This semester, in my “Monsters, Race, and Comics” course, I’m teaching the first two volumes of Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander’s Killadelphia. Recently, I just reread both volumes, which contain the first 12 issues of the series. There is a lot within these issues that, combined with everything else we read this semester, I want to explore with students. Specifically, I want to have them think about the role of vampires and vampirism within the series. I want them to think about the existential questions of our very existence. I want them to think about the thread of hope that runs throughout the series. I want them to think about the generational interactions between the characters, notably James Sangster, Jr. and his father and Estelle and Tevin. Along with all of this, I want them to explore the role that history plays within the series, and it is this last point that I want to briefly touch on in today’s post.
The story at the center of Killadelphia involves John and Abigail Adams becoming vampires and existing to the present day. They see what the United States has become, and they each feel, with different viewpoints, that a better path could be paved for the nation. They see the ways that the systems have failed a large portion of the citizenry, and they want to raise up a vampire army to rectify the past. James Sangster, Sr. becomes a vampire, and his son, James Sangster, Jr. brings his father back to fight the Adamses. That doesn’t explain everything, I know, but in a nutshell that’s what’s happening in Killadelphia.
I don’t want to focus on the overall narrative arc of the first two volumes, mainly because it contains a lot. Instead, I want to focus on one character, Jupiter, specifically on the varying ways we get Jupiter’s backstory. The two versions of Jupiter’s history come from Abigail, Thomas Jefferson, and Jupiter himself. Abigail introduces us to Jupiter in issue 7 as she sits around the table with her crew talking about the ways that capital controls America. She tells those around her a story, a story about Jupiter.
In 1814, after their return from the Caribbean, John wants to reconcile with his adversaries, and he has a dinner with Thomas Jefferson. Abigail doesn't want to take part in “bullshit” discussions and platitudes, so she walks outside and sees…