The last decade has seen the Werewolf come second in mythic-creature-pop-culture after the Vampire (thanks Twilight), but “How To Be A Werewolf” definitely gives them a run for their money. This telling of the werewolf is deep, full of monochromatic beauty that captures moments of emotional upheaval, while also telegraphing serious issues surrounding anxiety and abuse.
Malaya Walters is 25 (already a treat that we aren’t starting with a stereotypical 16 year old). She has been a Werewolf for 20 years, a Werewolf without a wolfpack. She has her family, her work as a barista, but that has pretty much been it. There hasn’t been anyone to show her the ropes, until a weird customer comes sniffing around. Literally sniffing. Thus begins her sort-of-lessons on “How To Be A Werewolf”.
What follows from then is far from the usual broody teenage werewolf trope. Instead, we are introduced to an established were-world of politics, dayjobs for supernatural characters, awkward attempts at seeming intimidating (from both the heroes and the ‘villains’), multiple flashback sequences to when everyone looked young and idealistic, and a lot of adorable humour. There are even some pretty cool fight sequences from time to time. Although most of the fights are 90% lunging at each other. They are wolves after all.
This webcomic ticks so many boxes – technically, emotionally, artistically, responsibly. Each page is cohesively organised for a smooth unjarring flow, and has moved the story along further in 2 years than some others have in 4. Shawn Lenore’s writing passes both the Bechdel and DuVernay tests for racial and feminine inclusivity, while also having various LGBT characters amongst the cast. She also plans to steer away from a main character romance trap in which only coupled people are happy people – instead focussing on Malaya’s personal growth and fulfilment as an individual. There are complex backstories behind every decision made – good and bad – showcasing a reality of grey. There are no simple ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in this comic, just people trying to live by whatever means possible. ‘Evil’ isn’t really a thing in HTBAW… yet…
What’s more, Ms Lenore’s attention to detail is a treat for obsessive senses. At one point, Elias changes out of his ripped clothing. Most creators would simply leave non-plot-related details undrawn (time and effort saving is understandable); but not this creator. We get to see the process realistically, rather than witness a magical clothes disappearance. These are the details that speak to Shawn’s respect for staging, worldbuilding and her audience. Particularly her audience, as she is frequently seen breaking the 4th wall interacting in the comments section of the site. If the story could finally steer into an actual full werewolf lesson, that would make everything perfect.
The comic updates every Tuesday and Wednesday. Head on over to HowToBeAWerewolf.com to check it out. Once you’re done binge reading HTBAW, you can vote for the comic on TopWebComics to get sneak peeks such as this one: