As one of the smaller comic publishing houses, Bluewater Productions relies on certain kinds of niche titles to distinguish itself among the many publishers crowding the market today. One of these niches is the biographical comic of which they have three ongoing titles, FAME, INFAMOUS and Female Force. FAME tends to spotlight popular celebrities in sports and entertainment. INFAMOUS features people who are just that (e.g. Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, etc.). And finally Female Force has some overlap with the FAME series but focuses on prominent and inspiring women in any and all public arenas like the arts, politics, and business.
When I recently saw a Facebook post by the owner of Bluewater, Darren Davis, in which he shows off an issue of Female Force entitled Female Force: Anne Rice, signed by Anne herself, I bolted upright in my chair. I hadn’t known that there was a comic about her, but now that I did I wanted to read and review it right away. When I looked it up, it turned out that it was already a few years old but I had to review it anyway. See, neither I nor PopMythology contributor Andrea Sefler can resist an opportunity to write about one of our favorite authors. So I immediately got my copy, devoured it, and relished it.
I have to say, in my previous review of the FAME issue on Neil Gaiman, I was a bit critical of the comic while also acknowledging that it would be a pretty decent read for young readers just getting to know Gaiman’s work. However, I must say that I’m genuinely pleased with Female Force: Anne Rice.
One nice touch is to have the comic narrated by a vampire, a Dracula-esque archetype who begins the comics with this bold statement:
“Not since Bram Stoker breathed undead life into my cold veins 112 years ago has a writer completely redefined the vampire genre.”
And with that introduction, within just 28 short pages, writer Scott David and artist Louie De Martinis manage to pack in an epic vista of yearning, romance, nostalgia, tragedy, struggle and a phoenix-like triumph, all in a way that somehow does not cheapen the source material. The supreme difficulty of condensing a public figure’s entire life into a single comic is partly what I had criticized before about FAME, but somehow this issue of Female Force manages to succeed.
Granted, if you want more details or to probe deeper into the events portrayed in this comic, you’ll have to read book-length biographies like Prism of the Night: A Biography of Anne Rice or Anne’s own spiritual memoirs Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. Also, since the comic was published in mid-2010, it leaves out some of the developments of Anne’s ongoing spiritual evolution such as her second renunciation of the Catholic Church (while still retaining her love for the central figure of the faith, Christ). But for a nice and quick yet evocative visual summation of her struggles and triumphs, this comic is hard to beat. And unlike the Neil Gaiman FAME issue which I felt would be better for YA readers, this one feels appropriate and satisfying for both adults and younger readers alike.
One delightful detail is that writer Scott David cleverly borrows Anne’s own device of the interview format which she famously used in Interview With the Vampire. At one point we see her being interviewed by the Vampire archetype, complete with microphone and tape recorder (Interview By the Vampire?). This doesn’t come off as awkward or artificial at all—in fact, for the die-hard Anne Rice fan these moments are goosebump inducing (the good kind that you get when you’re excited or inspired). Moreover, this set up allows Anne to interject her own words into the narration even as it visually symbolizes her lifelong journey with this beloved archetype.
Louie De Martinis employs a fuzzy, black-and-white style for the flashback sequences that convey a genuine sense of nostalgia and childhood longing. At times he seems an artist better suited to the fantasy genre as his depictions of Lestat, the Dracula archetype, werewolves and ghouls are colorful and expressive while the quality of his representations of Anne fluctuate a bit. In one panel it looks exactly like her while in the next panel it looks more like an abstract version of her. Nevertheless, whether it’s through the glasses or her hair, her character shines through and there is never a moment in which this protagonist whose story we’re reading does not feel like Anne.
The comic itself acknowledges the impossibility of truly doing justice to its subject’s eventful life. In one panel our vampire narrator says, “Anne Rice is considerably more than this humble tome can contain.” And of course that is true. But given only 28 pages, Female Force: Anne Rice does as good a job as anyone could have done. I got goosebumps numerous times while reading this and chances are, if you’re a fan of Anne Rice, you will too.