You might think you know how Pinocchio’s story ends: As a reward for his loyalty and heart, the Blue Fairy changes the puppet into a real boy and he and Geppetto live happily ever after. But artist Dusty Higgins and writer Van Jensen ask readers to re-think their conception of the little wooden boy in the Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer series, chosen as one of the top 10 graphic novels for teens in 2009 by the Young Adult Library Services Association.

The series initially printed as four graphic novels: Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer (2009); Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater (2010); Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer: Of Wood and Blood, Part One (2012); and Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer: Of Wood and Blood, Part Two (2012).

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer

Drawing inspiration from the original story by Carlo Collodi, Jensen and Higgins imagine a dark continuation to Pinocchio’s story. Vampires overrun the peaceful town of Nasolungo, and the only one who is willing to fight them  is Pinocchio, who has discovered that his growing nose comes in handy for impaling the undead. While avenging the death of his slain father, Pinocchio learns the vampires have a deeper agenda than the mere sucking of blood.

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Jensen and Higgins craft a grim story story without being too heavy-handed — it is, after all, the story of a wooden boy killing vampires. “What started out as a simple joke about Pinocchio shanking vampires with his nose grew into a book filled with drama and pathos,” said Jensen, adding, “Yep, drama and pathos … and Pinocchio using his nose to shank vampires. Lots and lots of vampires.”

Higgins sets the tone with heavily shadowed pages matched with delightfully designed characters, such as the heavily mustachioed Cherry, the carpenter who creates a crossbow he dubs “The Monsterminator” to help Pinocchio fight the vampires. Still, Higgins notes, “We approached the story as if perhaps Pinocchio wasn’t meant to live happily ever after. Maybe because of his ‘abilities’ he was actually meant to slay vampires. With a continual supply of wooden stakes and no flesh or blood to worry about, he’s the really the perfect weapon against the undead bloodsucking menace.”

The Great Puppet Theater

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater

In Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater, Pinocchio might just be closer to getting his greatest wish granted than he ever thought possible. But, WHICH wish? And will Pinocchio’s life ever be the same afterwards? Jensen and Higgins raise the stakes to continue the story of Pinocchio and bring in a whole new cast of sentient wooden puppets—The Great Puppet Theater! “Collodi’s story is so rich that, if we wanted, we could fill dozens of books up with adventures spinning from his world,” says Jensen. “The challenge then really is in choosing the right pieces of his story to incorporate into ours without going overboard. While our story certainly spins off into totally different directions, I like to think it keeps up the tone of Collodi’s Pinocchio.”

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Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer, of Wood and Blood

In the third and final volume of the series, Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer, of Wood and Blood, Pinocchio must rely on a few new friends to continue his crusade against the undead. But when the former slayer’s shocking origin is revealed, will Pinocchio be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to rout the vampire scourge?

Pinocchio and his ragtag band of slayers square off against Vlad Dracul and his legion of vampires. At stake: The fate of the world. With Vlad on the verge of spreading his dark powers around the globe, the puppets are all that stands between humanity and the undead horde.

Of Wood and Blood initially was written and drawn as a single volume, but the page count grew massive enough that the story has been split it into two parts, Deathly Hallows-style. It was originally serialized digitally.