From: The Incredible Hulk #162 (April 1973)
Classification: A cursed, man-eating humanoid from Canada.
Based on an ancient Algonquian myth, the Wendigo first appeared in Marvel Comic’s “The Incredible Hulk” in 1973. Standing at close to 10 feet tall and able to lift 90-plus tons, the Wendigo was a formidable opponent for the Hulk.
In the original myths of the Ojibwe and Saulteaux, the Cree, the Naskapi, and the Innu people, the Wendigo is a gaunt being with pale white skin pulled tightly around its skeleton to the point where the bones threatened to protrude through the skin. Its eyes were dark and sunk into its skull and its mouth was a large gnashing maw of sharp teeth. In some myths the Wendigo is even portrayed with the skull of a deer with antlers.
Marvel’s version is a far cry from the original Algonquian myth but both creatures have one trait in common, a taste for human flesh.
Just like the original tale from Native Canadians, Marvel’s Wendigo is a creature born from a curse, a curse one receives when they eat human flesh. The boundaries of this curse seem to only extend to the confines of Canada, even though cannibalism is frowned upon almost everywhere else (I hope).
The original Wendigo introduced in “The Incredible Hulk #162 was once a man named Paul Cartier. Cartier along with friends , Georges Baptiste and Henri Cluzot, were out hunting in the Canadian North Woods when wolves attacked them. Cluzot was mortally wounded, and his friends took him inside a cave for shelter. As the men began to starve, Cluzot died. Cartier, on the verge of insanity, resorted to eating the dead man’s flesh. In doing so, he fell victim to the curse that transformed him into the Wendigo.
After being magically transformed in the rampaging Wendigo, Cartier still maintain a bit of who he was and had remorse for what he did. But after his first battle with the Hulk, Cartier lost all sense of who he once was. He desire for human flesh caused him to attack anyone unlucky enough to cross his path.
Cartier’s story came to an end a year later in the infamous “The Incredible Hulk #181” In this issue the Hulk battled both the Wendigo and Wolverine, while Cartier’s sister tried to remove the curse on her brother. She worked along side Cartier’s friend Georges Baptiste and the original aim of their plan was to remove the curse from Cartier and place it on The Hulk. Once they discovered that Hulk was also a man dealing with a “curse” of his own and Baptiste couldn’t go through with it. Baptiste decided to take on the curse himself to save his friend and completed the ritual needed to transfer the curse.
Baptiste’s Wendigo rampaged across the Canadian wilderness unchecked. He would venture into a wilderness town and abduct people in the night to feed on them. The towns people soon hatched a plan to destroy the monster. They lured the Wendigo into the town’s church and set it ablaze. Trapped inside the creature was injured by the fire. The screams that came out of the burning building were not that of a monster but the cries of a man in pain. As the creature fled into the woods the towns people felt sorry for him as they realized he was just a victim of the curse.
Later the Wendigo appeared in Hudson Bay. There he made a lair that he would take his victims too before eating them. After a park ranger and his family were attacked and kidnapped, Alpha Flight was called in to stop the monster. By chance, Wolverine and Nightcrawler traveled to Canada to make amends with Alpha Flight after their battle a few issues before hand. The two teams teamed up and fought the Wendigo. After saving the remaining members of the kidnapped family and stopping the monster, Alpha Flight member Shaman reversed the curse and turned Georges Baptiste back into a man. He was than arrested for his crimes.
Since than there have been other encounters with beings called Wendigo. One of my favorites was in the Spider-Man series by Todd McFarland that had the Wendigo as a peaceful creature that was blamed for the crimes of a serial killer. This story arc also starred Wolverine.
In more recent years we have seen Wendigo with horns, in packs, and under control by government agencies. I can’t report on these incarnations or more importantly if I could comment on those I would still focus on the first Wendigo stories as they were my favorites.
In the future I will cover the true Wendigo from Algonquian myth, so stay tuned.
Oh, and I saw this mash-up cover someone did. I thought it was such a great idea I almost thought it was real.
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