With all the media frenzy over vampires lately, it's easy to forget that vampire stories go back centuries. But in November, one graphic novel will trace its roots right back to the classic centuries-old tale of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
The new graphic novel by writer Tony Lee, From the Pages of Bram Stoker's Dracula: Harker, serves as a sequel to the original, continuing the classic story in comic book format. With 2009 being called the year of the vampire -- with releases like Guillermo Del Toro's The Strain, HBO's True Blood, this fall's Twilight Saga: New Moon, and this Thursday's debut of the Vampire Diaries -- Lee is hoping this story will attract people to the earliest tales of vampires.
"It starts six months after the Count dies and ends on the exact anniversary of his death," Lee said. "There's a reason that Jonathan and Mina's son, Quincey is born that day, and this is the story why."
The 112-page graphic novel from AAM/Markosia has introductions by eminent people involved in the Dracula "world," including an actual Stoker. "We were fortunate to get introductions by Ian Holt and Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker, who have both just written the first 'official' Dracula sequel, Dracula: The Undead," Lee explained, "and another by Leslie S. Klinger, who, as well as being known as an expert on all things Sherlock Holmes, is the author of the New Annotated Dracula book, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, who he's working on The Annotated Sandman with for Vertigo."
The story will be illustrated by two South African artists, Neil Van Antwerpen and Peter-David Douglas, who recently worked on a Starship Trooper one-shot.
"With these people endorsing the book and incredible artists, I had to write a good book!" the writer laughed.
With an iconic character like Dracula, Lee said he always planned to be faithful and completely respectful of the official story, something he's noticed other stories haven't done recently.
"I've loved vampire movies and comics since I was a child, and it was always a given that down the line I'd do something involving them," Lee said. "But I was always annoyed at the cheesy way some of the movies used vampires, in particular Dracula -- almost as a 'we're ignoring everything else' attitude was prevalent. And as far as I was concerned, if you're using someone as iconic as Dracula, you have to use the backstory. He's almost two dimensional without it."
Lee's passion for vampires was rekindled two years ago when he met his fiancé.
"She is a massive Dracula fan," he said. "She even used it as part of her university dissertation, and she rekindled my love for Bram Stoker's source work."
Making the story a sequel just seemed natural, since he wanted to use the same characters and style of the original work. The writer had previously dabbled in writing a comic-based sequel to a book, so he decided to pitch a similar idea for Dracula.
"A few years back I wrote a graphic novel called Dodge & Twist, which once we've sorted out artist issues will come out from Larry Young and AiT/PlanetLar, and it's very much an 'Oliver Twist, 12 years on/Oceans Eleven if written by Charles Dickens' type of book, but more importantly a 'what happened next' for the characters. I wanted to do the same thing for Dracula," he said. "I wanted to show what happened directly afterwards. Not twelve years later, but later that same year. The end of the novel by Stoker has an end note set seven years later which throws up more questions than answers, and I wanted to use some of these in it."
The graphic novel begins as a story of revenge, as Dracula's one remaining bride, the Countess Dracule, arrives in London looking to kill the Hunters and take Mina's baby as a host for her husband's vampiric essence, currently surviving as a voice in Mina's head.
"And of course she needs allies, and so brings Renfield back as a zombified assistant, as well as creating her own 'grooms of Dracule,'" Lee explained. "And of course Jonathan needs his own allies, but things are a bit lost on his side - Arthur is distracted, seeing visions of Lucy on a London street, Seward has found a new love and is morphine addicted and Van Helsing has a dark secret that is related to this new Vampire Countess, one that involves her sister, the Countess Von Gratz, the one seen in Bram Stoker's short story (and a tale believed removed from the start of the novel Dracula itself) Dracula's Guest."
The graphic novel comes out in November and is in this month's Previews under AAM/Markosia, something Lee was quick to point out because independent books rely so heavily upon pre-orders.
"The small press live or die by the pre-orders. Don't just expect it to be on a shelf," the writer said. "We have shocks, thrills and spills. And an adventure that travels through London, Whitby, Munich and ends on the very Borgo Pass that Dracula starts on. It's been quoted as 'the most faithful sequel to Dracula ever' and I can't hope for a better compliment."Click here or on the images above for a seven page preview of Harker!