Drawn to the Vampire, Part 6

Penny Dreadful, thank you for being a thing.

Writer and director John Logan created the series for Showtime, inspired by nineteenth-century gothic thrillers that were mass produced and sold on the cheap. You’re likely more familiar with the vintage magazines than you realize; perhaps two of the most famous serial stories to appear in the penny dreadful magazines were String of Pearls and Varney the Vampyre (the former introducing us to Sweeney Todd, “the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” the latter an early influence of author Bram Stoker, predating Dracula by more than fifty years).

The Showtime series offered a fresh take on classic literature, combining tales from many beloved gothic horrors. Logan borrowed public domain characters such as Dorian Gray, Victor Frankenstein, Van Helsing, and Dr. Jekyll, and placed them in the same setting of Victorian era London.

Showtime’s presentation of Penny Dreadful (starring Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Reeve Carney, Billie Piper, Harry Treadway, and Rory Kinnear) recently wrapped up after three complete and beautifully tragic seasons. And dammit if I wasn’t devastated to learn that there wouldn’t be a fourth season. Even if they felt that they’d taken the current plotlines and characters as far as they could go, the premise could easily be renewed with a whole new troupe of characters and stories from other gothic horrors. The above mentioned Sweeney Todd and Varney the Vampyre, just to name two. This series was so wonderfully written and acted; at some point, I think I’ll do a series of “Drawn to” illustrations dedicated just to this show. But for now, I’ll let my focus fall upon the ultimate antagonist of the series, and while he wasn’t physically introduced until the third act, this was possibly my favorite portrayal of this infamous figure to date.

Dracula

Mi Vampire_Dracula-Dr Sweet

Christian Camargo portrayed the iconic master vampire. The character of Dracula has appeared in film, television, and theater more times–and by more actors–than I have time to research. He’s been portrayed as mysterious. He’s been suave and sophisticated. He’s been over-the-top and mad with power, and he’s been a vicious beast without mercy. But Camargo’s portrayal combined the best of all worlds. There was a subtlety to his mystery, more aloof and indifferent than “mysterious man of the night.” But when we learn who he truly his, his power shines through without question, letting the viewers know he’s an imposing figure to be feared. Credit must be given–not only to Camargo’s acting chops–but also to the writers, art directors, and set designers to bring this character to life in a way that retained the classic appeal of Dracula while still seeming wholly original.

If you’ve yet to watch the series or don’t have access to Showtime, you can now watch seasons one and two on Netflix. So, uh, yeah. What are you waiting for? You’re still reading, which means you’re not watching. Go. Seriously. Thank me later.

That’s it for today. Until next time…

Drawn to the Vampire, Part 5

 

“A last fire will rise behind those eyes
Black house will rock, blind boys don’t lie
Immortal fear, that voice so clear
Through broken walls, that scream I hear…”

Cry Little Sister, Gerard McMann

As a child of the 80s, there really is just one vampire flick that comes to mind in association with Generation X. And said vampire flick boasts one of the most 80s soundtracks imaginable, next to the Breakfast Club. I mean, can you look upon the poster for the 1987 film The Lost Boys and not hear the lyrics, “Cry little sister…“?

And the vampires. I mean, from the perspective of an 80s teenager, these guys were cool as shit. It’s no wonder they chose Kiefer Sutherland to play the role of David, the leader of this rag-tag group of lost souls.

David

Mi Vampire_David

The spiked hair, the rocker mullets, The Two Coreys, Jami Gertz (mmm…)–this movie had it all. And speaking of Coreys, did anyone else notice that Corey Haim’s character had a poster of Rob Lowe hanging in his bedroom? I would have loved to be part of that art direction meeting:

Art Director: “We need to decorate the teenage boy’s room. What do teenage boys like?”
Assistant Art Director:”Rob Lowe?”
A.D.: “Perfect.”
A.A.D.: “I was kidding.”
A.D.: “It’s already done.”

(Note: On the DVD commentary, director Joel Schumacher says that it was there because he had recently directed Lowe in the 1985 film St. Elmo’s Fire. But still…)

Apparently, this movie also introduced us to the phrase “vamp out,” a term used regularly in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Lost Boys clearly influenced the world of Buffy, especially when you compare the stylistic nature of said “vamping out.” You could swap any given vampire from either movie and you’d hardly notice a difference. That’s not a negative critique–I’m a fan of Buffy, and the style suits the show perfectly. Interestingly enough, Kiefer’s father, Donald Sutherland, starred in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie from 1992.

I’ll keep this post short, ending it with a little throwback video of the above-mentioned song, Cry Little Sister by Gerard McMann. Take a quick second to grab yourself some hair gel… Got it? Good. Now, enjoy.

Drawn to the Vampire, Part 2

30 Days of Night.

Welcome to the second in my series of illustrations featuring my favorite pop-culture vampires. My inspiration for today: After an Alaskan town is plunged into darkness for a month, it is attacked by a bloodthirsty gang of vampires (from IMDB). Who wouldn’t want to watch that, eh?

Danny Huston, who you might know from season three of American Horror Story: Coven, plays Marlow Roderick, the leader of a group of vampires who are understandably drawn to the town of Barrow, Alaska, where their food is plentiful 24/7. And Huston plays his role masterfully. Josh Hartnett is the sheriff who comes to the rescue, and he does a fine job as well, but this post ain’t about him (he’ll get his day when I do my Penny Dreadful posts). The movie is based on a graphic novel of the same name (written by Steve Niles and Illustrated by Ben Templesmith), and while the movie deviated from the novel at some points, it was fairly faithful to the overall concept of the comic (a very noticeable change being the merging of two characters, Marlow and Vicente, into one character, the aforementioned Marlow Roderick). Which brings us to my illustration.

Marlow Roderick

Mi Vampire_Marlow Roderick

Loved this character. Gore-loving, bloodsucking, devilish–an all-around joy to watch on the big screen. And it was Danny Huston who brought the character to life. That’s what I attempted to capture here, and I’m pretty happy with the outcome.

The movie has a sequel, Dark Days, which I’ve yet to see, though as I understand, it follows the comics more closely than the original film. The sequel doesn’t have the most favorable rating on IMDB, though I’ve never let something as silly as a rating get in the way of my enjoyment of something.

That’s all for today. Trying to keep this short, since–like me–you’re really just here for the pictures. Enjoy, and stop back soon for Drawn to the Vampire, Part 3!

Drawn to the Vampire, Part 1

In light of the recent release of my first vampire novel, I thought I’d do a series of illustrations showcasing my favorite pop-culture vampires.

The first on my list does not come from a traditional vampire series, rather he’s a prominent character in an urban fantasy series by author Kevin Hearne called The Iron Druid Chronicles. The main character in the series is the charismatic, if often sarcastic ancient druid, Atticus O’Sullivan (born Siodhachan O Suileabhain–find someone who speaks Old Irish to pronounce that one for you). Despite being human, he’s managed to survive for more than 2,000 years through the help of his own herbal concoction of Immortali-Tea® which he also provides to his faithful Irish Wolfhound companion, Oberon (Oberon even has his own Twitter account. Seriously. Check it out). Assisting Atticus in his legal needs is an attorney by the name of Leif Helgarson, who happens to be–you guessed it–a vampire (come on–he’s a lawyer; he was either going to be a vampire or a land shark, and this ain’t no SNL sketch).

Leif Helgarson

Mi Vampire_Leif Helgarson

As his name suggests, Leif is of Scandanavian decent. More specifically, he was born a Viking. After his family was murdered by Thor (yeah–that Thor–turns out he was kind of a dick), Leif went in search of a vampire who could embrace him, so he’d have the strength and power to take his vengeance on the old Norse god. His first wish came true–he became a vampire. But he’d have to chill a few centuries before he could face the king of dude-bros in battle. As it turned out, he needed help to traverse the godly planes to Valhalla, and so he secretly buddied up to a druid named Atticus, pretending to be his friend for as long as it suited his needs.

That’s as far as I’ll go with his backstory. After all, I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you haven’t read The Iron Druid Chronicles, I suggest you look into them. They’re action-packed and laced with wonderfully dark and sarcastic humor (something Hearne has a gift for). For the sake of this illustration, I deferred to his description in the books; he’s a sophisticated gent, prone to wearing high-quality suits and is fond of well-aged beverages (his favorite drink of choice is a vintage 2,000-year-old blend–the blood of his old pal, Atticus). And while he lives in modern times, he’s never quite adjusted to the era, having a tendency to speak in a lyrical prose more suited to a Shakespearian play. He makes for a fun and interesting character to read about, and I look forward to seeing more of him in Hearne’s novels.

Much like Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods, the Iron Druid Chronicles are packed full of gods from pantheons worldwide, both past and present. These assorted gods attain their strength through the power of faith (they exist as the result of belief itself, and the more people who believe in/worship them, the stronger they become). Atticus O’Sullivan is among the few beings capable of traveling back and forth between the godly realms, and unfortunately for him (or perhaps fortunately for us), he has a habit of causing a bit of mischief wherever his sandal-clad feet may take him. Hounded is the first in the Iron Druid Chronicles, and is a great place to start, available at Amazon.com. If you’re like me and a fan of audiobooks, voice actor Luke Daniels does an incredible job with the series over at Audible.com (highly recommended).

That’s it for today, folks. Short and sweet. Check back soon for Part 2 of my Drawn to the Vampire series.

RIP, Prince

We lost the Purple Rocker today. Pretty sad. This isn’t a bandwagon post; I didn’t just become a fan following his death. Though I currently live in Seattle, I spent the last 13 years in Minneapolis, and it’s hard not to be influenced by Prince and the impact he had on the music scene of the Twin Cities.

I won’t lie; I was a fan, but hardly obsessed. I never went to a party at Paisley Park, nor did I attend one of his concerts. But man, he was a talent. My appreciation for him started with the 1989 soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Batman movie. I had the cassette, and I listened to that thing endlessly. It was my favorite tape. Whenever the Batdance video came on MTV (back when they still played a thing called “music videos”) I would stop what I was doing and watch. I’ve seen the future and it will be…

That was some good sh!t.

As a tribute, I decided to put together this poster graphic.

Mi Prince

Lots of purple there. A bit of First Avenue‘s star wall in the background. They’re doing an All Night Dance Party this Saturday, April 23rd (NO COVER!) to honor him. That’s frickin’ awesome–wish I could be there for that. But damn, this is so sad.

A friend of mine, angvogt, once told me a story about driving past Prince’s mansion with a friend, and there appeared to be an open house going on. They proceeded to park their car and enter his home to see what was going on. Security stopped them at the front door (it wasn’t an open house). They were politely turned away, but apparently even the entryway to his home was every bit as purple as you’d assume.

My cousin Brad once managed a Subway restaurant–I believe in Edina–and he recounted a time when Prince and his entourage arrived just after closing one night (1 or 2 in the morning). A gentleman–presumably a body guard–knocked on the door and informed them that Prince had a craving for a sub. My cousin, not the type to be starstruck by anyone, assessed the situation and decided to let him in. Afterall, they hadn’t yet broken down their equipment (I really don’t know if he would have allowed Prince in had they already put things away). Of course, I was fascinated by his story, so I asked him what Prince was like. His response? “Short.” He’s a man of few words, my cousin. 🙂

And finally, here’s a great video of him jumping on stage for a guitar solo. Dude could rock. RIP, Prince. You’re already missed. UPDATE: I had to change the previous video I posted after seeing this one. Much better representation of the Purple One’s skill. Credit to Jamie Penick for posting this on his own Facebook page.

Drawn to the Bad Guy, Part 1

The concept of being drawn to the villain is nothing new, and I’m certainly not going to get into why it happens here. You’re not coming to my blog for a crash course in psychology and I am certainly not qualified to be doling out such info. But what I can do is discuss my favorite pop-culture villains. And I figured what better way to do that than to make a top 5 list. I thought about typing a simple list and finishing with an illustration I did, but then I started thinking about the individual villains that I chose, and thought, why not do five different blog posts, highlighting an illustration with each? So, without further ado, here’s number five on my list.

5. Riddick

For the sake of this list, I’m strictly referring to Vin Diesel‘s character Riddick from the movie Pitch Black. I enjoyed his subsequent films (the animated movie The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark FuryThe Chronicles of Riddick, and Riddick), but none of the sequels came anywhere near the artistic atmosphere of the movie that introduced us to the character. And to be fair, Riddick wasn’t technically a villain so much as a just really bad dude. But for at least part of the film we’re left wondering what his motives are; for part of the film we’re forced to question whether or not he actually is a villainous character. So that’s good enough for me.

What is it about him? Don’t know. He’s a violent character, cares about no one but himself, and yet he redeems himself at the end letting us know there’s still some good left in him. Is it the redemption that I’m drawn to? Perhaps. Though not necessarily. Some of the baddies that will follow on my list certainly fail in their redemption. Perhaps it’s his devil-may-care attitude, or moreover, the “I’m badder than the devil” attitude (yes, I know, “badder” isn’t a word–when you’re as bad as Riddick you don’t care about no stinkin’ grammar). Aesthetically speaking, I definitely dug the shiner eyes they gave him (in Pitch Black he indicates that while stuck in a prison where he never saw daylight, he paid a back-alley surgeon to perform a surgical shine-job on his eyes, giving him night vision), along with the steampunk goggles he had to wear during daylight hours. He was resourceful and clearly intelligent, which definitely added to the appeal. He figured out how to deal with the aliens that were attacking the group before anyone else did, and he was the only one who could successfully bypass them and escape the bizarre planet that they’d crash landed on. Should I have said “spoiler alert?” Ah, well. Here’s the illustration.

Mi Riddick Pitch Black

Just a quick note–the landscape, as well as Riddick’s attire, are not necessarily accurate to the movie Pitch Black. I was more going for atmosphere and general feel rather than 100% accuracy.

That’s it for today. Come back next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel for the next installment of “Who are Mikey’s favorite bad guys!”

Legacy of the Force

Stop–Have you seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens? No? Are you adverse to spoilers? Yes? Stop reading. Don’t misunderstand, I won’t be spoiling too much, but I will be dropping a few personal perspectives on the movie (perspectives which are shared by countless sources on the interwebs).

OK, now that I got that off my chest…

I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since Christmas of 1978 when I received my first set of Star Wars action figures: the original Luke Skywalker (in his Tatooine get-up), C3-PO, and R2-D2. I had no idea who these little characters were; I say “little” because up until that point I was only familiar with my sister’s Barbie “action figures.” But I was more than thrilled to have some figures of my own. That didn’t stop me from playing with my sister’s Barbies; my action figures needed some naked giants to attack them now and again. Of course, Luke and the droids were always able to get away from them via Luke’s Landspeeder.

It was two years later that Empire Strikes Back was in theaters. I had yet to see the original Star Wars, so ESB was my first theatrical introduction. And boy, what an introduction. I remember being terrified of the wampa, but when Luke used the Force to pull his lightsaber to him, and then when the lightsaber woozed to life–I don’t know what the six-year-old equivalent to “F#% YEAH!” is, but I’m pretty sure I yelled it at the top of my six-year-old lungs.

Fast-forward thirty-five years; my twin boys are five-and-a-half years old, and I’ve spent the last five-and-a-half years trying to indoctrinate them into the world of Star Wars. It hasn’t been easy. I didn’t have Power Rangers or Voltron or Ninjago to compete with my youthful fascination. And much as I hate to admit it, they didn’t love The Force Awakens. Oh well. There’s still time. The next movie, near as I can tell, is slated to be more ESB-like. Maybe that one will finally win them over the way Empire originally won me over. Time will tell.

Personally, I LOVED The Force Awakens. I saw it over Christmas with my dad, then again just before New Years with my wife and kids. Based on my love for the new flick, I sat down at my computer and banged out a couple fan posters, the theme of both revolving around the [spoiler alert!] much-rumored theory that Daisy Ridley‘s character Rey is actually the daughter of Luke Skywalker. The theory makes sense considering Rey‘s sensitivity to the Force and her skills with mechanics, flight, and weaponry. And let’s just say a lot of people will be disappointed if she turns out not to be his daughter, and instead part of a new bloodline of Force-sensitives.

The Legacy of the Force

Mi Star Wars One Saber

So the first image is a play off of a line originally used by Luke in Return of the Jedi and then repurposed in a trailer for The Force Awakens (below). The second is a tribute both to The Force Awakens and The Lord of the Rings (One ring to rule them all…).

I remember feeling chills as I watched that trailer. So that’s that. Like I said, not much of a spoiler, but enough of one if you haven’t seen the movie. Hope you enjoy my fan posters. Feel free to leave a comment or two. And go ahead and click “Follow” if you haven’t already. I plan to post updates with more frequency than in the past, and I have some big surprises in store this spring if you’re a fan of vampire fiction. Take care and stay tuned…