“I was told by phone,” explained VanHook. “[DC Executive Editor] Dan DiDio was like, ’Are you sitting down? Remember when you did that movie and you wanted to call it ’Death Row,’ but SCI FI channel insisted on calling it ’Haunted Prison?’” [laughs] He said, ‘It’s sorta like that.’ Not subtle!”
Despite the brilliantly campy title, VanHook’s six-issue work — illustrated by Tom Mandrake and out starting Oct. 15 — is in fact a noirish drama dotted with humor. The conceit: Professor Combs, a kerrazy obsessive-compulsive scientist noodles around in his lab with magic until — Eureka! — he opens a portal to a land teeming with the undead. At the professor’s hands, a straight-cop named Jenko is transformed into a reluctant werewolf desperate to temper his beastial drive, while a smooth con-man, Demeter, becomes a cocky, platelet-craving vampire — who dupes Jenko into thinking he’s looking for a cure.
But the joke’s on both of them, cause Combs takes their blood and starts spreading the toil and trouble en masse: “homeless people, women in cocktail dresses, a heavy-set guy, an old woman, a horse-mounted cop….” hinted VanHook. That’s where Superman and Batman come in. The Dark Knight “shows up to investigate after a half-eaten body is thrown from a roof,” said VanHook. (Alfred will likewise make an appearance for a little comic relief.) “So I’m really playing up Batman as the world’s greatest detective as well.” The Man of Steel turns up soon after and learns that “these creatures are magically created through this ritual. And Superman is vulnerable to magic,” VanHook pointed out, excitedly. “When he gets into a fight with a werewolf—he gets scratched!” Sweet.
“It’s a very dark book in a sense,” he said of the visuals, ironically likening this DC book to Marvel’s old “Tomb of Dracula” series from the ’70s. “I have Demeter doing things like fading into the shadows, like Batman. There’s a great moment in the second book where Combs screams while Batman is standing over him—and a fist lunges out of [Combs’] mouth and punches Batman in the face. And the creature begins to crawl its way, as if its being born, out of Professor Combs’ mouth.” (Sounds like “Alien!”)
“But the book is done in good taste,” he insisted. “It’s definitely something kids can read.”
Supes and Bats taking on vampires and werewolves — what’s not to love?! Got a different opinion? Then let us know in the comments.