When you first saw Hamlet it made perfect sense. Not because it was about sex and rock n roll and the middle thing. But because, all your life until that point you’d been listening to Led Zeppelin and to the Doors and to Jimi and to Bob, and suddenly, the pieces clicked into place. How could works of popular culture explain so easily one of the sacred relics of High Art? Ask Greil Marcus, his entire career is spent lovingly, painstakingly making sense of the deep connection between the “throwaway” of popular culture and the inapproachable bastion of High Art. Or. Experience that connection first hand by reading I, Vampire.
It’s not an either/or writer Josh Fialkov reminds me during our conversation a little earlier. Popular culture means never having back-step, never needing to make choices between “low” and “High”.
“It’s only in issue three that we see the full scope of what she’s up to”, Josh impresses on me one sunny California morning that makes me more than a little uneasy talking about vampires. He’s talking about Mary, Queen of Blood, the female lead in I, Vampire. I, Vampire is a beautifully-crafted love story, or more precisely, the story of a love in a downward spiral. It’s the story of Andrew Bennett the superego of vampires who cannot reconcile the hyper-feral nature of the vampires’ Inner Beast. Andrew’s response is to murder every vampire he encounters by staking them through the heart.
Every vampire but one.
I, Vampire is also the story of Mary, Queen of Blood. Mary who can no longer stand idly by and see her people suffer while a species that is essentially livestock to vampires. Humans simply shouldn’t outcompete vampires, that simply isn’t right.
And more still, I, Vampire is the lovingly-realized love story of Andrew and Mary. A dark romance, the tragic story of a couple who cannot resist the pull of each other. And who, as a result of being in each others’ orbits, pay the deepest psychic price. A love story, with teeth.
I, Vampire is not the familiar Spider-Man story of “with great power comes great responsibility” (for Andrew at least). Neither is it the romance of expressing unbridled power like Coppola’s The Godfather (at least for Mary). Instead it is the story that appears on the distant horizon, the story at the very limit of both of these iconic stories. How does Andrew’s Spider-Man fail to exercise that “great responsibility” in the face of a love he cannot resist? And how does Mary’s Michael Corleone fail to destroy her chief rival when it is the vampire she loves?
I, Vampire is mythic in every way. It is the story of how the whole world is threatened by a love story that just darkens the character of each individual involved in that poisoned relationship. In some of the finest storytelling ever to grace the character of Andrew and his struggles with Mary, Josh Fialkov singularizes the character and the title among the recent crop of DC’s New 52. It is very much the evolution of the romantic vampire’s we’ve come to enjoy seeing on screen over recent years.
I, Vampire is the blues of comics. It’s Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. It’s “Spoonful” and “Rollin’ Stone”. And it’s also Shakespeare. But if you need to understand how it’s equal does Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you’ll have to check with Greil Marcus.
But before you dive in head-on and buy issue three this Wednesday, enjoy the preview today.