Sometimes you can find some fun stuff in the fifty cent box at a comic con. Last year I picked up a stack of Action Comics from the 80’s. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I always pick up Action from any era that I can. I brought the comics home and started searching through them and noticed I had the first Action Comics Annual of the post-crisis Superman era with vampires and guest-starring Batman!
The story, titled Skeeter, is set during the post-crisis continuity when the entire DC universe had been rebooted. At this point in the story, Superman and Batman had only one encounter up to this point, and that was in The Man of Steel miniseries a year prior when they fought the villain Magpie. The title of the story refers to the main character of the book, a young blonde woman that we meet on the first page as she is being chased through a swamp by an angry horde of townspeople. She’s obviously in danger and running for her life, but we find out quickly that everything is not what it seems.
Batman, in a Tom Selleck disguise, rolls into the same town (Fayerville, South Carolina) the next day with a woman that was stranded after her car broke down. They part ways as he tries to find some information and she attempts to find a repairman that can help her with her car. The locals are a little hostile to the stranger’s presence. It’s unclear in the book why Batman is in this particular town. Later we find out he is investigating a string of murders in Gotham city and its suggested a clue has led him to the town. If there is a previous story that sets this up, I am unaware of it and couldn’t find a mention of it online.
Batman goes out later in the night to do some recon and notices that the townspeople are out in full force. He heard a lady’s scream and rushed to investigate only to find the dead body of the lady he brought into tow; her throat slashed, and she was drained of blood. Here it references that there were similar murders in Gotham.
The townspeople also heard the scream and descended on the crime scene to find Batman over the victim’s body. Think he A) Murdered her and B) is also a monster they surround him and intend to attack him. He escapes with a smoke bomb and hides out for a bit. Realizing he’s in over his head he calls the Daily Planet looking for Clark Kent knowing that Kent has a special connection to Superman. (At this point in the new timeline they don’t know each other’s identities).
Once Superman arrives in town he and Batman have parallel stories that lead to the same conclusion. After making the phone call to Metropolis, Skeeter introduces herself to Batman and leads him back to her house where he makes a horrifying discovery about her. Superman, upon arriving into town, notices that the citizens are still awake that late at night. He visits the sheriff and sees with his x-ray vision that the keep wooden stakes in his desk. The sheriff drops any pretenses and lets superman know there are vampires in town and that he has a whole hospital ward full of townspeople that have been turned into vampires.
I’ll leave the synopsis there so that if you find a copy, you can enjoy the rest of the story. I was surprised at how much fun I had with the story in this book. Batman and Superman regularly take on characters and situations that fit into the horror genre, but this story really utilized both characters strengths but still make you feel that both characters are in danger. With exception with a few holes in the story, the plot and setting really captured the vibe of a horror comic or an old-school horror movie with the creepy swamp, mod of townspeople and the ghoulish looking vampires.
This issue was written by John Byrne, and you could tell he really had some fun with this book. He infused this story with a wicked mystery and created an actual threat for both heroes.
The art, penciled by Art Adams, is energetic and creepy at times. I was unfamiliar with Art’s influence on later Image comics artists. At first, I thought an early Todd McFarlane had drawn this. You can see a little of Art’s style in McFarlane’s.
I love this story and think it should be reprinted in a current Halloween special. As I was reading it, I felt like I was watching an old-school monster movie and realized this would be great as a WB animated movie.
Buy a copy if you can find one.