I don’t understand how sexist nineties comic book characters like vampirella continue to thrive.
This quote popped up on a Vampirella image I posted on my Comic Book Women tumblr, a gallery site dedicated to all types of female characters from comics. Anyway, I of course responded by pointing out that a)Vampirella was not created in the 90s but 1969 and b)she was not created in the traditional comic format. These and a couple other things I mentioned. This made me start to think, yet again, about how some peoples perception of Vampirella is generally wrong. People look at her, assume the worst, and do not bother to try and learn the about the iconic vampire. So consider this a cheat sheet on Vampirella. Not so much about who she is in the comics but a look at where she started and the people who have helped her along the way.
Ackerman is a legend in the scifi/fantasy as a writer, editor and spokesperson for science fiction. Hell, coined the term “sci fi.” However his biggest contribution is that the man practically invented fandom. He was an avid collector of memorabilia and his home was referred to as the Ackermansion. Oh, he also sparked fan costuming back in 1939 at the 1st World Science Fiction convention. Yep, he is the father of cosplay.
Robbins, of course, is an important trailblazing female cartoonist. A pioneer in alternative/underground comics in the 70s, an outspoken creator, and of course award winner.
September 1969 is when Warren published Vampirella Magazine #1. Due to the rules set forth by the Comics Code Vampirella could not have been done as a regular comic book. Here’s a sample of some of the rules from when the Code debut-most of which remained by the time Vampirella debut.
Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
No comic magazine shall use the words “horror” or “terror” in its title.
All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
However one of the loopholes was that Illustrated Magazines were not held to these rules. These magazines were aimed at an older audience. So Vampirella Magazine, while it was a horror anthology comic, was not sold as a comic book.
Warren published Vampirella from Sept. 1969 until sometime in 1983 when the company went bankrupt. According to the few numbers wikipedia gave the magazines circulation was between 170K and 120K between 1974 and 1982. Usually selling through over half the print run. Harris Publications bought Warren assets, published some reprints but it wasn’t until 1991 they started publishing new Vampirella comics. They discontinued their comics line in 2008 and Dynamite comics purchased the rights to Vampirella.
Vampirella has had a bevy of talented individuals on her book. Her original cover by legendary painter Frank Frazeta. Tom Sutton was the first artist on the series.
Legendary comic writer/editor Archie Goodwin (co-creator of Jessica Drew Spider-Woman) took on Vampirella with issue #7 and started to define the character, her mission and created for her a supporting cast. On issue #12 he was joined by Spanish artist Jose “Pepe” Gonzalez who became commonly associated as the definitive Vampirella artist. He has drawn more Vampi strips than any other artist as well as many pin ups fo the character including the below iconic image.
Other writers to tackle Vampirella include, but not limited to: Len Wein (Swamp Thing and Wolverine creator), Steve Englehart (lots of Marvel and DC), Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, James Robinson (famed writer behind Starman), Mike Carey (X-Men and Vertigos Lucifer), and Kurt Busiek.
There have been talented artists too such as Amanda Conner, Mark Texeria (various Marvel and DC), Joe Jusko (painter), Mike Mayhew (mostly known for Marvel cover art), Ed McGuiness (most popular of his work is Deadpool), among others. Plus of course more cheesecake artist too and a number of international talent like Goznalo Mayo.
There have also been a lot of Vampi short stories with incredible talent including Ty Templeton and Bruce Timm or the award winning team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Plus all the cover artists and if you check out gallery sites from Deviant Art to Comic Art Fans you’ll find many Vampirella sketches by fans and pros. Making her one of the most popular pin up characters.
A lot of the frustration people, non fans I should say, have with Vampirella is the costume. They see it, walk away. They don’t bother to look any deeper and project their problems with other lady comic characters onto her. So should they change it? No.
First off, why pander to the people who assume the worst? Vampirellas fans kept her alive for almost 5 decades. She’s been able to attract new fans and talented creators in spite of (or because) her costume. Her costume has made her a popular sketch character, cosplay, and is a recognizable design. That’s right, Vampi’s costume is a part of her. It may be ridiculous but its helped her survive. It is one of the things that makes Vampi who she is. Dressing a character in a revealing outfit does not make a character exploitative as long as the creators know how to balance the work. Vampriella is a sweet woman who has strong ethics and works hard. Even her most cheesecake artists have done pretty good by her.
I never see actual Vampirella fans complain about the costume. I’m sure there are a few but it seems once someone finds themselves attracted to the character they accept her outfit with the package. Or they just accept thats who she is and leaves it alone.
I also realized that I like Vampirella because she never once notices that she is dressed inappropriately for this planet. I also like that her male companions never seem to look at her tits, no matter how tempted men in the real world might be.
A nice opinion on Vampi from a female fan. Read the rest here.
So I hope this gives a little background on the characters popularity, or rather a better look at her history and the people who have helped make her a fixture in American comics. Obviously I skipped talking about her origin, which sadly has been revised so much its kind of hard to explain, but I will say check out her classic stories. From Archie Goodwin and up. It might be a little tough to get them for cheap as right now they are only available in Vampirella Archives which collect the full magazines and cost a bit. The Vampriella Masters series has a lot of gems. Contact me and ask if you want more specific stories.
Now a video.