Thee Comic Column #46: Day Men

 

image courtesy of Boom!’s facebook page

Boom! Studios has been gaining momentum of late, which is awesome. The small indie imprint has come to remind me a bit of the vibe that surrounded Dark Horse when they began in the 80’s. The obvious comparison comes while contemplating both publisher’s cult-cinema titles: Dark Horse arguably cut their teeth with Aliens and Predator licenses. Boom! has Planet of the Apes, Die Hard and Hellraiser.  I’d take this a step further and say that you could argue that over the last few years Boom! has also begun to move into creating their own branding. You could look to the iconic branding Dark Horse did with name creators and original series such Frank Miller’s Sin City and Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and draw a comparison to Boom!, especially with their new book Day Men, drawn by uber-respected industry artist Brian Stelfreeze.

I’m thinking with Day Men Boom! studios has a possible burgeoning icon on its hands as well, and after reading the first issue I can tell you why. Upon finishing the book I was immediately contemplating reading not just the next issue, but the next arc. The idea of multiple volumes came to mind and that’s exciting, as instant longview is not always a common thing with new books. A lot of books hook you for the next chapter, but don’t necessarily get you salivating for the big picture. Day Men, with its almost Sopranos-esque set-up of several families of Vampires and their hair-string co-existence with one another, has me salivating for the big picture. However, maybe in order to properly set that expectation up I should give you a sense of what exactly writers Matt Gagnon, Alan Nelson and artist Brian Stelfreeze are doing in the book.

The first issue begins with the following quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Each morning sees some task begun, each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, has earned a night’s repose.” That quote serves as a nice introductory to both the first issue and, I think, what will undoubtedly be a complex and multi-faceted Universe. Our first steps into that Universe are taken as we meet David Reid, newly-hired Day Man for the Vampire family Virgo, and begin to get a sense of the world he lives in. Day Men are staff employed by wealthy families of Vampires, of which there are quite a few. These intensely-trained, multi-talented representatives tend to their employers’ sleeping quarters, they pay off humans with various roles of power and they clean up the messes of the family members lacking in restraint. But what else do they do, and who else knows about them, plots against them, wants to do business with them? These are all questions I found myself asking as I finished issue one and immediately began looking for more information on the book.

Now, before you baulk at the thought of another vampire mythos I’ll tell you straight away this feels nothing like anything I’ve seen in recent years. Granted I tend to stay as far away as possible from anything with two fangs and/or a cape (except maybe Chan-wook Park’s Thirst) so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. But we’re at the point now with new media and almost instantaneous access to data of all kinds – especially pop culture – that I think that anyone who watches movies, reads comics and dabbles in tv has a pretty good idea of what the current climate of the Vampire archetype is. A creature with such undeniable human appeal – appeal I believe is based primarily on the fact that the creature in question lives off the same thing we do, blood, but in a totally parasitic way, which is essentially how we feel about ourselves in our relationship to the world around us – is bound to stay around and go through new iterations and interpretations. In the 60’s and 70’s we had the Hammer Horror vibe that reverberated through not only film but also Marvel Comics with their now long-absent Dracula titles. Then in the 80’s we had the dark, almost new wave that caught fire as a result of films like The Hunger, Fright Night and even The Lost Boys, to some degree (ok, this isn’t new wave, but it’s certainly dated like it is). The nineties saw the Gothic, Ann Rice-take on blood-suckers and then there was a bit of a lull until… Stephanie Meyer, who for better or worse has had more impact, I think, on the Vampire since, well, since Bram Stoker. I really hate to say that, but by sheer volume its true. This isn’t necessarily because of the merits of Mrs. Meyer’s storytelling, more I think it’s a case where she was in the right place doing the write thing at the right time. And unfortunately the WB/teen angst Vampire thing has held on for some time. Day Men though, if it owes a debt to anything outside of Stoker, is sophisticated crime stories and maybe, just maybe for some tone we could look to the fiction surrounding 90’s Vampiric Role Playing game’s Vampire: The Masquerade, with it’s sense of how people in the know move within a supernatural subculture hidden just beneath the surface of the regular human world.

Now, whether or not the world of Day Men has been built to ignore these creatures, or if we’re merely seeing the hidden edges of the Vampires and the economy that exists around them, thus far I’m not completely sure There appears to be plenty of people who know and even work with or profit from the creatures’ existence, but what about everyone else? Well, in most books it wouldn’t matter, because you’d only be concerned with the people who are moving within the story directly in front of you, but in Day Men I was immediately intrigued insofar as how far out all of this ripples outward. If Reid’s job – as it is the job of all those in the who hold the title of Day Men – is to conduct affairs for the families while they slumber through the day we’re introduced to the idea that there are movements transpiring within and against those families even while they themselves remain dormant. Issue one supports this with the introduction of and partial glimpses of various agendas. And when you have an agenda someone else probably has a counter-agenda, or at least a significantly different one, and this begins to open a lot of doors for the story-world here. At points Reid deals with other humans who are on the payroll of various Vampire families and this helps give us a sense of the politics and nuance of the Day Man position and its role in the larger world the story takes place in.

Hopefully Day Men will register as more than a blip on the Vampire radar screen. Boom! already has a number of properties being scooped up by Hollywood for mass exposure, most recently 2 Guns. Day Men would make a fantastic series because the playing field here has more of a classic Mob set-up than that of what we’re used to for Vampires. With that kind of schematic we could be looking at a very interesting series that could very well shake the glitter from off the modern Vampire’s brow.

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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!!! – See more at: http://joup.co/thee-comic-column-34-bendis-x-men/#sthash.dVkVF6sl.dpuf

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.

One Response to Thee Comic Column #46: Day Men
  1. [...] last week’s column I talked about Boom! Studio’s Day Men, a book that is based around the id... joup.co/thee-comic-column-47-rucka-lark-arcas-lazarus

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