Origins of the Undead in I, VAMPIRE #0

When the New 52 was announced a year ago, many comic book industry pundits thought I, Vampire would experience a quick death via cancelation.

Instead, the critically acclaimed title is speeding toward the New 52's one-year anniversary by introducing zombies to the DC Universe in next week's I, Vampire #10.

There's also a brand new group of vampire hunters known as the Van Helsings who appeared in the ninth issue of the series. And I, Vampire #0 will tell lead character Andrew Bennett's backstory right before the title's first collection is released in October.

It's quite an accomplishment when you consider from whence this title came. Before the first issue was published, most comic book pundits dismissed the title as DC's desperate attempt to court Twilight fans. But after I, Vampire #1 came out, the compelling story by writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and the haunting images from artist Andrea Sorrentino had won over even the most cynical reviewers.


Early industry watchers also predicted I, Vampire would be canceled quickly. But since the title's launch last September, not only has I, Vampire actually bumped up its ranking among New 52 titles, but it has also defied those dire predictions by strongly surviving when other New 52 titles were canceled. The comic has even inspired a Graphitti Design T-shirt with the slogan, "Bite Prey Love."

But despite being hailed as one of the treasures of the New 52, relative newcomer Fialkov hasn't been placed on any other titles for DC. But the Eisner- and Harvey-nominated writer of the graphic novels Echoes, Tumor, Elk's Run and Last of the Greats continues to be an indie darling because of his creator-owned work.

Newsarama talked to Fialkov to find out more about what's happening with his career and what's coming up in I, Vampire.

Newsarama: Josh, we've recently been examining the changes to the comic industry since DC announced its New 52 initiative a year ago. Have things changed for you since the launch of I, Vampire? Has it opened doors for you, closed any, or changed your career direction at all?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: It's been a funny year. I'm doing considerably less work in comics then I have in a long time. While the New 52 and the success of Avengers has been great for the comics industry overall, it's been an extremely lean year in terms of actual work. This marks the year that I can no longer afford to just write comics for a living, which breaks my heart. But, the work outside of comics that I'm doing now means I can spend more time on creator-owned work, which is really why I got into comics in the first place.

Nrama: DC's move toward digital has been one of the more noticeable results of last year's relaunch, with many other publishers moving toward same-day digital. What do you think of the addition of a digital audience? Do you think that audience is much different from the print purists? And how do you think it has affected I, Vampire's success?

Fialkov: I think digital is an entirely different audience, or, at least, should be. Not being privvy to the numbers, I don't really know what we've done digitally, but, I'd guess that when our trade comes out later this year, we're going to have an influx of new readers from outside of comics.

Coming out of the gate, we had to combat a lot of prejudice about what the book was, and I think we've done that as well as anyone can. By making the book as much about horror as it is about romance, I think we've captured something powerful, and hopefully, it'll hook a few more readers once it's available in book stores.

Nrama: In I, Vampire, Andrew's situation has changed quite a bit since #1. As a writer, do you meticulously plan the path your characters will take, or do they evolve as you write them? And is that true of all your work, or just I, Vampire?

Fialkov: To adapt a Yiddish Proverb, "Writer's plan, publishers laugh." I always intended for Andrew to become the Vampire Messiah, so to speak, and, for what happens next (the end of issue #12 is a complete and utter reversal of what you expect to happen) to happen, but, the speed at which it's happened has been dictated by the realities of the market. We have to be fleet of foot because we need our audience excited and breathless so that they can tell their friends about all the crazy stuff we're doing in the book.

As for my other books, it really depends on the story. Sometimes the characters take over. Last of the Greats was a book where the characters just did somethings I never expected to have happen. Tumor was a book where I had a really well-fleshed-out plot, and my main character just wouldn't stay on target. Which is sort of what the book's about, so, it worked out. Something like Echoes, though, that was meticulously planned from beginning to end.

Nrama: Andrea Sorrentino's art really defines the style of this book. Does the artist inform the way you write these characters as well?

Fialkov: Oh sure. Andrea really dictates a lot of the tone and feel of the book to me. I think prior to him the book was actually a bit lighter in tone, but, it was until now that I really figured out exactly how great a sense of humor Andrea has and can bring out in his art, so we're getting a bit more in line with that original vision.

Nrama: How has it been working with him?

Fialkov: He's terrific. Works his butt off, always willing to go the extra mile to make the book even an iota better.


Nrama: During the recent crossover with Justice League Dark, readers met a character named Cain. Can you explain the idea behind the character and his imprisonment? And is he dead now, or just imprisoned again?

Fialkov: Ah, you'll have to see issue #0 for that. The mythology of the DCU vampires was something I wrote a few months into the book, in what was supposed to be an earlier issue that was all mythology, but sadly we had to abandon it. So, I've been pulling and peeling pieces off of it and into the book ever since. [DC Co-Publisher] Dan [DiDio] and [Editor-in-Chief] Bob [Harras] really responded to the character, and wanted the #0 to focus on him and Andrew's relationship to each other.

Nrama: What else can we expect from I, Vampire #0?

Fialkov: The editors  felt that the zero should focus primarily on Andrew, so, we only get to see the very earliest moments of his vampirism, and, hopefully a window into his relationship with Mary. And, y'know, Cain!

Nrama: Does issue #0 play at all into what's coming up for I, Vampire? Or is it a stand-alone backstory only?

Fialkov: Well, in a soap opera style book like this, everything ultimately is one long story, so, it's all stuff we'll play with eventually, but not anything right away, no.

Nrama: Andrew's powers have undergone a significant transformation, as he's rewriting the "rulebook" for his approach to the vampire army. Can you give us an idea of where Andrew's head is right now, or would that spoil the plans he's apparently laid out?

Fialkov: I think he's at a place of turmoil. He so desperately wants to find a peaceful, 'third way' so to speak, but there just isn't one. It's us or them, and there's no in between. That's really what this arc is about to me. The realization that you can't be a good man leading monsters.

Nrama: Mary and Andrew's relationship feels like a roller coaster, where they're constantly on the verge of making love or tearing each other apart. Why do you think readers are so drawn to their story, and what do you find compelling about it as a writer?

Fialkov: For me, without the both of them, there is no book. The fact that they love each other in spite of what is essentially a genuine hatred for what each represents is something that reverberates with every person in the world. It really comes back to that horrible relationship. Who hasn't had a boyfriend or girlfriend who turned out to be a monster, and while you're hurt and damaged by it, you still feel drawn to and, yes, even in love with this thing that looks like the person you loved.

Nrama: We've just met the Van Helsings. How did you come up with the idea for their story, and what can you tell us about them?

Fialkov: They grew out of that mythology issue. The idea that there was the first time that a human killed a vampire, and how humans would start to build a set of rules for how to do it, and how it works. That from there, it would be a group who were 'keepers of the secrets' and that those people would some day become the fictional Van Helsing's of legend. It felt like a new and different take on them, to me.

Nrama: You've got an upcoming storyline involving zombies. What's your thoughts behind incorporating zombies into the comic? What attracted you as a writer to that concept?

Fialkov: Well, I'm from Pittsburgh, which is the birthplace of the modern zombie, so anytime I can find a way to bring the good ol' living dead into a book, I'm totally there. But, the way we do it in the book is so much more fun than just plain old zombies. They show up at the end of issue #10, so, get ready for a blast.

Nrama: Can you give any hints about what we'll see in that issue?

Fialkov: The beginning of a great and epic war. And Andrew and Mary beating the living crap out of each other. It's one of my favorite issues we've done thus far.

Nrama: As you establish how these mythical and magical beings function within the DCU, is there a rulebook someone is keeping? Or are these "more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules?"

Fialkov: God, I hope so. Working with my editors, previously Matt Idelson, and now Chris Conroy, they sort of nudge me whenever they think we're getting off track or convoluted on the powers. A lot of what's coming up as we wrap up the first year is about setting up the rules in a clear and concise way.

Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans about what's coming this year for I, Vampire?

Fialkov: Well, for fans of Mary, you're in for a treat. We're getting to stuff that I didn't think we'd make it to until year three or so, but, as far as I know, it's all approved and ready to kick so much ass. It's going to be a wacky, wacky year.

If you like the book, tell people about it. We've been holding steady, which in this market is an impressive thing to do. But if you want the book to continue, you need to help us grow.  It's been  intimated that we're safe for the short term, and it's because of how vocal and loving the fans have been. So, keep it up! We're Tinkerbell, and you need to keep clapping... or else.

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