DC Histories: Andrew Bennett (I, Vampire)

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about Andrew Bennett, the most famous vampire in the DCU.

House of Mystery (Vol. 1) #299 (1981) Cover

Andrew Bennett debuted in the pages of House of Mystery, one of DC’s horror anthologies which began in the 1950s. Created and written by J. M. DeMatteis with art by Tom Sutton, Andrew was a 16th Century knight in Queen Elizabeth’s court. He was in love with a handmaid named Mary. One day, when out for a late ride, Andrew stumbled across an old man who looked like he needed help. The decision to stop his horse and help changed Andrew’s life forever. He realized too late the the old man was actually a vampire, willing to attack anyone who happened by.

From House of Mystery (Vol. 1) #290 (1981)

Before the bite was fully complete, before he was fully drained of blood, Andrew’s thoughts turned to Mary and he was able to pull away. Still, the vampire’s bite had done its work and Andrew had been turned into a member of the undead. He too was now a vampire though the strength of his will allowed him to keep his wits about him.

Andrew returned to his beloved Mary and told her what had happened to her. Still, Mary loved Andrew. She asked him to bite her and share his curse. The plan was for the two of them to be together until the end of time. Andrew agreed and bit the woman of his dreams. However, whatever goodness still resided in Andrew, whatever allowed him to cling to his humanity, was lost upon Mary after she turned. Her immediate concern was obtaining more blood and becoming powerful enough to rule the world. Anguished that Mary would succumb to her basest vampire urges, Andrew could only watch as Mary turned into a bat and flew away.

From House of Mystery (Vol. 1) #290 (1981)

Over time, Mary created a group called Blood Red Moon. It was a group of subservient vampires and humans whom Mary had collected. Among them, she was known as the Queen of Blood. Over the ensuing centuries, Andrew continued to hunt Mary and the Blood Red Moon. He would occasionally disrupt their plans but his goal of killing Mary herself was never complete.

Andrew’s stories were given the title I… Vampire. These tales became the lead stories in House of Mystery until nearly the title’s final issue in 1983. The covers for these issues by alternating artists Joe Kubert and Michael Wm. Kaluta were wonderful and something to be remembered.

In the present day, Andrew was assisted in his hunt for Mary by two humans. Deborah Dancer was in love with Andrew, though his vampiric ways made it impossible for him to return her love. Dmitri Mishkin was a more intriguing character. Dmitri was an old man in 1981 but when he was a child, his mother had become a vampire thanks to the Blood Red Moon. Andrew managed to save Dmitri before his mother fed on him. Feeling a kinship with the young boy, Andrew took Dmitri with him in his journeys.

From House of Mystery (Vol. 1) #295 (1981)

The most frustrating thing about this story is that it was never followed up. Seeing the past tales of a revenge hungry vampire and the young human child that lived with him could have made for some interesting stories. How had it been for a young Dmitri growing up in such a manner? Did he help Andrew find ways to get blood without resorting to biting humans? Did Dmitri feel that Andrew was a surrogate father for him, even after their hunt lasted over fifty years? Was there any resentment there? Sadly, DeMatteis stopped writing Andrew’s story soon after this backstory was revealed and the next authors didn’t feel like continuing it. They quickly wrote out both Deborah and Dmitri from future tales.

Bruce Jones soon took over writing Andrew’s tale. Shortly thereafter, a cancer cure was developed in the story’s pages. This was a vaccine that people took that would guarantee that cancer never developed in a person’s body. One of the side effects of this vaccine was that a human’s blood became poison to a vampire. Due to his unwillingness to drink human blood, Andrew was unaffected though Mary became weak. This allowed Andrew to finally track her down.

From House of Mystery (Vol. 1) #305 (1982)

Mary was able to escape Andrew’s clutches again, this time by traveling through time. Andrew followed, which was a fun little side story.

Eventually, the two made their way back to the present day. There, Andrew continued to hunt Mary across the world. Eventually, her trail lead him to Gotham City where Andrew crossed over with another member of the DCU for the first time. Batman didn’t take kindly to having vampires in his city and reluctantly allowed Andrew to assist him in their extermination.

From Brave and the Bold (Vol. 1) #195 (1983)

Shortly thereafter, in a story written by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, Andrew discovered that there was no real cancer cure. It was a placebo whose true reason for being created was to poison the vampire’s feeding stock. By starving his fellow vampires, the creator of the “cure” hoped to wipe out much of his competition for world domination. It was a fine plan.

From House of Mystery (Vol. 1) #313 (1983)

Eventually, this vampire was defeated and Andrew found himself with a flask full of an experimental antidote. The rumor was that this antidote took away all of the negative vampiric traits, such as being killed by the sun and the burning desire to drink blood. Andrew took the antidote hoping for the best. At first, it worked. He still possessed great power and could walk around in the sun. Just as he was able to finally kill Mary, his body began to shut down. The antidote, it seemed, only worked if a person took it before becoming a vampire. By taking it afterwards, the effects were temporary and lead to complete body paralysis and true death.

Meanwhile, Deborah Dancer came back into Andrew’s life. She took the antidote before she attacked Mary as Andrew’s backup. Mary quickly subdued the human and bit her. This was Deborah’s plan all along. Finding herself free of the effects of the sun, she held Mary as dawn came and finally killed the 400 year old vampire. Then, Deborah said her goodbyes to Andrew as the sun shriveled him to dust just like his former lover.

From House of Mystery (Vol. 1) #319 (1983)

That’s where Andrew Bennett’s story may have ended. The Crisis a few years later wiped out the stories of many characters. It seemed like Andrew was one of them as he wasn’t mentioned for a while. However, in the pages of J. M. DeMatteis’ Doctor Fate series, Andrew returned. It seemed that the sun had killed him at the end of House of Mystery, but it hadn’t kept him dead. Whether it was the antidote that he’d taken or some sort of cosmic joke, Andrew found that he just couldn’t die. There was nothing keeping him on Earth any longer what with Mary being dead but Andrew found that he just couldn’t join her.

From Doctor Fate (Vol. 2) #2 (1988)

The Lords of Order, the beings who gave Doctor Fate his powers, were trying to destroy the universe. Prophecy had it that the next time that the universe was reborn, the Lords of Order would be in complete charge of it. So, to get to that end, they wanted Andrew to destroy the current universe. Using the power of the Holy Grail and other ancient devices, a rage filled Andrew nearly succeeded in this goal. However, only the will of a divine being more powerful than the Lords of Order kept the universe from ending. This being let itself be known to Andrew and Doctor Fate with only a smile.

From Doctor Fate (Vol. 2) #6 (1989)

After seeing this little peek behind the curtains of the universe, Andrew’s rage finally left him. His tranquility remained as he faced the sun one more time and was killed yet again, this time seemingly for good.

But as has been shown in comics, just because a character is dead doesn’t mean they’ll stay dead. Many years later, in the pages of a Doctor 13 story which was a backup in Tales of the Unexpected, a Spectre miniseries, Andrew returned. Written by Brian Azzarello with art by Cliff Chiang, this was a tale about the mostly forgotten professional skeptic Doctor 13. The good doctor was incredulous when he met a revived and solitary Andrew Bennett living in the French Alps.

From Tales of the Unexpected (Vol. 2) #2 (2007)

The story quickly became much, much more than just a buddy comedy between Andrew and Doctor 13. More characters of increasing irrelevance came into 13′s circle, all of whom he refused to believe existed. Finally, the story became meta when 13, Andrew, and a Nazi gorilla found themselves standing before a group called the Architects. These were very thinly veiled DC writers whose faces were covered by masks of the characters they were working on. The Architects said that Doctor 13 and his ilk had no place in the current universe and that they were being eliminated because of that.

From Tales of the Unexpected (Vol. 2) #7 (2007)

Doctor 13 eventually pointed out that there were Architects before these four and there would be Architects after them. 13 and his kind only had to wait around for the right Architects to come to power and then they’d be back. For those keeping score at home, that would be Mark Waid behind the Flash mask, Geoff Johns behind the Superman mask, Greg Rucka behind the Wonder Woman mask, and Grant Morrison behind the Batman mask. Keeping with the rules of this story, the person behind that Wonder Woman mask today would actually be Azzarello himself.

This was quite the wonderful story. Chiang’s artwork was amazing as always and Azzarello’s story rung true to the behind-the-scenes forces of comics. If this in any way sounds like something you’d like to read, seek it out. It’s actually collected as a trade.

Andrew’s next appearance was a little bit more of a standard tale. This story ignored the Tales of the Unexpected arc completely. The Outsiders became aware that someone was trying to resurrect Mary, Queen of Blood. They tried to stop the ceremony and they thought they succeeded. After they left the scene, Deborah Dancer, Andrew’s old ally who killed Mary, misted in and performed an ancient ritual. Suddenly, Andrew Bennett was brought back to life. In his rage at being returned to a sad, solitary life, he appeared to kill Deborah.

From DCU Halloween Special '09 (2009)

Obviously, this was supposed to be the start of a new series for Andrew but nothing came of it. He disappeared back into the DCU’s shadows almost as soon as he came back to life.

In the New 52, Andrew is fully back. As Azzarello correctly predicted back in 2007, the right Architects just needed to be found in order for that to happen. In this case, it’s Joshua Hale Fialkov writing Andrew’s stories and Andrea Sorrentino drawing them. Everything that has come before has been wiped away. As was the case with the original 1980s stories, Andrew is once again hunting Mary, the love of his life and his greatest mistake.

From I, Vampire #1 (2011)

Mary is once again the Queen of Blood and she wants to rule the entire world. Her creation of an army of vampires caused Andrew to seek out new allies in order to defeat her. Among them was Batman and Justice League Dark. Andrew is much more vicious here than in past tales and his abilities are more intense than simply being able to turn into a bat or a bit of mist. Now, he can turn himself into a full-on beast.

From I, Vampire #6 (2012)

Andrew’s story continues in the New 52. Recently, Deborah Dancer, one of Andrew’s allies from the original tales, has come into the picture but things are a bit different than they were before. Fialkov certainly knows the stories that others have done and is using that to craft his own narrative. However, the whole thing is distinct and in his own voice. I’m eager to see what happens next.


Jeff Reid does enjoy a good vampire tale. He discusses other things he enjoys on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I recently caught up on back issues of I,Vampire. Been a fan of Fialkov’s since Echoes. Thought I show the book support and read monthly. Cant wait to read #14 today.

  2. illmatic illmatic says:

    This has me pretty interested to try this book.

  3. daningotham daningotham says:

    I never read this until the New 52. But this is one of my favorite books every month. With great artwork.

  4. Very interesting. Especially the part about the Architects. Was Azzarello dissing those guys? Is the insinuation that the other creators were trying to get the series cancelled for some reason? I’m probably just misunderstanding the meta.

    • Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      No, I think Azzarello was just pointing out that certain characters weren’t being used because the people in charge thought they weren’t interesting or relatable. The point of the story seemed to be that while these characters could return to comics if the right creator (or Architect) came along. It wasn’t dissing anyone, just pointing that out and using a bit of meta commentary to discuss it. The use of these other creators was just a slight wink towards them and the reader but if you didn’t know who they were supposed to be, it didn’t matter really.

    • That makes sense. Thanks.

    • JokersNuts JokersNuts says:

      I was reading it as it was coming out. I don’t think it had any deeper subtext or meaning beyond the fact that these Architects were the creators guiding those characters at the time.