Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Are you bored yet? - Last Words on the Gorbals Vampire Hunters.

My last couple of posts on the Gorbals' Vampire Hunters have thrown up a few loose ends to be tied and word of more than one interesting work which have taken the story as an inspiration.

Colin Nobel, in his excellent Blog Nothingbutafan (the go-to-place if you are interested in the British Commando pocket library series), is not only kind enough to name-check Splank! in his most recent post, but also has some information on a play inspired by the story of the Gorbals Vampire Hunters.

He also reproduces an excellent piece of artwork by Frank Quitely which is being used to promote the play in Glasgow's Citizen's Theatre in October of this year.  I'm very tempted to look up flights and pay it a visit myself.

I've also been in contact with David Lucarelli, the writer of the two volume graphic-novel series "The Children's Vampire Hunting Brigade".   David's comic takes the events which took place in 1954 around the Southern Necropolis graveyard in Glasgow and follows the premise that the Vampire of the story was real.  I picked up the first issue from Comixology and then discovered that the two GNs are available from the DriveThru site.  Which, apart from having the awful "Thru" spelling of through in its name, is a pretty good way to catch up with some very interesting comics.  Each B&W volume comes in at $4.99 for a downloadable pdf. 

I've read the first and its a good read.  It owes a little to Buffy, in that there is a recognisable 'Scooby Gang' building, but it's not played for laughs and the pace of the story is good.  Most impressive is some very convincing Glasgow slang, if the written word can be said to have an accent, then these guys have a pretty good Glasgow accent.   Pretty good for an American writer.   The story is set in the present day, but the first issue retells the tale of the Gorbals' Vampire of 1954, with just the odd addition for dramatic purposes.  As good a self-published comic as I've read for a while and I'm delighted to hear that Dave is working on vol 3 at the moment. 

In the single issues version from Comixology, David changed artist part-way through the first issue
before settling on Henry Ponciano who has a little of the Mignola vibe to his work.  Mike Mignola's influence shows up especially especially in his use of sold blacks and as his art seems to improve issue by issue.  Previous artist Christopher Matteson's style was looser and more shaded.   Personally, I liked both, but the decision to have Ponciano re-draw the first seventeen pages of issue 1 for the collection was probably the right one, if only to retain some sort of visual consistency.

In a very brief Facebook conversation Dave brought up a couple of interesting points on the whole Gorbals' Vampire Incident.  Firstly, considering that there is ample evidence that these Children's crusades against the supernatural were, if not actually common, then at least not unknown in the Glasgow area, what was it about the area that made the children so much more likely to hunt the un-dead and the like than their comrades in other parts of the country?
Two takes on the same scene, Christopher Matteson's Original on the right and Henry Ponciano's on the left

I've done a little research, and looked at where the evidence for the previous hunts came from.  In their article "Hunting the Monster with Iron Teeth" in Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Volume III, Sandy Hobbs and David Cornwell spoke of how they obtained the information that these 'hunts' had taken place.        

Our appeal in local press and radio for people who either observed or took
part in the Gorbals vampire hunt had only limited success as far as our
original aim was concerned. However, what did emerge was that a number
of people had memories of similar events. From interviews with these
people, with the addition of a case which was reported in the press during
our investigations, we have compiled a table of 'hunts'.

With the exception of the 1954 Vampire with the Iron teeth hunt, none of the eight cases they were able to identify had been extensively reported in the press or were well known.  It was the reporting, and the scale of reporting, that was unique in the 1954 incident.  And from the account of how the story came to the attention of the press, a joking aside to a reporter, it is obvious that the Police thought little of these incidents.  It was only by chance that the story became well known, and only because of the, probably invented, link to horror comics.  The other incidents would probably never have come to light had not the researchers asked for the public to come forward with details.  Who knows how many other incidents have been forgotten or never reported across the country, across the world.   The possibility certainly exists that these Children's hunts were not limited to Glasgow, that they happened much more frequently than we think and may simply have gone unremarked.

Obviously evil.
That being said, a few years later, in 1964, Liverpool saw another case where 'thousands' of kids besieged a local park.  This time in search of Leprechauns.  Theories as to the origin of this hunt range from a pissed-off Irish man who was being bothered by kids in the park and claimed to be a Leprechaun to chance them off, to the antics of performers of short stature from a visiting circus in a nearby guesthouse.  Me, I blame the Ken Dodd and his Diddymen strip in TV Comic (Even if the strip didn't start to appear until a few years later).

Secondly Dave mentioned the "Iron Man of the Gorbals", a bogeyman myth used to keep Children out of the Southern Necropolis which was building a reputation for being a spot where crime and drinking were taking place.   Stephen Barnes aka Mr Karswell, editor of a number of the excellent IDW books reprinting pre-code horror comics and curator of the highly recommended "The Horrors of It All" Blog makes mention of this in the introduction to vol one of Dave's graphic novel. 

I must admit I left the Iron Man out of my list of possible factors contributing to the hunt, simply because everything I could find out about the Iron Man seemed more of an effect than a cause.  In other words the Iron Man appeared to be the name given to the Gorbals' Vampire after the event.

I think that's all I'm going to write the Gorbals' Vampire for a while.  I'm still reading and researching some other aspects of the campaign against Horror Comics in the UK so you may see some future posts on that. 


1 comment:

  1. Not a Glasgow story, but on the children-hunting-vampires-in-graveyards theme, here's a story that made an impact on me back in 1979. Gave me nightmares!