Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Anita Blake: Guilty Pleasures

The first time I encountered Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake was in the novel Obsidian Butterfly. This was 7 or 8 years ago and I was working my way through a lot of gothic literature. It didn't stick out in my mind among the countless other books. Then came the comic.
The comic books are great. They have made me want to check out the other books and proselytize for them. There are some things that I don't like about them, but there's a lot that I do like. Enough to make me want to write a post on them.
This is Anita. She is a vampire hunter and a resurrector of the dead. In the alternate reality of Anita Blake vampires live among us out of the coffin. Vampires are recognized as citizens of the USA, but are still fighting for their rights. There is a lot of discrimination towards the undead. I know what you're thinking "doesn't this sound like the world of Sookie Stackhouse?..." Somewhat, but the novel Guilty Pleasures was written in 1993, a full 8 years before the first Sookie Stackhouse book.
Zombies exist in this reality, but not in the same way as most of popular culture. Zombies are the reanimated dead, brought back to life by a resurrector. They have a very limited shelf life, and will return back to the land of the dead within a couple of weeks. During their second life they can help to solve crimes by recalling their memories of the first life. A good reanimator can coax the memories out of the zombie, and Anita is a good reanimator. The zombie's memories themselves also have a short shelf life, because zombies decline cognitively quickly. Zombies are resurrected from a form of gris-gris, voodoo, magic, etcetera.
Anita is a vampire hunter as well as a resurrector. Since vampires have rights, they cannot be hunted willy-nilly. Anita is hired by the police to hunt rogue vampires who have been killing humans. Vampires are allowed to exist as long as they feed off of willing donors, and there are quite a few fetishists willing to let vampires suckle off of them.

Phillip is one such donor. He is a stripper at Guilty Pleasures, a male vampire strip club. He is addicted to the bite and willingly submits to a wide variety of vampires, hence the scars. He is the main romantic interest of Anita in Guilty Pleasures.

Jean-Claude is another romantic interest of Anita's. Jean-Claude, however, is a vampire. He is also the owner of guilty pleasures. It was he who advised the police to contact Anita to help them solve a series of vampire murders around which the plot of the book revolves. Jean-Claude is in the habit of calling Anita "ma petite", which seems kind of cheesy to me. It seems like a vampire cliche that an old vampire should speak with a Louisiana accent and be a French/Southern gentleman. I know that prior to Anne Rice this wasn't the case, but since she appeared on the scene it has been so overdone. Jean-Claude is an old vampire, but not nearly the oldest.

Nikolaos is the oldest vampire in the city although she inhabits the body of a preteen girl. Another problem that I have with the comic is that 'Nikolaos' is actually the Greek name that 'Nicholas' is based on. It comes from 'nike ho laos' victory of the people. It is a male name, but used on a female. I think this is because Ms. Hamilton didn't know this and simply was trying for an old sounding name.
Nonetheless, Nikolaos is a force to be reckoned with.

To me, a cool thing about Anita is that she is obsessed with penguins. There is this fearless vampire killer who can resurrect the dead, and she wears penguin shirts with a bed covered in stuffed penguins...stuffed animals that is. It is also pretty cool that she is easily the shortest character in the books, save Nikolaos, the preteen girl who is a thousand years old.

The last part of the alternate reality of Anita Blake's that I think is so cool is the ghouls. Instead of having ghouls that are tied to a master vampire, ghouls are demon beasts that have a resurrector for their master. Ghouls are created when a reanimator dies and is resurrected. Ghouls generally live in cemetaries and rip apart any living thing that they encounter. They cannot live in cemeteries that are consecrated. It is possible that a resurrector that is reanimated will have as many ghouls as zombies that he resurrected in his lifetime.
Overall I love the Anita Blake comics and cannot wait for the Laughing Corpse cycle to be released in graphic novel format.

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