Sunday, 9 October 2016

30 Days Of Night: Dead Billy Dead (Bloodsucker Tales #1-8)

"I think we've played enough.  I'll have plenty of time to explore my theories once I'm immortal" - Dr. Saxon

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
They cuff him but he snaps them. They try to subdue him with a baton but that doesn't work so one of them shoots Billy in the gut, knocking him down.  They kick him to see if he is dead and he comes around, says "stop kicking me" and gets up and leaves.  The cops decide discretion is the better part of valor and don't follow him.  They decide to write it up as an encounter with a meth-head.

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 the two cops, they have written up the encounter with Billy.  One of them wants to admit to what they actually saw, the other wants to keep his job.  The truthful cop then walks off and slides the book "30 Days Of Night" out of the bookshelf...

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.
She calls Saxon anyway and he believes her, he reassures her and says he'll come over as soon as he's put the phone down.  Then once he has he he starts talking sinisterly to himself:

"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 then appears as well and Billy scarpers.  The policeman introduces himself as Brian to her and when Maggie says Billy is ill, asks for confirmation that it's the kind of ill that has him wanting to drink other people's blood.  She evades the question and leaves and Brian calls into the precinct asking for her address.

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.
Brian and one of the other officers remember the ruckus caused by Stella's vampire lecture and how a strict gag order was placed on those involved in sorting it out.   The other cop demands to know if they mean there is a "goddamn Dracula loose in Los Angeles?"  Brian says he doesn't know, he just wants to find Maggie and make sure she's safe.

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.
He then starts slicing into Billy with a scalpel saying "I suspect you know less about what you are than I do".  He keeps up a running commentary as he cracks open Billy's ribcage, noting that the nervous system seems to slow down as the body absorbs the blood.  He wonders if he can use Billy to unlock the secrets of eternal life.

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.
Maggie is freed and as the other cops struggle against Saxon, Maggie tells Brian to free Billy, he can deal with him.  As the pseudo-vampires take out one of the cops and Saxon the other, Billy his chest still open, his guts spilling out challenges Saxon asking "am I a success or a failure?" 

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.


  1. Not Mr Wiggles!!! :-( Surely there must have been a nearby orphanage or something?

    Hmmm. That seemed an OK story; but the 'evil scientists see medical opportunity from vampirism, become infected themselves, then hoist on their own petard' is practically its own trope now (see also every alien spin off)

    "Well the last 57 attempts to do this failed horribly, but I'm sure we'll be the ones to get it right"

    "What precautions have you taken?"

    "We've tied this person with supernatural strength and abilities to a table."

    And when it comes to empathising with the plight of being a vampire I think it will be a hard task to better 'Let the right one in'.

  2. My favourite take on rescuing the girl from the vampire is 'Love at first bite'

    "You think you've won Count, but what do you say to THIS?!"

    *pulls out Star Of David*

    "I would say stop pestering Jenny and find yourself a nice Jewish girl"

    "Shit, it's the other one isn't it?"

  3. At least this scientist did aim to turn himself. That part didn't backfire. I've never been able to take seriously the whole "let's exploit the super strong vicious thing as a weapon" trope that pops up in Alien and most lately in Jurassic World. Hell, it even was a big part of The Boys with supes taking the role, and despite all the grooming they did, went horribly wrong in the end.

    "Let The Right One In" is a beautiful story, the US remake managed to completely miss all the subtlety in it and gave us CGI vampire monsters. Sigh.

    Haven't seen "Love At First Bite" but it sounds pretty funny. The 30 Days of Night vamps aren't affected by religious symbols or stakes through the heart, it's either destroying the head, sunlight or fire ( and they can still recover if someone will mix some blood with their ashes)

  4. Yeah, much as I'm a fan of 'weaponised' as an adjective we don't parachute crocodiles and tigers into war zones.

    (Note to self: Email MOD)

    LTROI is a great film. You know my thing for eldritch happenings in boring suburbia. Apparently theres a short story prequel that explains that the housing estate was designed by a demon hence its weird geometry. Also just want to hug Eli. Notwithstanding her head ripping off tendencies.

    As for destroying supernatural creatures, you remember the Dredd story when the judges take on werewolves?

    "Shouldn't we be using silver bullets or something?"

    *Dakka, Dakka, Dakka!!!*

    "Hmmm, bike cannon seems to work OK"

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  6. Ah Judge Dredd, when you have to deal with the likes of the Dark Judges, something as normal as werewolves won't pose much of a threat.

    I think the reason LTROI struck such a chord in me was that it was set during the 1980's and the bullied boy was roundabout my age. As a massive nerd from before nerds were cool attending an all girls school there were a few of my contemporaries I'd like to have seen have their heads ripped off.

  7. Schooldays, the best years of your life eh? Of course now you have some source material. Oscar in the film is based on the author's own childhood experiences, even the housing estate. Presumably that's why it seems so authentic. I'm guessing the vampire is fictional though.

    Hmm, now I'm thinking of an idea that Eli was just cover for him taking out his bullies himself. Might play around with that.

    Does firm up my belief though that there's a market for a girls comic dealing with real life rather than gymkhanas and princesses. Basically I think I'm hankering after resurrecting Misty.

    (Been reading up more on that. DC Thompson was toying with a girls comic to rival Misty in the same way The Crunch was their answer to 2000AD, although it was more like Action. They didn't go ahead. Partly because The Crunch turned out to have a big female readership already)

  8. My seconday school years sucked, I was into comics, computers, tabletop wargames and science fiction. I had nothing in common with anyone there. I had one male friend in the town I used to live in and my weekends visiting him were my lifeline.

    Most teenage girls read manga now, not the boys stuff I read, but stuff aimed more at being a girl and stuff. Still Misty coming back would be cooool.

  9. I was relatively fortunate with my school days. We did have some bullying but it was almost like the ones in The Simpsons. They were sort of the designated school bullies but it wasn't personal. Funnily enough the main bully formed an amazing punk band. I was really into music so we became good friends. He explained, like the bullying, it was just an outlet for his rage and frustration (he'd had a pretty shitty home life).

    Not condoning or dismissing your experiences though. Some people are just shits. I can see a market for some good revenge fantasies. I am seriously considering this girls comic idea. And all the best girls comics were done by blokes ;-)

    I'm annoyingly placid so I only have one (non animal rights related) revenge fantasy. And that's just about 'credit squeezing' (one of the reasons I hate TV).

    I'd stick the continuity announcers in that garbage compactor from Star Wars. As the walls were closing in I'd have an announcement:

    "Don't worry you can easily get out. The code for the door is 53...COMING UP NEXT, IT'S THE BIG BANG THEORY...2"

    See how they like it.

  10. Actually after my first year the bullying stopped because I cultivated such a misanthropic personality I made it clear I didn' care anymore. Oddly I got treated as "the funny one" after that mainly by constantly telling my classmates how much I hated them. *shrug* people are weird.

    Oooh when I watch TV that I hem hem hem acquire magically at least UK TV doesn't have to put up with huge adverts for what's coming next in the middle of an episode taking up like one third of the screen. Still I'm with you on blethering and credit squeezing, my other pet peeve is old footage in 4:3 format being trimmed to fit 16:9 format on clip shows. Truly annoying.

    Actually you mentioning animal rights has reminded me, if you get a moment perhaps you'd like to check out the post I did on "We3" (it's listed under that name to the right). Grant Morrison is a real animal rights supporter (as am I) and We3 is his ultimate statement on it, it's powerful stuff and amazingly drawn too.

  11. if a vampire bit a cat but it escaped, would it become a vampire cat?? also poor mr. wiggles, I don't like billy >:(

  12. Good question! I love the idea of a vampire cat, sometimes I think my cat might be one when he nibbles me awake in the mornings. I actually think there's an anime about a vampire kitty, but can't recall what it's called off the top of my head.

  13. Commented on We3. Note the lack of my usual flippancy. :-)

  14. It's just so moving, and I get exactly what you mean about that picture of poor Bandit. I'm not going to taint that post with my wafflings (less bothered about dog murdering Billy). But this bit gelled:

    Like if Hitler had had a beloved cat instead of a dog I'd have mumbled something about him not being "all bad"

    I was watching 'Downfall' with a friend (German friend actually, that's how sensitive I am). It got to the bit where Eva Braun said about how she secretly used to kick Blondi.

    "What a ****!"

    "Oh, so for you *that's* when the Nazis crossed the line?"

  15. "Downfall" is an amazing film, there's a trope on TV Tropes called "Kick The Dog" and that film had a literal example of one!

    It's understandable because all the Nazi atrocities are so huge you care about them but they feel a little distanced. Kicking a dog is something that we might encounter in our own lives and so we take it much more personally. At least that's my take on it.

  16. There was a post on Mammoth about people who are very liberal on criminal justice issues but will "suspend habeas corpus when someone looks at a dog funny". That made me laugh because it perfectly described a particular friend of mine.

    But yeah, it's like that "million deaths is a statistic" idea. Maybe we can only comprehend (in the literal) sense examples that are on a scale we have personal experience of?

    Downfall is a great film. I'd read a lot of the original source material beforehand so it was interesting to see how they translated that onto screen. Ironically I'd been less interested in the more obvious themes. What I'd been curious about was the mundane practicalites. Where did they land the planes? How were they communicating with the outside? Etc.

    It lead me to another abandoned project. I love the similar bunkers in Whitehall (I used to pass one a lot and it was interesting how many people didn't even notice it). So I want to do a drama that features the "Auxiliary Units" (worth a Google). Basically it would be set as if Operation Sealion had gone ahead and follow one AU from formation up to the failure of the invasion as the Germans got near London. I based it on the projections as to what would have happened from Sandhurst. Even got a title: "Stop Line"

    (The Stoplines themselves are a fascinating subject. Once you know where they were you suddenly see all the traces of them)

  17. I think your right that stuff we're closer too has more impact. I mean I donate monthly to Oxfam and Amnesty International so I am well aware of the awful things people do to each other or actually experience but I can remain detached from it. If I read a story about cruelty to a dog or something I'll get all weepy.

    Downfall is an awesome film. It actually made me sad though. When they spoke to the woman whose memories it was based on and she said she used to blame her youth for not seeing Hitler for what he was, then one day came across a memorial to a woman her age who died opposing the Nazis and she realised she had no excuse. I just felt very sad for her.

    That project sounds very interesting, have always been interested in AU's where WW2 went differently. The Doctor Who New Adventures had the Doctor and Ace visit 1951 where the Nazi's invasion had been successful and the Doctor has to hang out with Hitler to figure out what had gone wrong and when so he could go back and fix it.

  18. Wow, you keep some weird hours. Hope that doesn't mean your back has been giving you too much grief (Biff been on a toe nibbling spree?).

    I could go on for hours about detachment (goes with the job) and proximity. You're probably aware of the thought experiment where people would jump into a pond to save a drowning child even if it meant ruining their watch but wouldn't sell the watch to pay for the same child's life saving operation.

    As for animals versus humans, you've seen my thoughts on the We3 post. I have to be careful as nearly every discussion on this topic ends up with me having to unironically say "I don't hate humans! Some of my best friends are humans"

    As for counterfactuals, the nest two are the classic SS-GB and of course Fatherland. What's funny is that they have some very similar motifs even though it's generally accepted there was no copying. (Good non nazi cop investigating simple murder that turns out to be major conspiracy aided by American woman). It just goes to show how people can extrapolate from the same base.

    "It happened here" is a great take on this too, especially when you consider how it was made. Impoverished students must borrowing stuff over years. What's was very interesting/brave? was that they got some genuine British fascists to effectively play themselves and just gave them free reign to say what they wanted.

    As for time travel, isn't Hitler immune? Of course there's that general trope that the history we live in is actually the time travel amended alternative to spent even worse! Funnily enough, I think all the stuff with Archduke Ferdinand is one of the most convincing arguments for time travel. The assassination was such a bizarre conglomeration of increasfly unlikely incidents it read like someone having multiple goes at getting it right.

    As for time travel generally, you ever read "wikihistory"? It's a really funny short story that covers both the Hitler thing but also really captures internet culture.

  19. Everybody kills Hitler on their first time travel excursion. Noobs!

  20. I have insomnia so I tend to grab my sleep when I can. Biff tends to nibble me at around 0600 if he's in at night!

    I've done quite a bit of reading round WW2 and am of the opinion that it's likely we could have ended up with something far worse.

    As for the assination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Cracked has a hilarious take on it that it all hinged on a sandwich:

    I shall check out wikihistory now :)

  21. Hah, I enjoyed wikihistory. As someone who regularly reads wikipedia talk pages they really had the argumentative nature of them down as well, I will show that to my mum sh'll get a laugh from it.

  22. By this stage you won't be surprised to hear of yet another abandoned writing effort. :-)

    Short story. Archduke Ferdinand. Group of people with the recurring phrase "We're trying to stop a war"

    Just when you're patting yourself on the back for figuring out theyre time travellers and here to avert WW1 there's the shocking swerve that they're in fact time travelling *aliens* trying to start a global war to cripple humanity so we don't achieve space travel and nearly wipe them out in the future.

    Dun dun dun.

    Of course they fail but the epilogue is them at that famous post WW1 meeting attended by Hitler. They sidle up to him commenting that they can always have another go at getting humans to wipe themselves out.

  23. It's amazing when you look back at history all the times something minor could have changed the course of it, aliens and time travellers nothwithstanding.