BALTIMORE Aims For Killer Performance in 'The Play'

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After carving a bloody swath through vampire-stricken Europe in The Plague Ships, The Curse Bells and the current miniseries Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy, Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s vampire hunter Captain Lord Henry Baltimore is back for more. As told to Newsarama exclusively, Baltimore will return in 2013 with three one-shots covering a deathly dramatic stage play, a double feature about a widow and a tank, and tantalizing details about the strange inquisitor on Baltimore’s tail, Judge Duvic. All three one-shots will feature the returning team of Mignola and Golden writing and Ben Stenbeck on art.

The first one-shot scheduled for release is called Baltimore: The Play and follows a mad playwright whose cast is a bunch of bloodsuckers, with a sinister secret as to the true inspiration behind the bloody performance. Newsarama talked exclusively with co-writer Christopher Golden about this upcoming one-shot, as well as peeling back the curtain on the other new Baltimore stories in our future.

Newsarama: What can you tell us about this new Baltimore one-shot, The Play?

Christopher Golden: When Mike and I were first coming up with our initial barrage of ideas for the Baltimore comics series, the one that became The Play was on that list. I'm sure the initial story came from Mike, the part that involves the disembodied head. As any good Mignola reader knows, disembodied heads have become kind of a motif in Mike's work, but this one is considerably different from those we've seen before in that most of them are evil. When we brainstormed it, the story took on a shape in which the head is only one small part of the story. We knew we wanted it to be a Haigus story, and so although you'll see Baltimore, this story is most definitely about Haigus. It gives us an opportunity to show a side of him that readers--of the comics and of the novel--have not had an opportunity to see as yet. Baltimore and his mentality and his quest are firmly established now, so over these few one-shots and then in the near future, we're going to start broadening the readers' window into this world. In time, you'll get to see the bigger picture that Baltimore and Haigus are both a part of, and where we're going with it.

Nrama: The story of Balitmore: The Play centers around a Grand Guignol. For the uninformed among us, what is that?

Golden: Ironically, considering it's me and Mike, it's french for "Theatre of the Big Puppet." It actually refers to a theatre genre that involves over the top violence and gore on stage, these sort of vividly bloody horror stories that were told in theatrical productions in Europe...although the term has been applied to films as well, by way of comparison. In any case, I assume you ask because Baltmore: The Play is about a play that's being staged even as a town falls victim to the plague and, in fact, the play is *about* the plague. It's more complex than that but, y'know, spoilers.

Nrama: Who’s pulling the string in the play – who is the playwright?

Golden: Gnecco is, on the surface, a stereotypical stage director, pompous and petty and in love with his leading lady. But there's more to him and more to his leading lady than meets the eye, and there's also a power behind the curtain, pulling everyone's strings...even as his own strings are being pulled in other ways. Fun with vagueness! A fun factoid: I named Gnecco after my mother's paternal grandmother--her maiden name was Gnecco, although she was from Cicagne, on the opposite coast from Verona.

Nrama: Dark Horse’s PR guru Aub Driver let slip that the real brains of the operations in Baltimore: The Play is a disembodied head in a glass case, purported to be a famous American author. What’s going on with this head, and is it anyone we know?

Golden: Excuse me while I go and murder the folks in the Dark Horse publicity department. (*musical interlude during multiple Oregon homicide*). Now, where were we? Oh, right. No comment.

Nrama: [laughs] Sorry, Aub.

Moving on, it seems you and Mike are able to research, dig and mine the best of the creepiest stuff from history. What’s the research like to find ideas like the Grand Guignol or the current mini’s Dr. Leskovar which some might compare to Josef Mengele?

Golden: Mike and I have similar frames of reference, which means most of the time the research comes after the idea, not before. I majored in European history and English in college, so I've always been a huge history guy, and the darkest elements of history and folklore and culture are just a part of my thought process. It's all there in the soup of ideas already. Same with Mike. I should correct the assumption that this is Grand Guignol we're dealing with here. It's not. But I can see why the comparison is made. As for Leskovar, I wouldn't put him in the company of Dr. Mengele at all. Leskovar is trying to help the world by curing vampirism, to save the people of his town, and his mistakes paint him into a horrible corner where he becomes a prisoner of monsters of his own, purely accidental creation.

Nrama: Will artist Ben Stenbeck from the previous Baltimore books be re-joining you and Mike on this one?

Golden: Absolutely. Ben is doing some of his most unsettling and beautiful work ever on Baltimore: The Play.

Nrama: And this isn’t the only new Baltimore story you have coming out, you have two more. What are those about?

Golden: The second one shot is actually a double-shot, two stories in one. It's called Baltimore: The Widow And The Tank. Back when Mike and I were trying to come up with stories for the Free Comic Book Day issue of Baltimore, we brainstormed a number of ideas. The one we ended up using was called "A Passing Stranger," but there were two others we didn't want to discard, and those are the two you'll see in Baltimore: The Widow And The Tank.

Both are about things left behind after the plague brings World War I to a premature, ugly end, and feature Baltimore in his wandering samurai mode. The third one-shot is the one that regular readers of the book are going to want to pay the closest attention to. It's a Judge Duvic story called The Inquisitor which accomplishes a great many things in a few pages. Judge Duvic's origin. The rise of the New Inquisition. The return of two characters familiar from earlier Baltimore stories. And a dark turn that will have a huge impact on Duvic and what we've got planned for afterward.

Nrama: Mike will forever be known for Hellboy, and you’ve been in place to both write Hellboy as well as co-create this world of Baltimore. Last question, Christopher… how does Baltimore match up against Hellboy?

Golden: Hellboy would think Baltimore is in desperate need of a beer.

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