Pop culture of early 1960s depicted Los Angeles as the utopia of the eternal summer. Colleges and universities offered free education to incoming (white) students, bikini clad hippies lounging beneath the palms at Venice Beach with the Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA as anthem. At night, the glittery nightlife of Sunset strip promised fame, fun and stardom.
Thousands would flock to Los Angeles to stake a claim in that eternal summer. Yet, that image would be destroyed in the 1965 Watts Uprising. Beneath the image of eternal youth, the Watts Uprising revealed an undercurrent of authoritative resistance, led by Los Angeles’ black and brown students erased from that utopia.
If Los Angeles in the 1960s is categorized as the birth of Youth Culture, then Los Angeles of the 1970s would see its coming of age. Movies of the period such as Taxi Driver, Pretty Baby and Poltergeist exposed the vampiric nature of real and metaphoric authority structures as those that feast upon and exploit youth. Others like The Omen and The Exorcist would depict youth as demonic apparitions born of society’s departure from the conservatism and moral righteousness of the 1950s. From the bright hopefulness of the 60s, the 1970s turned to darkness.
It is from that darkness Alex De Campi and Erica Henderson’s Dracula, Motherf**ker emerges. Set in 1974, we follow Quincy Harker, a Nightcrawler called to photograph the murder of actress Bebe Beauland. What follows is a peek into toxic love in a city that both feeds upon and worships beauty and youth.
In a colorful, flowing opening sequence, Dracula cloaks himself in a cross adorned cloak against Vienna’s chill. This Dracula, with barbwire teeth and a cockroach’s filiform, is not beautiful. As noted in Rachel Bellowar’s interview with De Campi and Henderson, Dracula is inspired by the artist Gustav Klimt and certain anime, a monster “beyond human” with vulnerable weaknesses in his fleshy hands.
De Campi writes in her essay ‘On Monsters’ at the end of the graphic novel, that this Dracula forgoes the easy handsomeness that is so often used to excuse and romanticize monstrosity. His wives exchange their lives for that certain power relegated to women: the beauty of eternal youth. Only, that power serves no one except Dracula himself. His ex-wives, with the help of Nightcrawler Quincy Harker, are out to settle that score.
I cannot leave a review without remarking on Henderson’s fantastic art. More than once, I stopped on a page to marvel at Henderson’s saturated psychedelic colors. There are more than a few panels I’d love to frame for my walls if they ever decide to do prints (please, please do prints).
1974 seems a fitting setting for Dracula Motherfucker. It fits well around the era’s film portrayals of youth as both victim and demon in the post-free-love age of innocence and ignorance that marked previous eras. One where those hopeful youths flocking to Los Angeles for their own eternal summers grew up, swallowed whole by the monstrous machinations of authoritarianism, marginalization and brutality. I’m reminded of de Campi’s words: “you have to become a little bit of a monster yourself to escape it.”
Written by Alex de Campi with art by Erica Henderson, Dracula Motherfucker is available October 2020 via Image Comics and local shops.
Pop culture of early 1960s depicted Los Angeles as the utopia of the eternal summer. Colleges and universities offered freeCOMICONRead More