Publication Date: 9th Jun 2022
Written By: Monolith.


In the Canadian wilderness, the Curse of the North Woods hangs over all who enter. The curse says that, whenever man eats the flesh of man, they will be condemned to become a ravenous, cannibalistic woodbeast known as the Wendigo. They will live out their days in this immortal creature’s form unless the curse is removed or another person triggers the curse and takes the form of the Wendigo in their place. Those touched by the curse sometimes retain their intelligence for a short period after the transformation, able to telepathically communicate with others until they are subsumed into the Wendigo’s feral mind. In the past, it appeared as if the Wendigo curse itself has its own memories. For example, newly turned Wendigo seem to recognize Wolverine from past encounters, even if their host would not. Sources also vary over whether the Wendigo can spawn in the northern woods on American soil, or if they can leave Canada and hunt southwards into America after transforming.

The origin of the Wendigo curse is vague. Tanaraq, one of the Great Beasts who opposed the Inua Northern Gods, claimed responsibility for forging the enchantment placed over the lands of Canada. [Amazing X-Men (2nd series) #11] At other times, the Northern Gods themselves have been attributed to the curse, casting it as a mechanism designed to actively discourage cannibalism on their lands. [Wolverine (2nd series) #170] Is an evil god claiming credit for the work of others, or are “noble” gods rewriting history for the greater good? Who can say? Indeed, the Wendigo seems to be far older than Canada itself. In 1,000,000 B.C., the first known Wendigo was a caveman. More intelligent than other proto-humans of the era, he slaughtered his tribe to feed his appetites and moved from cave to cave, eating his fill. This Wendigo fully controlled his transformations and did not lose his intelligence when changing, raising questions over whether he was truly “cursed.” [Avengers (7th series) #7] Perhaps this “proto-Wendigo” was merely the template upon which the Curse of the North Woods originated. Beings such as Ghost Rider and Valkyrie have, in the past, become “living spells” that could be cast upon a host by whomever controlled their souls.

The legend of the Wendigo is an open secret in Canada, accepted by some, dismissed by others, rendered folklore and myth by those who have never seen it. The Weapon X Program lured a Wendigo into Experiment X’s training grounds to test Logan’s Adamantium against a true threat. [Wolverine: Black, White & Blood #1] The first known Wendigo manifestation in the modern era came when Professor Georges Baptiste, Paul Cartier and Henri Cluzot were on a hunting trip in the Canadian wilderness. Georges’ tracking skills failed them and the group got hopelessly lost. They were attacked by a pack of wolves and driven into a cave, unable to leave for days. Starving, Paul Cartier succumbed to his hunger and ate the flesh of Henri as he died, triggering the curse. Paul became the Wendigo and fully consumed Henri. He then held Georges captive until he was ready to eat again, for the Wendigo preferred fresh kills to fill his belly.

Meanwhile, Marie Cartier had organized a search party to find her brother and their friends. They crossed paths with the incredible Hulk in the Canadian woods, and the simple giant agreed to help Marie find Paul. Hulk found Wendigo sleeping off his meal, with Georges trapped underneath him. The Hulk battled Wendigo and brought Georges back to the search party, only for Marie to learn the horrifying truth of Paul’s fate. The Wendigo tracked them down and fought with the Hulk, even as Paul Cartier’s telepathic voice emerged from within the creature. The Hulk beat the Wendigo, but the immortal creature could not be killed, and Paul’s mental voice slowly died out, leaving only the savagery of the Wendigo to escape into the woods. [Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #162]

In the months that followed, Marie Cartier became obsessed with regaining her brother. She studied the dark arts and learned the nature of the Wendigo curse. With a spell of transference, Marie planned to take the Curse of the North Woods and transplant it from Paul onto another host. Believing the Hulk to be nothing but a beast, she thought he would make a perfect vessel for the Wendigo. Georges Baptiste was in love with Marie and reluctantly assisted her out of guilt for his part in Paul’s fate. Still, he constantly challenged her to consider if Paul would want another to suffer in his place, and whether these dark magicks were affecting her own soul.

Undeterred, Marie used a telepathic siren call to draw the Hulk back to them in the wilderness. With some enchanted food and drink, they put the Hulk to sleep in preparation for the ceremony. Marie used similar magic to lure the Wendigo to them next. However, she miscalculated the dosage necessary to overcome the Hulk’s stamina, and the gamma-spawned Goliath awakened to find the Wendigo seemingly menacing his friends. The fight between Hulk and Wendigo became three-way when Canada’s Weapon X Program deployed their own agent, the Wolverine. Wolverine’s mission mandate had been to stop the Hulk, but he also recognized the threat posed by the Wendigo. Wolverine and the Hulk tag-teamed the Wendigo together, striking the immortal woodbeast with fatal blows which (at least temporarily) felled him. The aggressive duo then turned on each other, but Marie Cartier recovered and cast a spell of sleeping mist which put them to sleep.

When Georges saw the Hulk transform back into Bruce Banner, however, he was aghast. It had been bad enough when Marie intended to force the curse of the Wendigo on the monstrous Hulk. Knowing the Hulk was also a thinking, feeling man was too much for him to support. Marie lashed out at Georges and reminded him again of his role in her brother’s fate, but this time he refused to help her. Instead, Georges left Marie trying to move the Hulk and returned to the ritual altar alone. Georges then completed Marie’s spell himself, serving as the sacrificial host for the Wendigo’s spirit. The Curse of the North Woods left Paul Cartier and transferred to Georges Baptiste, freeing him of his debt to his friend. When she realized what he had done, Marie’s mind snapped and she descended into unreconcilable madness. Georges’ mind guided the Wendigo away before the hunger overcame his ebbing humanity, and the confused Hulk tried to console the broken Marie and disoriented Paul. [Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #180-181]

As it always was with the curse, Georges Baptiste’s consciousness did not remain active in the Wendigo for long, and soon the beast’s cannibalistic ferocity was all that remained. He began feeding off of the isolated township of Roos Inlet in the great white north. The trapped survivors lured the Wendigo into a church soaked with gasoline, but even the explosion didn’t stop him. Only a flare gun to the face blinded the Wendigo long enough to drive it back into the woods, healing to search for easier prey. [Monsters Unleashed (1st series) #9]

The Wendigo next surfaced out near Hudson Bay where he attacked a family of campers. A Mountie named Joe Parnall was devoured at the scene, and his shellshocked son Tommy barely made it back to civilization to tell his tale. Department H dispatched Vindicator, Shaman and Snowbird of Alpha Flight to search for the Wendigo. To a hopeful optimist, it was a rescue mission as well, for the bodies of Eileen Parnall and their infant daughter hadn’t been found. Wolverine and Nightcrawler of the X-Men happened to meet up with Alpha Flight, as Weapon X had left the employ of the Canadian government and was trying to make peace with his former bosses. He lent his experience with the Wendigo, providing hope that Eileen was perhaps still alive, as the Wendigo preferred freshly killed meat for its meals. They were preparing a search pattern for the Wendigo, but the Wendigo found them first.

Nightcrawler was ambushed by Wendigo in the woods, and even his ability to teleport couldn’t get him away from the predatory tracker fast enough. An injured Kurt made it back to Alpha Flight’s cabin, bringing the rest of the heroes into play. After a short battle, Wendigo fled back to his lair, followed by Wolverine and Snowbird. They discovered Eileen Parnall and her baby were indeed alive, and Wolverine prevented Wendigo from taking his next meal. A mortal wound only slowed the Wendigo’s supernatural healing factor briefly, though, and Wolverine was distracted by his care for the civilians. With Wolverine taken out of action, Snowbird gave in to the animal instincts of her powers and transformed into a human-sized true wolverine of her own. The raw savagery at play between the two of them was vicious, but Snowbird overcame the Wendigo in the end. Unconscious, the Wendigo could not resist as Shaman cast his counter-spell, transforming the Wendigo back into Georges Baptiste. Unfortunately for Baptiste, he was then arrested. According to Vindicator, willingly accepting the curse of the Wendigo gave him responsibility for the crimes committed by the beast. [X-Men (1st series) #139-140]

One Wendigo was cured, but the Curse of the North Woods remained in effect. Years later, a trapper named Francois Lartigue was snowbound in a cabin with his three confederates. Overcome by hunger and mad from the isolation, Lartigue killed his comrades and began to feast on their flesh, causing the transformation into the Wendigo. Sasquatch of Alpha Flight was already in the area hunting the Wendigo when Bruce Banner also arrived, back from an adventure in space. Banner discovered that night that recent gamma radiation exposure and experiments on his body had finally taken their toll, giving him the ability to change into the incredible Hulk at will while retaining his human personality. Together, Hulk and Sasquatch were too much for Wendigo, and the woodbeast was beaten unconscious. [Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #272-273]

Sasquatch was last seen bound for Department H, where he intended for Shaman to perform the same counter-spell to remove the Wendigo curse he once used on Georges Baptiste. However, there is reason to believe Lartigue never made it to Shaman’s care. The Canadian government had been known to exploit assets delivered to them in the past. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that, years later, H’s sister agency Department K unveiled their own super-agent version of a Wendigo. Their newest weapons – the Prototype Induced Mutation Echelon – functioned as a strike team that included mutants, cyborgs, power-suited soldiers and a Wendigo fitted with what seemed to be an electronic control collar.

This Wendigo, soon codenamed Yeti, seemed completely tame and took orders as easily as other operatives. Yeti and Weapon P.R.I.M.E. were recruited by the new Weapon X to work alongside S.H.I.E.L.D.’s commander G.W. Bridge in his hunt for Cable. They attacked Cable’s X-Force at their Adirondack Mountain base, but Weapon P.R.I.M.E. was defeated. If Yeti truly was a Wendigo, he must have been substantially weakened by domestication, as he was beaten in single combat with Feral, whereas previous Wendigos could go toe-to-toe with the Hulk. and Wolverine together. [X-Force (1st series) #11-13] After Cable and X-Force escaped, Weapon P.R.I.M.E. continued to serve Department K free of their freelancers and S.H.I.E.L.D. liaisons. Yeti reappeared with P.R.I.M.E. when their former member Grizzly and Domino raided Department K for intelligence data. [X-Force (1st series) #22-23] By the time Weapon: P.R.I.M.E. was sent after a fugitive Northstar, Yeti was even more cognizant. He had an exterior cybernetic implant on his skull, and could speak and communicate like a normal human, albeit with the occasional growl. [Northstar #1-4]

The origins of Yeti were never resolved, as Weapon P.R.I.M.E. quietly disbanded behind-the-scenes. Questions remain whether Yeti was the true bearer of the Wendigo curse, as other versions of the Wendigo were active at the same time as P.R.I.M.E. was. In British Columbia, an oddly docile Wendigo was caught up in a media circus involving dead children missing in the woods. This Wendigo only ate animal meat, but it uncovered the victim of a child molester buried in a shallow grave in the woods. Wendigo was carrying the boy’s body when a reporter in a passing car crashed into him. A media frenzy erupted about the “Bigfoot baby killer” as more bodies were discovered, drawing both Peter Parker and Wolverine to the area. Eventually, they uncovered the truth that the R.C.M.P.’s Inspector Krahn killed the boys and then deliberately leaked information to the press to create a sensationalized cover story for his crimes. Krahn went running through the woods to escape and was killed by some of the same gun-toting locals he stirred into a panic. [Spider-Man (1st series) #8-12]

This Wendigo represents a reoccurring curiosity where the werebeast is occasionally treated as a “peaceful woodland spirit,” a benevolent watchdog of the forest living away from modern civilization, instead of as a human specifically cursed because of unthinkable acts. This version of the Wendigo appeared as a helpful spirit guide during John Blaze’s battles with Baal and Icebox Bob. It could travel through inter-dimensional space seemingly of its own accord and silently rescued Blaze’s kids, Craig and Emma, along with a third child named Jesse Pinto being held by Baal. The ever-silent Wendigo helped Blaze fight Baal and hunted him through dimensions with the three kids as his plucky traveling companions. [Blaze #4-6] Wendigo eventually abandoned its struggle with Baal to bring the children home, then departed as mysteriously as it arrived. The Wendigo who was a dimension-hopping friend to all children has never been explained, and never appeared again. [Blaze #10-12]

An even stranger incarnation of the Wendigo appeared as a green entity of perhaps living wind that flowed down to Manhattan during a blizzard to kill some child kidnappers. The best explanation seems to be that varying folklore confused this spirit and the cannibal werebeast as the same supernatural entity. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #277]

Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night, uncovered secrets about the Wendigo curse through his own research into the supernatural. Supposedly, the gods who created the Curse of the North Woods arranged it so that the Wendigo would become human again once a year, just long enough to be tormented by the guilt of their actions. Jack had suffered for years under his own lycanthropic curse before getting control over it, so he sought out the Wendigo to kill the creature in its mortal form as a mercy to the host. When this unnamed man transformed back from the Wendigo’s form, however, he laughed at the curse and reveled in his cannibalism and immortality. Jack realized the gods might have been wiser than he, and left the monster in human form where he was. [Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) #113]

A crypto-zoologist named Michael Fleet went on an expedition searching for the Wendigo, only to get caught in a blizzard with his team. As the last survivor, Fleet ate the flesh of his dead crew and transformed into the very creature he was searching for. Michael’s brother and partner Jonas Fleet continued their expeditions, and eventually fell in love with and married Michael’s former fiancé Tamara. Jonas suspected what had become of Michael, but never confided in Tamara to spare her feelings. With support from S.H.I.E.L.D., Wolverine and the Hulk, the Fleets’ expedition managed to capture the Wendigo and prepared to bring it home for examination. The Wendigo escaped in mid-air, however, landing in Manhattan. Wendigo’s hunting drew the attention of Spider-Man and Ghost Rider. Enough of Michael’s personality remained that he recognized Tamara when she joined the hunt, and Jonas Fleet was forced to come clean with his wife about his brother’s curse. The Wendigo was recaptured, but it remained to be seen whether Michael Fleet’s curse could be lifted or if Jonas Fleet’s marriage would survive his lies of omission. [Marvel Fanfare (2nd series) #2-3]