Bizarro Back Issues: Wait, What’s Vampirella’s Deal Again? (1997)
Of all the spooky characters that I throw the spotlight on at Halloween, there's one that I've never really written too much about: Vampirella. That seems like a pretty big oversight, too. I mean, I once wrote about the Tomb of Dracula anime for Halloween, you'd think I could muster up a few words for one of the most recognizable horror characters of the '70s, right?
Well, the fact is, Vampirella's not actually that scary. I mean, despite her name, she's not actually a vampire. She's an alien from planet Drakulon, a planet where water has the same composition as blood. Or at least, I think that's how it worked, until 1997, when it was revealed that Drakulon was the product of memory implants and she was actually the daughter of Lilith, mother of all vampires, who sent her to destroy a 2,000 year-old conspiracy organized like a vampire Catholic Church (complete with a Vampire Pope) with the help of a time-traveling nun. Hoo boy. This is going to get complicated.
Okay, so: Back in the late '90s, Harris Comics tried to capitalize on the "Bad Girl" trend by relaunching Vampirella in a new series of scantily clad adventures. The thing is, Harris decided to go about this by getting some of the biggest creative teams in comics to do it -- people who were either already well-established heavy hitters, like Kurt Busiek, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, or the up-and-comers who would pretty much spend the next decade redefining comics, like Warren Ellis.
These creators banged out a line of miniseries that would throw Vampirella into blood-soaked superheroics, and having read through 'em, I'm pretty sure they were allowed to just do whatever they wanted. And the end result is ONE THOUSAND PERCENT BANANAS, especially when Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Amanda Conner, Steven Grant and Louis Small Jr. got in there.
Just for context, this was happening at the same time that Morrison and Howard Porter were relaunching JLA at DC, back when he and Millar were pals and writing buddies. It's easy to see that collaboration here, too, since there are distinct bits of each writer's personal style that come through, but man oh man, this thing could not be more of a Mark Millar comic, at least in the dialogue. It's like reading Kick Ass with vampires, only slightly less embarrassing.
So here's the basic idea: You've got Lilith -- you know, Adam's other wife -- who went off and "fornicated with demons," which is a phrase that never really leads to anything good. In this case, it led to vampires, and while Lilith was initially cool with that, she later decided that maybe unleashing blood-drinking bat-people onto the world probably wasn't ideal, and decided on her deathbed to send her more recent daughter, Vampirella, to kill literally all of them all by her lonesome, which she promptly sets about doing. Fortunately, Vampirella has none of the traditional vampire weaknesses. Ain't that always the way?
While that's going on, the vampires are attempting to take over worldwide organized crime, something that they're just now getting around to in 1997 despite the fact that they've been around, y'know, for ever. To that end, they send the immortal but not vampiric bad guy with the exceptionally subtle name of Von Kreist to attack a high-ranking mob guy named "Don Fattoni" (really) who has twin daughters named Pixie and Dixie.
Pixie gets turned and joins up with the bad guys, while Dixie becomes Vampirella's sidekick, only to be kidnapped and held hostage after Vampirella is injected with a synthetic virus that is, and I quote, "1,000 times worse than AIDS."
There is no way in hell Mark Millar did not write that line. I would bet everything I own on it. Anyway, if that sounds complicated, keep in mind that it's all just setup for the part that's really weird. See, Vampirella is rescued from certain viral doom by an order of sexy nuns in skintight "chastity latex" costumes who wear boots with crosses on the heels so that they can burn vampires by kicking them in the face:
Yes. Chastity latex. I'll come back to that in a minute.
This particular sisterhood wants to help Vampirella take out the evil vampire organization, which, as it turns out, is structured exactly like the Catholic Church, right down to Evil Monsignors and His Unholiness the Dark Pope, who lives in the Anti-Vatican, which is coincidentally also located in Rome.
That, to be honest, is where they lose me. I mean, if you're going to go through all the trouble of setting up this whole evil opposite thing, you can't just set it up in the same city! You have to find the opposite of Rome! Then again, I imagine a story where Vampirella fought vampires in Shelby, North Carolina probably wouldn't have the same ring to it.
So, Vampirella wants to save Dixie and the Sisterhood is more than willing to help, so they hook her up with a new costume, and this is where we get chastity latex.
Greased-up, skintight chastity latex with super-shushing powers. Oh, comics.
As it turns out, the Sisterhood's investment in rescuing Dixie is a little more personal than just their mission to eradicate vampires. Mother Superior is actually Dixie from the future, who came back Terminator-style to prevent Vampirella's death and the subsequent takeover of the world by vampires, but exactly how this happened is never explained, at least not in the volume collecting these stories.
It's probably best not to worry about it, though, since there's an even weirder plot twist yet to come. Vampirella and the sisterhood attack the Anti-Vatican, using wooden stake machine guns with cross-shaped laser sights (and never once activating their shushing field, which is kind of a ripoff), pulling off increasingly dubious vampire-killing tricks.
I'll give them turning blood to holy water (because it has water in it, I guess), but by the time they have people blessing living human bodies to turn them into holy water with the extremely flimsy justification that the human body is 70% water, I think it's pretty obvious that everyone involved has completely checked out.
Eventually, they get to the end of the level and fight the boss, the Dark Pope himself, who turns out to be Judas. From the Bible. Who is a vampire.
Also maybe Jesus is a vampire too? Or maybe that's just weird propaganda from the vampire bible, which no vampires have actually read? And he was also a child of Lilith who was sent to kill all the other vampires 2,000 years ago, so it turns out that Vampirella isn't just killing vampires, she's just clearing the way for a race of new and improved Vampirellas? Man, I do not even know anymore. You know, I'm starting to think it made more sense when she was an alien from planet Drakulon.