The “Vampires: Pop Culture and Myth” panel filled up quickly with costumed fans at Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo Friday night, November 1. Fanged folklore was explored by a panel of authorities on the subject, spanning television, comic book and music backgrounds.
Juliet Landau, Drusilla on TV’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer, moderated the panel consisting of FEARnet’s Gavin Hignight, comic book artist Georges Jeanty (TV’s Buffy), Grimm’s creator/writer Jim Kouf, Buffy/Angel’s writer-director David Greenwalt, Bauhaus’ David J and True Blood’s Mariana Klaveno. Breaking the ice, Landau asked her panelists to describe their earliest exposure to vampires.
Hignight recalled walking through a field at 13 years old with friends convinced a vampire lived there. “There’s this mattress in the middle of this field we’d always cut across and it was blood stained… we convinced ourselves that’s where a vampire would feed,” Hignight said. “…if we were cutting through that field as the sun was setting, we were booking ass.”
When asked about vampires in recent news, Hignight said that it is nothing new. “I’ve seen things in my live that have convinced me there are things we don’t know about that are existing and it’s fantastic,” he related.
Jeanty first took interest in vampires after someone he thought defined “cool” showed interest in Frank Langella’s Dracula (1979). “I really learned about vampires because I thought if this guy is so cool, and he likes this, than I have to like this,” Jeanty confessed.
In 2006, Jeanty teamed up with Whedon to continue Buffy as a graphic novel, creating seasons eight and nine from the concept. Jeanty called them love letters from Whedon to a girl he wasn’t ready to let go of. Jeanty first digested Buffy in a marathon of seasons six and seven. “I liked it so much, I took it upon myself to watch one through five… technically, my last show of Buffy was where she dies,” Jeanty said. “In some weird place in my head, she’s still dead.”
Recalling her own first vampire experience, Landau remembered that as a child, she had heard rumors a friend’s uncle was killed by one. In 1997, Landau became one herself as Drusilla on Buffy. Landau recalled a very focused Whedon as he presented her with vampire lore and specifically described Drusilla. “…it was just great to put the pieces together in one role… To have the fragility… yet be such a powerful character,” Landau conveyed.
J’s first vampire exposure was seeing the suave portrayal of Dracula by Christopher Lee in the legendary Hammer films of the late 1950s and 1960s. Regarding those who claim to be, or to have witnessed, a vampire, J said, “Some people are so seduced by the romantic appeal… it’s the willing suspension of disbelief to an extreme.”
Klaveno thanks Bugs Bunny for exposing her to vampires. In order to play Lorena on True Blood, Klaveno considered both the human and vampire sides to the character. “Once the fangs come in and the blood gets splashed… you just play your character and the rest of it, all those other brilliant artists take care of that,” Klaveno said. Klaveno emphasized her creative freedom on the show to develop Lorena as a character.
Kouf’s first exposure to vampires is attributed to Béla Lugosi as Dracula and Max Schreck as Nosferatu. “Those were the images that stuck most with me,” Kouf said. Kouf’s mission as a writer and producer of horror concepts such as Angel and Grimm is to provide a look at human behavior. “… that’s what we’re trying to do on our show… is to deal with the monsters within humanity,” he expressed.
Sharing his initial interaction with vampires, Greenwalt recalled meeting Joss Whedon and his girl Buffy. “[Vampire] wasn’t really in my wheelhouse until I met Mr. Whedon and read his television script for Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” Greenwalt said. “…and thought, this is the best thing I’ve ever read, and I need to be a part of this.”
Greenwalt echoed Kouf’s emphasis on the importance of writing horror to explore humanity. Regarding their work on Grimm, Greenwalt said, “One of the points of Grimm, as Jim had said, is to explain this inexplicable… how people in the world can be so monstrous.”
Landau is currently working on a documentary which will include footage from the “Vampires: Pop Culture and Myth” panel as well as an interview with Gary Oldman.
Article by Kyle Cunningham