The Spirits of the Dead
In American writer Lee Falk's imagination a man put on a mask and a costume and vowed to fight against piracy, cruelty and injustice. This was the first Phantom. He also vowed that his sons would follow after him in this never ending war. In 1936 Lee takes up the story of his then present day Phantom who had become known as 'The ghost who walks - the man who cannot die.'
The Phantom is said to be over 400 years old and immortal. The truth is the legacy has been handed down from father to son for this length of time. In fighting criminals the Phantom often uses the legend of his supposed immortality and also the notion that he is a ghost to good effect.
There has been one movie made about the Phantom and also one movie serial. Both are worth checking out. There have also been novels. The Phantom, however, is best known as a comic strip character.
The Australian company Frew has been publishing Phantom stories in comic book form since the late 1940s and is still going strong. Lee Falk is no longer among the living but his Phantom goes on.
Check out Night to Dawn for the latest in Vampire Literature. In the issues already out and the ones to come you will find vampires, werewolves, mummies, zombies and creatures that menace but don't easily fit into our categories.
It is Night to Dawn an American magazine devoted to the mysteries and the horrors of the night as well as other darkened places.
The walking dead are in many cultures from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece to modern America and Australia. The British reworked the vampire for female consumers of fiction in the 19th Century and then again in the late 20th Century. Recently the vampire has been reworked by the Americans for a teen audience.
There was a time when the European/Western/Eastern vampire was considered to be female and the werewolf male. Today it is mix and match.
Since the 19th Century, there have been male vampires (it was thought that female readers would prefer male vampires) and certainly, since the 20th Century, there have been female werewolves.
The undead also include zombies. Sometimes they have been brought to a semblance of life by magic or drugs. Sometimes it is a mysterious ailment where they continue to rot as if dead but are desirous of the flesh of the living.
The recent and brilliant television series The Walking Dead works off the mysterious ailment notion. Imagine being in a world that is falling apart with flesh eating corpses on the loose.
Vampires have long been part of our fiction. They became popular in the penny dreadfuls in England and also in France.
Varney the vampire was probably the most famous blood sucker before Dracula. Female readers at the time seemed to go for the tall, dark and gruesome but not too gruesome. Certainly the most popular vampire slayer of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries must be Buffy.
The late 19th Century novel, Dracula, set the pace for the undead, not only for the late 19th Century, but also for much of the 20th Century in terms of novels, short stories, film, television shows and comic books.
One of the better comic book series dealing with the vampire with royal blood was Marvel's Tomb of Dracula.The best artist on the series was Gene Colan and the best writer was Marv Wolfman.
It is said that Gene based his art to some extent on the vampire movies put out earlier by Hammer in England. He managed to create an aristocratic vampire with the ability to be honorable as well as cruel.
In the Tomb of Dracula series Dracula died many times over many centuries but always managed to return.
Usually Dracula's return was engineered by his followers as in the old Hammer movies. Sometimes these engineers were subservient vampires and sometimes they were foolish humans. Removing a stake from the dust that was Dracula could do the trick. On other occasions drops of blood were also required to get things going.
Nosferatu was an early silent movie member of the undead. His features were somewhat rat like and he seemed to have a shortage of servants he could call upon.
Dracula could make himself handsome. He could also reverse some of the aging process via the use of blood.
Nosferatu could hypnotize his intended victims but he could also, in turn, be hypnotized and brought undone by beauty. In Nosferatu's world beauty could and did slay the beast.
Of the television vampires Spike (played by James Marsters) from the television series Buffy rates high in my book along with the child-like, beautiful but totally demented Drusilla (played wonderfully by Juliet Landau).
Spike and Drusilla came to appear in some brilliant comic books.
Angel (played by David Boreanaz) was okay and there was even an Angel television series.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer series included a meeting between Buffy and Dracula. In this episode Dracula was a vampiric superstar. Just for fun there was a musical episode of Buffy in which people burst into song and dance and sometimes flame due to the influence of a rather twisted demon.
Other vampire related television shows include Dark Shadows (1961-1971), Moonlight (2007-2008), The Vampire Diaries (2009-) and of course Angel (1999-2004).
In the movies of recent years vampires and werewolves have appeared in the Harry Potter series and, of course, in the Twilight series.
My own preference is for the Harry Potter novels and films.
The notion of the restless spirit dates back to at least Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians feared being buried away from the land of the Nile. This was the reason that, in their long history, they rarely in war ventured far from their homeland. The fear of dying away from the soil that was sacred was indeed strong.
When Egyptian armies did venture into other territories to fight it was usually with a lot of profound reluctance. No Egyptian wanted to wander in darkness in search of their homeland and the way from there to the eternal existence that was theirs by right of being Egyptian.
In wandering a shade might resort to the taking of blood from the living in order to continue the search.
The Egyptian mummy coming back to life and terrorizing the living is really a Western notion based on the Ancient Egyptian belief in keeping the bodies of the dead relatively intact for the afterlife.
In the Victorian age there were the unwrapping of mummies usually at stately homes. A mummy would be purchased from Egypt, shipped to England and then unwrapped usually at a dinner party. There was a general fascination for what might be seen under the ancient cloth. This horrid practice is no longer in vogue. From such dinner parties, however, arose fiction dealing with the long time dead returning in wrappings made long ago.
My novel Disco Evil is about what happens when the down trodden suddenly become powerful and thirsty. The result is revenge upon the living but revenge doesn't always equate to justice. In face, revenge and justice are generally two very different beasts. Revenge has a way of harming both the avenger and the one he or she is seeking vengeance against.
Ghost Dance is an adventure story involving a werewolf's search for a cure to his lycanthropy. The search takes him from Australia to the heart of Germany. It is a strange yet wondrous journey. The Gypsies aid the werewolf in finding his destiny.
Read Ghost Dance (Smashwords) and the spirit world will never be quite the same again.
In my latest novel, Desk Job, there aren't any vampires but there are plenty of ghosts. The spirits of the dead wander from Sydney, NSW right down the south coast to Bombo. They take the train. I suppose they could drift on the wind but they find it more companionable to travel by rail. Generally speaking, they don't bother the living unless they have a mind to do so and they are rarely if ever bothered by the living. At certain times they, in fact, might be the only ones on board.
More by this Author
The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, A Stainless Steel Rat is Born, Brave New World, 1984, Story of O, Tender is the Night, Wasp, Dune, Twilight Healer, A Study in Scarlet, Dracula, Jazz.
Einstein, Doctor Who, Edison, Freud, Jung, Mitchell, Ford, The Spitfire, Punch and Judy, Desk Job, Don Berlin, Masks, clowning, Gotham, Bedlam, the Camera, the moon, alchemy, USA, Mental Illness.
Standing tall and one person making a difference has long been part of the American identity. In propaganda terms it has been useful. Can one person really make a difference? John Wayne and Vietnam.
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