I’ve decided on a career goal – changing from general software programming to a technical artist. They’re the folks who create visual effects in videogames which can include anything from 3D models, animating, or software that draws the visuals on screen! This means I’ll be pushing to improve my 3D work a lot this year, and if I’m making art then why not werewolves?

Also be on the lookout for my first commercial videogame release – Hyperwolf. It’s a platformer-runner to show off all my visual effects skills. Checkout https://bitzawolf.com/games/hyperwolf

 for updates (planned release is Fall 2018).

Lastly, there are plans in the works to run a werewolf/monster-based Videogame Jam this October! Videogame jams are a fun way to make tiny little games, but surprisingly there haven’t been any game jams centered around monsters as protagonists. We’re always killing the monsters in videogames, so I thought it’d be nice to push ourselves as game developers to see things the other way around. Plus, it’ll help get my name out there in the game industry.

 

 

Will you be available to meet other werewolf lover and fans in the near future, are you doing any outings or signings, or attending any conventions?

Due to my living situation I can’t travel around at this time, so I won’t be at any werewolf or werewolf-related outings.

I do attend PAX Prime regularly, and PAX Dev (videogame conventions). Recently, Anthro Northwest came into being which is a local furry con, but that scene isn’t quite for me.

 

Do you have any places online where other werewolf fans can contact you to discuss your work or anything lycanthropy related?

Yes!

I’m most active on Twitter and will happily respond to any comments, feedback, or questions there – @Bitzawolf

I have a Tumblr which is mostly just a place to host my art – https://bitzawolf.tumblr.com/

Lastly, my personal site is a good go-to for all of my projects including videogames – https://bitzawolf.com/

 

Vampires and zombies have both become seriously popular within the horror genre in movies, do you think that as technology continues to improve werewolves will eventually reach the same kind of status? 

Definitely! People love wolves, whether out of fear or admiration. Wolf imagery is everywhere and instantly recognizable, so when it comes to monster movies werewolves are no doubt a popular choice. As our favorite furred frights of the night become cheaper and easier to create for films they will undoubtedly become just as famous!

 

 

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