Vampirella’s origin is broken into two identifiable blocks, the portion of her original character, and that of her relaunch in the 1990s, though the relaunch incorporated aspects of the original. The original owes its inspiration to the camp science-fiction style of the 1960s such as both the comic and film version of Barbarella. These in turn also drew much inspiration from earlier pulp science fiction novels. The character also incorporated some elements of the women’s liberation movement with a female hero, while also incorporating the sexual liberation of the period in the character’s raw sexuality.
Her first origin and the one which was the only origin which she had while she was under the Warren imprint, was that she was an alien from a planet named Drakulon. The race of aliens which inhabited this planet were known as the Vampiri. The planet of Drakulon revolved around two suns, and at one point one of these stars exploded, causing a massive loss of life among the Vampiri. Some Vampiri managed to survive though and maintain the existence of their race. Eventually the world was visited by astronauts from Earth, who had crash landed on the planet. Vampirella was chosen to investigate, but upon discovering they attacked her. She was forced to fight back to defend herself, and in the process of attacking them she discovered that they had blood inside their bodies, something which she craved. After defeating them she decided to take their spaceship back to Earth, where she discovered that her race of aliens bore a resemblance to the mythical vampires. With the negative stigma attached to her she decided to break the stereotype by acting in a good and honourable manner.
Following the transfer of the character from Warren to Harris the character was partially re-imagined. The character was purchased as she fit in with the “bad girl” trend in independent comics at the time, though another strong current in comic books at the time was that of occult based stories. As such her background as an alien was revealed to be a memory implant, and she was actually part of an ancient biblical battle. Although this served to in a sense destroy her original stories, they were nonetheless kept as a part of the implanted memories. Also in this origin she is more closely tied to actual vampire myths.
Vampirella was a late addition but still popular addition to the camp style science fiction comics of the 1960s. Her first appearance was in the first issue of the same series that she shared her name with. The creative team on this first issue included Don Glut, Forrest J. Ackerman and Tom Sutton. After being purchased by Harris comics she was relaunched in 1991 as one of the wave of “bad girl” characters including Witchblade, Lady Death, Lara Croft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and in fact the artistic style was also incorporated to a certain degree at the more mainstream companies of DC Comics and Marvel). While some publishers (such as Top Cow) used the popularity of these characters to branch off into other genres, Vampirella was essentially the only property at Harris. Her first appearance at Harris was in the miniseries Vampirella: Morning in America. She would later go on to be published by other companies as well, though her origin remained in line with the Harris version.
As a character that has passed between two publishers and eras, Vampirella’s evolution is mostly defined by that switch. The character tied strongly into two sub-genres of the medium and was influenced by both, first the campy style and sexualized form of science fiction in the 1960s, and then from the “bad girl” wave of comics in the 1990s which incorporated other popular genres such as the occult. While the 1960s character was portrayed in a campy style popular to that era, the relaunch of the character in the 1990s resulted in a character that was more mainstream.
Vampirella's sexy appearance and red sling-bikini costume was originally inspired by the campy science fiction style of the 1960s, but it also suited the “bad girl” wave of the 1990s. The “bad girls” of the 1990s were defined by their moral ambiguity and violent behavior as well as their barely-there costumes. Appearing almost three decades before the main trend in the nineties, Vampirella is now considered to be one of the first "bad girls" to appear in comics.
Major Story Arcs
Her original stories focus on her adventures but also her integration into what was for her an alien society. In order to do so she befriended a group of vampire hunters, Adam van Helsing and his blind psychic father, Conrad van Helsing. She also befriended an old magician named Mordecai Pendragon who after a time took in Vampirella as his assistant. Most of her early adventures involved assisting the van Helsings, specifically against the followers of Chaos, who were skilled in the dark arts of magic. As a vampiric like creature one of the recurring themes was her uncontrollable bloodlust, something which as an agent of good that she sought to curtail. Eventually a serum was found which made her cravings essentially disappear, however there was a negative aspect to this as if she wasn’t inoculated with the serum she became a danger to all around her, including her friends.
She would later discover that her background on Drakulon was only partially true. She discovered that she was in fact the daughter of Lilith, the first wife of the biblical Adam and the first man according the Christian bible. Lilith was cast out of the Garden of Eden and she subsequently mated with a demon which gave birth to the being known as vampires. After doing this she lived on Drakulon, which was in reality a part of Hell. She later wished to atone for her role in the creation of evil and sought redemption from God which resulted in her giving birth to Vampirella. Vampirella is then sent to Earth to kill all evil vampires.
After being purchased by Harris, this somewhat altered origin was further expanded upon and effectively her first origin mostly ceased to exist as only certain elements of it were highlighted. Her first appearance under the Harris imprint was in the Morning in America series where it is revealed that Vampirella has been missing for approximately ten years. She has been working as a teacher under the name of Ella Normandy. This change was as the result of the interference of Nathan Shroud, who served under the Cult of Chaos. He had successfully managed to alter her memories.
Vampirella eventually discovers that all is not as it seems. She is given a glimpse into her future and her past by the demon Nuberus. His intentions were self-serving though as he intended to help her only so that he could gain access to Earth. In the visions which are made possible by the demon, Vampirella sees the silhouette of a woman, but as she could only see the silhouette could not know for sure who it was (it is later revealed to be Lilith.) It also becomes evident to Vampirella that all her memories about Drakulon were fabricated and placed in her mind by her evil brother and sister – Madek and Magdalene.
This aspect of her character comes to be more in line with the second version of her original origin as she is revealed to be the daughter of Lilith, who as before is depicted as the first wife of Adam. Lilith was created by God himself but was later cast out of Eden for failing to submit to the will of Adam. In an act of spite against God, she decided to mate with demons and subsequently gave birth to thousands of demons. After eventually realizing the harm which she had set free on the Earth and wanting to atone for her acts, she decided to bear two new children (Madek and Magdalene) who she hoped would give her the redemption she sought. This plan did not go as she had intended though, as the two instead of choosing a righteous path began to abuse their powers and decided to follow a path of evil. Vampirella was born as a last resort, to aid in the redemption of her mother by killing all demons and vampires, including her evil siblings. Upon eventually finding them and confronting them, Vampirella discovered that she was in fact too weak to confront them alone. She was captured by them, and they stripped her of her memories and created a new reality inside her head wherein she believed she was an alien from Drakulon. They are left alone for a time, but Vampirella eventually regains her memories and returns to defeat both of them.
Vampirella would soon after perish at the hands of Mistress Nyx, a demon with the goal of destroying the world. Mistress Nyx was also responsible for the death of Vampirella’s lover, Adam van Helsing. After dying, Vampirella awakens to find herself in Hell, but a specific part of Hell known as Drakulon. This is revealed to be the true place of her birth. It is here that she discovers her real goal was to provide redemption for her mother by destroying all vampire races on Earth. A degree of expedience was needed as Lilith’s time in Hell was coming to an end. As Vampirella is transported back to Earth, she witnesses her mother being killed by God’s hand.
Now back on Earth, Vampirella sets out with the new goal to protect the innocent from evil vampires and demons while fulfilling her mother’s last request to eradicate the entire group of evildoers. Vampirella made new friends and allies in a various different groups including a group of warrior nuns, taking in an orphaned teenager named Dixie as a ward and reuniting with her former ally Pantha. Each of these was towards the goal of stop the plans of the evildoers. In this time she would also cross paths with a number of old foes and adversaries including Mistress Nyx and the Blood Red Queen of Hearts as well as Von Kreist, Doctor Midwinter and Lady Death, all of whom had their own plans for destroying Earth for their own goals.
Eventually Vampirella discovers that she was in fact also being used as a tool. Although her mother seemed to be working out of altruistic interest, she was in fact dependent on Vampirella for her own resurrection. With every life that Vampirella took, it provided additional power with which Lilith could use to return from the dead. Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed with rage, she eventually confronts and kills her mother.
With her original mission now destroyed under a web of lies, she now seeks to save others who might share her own fate. This would for instance bring her up against the famous vampire Dracula.
Vampirella's powers have had minor variations throughout her incarnations. Her physical abilities can be weakened if she over exerts herself or takes too much damage, at which point she would need to feed on blood to return to a peak physical condition. Her more common abilities are:
Superstrength: Vampirella has tonner level strength, and while there isn't a writeup that gives us an exact number, she does have several impressive feats to her name. While in flight, she has used a ships chain and anchor to take down a helicopter. She has also punched a man through several floors of a building, into a helicopter's rotor blades, causing a messy end for them. As well, she has quite a few feats of punching people through stone walls and such. She has effortlessly ripped a man in half over her head, and shredded the tail of the massive Hydra that was constricting her (she had her arms pinned to her sides at the time). A fight between her and some other vamps has also collapsed a large nightclub, houses, and a large stone, church like building (all three separate instances, not the same battle). Then there was also the time that she punched a horse and carriage off of a bridge in one strike.
Superspeed/Agility/Reflexes: Speed wise, she has varied in a few of her runs, but overall, she has been shown to have pretty consistent FTE speeds, even to the enhanced senses of other vampires. In most runs, she has shown the ability to dodge gunfire, even deflecting bullets in a few cases with her claws. In her futuristic Vampi run, she was also shown to outpace energy attacks, and deflect lasers/bullets with her swords. Not to mention she has shown the reflexes to deal with speedy foes, such as FTE vamps, xenomorphs, and so on. Of course, she also has plenty of showings of acrobatic ability in combat, with flips, leaps, and various aerial maneuvers in flight.
Healing/Durability: She has a heightened healing factor, though she needs to maintain a certain amount of blood in her system or this healing factor slows down drastically (and her other physical abilities like strength/speed/durability tend to dwindle as well). This healing factor has healed up bullet wounds all the way to beating viruses designed to liquefy a vampire's insides. In a few stories, Vampirella has been shown to be in a death like state, with blood being used to kick start her healing factor, bringing her back to life.
On the durability angle, she of course has feats of tanking hits from tonners, tanking multistory falls, and even surviving a xenomorph bursting out from inside her chest. She once had a silver tipped arrow that pierced her heart, which she ripped out of her and survived. As well, she survived having the spear of Longinus pierce through her back and out through her chest, which she also ripped out, and used it against her attacker. She has also been hit by hellfire, which only served to singe her skin a little, and has been shown to tank high voltage electricity without issue.
And while the exact effects on her varied from incarnation to incarnation, Vee also has shown a good resistance to explosive forces. In the Harris run, she has tanked a fuel tanker exploding point blank, also withstanding explosive rounds fired from a tank. She also walked off a fighter jet crashing and exploding, and took a mountain busting explosion with no real ill effects. In the longest running of her Dynamite series, she tanked a grenade point blank, and wasn't slowed down, but she did suffer some tissue damage from it.
Enhanced Senses: She has senses far above that of regular humans. Vee has tracked foes across Paris by scent, shown enhanced hearing (detecting heartbeats in a building), and near perfect vision in the dark. She has also displayed the ability to sense the supernatural and supernatural energies/forces.
Flight: Excluding the futuristic version of Vampi, all renditions of Vampirella have been able to fly. Early versions accomplished this by turning into a bat, while later versions could sprout wings from her back, and in other versions she could turn her arms into bat wing like appendages.
Claws: Vampirella can also grow claws from her finger tips, which have been capable slicing through angelic armor, and of course, human and monster flesh with ease. In the Harris run, she also showed the ability to grab and slice a ghost with her claws.
Weaknesses: She does not suffer any of the traditional vampire weaknesses. Though once when the spear of Longinus pierced her, she let her attacker know that to kill her, they would have had to pierce her heart. Although she did survive an arrow through her heart, but that was likely due to her pulling it out fast enough for her healing factor to save her.
The next set of powers were only present in some versions of Vampirella:
Shapechanging: The Warren and early Harris versions of Vampirella could shapechange into a large bat. The early Harris version was also shown to once take on a werewolf-like form.
Invisibility: The Warren version of Vampirella was shown to be able to turn invisible.
Blood Powers: In the Harris run, Vampirella had the power to access a person's memories by drinking their blood. She was also able to siphon the powers of supernatural beings by drinking their blood as well. In the late Harris run, she could also create her costume from her blood, and create tattoos on her skin made from her blood.
Hypnotism: Warren, early Harris, and in a few Dynamite runs, Vampirella has shown the powers of vampiric hypnotism. She has done things like make a wizard blast himself with his own magic, made a crowd of onlookers flee, put a foe into a coma, made a group of people see her as someone else, and has even made a demon lord speak the reverse incantation to spell he had cast. Generally she needs to exert her influence and a target needs to be able to see her. Affecting multiple people takes a bit of concentration on her part.
Telepathy: In the Dynamite mini series, Prophecy, there is a write up of Vampirella that states she also has minor telepathic powers in addition to her hypnotism, though she never really displayed any such ability.
Aspect of Lillith: This was a power that was gained and used in the Harris run. Vampirella could basically control males, be they human or demon/monster/etc, with this supernatural ability. She has made a group of demons fight each other, made a lackey tell her the big bads evil schemes, and has even made a telekinetic foe push himself beyond his normal boundaries to perform a city level effect (which kind of broke him after performing the feat).
Vermin Summoning: For a time in the Collins Dynamite run, after drinking the blood of her half brother, Drago, Vampirella was able to summon swarms of rats to attack and distract her foes. She ended up losing this ability near the end of the series.
Vampirella was the titular character in a 1996 direct-to-video movie and was portrayed by actress Talisa Soto.
Citing her seductive vampiric nature and scanty sling-bikini costume, Vampirella was ranked 35th in Comic Buyer's Guide's 100 Sexiest Women in Comics list.