Flashback Friday: Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves #1

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Written by Kevin VanHook
Art and Cover my Tom Mandrake
Published by DC Comics (2008)

Superman and Batman, vampires, werewolves, all in one comic book. Arguably two of the biggest names in comic book history pitted against a pair of the most iconic horror monsters. What could possibly go wrong? Right?

First, my reservations. I picked this book up, with four others of this limited short, at a con last spring. When I got home it sat in my “to read” longbox, and every week as I search through it for the coming week’s column I pass over it for something else(world). Why? I can tell just by looking at it that it was released prior to the New 52 re-launch, at a time when DC was floundering with many of its titles. Along comes this supernatural book, a battle royale with Superman fighting vampires. It just doesn’t seem right, and as I think about it rationally it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. There is a precedent in comics of mythological creatures making appearances: Morbius is a solid character in the Marvel U, there’s also Man-Wolf,  Man-Bat,  Dracula fought the X-Men,  and Frankenstein became one of the staple characters for DC’s re-launch (though he didn’t last long). So why is the leap so unnerving for me?

The plot. Oh yes there is a plot, and one that is not at all what I would expect. Kevin VanHook (Bloodshot, Archer and Armstrong) starts where any good Batman book begins, with a crime. A chewed corpse is thrown from a building just as Batman is in the area, and of course he’s going to check it out. What he finds is Marius Dimeter, a vampire who was following the creature that dropped (and presumably chewed on) the body. Bats takes the corpse back to the cave and does some forensic magic on it, discovering that there are strange things in the blood. Superman comes then…nope not yet.

There is a pretty badass fight between Wonder Woman and a vampire she catches preying on a woman. Then Superman…oh no…not yet. We see a little bit of expository stuff between Dimeter and a werewolf, indicating that there is some kind of pact between them, and then a little back and forth between Batman and a scientist who, it turns out, is doing experiments on the undead of all kinds. And then…ah forget it. Superman isn’t even in this book. That was more than a little disappointing, when you have his name and likeness splashed across the cover, at least flash the “S” shield in the last panel.

The story though, was not at all what I was worried about. It seems that the stretch between the colourful spandex and the dark brooding monsters isn’t as far as I’d thought. My worry, for some odd reason, is that the two genres don’t quite mesh well together. But VanHook does a fine job incorporating the two, making it seem not a far leap to go from capes and cowls to fangs and fur.

The art was also pleasantly surprising. Tom Mandrake (The Spectre, Grimjack) depicts the brooding Bats just as we love him, shadowy and dark. Gone are the massive pecs and huge shoulders of the 90’s, but shadows remain, and Batman’s cape often takes over the panel à la Spawn. I liked the colouring in this one as well. The tones were much more muted which helped to bring the whole feeling of the book into a darker realm, which is where it should be.

So the long and short of it is that Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves, despite its unwieldy title, was pretty good. Perhaps my worry was unfounded. I’ll read the rest of the books to see where the story goes, and I hope and pray that this story doesn’t fall prey to the same problem that the Batman and Robin film did, adding piles of villains to fill in the plot. In this case the more vampires and werewolves the better…oh…and a little bit of actual Superman would be nice as well.