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I… Vampire SC
by Robert Greenberger
Around the time of the infamous DC Explosion, lots of of the anthology series were receiving recurring characters, among them Bob Rozakis’ Mister E, a revival of Dr. Thirteen, and the arrival of Andrew Bennett. The latter character was the first series created for comics by a young, eager new writer named J.M. DeMatteis. The I…Vampire series ran in house of mystery for a while before vanishing while the character made very infrequent appearances in the DC universe ever since. It’s as a result interesting to see him revived as part of the new 52 while it’s a treat to have the original material collected in the new I…Vampire trade collection.
Recently, DeMatteis recounted for me how this all got started. “Len Wein — editor of house of mystery (a great person and my first real mentor in the business) — wanted an ongoing series for the title. (At the same time I sold him creature Commandos as a regular feature in odd war Tales.) He had a title in mind, I…Vampire, and asked me to create a series around it. I went home, cooked up Andrew Bennett and company, Len approved it, and we were off.”
In sixteenth century England, Lord Andrew Bennett had been turned into a vampire. Desiring eternal life with his lover, Mary Seward, he caused her to become a vampire. She became the soulless monster a lot of vampires are, and renamed herself Mary, Queen of Blood. The Cult of the Blood Red Moon were her disciples, vampires she turned and commanded, sending them around the world. Bennett, feeling guilt over his actions, partnered with humans in a quest to end her danger and keep humanity safe.
He was paired with veteran horror artist Tom Sutton, whose roots go back to the Warren black and white magazines plus tons of Charlton Comics (and drew lots of issues of star trek for me). For the new writer, Wein’s choice was “a best choice. He did a fantastic job. Tom’s style was very unique, moody, textured and emotional. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Going from writing a handful of anthology stories to unexpectedly creating two series was a heady experience, but also indicated boosted expectations from him as a professional. Fortunately, he had an experienced editor in Wein.
“I only worked with Len and, as I recall, he gave me all the room I wanted to tell the stories the way I wanted — but he was always there to gently nudge me back onto the path when I stumbled,” DeMatteis said. “I had so much respect for Len that I took all his input to heart. That said he wasn’t the kind of editor who jumped all over your script. He knew when to step in and when to leave you alone. If you were on the ideal track, he’d let you go.”
In 1980, while still writing these titles, DeMatteis was given an offer from marvel he couldn’t refuse so he jumped from vampires to barbarians, taking over Conan among other titles. He admits that thirty years later, he’s not sure what direction he was taking his characters next. “The heart and soul of the series, of course, was Andrew’s quest to both stop and redeem Mary; and I know I wanted the Zen monk vampires to become an crucial part of the series. beyond that, your guess is as good as mine!
“Of course I brought Bennett and the monks back nearly ten years later in a big arc in my doctor fate series. but that story was a new one, nothing that I’d planned for the original run.”
The series was concluded by the other newcomers, the writing team of Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, whose work is also included in the trade which reprints stories from house of mystery #290, 291, 293, 295, 297, 299, 302 and 304-319 and The brave and the bold #195.
Still, this is DeMatteis’ baby and he looks back on it with a critical eye, noting, “I…Vampire was created very early in my career. considering that fact, and how much I had to learn as a writer (I don’t think I really found my own voice until Moonshadow, a good five years later), I think the stories hold up very well… and the concept has clearly held up.
“What worked for me was the idea of a vampire who wasn’t corrupted by the curse; one who was driven not by bloodlust, but by love. I’d like to think that’s still the core of the series and what’s drawing people to it. (And for the record, I think Josh Fialkov is doing a fantastic job on the new incarnation.)”
I… Vampire SC