So, I have a bit of confession to make… I never really bother with Halloween. It’s just not a holiday my family ever took any notice of when I was younger. As a teen, every Halloween party I ever went to was a big bust and my friends and I weren’t exactly the types to go round trick or treating. But when I think about it, there’s a lot about Halloween that’s very similar to comics. Halloween is traditionally seen as an American holiday (let’s be honest, the birth place of all great comics). There’s a lot of Halloween characters with supernatural powers and abilities (just like 99.9999% of all comic book heroes). Halloween is celebrated by dressing up in funny costumes (cosplay anyone?). And well, Halloween involves lots of sugary sugary snacks (and who doesn’t like munching on Smarties when they’re reading their weekly fave?).
Which leads me to my second confession… I haven’t really read any scary comics before. I mean, I’ve read a few Halloweenesque ones – The Walking Dead and Scooby-Doo spring to mind – but I haven’t read anything that’s made me fling a comic across the room, dive under the sheets and sleep with the lights on for the next three nights (well, apart from Scooby-Doo actually).
Which sort of means this Halloween review may be, well, a little tame. I apologise if you came here for some insider knowledge of the finest in ultra-terrifying comics to ever grace the shelves of comic book retailers. Instead, I can only offer a discussion concerning a rather plausible (if fictitious) crossover between two great figures of the comic and Halloween world: Batman and Dracula.
Batman and Dracula have met in film. Andy Warhol once made a silent movie without DC’s permission, depicting the two figures. There’s also been a straight-to-video cartoon where the two bat enthusiasts meet up and have some disagreements. But, in comics, there’s been a surprising lack of action between the two. I say surprising for the simple fact that a) Batman and Dracula are both masters of the night (with a strong connection to small, winged, furry mammals) and b) comics are by their nature quite far-fetched, surreal, fantasy stories, just like Bram Stoker’s original Dracula novel.
I don’t really want to give too much away actually, it’s quite a brilliant story. But, for the sake of this review, I sort of have to. So if your interest has been piqued enough, go find Batman and Dracula: Red Rain (and, just as importantly, the two sequels that follow) and discover for yourself what happens.
Right, fair warning has been given. Basically, Dracula is lurking in the depths of Gotham, amassing a legion of the undead by neck nibbling all the homeless. Batman gets wind of this devilish plot and sets about destroying the mystical figure once and for all. There’s a big battle, Dracula gets impaled by a large wooden stick but in the process chomps through Batman’s neck kevlar, turning old Bruce into a vampire. The story closes with Batman assuring Alfred all is well; Bruce is certain he will never succumb to the bloodlust of any previous vampire and now has the immortal powers to fight as Batman forever.
So far, so good. But I did mention sequels and that’s where the story really gets interesting. Bloodstorm (1994) picks up from where Red Rain left off; it’s some time after Bruce was turned and the blood lust he was so confident he could resist is starting to take a bit of a hold. In the time since Dracula’s death, The Joker has gathered the remainders of Dracula’s legion and is now their leader. Testament to Joker’s eternal mission to destroy Batman (symbolically remember, not physically: The Joker doesn’t want to kill Batsy, he just wants to break his moral sensibilities and sense of rationality), The Joker uses his undead minions to draw Batman into a final confrontation. Cat Woman (who was also bitten by Dracula and is now a Werecat… no seriously, that’s not a joke) gets killed and Batman sort of has a rage out. In the end he tries to kill The Joker, who inevitably has the last laugh by tempting Batman to bite his throat. Batsy drains The Joker’s blood, is repulsed by his despicable actions and orders Alfred to ram a stake through his heart.
I’ll stop there and not give away the final, final ending. But, all in all, the series is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The artwork of Kelley Jones (pencils) and Malcolm Jones III (ink) becomes ever more immersive and creative as Batman evolves from the standard character, to a domicile vampire donning a mask, cape and wings (oh yeah, Batman can actually fly when he’s a vampire, not just "fall with style" to quote the immortal bard, Woody the Cowboy), to a blood thirsty monstrosity that rips people to bits if they look at him the wrong way. Taken as a collective trilogy, the story grows steadily more compelling right up to the final climactic scenes and chilling end.
Regardless of Halloween, I’d recommend this trilogy to anyone; it’s dark and gritty whilst wholly maintaining the themes and ideas woven into the Batman universe. Okay, I know Batman isn’t real and I know vampires and Dracula aren’t real (right?) but on reading Red Rain, Bloodstorm and Crimson Mist I was fairly certain this was how an encounter between the two would play out. So it’s sort of realistic, in a completely unrealistic kind of way. And if you’re stuck for Halloween costumes, just done a cape and cowl, some vampire teeth and lots of fake blood. Not everyone will get it, but it’s better than wearing a sheet with two eye holes cut out!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE (MWAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!)