“Tomb of Blood!”
Captain America #253/254
Script: Roger Stern
Art: John Byrne and Joe Rubinstein
Marvel Comics, 1981
by Chris Sims
With this week’s release of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter—wherein the palest woman I have ever seen battles the psychic advances of a group of wispy, longhaired undead male strippers—Marvel has once again proven that there’s no Halloween monster with quite as much gay subtext as those particular bloodsucking fiends.
Not that this should come as any sort of surprise. But what may be of interest—if you plan on reading the rest of this column, anyway—is that sometimes, the subtext comes not from the guy who fights the vampire.
And that’s what brings us to Captain America #253.
As you might expect, the whole thing starts off with the discovery of a grisly murder outside of North London by a cop who lives in a world where a giant man in a purple skirt came down from space to try and eat the world, and yet has no idea what a dead body drained of blood means. Go figure. Anyway, it’s not the first one either, so when the local royalty gets wind of it, they decide to take action and send a telegram to Captain America, who takes time out from his busy schedule of helping out immigrant shopkeepers to head across the pond to check in with an old friend.
See, as it turns out, the local lord is none other than Brian Falsworth, who served in World War II with the Invaders as Union Jack, and in an ironic twist that could only come from Roy Thomas, his brother John is an extremely powerful Nazi vampire called Baron Blood, and that’s the kind of thing that makes family reunions just a little bit awkward.
Despite his family’s protests that he’s just a paranoid old man, Lord Falsworth suspects that the murders are Baron Blood’s doing, although there is the minor problem of Baron Blood getting staked through the heart and sealed up in a coffin in the Tower of London for the past forty years. Fortunately, Captain America actually bothers to check on this little factoid, and after revealing that the Tower’s actually playing host to a transvestite skeleton, he rolls back over to Falsworth Manor just in time for the first appearance of Joey Chapman.
Lord Falsworth shares his home with his daughter, whose own son has returned from college in the company of another young man, prompting her to deliver a piece of dialogue that makes Anne Rice’s homoerotic subtext look like the height of subtlety:
"If you were going to bring your... your friend home for the holidays, you might’ve at least given me some warning! "
Kenneth then asserts that Jackie—who also used to be in the Invaders as Spitfire back when she had powers—doesn’t like him "palling around" with Joey because he’s a commoner.
Yeah, sure, let’s go with that. But first, let’s find out a little bit more about the lad in question!
Wow. Go ahead and read that again, and I’ll meet you down at the next paragraph.
Still with me? Good. Let’s go through that one more time together: Joey is Kenneth’s "friend" from the wrestling team at their art school. So many questions... I mean, do art schools really even have wrestling teams?
I mean, really, I can’t even write a joke about it: That is the bare minimum of subtlety required by the Comics Code of America, and even then you’ve got Joey asking Cap if he wants to wrestle. It’s inscrutable!
And it gets even more so in the next issue, when Cap suspects Joey of actually being Baron Blood, and Kenneth defends him by assuring Cap that he’s just a heavy sleeper. Admittedly, that’s a stretch even for me where the innuendo’s concerned, but I can’t imagine that Joey’s sleeping habits came up a lot on the wrestling team. At art school.
Regardless, it actually turns out that Baron Blood’s been masquerading as the town doctor for several months and feeding off of a few "anemic" patients—including, apparently, a girl that Kenneth’s supposed to get married to—and in order to bait the Baron into an all-out fight to the finish, Joey volunteers to become the third Union Jack and helps Cap destroy him once and for all.
After that, he goes on to shock the hell out of pretty much everybody by dating his best friend’s mom—settle down, it’s after she gets rejuvenated—and once again proves that the art school wrestling team is nothing if not a time for experimentation.
Chris Sims is a freelance comedy writer who reads far too many comic books and wields the English language like a cudgel. Evidence of both of these traits can be found daily at his website, Chris's Invincible Super-Blog.
All images and characters TM and © 1981 Marvel Comics. Review © 2006 Chris Sims
Prism Comics promotes the works of the LGBT community in comics. It does not implicitly endorse any other material or products associated with those works. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s).