VARNEY THE VAMPIRE

Real Name: Mr. Mortimer (first name unrevealed)

Identity/Class: Vampire (17th-18th century);
    citizen of England

Occupation: Kidnapper, conman, former insurrectionist, cavalier

Affiliations: Vampires

Enemies: Bannerworth family, Oliver Cromwell

Known Relatives: Unidentified son (deceased)

Aliases: Sir Francis Varney, possibly Marmaduke Runnergate Bannerworth

Base of Operations: England;
    born in London, England

First Appearance: (Historical) Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, (1847);
    (Marvel) Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme#15 (March 1990)

Powers/Abilities: Varney presumably possessed the usual powers of a vampire: superhuman strength (lifting 1 ton), enhanced speed, resistance to conventional injury (his limitations/weaknesses may not have been typical for standard Varnaean vampires), mesmerization via catching a victim's glance, limited shape-shifting powers, control of vermin and wolves. He seemed to be revived by moonlight, as well as being able to withstand sunlight (though it still harmed him somewhat), and not needing blood as frequently as other vampires.

    Varnae was learned in unspecified studies, and had some combat training.

 

History:
(Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood / Vampires: The Marvel Undead: Varney entry) - Varney the Vampire, in life, went under the name Mister Mortimer. In the early 17th century, Mortimer lived in London and supported the royalty when Charles I was executed by Oliver Cromwell. In 1649, for profit, he assisted the royalty in escaping to Holland but ultimately betrayed them. In a heated moment, Mortimer lethally struck his son, accidentally killing the boy. Suddenly, Mortimer experienced a flash of light and was thrown to the ground by a great force (shot by Cromwell's men).

    In his next moment of consciousness, two years later, Mortimer found himself lying beside a recently opened grave. A voice informed him that he would be cursed for his crime against his son by becoming undead, under the name Varney the Vampire. This name was given to Mortimer as it also served as the name for the first vampire, Varnae, who had been created in pre-Cataclysmic Atlantis and died in 1459 A.D. Mortimer was further informed that he had been shot by Cromwell’s men and had lain in his grave for two years before returning as a vampire.

    Finding his home burned down, Varney recovered the money he had stashed away and used it to create a new life as Sir Francis Varney.

    Varney spent decades tending to his vampiric needs.

    In the early 19th century, Varney, filled with self-loathing about his undead existence, came into conflict with the Bannerworth family. He attacked Flora Bannerworth, who was saved by her family. Some of the Bannerworths realized the vampire resembled long-deceased Marmaduke Bannerworth, an ancestor who committed suicide in 1640 and whose grave was discovered to be empty. After a subsequent attack on Flora, who shot Varney, the vampire tried to buy the Bannerworth house. Unsuccessful, he continued his attacks on the family and others. Weary and repentant of his monstrous life, Varney eventually traveled to Naples, Italy, and -- after leaving a written confession of his identity with a priest -- threw himself into Mt. Vesuvius, which destroyed him.

    Decades later, Varney's exploits were adapted into the form of "penny dreadful" serial tales disguised as fiction.

(Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme#15/2): Varney's past was recounted as part of the Book of Vishanti's history of vampires.

(Blade III#12) -  A prophecy was fulfilled that brought back all vampires that ever died. This most likely included Varney as well, though if he re-formed within the volcano, he would likely have been destroyed again.

 

 

 

 

Comments: Created by James Malcolm Rymer, adapted by Roy Thomas, Jean-Marc Lofficier, and David and Dan Day.

Varney the Vampire in English Literature

    In order to pad out Varney’s history, it was necessary to refer to the events of the novel Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, as one panel in a Doctor Strange back-up only gives so much information. I should note that I have not read the novel (the first English language vampire story of novel length) as finding it seems difficult, and at 109 weekly installments and tipping in at over 800 pages [three quarter of a million words], it presents a daunting amount of reading. Secondary sources were employed to fill in the information about the novel’s plot points.

    Varney the Vampire was also categorized as one of the "penny dreadfuls" for a reason; it was an affordable, common, lackluster, and difficult read not only according to today's standards but at the time it was published, as well--I haven't, nor will I probably, ever read it--Kyle

    Besides [this], it should be noted that the original Varney is considered a work of historical importance in the genre, but not one of the better works. Varney was depicted constantly about to kill someone but getting shushed away, not presenting a picture of a very competent vampire (think of the cinematic, detective Pink Panther meets Dracula [if you've never heard of either one then shame on you!]--Kyle). The book has a strange history, in that many writers would have some knowledge of it and would make some reference to it, but copies of the novel are, as noted, very hard to find. Some copies were published in the 1970’s, but even they did not stay in print long. Interestingly, in the 1940’s Shadow novel The Vampire Murders, not only did Maxwell Grant make a reference to Varney the Vampire, but that Shadow novel also included extracts from Varney-- a considerable feat considering that by the 1940’s, few copies of Varney were to be found.

    You could always read the novel online, at this site. -Prime Ed-ternal

    Varney’s transformation into a vampire seems curious, as he was shot by Cromwell’s men, not bitten by a vampire, and he did not return as an undead for two years, compared to the typical three days in Marvel lore. Stories have shown people who died by non-supernatural (e.g. normal/natural) means being later turned into vampires (for example, Victor Strange/Baron Blood). I presume that someone sufficiently angered by Mortimer’s killing of his son had the resources (perhaps a copy of the Darkhold?) to recite a spell over his grave and return him as a vampire. Also, Varney’s not needing blood as frequently as other vampires and his ability to withstand sunlight reminds me of how Lilith got turned into a vampire without such structures on her vampiric existence (leaving out the issue that Lilith never actually died) and how the Darkholders managed to eradicate some of Dracula’s vampiric weaknesses. As to why the person performing the spell would have acted so generously in Mortimer’s case, I do not know.
    --Reviewing the vampire stories over the several decades of Marvel Comics, as well as references from stories from the last few centuries, it seems the specific traits of vampires that were pinned down in the 1980s Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe represents the Varnaean vampires...those transformed by Varnae or other vampires transformed by his victims, or their victims, etc. In more recent, a number of other types of vampires have been revealed...and mystical or other circumstances have allowed a number of vampires to circumvent standard vampire limitations/weaknesses.
--Snood

In response to this, Cary states:

    He could have been made a vampire through the sorcery of Morgan Le Fay!   Though her corporeal body was still imprisoned by Merlin's spell, during the seventeenth century, she could still astral-project.  And, the politico-religious turmoil of that time might have seemed, to her, the perfect opportunity to usurp the rule of England for herself, via a figurehead.  So, she used her knowledge of the Darkhold's magicks to vampirize the metaphorically bloodthirsty Mortimer.    
Yours truly:  Carycomic@aol.com   
P.S.---Wouldn't it have been interesting if Marvel had done a pastiche where Mortimer/Varney encountered Solomon Kane?

    Kane probably predates Varney by a century, but that does sound like a fun story--Kyle 

    Incidentally, it has come to my attention that, in the novel, there is another vampire who seeks to find Varney to admonish him that his adventures are creating too much publicity for vampires. One can extrapolate that, in the Marvel Universe, that vampire could have been Dracula.  

    Which is quite similar to Ann Rice's novel (if not a complete knock-off of Varney, it was later adapted into a horrible [as opposed to a horror] movie) Queen of the Damned.--Kyle

    Varney the Vampire was published in 1847, but was set in the previous century. According to A Natural History of Unnatural Things by David Cohen, it turns out that Thomas Preskett Prest claimed that true events had inspired Varney the Vampire, and he further claimed that those true events took place in 1730. Interestingly, the word vampire did not enter the English language until 1734, and did not get used commonly until much later. (Prest also claimed that another of his creations, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, got based on true events, in fact Sweeney Todd was a strictly fictional creation of Prest's.)

    Actually, Varney the Vampire is now generally ascribed to James Malcolm Rymer as established in, among other sources, Dracula: The Definitive Edition (1996).--Kyle

    As regards Varnae [the first vampire of the Marvel Universe, whom I refer to as the "King of the Damned"--Kyle], he was introduced in Bizarre Adventures#33 (December 1982). A member of the cult of the Darkholders in Atlantis, Varnae had a fatal illness around the same time when the spell for the creation of vampires was discovered. Varnae allowed himself to become the first vampire but joined with the other vampires created by the Darkholders in rebellion against the them. Varnae acted as leader of Earth’s vampires for close to 20,000 years, until, bored, he decided that Vlad Tepes (Dracula) should become the next Lord of the Vampires. Designating a pawn called Nimrod as interim vampire lord to test how Tepes would fare against him, Varnae felt ecstatic when Vlad Tepes defeated him. (Nimrod was introduced in the 1970’s as the Lord of the Vampires before Vlad Dracula in Dracula Lives!#2; his having served as a pawn of Varnae was not revealed until Bizarre Adventures#33.)  Forcing the victorious Dracula to drink his blood, Varnae imparted much of his power to the new Lord of the Vampires. Varnae then willingly destroyed himself by exposure to sunlight.

    Varnae has since been returned to undead existence. Flashback stories have shown him having encountered Kaluu, master of the dark magic arts, in Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme#12 and Thor in Marvel Comics Presents#63 in the past. Obviously, Varnae’s name served as an homage to Varney the Vampire, Earth-616’s first vampire named after the first English language vampire story of novel length. In any event, Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme#15, second story, revealed that Earth-616’s Mortimer’s name as Varney the Vampire served as "a corruption of the name of the first of its kind." (Actually, it seems to me that Varnae rings as a much more evocative name than Varney; after all, one cannot help but think of Jim Varney [Ernest from the American Hey Vern, It's Ern(est) skits] when one hears the latter name.)  Varnae was resurrected in Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme#18 and has since appeared in Nightstalkers#17-18, Ghost Rider and Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #19, and Blade the Vampire Hunter#4-5 (Varnae is behind the scenes [BTS] in#4).

    Now that Ruthven and Varney have been established as existing on Earth-616, I keep waiting for Mircalla, Countess Karnstein to show up. Some of you may know her better by her aliases, Millarca and Carmilla. She was a young aristocrat who got turned into a vampire due to being killed by a vampire who was a person who had committed suicide. (In folklore, suicides under certain circumstances become vampires.)  Mircalla appeared in the short story Carmilla by J. S[heridan] Le Fanu, collected in the anthology In a Glass Darkly in 1872. As The Vampyre by John Polidori is considered an okay story, and Varney the Vampire, or The Feast of Blood is considered to be too drawn out and repetitive to be a classic [while The Vampyre is typically described as the first modern vampire tale, depicted as being about the author's lover and tormentor Lord Byron by many critics, plus it was part of the infamous dare that eventually produced Marry Shelly's Frankenstein --Kyle], "Carmilla" [ha]s [also been] generally considered the fist classic English language vampire story. Hence, Mircalla’s inclusion in the history of Earth-616’s vampires seems appropriate.

Oliver Cromwell

    As to Oliver Cromwell; this English Calvinist rebel opposed Charles I of England, leading a successful army called the Roundheads against the Cavaliers (king’s supporters). The rebellion had to do with a desire to limit the king’s power, who had tried to rule as an absolute monarch, without any say on the part of Parliament, and to reform religion in England to exclude those elements that had too many overtones of Roman Catholicism.

    The death of Charles I took place in 1649, and for the first -- and last -- time since the creation of England by the Odinist Angles, Saxons, and Judes around the year 600, England became a Republic with Cromwell as "Lord Protector." Cromwell was considered a moderate, as his internal religious purges were limited to killing Unitarians, atheists, Roman Catholics, and High Anglicans (Anglicans who retained elements of Roman Catholicism rejected by John Calvin), but not other Calvinists or the alleged Jess (Cromwell allowed the alleged Jews to return to England).

    Cromwell received much disdain in Ireland and Scotland, which he had to subdue by force (The Scottish did hold Calvinist Presbyterian beliefs but objected to Cromwell’s killing of Charles I, who also held the crown of Scotland as a Stuart king--the crowns got held separately by the same person). Cromwell managed to take Jamaica from Spain, whom he hated anyway for holding Roman Catholic beliefs. For economic reasons, Cromwell waged war against the Dutch, although they held Calvinist Presbyterian beliefs, starting around 1652.

    Cromwell, running into a desperate situation due to his dwindling lack of support due to divisive conditions, gradually became more of a dictator, breaking up parliaments, ruling more alone -- ironically mirroring the absolute monarchy he had opposed earlier. Cromwell died in 1658. His son did not have the skill to maintain the republic, and, so in 1660, the restoration of the monarchy took place.

    Although Cromwell did not live up to his initial intentions, his actions did end up moderating the ambitions of England’s kings, so he inadvertently contributed somewhat to democracy. Cromwell was posthumously beheaded in 1660, his head placed on a spike on Westminster Hall for twenty years. After that, his head ended up in a small museum in the late 1700’s, got purchased for 230 pounds in 1814 by one Josiah Henry Wilkinson, who used it as a gimmick at his parties. By the 1960’s, Cromwell’s head was buried in a chapel in Cambridge, near where a plaque reads: "Near to this place was buried on 25 March, 1960, the head of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Fellow Commoner of this College 1616-1617."

    Someone--I forget who--asked if Varney could turn into a bat. Here's an argument for, and one against, and one just mocking:
Varney probably could not turn into a bat, since it seems Bram Stoker came up with the idea of vampires turning into a bat in 1897. IN AUTHENTIC FOLKLORE, VAMPIRES NEVER TURNED INTO BATS.
--John McDonagh.
"Authentic folklore"? Isn't that an oxymoron? :-)
--Prime Eternal
    Actually vampires were shapeshifters within various folktales; they could turn into many things, including bats--although this was not a prominent transformation at the time. In the mid 1800's, with Western science literally spreading around the globe, the vampire bat was "discovered" in South America, and named after the revenants of folk legend. As word of this creature spread in Europe, the mythos of vampires turning into bats was definitively established. Stoker incorporated the bat motif but I'm not sure if he came up w/ it himself or if somebody else did but he got the credit for it given the book's enduring popularity.
--Kyle Smith

    In Blade III#12 a prophecy was fulfilled that brought back all vampires that ever died. This most likely included Varney as well, but his previous whereabouts (Mt. Vesuvius) are still not a good place to resurface.
--Markus Raymond

by John McDonagh

Updated/edited by Kyle Sims, and again by Snood

Clarifications: Varney should not be confused with:


Appearances:
Dr. Strange III#15 (March, 1990) - Roy Thomas, Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier (writers), David & Dan Day (artists), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Vampires: The Marvel Undead (December, 2011) - Jeff Christiansen, Mike O'Sullivan, Stuart Vandal (head writers), Steven Kurth (art), Jeff Youngquist (editor)


Last updated: 03/24/14

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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