That’s how a newcomer to the Cat-Tales forum signed the guestbook in February of 2008. The phrase had no significance at the time, but I was soon to discover this man who went by the screenname Wanders Nowhere was a writer, and the greeting was as much of a signature as if I had signed “Meow.” Wanders has a passion for Dracula equal to my own for Catwoman, and like me, he was actively exploring the new digital media for ways to express his ideas and vision. He is a fantastically talented builder in the virtual world called Second Life, and he had created a Castle Dracula there, complete with Gypsy encampment, haunted woods and peasant village below.
There was a phrase I picked up working with a gallery that dealt in exactly the kind of folk art they made in Dracula’s part of the world: “Somebody loved this.” I remember looking at a selection of religious icons, Ukrainian Easter eggs, and marquetry boxes, the sorts of things that would have been common in the peasant homes of that quaint village at the bottom of his mountain. It was clear that this was a cottage industry in a place that needed some sort of economy after the Soviet collapse. Most of the stuff was pretty, well-made but… well, churned out. It was a job to whoever made it. But now and then you came across a piece—I still remember this one icon carved in bark, a Madonna and Child… That was not made by somebody doing a job for money, that was the work of art made by an artist. Whoever made that piece loved that piece. And the love showed. What I saw of that Castle Dracula build in Second Life was the same: the love showed. I was looking at the work of an artist, and I wanted to learn more.
“Tell me, my dear, what do I mean to you?”
—Dracula, Cat-Tales: Capes and Bats
I got the chance sooner than I would have expected, because Wanders had read and enjoyed Cat-Tales.
I blush to say that he enjoyed it so much, he was writing a suspense novel—a Dracula novel, in fact—set in the Cat-Tales storyverse. We began a wonderful journey together through the history of Vlad Tepes, Prince of Wallachia, aka The Impaler, aka The Son of One who had received The Order of the Dragon, aka Dracula.
Now, I knew a little about the historical Dracula, but amazingly, I had never considered Vlad III, Voivode of Wallachia being confronted with the modern era’s view of Dracula. That’s amazing because Cat-Tales is very much about people who have invented themselves: Batman is the creation of Bruce Wayne, Catwoman is the creation of Selina Kyle, we all get that. What Cat-Tales goes on to explore is the conflict between those invented identities and how the personas come to be perceived by the public, how they’re distorted by the media and by pop culture. How the “facts” are cherry-picked to serve a particular era’s agenda, and what those differing versions of Batman or Catwoman say, not about the characters themselves, but about the people doing the reinventing.
Dracula’s been through a lot. From Stoker’s novel through Legosi, Lee and Langella, through the conflicted vamps of Anne Rice and Buffy to the final, shimmering indignity of Twilight where the word “vampire” has apparently come to mean “cool boyfriend” rather than “blood sucker.” How would a 15th Century Vlad Tepes who actually was nosferatu and was therefore still here to see it possibly begin make sense of it?
I found out in the climatic chapter of Capes and Bats: Dance of Illusions.
I could tell I was getting to him. That feather lead at the small of my back got just a touch firmer, but only on the turns. And I was timing my words for the turns, playing off the music.
—Selina Kyle, Cat-Tales: Capes and Bats
The dance is between Dracula and Selina Kyle, the Dracula that Wanders Nowhere has studied and thought through as vigorously as I have Catwoman. Cat-Tales began when that Selina punched back. A tabloid went too far for too long, distorting who and what Catwoman was, and the woman who invented that persona simply had enough. Putting that Selina together with that Dracula in tango of wills and ideas is simply one of the most astonishing and insightful sequences that has ever taken place in Gotham. (And it’s pretty damn monumental by Transylvania standards as well.) The fact that it falls in the middle of a whopping good Batman versus Dracula tale is icing on the cake… or, well, “cognac in the corpuscles” as the case may be.
Look, these people had two sets of stairs coming up to their front doors: one side for the women and one for the men, so the guys couldn’t—God forbid—get a glimpse of ankle. I’m sure to them ‘tooth penetrates flesh’ was a very big deal. But now, today, it’s just not… it’s not sexual. It’s annoying.
—Selina Kyle, Cat-Tales: Capes and Bats
I have been honored and humbled by the writers and artists who have discovered Cat-Tales and wanted to play in its sandbox, but I don’t think any other collaboration has struck the incredible chord of Capes and Bats or that scene in Dance of Illusions. Precisely because Wanders does have that extraordinary and impassioned link with his Dracula as I do with my Selina, it gave me a taste of something few writers experience. Because I wasn’t writing this story or controlling any aspect of what happened, merely contributing my take on Selina’s thoughts, words and actions. With the result that I was able to live as that character in a way that is very rare indeed, and in doing so, I danced with Dracula in a sense that, in all probability, no one else ever has.
Wanders, for that I thank you.
Now, about this mild anemia I seem to have developed…