Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vlad the Impaler

When your surname means "son of the dragon" one might expect you not to be a wall flower. Prince Vlad III of Wallachia, a large region of present-day Romania, was famous for two things in his life, fighting Ottomans and inflicting cruel punishments on his enemies. Vlad III became known as the impaler because he had his enemies placed on stakes as a sign of what would happen to those who opposed him. He had tens of thousands of people displayed in this manner, sometimes while they were still alive. It was this brutality and bloodthirstiness that led author Bram Stoker to use Dracula to name his now internationally famous vampire character.

This book details the life of the real monarch in all its bloody and sexy details. It turns out that aside from being a punishing and warmongering ruler, Vlad was quite a ladies man who had a wandering eye. Jacobson and Colón detail his exploits from childhood, with his living in exile but later returning for battle and reclaiming his land. He experienced many ups and downs in his conflicts, losing allies, being exiled, going through wives, and all the while leaving destruction in his wake. The legend of Dracula, even without the vampire trappings, is a pretty rich one.

The creators of this book, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, are both veterans of the comics world who first collaborated long ago on a very different character, Richie Rich. Jacobson is most famous for his long tenure as for Harvey Comics, where he was editor and editor-in-chief for a number of comic books starring Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Colón got his start at Harvey in the 1960s but has worked for every major comic book company since. He can draw in a variety of styles both realistic and cartoonish. More recently, the two worked on a graphic adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report and a biography of Che Guevara.

Reviews for Vlad the Impaler seem consistently good. Ben Boulden called it "a disturbing yet intriguing story." A review at Grovel stated that "it’s an interesting drama-documentary of a cruel and vicious tyrant" though it did linger a bit long on the gory details. Danica Davidson wrote about how Vlad III is definitively painted as a villain and also commented on how gory the book was but also adds that given his real-life misdeeds, it could have been worse.

For those interested in more information about this book, John Hogan conducted a great interview with its creators. If looking into the creative process is more your thing, there is an author blog by Jacobson at that sheds more light on his aims behind the book and the tools he uses to make his work.

The book's publisher, Penguin, does not provide a preview, but one can be found at

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