The D23 Expo in recent years has almost taken over Comic-Con when it comes to massive reveals and notable first looks. As Disney continues to absorb more and more companies, the natural result is a sandbox that is more vast, and has much more opportunity for creativity. This year’s expo was no exception. Their animation departments (including Pixar) showed promise on a lot of new and original animated films…and “Inside Out 2.”. For live-action offerings, they showcased upcoming releases like “Hocus Pocus 2.” “Avatar: The Way of Water” and treated fans to our first look at Hallie Bailey’s Ariel in their 2023 remake of “The Little Mermaid”.
However, there’s no denying that the Marvel and Lucasfilm panels were the most anticipated, and easily the biggest moments of the whole weekend. For Lucasfilm we received our first glimpses at “The Mandalorian” season three, and the “The Clone Wars” anthology series “Tales of the Jedi.” For Marvel, we got the first trailer for “Secret Invasion” starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman and Cobie Smulders. We received some new info about series like “Daredevil: Born Again” and “Loki” season two. The long-awaited “Fantastic Four” film finally announced their director as well, that being “WandaVision” director Matt Shakman. However, the one Marvel reveal from the expo that could have bigger implications than any of the other announcements is the unveiling of a new Halloween special “Werewolf by Night”.
A far more obscure character than say Moon-Knight or She-Hulk, “Werewolf by Night” is based on the comic of the same name, with the character first appearing in “Marvel Spotlight #2” back in 1972. The trailer is clearly paying tribute to the classic Universal Monsters movies of the 1930s and 40s. More specifically, 1941’s “The Wolf-Man” starring Lon Chaney Jr. This time around though, the titular wolf is Jack Russell played by Gael Garcia Bernal. Russell looks to be taking part in some kind of hunt, where one of his fellow guests is a supposed “great evil,” but no one knows which one. The rest of the trailer gives us brief glimpses at the spooky mayhem that will unfold, from limbs being torn to the appearance of another Marvel monster in Man-Thing, all displayed in glorious black-and-white.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself, how can a one-off Halloween special be so important in the six-phase grand scheme of the MCU? Well, if proven successful, think of the potential that could come from doing more specials like this. If “Werewolf by Night” ends up being a hit, it will show the executives at Marvel that fans want to see more one-and-done tales from this universe. After all, it was one of the elements that made “What If…?” so entertaining. Without affecting the canon of the mainline MCU, these more out-there adventures are surprisingly easier to digest. Plus, just from the trailer released, we already have two new characters in the universe, two characters we never thought we would see in the MCU. Now think of all the obscure characters who could get some time in the spotlight thanks to specials similar to this one. On top of that, it could help flesh out established characters without having to stretch it out to six episodes. Remember when “WandaVision” first premiered and everyone online was clamoring for a Darcy/Jimmy Woo spin-off in the vein of “The X-Files”? While there might not be enough potential there for a whole series, this new special format could make these ideas a reality.
On top of that, this trailer also looks like a full commitment by the MCU to delve into the horror genre. Sure the special will definitely have action, and will certainly have jokes, but this trailer promises a more gothic and experimental outing. One scene in particular shows some real promise when the Werewolf by Night is tearing his way through a room full of what looks to be TVA agents from “Loki”. While the black-and-white hides much of the brutality, the blood splatter would lead one to assume this special will be a bit more mature than usual. Hopefully the show will match the bloody insanity of Wanda’s rampage against the Illuminati in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”.
“Werewolf by Night” will premiere right in time for Halloween as it starts streaming exclusively on Disney+ beginning Oct. 7.
By Adam Beam