Searchlight: The Art of Vampirella

The Art of Vampirella - The Warren Years

Ever since her debut in 1969, Vampirella has captured the imaginations of millions world-wide. My earliest comic books are reading those Warren Publishing comics, along with their other publications, Creepy and Eerie. When you’re a nine-year-old horror fan, it’s easy to convince your parents to buy comic books. Little did they know Vampirella was much more than horror, and probably more than any nine-year-old boy should be exposed to. Vampirella sunk her fangs deep into my neck, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Originally more of an Elvira-style hostess for the anthology magazine, Vampirella’s real story began properly in issue #8 with Vampirella vs. the Cult of Chaos. Conceived by Forrest J Ackerman, the character’s costume was designed by Trina Robbins for Frank Frazetta for his iconic cover for Vampirella #1. The Vampirella look we’ve all come to know and love was drawn by the incredible José González for the duration of most of her Warren years, from 1971 through 1983. Daughter of Lilith, there’s no doubt Vampirella is a heroine, using her vampire abilities to uphold her strict moral code. And though she is hyper-sexualized, throughout the years she has owned her sexuality. She is the original horror comics heroine, able to face down monsters both human and inhuman while not becoming the enemy in the process.

Vampirella #11

The Art of Vampirella: The Warren Years is an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with her, or for the longtime fans who just can’t get enough. The thing about this art book is that the focus here is not the actual comics, but the iconic artwork that graced the covers of each issue. Art by Frank Frazetta, Ken Kelly, and many more are inside, each presented sans logos and cover type, allowing you to see the breathtaking beauty that made the magazine so famous. There are even photos of Barbara Leigh, the stunning actress who was the first to wear the Vampirella costume and grace the cover of the magazine in 1975. They say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when the covers are so beautiful, well … who can argue?

Horror comics, especially those from Warren Publishing, fueled my imagination early on, providing the essential foundations and inspiration to create my own art and fiction. Fortunately for us, Dynamite Entertain bought the rights for Vampirella and continue to publish the comics today, with Nancy Collins (Sunglasses After Dark) writing a successful run from 2014-2015 of the character. But of course, Vampirella’s a vampire, destined to return again and again to conquer our nightmares. Though the stories inside the comics were excellent, the covers were just as good, and sometimes that was all I needed to see to know I had to have the latest issue. The comics are readily available online in collected hardbacks and digitally through the main digital comics websites, but this art book is the one to have to see those incredible cover paintings as they were originally intended. This volume comes highly recommended.

 

BOB PASTORELLA

 

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