“She Said Gifts He Said Comics” is located off of Bay Street -- in what’s been dubbed the scenic Old Town area of Florence, Oregon -- in a building where the horror movie star Boris Karloff “lived upstairs.” This “full service” comic store sells such things as “Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery” comic books that were produced by Gold Key comics from 1963-1980. Karloff lived here from the late 1950’s until near his death on February 2, 1969, state local history records. Meanwhile, this comic shop has been put on the map by comic book writer Gail Simone who's telling her readers to "go there."
“I’m told Gail Simone said to go to my comic shop, and they seem to have listened,” quips Ron, the shop owner. Meanwhile, a local homeless man named John – who panhandles nearby -- said “that building where Boris lived has a strange aura, light around it just before dark. I’ve met people who walk Bay Street in the evenings, and some don’t seem to be human to me. I really don’t think they’re human,” asserts John who’s lived in a nearby tent for the past few years.
Also, other more establishment Florence locals note "there's always been something strange about that area off of Bay Street where Karloff lived." While, others point out how art is mirroring real life with Karloff playing "spooks" and then living here and attracting those same "strangers."
Vampires have long shelf life, and so do zombies these days
Ron, who owns the comic book shop that sits below the apartments where Karloff lived almost secretly for nearly two decades – “during the spring and summer months,” say local history records – notes that although vampire have had a long shelf life in terms of comic book sales, “it’s zombie subject matter that’s still very popular with readers today.”
Ron said Gail Simone frequents his shop, as well as many other strangers who are, perhaps, looking for answers to questions about life, death and love.
There's also -- what’s been dubbed as new age philosophical questions -- that are addressed in the new book “Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality.” The book is edited by Rebecca Housel and J. Jeremy Wisnewski, and feature a shout out to Karloff who not only appeared in dozens of classic horror films, but 45 silent films for Universal Studios in Hollywood where he acted as both a vampire and zombie.
With Bela Lugosi as his friend, Karloff went on to break the mold for the horror genre, but he’s best known as the voice to the 1965 cartoon version of 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas, states Bio. Website.
Undead wisdom comes from “understanding” vampires and zombies
“Freud once claimed that love and death mark the driving forces of human existence. Having fallen in love with the undead of the Twilight films (*shot nearby in the woods and forests east of Portland, Oregon) -- the editors of “Twilight and Philosophy” – note that “we might well say the same thing about love and this Twilight vampire tale.”
In brief, the editors say the Twilight books “confront love and dead, and so much more, in a way that facilitates a strange recognition – that the dead (*such as ol’ Karloff) are indeed wise, and that they are sometimes wise in matters of the heart, and even when that heart doesn’t beat.”
The book’s editors also write that “the strange beauty of Twilight lies here as elsewhere: we all are faced with death, and we all desire to love. These two facts – one deeply unpleasant, the other quite pleasant – are evident in Twilight.”
Vampires draw readers due to their interest in death, say experts
As for the draw for readers of vampires and zombie books and films – that also feature the favorite werewolves that Karloff pioneered and introduced in both film and his series of weird mystery comics – the Twilight and Philosophy editors write that “death is everywhere,” and those who are interested in vampire and zombie tales are “seekers” looking for answers about their life on Earth, and what it will mean once they die.
Life and Death. "It is between any two syllables, waiting to choke the final breath out of you. It is a force like no other: inescapable, ineffable, and absolute – at least for mere mortals. Death captivates. It haunts. The thought that somehow death might not master us enchants the mind until we find ourselves drawn again and again to the hope that we might escape our fate – by being made immortal vampires, or finding an afterlife, or through a scientific ‘cure’ for death. There is little as powerful as the thought of death, and probably little that motivates us in the way that our mortality does.”
Except perhaps love.
The existentialist philosopher Albert Camus – who was a personal friend of Karloff’s – once claimed that the only real philosophical question was whether or not to kill yourself in the face of an absurd world, states the editors of Twilight and Philosophy, in an attempt to get their heads around the thousands of books (both comics and graphic novels) around the subject of vampires and zombies.
Meanwhile, the editors assert that “the Twilight saga,” and others like it, “are full of love and death.”
Also, the Bio. Web site points to death as a major theme for Karloff who ended his career by appearing in four low-budget Mexican horror films about death, vampires and zombies: “The Snake People, The Incredible Invasion, The Fear Chamber, and House of Evil. This was a package deal with Mexican producer Luis Vergara. Karloff's scenes were directed by Jack Hill and shot back to back in Los Angeles in the spring of 1968. The films were then completed in Mexico. All four were released posthumously, with the last, The Incredible Invasion, not released until 1971, two years after Karloff's death. Cauldron of Blood, shot in Spain in 1967 and starring Karloff and Viveca Lindfors, was also released after Karloff's death.”
True Blood is a TV series that also haunts us with vampires
A recent review by NPR’s David Bianculli points to why the HBO True Blood Season 3 – that’s now out on DVD – is a good place to research today’s new interest in vampires and what they truly represent to humans.
“Season 3 of True Blood on DVD features 12 episodes that brings us up to speed on Sookie Stackhouse, the psychic southern waitress; on Bill Compton and Eric Northman, the two vampires who are in love with her; and on all the other far-from-normal residents of and around their bayou town. And in a few weeks, on June 26, HBO launches Season 4 of True Blood, which doubles down on its paranormal plot lines,” Bianculli explains.
“At the end of Season 3, Sookie, played by Anna Paquin, had felt used and betrayed by both of her vampire lovers, and discovered that her own psychic gifts; as well as some more recently discovered powers; were due to a formerly unknown lineage. She's part human and, as it turns out, part fairy. Her loyal vampire boyfriend, Bill Compton, doesn't love her any less; but another vampire, Russell, the sinister vampire king of Mississippi, warns Sookie that there might be a reason for that. Russell explains this as Sookie has him chained and captured; and just after he's almost burned to death from exposure to the sun,” he said.
Bianculli also notes how both True Blood and the Twilight movie series began in 2008, and both have invested heavily in werewolves as well as vampires. But in this new decade of television, vampires are in danger of being overrun.
Last year on AMC, for example, “a zombie series based on a graphic novel, The Walking Dead, came out of nowhere and set viewership records for that network with almost three times the audience for the same network's Mad Men. This week, MTV presents a new series based on an old Michael J. Fox movie, Teen Wolf. And this fall, the CW network; which already has injected werewolves into its series The Vampire Diaries also hedges its bets by presenting a new series, Secret Circle, that's about a coven of young witches.”
“My bet, though, is that vampires; more than werewolves, zombies or witches that will prove to be the most durable media monsters of all. It's been almost 90 years since the first memorable movie vampire, Nosferatu, hit the big screen; and exactly 80 years since Bela Lugosi played Dracula, and his close friend Boris Karloff joined him as Frankenstein.”
Image source of Boris Karloff who played Frankenstein's monster in two other films, “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and “Son of Frankenstein” (1939): Wikipedia