What better way for the DC Universe to get into spirit for the Halloween season than the launch of the six-issue, Tom Mandrake-illustrated miniseries entitled “Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves,” with the first two issues slated for October 15 and October 29, respectively.
And writing the crossover you can literally sink your teeth into is acclaimed horror author and filmmaker Kevin VanHook (“Frost: Portrait of a Vampire,” “The Fallen Ones”), in what is easily his most high profile comics work since his original bestselling run on “Bloodshot” for Valiant back in the mid-1990s. Fueled, no doubt, by its chromium variant cover -- believed to be the first of its kind -- “Bloodshot” #1 sold nearly one million copies back in 1993.
VanHook ended up on the new Superman/Batman project after his long-time friend Jimmy Palmiotti introduced him to DCU Executive Editor Dan DiDio last year at Wizard World in Los Angeles. “I mentioned that I was thinking of getting my hand back into comics again and one thing led to another,” VanHook told CBR News. “I was all prepared to explain to Dan that I was a filmmaker now and that I used to write and draw comics, I had co-created Bloodshot, etc. and he stopped me. He used to read my books and he’d pretty much seen all of my movies. It was flattering and cool. Here was a guy that I respected and he knew my stuff. Because of my association with horror, that was the automatic thing to talk about.
“I went to New York on business a month later and went to lunch with Dan and [editor] Jann Jones and started kicking ideas around. I mentioned wanting to do something with a physical doorway to the land of the dead and he was intrigued but had the understandable concerns about that being a big old can of worms. Then I mentioned synthetically-created vampires and werewolves. I came up with the idea of a character that instigates all this, Dr. Combs, and then I went back and wrote the pitch. Dan introduced me to [editor] Michael Siglain while I was there and we were off to the races.”
VanHook is thrilled to be having his worlds collide as the writer of a horror comic featuring the World’s Finest. “Superman was the first comic I bought. I was eight years old and he fought a character called the Chameleon,” VanHook recalled. “The first Batman stuff I had was the ‘Treasury Edition’ of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Ra’s Al Ghul stories — beautiful work. They played up the Detective stuff and that’s something I’m very much dealing with in this story.”
“Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves” opens with Batman doing what Batman does best. “Batman is pursuing some big nasty flesh-eating thingie that’s leaping from rooftop to rooftop in one of Gotham’s seedier parts of town,” revealed VanHook. ”That’s where he meets the first of our new characters — Dimeter — the vampire. Superman shows up to help at a pretty key moment and while we don’t explain why, his arrival is most appreciated.”
Wouldn’t the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel wipe Gotham’s streets with a werewolf and a vampire? “Well, Supes has this problem with magic and the characters he’s confronted with are supernatural in origin so he finds himself with the odds stacked against him,” offered VanHook. “Of course, he’s still Superman.”
Animating the synthetically-created vampires and werewolves is Dr. Combs — an original character VanHook created for the series. “One of the things that I thought was so incredibly cool was that Dan actually wanted me to create three new characters for the DCU that could potentially live on in the universe,” explained VanHook about his creations Dr. Combs, Dimeter and a werewolf named Janko. “Dr. Combs is a nod to my friend, actor Jeffrey Combs,” who is perhaps best known as Dr. Herbert West from the “Re-Animator” horror film trilogy.
VanHook said “Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves” does exist in DCU continuity, but it’s not held to a specific moment in time. “I’m writing the iconic Batman and Superman as I see them,” said VanHook. “And hopefully, that’s pretty true to the fans.”
The writer would love to see his concept adapted as a movie. “I think getting to see two distinct genres or universes playing together is always cool,” VanHook said. “In this world, this vamp is the king of kings. Over here, it’s the last son of Krypton and the Dark Knight detective. What if they fought? Who’d win? Why? I think kids and fanboys love this stuff. I do. I remember reading the first DC/Marvel crossovers when I was a kid — just very cool stuff.”
Speaking of cool stuff, VanHook also gets to word balloon a rhyming Etrigan the Demon. “That’s a total blast. My Demon rhymes. I was told that most people stay away from it because it’s tough to do well. I took that as a challenge and after reading my first script with him, Mike [Siglain] basically said, ‘Okay, you can have him rhyme.’”
VanHook and Siglain have already talked about a sequel, but DC will wait until sales figures are in before they make any decisions. Maybe “Green Arrow and Green Lantern vs. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” may be coming stores for Halloween 2009? “Mike [Siglain] and I already have a few things up our sleeves if the sales go our way,” the writer confirmed. “Obviously, the powers-that-be would have to go along with them, but let’s say that things aren’t all wrapped up in the ‘Heroes and Horror’ world yet.”
And if another project does happen, VanHook said he would love to work with artist Tom Mandrake (“Grimjack,” “The Spectre”) again, too. “I have already said that we’d love to do another round of this stuff. Maybe for Halloween next year,” said VanHook. “I think his work on this series is incredible — just beautiful and horrific at the same time.”
“Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves” #1 is scheduled to arrive in stores October 15.