The Cultural Gutter

taking trash seriously

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Fire Fang Has Risen From The Grave!

Carol Borden
Posted February 2, 2012

Over the holidays, I participated in the Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit‘s Secret Santa Exchange. I sent Tars Tarkas, Apocalypse IV: Judgment. And Permission To Kill‘s David Foster sent me two comics : Vampire! Featuring Fire Fang and Vampire! #2: The Brothers of Fire Fang (Meteor Comics, 1995). Together they reprint five of Australian comic creator Gerald Carr’s vampire stories from 1976-8 focusing on his yellow peril vampire, Fire Fang.

I’ve had trouble writing about these comics because there is so much packed into them: Fire Fang and all that yellow peril implies, which I’ve discussed a little here; Carr’s importance in Australian comics; and an artistic style so diverse that I checked twice that Carr was sole artist for both issues.

So I had two books and not much context beyond my own knowledge of Chinese yellow peril villains, 1970s adult comics like Heavy Metal and Vampirella (known colloquially in these parts as, “booby comics”), and a little Chinese history. But as I read, I noticed that the stories all bear the mark of Hammer Studios’ 1970s vampire films when Hammer shifted to the sexy end of the vampire spectrum and horror gave way to, continuing a trope:  boobs, if boobs are a synecdoche for the eroticism/sexploitation of The Vampire Lovers (1970); Countess Dracula (1971); Dracula, AD 1972 (1972); and Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). Unlike two of those films, the Vampire! stories are mostly period pieces set in the 1880s/90s or the1930s. But all the women’s breasts remind me of Hammer’s Horror Queen, Ingrid Pitt

For his part, Fire Fang is the total yellow peril package. He has the long nails, the Ming the Merciless collar, and if he were in color, he would be, as Jules Feiffer says, “the color of ripe lemons.”* Lemon yellow or no, he continues the tradition of villains such as Fu Manchu or Li H’sen Chang from the Doctor Who episode, “The Talons of Weng Chiang.” Mostly, Fire Fang is not so much a Chinese vampire as a Chinese vampire played by Christopher Lee. It’s not a stretch for Lee since he has played Fu Manchu.

In “The Exile of Fire Fang,”a “Mandarin of the Second Class” uses a beautiful concubine as bait to trap the vampire. The official tells the captive Fire Fang, “It is written by the Great Shih Chioo in the Ancient Chronicles of Ghouls and Devourers ‘that he who preserves the vampire’s supernatural life shall have the vampire’s services for two years.’” (1)

I like to think that there’s a book called, The Ancient Chronicles of Ghouls and Devourers, and that it contains instructions on building vampire traps.

As part of what is surely an inscrutably villainous scheme, Fire Fang is sent to Australia at the height of the Gold Rush with four “coolies” sworn to serve him. The men quickly tire of supplying Fire Fang with buxom white women and impale him with a pickaxe as he sleeps the sleep of the undead in an abandoned mine. The coolies then become bandits. Unfortunately, they’re caught pretty quick. So we never get their tale of derring-do, one in which they use racist stereotypes to throw the white devils off their trail.

In “Who Freed Fire Fang?” a young couple discover the crate containing the staked Fire Fang and foolishly remove the pickaxe waking Fire Fang, as others have foolishly woken Dracula, in the 1970s. According to Comics Down Under there’s one more uncollected story, “Fire Fang’s Circus.” I wonder how much it would recall “The Talons of Weng Chiang,” in which the villain is a stage magician reminding us that while we should be on the lookout for all Chinese men, we should also never trust traveling entertainers or circus folk.

But if villains like Fire Fang lead me to wonder, “What makes a white man look in the mirror and think, ‘Yes, I do have a faintly Oriental cast?” Dr. “Chinese” Patterson is the very man who thinks that. Patterson’s the protagonist of “The Brothers of Fire Fang,” in Vampire! #2. He plans “a walking Odyssey” from Shanghai to Rangoon and decides to pass, wearing Chinese clothing and “a pigtail pinned under his cap” to avoid the notice of “Chinese who hadn’t seen a white man before.” But while perfectly at home in China, Patterson never forgets who he is as he demonstrates while fighting bandits, shouting, “Advance Australia! And damn your kind!”

It’s okay to damn their kind, because Patterson is pals with Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, who he dismissively refers to as, “a local rebel.” Dr. Sun has arranged for a boatman to deliver Patterson to a village beset by the Brothers of Fire Fang: “Fang Cheng the Destroyer. He rode with Genghis Khan. In a far off country he was the first to be inflected….The deep breathing Lungki, the most chilling of the brothers. But known not to like European blood.” And, “Taka the Missionary Killer—bent on thwarting Christianity in China. His score of murders was high.”

Patterson has come to help a man named, Yun Chuwan. Frankly, I’m not sure why Yun needs help fighting vampires because he’s already hung three vampire heads from the town gates as a warning to others. Maybe on the other side of this Hammer horror story there’s a Cantonese hopping vampire one, like Mr. Vampire, and Patterson is the idiot who only makes things worse by not listening to Yun. But in Vampire!, Patterson gets right down to business—sleeping with Yun’s daughter Yee and explaining toYun that opium will not just be a blight, but a medical boon, establishing him as both Imperially virile and a visionary who foresees the Great War.

Like the Mandarin of the Second Degree before him, Patterson might also have been visionary enough to use Yee as bait. She slips out at night to bathe–at  least I think that’s why she dips her breasts into a creek. After her bath, Yee is attacked by the three vampire brothers with such ferocity that she has no time to close her shirt. Patterson mans rockets he has already set up and waits for the vampires to cross the line of fire he has prepared. After dispatching the vampires, Patterson salaciously notes in a faux gentlemanly way that stayed he “longer than he planned” but left her, “a brave girl with the ashes of our adventure.”

Incidentally, the non-Fire Fang collected in these two comics stories feel pretty Hammer as well. In “The Unholy Relic,” a be-nightgowned woman** is menaced by a vampire, saved and attacked later by a bust of the very same vampire’s head. In “Home is the Specter, Home from the Haunt,” the double D starlets of Australia’s Mammoth Studios are set upon by a vampire during the filming of a Dracula knock-off starring the Bela Lugosian, Roberto Verio. Incidentally, that story has my favorite line of any in the comics: “I discovered long ago, a defence against a vampire’s great strength… Judo!”

*Jules Feiffer. The Great Comic Book Heroes. (New York, Bonanza Books: 1965).  16.

**There was a time when every lady kept a diaphanous robe or nightgown in her trousseau in case of trance or mesmerism.


Wearing a diaphanous nightgown, Carol Borden has spent long nights studying Judo and the Great Shih Chioo’s Ancient Chronicles of Ghouls and Devourers.


3 Responses to “Fire Fang Has Risen From The Grave!”

  1. Fire Fang Has Risen from the Grave | Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit
    February 15th, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    […] FULL ARTICLE This entry was posted in Comics and tagged Secret Santa. Bookmark the permalink. ← Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye […]

  2. Fire Fang Has Risen From The Grave! | Monstrous Industry
    March 20th, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

    […] post originally appeared on The Cultural Gutter and full pages are available at The Gutter‘s Tumblr […]

  3. Gerald Carr
    August 12th, 2015 @ 12:16 am

    I wish to explain and correct, The story The brothers of Fire Fang was inspired by the Australian adventurer Chinese Morrison.
    Who became adviser to the first president of China, Dr Sun Yat-Sen. When he was confronted by a anti foreigner mob on his arrival in China he would exclaim Advance Australia!
    This is a story set in the Ninetenth Century not in the PC Twentieth first Century. He proceeded by disguising himself as a Chinese. I grew up in Bendigo, a City created by the Great Australian Gold Rush, the Chinese dragon was an exciting part of my childhood. The body would swoop over our heads, trailing fire crackers and smoke, flashing mirrors to ward of evil spirits ! One of the local disappearance stories was of the police trooper who disappeared on his patrol of the Chinese camp in the eighteenth century. One of the Chinese descendants joked that the trooper was put in a crate and shipped back to China. I reversed that to a Chinese Vampire being shipped to Australia in a crate. If you Google images for Chinese Vampires, some are western creations some are Chinese. I wonder what the reaction would be if I came up with the hopping Vampire. Fire Fang had to be regal, a Chinese vampire that could match Dracula. Basically the medium is the message. Long live Loong! Fire Fang appeared on front and back covers of Fire Fang! He was not coloured yellow.

Leave a Reply

  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Open Culture has a re-vamped trailer for a film adaptation of  Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius’ comic The Incal. One that never happened. “[Incal‘s] success made it a logical candidate for film adaptation, and so director Pascal Blais brought together artists from Heavy Metal magazine (in which Mœbius first published some of his best known work) to make it happen. It resulted in nothing more than a trailer, but what a trailer; you can watch a recently revamped edition of the one Blais and his collaborators put together in the 1980s at the top of the post.” (Thanks, Felipe!)


    Hyperallergic has a gallery of astronomical and cosmological illustrations from photographer Michael Benson’s books, Cosmographics: Picturing Space Through Time. (Thanks, Stephanie!)


    A homophobic Tumblr post becomes Queer dystopian adventure fiction in two responses. Behold! (Thanks, Adele!)


    Tony Zhou has a new video up at Every Frame A Painting. This time, he looks at Buster Keaton and, “The Art Of The Gag.”


    At Dirge Magazine, friend of the Gutter Less Lee Moore writes about the cinema of Richard Kern. “My introduction to Richard Kern was an issue of Spin magazine from the mid-1980s. Having recently fallen under the spell of the feral pleasures of Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel – a.k.a. JG Thirlwell – I was intrigued by lurid descriptions of pornographic short films featuring Thirlwell and paramour/collaborator Lydia Lunch, whose snarky sound bites I scrawled in the margins of my diaries.”


    Art Of The Title looks the opening credits for The Man In The High Castle, True Detective and at Momentum, Alex Maragos interviews Andrew Geraci about making the opening credits for House Of Cards.


  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.


  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: