Tomm Coker Gives Image His UNDYING LOVE

Tomm Coker Gives Image His UNDYING LOVE

Saturday afternoon at New York Comic Con, comics’ leading independent publisher Image announced that long-time mainstream artist Tomm Coker (Daredevil: Noir, Blood & Water) has brought a new creator-owned series to the publisher. The series, entitled Undying Love, follows a badass ex-American soldier and his vampire-afflicted lover into the belly of the beast, Hong Kong, to find a cure from the vampire that made her. The series mixes Chinese folklore with vampire mythology, all presented in Coker’s potent storytelling style and textured linework. For this four-issue series, Coker is sharing the writing duties with his long-time colorist (and friend) Daniel Freedman, whom he met on the set of Coker’s first feature film directing gig Catacombs a few years back. Newsarama sat down with Coker earlier this week to talk about this new book which is set to debut in February.

Newsarama: What can you tell us about Undying Love, Tomm?

Tomm Coker: Undying Love is a tale of fantasy-horror set in modern day Hong Kong. An action adventure story combined with Vampire mythology and Chinese folklore.

The series follows a simple setup: ex-American soldier, John Sargent, has fallen in love with a beautiful Chinese woman named Mei. The only thing keeping the lovers apart is the fact that Mei is a vampire.

To free her from the curse Sargent sets out (with Mei in tow) on a journey to destroy the vampire that created her – the only way to break the spell and make Mei human once more. But the problem is quickly revealed when Sargent learns that Mei was bitten by one of the most powerful Vampires in history. Action, love and mayhem ensues.

Nrama: John Sargent might me my new favorite hero; he reminds me of my dad a bit from the preview you gave me. What can you tell us about him?

Coker: John Sargent (January 12, 1856 – April 14, 1925) was an American artist, and a leading portrait painter of his era... Err, umm.

Our John Sargent is a badass. Ex-privatized military (think Blackwater), short on words and big on action -- he’s a man on a mission to save his girl and he’ll go to hell and back to do so.

Nrama: At his side is Mei, a Chinese woman whose vampire curse has put Sargent on this perilous quest. What's her story? Is she a player for this, or just at John's side?

I don’t want to give too much away but Mei is the central figure in the story. In the first issue we learn she’s weak because she is a vampire that refuses to feed. But as the story moves forward and plans begin to unravel she’s forced to act. By the end of her arc I think she’s a pretty exciting and sometimes shocking character.

Nrama: There's more than just vampires here — in the preview you gave us, I glimpsed some foxes that could shapeshift.. What can you tell us about them & their role in the series?

Coker: Our goal was to create a world. And it only makes sense that if a vampire can exist in our world then anything can exist in our world. When we decide to set the story in Hong Kong, Daniel and I began researching Chinese folklore and found an amazing body of work – completely unique and untapped in the U.S. What they added to Undying Love was an authenticity that couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

The fox-spirits are an example of that. Known as ‘Huli jing’ in China or ‘Kitsune’ in Japan they are spirits (akin to fairies) that can shape shift, live forever and travel back and forth between this world and the next. Generally good, often mischievous, they were the perfect counterparts to our vampires.

In addition to the fox spirits, we tried to fill this world with many of the other amazing, weird and awesome creatures, myths and themes we found in our research.

Nrama: Who's the big bad — the man who turned Mei so many years ago?

Coker: His name is Shang-Ji and he’s the vampire that bit Mei. A legendary hero to some, bloodthirsty butcher to others, he’s 1,400 years old, fought in the Three Kingdoms War and has desired Mei his entire life – a spurned lover for sure.

Nrama: Badass military man John Sargent falls in love with a beautiful Asian woman named Mei who happens to be a vampire. Based on your own life, eh Tomm? Seriously, where'd the ideas for this come from?

Coker: The initial idea came from a newspaper article I read about a man that fell in love with a woman that was forced to be a prostitute by another man. The first man decided he couldn’t live without the woman so set out to reclaim her honor by killing her pimp.

Obviously that was just an inspirational jumping off point but the motives are still the same. It’s love and jealousy – these are big emotions and easy to understand. That’s what I wanted: a simple story that allows us to create a really complex and layered world.

Nrama: This is your first creator-owned work in some time, after years of doing comics, films and animation for other people. What's it like to come back to tell your own stories with your own creations?

Coker: Actually, this is the first time I’ve written something creator-owned that I then drew. It’s awesome. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

I still love working on the Marvel books — they’re a lot of fun and the people I get to work with are great, but this is something totally different. I get up in the morning excited to work and I go to bed at night anxious to get started again the next day. It’s how drawing should be.

Nrama: Although you're the name people are buying this book on, you're being joined by a long-time collaborator of yours Daniel Freedman. He's coloring the book, and also co-writing it with you; can you shed some light on him for us?

Coker: Daniel and I met during Catacombs. He was one of the editors on the film and we just hit it off. Since then he has colored all my comic work as well as co-writing Undying Love, We’ve also worked on other projects together including Audioquest: A Capt. Lights Adventure.

We’re currently writing new scripts together and last year we started CORVX, a creative studio to produce original content.

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