30 Days of Night

Published February 15, 2012 by Jennifer Loring

I am an unabashed nerd who goes to comic book conventions and plays video games. Graphic novels are one of my favorite things in the world. I’ve owned 30 Days of Night for many years, probably since shortly after it was released, and it provided a much-needed respite from the romantic, whiny bullshit that had defined vampires for the previous several decades (and continues to do so in the YA and paranormal romance genres). Look, I’m woman enough to admit that I went through an Anne Rice phase in my late teens-early 20s. But at least Lestat was actually fun in Interview With the Vampire–he enjoyed being a vampire and a jerk. As the vampires grew ever more obsessed with being human again, I lost interest.

And that’s what attracted me to 30 Days of Night. These vampires love being at the top of the food chain. They aren’t crying for the loss of their souls/mortality/some chick/etc. They like to feed and to kill. It’s what they do best, and damn it, it’s just fun. The choice of Barrow, Alaska for a vampire rampage is so brilliantly obvious, I’m a little pissed I didn’t think of it first. Curse you, Steve Niles! Barrow is extremely isolated, extremely cold, and extremely dark. The sun never rises for a solid month. It would be the ideal setting for any number of horror stories, but if you’re sticking with the concept that vampires can’t go out in the sun (a concept that comes not from folklore, but from Hollywood), what better place on earth than Barrow? My one complaint would be the largely unnecessary subplot involving George and “Momma.” It added little to the story overall, especially since there is already conflict between the vampires themselves regarding the discovery of their existence. I haven’t read subsequent books in the series, so I don’t know if the pictures George transmits to her ever have any relevance or not, but that subplot just seems out of place.

OK, and Eben’s transformation. No explanation is given as to why he is able to control his vampirism for as long as he does. The person whose blood transformed him immediately became consumed with bloodlust. I have no cause to believe that Eben is a better person than a man who was bitten searching for a loved one (Eben has spent most of the book hiding, after all), yet he can somehow channel his murderous impulses toward the vampires rather than the people around him. He sort of reminds me of Rick from The Walking Dead, whose heroism, motivated by a thoroughly unrealistic altruism, has rendered him unbelievable as a character.

A lot of people are on the fence about Ben Templesmith’s artwork. In his introduction Clive Barker mentions the “soft focus” of it, and I think it works well for this story, as it creates the illusion of the indistinct haze formed by falling snow. The black-and-white bleakness of the setting and the vampires, contrasted with splashes of red, is visually very powerful. (I did my undergrad in studio art, and I still draw and paint as often as possible, so I’m very much a visual person.) His style is highly unique and, even if you don’t like it, you probably won’t forget it.

Is 30 Days of Night the greatest vampire story ever? Of course not. But it brought back the folkloric vampire, the heartless, remorseless killer that haunted the nightmares of 18th-century Europe. That’s the vampire I know and love, and I hope we continue to see more of them.

9 comments on “30 Days of Night

  • The first couple of series are good, but after those it goes downhill fast. The film adaptation was decent. I haven't read the comic nor saw the movie recent enough to remember specific likes and dislikes. I just recall enjoying them.Templesmith's art is a weird flavor to me. I collect a lot of his works for the uniqueness and the technical camouflage, but you can tell easily when he rushes it for the sake of a deadline.Steve Niles has written some really cool things over the years. His Cal McDonald prose are a great read.

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  • I liked the film adaptation as well, which is a rare thing for me to say. As for Templesmith, I honestly haven't looked at his work beyond this book, so I'll take your word for it. I do want to read more of Steve Niles' stuff, though.

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  • I completely agree with your thoughts concerning Eben's blood transfusion. For me, it didn't stop at wondering how he was able to control the blood lust through the fight but onward until sunrise, too. I wondered how he was able to fight at all with that bloodlust, not to mention fight the head vampire. Did he just get lucky, slip, and have his hand land through the monster's mouth? I can't see that being possible; I can't see Eben realistically winning that battle in any possible circumstance.I think my view of a folkloric vampire differs from yours. I saw the vampires in 30 Days of Night resembling Anne Rice's style more than folklore. When I think of folkloric vampires, I think of reanimated corpses, more demonic fiends than anything. I can definitely see some similarities between these deformed creatures, especially with Templesmith's art style, and folkloric vampires, but I didn't really see them as an intentional shout out to the originals. I do agree that Niles did justice for vampires everywhere, though.

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  • They were much closer to traditional vampires than Rice's "Euro-trash" (to borrow Scott's phrase) vampires were, though not quite the "disheveled peasant" Paul Barber describes in Vampires, Burial and Death. A number of unfortunate circumstances almost guaranteed one's becoming a vampire after death (rarely was someone made a vampire by being bitten), so there wasn't a "demonic" aspect about them so much as sheer bad luck. The desire of Niles' vampires to do little more than feed makes them much more akin to folkloric vampires than to recent fictional ones.

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  • I also found Eben's controlled transformation a little off-putting. The guy who transformed literally a few pages before, and whose blood Eben takes, goes apeshit right away. Not only does he go apeshit, he immediately sides with the vampires above. He doesn't just gain a bloodlust, but completely changes his worldview at the drop of a pin. Eben, on the other hand, controls his transformation for at least a day, with no loss of identity. Now personally, I'm a big fan of the idea that vampirism isn't just a disease, but literally changes your psychology and makes you evil. the Warhammer fantasy setting does a really good job of vampires being evil because the disease literally strips away their morals in a very painful transformation. But because we're presented with both in this story, it only muddles the narrative.

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  • When I think of a traditional vampire, I think of an evil spirit or demonic possession of a corpse. For some reason I correlate Jewish Dybbuks with them in the sense that they are dead spirits returning to life–hence, "undead." And like you said, being bitten wasn't really the way one became a vampire; I've always read it had more to do with being "unclean" and having dealings with the devil. I'm not sure if you liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it is one of the only contemporary stories I know that partially holds true to folklore: vampires are demons that possess humans and then live off blood. I never really associated an uncontrollable, bestial bloodlust with folkloric vampires, though. More just evil and death. As for Niles' vampires, I'd sooner recognize connections between them and those of Vampire: The Masquerade (which is also tied to Rice's "Euro-trash" vamps) than those of folklore. This is mainly because I don't see folkloric vampires following any sort of etiquette or hierarchy, and Niles' vampires definitely had some sort of system mapped out. Anyway, look at their wardrobes–punk and aristocrat, both of which are European (at least if you consider the UK part of Europe).

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  • Speaking of Walking Dead, I'm told that as the series rolls on, Rick becomes quite the vicious prick. Even so, he is the voice of morality. Basically, small town sheriffs are always the paladins, good and true.

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  • Good review. I'm not one of those on the fence about Templesmith's artwork. I pretty much blasted it on my blog and one day later (I wonder how many times he Goggle's himself), he posted on my blog. Not a happy camper. A friend informed me that he had labeled me "Dick of the Month." on Twitter. I didn't respond but I kept thinking…Really? No one's ever criticized your art before?

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