Vampirella’s origin is broken into two identifiable blocks, the portion of her original character, and that of her relaunch in the 1990s, though the relaunch incorporated aspects of the original. The original owes its inspiration to the camp science-fiction style of the 1960s such as both the comic and film version of Barbarella. These in turn also drew much inspiration from earlier pulp science fiction novels. The character also incorporated some elements of the women’s liberation movement with a female hero, while also incorporating the sexual liberation of the period in the character’s raw sexuality.
Her first origin and the one which was the only origin which she had while she was under the Warren imprint, was that she was an alien from a planet named Drakulon. The race of aliens which inhabited this planet were known as the Vampiri. The planet of Drakulon revolved around two suns, and at one point one of these stars exploded, causing a massive loss of life among the Vampiri. Some Vampiri managed to survive though and maintain the existence of their race. Eventually the world was visited by astronauts from Earth, who had crash landed on the planet. Vampirella was chosen to investigate, but upon discovering they attacked her. She was forced to fight back to defend herself, and in the process of attacking them she discovered that they had blood inside their bodies, something which she craved. After defeating them she decided to take their spaceship back to Earth, where she discovered that her race of aliens bore a resemblance to the mythical vampires. With the negative stigma attached to her she decided to break the stereotype by acting in a good and honourable manner.
Following the transfer of the character from Warren to Harris the character was partially re-imagined. The character was purchased as she fit in with the “bad girl” trend in independent comics at the time, though another strong current in comic books at the time was that of occult based stories. As such her background as an alien was revealed to be a memory implant, and she was actually part of an ancient biblical battle. Although this served to in a sense destroy her original stories, they were nonetheless kept as a part of the implanted memories. Also in this origin she is more closely tied to actual vampire myths.
Vampirella was a late addition but still popular addition to the camp style science fiction comics of the 1960s. Her first appearance was in the first issue of the same series that she shared her name with. The creative team on this first issue included Don Glut, Forrest J. Ackerman and Tom Sutton. After being purchased by Harris comics she was relaunched in 1991 as one of the wave of “bad girl” characters including Witchblade, Lady Death, Lara Croft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and in fact the artistic style was also incorporated to a certain degree at the more mainstream companies of DC Comics and Marvel). While some publishers (such as Top Cow) used the popularity of these characters to branch off into other genres, Vampirella was essentially the only property at Harris. Her first appearance at Harris was in the miniseries Vampirella: Morning in America. She would later go on to be published by other companies as well, though her origin remained in line with the Harris version.
As a character that passed between two publishers the character’s evolution is mostly defined by that switch. In addition though the character tied strongly into two sub-genres of the medium and was influenced by those, first the campy style and sexualized form of science fiction and then from the “bad girl” wave of comics in the 1990s which also incorporated in other popular genres such as the occult. While the 1960s character was displayed in a much more campy version, the relaunch of the character in the 1990s resulted in a character that was much more mainstream.
Major Story Arcs
Her original stories focus on her adventures but also her integration into what was for her an alien society. In order to do so she befriended a group of vampire hunters, Adam van Helsing and his blind psychic father, Conrad van Helsing. She also befriended an old magician named Mordecai Pendragon who after a time took in Vampirella as his assistant. Most of her early adventures involved assisting the van Helsings, specifically against the followers of Chaos, who were skilled in the dark arts of magic. As a vampiric like creature one of the recurring themes was her uncontrollable bloodlust, something which as an agent of good that she sought to curtail. Eventually a serum was found which made her cravings essentially disappear, however there was a negative aspect to this as if she wasn’t inoculated with the serum she became a danger to all around her, including her friends.
She would later discover that her background on Drakulon was only partially true. She discovered that she was in fact the daughter of Lilith, the first wife of the biblical Adam and the first man according the Christian bible. Lilith was cast out of the Garden of Eden and she subsequently mated with a demon which gave birth to the being known as vampires. After doing this she lived on Drakulon, which was in reality a part of Hell. She later wished to atone for her role in the creation of evil and sought redemption from God which resulted in her giving birth to Vampirella. Vampirella is then sent to Earth to kill all evil vampires.
After being purchased by Harris, this somewhat altered origin was further expanded upon and effectively her first origin mostly ceased to exist as only certain elements of it were highlighted. Her first appearance under the Harris imprint was in the Morning in America series where it is revealed that Vampirella has been missing for approximately ten years. She has been working as a teacher under the name of Ella Normandy. This change was as the result of the interference of Nathan Shroud, who served under the Cult of Chaos. He had successfully managed to alter her memories.
Vampirella eventually discovers that all is not as it seems. She is given a glimpse into her future and her past by the demon Nuberus. His intentions were self-serving though as he intended to help her only so that he could gain access to Earth. In the visions which are made possible by the demon, Vampirella sees the silhouette of a woman, but as she could only see the silhouette could not know for sure who it was (it is later revealed to be Lilith.) It also becomes evident to Vampirella that all her memories about Drakulon were fabricated and placed in her mind by her evil brother and sister – Madek and Magdalene.
This aspect of her character comes to be more in line with the second version of her original origin as she is revealed to be the daughter of Lilith, who as before is depicted as the first wife of Adam. Lilith was created by God himself but was later cast out of Eden for failing to submit to the will of Adam. In an act of spite against God, she decided to mate with demons and subsequently gave birth to thousands of demons. After eventually realizing the harm which she had set free on the Earth, she decided she shouls atone for her acts and she decided to bear two new children (Madek and Magdalene) who she hoped would give her the redemption she sought. This plan did not go as she had intended though as the two instead of choosing a righteous path began to abuse their powers and decided to follow a path of evil. Vampirella was born as a last resort, to aid in the redemption of her mother by killing all demons and vampires, including her evil siblings. Upon eventually finding them and confronting them, Vampirella discovered that she was in fact too weak to confront them alone. She was captured by them and in order that she not meddle with their schemes again, they stripped her of her memories and created a new reality inside her head wherein she believed she was an alien from Drakulon. They are left alone for a time, but Vampirella eventually regains her memories and returns to defeat both of them.
Vampirella would soon after perish at the hands of Mistress Nyx, a demon with the goal of destroying the world. Mistress Nyx was also responsible for the death of Vampirella’s lover, Adam van Helsing. After dying, Vampirella awakens to find herself in Hell, but a specific part of Hell known as Drakulon. This is revealed to be the true place of her birth. It is here that she discovers her real goal was to provide redemption for her mother by destroying all vampire races on Earth. A degree of expedience was needed as Lilith’s time in Hell was coming to an end. As Vampirella is transported back to Earth, she witnesses her mother being killed by God’s hand.
Now back on Earth, Vampirella sets out with the new goal to protect the innocent from evil vampires and demons while fulfilling her mother’s last request to eradicate the entire group of evildoers. Vampirella made new friends and allies in a various different groups including a group of warrior nuns, taking in an orphaned teenager named Dixie as a ward and reuniting with her former ally Pantha. Each of these was towards the goal of stop the plans of the evildoers. In this time she would also cross paths with a number of old foes and adversaries including Mistress Nyx and the Blood Red Queen of Hearts as well as Von Kreist, Doctor Midwinter and Lady Death, all of whom had their own plans for destroying Earth for their own goals.
Eventually Vampirella discovers that she was in fact also being used as a tool. Although her mother seemed to be working out of altruistic interest, she was in fact dependent on Vampirella for her own resurrection. With every life that Vampirella took, it provided additional power with which Lilith could use to return from the dead. Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed with rage, she eventually confronts and kills her mother.
With her original mission now destroyed under a web of lies, she now seeks to save others who might share her own fate. This would for instance bring her up against the famous vampire Dracula.
Vampirella’s powers greatly resemble those of a vampire. She has a heightened healing factor, though she needs to maintain a certain amount of blood in her system or this healing factor slows down drastically. This also effectively makes her an immortal. If drained of blood she enters into a death-like state. She maintains some of the traditional weaknesses of vampires, for instance a stake through her heart is deadly, but not others as she can withstand both sunlight and silver. She had the typical natural weapons associated with vampires, fangs and claws. She can mesmerize her opponents if they are in close proximity to her and if she is looking in their eyes. She can also summon a group of bats. She can also summon shadows or transform into a shadow like creature in which she is intangible but can shoot “shadowbolts”. She also has minor shapeshifting abilities.
Vampirella has appeared in one direct-to-video movie and was played by Talisa Soto.
While her original appearance was closely related to the campy science fiction style of the 1960s, it also fit well into “bad girl” wave of the 1990s, both in tone and in style. The “bad girls” of the 1990s were defined both by their more violent behavior and their barely-there clothing. In both cases Vampirella exists as a good example of this trend which dominated comics for a time.