Column: Comics Over Innsmouth: Saucy Vampires

By Lyndsey Holder

Powell, Eric (creator) and Stewart, Dave (colourist). The Goon #34. Dark Horse (June 29 2011).

Busiak, Kurt; Gregory, Daryl (writers); and Godlewski, Scott (artist). Dracula: The Company of Monsters #11. Boom! Studios (June 22 2011).

Do you remember when you’d hear that a story had vampires in it and you’d think, “Wow, vampires! All vampire stories are totally awesome and not terrible at all!”

I don’t.

Maybe it’s just that I’m old and jaded, but it seems like too many people write vampire stories so they can live vicariously through powerful and sexy characters. Everyone who wants to live a life where they are seductive and cool and James-Dean-bad writes about vampires, because vampires are the sexy kind of dangerous. Certainly, there are lots of amazing stories out there that contain vampires – I’d even wager that there are more good than bad – it’s just that the bad ones are really, really bad.

I’ve heard a lot of people wonder about where this whole sexy vampires thing came from, anyway, especially in the wake of Twilight. It must be a recent invention, they say. Vampires were never sexy before!

Actually, people have always written about saucy vampires. Bram Stoker’s novel was about how women’s sexuality is a horrible, terrifying thing that will ruin both them and the men that succumb to it. Almost eighty years before Stoker wrote Dracula, John William Polidori wrote The Vampyre, whose titular character was inspired by Lord Byron. If you don’t know who Lord Byron was, let’s just say that he wasn’t called “mad, bad and dangerous to know” because he lived a quiet, monogamous life filled with piety and crumpets.

In that sense, Twilight is kind of weird. It’s not really about sex, not even in the let’s-freak-out-about-women-having-sex way of Dracula. It’s a fairy tale made of the very things girls have been taught to dream about since forever. It’s Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. It’s Barbie vampires – right down to the moulded plastic over the naughty bits.

The Goon #34 pits Goon against some conspicuously Twilight-esque, sparkly, baseball-playing vampires. It is cute and clever and snarky; dark humour drips from every syllable. The art is fabulous – Eric Powell’s style is gorgeous and fits the theme perfectly. I loved how the vampires were drawn, down to the headshots with duckface.

However, I’m a bit tired of men and male characters we don’t like being called ‘girly’ (or having their sexuality called into question because, if you’re a man and you do act in a way that’s considered feminine, you obviously must be gay). I’m a girl. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a lot more fun than being a creepy stalker vampire, I assume. I’ve never hung around outside someone’s window so I could watch them while they slept before, so it could be a non-stop thrill ride of excitement and adventure, for all I know, but somehow, I doubt it.

Aside from that, it’s rather good. I have to admit, I really enjoyed seeing Goon smack those silly Barbie vampires around. I was rather sad when it stopped and figured that the rest of the comic wouldn’t even be worth reading. I was wrong. The fact that I actually read and paid attention to the part that followed the beatdown is a testament to its awesomeness.

A more serious take on vampires comes in Dracula: The Company of Monsters #11. To call it a modern-day take on Dracula would be to sell it very short – it is so much more than that. I find it reminiscent of John Marks’ Fangland, in that they are both clever tales featuring a frighteningly adaptable, business-savvy Dracula. The Company of Monsters, however, is a bit more sympathetic to Dracula. Sure, he’s a brutal murderer, but he’s also a great leader who really cares about the people under his command.

The art is inconsistent – it is excellent at times and substandard at others. When it is good, it is very, very good and it makes the story flow with a smoothness that is as mesmerizing as the gaze of Dracula himself.

The story, though, is engaging and interesting. It’s rare to see a tale that is compassionate to Dracula without being completely on his side, and I quite enjoyed that. One hardly ever hears anything of Vlad the Impaler that doesn’t involve someone getting brutally murdered. It’s lovely to read a story that someone has put effort into researching.

As old and worn as I sometimes think the vampire genre is, you can always find people doing something new and interesting in it. That is true talent – the ability to take something tired and used and make it exciting again.