Part 1 of Richard Corben’s mini-epic, Rowlf.
The story is simple enough: Princess Maryara of the Kingdom of Canisland is kidnapped by demons. The king’s wizard Sortrum, attempts to transform Maryara’s loyal dog Rowlf into a man so he can rescue her, but the spell doesn’t quite work and he winds up as a wolfman.
Interestingly enough, I recently was flipping through Starting Point: 1979 to 1996, and I found out that Hayao Miyazaki, before he took to directing, tried to get the film rights to Rowlf. Richard Corben seems like an odd choice for a Miyazaki adaptation, and he does refer to the material as being potentially “unfamiliar and grotesque to Japanese audiences,” but seemed to think it could work well, seeing it as a modern fairytale of sorts. He especially saw that it could do well with American audiences and had the potential to surpass the appeal of Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.
Miyazaki lists the following as highlights:
1) Canisland, which resembles Medieval Europe.
2) The tanks and rayguns used by the demons.
3) Dramatic staging, including the desert (upon which Rowlf’s tanks casts long shadows), the pill-boxes and bunkers in the demon castle, etc.
4) The powerfully muscled demon leader, who fights with his bare hands and is so loathsomely evil that he seems impossible to kill.
5) Rowlf’s fabulous transformation from dog to man.
6) The heroine, Maryara. She has the appeal of a healthy young woman from the countryside.
7) Rowlf is unconditionally devoted to his mistress, Maryara, but audiences will be particularly inspired and impressed by his courage, as he becomes more self-aware, starts to learn, and eventually matures to the point where he can take on the demons.
For today’s young people—who feel over-managed, overprotected, and suffocated by society, or who find their choices increasingly limited and thus are increasingly neurotic—this story would be the ideal present.