Fangirls Speak Out: True Blood Comics – When the hell?!
on Nov 2 2011 | 13 Comments »
I’m a big comic book geek, especially when it comes to vampire comics. So when it was announced that IDW, the publishers behind the Spike and Angel series, were going to be releasing a series of True Blood comics, I had a massive nerd-gasm. Fourteen issues in, and this week saw the news that IDW will be making the True Blood comic series an ongoing monthly release from spring 2012. While this comes as welcome news, I can’t help but feel a degree of trepidation.
True Blood Comic issues 1-12
On paper, the True Blood comics sound like they couldn’t possibly fail to live up to awesomeness of the show that inspired them. The first six-issue arc, All Together Now, has a storyline conceived by head honcho Alan Ball and fellow True Blood staff writers Kate Barnow and Elisabeth Finch. The script is co-written by David Tischman, of the excellent Bite Club comics on Vertigo (like True Blood meets The Sopranos!), and illustrated by David Messina, who did a superb job on the Spike and Angel comics. The second arc, Tainted Love, mixed things up a bit by bringing in Michael McMillian, known to fans as the guy who plays vampire-hating preacher Steve Newlin in the show, to co-write the script. He’s no newcomer to the comic world – check out him and Zachary Quinto’s comic Lucid, a crazy mix of Arthurian legend and secret agents! Also new to the team was writer Marc Andreyko, currently helming the Let the Right One In prequel comics, and illustrator Joe Corroney, a celebrated Star Wars artist for LucasArts, who’s also worked on the Spike and Angel comics. Right now we’re mid-way through the third arc, The French Quarter, and the original team are back, with a story that follows on from the cliffhanger in issue six.
Comic Sookie also has numerous three-way fantasies.
The depictions of characters can’t be faulted, the dialogue crackles with lewdness and hilarity that makes it sound like it could have come straight out of the show, and the tone is the perfect blend of sexy and freaky. All Together Now features an ancient swamp monster that traps everyone in Merlotte’s and feeds off of their shame. Tainted Love is about a contaminated batch of TruBlood that sends vampires bat-shit crazy, and The French Quarter is about Sookie, Eric and Bill travelling to New Orleans to investigate a series of vampire slayings. All fun stuff and highly entertaining.
The wisdom of Jason Stackhouse
So what’s my beef? Here’s the thing – at no point is it explained when ANY of these shenanigans are supposed to take place in relation to the show! Sookie and Bill are all loved up in the first story, Eric has short hair, and Jessica is living with Bill, so this has to be in the same timeframe as season two, but we the eagle-eyed viewers can’t help but think “hold your horses, how did they all find the time to fight the swamp demon thingy in between all the orgies, cannibalism, and road trip to Dallas?” The same thing goes for Tainted Love – Sookie and Bill have split up, Jessica and Hoyt are together, and Jessica specifically refers to the scene towards the end of season three in which Bill teaches her some vampire ninja skills. It’s as if the events of this arc take place during the year that passes between seasons three and four, except Sookie isn’t in fairyland, and Tara isn’t a lesbian cagefighter.
Comic Pam's snark is intact.
Of course, it’s highly possible that Michael McMillian and Marc Andreyko weren’t aware that Sookie was going to take an extended vacation away from Bon Temps, but the show has made things incredibly difficult for the poor comic book writers, you see! Near enough every episode of True Blood ends with a cliffhanger, which immediately leads into the next episode, aside from the “two weeks later” at the end of season one, and the aforementioned year that Sookie vanishes for at the start of season four.
I demand more 19th Century Bill!
Comparing this situation to that of another famous vampire TV show being adapted to comic form, I’m a big fan of the Buffyverse comics and graphic novels. There are literally HUNDREDS of the things – many of them set within the seven seasons that the show ran for, and the four seasons that spin-off Angel ran for, which is possible since the “monster of the week” structure means that events in the comics can occur in between episodes of the show. As well as that, the Buffy/Angel/Spike/Faith comics feature many events that take place prior to the start of the show – something that works particularly well when it comes to vampire characters that are centuries old.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to the immortal! And that’s where the True Blood comics have been most successful so far. It’s difficult for the reader to fully engage with the events in the comics that supposedly take place in the present timeframe of the show, thus making it less credible that the comics are part of the True Blood “canon”, and reducing them to fan fiction with incredibly high quality and production values (or perhaps an exercise in multiverse storytelling). But the flashback sequences in the comics are much easier to relate to as having a feasible connection to the characters from the show, and giving insight into their motivations. For example, we learn through the comics how Bill was manipulated by Lorena in his first year as a vampire, how Jessica’s relationship with her ultra-strict parents led to her being kidnapped by vampires and taken to Bill’s trial, and how Lafayette’s crazy mother reacted to the discovery that he was gay. More interesting still is the sequence in which we see Eric in Inquisition-era Spain – tying the comic series nicely to the events of season four.
Bearing this in mind, I think that the writers behind the comics should play to their strengths and focus more on flashback material, as opposed to attempting the impossible task of setting events around what takes place in the show. Of course, the alternative route would be to do what the Game of Thrones comics do, which is to ignore the show completely and present a verbatim graphic re-telling of the novels on which the TV adaptation is based. Imagine! Sookie and Tara doing a slutty dance to Love is a Battlefield, Queen Sophie-Anne losing her legs, Eric wearing pink PVC! However, since True Blood has become soooo far removed from the source material, I reckon that would alienate a large proportion of the TV audience. I’m also guessing that most of the Southern Vampire Mysteries hardcore fans aren’t really comic book readers. Still, since Charlaine Harris has recently become involved in the comic world, it’s not a far-fetched idea.
Naked Eric battles the Spanish Inquisition
But I can’t help but remember with fondness the one-shot of Spike and Drusilla causing mayhem at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, and think of how much better the True Blood comics would be if the writers would just bite the bullet and accept that it’s essential for them to move away from attempting to write an ensemble piece in the same style as the show. Characters need to be separated into their own storylines, perhaps with each comic containing two plots that develop simultaneously, in different time periods – think the first arc of Stephen King’s American Vampire comics. One storyline could take place in Bon Temps, and the other could concern any of the vampire characters doing… well, pretty much anything! How about Lorena and Bill in the Wild West? Or Eric and Godric hanging out with Shakespeare in Tudor London? Or Pam going to Woodstock? Hell, what about Franklin actually being Jack the Ripper?! This new approach, and a continuing dialogue with the show’s creators to ensure continuity between the two mediums, will ensure that the comics become an essential part of the True Blood universe that could even outlive the show. After all, despite Buffy’s series finale coming at the end of season seven, the comics have continued the mythology, and are currently on season nine. While actors eventually get too old to play immortals, their illustrated counterparts never age!
You can buy True Blood Vol. 1: All Together Now Comic Book Collection (Hardcover) at HBO Store by clicking the image below:
Cover Images courtesy of truebloodcomics.com