I’m not tired of vampires.
We’re living in a post-Twilight world, and the coolest monsters to ever come out of the coffin have somehow become passé. Vampire fiction is consumed only with the pretense of being a “guilty pleasure” – a term we need to get rid of, because there is no response to fiction more useless than fucking guilt. Enjoy your fiction with pride! Also, I’ve noticed that every time someone has something good to say about a vampire story, it’s tempered with a bit about how vampires have been done to death, “but THIS story is different!”
That’s such bullshit.
If we can have as many police procedurals on air – and two NCISs… two! – the idea that everything that has to be said about vampires has already been said is a lazy point of view. Think of all the great stories. There’s the subversion of the mythology, the hook, sure… but that kind of thing is completely secondary compared to the spark that makes these stories great. All of the great vampire tales, from the gothic horror of Dracula, to the butt-kicking goodness and pathos of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to the blood-drenched over-the-top “fuck you” to heteronormativity of True Blood, to the nightmarish demons of ‘Salem’s Lot, are excellent not because they offer that magical “new take” that other vampire stories lack. They’re great because they’re great stories with great characters.
And if you don’t think vampire flashbacks are cool, you either haven’t watched Angel or we just can’t be friends.
Point is, there’s plenty of room for new tales in the vampire canon – our cups did runnet over a bit after the whole Edward Cullen phase, but we all know he wasn’t a vampire anyway… so we can’t really blame the good ones for that, can we? Hell, of the comics that I’ve published, I’ve written vampires into an embarrassing percentage. Comics readers, I think, are less uneasy about the genre. There may not be as many as you’d expect, but creator-owned books like Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire is one of the best horror comics being published, and IDW’s monstrously successful 30 Days of Night is coming back next year, helmed by original creator Steve Niles and Locke & Key star artist Gabriel Rodriguez. That’s sure to be a hit. But today, we’re going to take a look at an overlooked gem from Boom! Studios. Day Men was well received and popular, but with Brian Stelfreeze’s intricate, immaculate art and a clever, ripper of a script by Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson, I don’t know if vampire comics have ever been so thrilling. The eighth and final issue of the series came out this October, so what better time than now to eulogize the Day Men?
The concept is brilliant in its simplicity. Vampires are vulnerable during the day, so they employ humans to run their errands, keep them safe, and housekeep – metaphorically and literally. One of these Day Men is David Reid, who works for a powerful vampire family called the Virgos. Now, the Virgos have a long-standing conflict with another tribe of vamps called the Ramses family. Their Cold War, so to speak, heats up when David, on an errand to retrieve Nybor, a Virgo vamp who has gotten into some deep shit on another one of his benders. Nybor was found in a room full of vampire guts – Ramses vampire guts. The set-up is very noir, and as the tale unravels it feels more and more like a Brubaker-esque crime thriller, with its sensual scenes pondering the role of human sexuality in business, and what essentially amounts to a turf war between two mob families. But the fun of the supernatural aspect of the story abounds, as David, who is a bit of a rookie, realizes the extent of what he’s gotten himself into.
That’s just the set-up, though. Each issue challenges what you think you know about the mystery, the mythology, and – best of all – the poor souls stuck in the middle of this ancient conflict. Like most modern vampire stories, it’s edgy and sexy – perhaps more sensual than sexual, actually. It’s a story about beautiful people and monsters doing dirty, dirty deeds… something that works as well with the noir of it all as it does the vampire angle. Day Men stands by its premise of creating a vampire story that is actually about humans… but damn, Azalea and Lere are two badass vampires.
Day Men has taken what appears to be its final bow, but I have hope that Matt Gagnon, Michael Alan Nelson, and Brian Stelfreeze will reunite with colorist Darrin Moore and letterer Ed Dukeshire for more. Because you know what? Not only am I still not tired of vampire stories, I’m sure as hell not tired of Day Men.
PAT SHAND is a writer of comics (Robyn Hood, Van Helsing, Charmed) and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). This year alone, he’s re-watched Buffy, Angel, and True Blood. Long live Eric Northman.