DC’s Vertigo line has long claimed to be “the HBO of comics”. With the debut of HBO’s newest series, True Blood, it may prove to be just that. While there is no direct relationship, True Blood bears some striking similarities to Vertigo’s 2004 mini-series, Bite Club.
True Blood, the latest brainchild of writer/director Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under), follows Louisiana waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) through a world where Vampires have gone public and become part of society. Thanks to the invention of a synthetic blood substitute called – you guessed it – Tru Blood, vampires have made themselves known and are accepted (albeit hesitantly) into our culture. In the first episode we see a TV interview with Nan Flanagan, a spokesperson for the ‘American Vampire League.’
In Bite Club, co-written by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman with art by David Hahn, we’re introduced to the Del Toro crime family a vampire mafia operating in Miami. Vampires in Bite Club have similarly made themselves known and enjoy a place in society thanks to the blood substitute/illicit drug, ‘Plasmagoria’. The vampires of Bite Club have turned their hunger away from human flesh and towards money, power and fame. The tenuous relationship between vampires and humans leads to the development of the ‘Vampire Crime Unit’ – the subject of the second Bite Club mini-series.
Even the promotional art for True Blood looks familiar, when viewed alongside the cover of Bite Club‘s first issue, penciled by Frank Quietly (All Star Superman). Other promotional efforts behind True Blood include viral sites for both the Tru Blood beverage and the American Vampire League as well as an online comic.
True Blood is not based on Bite Club but rather on the novels of author Charlaine Harris. Still, the similarities are undeniable and fans of Bite Club will likely enjoy HBO’s latest original series. Moreover, if the masses respond to True Blood, Bite Club and Vertigo could provide a hook to turn TV viewers into comic readers. The serialized storytelling of comics and trade paperback collections will be very familiar to fans who’ve grown accustomed to HBO’s seasonal installments. And the Vertigo line serves up a similar buffet of sex, violence and adult themes that HBO fans will love.
The recently finished Vertigo series, Y: The Last Man was long-rumored to become and HBO series but will instead see a 2009 theatrical release. Marvel writer, Brian Michael Bendis (Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man) is currently working on a pilot for HBO that, while not comic-based, could be another crossover opportunity to bring in new readers. And as comics continue to creep in to the mainstream, it’s clear that there are plenty of comics-fans-in-waiting. So the next time you’re at the water cooler, talking the Wire or Lost with coworkers, suggest a trade of your favorite series and see if anyone bites.