By Marc Strom
In ANITA BLAKE: THE LAUGHING CORPSE - BOOK ONE #4, in stores today, Laurell K. Hamilton's best-selling vampire hunter once again comes face-to-face with Jean-Claude, St. Louis' vampiric Master of the City.
According to series editor Michael Horwitz, Jean-Claude, one of the most enduring characters in Hamilton's series besides Anita herself, has stuck around for at least one simple reason:
"He's a walking dream!" Horwitz exudes. "Forever young and beautiful, he does what he wants when he wants. Think Caligula in leather pants. And when people see this creature, they can't look away. They want to be him, they want to be with him. It's no surprise that there is a community of people who cosplay as him. Go online and look it up. It's inspiring how this character has given fans a venue to express themselves."
The Master of the City brings a certain quality to Anita's universe that helps to establish it as something new and different from anything else.
"There's very much a cultural stereotype of the suave vampire, thanks to 'Dracula,' 'Interview With a Vampire,' and others," lists Horwitz . "I don't want to speak for Laurell, but I think that [Jean-Claude is] her answer to the modern male vampire. He's someone that embodies a concept of beauty that blurs gender lines, much like Mick Jagger or David Bowie. The world around Anita is very murky and filled with people who do fairly awful things to get ahead. And in that bleak environment, Jean-Claude stands out to Anita as someone she wants to trust but can't."
To say the very least, Anita and Jean-Claude have had a somewhat contentious relationship thus far in the series, with him manipulating her into killing the previous Master of the City in ANITA BLAKE: GUILTY PLEASURES. And his latest appearance would seem to point to even more trouble on the horizon.
"Anita is the readers' eyes and ears into a very dangerous world," Horwitz explains. "She's tough as nails and in control of herself at all times. Except for when she's around Jean-Claude. Like any super hero, Anita has a very strict moral code, but Jean-Claude is this mystifying creature that makes her question everything she believes to be right and wrong. And the more she pushes him away, the more he wants her.
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"See, he not only desires her physically, but he also wants to make her his human servant. Ah, love. And as you see in THE LAUGHING CORPSE, Anita starts racking up some pretty scary enemies, including a mob-connected millionaire and a voodoo priestess. It sure would be nice if she had a master vampire to back her up..."
While Jean-Claude played a significant role in GUILTY PLEASURES, Horwitz points out that this marks current artist Ron Lim's first real opportunity to let loose on one of Hamilton's best known characters.
"He drew him briefly at the end of GUILTY PLEASURES, but issue #4 of THE LAUGHING CORPSE is Ron's dramatic reintroduction of Jean-Claude into Anita's life," he notes. "I remember when Laurell saw the art for that scene she e-mailed me immediately saying 'he got it!'"
This issue also marks the penultimate chapter in the first part of Marvel's adaptation of "The Laughing Corpse," with two more limited series following hot on its heels to give Hamilton's fans the full story of Anita Blake's second novel.
"The plan originally was to run it as one 15-issue series, but the book naturally broke into three acts," Horwitz reveals. "Laurell's story is very tightly structured, and we thankfully didn't have to change anything or take any characters out to make it work. You can really read each volume and get a complete story. The first limited series is a
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missing person drama, and by the end of issue #5 that specific mystery is solved-and like any good mystery, the initial answers only create more questions."
Anita Blake's presence in Marvel's Best Selling Authors line has proven a natural fit, with Horwitz pointing out that Anita's world isn't so different from that of Marvel's super heroes.
"[Hamilton's novels are] rich with character and intrigue, just like any classic Marvel comic," the editor elaborates. "Laurell knows the world she's created inside and out, and Jesse Ruffner, who's helping her adapt the story, is smartly staying faithful to what's been established. Because we have 15 issues, we get to keep all of the detail that makes these books fan favorites. That isn't always the case when doing adaptations.
"The creative team, including Laurell, Jesse, Ron, and colorist Joel Seguin, has done a tremendous job of staging the series so that it's visually exciting," Horwitz continues. "I have to say that Ron is doing some his best work ever here. He's famous for big, splashy sci-fi comics like INFINITY GAUNTLET and X-MEN 2099. I don't want to say [this is a] down-to-Earth book, since we have zombies and werewolves, but it's set in St. Louis, not Kree territory. So it's a departure for him, but he's so in sync with the characters and when there's an action scene, he nails it. I've worked on books like KICK ASS, so I'm pretty used to gore, but the upcoming issue #5 has one the most violent sequences I've seen in a
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recent comic. It's 'Kill Bill' level bloodshed and I think it will cause a few sleepless nights."
And Horwitz promises that Anita's fans won't be disappointed with all the excitement coming their way:
"GUILTY PLEASURES was obviously a huge hit with fans and I can only say that THE LAUGHING CORPSE has some thrilling twists in store for both longtime Anita buffs and new readers. Issue #5 is a showstopper, but that's nothing compared to what's coming down the pipeline in the next two limited series."
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