HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY FROM STEPHEN KING!
((THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS))
Deciding what image to use for this week’s blog post was rough. I dimly recall seeing Silver Bullet, the movie adaptation of Cycle of the Werewolf, years ago. When I viewed the trailer for Silver Bullet, I was thrilled to see that Gary Busey plays Uncle Al, young Marty has a rocket-powered wheelchair and the werewolf is played by a guy in a rubber suit. However, in honor of Valentine’s Day I decided to use an image from my vintage 1983 copy of Cycle of the Werewolf.
A publishing experiment/gimmick set in Tarker’s Mills, Maine, Cycle of the Werewolf is an illustrated novella consisting of twelve vignettes, one for each month of the year. Every month we learn about the weather in Tarker’s Mills, because what else do people in small towns have to talk about? We also learn who – if anyone – the Beast will kill. Yes, there’s a werewolf loose in Maine!
The deaths are vintage horror dreck, Stephen King style. Young Brady flies his kite too high, and is found headless and disemboweled. Constable Neary dies in his cruiser with a bottle of Busch beer nestled against his crotch. King tells us that Constable Neary is a Busch Man because such details make or break a story. Also, the Reverend Lowe has a nightmare/wet dream wherein he and everyone in his congregation transform into a werewolf. Gosh, I wonder who the werewolf could be?
Our hero is Marty Coslaw, a ten-year old in a wheelchair. Marty’s father says things like rootie-patootie and diddly-damn, which is a great way of identifying a person through dialogue. I myself don’t know any human being who speaks that way, but I’ve lived a sheltered life in New Jersey, so who knows? Marty’s Uncle Al should be locked up. Marty himself is a stone-cold killer.
Marty meets the werewolf on the Fourth of July, when he’s out shooting fireworks. Marty has fireworks because his Uncle Al gives them to him, telling his nephew to go ahead and set them off during the night of the full moon, when the killer has been rampaging. Marty shoots one of the werewolf’s eyes out with a firecracker, which proves those things are dangerous. Boy and Wolf Man meet again on New Year’s Eve, and this time Marty blows the werewolf’s brains out with a pair of silver bullets. Gee, I wonder who gave him the bullets?
Cycle of the Werewolf is pedestrian Stephen King. It’s not rock-bottom Stephen King, but it’s not good either. The art is one of the novella’s high points; comic book veteran Berni Wrightson draws a great werewolf. Mr. King and Mr. Wrightson also collaborated on the comic adaptation of Creepshow. I mention this because I believe Cycle of the Werewolf would have made a great graphic novel, but the publishing industry hadn’t perfected the format yet.
King addresses the biggest inconsistency of Cycle of the Werewolf in the afterword. Yes, the Master of Horror tells us, I know the moon cycles don’t match up. Deal with it. To be fair, this novella contains about a million other inconsistencies. My favorite is the werewolf’s eyes, which start out yellow and then turn green. Interestingly, Mr. Wrightson always draws the werewolf’s eyes as green. Logic and consistency aren’t this novella’s strong point. Neither is character development. Neither is the prose. Mr. King did his life-in-a-small-town shtick better in Salem’s Lot, and if you want to read about a monster terrorizing a small town try IT.
My favorite part of Cycle of the Werewolf is the art. I also liked the descriptive sequence of Marty hauling himself out of bed. That scene was well-done, because it required actual research on King’s part. One could view King’s werewolf as a metaphor for drug addiction; the Reverend sounds suspiciously like an addict as this novella lurches to a close, and at the time Mr. King was struggling with drug addiction. Who knows? Bottom line: if you want cheesy Z-budget horror, watch Silver Bullet. It’s way more entertaining.
6 Replies to “Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewoof, er Werewolf”
Great Post. I agree with your assessement of Cycle of a Werewolf. I think that because it was Stephen King, I expected more from the story. The fact is though, it was a rather mundane werewolf tale where nothing new or excited comes to light. The artwork was a treat though for sure!
You made a great point that Marty hauling himself out of bed was a compelling scenes and I think the reason for that is because it was believable. I can’t say the same about Marty and the fireworks portion. And some parts I thought were flat-out cheesy—the Valentine’s scenes for example—though that was my favorite as far as the artwork was concerned. But the woman things she is dreaming, and the she opens the window thinking it is a lover come to call—and she let’s the beast in!
Definitely a disappointing read. Not terrible. Not great. Just “meh.”
I think ‘meh’ best describes this novella! You are right, Marty would most likely hurt himself shooting off the fireworks unsupervised. Of course, Uncle Al tops that one by giving a ten-year old a loaded gun.
I enjoyed reading your post. There was a lot of information in it that I simply did not know about this story. I agree with you on Cycle of a Werewolf. There were many inconsistencies. I wonder if the eye change was more of a way to show a transition in the werewolf himself but just never got mentioned since no one was really around long enough to observe him. I think the artwork was awesome. It made the story bearable. The artwork could have been a story all it’s own. I have to agree that if this story had been done as a graphic novel it would have been much better.
King’s description of Marty getting out of bed was the most detailed section of the story. I really enjoyed reading something that was in depth. I agree he did have to his research on that. No one can just generalize how hard it is to do that if your legs don’t work.
I think that’s a great point about the eye change perhaps signaling a change in the werewolf. Unfortunately, King never tells us what the deal is . I really enjoyed the artwork, also!
I wonder why he bothered adding the afterword at all. I wonder if King got some sort of reader mail where someone gloated over his getting the moon cycles wrong and this is his response.
I definitely agree that the novella would have made a better graphic novel. Maybe the we could have seen more of the character development in an illustrative context, because we got very little of it here. I also noticed some of the inconsistencies in the illustrations, from the style – comic book to pulp novel covers – to the eye color of the werewolf – blue to yellow/green. Also, I don’t think the illustration of Rev. Low did the story any favors. The entire time I’d read it, I pictured Rev. Lowe as being a tall, stern looking man. The illustration on pg. 99 made him look downright derpy.
I bet King got tons of reader mail about that. I can understand changing up the moon cycles, but getting the eye color wrong is just unacceptable, especially since this is a release from a big publisher. Taking a closer look at the illustrations, I do see that the werewolf’s eyes aren’t colored consistently, which is also sloppy. And I agree that the Reverend doesn’t look sinister at all in that illustration.