Comic book creator Kevin LaPorte writes: Vampires are no strangers to the pages of comic books. In fact, Morbius the Living Vampire and Blade, Vampire Hunter, are prominent figures in the Marvel Universe, both even headlining movies in Marvel's monstrous entertainment engine. But, sometimes, vampires and vampirism infiltrate comic book storylines in some unexpected and discordant ways.
The subject came to mind as I prepared the Kickstarter campaign for a comic currently being funded by my indie comics outfit, Inverse Press. We publish a line of authorized professional biographical comics under the imprint Squared Circle Comics, and our most recent title is Gangrel the Vampire Warrior, the story of David Heath, who wrestled for WWF/WWE from 1998-2001 under the vampiric Gangrel persona (yes, a name borrowed from the White Wolf Games vampire clan). He originally worked with The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness before breaking away to form his own faction, The Brood, with future superstars Edge and Christian, and then betraying them to form The New Brood with rivals, the legendary Hardy Boyz.
It swept past its initial funding goal in just 14 hours and is designated by Kickstarter as a "Project We Love." Hardcover, autographed, and sketched editions of the book are available. The campaign's success allows us to unlock free Milestone Rewards, such as additional content in the book, inclusion of backer names on an Acknowledgements page, and a 2" x 9" Gangrel bookmark. Back it and message us that you saw our article on Bleeding Cool, and we'll add a free copy of another of our wrestling comics to your rewards.
The absurd (but fun and successful!) idea of a professional wrestler who is also a vampire (see also: Vampiro) kept bouncing around my brain, and, as a comics reader since the mid-1970s, triggered a mental review of some of the stranger vampire stories found in superhero comics over the decades. The stories that occurred to me are by no means exhaustive or even entirely accurate. They are just the stranger ones, which impacted me as a comics nerd. Among them all, the most thematically disparate and unexpected was the change of the X-Men's Jubilee into a vampire.
If you followed The X-Men or Wolverine since the late 1980s, you're probably familiar with Jubilee, Wolverine's post-Kitty Pryde sidekick and surrogate daughter who wields generally useless powers of casting fireworks, an ability often inaccurately interpreted by lazy contract writers to be energy blasts or the like. For years, she ran as Logan's comic foil, to distract from the hero's ever-growing body count, eventually joining the signature 90's mutant team, Generation X. She even spent time as a member of the New Warriors before returning to the X-Men, being depowered during the Decimation, and adopting a human baby named Shogo who is currently able to morph into a dragon. Get all that?
In 2010, Marvel launched (yet another) X-Men issue 1, written by novelist Victor Gischler. The first arc, christened Curse of the Mutants, featured the X-Men in a war with…vampires. Sure, they have a history with Dracula (he tried to marry Storm that one time, but who can blame him?), but…vampires vs. The X-Men. The story saw Jubilee captured by vampire hordes led by Xarus, son of Dracula (naturally), and subsequently bitten and transformed into a vampire as part of a scheme to lure Wolverine and the X-Men to attempt a rescue and be bitten and turned themselves. Long story short, the vampires lose, but…BUT…Jubilee – her mutant powers lost to the Scarlet Witch's whisper – retained her vampire status and actually did so for approximately 8 years in publishing time. She went from the bombastic, happy-go-lucky contrast to one of the grimmest, murderous superheroes ever imagined to being the ultimate manifestation of gothic human darkness – a bloodsucking, night-lurking vampire.
Wait…it gets weirder. In another adjectiveless X-Men issue 1 launch in 2013, writer Brian Wood (ahem) engineered another incredible pivot for the character, who was always portrayed as a sort of wayward teen up to the point she became a child of the night. In the initial story, Jubilee rescues Shogo from the orphanage and becomes, to this very day, a sudden mother…of a baby (who remains a baby in 2020 continuity). She quickly took to helicopter parenting for a character whose primary parental figure was a perpetually-dying, beer-swilling, cigar-burning mass killer.
The vampiric aspects of her characterization pretty well evaporated from the storytelling from that point until 2018, when writer Christina Strain, in a decades-later continuation of Generation X, led Jubilee back to the sparkle-fingered young woman in a yellow raincoat we all came to love under the pens of Chris Claremont and Larry Hama. It turns out, a "shard" of the Phoenix Force (what?) exorcised her vampiric infection. It restored her lost fireworks powers when Quentin Quire (a.k.a. Kid Omega), in a rare moment of compassionate generosity, forfeited his Phoenix powers (a story for another time) to revive Jubilee from a mortal injury after she took up for him upon his latest threatened expulsion from Xavier's School.
My confusion over the choice of Jubilee, of all characters among the enormous X-Men roster, to assume vampire status lies in the fact there are likely 20-30 others more thematically inclined to be toothy blood-suckers. Nightcrawler, anyone? Marrow? HELLO? Even more staggering is the fact that it took Marvel eight years to trump up a plot point to convert her back to the status quo. Not that Jubilee is an A-lister among the Children of the Atom, by any assessment, but she's always been a highly visible presence since her introduction in the women-centric Uncanny X-Men #244 in 1989. I get trying to layer a character, as any gets stale with year-upon-year of use, but, in this case, Jubilee became, for a long while, unrecognizable. Now, she is finally back to "normal" as a member of the Dawn of X Excalibur team, still nurturing Shogo, who underwent a change of his own, into a dragon in the strange dimension of Otherworld.
So, we have vampiric pro wrestlers in the real world and vampiric teenage sidekicks in the comics world. What are the strangest examples you can think of?