ComicsAlliance vs. Marvel’s Greatest Vampires
Whether they're bloodsucking fiends or sparkly prettyboys, everybody loves vampires, and that's a fact that Marvel seems fully aware of given their plans to pit the creatures of the night against their band of merry mutants in the upcoming "Curse of the Mutants" storyline.
But this is hardly the first time Marvel characters have gone up against a nosferatu or two: They've been fighting vampires on both sides of the good vs. evil equation for decades, racking up quite a few lasting characters in the process. That's why today, ComicsAlliance's own Chris Sims and David Uzumeri are getting ready for the launch of "X-Men" #1 by taking a look back at Marvel's Greatest Vampires!
David: Baron Blood! Who is this dude?
Chris: Baron Blood is that most hateful of creatures: The Nazi Vampire.
David: He seems to rock a bat form a lot.
Chris: That's just his costume. The man just likes to wear spandex in various shades of purple wings sewn into his sleeves.
David: Ha, seriously? I thought it was some kind of mystical thing. He doesn't look like much of a vampire, or a Nazi, is the thing. When I think of "Nazi vampire," I think of a monstrous M. Bison with fangs.
Chris: That's the craziest thing about his costume: It's actually kind of subtle, given how far they could've gone. Anyway, he's Union Jack's arch-enemy, and just like Jack, "Baron Blood" is a title that's been passed down since World War II.
David: So was the original Baron Blood one of Hitler's Homies or something?
Chris: I'm pretty sure "Hitler's Homies" is the lowest-selling rap album of all time, but yeah: he's an English nobleman who gets turned by Dracula and joins up with the Nazis, because that's what you do when you're evil.
David: An English nobleman? Man, that's just a bizarre story. So how does that get handed down? Does he just like infect his kids?
Chris: Sort of! He's actually Union Jack's brother and he tried to turn his niece, but that didn't work out. Later, Jack's grandson refuses to take up the family crime-fighting tradition and becomes the new Baron Blood instead, getting turned into a vampire by a woman that the original Baron Blood turned. And then his best friend became Union Jack and spent a few years decapitating vampires with helicopter blades. It's basically the worst family tradition ever.
David: That... definitely sucks. I'll be here all night, folks. Try the veal. So is the original Baron still around? I mean, vampire.
Chris: I'm actually not sure. Captain America pretty much killed the hell out of him by decapitating him with his shield.
Chris: By the way, that niece that the original Baron Blood tried to turn? She ended up getting a blood transfusion from a robot and became a super-hero. Because comic books, that's why.
David: Yeah, sure. I've read Spitfire in Paul Cornell's "Captain Britain and MI-13" and Ed Brubaker's "Captain America," and she's honestly a lot of fun to read about. Cornell really got me caring about the romance between her and Blade, and her whole woman-out-of-time thing. She's like a less over-the-top Zinda Blake.
Chris: Like I said, in order to keep her from becoming a vampire herself, she had a blood transfusion from the original Human Torch, who was an android. And just as you probably expect, this blood transfusion from the Human Torch gave her the ability to... run at super-speed.
David: Comic book science! Is this some Roy Thomas noise?
Chris: It is indeed the handiwork of the Rascally One.
David: Oh, Houseroy.
Chris: But I kinda love it. It sounds so monumentally insane, but like you said, she's actually a really great character.
David: I totally agree, it's great comics.
Chris: The weird thing, though, is that she only started doing vampire stuff recently, in "Captain Britain and MI-13." Before she was rejuvenated with yet another blood transfusion from the Human Torch, she was perfectly normal -- when she showed back up in the '80s in the Roger Stern / John Byrne "Captain America" run that reintroduced Union Jack, she'd aged and lost her powers.
David: I could be misremembering, but didn't she gain her powers back some time before Bru's Cap? Like, in "Avengers Forever"?
Chris: It was in the short-lived "Invaders" series launched by ComicsAlliance favorite Chuck "the Truck" Austen.
David: Maaaaaaaaaaaaaan, Chuck. Well, either way, it got her in position for "MI13," so all is well.
Chris: Exactly. And it was during that sadly short stint in "Captain Britain and MI13" that she met our next entrant, and probably Marvel's most famous vampire character....
David: Some motherf---ers are always trying to ice skate uphill.
Chris: Oh man, I was going to say it if you didn't.
David: Here's the thing about Blade: I've read a bunch of comics with him in it, but still all I think of are all the hilarious lines from the movies and Harry Knowles's review of "Blade 2" where he compared Guillermo del Toro's directing to cunnilingus.
Chris: I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's probably in the running for the Worst Thing on the Internet.
David: Either way: Blade is a character everyone probably knows, but nobody realizes is Marvel.
Chris: Right. Most non-comics readers only know Blade from the movies, to the point where Marvel actually restructured his powers to be closer to what they were on the screen.
David: I remember his last solo outing was a bizarre thing from Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin, where he went up against most of the Marvel Universe one after another.
Chris: The one where he kneecapped Spider-Man in the first issue?
David: Yeah. Then he appeared in "MI-13," and now he's gonna be in "X-Men." Really, I think it's likely most of these characters are going to be in "X-Men."
Chris: It always struck me as weird that out of all the characters that could've led Marvel to movie prominence, it was Blade. Those were the first Marvel movies that everybody kinda liked. Heck, when you think about it, after "Batman & Robin," it was pretty much the first comic book movie period that everybody liked. Although none of us liked them as much as Harry Knowles.
David: That's cause Blade didn't register as a comic book movie, it registered in the wake of the Matrix as one of those ultra-cool late-90s action flicks to the general public.
Chris: Yeah, it had next to nothing to do with the comics, which, considering that his comic book version rocked an orange Safari jacket, green jeans and prescription Ray Bans, is probably a good thing.
David: I dig his current appearance a bunch.
Chris: Yeah, those lighting bolts shaved into his hair are NEVER going to look dated.
David: Although it's clearly inspired a lot by the -- they're not lightning bolts, they're blades! Get it? BLADE! I know we ALSO have Ultimate Blade showing up in a few issues in "Ultimate Avengers."
Chris: Because there was too much Blade-related continuity for new readers to catch up on?
David: Probably more so Mark Millar could write "his" Blade, whatever that means, God help us. "His" Ghost Rider has pretty much just been Ghost Rider so far.
Chris: Really though, all you need to know about Blade is what you can find out from the movies: He's a total badass, he doesn't like vampires, he likes to cut things with blades (hence the name), and he is not, in fact, doing this for the March of Dimes.
David: And he's half-vampire! But he hates that part of himself. Or does he? Is he man... or monster?!
Chris: OR BOTH!
Chris: Next up, Hannibal King, who also made an appearance in the "Blade" movies!
David: I never saw "Blade 3," so I know absolutely nothing about this character other than the line "c--k-juggling thunderc---."
Chris: Even if you had seen it, you still wouldn't know much about him. Unlike his foulmouthed movie counterpart, the comic version is pretty much the embodiment of high concept: Hannibal King, Vampire Detective.
David: That's a pretty rad concept right there, though.
Chris: He's actually a pretty minor character, especially considering that he's been around since the '70s. In fact, one of my friends said that it was one of the most surreal moments of his life going to see a big-budget Hollywood movie and hearing Parker Posey yell "HANNIBAL KING!"
His first appearance in #25 is one of the best issues of "Tomb of Dracula," though. The fact that he's a vampire isn't revealed until the end, but there are a ton of little visual and dialogue clues about it in the issue: he doesn't leave a reflection in a scene with a mirror; he talks about how a vampire killed "everyone" in a building he was in; Dracula tells him he's his master. It's really well done by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan.
David: That's awesome. I really need to read "Tomb of Dracula" at some point -- I always thought it was actually set in the 1800s or something, I Never realized until recently that it was actually just a straight-up Marvel Comic featuring... Dracula.
Chris: But like Blade, most people are more familiar with him from the movie, where he was played by Ryan Reynolds' abs.
David: Well really, is that Reynolds's fault or Goyer's?
Chris: Man, have you seen that dude? NOT getting him to take his shirt off would be the mistake.
David: The fact that we are actually going to see that guy play Hal Jordan for 90 minutes blows my mind. But yeah, back to track, so King hasn't really appeared that much in the actual comics? Was he no longer a detective in the movie?
Chris: In the movie, he's more an an ex-vampire commando. In the comics, he's appeared really sporadically, mostly in team-ups with Blade or the Nightstalkers. I think he had one solo story in the post-Heroes Reborn "Journey Into Mystery" book, but that's about it.
David: Well, still. Vampire Detective. He seems like the kind of guy Brubaker or Fraction or Jason Aaron would dust off and randomly throw into a comic.
Chris: Man, a Jason Aaron Hannibal King story. I would read the jeepers out of that.
David: These all kind of seem like Jason Aaron concepts, since he's kind of claimed dominion over all the seedy, '70s exploitation stuff. I'd read a Rick Remender Hannibal King story too, and another vampire that Remender's been featuring quite a bit recently is Morbius.
Chris: Morbius is not a regular vampire. Morbius is a SCIENCE VAMPIRE!
David: What are the specifics of that? I've only read his introduction in "Ultimate Spider-Man" and that one really great issue of "ASM" that Fred Van Lente did.
Chris: The first, and quite possibly only, thing you need to know about Michael Morbius is that he first showed up in the story where Spider-Man has six arms, because that dude didn't have enough problems to deal with without a blood-drinking albino in a spandex v-neck showing up too.
David: Science vampire is still just such an awesome concept. I guess he actually differs from the magical vampires somehow?
Chris: He's a biochemist who was dying of a blood disease, and accidentally turned himself into a vampire trying to cure himself, which is why comic book medicine is WAY more awesome than regular medicine. How great would it be if you went to the doctor and he was like "Well, you've got the flu. We could give you a shot to cure it, but there's a slight chance you'll become a Dracula and fight Spider-Man."
David: Would that really be so awesome? I mean, now you're basically tortured. Does he at least get to live forever?
Chris: I'm not sure. He's been involved with so much mystical stuff over the years that the line becomes blurred between him being an actual magical vampire and just a dude who drinks blood to survive. I think it's summed up by the fact that right now, he's simultaneously working A.R.M.O.R. in "Marvel Zombies" and hanging out with Frankencastle and Werewolf By Night in the underground monster city beneath New York. Both of which, I might add, are awesome. I also like that he's "The LIVING Vampire." Back in the '70s, Marvel loved to tell you that dudes were alive. The Living Vampire, the Living Monolith, the Living Colossus...
David: Well, I mean, technically vampires are undead. I admit it's a bit less impressive than the others which are inanimate objects. I'm surprised they didn't call Ben Grimm the Living Thing.
Chris: The Living Ghost Rider.
David: The Living Man-Thing.
Chris: M-11, The Living Human Robot.
David: The Living Living Tribunal.
Chris: And finally, we've got The Big Guy. The Icon. The Main Event. The Man of the Hour with the Deathly Power.
Chris: DRACULA! I think I've gone on record for my opinion here, but just so we're clear: Marvel Dracula is awesome, and that is a fact.
David: I've read him in one story, Paul Cornell's "Vampire State," and he was such a great villain it's hard to describe.
Chris: That would be the story where Dracula shoots vampires out of cannons that he has at his castle on the moon and then sails through space on a pirate ship.
David: I mean, first of all -- the logical step of giving him a fortress on the dark side of the moon, so there was zero chance of sunlight. That was clever. It's not just on the moon for no reason or because it's cool -- it IS cool -- but it actually makes sense. It's a viable strategy. The other thing about Cornell's Dracula that was way more nuanced than I ever expected was the way he used his incredibly, almost humorously archaic anti-Muslim racism and compare/contrasted it with modern-day British National Party style anti-immigrant leanings. Cornell's Dracula was just a complete and total asshole, a racist prick, a dude it's easy to hate but also FUN to hate.
Chris: Also he's Dracula. And Dracula is awesome. I mean, he is a dude who stalks the night in a three-piece suit and a cape with a high collar. Look at how smooth this guy is:
David: The fact that he continues to wear the classic Bela Lugosi outfit just adds to the amazing ridiculous contrast between him and the superhero universe he inhabits. He's like Thor, or Hercules -- a remnant from pop culture that was able to fit into this anything-goes shared universe.
Chris: He's got great dialogue, too. You talk about Cornell, but pretty much everyone who writes Dracula gives him these amazingly over-the-top lines to deliver while he's throwing dudes off buildings and riding rollercoasters at night.
David: I'm limited in my reading experience, man. Which is why it's a complete and total shame Marvel's managed to turn him into a lame God of War extra.
Chris: Yeah, it's pretty weird that Marvel introduced a new character who is also named "Dracula" last week.
David: Well, this Janus kid is from the Wolfman/Colan stuff, right?
Chris: Yep! Wait... You're not telling me that this is actually Marvel Dracula, are you? He doesn't even have a moustache!
David: He's apparently had some kind of off-panel transformation into Sephiroth here, yeah. At the end of the day, this comic reads like the kind of Vampire: The Masquerade session we used to have where we were too high/lazy to actually roll or fight anything so we just talked about clan politics for hours. Which is really, in retrospect, pretty dumb and boring, much like this comic. Honestly, I didn't think you could put this much sects in a comic without having it be MAX.
Chris: Huh. So you're telling me that they brought Dracula back from the dead after he was already killed in his last appearance, only to kill him on page 5 with a death that we all know is going to be temporary because, c'mon, he's Dracula. If he can survive being chopped in half by Excalibur, he can probably make it back from having some toothpicks stuck in him by the cast of "Underworld." That's what's going on here?
David: That's basically the gist of it, yes.
Chris: That does not bode well.
David: No, it doesn't.
Chris: You know, if they would've had Dracula actually look like Dracula, there could've been this great visual symbolism of the New Style vampires destroying the old, suit-and-tie-and-sweet-moustache vampires and rejecting their grandiose plans. Instead, this is just New Vampires and Linkin Park Dracula. I mean, they talk about how they don't want to hide in the shadows anymore, but Dracula was shooting vampires out of moon-cannons last year.
David: I honestly don't know what Marvel's thinking with this storyline -- I don't get who they think the audience is here, and it's baffling especially considering how successful all their other recent efforts are. The entire thing just feels forced, and seems to take away a lot of what made Marvel's Dracula interesting, as well as a lot of what makes vampires interesting. I know Chris will disagree with me here, but part of the appeal of Bendis's superhero boardroom style is that the characters have so much personality; everyone in this vampire boardroom joint is boring and some kind of ultimate chessmaster out-chessmastering the other chessmasters, including the entire vampire "sect" of hot chicks that can mind control people. It's just an unimaginative pastiche of cliche vampires without the teenage heartstring-pulling of "Twilight" or the liberal cursing and nudity of "True Blood."
Chris: It really does read like a White Wolf sourcebook. How many Vitae do you think the vampire scientists had to expend to make their Sunscreen Medallions?
David: Not as much as I had to expend reading this damn comic.