Vampire Archetypes and The Characters They Spawn
I am a big fan of vampires and I like reading and writing about many different types. Now I’m not thinking of species here, if you are interested in all the species of vampires from mythology around the world I did a whole series of blog posts about them over at my Tasha’s Thinking’s blog for the AtoZ Challenge 2014. What I’m interested in in this post is the archetypes; the different aspects of vampire characters that are often seen in literature and film.
They tend to look monstrous and they are driven by the need to feed and not a lot more. I would say they are actually more of your traditional type of vampire from legend. These creatures rose from the grave at night to feed on the blood of the living and definitely didn’t spend their days in satin coffins in blacked out bedrooms or sparkle in sunlight.
The vampire’s from Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot are these type of vampires as are the Reapers from Blade II. They are also what I took my inspiration from for the spawn in The Avebury Legacy; although they don’t appear as monstrous as nosferatu, they are more animalistic in their reactions.
The monstrous vampire is often closer to a zombie than a human being and they are great for a hoard.
The Charming Evil
The next archetype is what I like to call the Charming Evil. The epitome of this type of vampire has to be the Count himself: Dracula. He is civilised on the outside, but revels in the blood in many of his incarnations in films.
Many of the more modern film make him sympathetic, but one of my favourite versions of him is Frank Langella’s. He is charming, he is sexy, but in the end he is arrogant and centred around his own needs. He is damnation to those he bites, evil, but he does not care.
One of my favourite vampires of all time also falls under this category: Jerry Dandrige from the original Fright Night film. He is sexy as all hell and charming and likeable even, but underneath he is a murdering monster. He kills nightly to sustain his own existence and he has no qualms about it. On the surface he is reasonable, trying to scare Charley into leaving him alone, and yet when that fails he is simply ready to kill
Regine from Fright Night II is just as charming, just as sexy and just as evil as Jerry as well.
So is Gerri from the Fright Night 2 remake.
There are, of course, many more examples, but, as you may have noticed I am very fond of the Fright Night films. However, the less said about the remake with Colin Farell the better IMHO.
The Charming Evil is a great archetype for the seducer or the manipulator. Sometimes you even wish they would win. This is kind of what I had in mind for my Alpha vampires in The Avebury Legacy, although they are a little more on the monster side as well. I think Laurell K. Hamilton might have had this in mind for Jean Claude when she first wrote him in Anita Blake as well, although he turned much more into the romantic lead, which I am dealing with next.
The Romantic Lead
Now vampires can be very sexy so it is no surprise they end up the romantic lead. I would hazard a guess that in literature this is probably the biggest category in the current market. Paranormal romance with a vampire lead is incredibly popular; all you have to do is take a quick look at Amazon.
I think the romantic lead seems to come in two main type: the tortured hero and the confident immortal. I will admit some are a mixture, but they often fall more into one camp or the other.
The Tortured Hero
The one that leaps to mind unbidden is Edward from Twilight. He is most definitely a tortured hero, forever worried about killing his one true love. Whether you like or dislike how he is executed as a character, he is definitely tortured.
My personal favourite tortured hero is Michael from The Lost Boys. He is partially turned into a vampire without his knowledge and then has to battle against the blood lust and becoming a full vampire for the rest of the film.
The Lost Boys was my first foray into vampire films when I was a teenager, so it holds a special place in my heart. Yes, Nate and Lexie from The Avebury Legacy are totally in the same situation as Michael. I absolutely love the trope. It’s one of the reason I love Fright Night II so much as well, although I won’t go into details because of spoilers :).
Another favourite has to be Nick Knight from Forever Knight (or Midnight Cop if you saw the original movie with Rick Springfield and Michael Nader). He is so, so, so very tortured and trying to become human while solving crimes and protecting those he loves.
Three seasons of awesome for all those who love vampires. Although it does have the worst finale of any series I can think of.
Thinking of female examples, I suppose Katrina from John Carpenter’s Vampires is a tortured heroine for most of the film. Infected against her will and slowly turning she has to fight the need to feed.
I do love a good tortured hero, but I can also admit sometimes they do come off a whiny.
The Confident Immortal
Now this is what Jean Claude from the Anita Blake series definitely ended up. He was a little more grey to begin with, but he became more and more of a good guy even if he wasn’t snow white. Jean Claude is an awesome character with many layers and even if you don’t appreciate the later Anita Blake novels, the early ones are superb for most audiences.
I’d say Selene from Underworld fits in this section as well. She is the romantic lead and she is perfectly as peace with what she is. In fact she likes it. As a Death Dealer she fits and has a purpose. That purpose changes over the film, but she never loses the confidence she has in herself.
The confident immortal is a very powerful character. The best have flaws, but they never whine about what they are. This is what I had in mind for Michael from my Soul Reader Series. He’s never been particularly fantastic as a vampire, but he doesn’t regret what he became.
The half-breed, be they half vampire and half human or half vampire and something else is quite possibly my favourite vampire archetype of all time. These are often something of a tortured hero as well, but they definitely deserve their own section.
Vampire Hunter D is an awesome half-breed. If you haven’t seen this anime, I have to recommend it. D is a vampire hunter who also happens to be part vampire and he has a talking hand. He protect humans from vampires and is simply awesome.
He’s kind of a tragic character, but he is wonderful. There are two movies, Vampire Hunter D and Vampire Hunter D – Bloodlust. The second is much slicker animation, but the first is a classic.
Of course there is also Blade, played by Wesley Snipes in the films and also the star of Marvel comics. I do love the Blade movies, but I have to admit Blade is not my favourite half human/half vampire out there. He has a stick far too far up his own posterior ;).
Then there is Michael from Underworld who I love, love, love. I won’t go into too much detail because of spoilers, but he is definitely one of my favourites.
So, there you have it, my favourite archetypes of vampire fiction. I am sure there are more and these can be subdivided in different ways, but these are how I often see what I am reading and watching. It’s one of the reasons I think the vampire genre is so diverse and it does frustrate me that any time someone brings up vampires the media always start quoting Twilight. There are many different types of vampire; there were before Twilight, there will be after Twilight and you cannot compare every vampire film or book back to it just because it happens to be really famous.
There is so much scope for vampires and they all have their place in readers’/watchers’ hearts. If you think it is a stale genre, just look a little harder, I promise there are some gems out there. Hate Twilight – try Salem’s Lot or The Avebury Legacy (yes I am plugging my own book – only 99c until Dec 21st 2014). Love Twilight – take a look at Amazon’s Paranormal section, it is full of some amazing titles, lots of them indie. Vampires have so much mileage left in them.
Do you read vampire fiction or watch vampire films/TV – which are your favourites? If you don’t like vampires, why not, what puts you off, I would love to know?