Title: Confessions of a Teenage Vampire #1 – The Turning
Writer: Terry West
Penciller: Steve Ellis
Inkers: Rich Perrota and Ravil Lopez
Letterer: Fred Van Lente
Colorist: Michelle Wulf and Ryan Dunlavey
Summary: I used to be a pretty average teenager. True, I didn’t haprves tons of friends, and I liked studying history, but I was basically not very unusual.
But that all changed when I met Phillip Lemachard. You see, Phillip is not like the rest of the kids in my high school. He’s not like anyone I know, in fact. When Phillip tells stories about history, it sounds as if he was really there. And he has this skin condition that keeps him indoors during daylight.
Now I’m beginning to change, too. And these changes are, well, really unusual.
Here’s a special little treat from a story I haven’t read since middle school. This is the first of a two-part, stillborn series of YA horror graphic novels published by Scholastic in the late 90s. It definitely shows in both the setting (the characters mention “Surfing the net”) and the artwork (it’s got that high-waisted, long thigh Rob Liefeld/Art Adams look to it).
I thought it’d be fun to pull up this old jewel for Comic Con month, and I’m planning on reviewing the second book in October for Halloweenus.
There’s no way I could do a better job of introducing this comic than our main character, Lily Jordan, does on the first page.
After zoning out during science class, Lily explains us to where she fits in the typical high school hierarchy. She’s usually lumped in with the brainy and the snobby since she’s a history buff, even though she’s not particularly interested in her other classes. She’d like to think of herself as a loner, considering she only has two people she could consider friends. She’s fascinated with her town’s history and likes to imagine what life was like back then. Specifically, she likes to fantasize about Phillip Lemachard, the town founder. A bit too much, actually.
Educated, wealthy, of French descent, Phillip Lemachard fought for America against British tyranny during the Revolutionary War and used his knowledge of medicine and alchemy to help the sick and dying. Practically every municipal building in town is named after him. Lily’s aware her interest comes across as weird considering Phillip Lemachard’s been dead for hundreds of years, but she can’t restrain herself from imagining what it would’ve been like to live in the same time period as him.
Of course, Lily is almost always yanked back to the reality of her world through the efforts of one Rosie Cartwright.
I still can’t get over how creepy this panel is, and am endeared by the fact both girls are named after different flowers and they fucking hate each other.
Rosie makes it a hobby of knocking Lily down, without fail, at the end of every school day. She finds Lily’s “clumsiness” amusing. The only thing Lily hates more than the way Rosie treats her is how cowardly she acts whenever Rosie picks on her. On her departure from school Lily’s approached by Derek Highwater, one out of two of her friends (and he has a bit of a crush on her). Derek’s a computer whiz who gets picked on by Rosie as well, and tells Lily not to let it get her down. Lily’s invited over to Derek’s place to “Surf the net” (Because it was the 90s, you see!) but Lily already has plans.
Those plans involve standing outside the renovated, but empty, Lemachard Manor. The restored home of their town founder had been empty for 80 years, but that didn’t stop Lily from spending a lot of time standing outside its gates and fantasizing about Phillip Lemachard. Today, she has an unexpected guest in the form of Scavenger. He was the town’s well renowned loony and doomsayer, nicknamed for his tendency to scavenge bottles to recycle and old appliances to fix for cash. Scavenger dropped several cryptic warnings that something foul is heading to the town, and it would soon be breathing down Lily’s neck.
On that note, Lily returns home to her aunt Emma. She’s lived with her aunt since her parents died when she was 5, thus Emma is the only parent Lily’s ever known. Lily’s one complaint is how much Emma tends to worry. Lily enters the house apologizing for being late, but Emma tells her she’s early. TOO early. Emma explains she’s worried about the rut Lily seems to be in, doing nothing but getting up, going to school, doing her homework, then going to sleep. Given Lily spends a lot of time just staring at an empty house, it’s hard not to fault her aunt for worrying. Emma makes it clear she’s proud of the hard work Lily’s done with her schoolwork, but asks that she spend some time trying to enjoy herself.
Back at Lemachard Manor, Scavenger is watching as a moving truck parks itself outside the front gates…
And watches as the movers take out a coffin from the truck. Scavenger gets on his bike and decides he has to warn everyone when something yanks him off his bike near the woods. The last we see of Scavenger is him screaming in horror.
The next day at school, Lily’s told of Scavenger’s disappearance but isn’t too worried. Scavenger has a habit of disappearing for a few days every once in a while but always shows up again. At lunch, Lily catches up with Becky Silver, cheerleader captain, most popular girl in school, and Lily’s friend since elementary school. Becky’s inviting Lily to join her and her friend Monica on a weekend camping trip. Lily tries to decline when Monica asks Becky why she wastes time on her “Personal charity case” since Lily always turns Becky down. Becky is always totally understanding whenever Lily says she has a lot of work, but Lily changes her mind and decides to join them after hearing Monica’s snotty remark.
Luckily for Lily, Rosie’s nowhere to be found outside school that day and heads to Lemachard Manor without getting tripped into the dirt for once. Nothing could’ve prepared her for the sight of all those movers bringing in furniture to the usually empty manor. Lily can’t resist the temptation to finally explore the inside of the manor after fantasizing about it for so long and slips pasts some of the moving men. It’s everything Lily could’ve imagined and more. Lily’s than startled by a rather stoic looking man in a suit, asking if there’s anything she needs help with. Lily, a bit shocked, stammers she’s from the local historical society (a lie) and the man, who introduces himself as Donavin, asks if she would like to meet the owner of the house. Lily gives her name and is directed to the study to meet “Master Phillip” while Donavin, obviously Phillip’s butler, has to keep overseeing the movers.
Lily notices the name of the new owner is similar to Phillip Lemachard and wonders if he’s a descendant. She doesn’t have to worry for too long, because in the study she finds none other than THE Phillip Lemachard, completely identical to all the paintings Lily’s seen! He’s even wearing the exact same clothes! Lily is so surprised she faints.
When she comes to in Phillip’s study, she apologizes to Phillip and Donavin and explains why she fainted. She tells Phillip she thought he was Phillip Lemachard, and he reveals he IS… or rather, he’s Philip Lemachard VII. I mean, if he was the original Phillip Lemachard, he’d have to be hundreds of years old, right? Donavin leaves to let Phillip Part Seven entertain their first house guest. Lily comes clean about not belonging to the historical society and tells Phillip about the interest she’s nursed for his family’s history all this time. Phillip is touched by her sincerity but hardly believes his family’s worth talking about. Nevertheless he’s totally sympathetic to Lily and says she’s free to come by the manor any time she pleases; his library is always open to her. Lily offers to show him around town some day, but Phillip gently declines due to a… skin condition, which leaves him sensitive to sunlight.
BOY WHERE COULD THIS BE GOING.
Lily leaves the manor walking on Cloud Nine when Rosie shows up and knocks her down. Rosie’s “Sorry” for being late, but Lily reaches her limit. How dare Rosie come to this place Lily adores so much and try to belittle her like she always does? Lily finally pushes Rosie back and screams “DON’T YOU EVER TOUCH ME AGAIN!”
Rosie is legit freaked out by Lily’s fierceness, but Lily flees before Rosie gets up. Rosie starts threatening to kill Lily when someone mentions there are much better things Rosie can do with her time…
Rosie is reported missing the next day, and Lily can’t say she feels bad because she knows Rosie tends to do this a lot as well because she’s a douchebag. Nevertheless, she IS worried the police are now looking for Scavenger. Derek gives Lily an earful about how she’s been avoiding him and Becky, but she doesn’t mention her new friendship with Phillip just yet. After school, Becky invites Lily to see a movie with her and Monica. Even though she planned to see Phillip again, Lily accepts the invite (after some nagging from Monica) because she feels bad for constantly snubbing Becky.
The movie turned out to be a vampire flick, which Lily hates, and as soon as she arrives at Lemachard Manor things get a bit spooky. The gates swing open by themselves upon Lily’s arrival, and the pack of dobermans in the yard are all eerily silent as Lily heads for the front entrance. No one answers the door, but they’re not locked, and there are strange noises coming from the kitchen. Lily grabs a cane from an umbrella stand in the hallway; her surge of bravery comes out of fear for Phillip’s well being. Brave. Stupid, but brave.
Turns out the noise wasn’t coming from the kitchen, but the basement. It’s her first time down there and Lily’s surprised to see Phillip’s set up some kind of lab… and he doesn’t like it when people barge in when he doesn’t have his face on.
Lily is, of course, horrified by Phillip’s visage as he drinks the contents of a glass beaker. In seconds Phillip starts to calm down, his fangs disappearing and his face becoming less contorted. Gaining his senses, he realizes Lily saw him and begs she wait so he can explain. Lily’s getting the fuck out of there, but the dobermans won’t let her leave the yard and now Phillip’s caught up with her. He tells her he’s not going to kill her, and if he wanted Lily dead he’d have done it by now. Phillip assures Lily he’d never hurt someone as bright as she is, and asks he join her back in the house so he can explain everything.
Phillip gives his life story and reveals how he became a vampire. Yeah, he really is the original Phillip Lemachard, like no one figured that out several pages beforehand. A few hundred years ago while vacationing in France, Phillip was bitten and turned by Sang, a vampire far older and crueler than Phillip. At first, Phillip succumbed to the bloodlust and spent years terrorizing Europe alongside Sang. Eventually, Phillip’s guilt got the best of him and he vowed to never harm another human being.
Using his fortune, resources, and skills with medicine and alchemy, Phillip devoted his time to create “Serum V,” a chemical capable of repressing a vampire’s hunger for blood. Sang was outraged by what he saw as Phillip trying to “Civilize” the vampire race and has been hunting Phillip for the last hundred years while Phillip introduced many of their kin to his blood-lite serum. But now it seems Sang’s finally caught up with Phillip, and their next confrontation is sure to be the last.
Lily suggests Phillip can keep running, but he knows that would only stall the inevitable. He acknowledges Sang is older and stronger than him, he may not survive (which is why he sent Donavin away). Lily still offers to help Phillip as he tells her to leave, but Phillip doesn’t want her in the crossfire. Phillip couldn’t bring himself to see Lily hurt, caring for her like the daughter he never had.
At this point I wanna say I was SO FUCKING RELIEVED to read him say that, because I was getting creeped out by Lily’s infatuation with him and feared this really was gonna have a gross romance subplot in it.
Lily, of course, tries to hide her slight disappointment when Phillip tells her this, but Phillip assures her their short time together has made up for a LOT of unpleasantness in his life. For her sake, he gives her a head’s up on the weaknesses vampires have so she can better protect herself. Not just the usual sunlight or holy water shit, but stuff about how vampires have heightened senses and can be disoriented or hurt by stuff like loud noises and bright lights. It’s likely if Sang wins, the town will be crawling with vamps. Lily’s sure Phillip will beat sang, but Phillip’s not feeling the optimism.
Two days later, Lily was on the aforementioned camping trip with Becky and Monica. She hadn’t seen Phillip since their last visit and tried her best to hide her concern for him and the town’s future. After a round of ghost stories, Becky and Monica head for their sleeping bags while Lily stays up a while longer, lost in thought about Phillip.
At the manor, Phillip’s brooding in his study when his old buddy Sang shows up and asks if he’s finally ready to die. Phillip decides they might as well end things, but then Sang adds he knows about Lily and has arranged for one of his new friends to take care of her…
Back in the forest, Lily’s attacked by the newly vampirefied Rosie. Rosie lifts Lily up in the air and thanks her for making this new stage in her life possible. As Lily’s arch enemy gloats about what Sang is gonna do to Phillip, Lily shines her flashlight directly into Rosie’s eyes and blinds her. Lily’s dropped to the ground and cracks one of her ribs, but makes as much distance between her and Rosie as possible while hightailing it to Phillip’s place.
Lily finds Phillip near death and alone when Sang bursts through the window for that special dramatic effect. He’s clearly disappointed Rosie couldn’t finish the job, but looks forward to converting Lily in front of Phillip. Lily came prepared for this particular soiree, having done some private research on vampires since her last chat with Phillip. She takes the garlic she’s been carrying in her pockets for the previous two days and stuffs it in Sang’s mouth before he bites her.
Sang runs out of the study screaming in pain, giving Lily time to barricade the door. Phillip knows it won’t be strong enough to hold off Sang, and he’ll definitely be back. There’s no other way out of the study and Phillip can’t fly Lily down to the first floor; she’s trapped and good as dead. The only option Lily has for survival is if Phillip turns her into a vampire. Lily is understandably hesitant, but Phillip adds she does have a chance to become human again if she does two things.
- She must hunt down and kill Sang, since he was the vampire who turned Phillip.
- She must never drink blood and absolutely HAS to stick to Serum V for as long as she’s a vampire.
Phillip explains this is the only way she can hold onto most of her humanity after getting turned, which would spare him from some of the typical vampire weaknesses and even let her live in the sun. She just has to avoid drinking ANY blood, otherwise she’s lost. Lily points out Sang is so strong, how could someone like her beat him? Phillip tells her when new vampires are born they go through a phase called “Bloodfire,” like the equivalent of being on vampire steroids. Her strength and senses will be heightened ten fold, but things will appear distorted.
Sang returns after washing out the rest of that pesky garlic, just as the newly vampiric Lily Jordan bursts through the doors. Her eyes completely red and her teeth turned into fangs, Lily lunges at Sang like a wild animal, unaware of the fire that’s sprung around her. Sang recognizes what’s happened and screams if she doesn’t fight the Bloodfire she’ll destroy the place and both of them while she’s at it.
Is he honestly surprised she doesn’t give a shit?
Lily comes to several days later, her memories of the fight Sang hazy at best, incomprehensible at worst. Her heightened senses almost broke her mind as she tried to adjust to how bright and loud everything around her became. She spent her time recuperating at the manor with her Aunt Emma, who has no idea about Lily’s transformation. And neither of them could’ve expected Phillip leaving everything he owned in Lily’s name upon his death! Donavin’s come back, the only person aware of Lily’s abilities, and is now working for her and Emma since they’ve permanently moved into the manor.
Lily mentions she’s trying to spend more time with Becky and Monica’s become much less nasty to her; she also makes sure to “Surf the net” with Derek at least twice a week (Because it was the 90s, you see!)
She’s not sure when she’ll face Sang (and Rosie) again, but Lily knows they’re both out there and if she ever wants to become human again she’ll have to defeat them. In the meantime, there’s a lot of good she can do with her new powers and plans to use them while getting more out of life than she did before. After all, she’s just your typical teenage vampire.
I don’t know why but for some reason I was totally overthinking the part about Lily needing to kill Sang to become human again and was wondering about the vampire who turned him. I’m intrigued by the plot point about vampires having heightened senses and never stopped to think that would be a detriment. I mean, they have excellent sight, hearing, and olfactory senses in most media so it makes sense bright lights, loud noises and strong odors might harm them.
I like that plot point about drinking blood for the first time cementing a person as a true vampire. We never stop to wonder what would happen to a person who gets turned, but doesn’t drink blood after it happens. And I can’t help but laugh every time Lily says “Surf the net,” like why did that ever stop becoming a thing?
Meanwhile, the art may be dated by 90s standards, but you won’t believe how much Steve Ellis’s artwork has evolved since this book came out. For example:
I gotta see about commissioning Steve Ellis to do Lily so we can find out how she’d look in his current style.