Before Dracula, There Was CARMILLA: The First Vampire

While the most well-known vampire may be Dracula, Carmilla predated the horror icon and her story is being retold. Dark Horse Comics has announced Carmilla: The First Vampire, which modernizes the original novella that came out before Bram Stoker's classic novel. This LGBTQ+ retelling will provide a modernized version of the titular character.

Carmilla was written by Sheridan Le Fanu and published in 1872. Twenty-six years later, Bram Stoker's Dracula was published. The story has long been interpreted as having LGBTQIA tones, though the novella was left ambiguous. This ambiguity will no longer be the case with the latest retelling of the classic story from Berger Books, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics.


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A new press release from Dark Horse Comics announces the return of literary vampire, Carmilla. Carmilla: The First Vampire has the creative team of Amy Chu and Soo Lee. It will be a period mystery set in New York in 1996. It is being released by Berger Books, which is led by Karen Berger, the former executive editor of DC's Vertigo imprint. Carmilla's story is less known than Dracula's, but it is no less important, as Chu and Lee will show in their upcoming work.

Set in 1996, the Year of the Rat and the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, an idealistic Chinese American social worker turns detective when she discovers young, homeless LGBTQ+ women are being murdered and no one, especially the police, seems to care.

A series of clues points her to Carmilla's, a new mysterious nightclub in the heart of Manhattan Chinatown. There she falls for Violet, the next likely target, landing her at the center of a real-life horror story - and face-to-face with questions about her own identity and murky past.

Horror and mystery fans will likely find a lot to enjoy about this Dark Horse Comics story, as it provides a fresh take on a lesser-known classic vampire. Dracula is often a go-to and regularly referenced vampire, but the horror genre is full of other vampires that rarely have their stories told within comics. This will be a great opportunity for vampire lovers to have a bit of a shake up from typical vampire fare.

Amy Chu says, "Everyone is familiar with Dracula, but few know it was inspired by the vampire Carmilla who fell in love with the many young women who became her victims. Bringing the story to '90s New York let me explore themes of cultural identity, gentrification, homophobia and racism. It's definitely the darkest, most mature storyline I've ever written!"

Soo Lee, artist of Vampirella Fairy Tales, adds, "Goth, horror, and vampires make up the classic backdrop to 90's New York. Using the colorful ambience of the city and cultural references, Amy and I bring back to life an old NYC that I know and love in this retelling of Carmilla."

Karen Berger additionally says, "Not only is Carmilla a mesmerizing, steamy and decadent thriller, but Amy and Soo have delivered a story with important cultural themes which resonate in today's antagonizing times."

Berger Books has published numerous graphic novels and comics, including Anthony Bourdain's Hungry Ghosts, She Could Fly, The Seeds, and Nnedi Okorafor's LaGuardia, among other titles. The latest offering from Dark Horse Comics' imprint is an intriguing, contemporary twist on the vampire genre. While readers may have had their fill of contemporary vampire stories in many ways over the past decade, this latest classic-inspired addition is sure to be something new and refreshing. Readers can meet Dracula's literary predecessor when Carmilla: The First Vampire releases January 11, 2023.