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]

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