Install this theme

Posts tagged: becky cloonan

At The Gutter: Engulfed By The Shadow Of Dracula

This week, Comics Editor Carol reads Becky Cloonan’s illustrated Dracula and thinks about sexy vampires, women and the horror of a corporate eternity.

In one of the first pieces I wrote for the Cultural Gutter, I wrote about how I like that there are so many versions of Batman. And I talked about how bats come in a “cloud.” I wish I had saved that metaphor for discussing Dracula, because there are so many more versions of him—and of vampires in general.

There is the Dracula of Bram Stoker’s novel, in which Stoker looks over his shoulder at Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, James Malcolm Rhymer’s Varney the Vampyre and Dr. Polidori’s Lord Ruthven.* There is the historical Wallachian Voivod, Vlad III. There is the non-legally actionable Count Orlok of F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922), voted the most creepily adorable vampire by me. There is Bela Lugosi’s classic performance on stage and screen and Carlos Villarías in George Melford’s Spanish-language version filmed simultaneously with Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). Paul Naschy’s Dracula wore turtlenecks and looked for love in Count Dracula’s Great Love (1972) and Gary Oldman’s wore tinted glasses while doing the same in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) There is Christopher Lee’s protean count in Hammer Studios’s Dracula movies. In 1979, there were both an open-shirted Frank Langella in Dracula and a ratlike Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, The Vampyre. Marvel Comics’ Dracula has been a nemesis of Blade and Dr. Strange before moving to a castle on the moon. Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s Dracula appears to bite it before returning in Dark Horse’s Buffyverse comics. And just a few weeks ago I saw poor Vlad getting over some things in What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and then came across a copy of Becky Cloonan’s illustrated Dracula (New York: Harper Design, 2012) It seemed like both a sign and a portent—as if Dracula were calling out to me across oceans of time…

dracula cloonan bloofer lady“Beware that his shadow does not engulf you like a daemonic nightmare.” Of Vampyres, Terrible Phantoms and the Seven Deadly Sins (Nosferatu, 1922)

“All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips.” from Jonathan Harker’s journal

“No man knows, till he experiences it, what it is to feel his own lifeblood drawn away into the veins of the woman he loves.” From Dr. Seward’s diary, 10 September.

In one of the first pieces I wrote for the Cultural Gutter, I wrote about how I like that there are so many versions of Batman. And I talked about how bats come in a “cloud.” I wish I had saved that metaphor for discussing Dracula, because there are so many versions of him—and of vampires in general.

There is the Dracula of Bram Stoker’s novel, in which Stoker looks over his shoulder at Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, James Malcolm Rhymer’s Varney the Vampyre and Dr. Polidori’s Lord Ruthven.* There is the historical Wallachian Voivod, Vlad III. There is the non-legally actionable Count Orlok of F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922), voted the most creepily adorable vampire by me. There is Bela Lugosi’s classic performance on stage and screen and Carlos Villarías in George Melford’s Spanish-language version filmed simultaneously with Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). Paul Naschy’s Dracula wore turtlenecks and looked for love in Count Dracula’s Great Love (1972) and Gary Oldman’s wore tinted glasses while doing the same in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) There is Christopher Lee’s protean count in Hammer Studios’s Dracula movies. In 1979, there were both an open-shirted Frank Langella in Dracula and a ratlike Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, The Vampyre. Marvel Comics’ Dracula has been a nemesis of Blade and Dr. Strange before moving to a castle on the moon. Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s Dracula appears to bite it before returning in Dark Horse’s Buffyverse comics. And just a few weeks ago I saw poor Vlad getting over some things in What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and then came across a copy of Becky Cloonan’s illustrated Dracula (New York: Harper Design, 2012) It seemed like both a sign and a portent—as if Dracula were calling out to me across oceans of time…

Becky Cloonan is one of my favorite comic artists (and writers) and it is interesting to see her work in a solely illustrative capacity, with more time for each image. This edition of Dracula has plenty of space for her illustration, but is still a convenient size and shape for reading. Her bold, jagged lines and cool palette broken with bloody bright red and rusty brown go so well with the story.  And, man, can she draw wolves. Beyond really liking her work, there is just something satisfying about a woman illustrating Dracula—especially a woman who draws sexy women, pulp horror and violence so well. Someone fetch smelling salts; Bram Stoker has collapsed, appalled, on his fainting couch. And here I thought there was no fun to be had in shocking the bourgeoisie.

I’ve Dracula read many times, but Stoker is a bit of a struggle for me. Stoker was the son of Charlotte M.B. Stoker (nee Thornley), an outspoken feminist and advocate for universal education, and his ambivalence about women, the New Woman and especially women’s sexuality comes through in the book. But I’ve been thinking about Dracula more as I see calls for vampires to be “scary again” and complaints about sexy and romantic vampires in the wake of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and True Blood. (And Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire (1976) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1994) before them). Dracula himself has had a lot of forms in comics and in film and many of them have been sexy times Dracula. In fact, sexy vampires pre-date Dracula. Whatever your mileage may be on Lord Ruthven, he’s not a hideous nosferatu. (Sorry, Orlok). And before Dracula was written 1897, Sheridan Le Fanu wrote the first sexy lady Lesbian vampire story, Carmilla (1874). So the sexy times and the attractive doom has always been a part of vampire stories, even if not all vampires are sexy. (Though many of the folk complaining are probably perfectly happy with Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla).

But even if you consider sexy Dracula a bastardization of Stoker’s hairy-palmed Dracula, there are still sexy vampires in Dracula. They just happen to be ladies. In fact, female vampires outnumber male ones in Dracula: 4.5 to 1.5, or three brides, one Bloofer Lady and Mina Harker to Dracula and Renfield. Because whether you want sexy vampires or not, in Dracula, at least, vampires are a lot about women’s sexual desire and everyone’s fear of it.

In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. I thought at the time that I must be dreaming when I saw them, for, though the moonlight was behind them, they threw no shadow on the floor. They came close to me, and looked at me for some time, and then whispered together….All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth. (Stoker, 2012: 48-50 )

Women lose their innocence and become sexy and sexually aggressive after encountering him. Please note Exhibits A-C from Kate Beaton’s “Hark, A Vagrant!”:

Though, in Nosferatu (1922) and Nosferatu (1979), women’s sexual desire is eliminated from the story of Dracula. And the vampire is not attractive, but the women who die to stop him are idealized beauties whose self-sacrifice is also filmed as beautiful. The vampire is destroyed ultimately by own desire as ladies patiently lie back and think of saving mankind. Which is kind of amazing, now that I think about it. Whatever is going on with ladies is so powerful that they can destroy with utter passivity and seeming obliviousness. Being beautiful because you don’t know you’re beautiful still seems to be a big thing.

But where Dracula‘s women become as first languid and then terrible women who kill children, wear sexy nightgowns and come on too strong, Renfield, the only partially transformed man, becomes both murderous and strangely pliant. He is not only subject to his Master’s will, but schemingly so with the authorities of his asylum. Renfield becomes consumed with eating smaller lives so that he can become like Dracula and free himself from his subjection. Renfield isn’t appealing, but there is a strong appeal to becoming a vampire lady. They are active, rather than passive. They are predators, rather than prey. (I actually think this is a stronger theme in werewolf movies like Ginger Snaps). They get to express emotions and apparently have a lot more fun. They get better clothes. They don’t die—well, at least until Van Helsing comes around to stake them, fill their mouths with garlic and chop off their heads. (Dracula just requires a stab). But even the ladies who don’t transform, appear to Dracula’s hickeys.

dracula lucy becky cloonan

And while I doubt that sympathy for vampires is new, the pervasive general sympathy and the openness of it is seems to be. Years ago, I attended an academic conference panel on depictions of evil in pop culture. It was during the height of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and a lot of the attendees were concerned that in sympathizing with vampires, the youth were unknowingly embracing evil. While evil has the best outfits and lairs, I thought even then that this was just wrong. I think after over one hundred years of world wars, genocide, and slavery, I think it’s hard for us honestly to see a force more capable of destruction than ourselves. A vampire just can’t compete. And it’s very easy to see us using justifications we have used over and over to persecute vampires: they are evil; they aren’t human; they don’t have souls. And you can’t tell me that Vampire Prosecutor doesn’t have a soul.

dracula company of monsters

Lately, vampires have been getting with the program. Vampires are going corporate and that’s just scary, because nothing is more depressing than an eternity of corporate office work. In Dracula AD, 1972, Dracula oversees his Satanic business from a skyscraper office suite. In the Underworld film series, vampires have terrible, boring meetings that they must all attend for eternity. And in Daybreakers (2007), the world is pretty much exactly like it is right now except everyone will have to go to their terrible white collar jobs until the sun burns out. Lucifer help them if they ever colonize other worlds. In comics, Kurt Busiek, Daryl Gregory and Scott Godlewski’s Dracula: Company of Monsters (BOOM!, 2001) pits Dracula against a family-owned corporation looking to use him for his blood. Conrad Barrington wants to be immortal and he will raise Dracula from the grave to do it. This Dracula is very much a feudal lord, and that is what gives him most of his appeal and his slight edge over Conrad. Dracula has a code and he cares about his people. He was a man who chose a pact with the Devil to do the terrible things he thought needed to be done to protect his people. But still, he has committed atrocities and he will overrun the world if he can.

And in American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares (Vertigo, 2013), Scott Snyder and Dustin Nguyen’s Dracula is a dark presence who is felt more than seen as governments scramble to either contain him or weaponize him during the Cold War. Because they are so focused on their own goals, the human authorities can’t understand the threat he is. He is seemingly irrational, in human terms. He compels those in his presence to murder, controls the minds of his vampire kin, and uses a human, the very pleasant Mr. Glass from Dayton, Ohio as his voice. This Dracula is terrifying and seemingly unknowable. And he gets most of his power from staying mostly in the background we only encounter him, as we mostly do in Dracula, through others’ accounts and others’ experiences. We see his aftermath and we fear what he can do. And the thing is, we barely ever see him. He appears as a bestial shadow that reminds me of one of Cloonan’s drawings. But Dracula himself takes myriad forms. So who can say he’s not sexy, too?

dracula cloonan red lips

~~~

Then Carol Borden laughed–such a silvery, musical laugh, but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips.

Also, make sure to read Keith’s “Vampyr: From Carmilla to Carl Dreyer” at Teleport City.

Engulfed by the Shadow of Dracula “Beware that his shadow does not engulf you like a daemonic nightmare.” Of Vampyres, Terrible Phantoms and the Seven Deadly Sins…

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 7.28.06 PMSummer is almost here, and I can’t tell you how glad I am. So smear yourself up with sunscreen and bug repellent, find your kickiest sandals, put the finishing touches on your Wicker Man and don’t forget to wear a hat because I have some comics to make your summer just a little more fun whether it’s by the pool, on your porch, holed up in your bedroom with a box fan set on high or dancing and singing “Sumer is Icumen In” as you sacrifice a virgin representative of a king to the Old Gods to ensure a good harvest in the fall.

I like to think I’ve provided a Variety Pak so no matter what your flavor of comics is you might find something you like: Pop superheroics; dark fantasy; horror; clever short stories set in Edo; Fifties pulp; Mod secret agents; Weird Westerns; comic but still graphic fantasy; graphic novel mystery; YA science fiction fun!

Batman ’66 / Batman ’66: Vol. 1 (DC) Jeff Parker, writer; Jonathan Case, Ty Templeton, Joe Quinones, Sandy Jarrell, Reuben Procopio and Colleen Coover art; Mike Allred, covers.

Batman’ 66 recounts the continuing adventures of 1960s tv show Batman. The stories are short doses of fun, using Jeff Parker’s fine blend of fun and action. The art is perfect, popping with color and halftone. And it features three of my favorite creators, Mike Allred, Jonathan Case and Colleen Coover. In the digital issues, Case and Coover in particular make great use of the medium—layering dialog and sound effects. I particularly enjoyed Coover’s take on Batgirl and Catwoman as played by Eartha Kitt. And it turns out that recommending Jonathan Case’s work is now a Summer Fun Time Reading tradition. Last year, I recommended The Green River Killer (Dark Horse, 2011) and the year before, Dear Creature (Tor, 2011). Batman ’66 was originally only published in digital format, but DC has wised up and brought one of the best, most innovative comics they’re doing into the print world. Charming! Fun! Pop-art-tacular!

By Chance or Providence (Lounak Books, 2014) / Wolves (Self-published, 2011), The Mire (2012) and Demeter (2013) by Becky Cloonan

Becky Cloonan is another of my favorite artists and now she is one of my favorite writers. In this comic trilogy, she shares stories about tragic love and curses. They are connected not by plot, but by tone and style. They are fairytales in the darkest form. Blood debts, werewolves, the haunting deep and just a little of 1960s and 1970s horror comics like Creepy and Eerie. And, if The Twilight Zone were set in the Middle Ages, some of that, too. In Wolves, a man hunts a beast and in killing it, curses himself. In The Mire, a squire travels through a swamp to deliver a letter to a seemingly abandoned castle. And in Demeter, a woman’s beloved is returned to her, but she is consumed with dread. I want Cloonan to do all the barbarian, viking and fantasy stories now. I read these comics as individual issues, but they have just been released in the collection, By Chance Or Providence (Lounak Books, 2014)

Dark Shadows Circus comic

Dark Shadows: The Complete Series, Vol. 3 (Hermes, 2009) Donald Arneson and Arnold Drake, writers; Joe Certa, artist.

There’s something about summer that makes me turn to classic, or if not classic, older horror. Maybe it’s balancing out the light with some darkness. I don’t know. However it works, these Dark Shadows comics published between August, 1972 and August, 1973 expand on the world of one of the most intriguing soap operas ever aired. Vampire Barnabas Collins has adventures in other realms, becomes (once again) unmoored from time, meets a mummy–completing Dark Shadows’ set of classic monsters–encounters gangsters, salty Seventeenth Century sea dogs and even an evil carnival. The art tends towards Romance comic or newspaper melodramas, which makes me happy. And I was happy to see Arnold Drake, who wrote one of my favorite all-time comics, Doom Patrol, after getting his start in Romance comics—a fantastic pedigree for Dark Shadows.

Death helps a man work a con to make money.

Death helps a man work a con.

Fallen Words (Drawn & Quarterly, 2012) by Tatsumi Yoshihiro

I am far more familiar with Tatsumi’s dark, naturalistic short stories, but it is refreshing to see him work in comedy. Fallen Words is a collection of stories of urban cons and cleverness in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Edo (now Tokyo). Tatsumi uses the traditional comic storytelling tradition of rakugo and combines it with gekiga, a darker, harder edged school of manga he founded with creators like Takao Saito (Golgo 13) and Sanpei Shirato (Kamui-den). The results are fascinating and fantastic and in a short afterward Tatsumi himself seems pleased with the parallels between building tension in humorous stories and the harsher, realistic short stories he told in The Pushman (2005), Abandon The Old In Tokyo (2006) and Good-Bye (2008). As an admirer of Tatsumi’s work, it’s exciting to see him continuing to innovate within the form.

 Beyond annoyed dead

The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books The Government Didn’t Want You To Read (Harry N. Abrams, 2010) by Jim Trombetta with an introduction by R. L. Stine

Bringing a Cold War vibe to cool you off, The Horror! The Horror! is a thick, well-bound book mixing comics history and comic reprints. The history is slight with frequent guest appearances by literary critic Northrop Frye, but it’s hard to mind when the book reprints amazing comics in a variety of genres that have bee out of print since the Fifties. (My current favorite sub-genre: space Western with Army guys). For those of you who like a multimedia summer, and preferably one that is indoors, the book also comes with a DVD.

mysterious strangers issue 2

The Mysterious Strangers: Vol 1: Strange Ways (Oni Press, 2014) Chris Roberson, writer; Scott Kowalchuk, art.

More groovy and even sometimes ginchy fun. In a way, The Mysterious Strangers is an Ur-comic for me. Sure, it’s new, but it’s brightly colored, Mod and very Pop Art. Absolom Quince and his Strangers, Verity, Sandoval, and Michael, agents of a super secret organization, use their mysterious powers to battle global threats, whether interstellar terrors, ancient cults or a man known only as “Capricorn.” Part Man From U.N.C.L.E, part Doom Patrol, if you like your comics as Pop as possible, you’ll like The Mysterious Strangers.

Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike (Image, 2014) Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer; Emma Rios, art; Jordie Bellaire, colors.

I recommended Pretty Deadly in January based on one issue. Now there’s a whole collection and I’m recommending it as the finest Weird Western on the shelves. Death has a daughter named Ginny, who’s filled with the desire for vengeance. If you call her and ask for her help, she will avenge you. But Death’s also raised Ginny to kill the Beast from the river of blood. And the Beast might not be a beast after all. The book’s a a wonderfully drawn and and colored Weird Western fairytale of the grimmest sort. The delicate lines and gorgeous colors work well both atmospherically and in conveying in some of the best action scenes out there.

Rat Queens (Image, 2014–ongoing) Kurtis J Wiebe, writers; Roc Upchurch, art; Fiona Staples, cover.

This is, hands down, the comic I’d most like to see adapted as an animated series, preferably for Adult Swim. Rat Queens reminds me of the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, but if it were more subversive, mundane and followed the exploits of women who swore a lot and talked about food and their sex lives. Rat Queens is a fantasy comic about a trouble-making all-female, multi-race, multi-species band of adventurers. I suspect it is very much how people who play table top role-playing games like to think of their own adventures and characters. I suspect there is a whole slew of readers thinking, “Hey, they’re writing down our adventures and illustrating them!” Come for the fantasy adventure and stay for the sassy, Elder God talk.

sailor twain

Sailor Twain or The Mermaid in the Hudson (First Second, 2012) by Mark Siegel

It’s nice to sit by the pool, on the patio or porch with lemonade (or Pimm’s Cup, whatever your poison might be is fine with me) and read a nice long book.  Sailor Twain is a nice long book thick with mystery. Captain Twain, no relation to Mark Twain, is the captain of the Lorelei, the tightest run steam boat on the Hudson River. But there is madness and a mysterious death on board, perhaps to due to an overindulgence of absinthe or opium, perhaps due to something else. The engineers are keeping secrets. And two boys inspired by Huckleberry Finn keep stowing away. A fine sense of story and history wrought with lovely graphite strokes. Sailor Twain is a love letter to the Hudson, which deserves many.

Return of Zita cover

Zita the Spacegirl (First Second, 2012); Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (2013); The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (2014) by Ben Hatke

The final volume of the Zita The Spacegirl trilogy, Return of Zita The Spacegirl, just came out and it is more fun that thirty space cats driving space bumper cars. (Always bet on the one-eyed space cat, she’s mean enough to win). There’s adventure, cute alien creatures, robots and a swell costume design for Zita the Spacegirl herself. The whole series is available and great fun for readers of all ages. Zita’s best friend Charles is pulled into another universe when Zita pushes a red button she really shouldn’t have. Zita follows, hoping to rescue Charles, but arrives on an alien planet. Zita befriends a giant mouse who communicates using a baroque printer, a giant creature named Strong-Strong, a grumpy robot, a piper and a mysterious woman. Zita adventures across worlds, braves a dungeon planet and saves the day again and again in this charming series with swell and expressive art.

batman66 jonathan case catwoman

~~~

Carol Borden received review copies of Sailor Twain; Zita The Spacegirl; The Legend Of Zita The Spacegirl; The Return Of Zita The Spacegirl and a review copy of Dark Shadows: The Complete Series: Vol. 3  .

Now if you’ll excuse her, she must practice her Solstice capering and find where she left her Helmet of Bees.

Summer Fun Time Reading ’14 Summer is almost here, and I can’t tell you how glad I am. So smear yourself up with sunscreen and bug repellent, find your kickiest sandals, put the finishing touches on your Wicker Man and don’t forget to wear a hat because I have some comics to make your summer just a little more fun whether it’s by the pool, on your porch, holed up in your bedroom with a box fan set on high or dancing and singing…

beckycloonan:

This past weekend at San Diego Comic Con, The Mire won an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue! I am completely overwhelmed for the support everyone has shown my self published comics. I’m also honored because I’ve read all the other issues in the category and they were all phenomenal!

Post York was such a finely crafted book, and it came with a floppy record! James Romberger is such a great draftsman too! Really cool. Lose is a phenomenal piece of work; Michael DeForge has been consistently pushing the envelope and making some of the best comics out there. Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle has been one of my favorites for years, and don’t even get me started on Pope Hats!! Ethan Rilly is a brilliant storyteller.

Not just nominees, but it seems like everyone I know is doing the best work of their careers! I am constantly inspired by what I see people doing, and it just makes me want to work harder. And the fact that I’ve had the encouragement, help and friendship from so many people along the way of making these little books, I can’t express how much it means. 

If you are curious about The Mire you can get it on Comixology, or order it from the Werehouse! And if you are a store and want to stock my mini comics, head on over to Lounak Distribution

Thanks again you guys, you are the best. 

beckycloonan:

In case you aren’t following me on Instagram… This happens.

Belit drawn by Becky Cloonan in Conan: Queen of the Black Coast #2. The first 3 or 4 issues are amazing. Some of the best comics of the year.
(via comicartfans)

Belit drawn by Becky Cloonan in Conan: Queen of the Black Coast #2. The first 3 or 4 issues are amazing. Some of the best comics of the year.

(via comicartfans)