Peter Von Brown || Interview with a werewolf

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

I’m not sure how old I’d been exactly, but like most little kids (at least back when I’d been one), I saw many of the Universal Horror franchise films.  Also, I had an activity book all about monsters.  Given that I have a penchant for the wild dog family in general, it had not been a leap to gravitate toward werewolves.

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

Yes and no.  Obviously shapeshifting is integral to the werewolf mythos, so it’s impossible to not enjoy this aspect.  I do think it’s excellent that each culture/location used their own ferocious beasts.  I particularly like were-tigers and the not-so-ferocious were-foxes of Japan.  But to say it’s the same love as for werewolves specifically would be inaccurate.

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

Ironically I am not really a dog person. I prefer cats.  But as I already mentioned, when it comes to wild dogs, I just love them.  For me, there’s something majestic about untamed canines.  That affinity must give me a love of werewolves.  The other aspect is the ability to be something else.   Every kid imagines they’re a character other than themselves at least once.  And who hasn’t fantasized about going ballistic on those who deserve it?  I think the werewolf embodies the primal needs of humans that we suppress, you know, that whole ball of wax.  Heh – it might sound like I’m raging inside, which not true.  I just hold on to my child-like dreams, which is what allows me to create what I do.

Do you prefer a gory werewolf tale or a more modernised, romanticised version?

Neither.  This completely depends on the tale.  As long as there are werewolves, and the story is well told.

What does the ideal werewolf look like in your opinion?

I prefer a humanoid wolf.  In other words, for me, they need to have a snout.  And ears away from normal human placement.  And a tail.  A werewolf in my mind is supposed to be the “middle ground” between beast and person.  Thus, becoming a full wolf defeats the purpose, as does getting a bit of hair, claws and a little black dog nose.

Give some cinematic examples of your ideal werewolf.

For the better part of my life, no werewolf ever held a candle to those depicted in the original The Howling.  I dare saw it shaped my view of them, and I use them as a model.  That said, however, the werewolves in Van Helsing are a masterpiece.  I also particularly liked the look of the one in theGoosebumps movie.  (Admittedly I’ve only seen the clips.)

What should a werewolf NOT look like in your opinion?

I feel almost bad saying this… but like the Universal version.  As strong as my memories are, and as important and iconic as that version is and will always be, truth is I just don’t like it.  As I said in the previous corresponding question, I think of literal wolf people, not some guy who’s got a bunch of extra fur attached.  This isn’t to say I can’t or won’t enjoy werewolves of this type.  A guilty pleasure is the Michael J. Fox movie Teen Wolf which follows the Universal model with a LOT more fur.  But I’ll spend the whole movie(s) wishing for snouts and tails and…

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

The Wolf Man, as mentioned above.  I’ll get in trouble for this – but know that I adore the movie, and the incomparable transformation sequence, just not the actual final werewolf depiction: An American Werewolf in London.  Werewolf of Washington  (Good movie though!),  Silver Bullet (Sorry, this is a were-bear.)  Anything that doesn’t allow them to be actual hybrids.

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

I suppose I’d have to say The Howling as it is the only one I can think of that I’ve read.  Probably shameful, yes.  For me, werewolves are visual.  This is not to say that one can’t be written to perfection and make me cringe.  It’s just that almost every aspect of werewolves is enhanced by actually seeing them.  And as much as I might be able to see an author’s werewolf shenanigans in my mind’s eye, I still feel like something is missing.  Same as how I never understood a novel of a famed superhero.  Oh, sure, I get that one can delve deeper in the psyches of characters or whatnot.  But there’s something about the transferring of a primarily visual character into words that just doesn’t feel right to me.  Ernest Hemmingway could have written an accurate, sensual rendition of the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile and the curious dual landscapes.  But that isn’t the point of, or how to view, the da Vinci painting.  And no, I do not say so based solely on transformation scenes.  That’s a large part of it, but it’s an icing rather than the cake.  I’m also aware that prior to cinema, folks DID rely on their imaginations and tales only.  Then again, they had to contend with actual wolves and dense dark woods in yesteryears so it had been a bit more palatable.  Perhaps there should be a twist or catch to writing about werewolves.  Such as The Taming of the Werewolf by Sylvia Shults.  Shults has reimagined Shakespeare’s famed “bitch” of a bride quite literally.  It’s Taming of the Shrew, of course, and it’s delightful.  Without a witty shtick, though, I prefer to see werewolves.

Back to cinema, what is your favourite werewolf film?

Can you guess?  The original The Howling.  I saw it on video and it’s safe to say it solidified my love of the werewolf.

Do you have any werewolf related songs to recommend?

Besides the ubiquitous Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon, nothing springs to mind.  I’ve also been told it’s not really about werewolves but some sort of gigolo predatory men.  But I still want and think of it as being about both playful and naughty lupine-men.

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

I think in general it’s gotten better, as we seem to have moved away from the “add fur to the face” mentality.  Both boredom with it and advances in special effects have allowed us to make more “wolfy” werewolves.  As with any fantasy element brought to a screen, I think using all CGI is a mistake, as is solely using practical effects.  Use what works best in each situation, and a hybrid of the two if possible.  In terms of literature, going only skin deep it would seem they’re a lot more teen romance oriented.  An angsty, sexy werewolf relationship isn’t really my cup of tea, unless it’s done with and for humor.

Tell me something that makes the werewolves in your works unique, what makes them special?

Mine are gentle, kind and peace-loving.  Most of the time.  I always had this notion that, if there were werewolves, there’s bound to be some who aren’t snarling menaces.  I picture them liking, even preferring, the wolf form.  And that they like to hang out together AS wolves.  This isn’t to say they won’t bare claw and fang if push came to shove.  But a werewolf just trying to have a slice of pizza is something I never could shake.

What are you other passions? Vampires, zombies? Body horror? Etc etc.

I am sick to death of vampires.  Unfortunately, they will not die.  I have never understood the attraction to zombies – they bore me to wanting vampires instead.  I don’t even like the sound of ‘body horror’.  I prefer ghosts and demons from the realm of paranormal.

Tell us about your most recent werewolf related work.

A webcomic called Wolverton, the town were the werewolves live and work together.  They’re werewolves who prefer their wolf form, and stay in it as much as possible.  It centers around Talbot, the new wolf in town and his day to day adventures.  It’s a slice of life sort of comic, but it just happens to be about werewolves and a very special town instead.

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

I honestly struggle with picking a favorite!  It sounds cliché, but I love them all for different reasons. If I had a werewolf’s jaws ready to snap at me, I guess I’d have to say Talbot, since he’s the one who came first for what developed into the webcomic.

Do you have any big upcoming plans relating to werewolves?

Wolverton is just getting going, so my plan right now is to keep drawing it.  It’s not the sort of comic that has an endpoint.  I’ve got story upon story upon story to tell with these characters, and it’s enough (and enjoyable!) keeping up with that.  I do, however, write novels as well.  Most recently I’ve been tinkering with a ghost story – in reverse.

Where will you be available to meet fans in the near future, if you are doing any outings or signings?

As I said, Wolverton is pretty new, so I don’t think any appearances of that sort are warranted or forthcoming anytime soon.

What do you think of the furry movement and how it has affected the way people perceive werewolves?

I have to admit what comes to mind is a Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit about men who want to be mice and dress as them at ‘Cheese Parties’.  I think the furry movement is strange, but only from the point of view that any fetish would seem strange to one outside of it.  I’m a live and let live kind of guy, as reflected in Wolverton.  Whatever floats a boat for folks.  In terms of how it has affected werewolf perception, I don’t necessarily think it has had a major influence.  If the furry community used wolves exclusively perhaps a correlation could be infurred – er, inferred.  Werewolves have enough of their own mythos and visibility that I can’t see the movement having a particularly averse nor positive impact.

Vampires and zombies have both had some serious popularity in the last few years; what do you think needs to happen to give werewolves that same boost? (Because whatever it is we need to make it happen!)

I’m of two minds here.  Yes, I am all for more werewolves in this seemingly endless sea of vampires and zombies.  We need werewolves if only for a little variety.  However, I wouldn’t like to see them become an eye-roller unto themselves.  What werewolf fan would ever want to hear (or say) “ANOTHER werewolf story?!?”   I don’t actually think werewolves are less prevalent, they just haven’t reach over-saturation, and I wouldn’t want them to do so.  It could also be they’re not as in view because those people who like to fantasize about the suave, debonair and sexy vampires are put off by the idea of thinking of a wolf as suave, debonair and sexy on account of it being too akin to bestiality.  I don’t know for sure, of course.  But I do know that, yes, we COULD use more werewolves.  As long as we don’t overrun the pack.

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