Dead Romeo #4Jesse Blaze Snider is no stranger to comics or horror. His name, and he proudly goes by his full name on a regular basis, shows how his life was influenced by comics since birth. Between his father’s love for horror, and the horror comic he wrote for Fangoria Graphix, Strangeland: Seven Sins, he has a clear grasp of the genre, as well. So when it came time for DC to more firmly introduce Vampires into the DCU, Snider got the call (thanks to the aforementioned mini-series, a Deadpool story, and about 10 years of bugging editors). Dead Romeo #1 came out this week, and we chatted with Snider about the book, romance, and the fact that no, these vampires will NOT sparkle.
Newsarama: Zombies have been--
Jesse Blaze Snider: Hey before we start I have a short statement to make…
Friend, Ramas, Comic Geeks, lend me your ears!
PLEASE, do NOT prejudge this book on the first sentence of the solicitation copy. This book has NOTHING in COMMON with Anne Rice’s “Queen of the Damned.” That was about a Vampire who is a ROCKSTAR, Dead Romeo is just a rock musician, who died and was never famous. He could have been a Vampire/Plumber and not a single panel of this book would have changed.
I know that some people have had reservations about the “rocker” thing, but let me explain that I only made him an “80’s Rocker” for two reasons. First, so I could dress him up in some cool clothes and second because I am a rocker and you should always write what you know. I didn’t even have the “lead singer of a band” thing in the original solicitation for the book, DC added it afterward, because they thought it was a plus. But I knew that some of you vamp fans would scream “Shenanigans!” And “Unoriginal.”
This book is about SEVEN very EVIL VAMPIRES from HELL who are willing to do ANYTHING to ensure that they never have to go back to HELL. And about the two people (Dead Romeo and Whisper) who stand contrary to their position desperately trying to escape from them with their lives!
Give it a shot, ‘cause Ryan Benjamin and myself have poured our hearts and souls into making it great.
Sorry, you were saying?
NRAMA: Ahem… Zombies have been top of the horror heap for a while, but with True Blood on HBO and (gulp) Twilight in theaters, it seems Vampires are ripe for a comeback. What's the appeal of Vampires in specific for you?
Dead Rome #3JBS: Twilight…double gulp. Well, it’s certainly not how sexy they are.
For me, I just love the fact that every Vampire is essentially Wolverine; you just can’t kill these guys that easily. In Dead Romeo we really explore the vampire healing factor thing. My hypothesis is that a vampire can heal from anything as long as he can feed. So a vamp with blood in his system is good to go, but take away the blood and they are just as f’ed as you or I.
And trust me when I say, that our lead character is going to have plenty to heal from!
NRAMA: Vampires aren't as common and well established in the DCU as they are in Marvel's universe. They made a recent appearance in the Superman/Batman vs. Vampires/Werewolves last fall, and Brother Blood is something of a Vampire, but are otherwise not too common. Why establish this as a DCU story?
JBS: DC Editorial realized that Giffen had vamps showing up in Reign in Hell and in a number of other places and felt that it was the right time to give vampires a go. Specifically, they wanted to test the waters for a vampire/romance.
Now, I think that that is all well and good, but I am personally tired of Vampire tales that are geared towards women that neuter the Vampires of any real…scariness? I mean, vampires in Anne Rice and Twilight are very rarely frightening. At the same time, there isn’t much heart and soul in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. While I realize that that is how the boys prefer it, I don’t see why we can’t do both.
That is exactly what I have tried to do with Dead Romeo. A vampire book that appeals to both men and women at the same time, while never loosing either audience. I guess I will find out how successful I was very soon.
Dead Romeo #1NRAMA: You've said before that you think of this as more of a "periphery" of the DCU, living in the magical fringes, rather than being in the dead center alongside the popular heroes and villains. Could you see the characters you're creating here eventually becoming part of that world and interacting with those established guys?
JBS: Sure. But I wouldn’t really want to see Romeo hanging out with Superman. I’d prefer him on the run from the Spectre or fighting El Diablo. He could definitely interact with Batman though, that might be cool. Basically the shinier the hero gets, the more I want Romeo to stay away from them.
NRAMA: The tagline for the book is "Not every love story has a happy ending." Does that necessarily mean this one will end in sadness?
JBS: Well, I am not a fan of the completely and utter unhappy ending. But yes, I wouldn’t expect a “they lived happily ever after” on the last page of this book. It says right there in the solicitation, either he kills Whisper and earns his release from Hell or he protects her and burns for eternity. Only one of them can get a happy ending and its definitely not going to be Romeo.
NRAMA: The characters here, including the titular one, are released from Hell. Is that linked to DC's Reign in Hell miniseries, or just a happy coincidence?
JBS: I guess it is just a happy coincidence. Though I believe that when DC Editorial saw that there were Vampires in Hell in the book, they said we should do a book about vampires from Hell. At that point they called me up and asked me to pitch them something. I pitched Dead Romeo.
NRAMA: What general Vampire mythos are you subscribing to here? What abilities/weaknesses do they have? They're coming from hell, so are they evil to their core?
JBS: I only use some things, but I don’t really contradict any of the things I don’t use. Over the course of the series you will see vampires with enhanced strength, speed, endurance and healing abilities. You will see vampires fly and be afraid of and burned by the sun. You will see silver used as a weakness and…I think that’s about it.
I did add two things though. I decided that vampires could feed on the blood in another vampire. And since in my book the vampires need blood to survive and in order to heal, feeding on a vampire is kind of the one sure way to take him down. So, I did that and I’ve never seen that done before, but maybe it has been.
NRAMA: You've said you'd really like this to appeal to both men and women. What are you doing specifically in the book to bring women into it?
JBS: Well, at the center of the book is a love story. Romeo’s entire motivation springs from love. Love from his past and a new love, which is blossoming throughout the series. Love is at the heart of the book, but it is not going to slow us down or tone us down, it is just the driving force. And I think that is really all that the ladies need; A reason to care. As long as they have that they are along for the ride. The men need the horror, the gore, the scares and we’ve got plenty of that as well.
Dead Romeo #2I believe my pitch for the book was, Dead Romeo desperately tries to protect his new love for 6-issues the only way he can…by throwing himself in front of her and absorbing any danger that comes his way. Which in this book will be bullets, swords, fangs, knives, punches, kicks, and scythes, whatever! I think that kind of chivalry is something we all can appreciate. Its what Superman does everyday, except bullets bounce off of Superman and our hero absorbs them in the normal and painful sort of way.
NRAMA: I like writers to close out with a specific moment, panel, scene, whatever that they are personally really excited about. So anywhere in the series, what's one bit that you can't wait for readers to see, without spoiling anything too much?
JBS: Well, the first issue is set up and as a fledgling writer, I think I made my fair share of mistakes (Mostly with cramming too many panels on certain pages.), but as the book gets going I learned and improved a lot and there are really a lot of great scares and I’m really excited for issue 4. We come off of one of my favorite cliffhangers and end on my other favorite. But maybe I should be more specific….
Issue one sets the stage for the series and issue two is all out action from beginning to end, as all seven of the Hollywood Vampires (Our Bad guys) get a chance to shine, as they slowly and painfully tear Romeo apart. In 22 pages Romeo will be shot full of holes, tackled out a window and fall 10 stories, loose an eye, ear, leg, arm and some fingers and worse! Issue two is gonna be a lot of fun and it’s gonna make everyone question exactly how Romeo and Whisper are going to live a full 6 issues!
If you like the first issue, you will love every issue after it! I promise!