Thee Comic Column #140: The Children’s Vampire Hunting Brigade

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Vampires are, at this point in human history, archetypal monsters that are as important to our modern psyches as almost any of the creatures that populated the folklore of the various ancestral lands that made up the world when it was a much simpler place. As humanity has branched and evolved so to have the needs within us that our ‘boogey men’ serve, and as such our monsters wear many hats, perhaps none more so than Vampires. Our eternal, bloodsucking brethren have been romantic, brutal, viral, pretty, considerate, comical and apocalyptic. For myself, while I’m always interested in new takes on old ideas, of late the simpler the approach to Vampires the better. Twilight and Sukie Stackhouse have, in my opinion, overly domesticated the Vampire, and as such anything that strips them of that, ahem, sparkly sheen is welcome. While admittedly I spent the early 90s enthralled by Anne Rice’s lush visions of her Nosferatu, the candlelight-and-leather approach is what the Cullens evolved from and thus have, for now, run its course. Today, if I’m going to be interested in Vampires at all it has to be a more visceral experience.

Author David Blake Lucarelli’s The Children’s Vampire Hunting Brigade offers readers of graphic fiction exactly that, with the added pleasure of a historical backdrop and some very well written human spoils to boot!

Mr. Lucarelli’s approach is similar to Joss Whedon’s Buffy Universe, but with a bit more of a punk rock vein at the heart of it. The story is based on a historical incident worth noting, the Gorbals Vampire Incident, when in 1954 hundreds of young children descended on the Southern Necropolis cemetery in Glasgow, Scotland armed with knives, sticks, hatchets, etc. all searching for a “Vampire with Iron Teeth”. I could go into further explanation, however I will not do nearly as good a job as Mr. Stephan Banes does in the forward to the first volume of the CVHB. Other than the great graphic novel that comprises the heart of the volume, Mr. Banes’s forward is one of my favorite I’ve read in a trade or graphic novel, and it really set the tone for what followed.

Let me set the scene: two young ne’re-do-wells named Gavin and Doug break into the Southern Necropolis late one night to drink beer and spin yarns about birds. It’s a tense and spooky scene even though its not vampires that these lads are afraid of, but rather old Percy the night watchmen, with his salt rifle and dogs. Percy does indeed find our eventual heroes, however instead of putting a beating on them he spins a yarn of his own – about one night in Glasgow, 1954 when he and hundreds of other children sought to take the fate of the city’s young into their own hands and kill the vampire that had already taken several of their own. Of course the lads don’t believe him but then, as fate would have it, this happens to be the night that the vampires return!

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It’s a set-up so perfect, so original, in my mind it immediately becomes a classic. To take a historical anomaly like the Gorbals Incident and turn it into what Mr. Lucarelli and artist Henry Ponciano have is inspiring as a fellow storyteller and thrilling as a lover of graphic fiction. It’s a set-up that acts as the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’, and when we get down into the cold, murky heart of what’s really going on in Doug and Gavin’s world it’s big. The adventure begins in Scotland, travels to London and eventually, in volume 2, finds its way to America. There’s conspiracy, ancient magic, demons and, of course, vampires a’ plenty. And these vampires, organized in a similar fashion to those Buffy and her friends fought, are savage and evil, end of story. David expends a large amount of skill developing his human characters into very well-rounded, three-dimensional people and, thus far, prefers to keep his vampires monsters. This makes for a great dynamic as the story unfolds, and really heightens the sense of danger we feel as the Brigade is set-up, knocked down, trapped, attacked and double-crossed. The story takes its time when needed and then really lights up the pace in the proper places, making for a great read with a fairly cinematic structure.

At their best Vampires affect us because they show us something we can never have: eternal life. Along with that they take some of the blame and guilt out of the primordial impetus we all get from time to time to succumb to the violent tendencies buried within our lizard brains. Vampires kill because they have to. Whether they feel guilt over it adds to the kind of vampire story we’re in or telling. In The Children’s Vampire Hunting Brigade the ‘pires feel no remorse for their crimes and thus make outstanding spoils for the very realistic, very relatable human characters who, aside from the adventure they are thrust into, have lives and families outside the battle with the underworld. This makes the series one of my favorite to join the ‘vampire genre’ in quite some time. I absolutely recommend this to fans of Buffy, Angel, or anyone who used to love blood suckers but, like myself, became disinterested when they began to shop at H&M.

The Children’s Vampire Hunting Brigade is published by Creator’s Edge Press and is available at The Comics Bug Manhattan Beach, Golden Apple Comics, and Meltdown Comics. On the web you can order them directly from Creatorsedgepress.com. There are also versions of issue 1-4 available at Comixology and drivethrucomics.com has volume 1 and 2 available for download. Amazon is in there too and finally, you can read some of volume 1 online for free currently at cvhb.net!

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Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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