Red Wolf #7 (1973)

When you talk about obscure ’70s Marvel heroes, the Red Wolf pretty definitely fits the bill. From his first unmemorable appearance in some obscure issue of Avengers though his own desultory solo series, the Red Wolf was as second-rate as second-rate can be. He had an ugly costume, a series that never really took off, and just no real charisma to boot. He did have a pet wolf who hung out with him – no mean feat in 1970s New York – but aside from his pal Lobo, the Red Wolf was pretty much alone in the world.
Actually, the first six issues of Red Wolf’s series aren’t too awful. They’re western comics featuring the Wolf as a half-Indian, half-white man torn between two worlds and trying to save both. The character at least fit his setting and seemed like a natural fit. Okay, it’s awfully far-fetched for a hero to have a wolf for a pet, but at least in the old west it kind of fit.
Apparently sales sucked, though, because with this issue Red Wolf was brought to the 1970s. You could tell because the cover had the lurid phrase Now! Stuck in the Holocaust of Today! on it, and also because the logo changed from something that looked modern into the odd old-fashioned logo you see in the attached pic. It almost seems like the modern logo was used for the old west stories and the old west logo was used for the modern stories. But who am I to second guess the obscure mysteries of ’70s Marvel, where everything seemed to be done on a whim. New series, old series, changes in direction, reprints, back-ups, the line really seemed adrift for a few years there, as if Roy Thomas was desperately searching for the next big thing. I can’t imagine who Thomas thought that the Red freakin’ Wolf would be the next big thing, but what the hell, right? At the very least it could have been a solid western strip.
But when the comic moved to the Holocaust of today (can there be a more stupid and inappropriate phrase for a damn super-hero comic?), everything really fell apart. There’s no real explanation of why the Red Wolf is walking around today. I guess the original Red Wolf was his ancestor, but there’s no explanation for why the new guy dresses up in almost the same costume or where he gets his pet wolf. Nor is there an explanation for why he hangs around on busy streets in New York with no shirt on (and no nipples on his chest), wearing Native American pants, moccosins, and a wolf’s head as a mask.
Let me say that again: a wolf’s head as a mask.
Notice in the link I posted above that the mask is more of a head covering, somewhat logically something a guy might wear in the desert to keep the sun off his head or to stay warm. But in 1970s New York, the Wolf’s descendent had changed the head covering to be a real mask. You have to wonder what he was thinking. And if it was real fur, and not fake fur, if his girlfriend wore the rest of the hide as a coat when the two of them went to the opera.
In this issue, the Red Wolf saves a girl from being assaulted. She invites him into her apartment and the two find out that their ancestors knew each other. What an amazing coincidence! A crazy man and a beautiful girl meet in a city of eight million people and have a deep connection. Through circumstances too dull to explain, the Wolf and the girl, Rhonda, end up flying out to the desert southwest (the Red Wolf wears his full costume on the plane flight, apparently there were no "no shirts no shoes no service" rules in place in airlines at the time). They land and Rhonda finds her ancestors’ gold, which she promises to use to fight pollution. (no lie) Rhonda is noble, so not only does Red Wolf not try to sleep with her, he also won’t take any gold. In the end, Rhonda leaves and Red Wolf stays behind in the desert, retracing his roots. I guess even a rich Rhonda couldn’t afford more than one round-trip airfare.
This book was written by Gardner Fox and illustrated  by Syd Shores, two old pros who had churned out dozens if not hundreds of mediocre comics in their careers. I was actually surprised to see that Fox had written this comic. He was an old pro pushed out after decades of work at DC. Fox’s Marvel work was generally quite rotten, to be honest. He always seemed out of touch both with the style of the times and with Marvel’s particular style. This odd comic seems a clear example of that. Syd Shores’s art is completely professional and polished. It’s neither great nor terrible, just a mediocre art job as part of a mediocre series.
I love reading these obscure series. I don’t remember ever seeing any issues of Red Wolf at local cons, so I was glad to stumble over these comics cheap.

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