Looking for something to read by candlelight this Halloween? How about spending some time with one of literature's most storied creations, the vampire? Blastr already counted down comics' most notable nosferatu earlier this month, but these bloodsucking beasts are simply too ravenous to call it quits after just one outing.
Now we're going to raise the stakes and take some time to chew over the tall tales these characters come from. Vampires have long provided a guilt-free escape to our darkest and most devilish desires. A great vampire story can provide great insight into the human condition, representing fears and fantasies brought to life with fangs.
Assembled below are 19 of the most entertaining comics and graphic novels to tackle the topics of immortality, bloodlust and that all- consuming call of the night. So grab these gripping works of fiction featuring the most enduring enemy of all time and let us know which ones you lust after.
BITE CLUB (VERTIGO) 2004-06
All good genre fiction uses elements of the fantastical to talk about something real. Howard Chaykin and David Tischman's Bite Club Series is, at its heart, a thrilling crime drama, but what really makes this book special is the way it uses vampires as a lens for racial prejudice and police profiling. The Del Toro crime family are a brutal, vindictive, incestuous mob with a very real thirst for blood, and Miami's Vampire Crime Unit aren't really any better when their own sins are laid bare. But it's just as difficult to demonize any of the series' main characters as it is to deify them, and all you can really do is watch the intense tale of power and betrayal play out, knowing that with so much hatred and fear in the atmosphere, everyone's bound to end up getting hurt in the end.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON EIGHT (DARK HORSE) 2007-11
Written by the unimaginable dream team of series creator Joss Whedon and comic book master storyteller Brian K. Vaughan, this forty issue comic is the canonical sequel to the Buffy TV series. Fans of the show absolutely cannot afford to miss out, but even those who are unfamiliar with the characters can enjoy this Eisner Award-winning title. Beginning a year after the show's finale, Season Eight pushes the story beyond what television could achieve at the time. Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar was supportive of Buffy's portrayal in the comic, and Elizabeth Anne Allen praised the series during an interview, saying, "I really would have loved to play Amy in Season 8. She is much darker."
THE NEW DEADWARDIANS (VERTIGO) 2012
In an alternate 1910 known as the Deadwardian Age, zombie-like creatures called the Restless plague the globe, and the British upper class have taken themselves off the menu by becoming vampires, popularly referred to as Youngs. Chief Inspector George Suttle is London’s last remaining homicide detective in a world where death is obsolete. Dripping with existential dread and cutting wit, The New Deadwardians makes bloodsuckers and brain-munchers seem fresh again by setting them against themes of classism and a deeply intriguing mystery.
TOMB OF DRACULA (MARVEL) 1972-79
Tomb Of Dracula is the perfect thing to quench your thirst if you're craving some classic spooky thrills. The centerpiece of Marvel's exquisite horror line-up from the 1970's, deliberately cast in the same vein as Universal's monster movies. The first several issues are interesting but directionless, as the series was bounced between several of horror comics' biggest names, including Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Gardner Fox, and Archie Goodwin, before finding a consistent voice with Marv Wolfman. Much of the fun in Tomb of Dracula comes from the larger than life vampire hunters Rachel Van Helsing and Blade, and the frequent crossovers with Marvel titles such as Werewolf by Night and Dr. Strange, but Dracula himself steals the show, setting the standard for the public domain villain's appearances throughout comics.
LIFE SUCKS (FIRST SECOND) 2008
Angst and ennui to the power of eternity, Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria discover an entirely new but surprisingly comfortable setting for vampire fiction in 90's slacker flicks. Dave Miller is a vegetarian turned literal wage slave who is forced by his vampire master to work the night shift at Last Stop. The fantasy of immortality provides no escape from capitalist anxiety, with Dave staring down an eternity at the ultimate dead end job. Warren Pleece's art sets the perfect tone for this indie, slice-of-life graphic novel that takes a few choice bites out of the dating scene, crappy friends, and even crappier bosses.
AMERICAN VAMPIRE (VERTIGO) 2013-16+
American Vampire may well be Scott Snyder's best work to date, to say nothing of Rafael Albuquerque's gorgeous and gruesome artwork or the dozen or so guest contributors like Steven King, Jason Aaron, Gail Simone, Becky Cloonan, and Dustin Nguyen. The series main leads, old west outlaw Skinner Sweet and aspiring starlet Pearl Jones are instantly memorable, but the setting is the real star of the book, providing an all new Americana mythology that tracks blood into every crevice of the young nation's history and pop culture. And what's even more exciting, America isn't the only part of the world with its own native vampire population. All over the world are similar creatures, but with wildly different attributes, and how they interact with one another is fascinating to behold.
SEA OF RED (IMAGE) 2005-06
The most compelling thing about Rick Remender's tale of high seas revenge is its flat out refusal to go how you expect. When Marco Esperanza is turned into a vampire and left tied to a sinking ship while the blood-hungry pirates who left him there sail towards his family's home, his inevitable vengeance seems only a few pages away. But the story doesn't pick up for nearly another five hundred years, and when it does Marco is placed at the mercy of an egomaniacal film director. It's an edge-of-your-seat survival story that throws one madcap obstacle at its hero after another, and it really succeeds at pulling the reader in because it's so good at making you feel completely unprepared for whatever comes next.
DEADBEATS (CLAYPOOL COMICS) 1993-2016+
Deadbeats is a vast romantic saga that ranges from small town soap opera to interdimensional epic, coming across as an odd but appropriate blend of Dark Shadows and The Lost Boys, with just a bit of Claremont's X-Men thrown in. Ricardo Villagran's enchanting and evocative art carries the series, with all the moody action of classic EC horror comics paired with the charming design of Elfquest. The series ran in print form until 2007, and continues to this day as a webcomic on claypoolcomics.com
FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT (2000 AD) 1980
Released in 1980 over several issues of 2000 AD's flagship self-titled magazine, Fiends of the Eastern Front inspired several sequels and spinoffs throughout the last decade, one as recently as this year, but the original remains a genre-defining work of military horror. Deftly written by Judge Dredd co-creator Gerry Finley-Day and grotesquely drawn to life by World of Tanks' Carlos Ezquerra, the story would make war seem terrifying enough even without the inclusions of inhuman monsters. The truth however, is so much worse, as revealed in the diary of an unearthed German soldier named Hans Schmitt. Schmitt, stationed alongside a group of Romanian soldiers who fought only by night, reveals the true nature of these men, and of WWII's bloodiest battles, in a record which has been lost to time until now.
I... VAMPIRE (DC) 1981-83
If Marvel's Tomb of Dracula is the comic book equivalent of Bela Lugosi in Universal's classic monster series, than I... Vampire is the Hammer Horror version, starring Christopher Lee. Marvel's monster books are fun and imaginative, I... Vampire, which ran for twenty-four issues as a feature in House of Mystery, is chilling and tragic. In 1591 Lord Andrew Bennett is stricken with vampirism, and unable to bear an eternity without his beloved Mary Seward, he turns her as well. But when she is corrupted by the power of their shared curse, Bennett begins a four hundred year quest to destroy the women he once loved, now known as Mary, Queen of Blood.
LOADED BIBLE: THE JESUS VS. VAMPIRES GOSPELS (IMAGE) 2006-08
Hack/Slash creator Tim Seeley's high concept horror trilogy is more than the sum of its parts. Yes, it is a book about a cloned Jesus Christ battling bloodsuckers in futuristic body armor. Yes, it's full of violence and vulgarity and a whole mess of topless vampire women, and that is on some level guaranteed, even intended to offend some readers. But it's as much a story about questioning faith as kicking ass, and it weirdly proves that the two are very much related. In the end, the moral of the story is that being a true savior requires a fearless pursuit of the truth, and the ability to question your allies, and particularly your leaders, as much as your enemies.
VAMPIRE BOY (SAF COMICS) 2003
Presented in English by Dark Horse in 2010, Vampire Boy is the international four part saga of a five thousand year old feud between a pharaoh's son and mistress. Vengefully murdering each other over and over throughout the eons, both are destined, perhaps doomed, to come back to life as soon as the sun hits their bodies. When the boy awakens in modern day New York City after a fifty year slumber his relentless, ravenous hunger leaves a trail of breadcrumbs, and bodies, that leads his rival Ahmasi right to him, continuing the endless game of cat and mouse. Eduardo Risso's brutal and sexually charged illustrations work in tandem with the story to expose the ugliness of America, while shifting easily to highlight its diversity, and ability to inspire hope.
BLOOD A TALE (EPIC) 1987
J.M. DeMatteis and Kent Williams' stream of consciousness fairytale is, admittedly, not for everyone. It's a challenging narrative, circular and surreal, frequently switching between traditional panels and prose, but it is equally rewarding. A nameless wanderer, an ancient king, a beautiful woman hunting in the woods to feed her lover. Kent Williams' nightmarish watercolors alone would be enough to justify giving the book a chance, but it's story offers exactly what the cover promises, a vampire story unlike any other.
B.P.R.D. 1947 (DARK HORSE) 2009
No one does folklore like Mike Mignola, and 1947 is the perfect introduction to his mesmerizing vampire mythos. Somehow both understated and endlessly suggestive, the story comes across like a dream that you wish you could remember more of. What really puts it on a higher level than earlier vampiric adventures with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is the sibling art team of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, whose work is among the best ever seen in comics. This tale of monstrous masquerades in post-war France centers around an entirely fresh cast of B.P.R.D. recruits, making it an ideal jumping on point for readers who are new to the Hellboy universe.
VAMPIRELLA MASTER SERIES VISIONARIES (DYNAMITE) 2011
It's hard to bring up vampire comics without acknowledging the last daughter of Planet Drakulon, but while she has an outstanding pedigree as a horror mascot, many of her solo tales are forgettable, sexploitation schlock. Now, there's really nothing wrong with that, those stories have their place, but there are a few truly great entries in the character's history that show what makes the shoe-string suited seductress so memorable. Dynamite's Visionaries trade paperback reprints the best of the best Vampi stories, written and drawn by a cavalcade of legendary contributors including Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Kurt Busiek, Arthur Adams, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Phil Hester, Frank Frazetta, Jae Lee, Mike Mignola, Steve Lieber, Bruce Timm, and Nocturnals creator Dan Brereton, plus a rare reimagining of Dracula by Alan Moore. The iconically curated collection reads like one of Vampirella's classic anthology mags, while at the same time giving a well-rounded look at the sci-fi/fantasy/horror heroine.
THE BATMAN & DRACULA TRILOGY (DC) 1991-99
Without a doubt the finest example of the kind of storytelling DC's Elseworlds is capable of, the Batman & Dracula trilogy is a fully realized journey through all of Bruce Wayne's greatest fears. The first story ends with Batman transformed into the kind of twisted nightmare he never dared fear he could become, and it only gets crazier from there. Carefully crafted and tuned to deadly serious by Knightfall's Doug Moench and veteran Swamp Thing artist Kelley Jones, it's the ultimate gothic horror story, which brings the saga of Gotham City to a spectacularly ultimate conclusion. If you like your Batman more Dark Knight than Caped Crusader then there is no book that should be higher on your reading list than this one.
BLOOD + WATER (VERTIGO) 2003
This five issue miniseries by Judd Winick and Tomm Coker is a really rare thing. Genuinely sweet, funny, and at times incredibly tense, all within a story you could read front to back in about an hour. The story begins with Adam Heller being informed that his long battle with hepatitis has become terminal, and his best friends Joshua and Nicole revealing that they can make him better if he just chugs a gallon of their blood. Tomm Coker's art impressively matches the range of Winick's writing at every genre-bucking turn. Gorgeous covers by the brilliant Brian Bolland, heartfelt relationships, and clever tweaks to the vampire mythology help this quick read leave a lastingly great taste in your mouth.
TURF (IMAGE) 2010-11
Turf is writer Jonathan Ross's first published work in comics, and it is an ambitious entrance to the medium. An ace reporter, a crashed alien spaceship, and a pimp with a heart of gold get mixed up in two brothers' battle for control over their vampire clan, and it all happens on the streets of prohibition era New York City. The vampires, or Strigoli, kick off the series by taking out a hotel full of mobsters, their first step in fulfilling a prophecy to resurrect their god, whose monstrous hand reaches ominously from the earth, as big as a tree. Expertly crafted pulp noir that manages to get super weird without sacrificing any of its edge.
INTERCEPTOR (HEAVY METAL) 2016
One of the most unique visions of the apocalypse in decades, Interceptor is like Daybreakers by way of Escape From New York with its cyberpunk city of monsters, planted in the middle of a North American post-nuclear wasteland. In the far off future humanity has abandoned the Earth after leaving it a bombed out husk, with vampires taking advantage of the resulting endless night to crawl from the shadows to the top of the food chain. Written by Donny Cates as the most thrilling sci-fi action movie never made and drawn like an exploding black light poster by Dylan Burnett. The trade paperback is set for release November 30th, collecting the entire unforgettable miniseries for under ten bucks, and it is not to be missed.