Writer: Nancy A. Collins
Art: Stan Shaw
Letters: Thomas Mauer
Twenty years after its original publication, IDW have released a new collection of Sunglasses After Dark, a comic adaptation of Nancy A. Collin’s vampire novels. According to Collin’s introduction to this collection, most fans of her Sonja Blue books were not aware that a comic adaptation ever existed. Sunglasses After Dark was originally published by Verotik Comics in the mid-nineties, a company started by none other than Glenn Danzig of Misfits fame. As the name implies, Verotik Comics were ‘for mature readers only.’ So much so, in fact, that the company got into trouble over a particular story in Verotika #4. The story contained so much sexual violence that it bordered on obscenity. It caused a stir, and afterwards all Verotik comics were strictly over-the-counter items, hidden from view. And so, even though Sunglasses After Dark had the most mainstream appeal of all the Verotik lineup, it seemed destined to languish in cult obscurity.
Sunglasses After Dark never quite creeps into obscene territory, but it dances around it. SaD is dingy and somber, a fine example of 90s goth-punk horror. It’s brutal and violent, sexual but rarely sexy. It’s not for everyone, then. Even so, the brutality of it always serves the story, not just providing empty titillation. It has the feel of a 90s Vertigo book, with a complete and satisfying narrative. There’s a lot more to it than shock value.
It helps that Sonja Blue herself is a compelling character. A vampire who hunts other vampires and demons, Blue has had a tough past. Vampirism wasn’t her choice; rather, it was thrust upon her. She tries to do good, but she has a dark side. We all have a dark side, you could say, but Sonja’s dark side is darker. While Sonja is an anti-hero, her enemies are much worse.
Collin’s storytelling is wise and stylish. The narrative is non-linear, keeping us on our toes with flashbacks and surrealistic flourishes. Stan Shaw has remastered his original art with digital colouring, and it looks great. His characters can look cartoony at times, but with the murky, washed-out colouring, the book looks wholly original. Horror fans will want to check this out. It’s a brutal, dark tale, like all good vampire stories should be. Verotik may be little more than a footnote in the history of slightly dodgy 90s comics, but Sunglasses After Dark lives up to its cult reputation.