24 March 2010

Vampire brides

While sloshing through chilly rain in search for a convenient bite, a thought occurred to me. It's spring. Do you know what spring brings? No, not flowers...It brings bloody brides in white dresses.

Spring is the season for weddings; although, I can't imagine why. Let's face it: if you wanted to get your pretty dress all muddy, then you should have just married your beau in a pig farm and not waited for the April showers...or in this case, March showers.

But, who am I to judge? Weddings aren't my specialty...which is kinda my point. In recent vampire fiction, including film productions, vampire brides are a common motif. Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is cited as the source for such characters, but are the enchanting women his wives, his pets, or his daughters? You draw your conclusions; I'll draw mine.

The harem of women, who swoon over Dracula, drags behind it the notion of immortal romance and relative fidelity. Edward pines over Bella, anguishing about choosing between his solitude and her damnation. "What choice have I?" he asks. "I cannot be without you, but I will not destroy your soul."

He hardly needs to worry about her soul, according to John Melton, who says that the "idea of the vampire brides emphasized the sexual nature of the vampire's relationship to his victims. The vampire attacked his victims and then tied them to him in a slavelike structure in which love played little or no part." And, fidelity?--Forget it!

I'm not saying that I agree with Melton, but his notion puts to rest the idea of trading an eternal soul for an eternal body. Romance is not part of the equation in his interpretation. How could it be? Would you love someone if they nagged you for hundreds of years?

Look at an old couple. More often than not, they're at each others throats. And, that idiom becomes literal if translated into an eternal, vampire relationship.

So, if you're dreaming of a white wedding, then take my advice and schedule it for noon on June 21st. Leave O-neg off the menu, and let your dinner guests choose between chicken or fish.

Until death do us part,

...Go ahead and ask. I know you want to.
"What about Lucius?" Eh...

17 March 2010

Vampires in Ireland

What is Saint Patrick's Day without the mention of a leprechaun? These little, red-headed creatures are vicious mischief-makers, and, although we have that in common, I know little more about the leprechaun than what you can find in Wikipedia, if you commit the obligatory Saint Patrick's Day search.

So, instead of speaking about miserly sprites who dress in green (or red depending on the date of your book), I write about the more mysterious and more beautiful Dearg-Dul.

"Throughout the islands of the United Kingdom, particularly Ireland and the Isle of Man, there are countless tales of ghosts, spirits, and faerie folk", but Ireland is also the home of "the deadly Dearg-Dul. This ancient vampire's name, 'red blood sucker,' reveals its nature" to all who are wary. "Legends disagree as to whether the Dearg-Dul is a revenant or a kind of eternal faerie." Certainly, he "does not appear as moldering corpse, though [he] does sleep in graves" (Maberry 94-5).

"The Dearg-Dul is not a hideous monster, and in fact most stories agree that both the male and female Dearg-Dul appear as beautiful and sexually appealing figures whose charismatic aura is utterly compelling. They use their irresistible charms to lure potential victims to trysting places--where they attack and kill them." Into a stupor, they lull their victim through the use of spells, but they also possess supernatural strength. "The Celtic druids have battled these creatures for a thousand years and have devised a number of clever ways of defeating them. The most common way is to locate the grave of a suspected Dearg-Dul and then erect a heavy cairn of stones over it, sealing the stones with prayers and placing sprigs of holly between the rocks." The holly zaps their strength so that they are unable to break their rock prison. "Trapped in their graves, the vampires will eventually degenerate into dust." Yet, according to another legend, "should the stone ever be removed the vampire would walk the earth again" (Russo 38).

The Dearg-Dul is also a skilled trapper. Though both male and female variants exist in legend, the female is more cunning and more vicious. She "holds her victim captive, drains every ounce of his blood, boils it in a crimson cauldron in which she brews her special magic, and makes potions for herself that imbue her with her eternal and ageless beauty" (Maberry 96).

One enchantress (Dearg-Dul/Dearg-Due) "makes an unholy pact with a mortal man" to serve as his creative muse in exchange for eternal love. The pact is made, and the creature imprisons her lover in an underwater palace. Great songs and works of literature flow from his pen, infused with her inspiration, but no one will ever read them. The creature "drains her constant lover of all energy and vitality", taking his life-essence instead of love and "revealing this member of the species to be a kind of essential vampire." Without a tear of farewell, she casts his withered corpse to the side and hunts again for a new "eternal love" (Maberry 95).

Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings…
Russo, Arlene. Vampire Nation.

14 March 2010


"Look at Dracula, squint a bit, and you see the Batman." --O'Neil

After sunset, Batman emerges from his lair. Outside of the law, he rounds up his enemies. Dressed in a black cape, he soars through the night sky. He is the Batman, a gothic creature who lurks in the streets of the city as the "popularized image of the bat." The development of Batman, "one of the most popular late twentieth-century super-heroes, (a DC Comics character) . . . must be credited", in some extent, "to Dracula, the 1897 book by Bram Stoker." Similarities between the two characters are undeniable. But, for the most part, Batman is "a human hero with human resources" (Melton 39).

Traditional super-villains in the Batman comics (Joker, Two Face, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, etc) were humans who befell tragedy. However, Batman also encountered vampires throughout the decades. The first vampire appeared in 1939 in a two-part story in issues No. 31 and No. 32 of the Detective Comics. In that story, a vampire took "control of Bruce Wayne's girlfriend, unaware that Wayne was Batman." Batman tracked the vampire "to his home in Hungary, which was also the home of his allies, the werewolves. Batman eventually found the vampire and his vampire bride asleep and killed them with a silver bullet fired into the coffins" (Melton 38-9).

"Batman's next encounter with a vampire, Gustav Decobra, occurred in the January 1976 Detective Comics (No. 455). Stranded by car trouble, Bruce Wayne and his butler Alfred entered a seemingly deserted house only to find a coffin in the center of the living room. As they searched the house, the vampire emerged from the coffin. After Wayne saw the vampire, he changed into Batman. In the ensuing fight, Batman rammed a stake into the vampire's chest. However, this did no good because Decobra had cleverly hidden his heart elsewhere. . . By the time of their next confrontation, [Batman] figured out that Decobra had hidden his heart in the grandfather clock at the house. When Batman impaled the heart with an arrow, Decobra died" (Melton 39).

Another character, Man-Bat, also brings vampires into the story of Batman, although he is not originally a vampire bat. "In 1982, immediately after the conclusion of the first episode with Man-Bat, where he was cured of the condition that had turned him into a bat, Batman. . . now squared off against vampires again. An unsuspecting Robin was captured by his girlfriend, Dala, who turned out to be a vampire. . . Robin was bitten and then allowed to escape. Because the only way to save Robin was with a serum made from the vampire's blood, Batman went after the vampires. Unsuccessful in his first encounter, Batman was bitten and also became a vampire." In a second confrontation, "he was able to obtain the necessary ingredients to return himself and Robin to normalcy" (Melton 39).

The next encounter with a vampire involves "an altogether different Batman" (Melton 39). "As Batman crusaded for good causes, he also showed his darker side, which found its ultimate expression in a trilogy of graphic novels published between 1991 and 1998. . . DC had toyed with this idea before, but writer Doug Moench and horror artist Kelley Jones grabbed it by the throat and drained all the juice out of it in three increasingly outrageous Elseworld books: Red Rain (1991), Bloodstorm (1994), and Crimson Mist (1998)" (Daniels 173). In these stories, "vampires were a major threat and Batman turned vampire to stop Dracula" (Greenberger 34).

In the first book, Batman heroically battles Dracula, "but ends up infected by vampirism". In the second book, "when readers might have expected a fortuitous cure, the hero turns predator; in a story full of blood puncture wounds, both Batman and Catwoman end up impaled and destroyed. This looked like the end of the story, but in the third book Batman was revived as a loathsome, putrescent monster, ravenous to ravage all his old enemies before finally giving up the ghost himself. Conjuring up some of the most disturbing images in Batman comics or any others, Jones provided a graphic demonstration of what Bruce Wayne might have become if he had chosen vengeance rather than justice as his guide. "It's a pretty vicious story," said Jones. "Like a three-act opera, it ends in tragedy" (Daniels 173).

Batman is a cultural icon, who combines elements of darkness with social morals, into a creature that terrifies and seduces. Like Dracula, he is able to adopt a guise that allows him to blend in with humans; however, in the dark, he stands outside of normal society. Batman can easily transform from a super-hero into a super-villain; however, unlike Dracula, he most frequently chooses the path of heroism, even sacrificing himself for humanity.

I ask this: Would Batman fight a super-villain called Malaria? I think he might.

Daniels, Les. Batman the Complete History.
Greenberger, Robert. The Essential Batman Encyclopedia.
Melton, John. The Vampire Book.
Yug. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bat-shadow.svg [Image, Note: this is not the official Batman logo, which is copyrighted]

02 March 2010

Home is where you hang your cape

If a man's home is his castle, then a vampire's castle is his home. Hardly a vampire story passes into fiction without the description of a palace, mansion, or some grandiose house.

Who can forget Jonathan Harker's first sight of Castle Dracula?

"Suddenly, I became conscious of the fact that the driver was in the act of pulling up the horses in the courtyard of a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moon-lit sky" (Stoker 13).

Gone is the time of the folkloric revenant, who passed daylight hours in a water-logged caves or crawled from the graveyard beds at first signs of night. Nowadays, even the vegetarian vampires have a veritable palace, albeit it's made largely of glass, which won't help at all to hide their sparkly skin in the noon-day sun. On the plus side, it's easy to see a mob of angry villagers with torches and processional crosses approaching.

But, before the Cullens decided to prettify vampire imagery, the residence of the vampire was depicted as large, dark, and well-secured. Anne Rice describes countless mansions, palaces, and island fortresses that serve as nighttime dwellings for her immortal characters. The castle may change according to the standard of the time, but her vampires often live well. At times, the image of the vampire is nearly inseparable from the spooky fortress that encloses him.

Even one of the oldest of vampire fictions, Varney the Vampire, touts a large manor as an important issue to the vampire. I'd like to be more specific with this example, but I am not able to wade through the bloated dialogue of that ridiculously long penny-dreadful looking for an acceptable quote to back my claim, at the moment. So, take my word for it, or read it yourself.

"Why is Ana so busy?" You may ask...and inevitably someone will.

I'd like to respond, "Writing little blog articles to explain the intricacies of vampiric existence is not the most entertaining or important use of my time", but I should refrain. So, I will tell you that relocation has rendered me too busy to re-read the melodramatic series in the hope of finding the source of the vampire castle. Yes, I have relocated, and that is precisely my point.

You see, castles are horribly impractical for the vampire. Limelight living is not something for which vampires aspire. Let's face it, ostentatious dwellings draw attention. I know. We've all met Sunday drivers who decide to pass their time gawking at and yearning for the homes of the rich as they drive two miles per hour through residential streets. Who wants this sort of attention? Frankly, I don't.

Anyway, once a vampire has hung around the neighborhood long enough, the locals will notice strange habits and feel snubbed by the repetitious refusal of dinner party invitations. All this doesn't even consider the expected life-cycle of a human. Moving away for half a century only to return, claiming to be the grandchild and namesake of the previous occupant, won't work. Why?--paperwork.

Boil it all down, and I'd prefer a cozy little crypt over a palace. But, since graveyards are full of decaying bodies, I'll settle for an inconspicuous little hovel with thick walls and a low security deposit--just in case I have to skip town in a hurry.

Oh, and obliging landlords with few questions certainly make things easier.


01 March 2010

Night Vision

"According to Abraham Van Helsing, the voice of authority on vampires in Dracula, the vampire can see in the dark" (Melton 755). This little perk of vampirism comes in handy as the blood-drinker lurks in a shadowy recess waiting for his prey to stumble by him.

Vampiric night vision is a logical assumption, "because vampires [are] nocturnal creatures who [move] freely in the darkness of the evening hours" (755). In order to feel comfortable and secure a creature should be able to use all available senses, so a vampire must be able to see at night. But, let's be honest, you can see at night, too. You just can't see very well.

Nocturnal creatures cannot perceive an environment that is totally dark, either, unless they employ another means of navigation. The bat, for instance, uses sonar. The viper utilizes infrared. Often the vampire is compared to both of these creatures, but can a vampire truly see when the world is devoid of light?

Before we continue further, I will admit that I have rather poor eyesight. I mean, it's probably still better than yours, but I shouldn't brag. Once again, I am an unreliable source of information. My eyes are not equipped with infrared sensors, x-ray emitters, or sonar receivers...but, I really wish that they were; that'd be cool.

Anyway, let's examine what fiction and folklore have to say. Then, we'll discuss the scenario as I...ahem...see it.

In folklore, vampires emerge at night, and in some tales cannot withstand the solar rays. However, vampires are rarely afforded a narrative voice in folklore, and we cannot assume that they possess heightened night-vision just because they are nocturnal.

So, we'll turn to fiction. Certainly, Stoker bestows keen nocturnal sight on his undead characters. Human narrators describe dark scenes through which the vampire navigates flawlessly. In more modern fiction, nearly always vampires are ascribed preternatural sight, including powerful night-vision.

Nina Auerbach points out that Rice's vampires "do little, but they are superb spectators. When they are not killing, they flex their highly developed vampire sight" (154). Not only do Rice's vampires see well in very low light, but they also see well in illuminated scenes. Louis notes how his vision changes--he sees the world through new, vampiric eyes--when he transforms from human to vampire. Armand, as Amadeo, records how lights glow brighter after his death, and paintings seem to come alive. Colors are also bolder, and patterns are more distinguished.

When I argue with Anne Rice, readers of my blog become disgruntled. You'll be happy to know that I'm not contradicting your vampire-guru author...well, I'm not contradicting her overtly, anyway. Vampiric vision relies on acute perception, which is sensing and mentally translating the environment, instead of sonar, infrared, or any other seemingly magical catalyst of night vision. Vampires are nocturnal and are therefore more accustomed to the dark version of the world than diurnal humans. Looming shadows fail to startle the vampire, who realizes that they are nothing more than inanimate objects. Small movements register sharply in the peripherals of the vampire's vision, and he knows to react to these tremors.

So, does a vampire have night vision? Of course, he does. And, unlike you, he understands what he sees.

See you soon,

Note: Hey, it could be worse. I could have babbled on about the natural bleaching of rods and cones and the regeneration cycles of cells...just think about that.

Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires.
Melton, J Gordon. Vampire Book.