Notes to "Deadfellas"
(the Top Ten story in the America's Best Comics 64 Page Giant)

by Ronald Byrd

Revised 24 March 2002

(Note from Jess Nevins: I had planned on writing the following, but mi amigo Ronald Byrd beat me to it, and so rather than duplicate his efforts I thought I'd reprint them here, with his permission.)

Updates in blue.

Page 23

Panel 1. I suppose the fact that Mnemonic Nicky's computer (which she doesn't need, being able to remember everything) has no screen and is not connected to a keyboard is meant to be humorous, but, really, why would she have such a thing?  Ditto the sticky notes with no writing on it.  It just doesn't seem to be of any real purpose to clutter up a law office with equipment the employee has no use for.  Oh well.

The circuitry designs on Nicky's head and neck presumably mean something, but I'm not sure what.  Some cyberpunk motif, perhaps.

Camrock, responding to the preceding, says that "they're the standard cassette/video/digital audio transport symbols (play, record, cue etc)."

Panel 2. The law firm of Metavac, Fischmann, and Goebbels has been mentioned before in Top Ten.

Panel 3. Notice that Nicky mentions having children, and in panel 1 we saw she was wearing a wedding ring.  Consistency's always nice.  The context of the story is that most of it consists of Nicky's testimony to the Top Ten officers; "Cowboy," the police officer who makes the politically incorrect remarks, is presumably Dust Devil.

There's a giant floating cuckoo clock or something outside the window.

That's Frenzy Fischmann, first seen in Top Ten #1, walking past Nicky's desk.  As a humanoid shark who is presumably not unfamiliar with the concept of bloodlust, his interaction with vampires nevertheless goes unseen.

Panel 4. Denzil Metavac has been referred to before in #4; despite having been called "that brain-on-a-drinks-trolley guy," his "vehicle" here resembles some odd backward version of a tricycle.  Perhaps he uses different "vehicles" on different days.  The name "Metavac" sounds like an old 1950s super-computer, so why it's applied to a disembodied brain is unclear, as is (to me, at least) the relevance of the name "Denzil" (The only time I can recall hearing a similar name is in reference to actor Denzel Washington; is this supposed to indicate that Metavac is the disembodied brain of an African-American?).

"Daigoro" says "You almost nailed it, as far as I can tell, for Multivac is the name given by Isaac Asimov to an all-knowing, world-ruling, vacuum-tube based (-¡- hence vac) supercomputer appearing in a handful of his short stories."

Panel 5. Metavac's description of his clients' needs ("hereditary skin condition") sounds like the rationalization of someone who doesn't believe in vampires.  Since everyone else in the story seems to take the existence of vampires as for granted as, say, talking dogs or intangible lesbians, this seems odd. Justin Mohareb says, of the "hereditary skin condition" comment, that "I assumed it was one of two things: either he's just being polite (perhaps mentioning vampirism is a bit of a faux pas), or it's meant to echo the referral of mobsters as 'legitimate businessmen.'"

Page 24

Title. Loki Carbis notes that the title of the story, "Deadfellas," "is a play on "Goodfellas", a common term used to refer to mafioso, popularised by Martin Scorsese's 1990 movie of the same name."

Panel 1.   This is our first look at the third member of the law firm, Edward Goebbels.  As we'll see, he has a hypnotic power, explaining the mesmeric quality of his suit (possibly a reference to German expressionist films of the 1920s); notice that his suit takes on a variety of hypnotic patterns throughout the story, patterns which remain consistent regardless of how his body is in motion.  Giving a mesmerist the surname of Hermann Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda for Nazi Germany, strikes me as a tad tasteless.

The young vampire, subsequently identified as Alexandru Irinescu, is clad in a red shirt and leather jacket, much like the vampire Vinnie Stoker from the one-season Saturday morning cartoon "Gravedale High."  However, this series was so obscure that I doubt the parallel was intentional.

Notice that, on Earth-Ten, vampires are purple, as opposed to more traditional tones of white or green.

Bill Fields adds that "Irinescu would seem to be a play on Ceausescu (chy-shes-koo), the family that ruled Romania with an iron fist until the late 80's/early 90's."

"Daigoro" says,

Irinescu doesn´t necessarily resemble Ceaucescu: the suffix -escu is as common among hungarians as, say, -ez among spaniards (Gómez, González, Rodriguez...), -ov among russians (Popov, Gorbachov, Volkov), and so on. The fact that Moore chose to make his vampires Hungarian-Americans has a lot to do, I think, with the fact that the most famous vampire impersonator of all times, Bela Lugosi, was Hungarian himself, thus establishing the mental association easily.
Panel 2.  The reference by "Roy Rogers" (Dust Devil again) to the Cosa Nofesferatu is a pun on "Cosa Nostra" (a common expression for organized crime, translated from the Italian I think it roughly means "this thing of ours," exemplifying a tendency among gangsters to decline acknowledging to themselves the precise nature of their business).  "Nosferatu" is an old European word for "vampire" popularized by the German film of the same name.

Ian Gould says, "Just realised that there's a pun (of sorts) in the fact that this organised crime story takes place in "Neopolis" seeing as Neopolis was the original name of Naples, a city known for its mafia connections."

Although vampires are traditionally thought of as hailing from Transylvania (a region of Romania), the vampires here are clearly said to be "Hungarian-Americans"; however, Hungary does in fact border Romania, so that's close enough. Ian Gould says, "Transylvania is currently part of Romania (and has been since 1918) but historically was Hungarian and the population is predominantly Hungarian. Transylvanian was not part of Dracula's principality of Wallachia and the assocation of Dracula and Transylvania is preobably due to an error on the part of Bram Stoker."

Page 25

Panel 1.  The meaning of the Hungarian names is beyond me, but "Little Greg" Irinescu is clearly a version of the muppet Count Von Count, or "the Count," from the popular children's show "Sesame Street"; the Count is a purple-skinned vampire with pronounced nose and ears, just like Little Greg, and the purple skin of the vampires was probably decided upon solely on this basis.

Bela Woytek's first name is, of course, a tribute to Bela Lugosi (born "Bela Blasko" and a native of Hungary), whose most famous screen role is none other than Dracula; "Thickshake" presumably refers to the fact that coagulated blood is far less liquid than one might assume and is thus more difficult to drink.

BTW, "irregardless" is not actually a recognized word; Nicky's use of it is probably meant to indicate that although she works in the legal
profession, she is also more "down to earth" than some people tend to regard lawyers as being. (Ian Gould notes that "irregardless" is a valid word in British and Australian English.)

Panel 2.   As seen throughout the story, Woytek's appearance is more bestial than that of Alexandru and Little Greg; vampires have varied widely in appearance throughout their countless incarnations in film, television, and elsewhere, including, of course, comic books, but in actual folklore vampires are frequently depicted as animalistic monsters, quite remote from the suave image introduced by Bela Lugosi.

Alexandru is wearing a Batman wristwatch.

The word "Morgia" is presumably a pun on the words "morgue" and "Mafia." "Medical waste" would include blood and is a good business for vampires to be in. Bill Fields adds that it's also "a reference to the Borgias, the 'first' Italian crime family."

Panel 3.  Nicky's compact mirror reflects the three vampires' clothing, but not their visible body parts; vampires, of course, traditionally cast no reflections in mirrors, but whether or not their clothing does depends upon the whim of the writer, director, etc. in question.  The name "Popov" may be a play on "pop off," as in "pop these b#stards off," i.e. kill them.

Alexandru's derogatory term for the Popovs, "widow's peak Vlads," is a reference to the historic Dracula, Vlad Tepes, as well as to the widow's peak hairstyle commonly depicted on the more cartoonish vampires (such as Little Greg). Ian Gould, among several others, notes that "widow's peak Vlad" is "a play on the mafiosi expression 'moustache Petes' - which referred to first-generation Italian immigrant mafiosi who wore heavy European-style moustaches and were looked down on as old-fashioned by the American-born mafiosi."

Sean Vescott added this:

I believe the use of the phrase "widow's peak Vlads," is a reference to the phrase "Mustache Petes" among old-time gangsters. Here's a link and a quote that tells more:

"The American Mafia is really only a little over a half century old, and it came into being when Lucky Luciano and his allies - including Jewish gangsters in large numbers - wiped out the last important Old World Mafia leaders: Joe the Boss Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. This new Mafia had no tolerance for the old ideas of the Sicilian mafiosi. The old "Mustache Petes" felt that "honor" had to be maintained either by avoiding or by warring against other ethnics and indeed other Italians. Settling old vendetta was more important than making money. These ideas were preposterous to the new mafiosi, who moved with other ethnics to organize the underworld in the most efficient methods. This new Mafia cooperated with others to increase crime profits, and they killed only those who stood in the way of profits. "

Panel 5. Alexandru's "type" remark is of course a pun on one's "type of person" and blood type (R negative).

Panel 6.  Uncle Crepey's Pancake Parlor is a reference to Uncle Creepy, the host of Warren Publishing's magazine Creepy.  Although cadaverous in appearance, Uncle Creepy was not a vampire per se but developed from the mingled remains of several types of monster, including vampires, who had been experimented upon by the mad Doctor Habeas.  Vampires are traditionally nocturnal (although their vulnerability to sunlight is based more on film than folklore), so having them meet at a restaurant that specializes in breakfast food is ironic.

Notice, of course, that the vampires have heavy jackets and an umbrella to protect them from the sun.

The panhandler with the sign reading "Huge and Blue, Please Help" is Smax undercover; precisely what is supposed to be so unfortunate about being huge and blue is unclear.

The "Direct Market" produce stand is a reference to direct-sales comic books.

As seen in #2 and elsewhere, South Green is Neopolis's "monster neighborhood," so it makes sense that a vampire hangout would be in the area. Loki Carbis notes that "South Green's name seems to be a compound of South Central (LA) and Cabrini Green (Chicago), both notoriously tough and crime-infested neighbourhoods."

Page 26

Panel 1. Dust Devil is undercover as a street cleaner whose shirt identifies him as "Filler Brush Man."  The Fuller Brush Man was a stock sort of salesman back in the days when salesmen went door-to-door, and the common habit of creating a super-name by appending the word "man" (or "woman") to another word is reflected here. Ian Gould adds that "The Fuller Brush Man was featured in a long-running series of comic-strip advertisements and was also the most popular character in the series of satirical 'Tijuana Bibles' of the 1940's which featured famous characters engaging in sexually explicit acts."

That's Peregrine (looking uncommonly like a stereotypical "butch" lesbian) at the produce stand; her t-shirt reads "The Powterpuff Girl", a
reference to the popular cartoon child heroines the Powerpuff Girls. (Note from Jess: This is also a reference to work-out/diet queen Susan Powter, who looks like this) Peregrine's holding a flaming carrot, a reference to the satiric comic book hero of the same name, written by Bob Burden.  Several duplicates of two more satire characters, Milk and Cheese, are in the dairy section.  These characters appear in direct-sales comics only, so it makes sense that their images are present at Direct Market.  What the little beans with faces and the slogan "just like Gran'ma'pa used to make" might mean, I don't know. (Note from Jess: The beans are, I think, a reference to the inhabitants of Beanworld, from the indie comic of the same name)

Rob Means notes,

The sign behind Peregrine reads (backwards) "Special: Psychedelic Tubers, 39 cents/pound."  When he was on Swamp Thing, Alan Moore wrote a couple of stories about the tubers that grew from Swamp Thing's body and the effects they had when ingested.
The bystander on the right turns out to be King Peacock.

Panel 2. The vampires have inexplicably turned beige; must be the lighting.

"Today's Special:  Bloody Marys."  Ba-dum-bum.

The waitresses are dressed like the popular and very well-endowed (not that the two traits necessarily have anything to do with each other, I'm sure) alien vampire heroine Vampirella.

The customer on the right is wearing a ragged vest, similar to that worn by the Frankenstein Monster in some film and comic book appearances, although whether or not that's supposed to mean anything, I don't know.

The customers on the left are a masked costumed-type and (maybe) a werewolf; obviously, Uncle Crepey's doesn't cater solely to vampires.

"Buffy" and "that Gellar morsel" refer to the tv series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (starring Sarah Michelle Gellar), which seems an odd show of choice for vampires given that several episodes revolve around the massacre of them.  The notion of seeing Michelle Gellar "impaled on wood" is, clearly, a sexually crude remark.

The name "Lazlo" is misspelled here; Nicky gives it as "Laszlo" in the next panel, and having a perfect memory, she should know.

Rob Means notes the presence of Cassidy, the Irish vampire from Preacher, on the far right of this panel.

Panel 3. Eddie Popsicle resembles the Gary Oldman initial interpretation of Dracula in "Bram Stoker's Dracula," and presumably his
extreme age accounts for why he has to be in a freezer unit to avoid decomposition (since we really don't know how vampirism works on Earth-Ten, this is as good a reference to his supposed age as any).

Laszlo Janek resembles Graf Orlok, the vampire from "Nosferatu."

Krissi Donut's nickname, of course, refers to the revelation (next page) that he has a hole in his body.

Referring to living humans as "hors d'oevres" clearly indicates what Popsicle thinks of non-vampires.

Page 27

Panel 1.  As noted, Little Greg looks like the Muppet Count, and here Popsicle refers to him as "Count."

Panel 2. Although vampires themselves are frequently depicted as having mesmeric powers, Goebbels is here shown to be able to mesmerize a vampire, indicating that his power in this area is stronger than theirs.

I don't know who the guy at the back table is supposed to be. Rob Means does: it's Count Chocula.

Panel 3. "The Six Clans Agreement" may be a reference to the role-playing game and tv series "Kindred:  The Embraced," which posits the
existence of several vampire clans who interact in organized crime style, much like the vampires here. Loki Corbis adds to this: "The role playing game was actually called "Vampire: The Masquerade" - the tv show, unusually, was a spin off from it rather than the other way around." Ian Gould adds, "The "Six Clans" referred to in the expression "Six Clans Agreement" is a parallel to the "Five Families" - the five mafia groups which control organised crime in New York."

The term "suck movie" puns on the vampiric and sexual meaning of the verb.

Panel 4.  The clan of "Yorgas" refers to Count Yorga, as played by Robert Quarry in "Count Yorga, Vampire" (1970) and "The Return of Count Yorga" (1971).

Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Gary Oldman are all actors who have played the role of Dracula.

Panel 5.  Ironically, Eddie Popsicle, who so closely resembles Gary Oldman's Dracula, clearly thinks very little of Oldman in the role.
Janek's identification of Goebbels as a "Svengali" (from the novel "Trilby," by Guy du Maurier) suggests that Earth-Ten vampires have no mesmeric powers themselves.

Panel 6. Notice that Alexandru's swearing includes the word "unholy," not "holy"; traditionally, any holy object is anathema to vampires.    The word "pepper-stake" for a weapon that machine-guns (i.e. "peppers") its victim with wooden stakes is another pun.

Page 28

Panel 1.  Despite all the action here, the only person actually injured is Janek, who is set on fire by the candles from the table; as seen in the next panel, he regards this as little more than an inconvenience.  The vulnerability of vampires to fire varies from source to source.

That may be Marvel's Blade, Vampire Hunter (first appearance in Tomb of Dracula and later seen in various series and his own motion picture), at the table on the left, or possibly Prince Mamuwalde, a.k.a. Blacula, played by William Marshall in "Blacula" (1972) and "Scream, Blacula, Scream" (1972).

Panel 2. "Renfield" is a reference to R.M. Renfield, the mental patient who became Dracula's servant in Bram Stoker's novel and who was portrayed by cult actor Dwight Frye in the 1931 "Dracula" with Bela Lugosi.  Various sources have used the word "renfield" to refer in general to mesmerized lackeys of vampires, and the term is thus an insult among vampires themselves.

It is not at all clear to me what sort of damage Woytek's blender is meant to do to a vampire.

Panel 3. Alexandru, who has been swearing quite freely throughout the story, chastises Nicky for her language when she says "Jesus"; see page 27, panel 6. Lou Mougin says, "the vamp reprimanding the lady about saying 'Jesus' is being more than language-ironic; Jesus is symbolically and literally anathema to vampires.  There's a reason why those crosses do what they do, you a vampire wouldn't want you mentioning Jesus's name. (AAMOF, in one "Bojeffries Saga" episode, Festus the vampire gets zapped or something when a kid at Christmas says, 'God bless us every one!')"

Page 29

Panel 1.  As the Top Ten officers burst in, the air is suddenly full of bats, presumably vampire patrons changing shape to flee.  Three non-specific vampires are seen in the background; one vaguely resembles Marvel's Mephisto.

The term "garlic-dodgers" refers to the vampire's traditional vulnerability to garlic.

Panel 2. Smax is covering Krissi Donut.  The "little bald guy" he refers to is Janek, who is thus also saved from the sunlight.

Panel 3.  The Irinescus are purple again; guess it WAS the lighting. Nicky didn't pull down the curtains with the deliberate intent of targeting the Popovs or saving the Irinescus, of course.

Panel 4.  The woman standing next to Dust Devil was not seen in the earlier stakeout scene.  Who she might be is unknown.

Page 30

Panel 4.  A surprisingly bland street scene, we do at least see a vehicle that looks like Aladdin's lamp.

Panel 5.  "Tanning," as in suntan, is a natural euphemism for a vampire's death by sunlight.

Panel 6.  Two odd, floating vehicles, and we call it a night.

Thanks to: Camrock, The Claw, Loki Carbis, "Daigoro," Bill Fields, Ian Gould, Rob Means, Justin Mohareb, Lou Mougin, Sean Vescott.

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Notes to Issue #4
Notes to Issue #5
Notes to Issue #6
Notes to Issue #7
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Notes to Issue #9
Notes to Issue #10
Notes to Issue #11
Notes to Issue #12
Notes to Deadfellas
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