Monday, August 18, 2014

Werewolves

Short version: yeah, they're real, just like vampires.

Some junior villains felt like I pissed in their Wheaties by talking about chi powers like they aren't a real thing. I'll throw those guys a bone and talk about something that is legitimate - even if it's not what they expected. Most of what I know about werewolves comes from two sources. The first is the supervillain Wolf 359, who is one. The second is the genetic testing of the remains of a guy named Jack Gamble, buried in Providence.

Interview With a Werewolf

First, here's Wolf 359's take on lycanthropy:
Lycanthropy is the condition wherein a human becomes a wolf - or a hybrid between man and wolf. This section of the Transhuman Capability Catalog will be revised in the next edition, but currently lycanthropy is in under TCC T - adoption of animal traits. Other forms of shape-shifting exist under the blanket term "therianthropy". It is surmised that the most common animal observed is the wolf, due to the wolf's proximity to early human settlements, the fear of the wolf by the most widespread members of then-contemporary culture (farmers, ranchers, and woodsmen), and the relative merits of the wolf form versus others.
Therianthropes are Stage 3 or higher human beings. TCC T forensics indicate that animal attack is a factor in adoption of this power. The body adapts to the attacker's physical characteristics and activates savage instincts suitable for an immediate counterattack. A fascinating, if unverified, data point is that every Stage 2 who has been attacked by a therianthrope became one as well. Could this attack vector override the normal Hashmal process of power selection?
Historical Werewolves

Jack Gamble had been locked away in Rhode Island after accusations of witchcraft, but he died before the case could be heard by a judge. Unlike Salem, there wasn't a huge witch scare, so it didn't get much press. But there was enough evidence of interest that a parabiologist named Steve Hodgson received permission from the town of Providence to excavate Gamble's grave. He published his findings, which suggested that Gamble's body had both human and lupine genes. Though actual evidence of super-potential will have long since decayed, he had enough for a hypothesis.

Essentially, Hodgson speculated that Gamble was a super, and that his power let him change his body's gene expression. Only about 9% of all human DNA has meaningful gene sequences, allowing for two or three other alternate forms and the possibility of hybridization between them. Hodgson's hypothesis was later tested on DNA taken from Wolf 359, and accepted for inclusion in the TCC.

How did Jack Gamble become a werewolf? In legend, you'll find stories like people being given a magic belt by the devil. A werewolf's bite is reputed to be contagious as well. Like vampires, it's said that the victim of a werewolf attack can become a werewolf. In practice, we're not sure of the reality of this - Wolf 359 either can't or won't create more werewolves, and he's not talking about the process. I couldn't get anything else about it from him, even speculation.

The Beast of GĂ©vaudan, in France, is widely considered to be an attack by regular wolves, not actual werewolves.

The Transformation

Do you become a monster on the full moon? Apparently not. Hodgson interviewed folklorists and historians, who suggested that peasant superstition attributed occult significance to the full moon. Anything that would make someone fearful - the night, the full moon, Friday the 13th, having your ex-wife meet your mistress - would tend to trigger the transformation.

The transformation is apparently physically painful - the super's body changes its default gene expression to either full wolf or hybrid man-wolf, and then triggers a rapid regeneration cycle.

Werewolves may or may not retain their full consciousness. Because the genes being expressed can include those affecting the glands, a human brain can be overwhelmed with foreign neurochemistry.

Vulnerabilities

Pseudaconitine, the toxin which is derived from Aconitum or "wolfsbane", is a poison no matter who gets it. That said, it apparently interacts with the receptors present in a werewolf's body and not only reverts their hybrid transformation in large doses, but also interferes with the normal super's healing factor. It's been used successfully to hunt and trap Wolf 359.

Despite high hopes from Pyrepower and other young villains, apparently there is not a secret war going on between vampires and werewolves. Pyrepower also assures me that she's a member of Team Edward.