Andrews McMeel | Tapas
(w/a) Sarah Andersen
As we all know, 2020 sucks. Therefore, it’s appropriate to kick off this year’s Comictober with a vampire comic. While this has typically been an opportunity to spotlight horror books, we all could use a little pick me up. Blending classic monster tropes with modern slice-of-life sensibilities, Fangs from cartoonist Sarah Andersen delights readers from cover to cover – that is for those that have picked up the recent hardcover of the webcomic. The rivalry between vampires and werewolves is well-trodden territory, as is the forbidden love between them. From Underworld to Twilight to What We Do in the Shadows, these two classic monsters have taken the term “love-hate relationship” to extremes. But what if instead of dealing with centuries of legendary hostility, they are just like anyone else – people with different backgrounds looking to find love in the world? That’s what Fangs is all about.
Elsie and Jimmy are just a couple of normal 20-somethings, only Elsie has a severe garlic allergy and Jimmy is always in serious need of a haircut when a full moon rolls around. Chronicling their relationship from meet-cute to happily-ever-after, Fangs isn’t necessarily a narrative as it is a series of snapshots strung together, such is the nature of webcomics. Its strength comes from Andersen’s well rounded and engaging protagonists, as well as her blend of modern and macabre humor. Within the same short sequence, Fangs is able to make readers laugh out loud and feel equally disgusted with themselves.
Take for example Episode #64, in which Jimmy asks Elsie about them having a baby.
This sequence begins as fairly normal conversation for serious couples. At a certain stage of a relationship, the topic of children is bound to come up. Elsie’s expression to Jimmy’s question is one of surprise at the seemingly heavy question. However, her response of “For dinner?” immediately undercuts the tension, as does Jimmy’s smirk. As there is no follow-up to this, readers are left to interpret the meaning of this. Is this a genuine question, or is it deflection? Jimmy’s smirk certainly doesn’t provide any clues, as it could be seen as an affirmation – that he’s hungry too – or amusement in her surprise. Both interpretations seem valid, but Fangs has enabled readers to lean comfortably into the darker, twisted interpretation of the sequence.
The whole series is full of moments like this. Some are as simple as Elsie applying makeup, but because vampires don’t have a reflection it’s just a pair of lips – actually, just the lipstick – appearing in the mirror. While an entertaining visual gag, it does call into question one of the core myths surrounding vampires. How does that “no reflection” thing work? Is it just the vampire, or does it extend to anything they’re wearing? In Fangs, Andersen makes the decision that it is firmly the former, and the comic is better for it. She does similar lampooning of the werewolf mythology, leaning into the natural lineage between wolves and dogs, giving readers an “in” for her take.
Regardless of Andersen’s interpretation of classic monster lore, Fangs is not a frightful experience, being comprised mostly of moments like this:
This moment is an amped-up version of a fairly universal experience. Ever experience the pain of being in the dark and having a bright light shone in your eyes, or have trouble adjusting to daylight when first waking up? That’s pretty what Elsie experiences when Jimmy eagerly opens the blinds to a beautiful, sunny day while she’s still asleep. The problem is, as a vampire, she’s susceptible to a very severe case of sunburn – which is exactly what happens. Her facial expression, combined with Jimmy’s off-panel exclamation of apology, is the hilarious coup de grace.
Fangs will not induce nightmares. It will not cause you to sleep with the lights on. It will not have you look under the bed, check the closet, or peer nervously around windows. What it will do is lift your spirits – something much needed this year – and it’s a great way to kick off your Halloween reading.