Purgatori. Artist: Steven Hughes.


Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Chaos! Comics
First Appeared: 1994
Creator: Brian Pulido (writer) and Steven Hughes (artist)
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In the 1980s trend toward "bad girls" in American comic books, characters such as Ms. Tree, a perfectly ordinary multiple murderer, whose victims were all criminals and deserved it anyway, were nowhere near bad enough. The trend was only accelerated in the '90s, as an entire publisher, Chaos! Comics, arose, devoted largely to capitalizing on the trend …

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… with such protagonists as Chastity, Lady Death, Bad Kitty and Purgatori. The latter was a crimson-skinned, horned, bat-winged near-immortal who was largely human, but also had a few fallen angels in her family tree.

The thought processes that led to Christian symbology and imagery, such as fallen angels and the name Purgatori itself (which sounds just like the place of suffering where souls are purged of their less serious sins before being allowed into heaven), being made an integral part of a series devoted to horror and supernatural evil, might make an interesting, if lengthy, study in human motivations and the wellsprings of creativity. But an overview of the series itself merely begins with an apparently-human young woman named Sakkara, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, approximately 1390 BC (a mere thousand years before the real Alexandria's founding).

Sakkara was a slave working in the kitchens that fed pyramid-builders, until she caught the eye of Queen Ostraka, who transferred Sakkara to the lesbian harem Ostraka maintained for her own use. Later, for political reasons, Ostraka took on a male lover, one Ramses, who ordered the harem destroyed. Sakkara barely escaped with her life, then picked up with a vampire named Rath. She wanted to live forever to prolong the savoring of her revenge against Ostraka, Ramses and everything they stood for; and he wanted an instrument for spreading evil through, and eventually causing the downfall of, their kingdom.

They fulfilled each other's needs the usual vampire way, with a bite on the neck. But Sakkara's fallen angel ancestry caused an additional mutation, and she assumed the red-skinned, leather-winged form she displayed for the next several millennia. Her first vampiric act was to attack the wedding feast of Ostraka and Ramses, killing most of the visiting dignitaries in attendance (and turning one of them, Jade, into a vampire who later became a Chaos! bad-girl protagonist in her own right) while meting out a fate worse than death to the happy couple themselves.

As she became more experienced in the vampire lifestyle, Sakkara acquired a taste for the blood of tormented gods, which she found particularly toothsome, mainly for its ability to confer great power. She got much of her own early power by sucking on Lucifer himself, who didn't like it one little bit and, among other things, is the one who named her Purgatori (which he apparently regarded as a term of opprobrium). And that's who she's been, ever since.

Purgatori first appeared in Lady Death #3 (March, 1994), where she was just another menace for the title character to defeat. As a result of their clash, she wound up on Earth, for the first time in ages. The enemies she'd accumulated during her original stay in our realm converged on her, providing grist for many stories to come. Other story sources include her relationship with Dracula. They were told in over a dozen mini-series (later collected as graphic novels), including Purgatori: Vampire's Myth (1996), Purgatori vs. Vampirella (2000) and Purgatori: Love Bites (2001); as well as an ongoing monthly series that ran seven issues in 1998.

Chaos! Comics folded in 2002. Most of its properties wound up in the hands of Tales of Wonder, which generally sells, rather than publishes comics. Tales of Wonder licensed them to Devil's Due Publishing (Elsinor, G.I. Joe). Devil's Due published mini-series about Purgatori and Evil Ernie, another Chaos! character, before relinquishing the rights a few years later. Now that bad girls are less in favor with the comics-reading public, Purgatori's future, if any, is unknown.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Chaos! Comics.