Vampires Like Us

I, Vampire: written by J.M. DeMatteis, Bruce Jones, Dan Myshkin, Gary Cohn, and Mike Barr; illustrated by Tom Sutton, Paris Cullins, Joe Kubert, Mike Kaluta, and others (1981-83; collected 2011): DC’s first foray into an ongoing vampire series appeared in the soon-to-be-defunct House of Mystery back in the early 1980’s. It shares a few attributes with Marvel’s earlier Tomb of Dracula and Blade vampire mythos, but looks a lot more like the obvious forerunner to TV shows that include Angel and Being Human.

400-year-old ‘good’ vampire Andrew Bennett wages a war against Mary, Queen of Blood, a vampire he himself created just after being ‘turned’ himself. He’s got two faithful human companions. She’s got thousands of vampires and humans at her command. Fun times!

J.M. deMatteis created the character along with artist Tom Sutton. Sutton remained on the series for pretty much its entire run, but deMatteis was gone after about eight issues. The next third of the series was written by Bruce Jones, who moved the proceedings into more traditional horror and ditched the supporting cast. Dan Myshkin and Gary Cohn came on board for the final third of the series, and returned it to its original format.

Like most ‘good’ vampires, Andrew Bennett is a bit of a Gloomy Gus, plagued by guilt over the sins he’s committed as a vampire. A host of complications would soon ensue, from a lengthy time-travelling storyline to a mysterious plague that starts wiping out vampires. Bennett keeps his personal blood supply in wine bottles. Is this really a good idea from a food-preservation stand-point?

The deMatteis- and Myshkin and Cohn-scripted portions are much stronger than the Jones section, which at points becomes one of the most depressing horror comics ever, and one that I’m surprised made it through the Comics Code Authority at points. Because nothing says Comics Code like having a normal 10-year-old boy accidentally staked through the heart.

Sutton’s art remains strong throughout whether he’s pencilling or inking others — he was always much more suited to the horror genre than anything else, as he’s got a decent eye for both the grotesque and the fantastic. The covers for the series, by comic greats Joe Kubert and Michael Kaluta, are terrific. Recommended.

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