In 2007, Mignola and long-time collaborator Christopher Golden broke ground with an illustrated novel titled Baltimore, which followed a World War I captain struck down by a vampire. Although he survived the attack, Baltimore’s family and friends have not – leaving this embattled soldier left for one single purpose in life – stop the vampire epidemic.
Although Baltimore debuted in an illustrated novel, the Lord and his vampire vigil took to the world of comics with a five issue series titled Baltimore: The Plague Ships. The writing duo paired with Witchfinder artist Ben Stenbeck to tell the character’s first comic adventure. The series, whose penultimate issue came out earlier this month, wraps up on Dec. 1 – with a new series already announced for 2011 from Dark Horse.
Fore more, we talked with series co-writer Christopher Golden about the end of Baltimore: The Plague Ships and what to expect for the future of this character.
Newsarama In the current series, Baltimore: The Plague Ships, Lord Baltimore has been marooned on a desert island. #4 just came out – so as we wait for that final issue, what’s up?
Christopher Golden: Baltimore is hunting for Haigus, the scarred, one-eyed vampire who destroyed his life and murdered his family, and who is ultimately responsible for the plague that has spread across Europe (a plague that comprises both contagious illness--actual plague--and the propagation of new vampires). In the first issue, Vanessa helped get him passage on a ship that would carry him to the next port in his pursuit of Haigus...but a terrible storm wrecked the ship and now they are stranded on an island that is also a graveyard of ruined vessels from a famous submarine battle of WW1...and other ships as well, including a plague ship, stacked with the infected corpses of the plague dead. Evil and the undead take multiple forms in this series. Obviously, Baltimore and Vanessa are in need of a rescue ship, but even if one comes, they have to be alive to greet it.
Nrama: Like you said, Baltimore is assisted in this by a woman named Vanessa. What can you make of her for us?
Golden: There's not a lot to tell that you don't already know. She's an attractive young girl, raised by her witch grandmother in a small French seaside village. But what had been an idyllic village has been decimated by war, plague, and now vampires. All she wanted was to leave there, to go and find a place that hadn't been so horribly tainted by evil. The question is, ARE there such places in Europe anymore, and if there are, will she ever get there?
Nrama: After the vampire leader Haigus let loose the vampire epidemic, how far has it spread by the time of the comic series?
Golden: At this point, certainly all of Europe has been touched by the plague itself, and probably much of Asia. But as far as how many vampires there are, or what parts of Europe have not been visited by vampires, that's a question we haven't answered yet.
Nrama: Haigus is the big bad for this series overall. Can you break him down for us?
Golden: Haigus is one of a race of ancient vampires who had been essentially hibernating for a long time, along with a great many other evils from earlier ages of man...and from before man. At a certain point, ancient evil began to stir and things like Haigus and his kin started to prey on mankind again. But in small ways, in shadows. Haigus and other old vampires had regressed until they were more like beasts...they were carrion creatures, eating the dead. But when Baltimore woke on the battlefield to find them eating his dead comrades, and then Haigus tried to prey on Baltimore himself, he fought back, wounding the vampire. The pain woke Haigus, as if his regression into bestiality had been a kind of dream, and his waking woke the others, as well as things other than vampires. That meeting--between Baltimore and Haigus--set the plague in motion (it spawned from Haigus's blood and the dead men on the battlefield). But there IS a larger presence, a greater and more ancient evil--the thing that the prehistoric vampires and other evils WORSHIP--and that thing is the Red King. It's sleeping, and in time, Haigus will try to wake it. We don't want that to happen. But that's a ways off.
Right now, Haigus is rediscovering the world, preying on humanity, and taking pleasure in Baltimore's anguish.
Nrama: In this series, the idea behind plague ships – a vessel to burn vampires – is sadly one ripped from our own human history and dealing with other types of illness. How did you and Mike strike up upon this idea in a vampire frame of reference, and how it positions vampirism as a plague?
Golden: The plague ships aren't there specifically for vampires. This plague is not unlike the Black Death, the bubonic plague...something like that. So many people have died and the contagion has spread so far, so fast, that getting rid of the bodies by ordinary burial has become impossible in some places. Some places, where it's hit hardest, have gone from normal graves to mass graves and now to extraordinary measures, like loading the plague dead onto ships and sailing them out into the ocean before setting them aflame and scuttling them. It's hell on the shipping and fishing business, but there aren't a lot of men to crew those ships now anyway. Better to cleanse with fire and start over. Of course, SOME of those who contract the plague and die from it are not actually dead. Some of them become vampires. And some rise in a more shambling, mindless form. But first and foremost, the plague is a plague. As for the plague ships themselves, they are a last resort for desperate people who want to get the source of contagion as far away from themselves as possible.
Nrama: Baltimore's a driven man, but a man with one less leg than most folks. How does he function when he's marooned on an island like this? I imagine the seawater at least would get to him and that water-logged leg of his.
Golden: After what he's been through, Baltimore is not precisely an ordinary man. I don't want to go into detail, but those who have read the novel are aware that he isn't--strictly speaking--entirely human anymore. Also, how that wooden puppet leg of his really works is something of a puzzle, isn't it? But it looks pretty damn cool. I don't think a little seawater is going to concern him.
Nrama: If you were stuck in these times, what would you do to protect you and your family, Chris? What's the best way to protect yourself from the plague that’s afflicted Baltimore’s world?
Golden: Stay indoors all night, protected by all of the wards you can imagine that will help against vampires. During the day, stay away from anyone with a cough, or reddish eyes, or mottled or blistered skin. People living in Baltimore's Europe who have already survived the war and the plague have been very, very fortunate. If they can survive the rising of ancient evil, they'll be even luckier...but they might wish they hadn't.What do you think of the Mignola/Golden pairing?