Time for more vampire fun with a look at "Dead Billy Dead", a story which ran concurrently with another called "Juarez" (which I shall be looking at next month) in an eight issue miniseries called "Bloodsucker Tales" first published in 2005. The original 30 Days of Night told the story of a vampire attack and feeding frenzy on the remote town of Barrow in Alaska, that experiences the titular "30 Days of Night" every winter. A survivor of the attack, the deputy sheriff Stella, after her husband Eben sacrificed himself to become a vampire to save them, became an authority on sniffing out and killing vampires and wrote a book called "30 Days of Night" about her experiences and what she knows about killing vampires. This book is important because it tends to show up even when the action is taking place elsewhere in America as a sort of spiritual linking device. Stella resurrected Eben and was turned into a vampire by him, but both kept their humanity and have become the undead protectors of Barrow. But the vampires are everywhere still and in "Dead Billy Dead" we're given a young male protagonist whose crappy life is made even crappier when he has a run in with one who wants to feed from him and whose story gives us more of an idea of what it feels like to be newly turned. This marks the first story not drawn by Ben Templesmith, instead Kody Chamberlain is on art duties with Steve Niles still writing.
The story begins with hapless young man Billy staggering down a deserted alley clutching his neck which has blood gushing out, thinking that he is going to die. A shadowy figure is behind him and says, "where do you think you are going, little human?" Billy collapses as the vampire looms over him saying his companion was recently killed up in Barrow (see 30 Days Of Night: Return to Barrow). He doesn't like being alone and he wants Billy to turn into a vampire to keep him company.
Billy has other ideas, and manages to grab a broken pipe and stabs it through the vampire's head. This kills the vampire, and Billy collapses again and dies. He then wakes up and finds a rat on him which he grabs and takes a bite out of. Then he staggers to a payphone and calls his ex-girlfriend Maggie, he tells her "something terrible happened". Unfortunately he is discovered by two cops who want to know where all the blood on him came from.
|Newly vamped Billy calls Maggie|
Back with Billy, he's come to a realisation that he is a vampire. "I'd rather be dead. Real dead. Dead dead" he thinks as he arrives at Maggie's flat. She lets him in concerned at all the blood on him, but gets more concerned when she can find no wounds and that Billy is rambling about being shot by the cops. She has some clothes of his and tells him to get cleaned up and get lost, he tells her he was attacked by a vampire.
|Maggie is a very understanding ex.|
Back with Billy and Maggie, Billy admits that he is starting to feel "kinda good" now. He wonders if the vampire finished turning him properly and if the cop actually did hit him. Maggie is still concerned. But then he vomits a load of blood in the sink and collapses whimpering about what to do now. Maggie says sun will be up soon and she'll cover the windows.
The action then jumps forwards a few days. The policeman is at home, engrossed in the "30 Days Of Night" book, he makes copious notes as he studies it then one night he gets in his car and goes for a drive somewhere. Meanwhile Maggie is still nursing Billy, she brings him bloody steak but it barely makes a tiny dent in his feelings of hunger.
She says maybe they should talk to a professor called Saxon who specialises in folklore, he had Stella Olemaun, author of "30 Days Of Night" come do a talk at the university which got shut down by the police when a fight broke out between her and some vampires (see 30 Days of Night: Dark Days). She says she can call him now, but Billy yells "I have to have blood!" and crashes through her window and out into the night.
Saxon: "I found one. Soon their secrets will be ours, Stella. And then, at last, I will find you again. And show you how much my love has grown since we met".
He calls in on a funeral home and tells the person there he'll give him $500 for a quart of blood drained from a corpse "and another $500 for your silence".
Billy is out hunting and catches and drains a cat. OK fuck you Billy, kill all the people you like I don't care, but kill a cat? You Monster. He's hanging about the place where he died anyway, which isn't a great idea as the policeman has come to check it out. He then has to contend with a vamped out Billy attacking him. He shoots Billy and gets him to back off, Billy then comes too and when the policeman says he knows what he is, asks if he knows a way to cure him.
|Brian the cop confronts Billy.|
Maggie walks back into the building and is stopped by an old woman asking if she has seen her pet dog "Mr. Wiggles". Maggie says no, then enters her flat to find Billy feasting on Mr. Wiggles (seriously Billy, not making any friends here). Unable to take much more of this, Maggie asks Billy to leave. Then Dr. Saxon knocks on the door, she lets him in and he tases her and fires a huge stun dart at Billy. They both pass out. Later Brian arrives at Maggie's address to find the door ajar and the room splattered with blood.
Brian calls a couple of mates in and tells them he's going to need some back-up, he pulled Maggie's phone records and found calls between her and Dr. Saxon so they are going to his place first. They go to his university office and poke around, they find a human skull with vampire teeth and the "30 Days Of Night" book open on the desk.
|The cops explore Saxon's office.|
We then cut to Dr. Saxon, he has Billy strapped to a table keeping him paralysed by pumping "dead blood" into him, while Maggie is bound and gagged on a chair in the corner. Saxon is rambling on about cancer and "immortal cells" being the key to vampirism. Billy manages to say "let... her... go" but Saxon refuses saying his work is too important to let "a co-ed twit fuck it up".
|Billy being vivisected.|
Saxon: "Can you imagine living a thousand centuries and never having to worry about the repercussions. Never having to meet your maker and pay for your supposed sins? Can you? I can."
Meanwhile, Brian and his two mates are sneaking up to Saxon's house as Saxon shows off his several people in cages who answered an advert he placed seeking vampires. They weren't real vampires of course, but it didn't stop him injecting them with a concotion he had made him from samples from the vampire skull he retrieved after Stella's lecture. That's when he had it confirmed, it was "in the blood".
Then he slits his throat and lets the blood splash into Billy's mouth. Then he buries his head inside Billy's chest and then lies still. The policemen burst in to be greeted with quite the grim tableau. Brian goes to free Maggie, then Saxon rears up now a vampire saying this feels better than he ever imagined.
|Saxon the vampire.|
He tells Maggie and Brian to get out, or he'll kill them when he has finished off Saxon and they make their getaway. Before they are fully out the door, Brian sees his mate half dead at the hands of the pseudo-vamps. The man pleads "kill... me" so Brian does him that mercy, then he and Maggie are gone.
As Billy and Saxon fight, Saxon asks if he can feel all the other vampires around the world inside his mind? "Whatever we are, you and I are not the same" responds Billy. He then snaps off one of his own ribs and stabs Saxon in the face with it. Saxon collapses and Billy stamps on his head, crushing it, then he slaughters the pseudo-vampires.
|Billy gets his revenge.|
The other policeman is still barely alive, Billy says he doesn't know if he got infected by the vampires or not and uses his shotgun to blast the cop's head off with. Then he sets the house on fire and takes his leave. The story closes with his final thoughts:
Billy: "All of a sudden I felt okay about what I was...and really I looked forward to getting as faraway from my old life as possible. I no longer felt the maddening longing for Maggie or for any love. I suppose if I had waited, none of this would have happened. But that's just me. I could never live like people around me, and I can't even die like other folks. Maybe I'll have better luck being undead."
And so ends the story of Cat Murderer Billy. This is the first story not directly tied into the Barrow storyline though of course it gets plenty of nods. And it's interesting getting a look at some of the aftermath of the anti-vampire lecture fiasco from Dark Days too. If I have one criticism it is that because this is much shorter than previous 30 Days Of Night stories the characters aren't as well explored as in prior stories. Also the dialogue is quite sparse unlike the more verbose stories of the first omnibus, I could have done with a little more insight into Billy's feelings about what was happening to him or more conversations between him and Maggie, similar to those between good vampire Dane and Stella in Dark Days. Of course the twist in this story is that it's a human who is the villain and a vampire the victim. Saxon is truly monstrous, mutating deluded normal human beings and subjecting Billy to a live vivisection. And I'm guessing Maggie wouldn't have lasted long if Brian and his mates hadn't turned up. So Billy gets a happy ending of sorts, a misfit in life, maybe as he says he'll be better off Undead. The art is..adequate. I miss Ben Templesmith of course, who was illustrating "Juarez" in the same comic, but Chamberlain while not as good with the figurative illustrations, manages to match the moody quality that keep it the same tone as Templesmith's work. So not a bad story all-in-all, it expands and builds on the vampire lore of this series nicely and tells a diverting story while doing so, it also appears to be creator Steve Niles's last story as sole writer of the series, from now on the 30 Days of Night franchise would also be in the hands of a variety of different writers as we'll see starting next month.