Among several new first issues dropping at Dynamite Entertainment in July is L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress: The Hidden Darkness. The comic continues the best-selling “Vampire Huntress Legend” series by L.A. Banks, who also writes under various pseudonymous extrapolations of her name depending on the genre that she’s handling. We were able to ask her about bringing the book to Dynamite, the place that the series has in the horror genre, and a tiny little introduction that she made in March.
Newsarama: Leslie, as the author of a best-selling series of novels, how did you come to be writing this particular offshoot for Dynamite?
L.A. Banks: I came to Dynamite through my relationship with Dabel Brothers Productions, who'd been working with St. Martin's Press to acquire the series as a graphic novel. When Dabel and Dynamite formed a collaboration, I sort of flowed on for the ride. Then I met those guys and was thrilled to be working with the gang at Dynamite.
Nrama: For those that might not be familiar with the novels, what’s the bullet in terms of the overall concept?
Banks: This series deals with good versus evil--basic. A couple of hard knock kids from the "hood" wind up fighting demons, getting a team of Guardians drawn to them, and together saving the world. Damali, the heroine, is a hip-hop, spoken word artist... a street runaway from foster care who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. She's got attitude and kick-ass in her DNA--plus something else she didn't know about (she's part angel--the millennium Neteru.) Her boyfriend and ex-drug dealer, Carlos Rivera, is from the barrio... street smart, with mad-crazy fighting skills, he enters her world from the dark side. One night while on a revenge mission to deliver justice to whoever murdered his boys, he learns the hard way that vampires did. Turned and sent to Hell, Carlos emerges to play both sides against the middle, besting the Vampire Council and even the Devil to team up with his woman, Damali. Through 12 books in the series you get demons, vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, dragons, multiple battle theaters on every continent and ACTION at insane levels, LOL! It is the most fun I've ever had as a writer! So check it out at www.vampirehuntress.com and start with book 1, Minion (it's important to read the novels in order.)
Nrama: When do the events of this series start in relation to the continuity of the novels?
Banks: The graphic series picks up right after the Armageddon. The novel series essentially ends with a huge battle in the Holy Land in the Middle East--the new graphic series picks up with the team in hiding from the New World Order and Lucifer, and something new is now hunting them.
Nrama: Will the book be self-contained and easy to read for comic fans that haven't read the novels?
Banks: Absolutely. We have references to the past series on a minimal basis, but each reference is really easy to understand. Our intention was that someone could just jump right in and enjoy the action-packed ride.
Nrama: While there is a tradition of African-American characters in horror novels and films, very few have helmed a twelve-novel series. How would you contextualize Damali’s importance in that regard, and her place in supernatural literature?
Banks: Wow... there is so much I could say about this but I'm not sure where to begin. This is a first. It is beyond an honor. This series is in multiple countries and Minion (book 1) is even translated into Russian. To have a strong lead character with complex sexuality/relationship dynamics going on along with super powers... to have an absolutely alpha Latino male lead hero with those same dynamics, and a supporting cast of characters from all walks of life, all ethnic backgrounds (white, Asian, Jewish, Latino, Native American, African American), and all religions, all forming a Guardian team that goes for 12 full length novels, is epic and unprecedented. As the series got longer and longer, I slowly began to realize that I was building a paranormal fiction "ark" of sorts for multi-ethnic expression. I really didn't go into it with that thinking... I was just trying to translate a story into characters that I knew--ones I could identify with, and the Vampire Huntress Legends series evolved out of that. I think Damali is a standard-bearer now because of that.
Nrama: It seems that Damali’s other vocation, spoken word artist, acts as a bit of a symbol in terms of your own belief in the power of words. Would you care to elaborate on that?
Banks: Definitely. I do believe that words have power. If we speak negatively all the time we drawn that negative energy and vibration to ourselves; conversely, if we stay positive, speak positively, we draw that "light" to ourselves and those around us. So, to me, whether you take your lead from traditional spiritual sources, or from eastern mantras, or fall into the metaphysical/new age camp, all of it counsels the same thing: words have power.
Nrama: How many issues do you anticipate this “book” covering, and do you have more plans for furthering the Vampire Huntress world in comics?
Banks: Right now I've scripted four, and can really say we'll do like a half dozen. But I'd love nothing more than to make this a long-running series. This "Neteru Universe" is definitely my playground.
Nrama: You know, comics are famous for crossovers; any chance of getting the Vampire Huntress and Crimson Moon casts together?
Banks: [Big smile] . . . . there is an excellent possibility for that in the future.
Nrama: Tell us about your artist, Brett Booth. What’s he brought to the project for you?
Banks: OMG... Brett looked inside my head and brought my characters to life. The man's art is simply awesome. When I saw the first drawing of my heroine I jumped up from the computer and screamed like I'd hit the lottery, LOL!
Nrama: I have to note: you introduced President Barack Obama at an event in March!Banks: Oh.... maaaan.... talk about an experience of a lifetime... there are simply no words. I met President Obama because I sent a flaming email to the White House on the government website after getting frustrated about the rise in my health care costs. I was railing about being an independent entrepreneur, a self-employed artist, and the corporate rat bastards were killing us out here with unchecked rate hikes. I pushed send--no spell check, no punctuation, LOL--just an angry stream of consciousness... and three weeks later I got the call, "Ms. Banks, this is the White House." (Laughing) I thought Homeland Security was coming for me. But instead the Office of Public Awareness asked me to tell my story and introduce the POTUS at his upcoming healthcare rally at Arcadia University here in Philadelphia. I only got a few minutes backstage to talk to him and to thank him for the honor of being chosen--had a "fan girl" moment of being completely mesmerized and forgot my speech or anything else intelligent to chat about (like, damn, I shoulda remembered comics, etc.!) But he's the genuine article, real, looks you in your eyes when he speaks to you... authentic, (no politician phoniness at all), and he gave me a million-dollar smile and a supportive hug, and then told me to go knock 'em dead. After that, the handlers whisked me away and it was show time. All I can say is that it is TOTALLY intimidating opening for the greatest rock star in the world, LOL! When they played "Hail to the Chief" I thought I was gonna pass out :) ! But rest assured, when issue one of this series comes out, I'll be sending it to him at the White House -- BIG SMILE!