We’ve gotten a flood of good Vampirella news with the arrival of the 50th anniversary. To longtime Vampirella fans this probably feels like quite a contrast to the last three years when we got almost no Vampirella comics that bore much resemblance to the classic/traditional depictions of the character.
First there was the 2016 series written by Kate Leth featuring a new costume designed by Nicola Scott. The story was pretty much in-line with what you would expect from Vampirella, but I think the costume design flopped a bit with fans. It wasn’t that it was a bad design, but it was very far removed from the original look. Plus it went along with similar redesigns for Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris, which made it pretty clear what the reason for the change was – seeking a different audience by covering up these characters. Traditional fans definitely weren’t being pandered to.
Then there was volume four by Paul Cornell and Jeremy Whitley. This is the one that went way off the beaten path with a storyline that was totally unlike anything we’d seen before. That can be a good thing, but in this case it just felt too off the wall. From reading the story and interviews with the writers it felt like it was written by authors that didn’t really like the character and wanted to reshape her into something they approved of. On top of that we got yet another costume redesign complete with a makeover of Vampirella’s iconic hair style. This one went over like a lead balloon.
During the same period we also had the Kiss crossover, which was again a series that did not feel like a Vampirella book at all. Writer Christopher Sebela seemed also to not be particularly fond of Vampirella and even expressed delight at upsetting fans with his totally out-of-character take. It wasn’t until late 2018 that we finally got a couple of books worth of the name Vampirella with Vampirella/Dejah Thoris and Vampirella: Roses for the Dead. Now the anniversary is here and we’re being showered with an abundance of Vampirella riches.
So what was up with the last three years? I’m wondering if all of this was done with the 50th anniversary in mind. The utter absence of the traditional Vampirella does seem to give the 50th anniversary more weight. It goes from being just an anniversary to also being a grand return to form. After years of frustration and deprivation, the longtime fan finally gets what they’ve been wanting. This helps build up the hype machine more than if the anniversary is just a continuation of a status-quo.
I’m sure Dynamite has had 2019 circled for some time, so maybe they felt the years leading up to it were a perfect time to experiment with the character. Good things can come from experimentation, but at the same time the experimental takes create more demand for the return of the classic character. I have no idea if this is what Dynamite intended to do, but I do believe the 2016-2018 period helped contribute to the excitement and hype we’re currently seeing around Vampirella. Was it worth it? For me personally, no, I would have rather had a steady stream of real Vampirella stuff. But from a business perspective it might be paying off right now.