A Black Balloon Publication ©
April 12, 2012

Vampire-Hunting Presidents and Other Questionable Mashups

By Brian Fee
Transient

Welcome our antebellum vampire overlords, infecting young adult fiction with chalky, angular cheekbones and numbing chastity! The undead are everywhere, from Twilight to Seth Grahame-Smith's New York Times bestseller (no jokeAbraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I'd managed to steer clear of this post-Lestat world until Vulture highlighted an annoying paradox: fanboys have their Underoos in a knot over the “unrealistic” overhaul of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, yet they seem totally hunky-dory with the idea of Lincoln staking vampires. Here we go!

My beef isn't really about converting Grahame-Smith's tiresome mashup novel into a film. It's a made-for-summer blockbuster, akin to last year'sCowboys & Aliens (which was based off a graphic novel). In effect: pure eye-candy, with historical accuracy totally suspended in favor of dudes on horseback rustling up UFOs or America's 16th President brawling with bloodsucking plantation owners. At least in Vampire Hunter's case, Benjamin Walker (star of Tony-nominated musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) plays honest axe-wielding Abe and scream goddess Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays his wife. I'm hesitant toward director Timur Bekmambetov, whose style is like Michael Bay on pyrotechnic steroids, though he “cut his teeth” on vampires with the frenetic Night Watch—Russia's highest grossing film ever.

It's the silly collision of genres, or stitching a historical figure into the realm of fantasy, that irks me. I'm looking at you, Quirk Books, and your highly lucrative fusing of public domain classics with horror/sci-fi tropes. We can thank Grahame-Smith's mashup debut, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for launching this peculiar strain. As DreadCentral reportedP&P&Z is now an interactive iPhone- and iPad-capable eBook. However, its big-screen adaptation is in limbo, with Blake Lively, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman et alpassing on the leading role and three directors abandoning the project. I love me some zombies, but I don't need them interwoven with Austen's classic prose. Do fanboys read this shit?

Which brings me to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the archetypal mashup. What began as a grim indie comic parodying Marvel's Daredevil and preempting the mid-80s animal-based action boom (Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, anyone?), spawned a tubuloso animated series and some far-out feature films. Thing is, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's original comic was drenched in vengeance and solitude, versus the kid-friendly, pizza-eating, wisecracking terrapins who made it mainstream—let alone Vanilla Ice's totally bogus cameo in The Secret of the Ooze. As for producer Michael Bay's remarks that the relaunched Ninja Turtles are aliens, director Jonathan Liebesman tried assuaging fan-fears: “anything we expand will tie right into the mythology, so I think fans will go apeshit when they see it.” Translation: this is a money-making franchise, and we don't dare mess that up.

Too early to predict if the turtles go mano-a-mano with Confederate zombies, but maybe that's best left for the pages? Cowabunga!

Image credit: Nerdbastards