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Who is Vampirella?

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  • Who is Vampirella?

    When I first met her, many years ago . . . she was battling a creepy worm-thing on a far away sand planet . . . and she was dealing with her torn feelings over the man she loved (Adam VanHelsing) and the man she desired (Dracula). And as always, she was dealing with her own struggles with trying to figure out how she fit into the world. I was instantly hooked, and started collecting all the back-issues I could, so that I could fill in the gaps of her back-story.

    Of course Vampirella was beautiful . . . the artwork in the Warren era magazines was usually exemplary. But more than her beauty and her iconic costume, Vampirella seemed real to me. That was because the stories were generally pretty well written . . . Vampirella has a solid back-story (well, at least after issues one and two which were a bit silly). She had a solid cast of back-up characters. She had an on-going motivation (either battling the cult of Chaos, or trying to reconcile her alien nature, or dealing with her bloodlust). Granted, sometimes there was a heck of a lot packed into one story, and exposition was sometimes a little awkward – but you always knew where Vampi stood . . . because there was a lot of reliance on an “inner- voice” for Vampirella . . .

    The thing was, Vampi had relationships . . . she had friends, and enemies . . . and lovers. There was no doubt that Vampi had a healthy sex life – and while it was rarely overtly shown, there was no doubt that Adam and Vampi were having sex . . . and that later she would have other lovers including a Sun God! . . . and that she’d had a husband back on her home world. Vampi’s healthy sex life was one more indication that she was more than a 2-dimentional character . . . she was a woman with feelings, desires . . . and that every 24-hour bloodlust.

    While a lot has been written on this forum about Vampi’s costume . . . there’s not been a lot of discussion of late about the handling of her as a character.
    I keep thinking someone will come along who really gets her and will give her some real back up characters to relate to, and populate a world in such a way that she can have some interactions – other than just staking bad-guys.
    The last time I read a Vampirella story that really captivated me . . . well, it was the 4-part Morning in America series. The Dracula Wars was luke-warm . . . and most of the rest of the Harris run was forgettable – there were a couple interesting plot twists and turns, but somewhere along the way Vampi lost her personality. And Harris pretty much destroyed what was left of Vampi’s back-up crew.

    Issue one of the current Dynamite run had some promise . . . we were in Vampi’s head a bit . . . hearing her thoughts . . . but slowly we’re back to just an action character . . . jumping from one bad guy to the next. And while there’s been some praise here about Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion – frankly I think that comic is a mess . . . It’s unclear where it fits in the continuity, and Vampirella has no more personality in it than she did during the worst of the Harris run . . .

    I’d really like to see a writer spend a little time developing a wider cast of back-up characters for Vampirella. I’d like to see her in some situations that are not all action and hunting down baddies . . . some quiet moments of reflection, would give the opportunity to re-establish her personality. And for god-sake . . . it’s time she got a lover again . . . near as I can tell, she hasn’t “had any” since Nyx broke Adam’s neck . . . way back when . . .

    - Thunder

  • #2
    These are all points that I have made many, many times. No one in power is listening. I appreciate your added voice, and hope to see you post often. This has become a ghost town.


    • #3
      Good points all. I have been saying this since '93. I probably had more letters printed in the Harris issues than anyone, and no one paid the slightest attention. I think it is simply too easy to rationalize that "today's reader" only wants violence and action. Plus now, Vampirella is probably seen as a poor-selling product with little upside, so why spend a lot of effort on it. Doing the bad girl thing will net only so much in sales and so you should keep costs low and get what little you can.

      Nevertheless, I'm still staggered that Dynamite chose to basically continue the failed Harris model. I wish they had taken more of an audacious, underdog, Robert E. Lee approach and tried something unexpected (and I count returning to the Warren model unexpected!). For instance, hire a romance novelist, pair him/her with a proven comic writer like Phil Hester (for action scenes & adaptation to the comics medium), and see what you get (I would hope for a visit to Collinsport, Maine . The Warren Vampi would have been conflicted over Barnabas, seeing him as both a villain and a tragic, romantic character, much like she saw Dracula).

      I agree that the Scarlet Legion is a mess and they're bringing back a lot of the good old characters just to waste them and discourage better use of them in the future (like licking a spoon to keep your sibling from using it). It reminds me of the annoying way Arthur C. Clarke used to try to work every good idea he had into some of his more mediocre stories just so he could lay claim to them and prevent someone else from actually giving the storylines the time & effort they deserved. Oh well, it's at least a move in the right direction, so I will keep buying them and be glad to see others praise them in this forum.


      • #4
        . . . ah, continuity.

        In serialized story telling the issue of continuity (or the character’s canon, if you will) eventually comes up. This is especially true with long-established characters handled by many different writers over time. Fans generally fall on a continuum in regard to how important they feel continuity is. At one end of the spectrum are the “continuity is sacred” camp, at the other is a more devil-may-care population who generally like the “idea” of the character, but don’t much care if new situations or story lines place the character outside his or her established continuity.

        In my experience, the hard-core fans tend to skew to the continuity is sacred end of the spectrum. They are, at least, the most vocal. And while I think most of us (and I count myself among this lot) don’t mind a little slip here and there, we generally want the established continuity to be followed.
        Why? Acknowledging and following the established continuity show respect to the previous writers – It builds on what has been established – it provides an opportunity to build on previously told stories, previously established characters. It provides a framework on which to build – so that the character is not just a free-floating character in a snazzy costume. When one throws continuity out the door – the character and his/her motivation become a muddled mess . . . fans no longer feel a deep connection to the character . . .

        For writers dealing with a character and his/her continuity there are a couple of respectful ways to go. One, respect the continuity and the respect the limitations – write within the continuity and use it as a jumping off place to build on. Or, two, set up a series of “what-if” or “Never-were” stories that explore parallel universe realities for the character.
        Of course another way to go would be to reboot the character, change the continuity – but provide a reason why, set up a new origin story or a retelling -- or an explanation about why the previously established continuity isn’t “the truth.

        Vampirella isn’t the first character to have her continuity played around with. And she won’t be the last. In the early days of the Harris run – I really didn’t mind the re-visioning of Vampirella’s origin story. I did not mind it because, early on, Harris seemed to respect the original continuity – explaining the new origin and how it fit into the old stories. It even provided the introduction of a couple of interesting plot twists and new characters . . . Nyx’s origin story was creative and a respectful nod to the Warren era.

        But let’s face it. . . the last few years with Harris were a bloody mess . . . Vampirella slipped into a muddled mess and Harris even began undoing their own reboot . . .

        And now add to the muddled mess, “Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion” – there’s no way to place this story arc in any continuity – Dead characters are back. Characters appear out of their continuity (the Scarlet legion wasn’t introduced in the Harris comics until long after Adam was dead and in hell (Draculon). This arc has so much thrown in it, with no good explanation – that everything comes off bland and flavorless. And of course at the center of it is another “bad-girl” version of Vampirella – I feel nothing for this Vampirella . . . she is tiresome . . .


        • #5
          Another important aspect that has gone missing in the post-Warren era is fun. Bad writers tend to fall-back on heavy storylines: the death of the main character or supporting characters, hyper-violence, and of course, the epic, end-of-the-world scenario. DC's Justice League was once described as the place for epic, galactic-scope storylines. This is fine; WW, Batman, etc. can have smaller, more inimate adventures in their main titles and save the universe in issues of the JLA. To save the world all the time in numbing, however. There's not one new Red Sonja story, for example, that begins to match the sheer comics fun of the Roy Thomas or Frank Thorne issues. Likewise, who can match Goodwin's run on Vampirella. I realize Thomas & Goodwin were legends but can't someone at least try to emulate them?

          Here's an idea, so I'm not just a whiner: DC owned the copyright to all the old JLA stories, so Grant Morrison was able to mine some of these older tales and retell them. James Robinson and Ray Lago did this with Vampi, redoing "To be a Bride of Chaos" in one of the true high points of the Harris stewardship. Why not repeat this? The key will be to hire a decent writer (most of the heavy lifting is already done) and a GREAT artist like Lago (who'll have to compete with Gonzalez, Mayo, etc.). Older fans should appreciate this -- I certainly enjoyed the Robinson story -- and newer readers may get hooked on a fully-characterized Vampirella. These could be a separate series, like Scarlet Legion. Call it Vampirella Covered or Vampirella New Eyes or something. Key will be having a great artist and a writer who can add a new twist or two without screwing-up the original script.


          • #6
            Originally posted by rlvaugh View Post
            Another important aspect that has gone missing in the post-Warren era is fun. Bad writers tend to fall-back on heavy storylines: the death of the main character or supporting characters, hyper-violence, and of course, the epic, end-of-the-world scenario.
            word man, word.
            I said that with #1 of the current series in my hands already.
            the lightheartedness of the old Vampirella stories (she is not a dummy but takes things not so serious - one being her weaing skimpy stuff), swinging between horror and gotesque, is something hardly found in today heavy stories, wherever.

            actually I remember Eric (who is GOOD writer!*g*) stating somewhere taht the editors wanted the first arc to be so heavy, Lovecraftian. (where it actually missed for me, I love Lovecraft and have read all of him)

            The new setup with Sofia (kinda like Warhouses Claudia) has so much potential though. I hope it will develop here.
            Crossover anyone?

            WH13 has a tone that even clicked with my wife who seldom cares about TV shows.
            Last edited by electron; 08-26-2011, 07:49 AM.


            • #7
              I had said the same thing since '91 already , maybe with too much
              foam on the mouth and the one or other middlefinger thrown in.
              Wasted time now and then - whatever (Harris or) Dynamite will do,
              it has to sell firsthand. And fact is, if the mass wouldn't outnumber
              the elite (us ) by 100:1, it wouldn't be mass and elite any longer.
              And so the world gets McDonald-ized everywhere.
              Things could only change for the better if they change for the worse -
              i.e. Vampirella sales are so lousy that in a last attempt of
              everything-else-HAS-failed Dynamite buys some giant of Whedon or
              Straczynski proportions to start a ruthless quality offensive.
              Now how probable is that? Right.
              Rather the rights are sold to the next company.
              So we must stay patient. Harris had its good and its bad days, not
              everything was manure then. Maybe a next generation Vampirella
              fandom will form somewhen.


              • #8
                I know. I know.

                But it helps to talk about it.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by shokoshu View Post
                  So we must stay patient. Harris had its good and its bad days, not
                  everything was manure then. Maybe a next generation Vampirella
                  fandom will form somewhen.
                  I agree things can get better and hopefully will. But starting this way, well it feels to me like a missed opportunity. Dynamite's first issue of Vampirella was in the top fifty in sales I think. the book dropped to the eighties by issue 2 which is to be expected, but it continued to drop and has been hovering in the 150's these last few months.
                  Ranking in in the 150's actually compares decently with some of Dynamites other books. But had we been treated to someone, who like Busiek, got to know and understand the character rather than dismissing a lot about her and continuing with the same muddled bad-girl story telling we mostly got from Harris back in the nineties, (And yet somehow thinking that to be a fresh take) I feel many more readers might have stayed on.
                  Last edited by GrayPumpkin; 09-01-2011, 06:59 PM.


                  • #10
                    I dont have a clue as to who dynamites Vampirella is supposed to be, nor due I understand any of her motivation. The great thing about Vampis continuity is that the character should b timeless and stories of her adventures should b able to b told regardless of what time in her life they take place,,,it seems the only way to track Vampis continuity is by which sidekick shes running with and wether or not Adam appears to b dead....


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MandyOToole View Post
                      I dont have a clue as to who dynamites Vampirella is supposed to be, nor due I understand any of her motivation. ....
                      That was one of the great things about the Warren Vampi - she had more realistic motivations, ones readers could relate to. WHY IN THE WORLD DOES DYNAMITE KEEP HER STUCK IN THE IDIOTIC HARRIS REALITY??!!!

                      Her statements on motivation are weaker than ever in issue #9. It takes a great deal of suspension of disbelief to accept that most superheroes do what they do for no pay, but after Revelations, why would Vampi have any reason left to fight vampires? Good editors/writers could have at least made hay with Vampirella getting over her mother's betrayal, & the fact that now 2 of her origins proved to be false, but no, I guess it's too much work to try to carry any kind of continuity for more than 2 issues. Or to try to think up something more complex than another fight scene.