The Fifth Color | Feeding From a World That Hates and Fears Them
Neil Gaiman thinks modern vampires suck.
And not in a good way, but in a weak, namby-pamby embarrassing kind of way. They have sullied the good name of Dracula and horror antagonists everywhere!
Okay, maybe he didn’t say that, maybe it was better put and far more eloquent or politely than I would have said, but a gist could be taken. From the interview in The Independent:
He said he hoped that mainstream culture would lose its interest in the undead so that vampire fiction could regain its potency. “Maybe it’s time for this to play out and go away. It’s good sometimes to leave the field fallow. I think some of this stuff is being over-farmed,” he said.
He also said far more damningly:
“My next big novel was going to have a vampire. Now, I’m probably not. They are everywhere, they’re like cockroaches.”
Yikes, cockroaches? Really? I’d say that’s a bit iffy on the eloquent and probably not polite. I certainly know enough Gaiman fans who feel a little more than put out by the shelving of what could be another incredible story from an unbelievably popular writer because of Stephanie Meyer’s work. Should we put the vampire genre, like Gaiman says, “back underground for another 20 years or another 25 years.” Will a whole new generation have to discover the fascination of the alluring and inhuman, the forces of will, the metaphor of sexual awakening and the ancient mythology of human hunters in the night because of the Cullens?
Let’s read X-Men #1 and find out!
(WARNING: Surprise! There are spoilers for X-Men #1 ahead. No, not the one from 1991. Certainly not the one from 1963! No, these would be the new X-Men… wait. No. Let me come in again…)
Okay, for those of you living under a very small rock, there’s a new ‘adjective-less’ X-Men in town with an all-new, mostly different #1 issue. Not only can you snag an alternate cover or four, but this is a jumping-on point for those of you who might have heard the X-Men moved and got an all-new look, but lost track of a “Second Coming” chapter. This will be your standard X-Men book, with a roster of popular mutants both young and old, and a cool new story that appeals to an immensely popular demographic. Just as popular as Deadpool alternate covers are vampire fans, what with Twilight’s latest film Eclipse getting close to 200 million dollars in domestic box office cash. I know, let that sink in a bit.
So yeah, Marvel’s going to grab some of that hot vampire action! The X-Men even have a history with vampires, facing Dracula himself first in Uncanny X-Men #159, then again in a personal favorite, Uncanny X-Men Annual #6. The House of Ideas have dabbled and danced with the supernatural, so saying this is a quick hook for a popular fad would be possibly true, but more than surface deep. Just ask Mark Millar. Last year, Captain Britain and MI:13 gave us one of the most fascinating vampire stories in a long time, adding superstition and space to create a threat that loomed over us from the moon itself. Vampires were bound by rituals, created from ancient Atlantis by demonic Elder Gods. Doctor Strange has banished them with ancient texts, Hannibal King was cured of his blood-sucking curse, and I don’t think I need to mention Blade. Vampires have loomed and lurked and struck out from the darkest depths of the House of Ideas so a new story using that rich background in this prime market of vampire heat is a great idea.
Maybe we shouldn’t wait for the vampire craze to die down before we see the predatory undead stalk us in our fiction again. If vampires need to terrorize us once more rather than dazzle us with their hair gel, then maybe we should face front and write some spooky vampire stories. Hiding the myth under the bed until it looks new and fresh to readers again might save Neil Gaiman from being lumped into a genre he’s not fond of, but it shouldn’t stop him from telling a story because of what people might think of him. There are probably writers out there who wouldn’t touch comics because they’re ‘kids’ stuff’ who are missing out on the medium, so let’s not judge a book by its cover this time.
Let’s read it! This week’s X-Men #1 is written by award-winning novelist Victor Gischler and penciled by Deadpool artist Paco Medina. The story centers around a “Dracula problem” as a vampire blood bomber explodes in public, catching former mutant Jubilee in the blast. Maybe she got some in her mouth, maybe she scraped her knee in the blast, maybe it got in her nose, all of these are possibilities from Dr. Kavita Rao as she explains to Cyclops that Jubilee is infected with vampirism. Where as Storm was enthralled to Dracula, unable to resist in Bela Lugosi-mesmerism fashion, Jubilee risks transformation. Other San Franciscans who were caught in the same blast have been lured in by a big scary monster, who rose up out of the ocean, and his well-dressed vampire buddies, so the X-Men have gotten the hint. Wolverine takes off his cowboy hat and goes tracking with Angel and Pixie, finding a blood bank of thralls (I assume from the hangings on the wall and the big leather straps) and a low-level vamp who is no match for ol’ Canucklehead. As Logan gives his report to Cyclops, Jubilee looks at what may be her last sunset.
A start, a smidgen of a storyline, backed up by back matter in the form of ads for an upcoming onslaught of mini-series, as well as Uncanny’s “The Five Lights” storyline and the “Fall of the New Mutants.” Also, a preview of Shadowland. This issue is highly designed for the current vampire craze: there are two sympathetic teenage characters in the form of Pixie and Jubilee, fight scenes are short and flashy, vampire motives are easy to recognize and ads, ads, ads! It’s a Marvel comics intro book, and I have no problem with those. I like new customers and if there’s a way to hook new readers, I tend to jump on board. That said, this issue is kind of dull. The rules of vampirism seem changed from previous Marvel comics, nothing of importance happens outside of Jubilee’s infection and it’s got 14 pages worth of preview material. Since the penultimate chapter of “Second Coming” came out at the same time, I’m not sure how far ahead of that this storyline is. Also, I can never tell when Warren Worthington is going to be Angel or Archangel, it just seems to be when thematically appropriate. Is Jubilee the same age as Pixie? Why’d they let her go on the mission to hunt down vampires? Why did Cyclops totally shut down a friend, former team leader and freakin’ queen? All in all, not much for your $3.99 price tag and the discerning Marvel zombie.
But this book isn’t for us. It’s for new readers. It’s for the Twilight market and comic market speculators. These are Gaiman’s cockroach ‘modern vampires’, where you’re infected and inconvenienced by your transformation instead of terrified. Trapped in a world they did not choose, an uncomfortable monster amongst other people, given otherworldly freedoms and strict rules, both beautiful and troubled. And isn’t that what being a mutant is all about?