By William Harms
With the release of the first “Impaler” trade paperback fast approaching (on-sale this week, published by Top Cow), the folks at CBR thought it'd be cool to do something that promotes the release of the trade and the new ongoing series, which kicks off in December.
But instead of doing the usual Q&A thing, CBR asked if I'd be interested in writing about my favorite vampires in novels, movies, and comics. As someone who loves vampires and has strong opinions about bloodsuckers in all their forms, this idea got me really excited.
What follows are not only my favorite vampires, they're my undead inspiration. They helped me really think about how I wanted the vampires in “Impaler” to work, what kind of rules I wanted them to follow. They showed me what had been done and what was possible.
I wouldn’t be here without them.
Count Orlok: "Nosferatu"
The most badass vampire of them all. From the way he looked to the way he moved, everything about Orlok screamed "unholy abomination." Although I have an appreciation for the original “Dracula” (and what it represents historically not only for movies, but also for horror movies), Orlok is far superior in my mind. Legosi's Dracula looked like some old dude that like to pick up younger women -- Schreck's Orlok looked like someone who'd rip out your intestines and then eat them as you slowly bled out. He's the Jack the Ripper of vampires.
Kurt Barlow: “'Salem's Lot”
My favorite vampire story, in any medium, is Stephen King's “'Salem's Lot.” I usually read it at least once a year, and although it sticks pretty close to the "rules" of vampire lore (crosses, holy water, stake in the heart, etc.), it also deviates in some significant ways.
First of all, the vampires are damn malicious. The scene where the vampire kids lure out the abusive school bus driver by blowing the horn is one of my favorites, as is the trap that kills Dr. Cody when he falls into the basement and is impaled. (Although I prefer the original version of that scene.)
But the main reason I love “'Salem's Lot” so much is because of Barlow. The scene in the Petrie family kitchen, where Barlow stares down Father Callahan, displays both Barlow's full power and the horror that he represents. Not only is he a creature of unfathomable evil, he's willing to fight Callahan on the starkest of terms -- absolute good versus absolute evil. Callahan's faith in god versus Barlow's faith in himself.
And Barlow wins.
Nothing against Anne Rice or the people who love her books, but the incessant complaining of an immortal who can do pretty much whatever he wants doesn't float my boat. On the contrary, it makes me want to grab them by the throat and strangle them, all while shouting, "stop whining!" at the top of my voice.
I loved “Preacher,” and I always dug Cassidy, but he cemented a place in my heart for all time when he captured the vampire Eccharius, nailed him to the roof, and watched him burn up in the sun. Well done, indeed.
“Vampire$” by John Steakley
Although the movie adaptation by John Carpenter is kind of meh, the book is a different story. The "Master" in the novel is vicious beyond description -- he literally kills one person by tearing their rib cage open and then proceeds to brutally slaughter several others, including a priest that had just stabbed the vampire in the head with a cross. It's not so much the violence of the attack (and that's the first of many) that hooked me, but rather the sheer rage exhibited.
Vampires are often shown to be calm, cool; aloof even. And here we had a vampire that was none of those things -- he was seething cauldron of raw fury. On a scale of 1-10, he was 100. He was an unstoppable killing machine, and for that brief moment, we saw what it might be like if vampires were real. And it was utterly terrifying.
Severen: “Near Dark”
In this classic movie, Bill Paxton's character, a vampire named Severen, took such delight in killing that it skirted the line between horror and black comedy. This was the vampire as a sociopath. Every time I watch this movie, I imagine, "What if Ted Bundy had been a vampire?" If that doesn't give you chills, I don’t know what will.
“I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson
My second favorite vampire book. There really isn't a central vampire (other than Ben Cortman), but the sense of despair that permeates the entire novel and the horrible implications of the title elevate this book far above other vampire novels.
“Midnight Mass” by F. Paul Wilson.
Although he wrote the introduction to “Impaler,” that's not why I'm including this book. When the original novella came out in 1990, it was about a world taken over by vampires and the efforts of a priest to reclaim his church. It really struck a chord with me, particularly what life might be like in a world overrun with vampires. Wilson later expanded the story into a full-length novel.