Ever since Bram Stoker brought the creatures to the mainstream with his 1897 novel “Dracula,” vampires have steadily been seeping into every form of media since, including comic books. Though, whether it’s due to their multi-decade ban or simply the narrative freedom provided by the medium, there’s no escaping the fact that each comic book vampire seems more absurd than the last.
The now-defunct Comics Code Authority banned bloodsuckers along with most other supernatural monsters between the years 1954 and 1971. In the interim, we got creatures like energy vampires, whose penchant for draining a victim of their life essence rather than blood was a clever workaround used by writers to sneak vampires into publication. But when the vampire ban lifted, tons of deranged vampire tales so bizarre got published that you would be hard-pressed to believe they all made their way to print. We’re taking a look at some of the greatest and worst of those vampires.
All things considered, Dracula must be one of the least absurd vampires. After all, his creation at the hands of Bram Stoker effectively ushered in a mainstream understanding of the vampire myth with the novel “Dracula,” published in 1897. Dracula would eventually make his way into comic books in 1972, after the Comics Code Authority lifted its moral blanket ban on vampires. Marvel Comics took to Dracula in a big way, going so far as to rewrite his story—to bizarre effect—along the way.
Perhaps the strangest thing about Marvel’s version of Dracula is that he’s not the first vampire, not even by a long shot. Vampires are an ancient race first created in Atlantis, long before recorded history. Dracula just happens to be a deposed count with an incredible knack for cruelty at the right time, which draws the attention of Varnae, the first vampire, thus leading to Dracula’s eventual station as Lord of Vampires.
Sorry to get your hopes up, but the robot ruler of the Mekkans created by Jack Kirby is not a secret vampire. This is a different character who shares his name and he plays a pivotal role in Marvel’s interpretation of the Dracula mythology.
At some point during Dracula’s reign as Lord of Vampires, Mephisto, posing as Satan, steals away Dracula’s vampire powers and renders him human once more. Torgo, a vampire and former 5th Century general who did battle with Attila the Hun, briefly coopts Dracula’s title as Lord of Vampires. Naturally, Torgo immediately sets about enslaving all the other vampires with the goal of world domination.
Torgo is a bit of an absurdist bummer, though, because aside from Dracula and Varnae, he’s the only other vampire to ever hold the title of Lord of Vampires. However, he’s dispatched quickly enough by a human Dracula. At the very least, that’s one cool point for Dracula, who apparently doesn’t even need vampire powers to kick butt.
Alternate universe comics are fun. They allow for all sorts of non-canonical shenanigans that can be retconned as being part of the multiverse later. One of DC Comics’ most popular alternate reality stories is the “Batman and Dracula” trilogy in which, you guessed it, Batman is bitten by Dracula and becomes an undead vampire hunter.
The first instalment in the trilogy, “Red Rain,” is straightforward. Batman follows a string of murders to their source, Dracula’s vampire coven. The second instalment in the trilogy, “Bloodstorm,” deals with the ramifications of Batman’s vampirism. It’s the third and final instalment in the trilogy, “Crimson Mist,” where things get batty, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Batman basically goes off his rocker. He starts hunting down all his former enemies one by one and doing exactly what vampires are made to do: draining each victim of their life’s blood. He knocks off a good portion of his rogue’s gallery before Two-Face, Killer Croc, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred all team up to take down the bat. It’s both a cool and bizarre reimagining of Bram Stoker’s original “Dracula” novel, where the Dark Knight is the force to be reckoned with.
Catwoman’s vampirism calls into question everything we know about vampires. Catwoman is bitten by a vampire during the events of the “Batman and Dracula” trilogy, and thus she becomes an undead monstrosity in her own right. It gets complicated, though. You see, Catwoman was bitten by a vampire that had transformed into a wolf, so that means she turns into a werecat instead.
The transformation does at least aid Catwoman in tracking down the wolf vampire that infected her. In the second instalment of the “Batman and Dracula” trilogy, “Bloodstorm,” Catwoman teams up with Batman to take down the Joker, who has seized control of Gotham City’s vampires in Dracula’s absence. With Batman having become a vampire himself, the responsibility of keeping his bloodlust in check falls to Catwoman. It’s a daunting task, and when Catwoman is hurt in the line of battle, all bets are off when it comes to what Batman is willing to do.
11. Abraham Whistler
The original “Blade” film is all about Wesley Snipes slicing and dicing bloodsuckers until the Hellcows come home, thus it’s a bit weak in the emotional impact department. One of the few genuinely touching moments comes when Blade must provide the means for his human mentor, Abraham Whistler, to end his own life after being attacked by a vampire. You never get to see the moment play out, but the sense of loss is clearly conveyed.
It’s a bit of a bummer, then, that in the second movie, “Blade II,” it turns out Whistler survived and has been kidnapped by a sinister vampire cabal. While it’s always nice to see more Kris Kristofferson on the big screen, the pivotal moment from the first movie is undercut by the desire to keep the gang together.
Jubilee has always been a bright spot in the “X-Men” comics, so when she was depowered after the events of “House of M,” the young heroine had to forge her own path. After a brief stint as the super-suit-powered Wondra, Jubilee’s life took a turn for the weird. A biological terrorist attack leaves her soaked in blood, and later she gets the test results everyone in the Marvel Comics universe dreads. I’m sorry, ma’am, but it was vampire blood.
Not long after, Jubilee hears the siren song of her vampire masters. In this case, it’s Xarus, the son of Dracula. Xarus is fed up with the way dad has been running the coven, and figures it’s high time to shake things up. His master stroke? The most vampire plan imaginable: turn as many mutants as he can into vampires. He starts with Jubilee and even gets Wolverine under his control before his plans can be thwarted. The end of Xarus doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Jubilee’s trials, though. The former mutant still must deal with being a bloodsucker.
What happens when one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Comics universe goes off and becomes a vampire? She gets an edgy alias to complement her new, undead conundrum, of course.
Bloodstorm is an alternate-reality version of Storm, a mutant with the power to control the weather. Bloodstorm’s story doesn’t differ too greatly from that of plain ol’ Storms, except for the part where, after being recruited by the X-Men, she is captured by Dracula, almost turned into his bride and then drains Kitty Pryde’s blood in her escape. Never a dull moment with Marvel vampires.
Things aren’t all bad for Bloodstorm, though. Eventually an alternate reality version of Beast cures Bloodstorm of her weakness to sunlight and lust for blood. Her vampirism is never fully resolved, but it allows her live a somewhat normal superhero life. Bloodstorm later goes on to turn a mortally wounded Gambit into a vampire, which has less to do with Bloodstorm’s character development and seemingly more to do with the universal appeal of Cajun vampires.
It’s easy to mistake Sauron for anything but a vampire, largely because he looks nothing like one, but there’s a reason for that. The pterodactyl supervillain is an energy vampire, a creature that draws power from the victim’s life force, rather than blood. In this way, Sauron bends the very definition of a vampire, but that wasn’t always the case.
When Sauron first debuted in 1969, the Comics Code Authority was at the height of its power. One of the many things banned in comic books back in 1969 was vampires, along with most supernatural beasts like ghouls, werewolves and zombies. So when Sauron’s creators, Roy Thomas and Neal Adams, wanted to create a comic book villain that drained victims of their life essence and looked like a giant bat, the CCA told them to go back to the drawing board. The two ended up keeping most aspects of the character, but made him look reptilian to appease the CCA. So, while Sauron is a pretty standard energy vampire, the story of his creation certainly is not.
Comic book characters go through a lot, but few can claim to have as many life altering moments as Emily Briggs, who would later go on to become the superheroine Looker. And that’s before she even becomes a vampire.
Briggs starts off as a mousy bank teller who is abducted by the underground civilization of Abyssia. The Outsiders super team takes the fight to Abyssia and rescues her, but once the dust has settled, Halley’s Comet passes overhead and grants Briggs superpowers and uncanny attractiveness (hence the alias “Looker”).
Later, after joining the Outsiders, Looker is attacked by a rebel leader and turned into a vampire. It’s probably the most serendipitous vampiring, though, because her metahuman abilities cancel out the vampiric weakness to sunlight. Looker will go on to host a daytime talk show not unlike “The View,” become a professional model and secretly hunt down and exterminate vampires in her free time. She might be a cold body, but she’s a busybody, too.
Bloodscream’s story is so weird and kind of pathetic that no one will even admit he’s a vampire, even though he totally is. He was turned into a not-vampire after being mortally wounded serving as a surgeon under Sir Francis Drake in 1580. Drake orders Bloodscream be taken to a local Native American healer named Dagoo. Dagoo is actually a necromancer, so the only way he knows how to save Bloodscream is by turning him into a not-vampire that is super strong but must drink human blood to survive. See: totally a vampire, even if his method of blood-drinking consists of touching the victim with his bare hand.
Bloodscream does not have any of the typical vampire vulnerabilities, like a weakness to sunlight or silver, but he wants to return to being a human. However, he can only do so if he drinks the blood of a man who doesn’t age, so he spends most of his days trying to steal Wolverine’s blood because he believes it will cure his necromantic curse. It hasn’t yet.
5. The first Baron Blood
John Falsworth is an aristocrat who leaves his posh English estate to research vampire lore after his older brother inherits their father’s fortune. Falsworth’s journey takes him to Transylvania and right into the clutches of one Count Dracula, Lord of Vampires. Dracula wastes no time turning Falsworth into a vampire and sending him back to England to generally makes a mess of things.
Falsworth adopts the moniker Baron Blood and wreaks havoc during the first and second World Wars, typically allying with the Germans and doing the usual evil stuff. Falsworth is perhaps the most defeated and resurrected vampire in comic book history. He is first defeated after being stabbed with a silver dagger in World War I, then he’s impaled on a silver stalagmite. Later, he’s staked by Namor and then finally he meets his end again when he is decapitated by none other than Captain America, who uses his shield to do the deed. Go team USA!
4. The Younger Brother Of Doctor Strange
After the unfortunate ends of John Falsworth, the first Baron Blood, it seemed like the character might be undone for good. Luckily for comic book readers, the name Baron Blood is simply too good to waste, and so the character saw numerous incarnations. The second Baron Blood is Victor Strange, the brother of Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange.
Early in his career, Doctor Strange attempted to use his newfound magical abilities to resurrect his brother. Sadly, the spell was a total success, and Victor was resurrected as, you guessed it, a vampire. If there was ever an in-fiction argument to just let characters in comic books die, it would probably be their penchant for coming back undead in so many of these scenarios.
To his credit, Victor tries to do right by his new life. He is given the name Baron Blood by a voodoo priestess, but eventually adopts the name Khiron instead and tries to fight crime in his own way, feeding only on criminals. Like most vampires, though, he eventually succumbs to his bloodlust. Regretting his actions so deeply, Victor Strange eventually ends his own life.
3. Deacon Frost
Many will remember Deacon Frost as the main antagonist of the first “Blade” film and upstart young bloodsucker determined to start a vampire civil war. Well, the Deacon Frost of cinematic fame is a wholly different beast from the comic book version. Not only was Frost aged down for the film, but also his origin story and supernatural powers were rewritten, too.
In the comics, Frost starts out as a scientist seeking immortality. His quest leads him start experimenting with vampire blood. Determined to inject someone, anyone, with said blood, Frost kidnaps a young woman as his test subject. His plot is foiled by the woman’s fiancé and Frost ends up accidentally injecting himself.
After being transformed into a vampire, Frost goes about attacking innocent civilians to quench his thirst for blood only to find out there’s an unintended side effect. Each person he bites produces a doppelganger. Frost starts biting those doppelgangers, which in turn creates more doppelgangers until he has amassed an army large enough to lead an assault on Dracula, the Lord of Vampires. However, Dracula manages to defeat him. Years later, Blade would kill Frost.
Everyone loves a good origin story, and the tale of how vampires came to be in the Marvel Comics universe is a choice, completely absurd sampling of just how batty comic book origin stories can be. Consider that the first vampire in Marvel’s canon was not Dracula, the most well-known vampire in literary history, but rather some guy named Varnae (a nod to the old “Varney The Vampire” penny dreadfuls) who looks like Harry from “Harry and the Hendersons.” Varnae is, in his own right, an interesting character with a storied background that spans millennia.
Varnae was born in Atlantis during the Thurian Age and served the sorcerer Thulsa Doom. Varnae was turned into a vampire by Atlantian sorcerers after suffering a mortal injury, and made it out of the city before the Cataclysm engulfed it. Varnae would go on to tangle with heroes like Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja and Zula, attempt to become a vampire god, meet Jesus Christ and eventually pass his title of Lord of Vampires on to Dracula.
Much like “Air Bud” and professional sporting leagues, there’s nothing in the rule book that says a cow can’t be a vampire. That’s the idea behind Hellcow (otherwise known as Bessie), the vampire cow.
At its heart, Hellcow’s story is one of revenge. One night, a starving Dracula was flying over the fields of Switzerland, desperately looking for something to eat. With all the farms in the area having boarded up their windows for the night, Dracula has to settle for second Bessie. Dracula drained the cow of its blood, and the next morning the cow’s owner buried it. You might imagine what happened next.
Hellcow rose from the grave and began her search for Dracula, but in time found only Howard the Duck in Cleveland, Ohio. Hellcow had begun preying upon Cleveland’s farming community and Howard, wanting to ingratiate himself with the Cleveland Police Department, vowed to catch the killer. If a detective duck tracking down a vampire cow isn’t weird to you, I don’t know what is.
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