Blood-Sucking Bad Guys

Blood-Sucking Bad Guys

(pop culture)
At a gathering of his friends, the poet Lord Byron issued a challenge that they write a tale of the supernatural. The most famous result was Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, but another response was the first prose story written in English about vampires, John Polidori's “The Vampyre” (1819). The work that has most influenced the concept of the vampire, in both literature and the popular culture, is Bram Stoker's novel Dracula (1897). Director F. W. Murnau presented an unauthorized adaptation of Stoker's novel in his German silent horror film Nosferatu (1922). Far more influential on the popular imagination, however, was director Tod Browning's film Dracula (1931), based on a stage version, both of which starred Bela Lugosi as a foreign count whose aristocratic manner conceals his vampiric nature. The character of Dracula has continued to haunt popular culture ever since these early appearances. Britain's Hammer Films produced a long series of movies starring Christopher Lee as the Count, beginning with Horror of Dracula (1958). Dracula returned to the best-seller list in Elizabeth Kostova's novel The Historian (2005). Dracula's most notable comics appearances were in Marvel's classic Tomb of Dracula series (1972–1979). Writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan depicted Dracula as a grand, charismatic figure with a multilayered personality, capable of love and despair as well as rage and murderous violence. In Tomb Wolfman and Colan created the vampire hunter Blade, whose arch-foe is Deacon Frost, the vampire who killed his mother. Frost, who could create vampiric dopplegängers of his victims, turned detective Hannibal King into a vampire. Appropriately, Frost became the villain in the first Blade film (1998). Considering they share a bat motif, it is appropriate that one of Batman's earliest foes was a vampire named the Monk (Detective Comics #31, 1939). Co-created by writer Gardner Fox, the Monk, garbed in a red robe and hood, tried to turn Bruce Wayne's fiancée Julie Madison into a vampire before Wayne, as Batman, destroyed him. Producer Dan Curtis introduced a Dracula-like vampire as a villain into his Gothic daytime television serial, Dark Shadows (1966–1971). Instead, this character, Barnabas Collins, became the first sympathetic vampire to make a significant impact on popular culture. As played by Jonathan Frid, Barnabas was a “reluctant vampire,” a man under a curse, unable to control his addiction to blood. He became the protector of the Collins family against supernatural evils, while guiltily hiding his own secret from them. Roy Thomas co-created Marvel's own guiltridden vampire Morbius (in Amazing Spider-Man #101, 1971) as well as the malevolent World War II vampire Baron Blood, who, like Barnabas, posed as a normal member of his family (The Invaders #7, 1976). In doing so, Thomas became the first modern Marvel writer to portray vampires as supervillains, pitting them in combat against superheroes. Over the decades writers have made the sexual connotations of vampirism increasingly explicit. Comics' vampiress Vampirella (who first appeared in Vampirella #1, from Warren Publishing, in 1969), was a sex symbol, but not a villainess, and battled other supernatural beings. In his novel Salem's Lot (1975) Stephen King followed the traditional concept of vampires as evil predators. But Anne Rice revolutionized the fictional treatment of vampires with her series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles, beginning with Interview with the Vampire (1976, made into a feature film in 1994). Although they prey on humans, Rice treats her vampires, including her most famous character, the Vampire Lestat, as romantic members of a subculture following an alternative lifestyle. Director Joel Schumacher's cult film The Lost Boys (1987) forsakes Dracula's aristocratic trappings, pitting its young heroes against vampires who seem like macho young gang members. It influenced Richard Howell's long-running comics series Deadbeats (Claypool Comics), about a New England town plagued by vampires. In his classic television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) creator Joss Whedon treats vampires more like conventional supervillains: they have superhuman strength and are virtually invulnerable, except to wooden stakes and sunlight. To Whedon, vampires lack souls and hence are disposed toward evil. An exception to this is Angel, a vampire who regained his soul and as a result became tormented with guilt and sought redemption. Angel became the unlikely ally and lover of the series' young heroine, Buffy Summers, and, after they broke up, graduated to his own television series (1999–2004). Occasionally Angel would temporarily lose his soul and revert to his alternate personality, the sadistic Angelus. Buffy's second season introduced Spike, a British “punk” vampire and his charmingly mad vampire lover Drusilla. Over the following seasons Spike discovered he was in love with Buffy, they had an affair, and Spike underwent a magical ordeal to regain his soul to prove his worth to her. But Buffy was uninterested in a romance with Spike, who moved over to the Angel series for its final season. Whedon's Buffy and Angel series featured a long line of memorable villains, including the Master (an ancient vampire), Mayor Richard Wilkins (whose banal but ingratiating demeanor masked his lust for power), Faith (a vampire slayer turned rogue, who later reformed), Adam (a modern Frankenstein's monster), Glory (a goddess trapped in mortal form), the Trio (three wannabe supervillains), the First (the shapeshifting embodiment of evil), and the law firm of Wolfram & Hart (whose practice includes black magic). Whedon's “Buffyverse” villains have also appeared in Dark Horse's comics and the novels based on the Buffy and Angel television shows.