I, Vampire #5
cover.Although there may be a few superhero costumes around today, it's a safe bet there will be hordes of vampires unleashed upon the streets for Halloween.
In fact, it will be a lot like the relaunched DC Universe.
The new horror-filled comic I, Vampire — perhaps the most unexpected critical hit in DC's "The New 52" — has introduced an underground world of vampires in the DCU who are tired of hiding from superheroes and humans.
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov with art by Andrea Sorrentino, the comic's story has unleashed a whole army of vampires upon the DCU who are determined to get their fill of blood and power, no matter what superhero tries to stand in their way.
The first two issues of I, Vampire have gotten fans buzzing about its gritty, Vertigo-esque art and tone. Fialkov warned Newsarama readers that the book was "nasty, mean and not what you think,", yet the story still surprised fans with its shape-shifting vampires whose dark battle rages around a twisted love affair.
Now, recent news from New York Comic Con has fans talking even more. What will the upcoming visit by John Constantine do for the dark battle already raging in I, Vampire? And what will Batman's promised appearance mean of the confrontation between those loyal to Andrew and the raging blood-suckers who follow Mary?
I, Vampire is a revamp of a popular horror romance introduced in the page of a 1980s House of Mystery arc by J.M. DeMatteis. Now that Fialkov has reimagined it for a new audience, the attention he's gotten has also been generating buzz about the writer's other horror and action books, like Last of the Greats and Echoes from Image.
Since the scariest of holidays is upon us today, Newsarama talked with Fialkov to find out more about the upcoming guest appearances and why blood-sucking vampires are still the darlings of the media — and of comic book fans.Newsarama: Joshua, since it's Halloween, let's talk vampires for a moment. Why do you think various types of monsters have come and gone, but blood-sucking vampires have stuck around as a favorite scare? Do you think the act of draining blood itself lies at the center of the fear we have of vampires? The idea of sucking out one's life-force? Or is it that they're technically dead themselves? Joshua Hale Fialkov: I'd say it actually starts more with cannibalism. There's the whole Cain slew Abel thing, biblically that a lot of this has a root in, as well as the Lilith mythology, the first woman, before Eve.
So the idea of eating flesh and drinking blood is something that's been in almost every form of mythology from the beginning, partly because it was a sure fire way to get diseases and illnesses spread, but also, I think because of the moralistic message of it.I, Vampire #4
cover.But, for modern times, the sheer brilliance of Dracula both as a piece of literature and as a character, who's so flexible and able to fit into almost any situation and add real flair, probably explains the bulk of it. You can pull from there in a million directions because there's just so much in there, from the Brides to the weird psycho-sexual relationship between Drac and Mina Harker and on and on.
Nrama: The visuals we've seen of the transformation powers in I, Vampire has been either bat-like or wolf-like. But Andrea Sorrentino just revealed some art for #4 that features a huge, monstrous form. Is that another form vampires can take?
Fialkov: The idea for me is that Andrew and Mary and other elder vampire statesman, so to speak, have complete and utter control over their forms and that means they turn into the monster that they need to be.
Nrama: I know you were relying somewhat on Bram Stoker's Dracula for your vampires, but how did you fall upon these forms in particular? And the mist — the visual of that power — why did you like that?
Fialkov: Well, the mist is something that's in Dracula and is such a great power to use visually. The moments of Andrew dematerializing and reappearing elsewhere just sing for me. Besides, how else is he going to beat Batman?
The Dracula power set, for me, is just about the purest form of vampire. It gives them power well beyond mortal man and makes them an actual threat against the heroes of the DCU.
Nrama: As you were putting together the look for I, Vampire, did you talk with the artist about what human death in this book should look like, and how the vampire would feast? There seems to be piles of bodies in both issues so far — why that visual, and what else can you tell us about the visual approach you guys are using?Fialkov: I think the DCU as a whole is a grimmer place now, and Andrea really delivers on that. Looking at a world gone to rot, and that the Vampires are like the cockroaches that've been hiding under the floor boards, for me, is such a compelling idea, and Andrea conveys that beautifully.
Nrama: There's a theme running through this story of the downtrodden fighting back against the powers that be — this idea of "revolution." Yet it's hard to equate blood-sucking vampires with, for example, the Civil Rights movement or the words of Malcolm X. What are your thoughts as you explore this theme in I, Vampire?
Fialkov: It really goes to one of the central themes of all of my work, that every person no matter how misguided thinks that they're doing the best thing possible. We all make terrible, selfish decisions constantly (or maybe that's just me), and yet, none of us think of ourselves as evil or bad. We're just trying to survive. Mary is the exact same way, and so are her followers. They just want what they see as their God-given rights.
Nrama: It appears that the vampires are at a breaking point of sorts, as they are just fed up with their exile. What's led to this situation?
Fialkov: Being stuffed down for so long and watching all of the other freaks and weirdos pop up and take their birthrights, I think, is just too much for them to handle. They've been subsisting for so long, that this is their golden opportunity. The world is a place of chaos, and that's exactly what they need in order to rule.
Nrama: There are a lot of potential reasons for vampirism in the DCU, since this world is populated with aliens, supernatural and magical heroes and even science-based mutations. Will we find out the origin of vampirism in the DCU? And can you tell us if it leans toward the supernatural, as it seems so far?
Fialkov: We actually get into the mythology in Issue 7 of the book, and it's by far my favorite of the series. I don't want to spoil it, but, I can say that it's roots come from the dawn of mankind.Nrama: Recent vampire stories often explore the theme of a character who rejects the monster he's become — and that seems to be true of Andrew in I, Vampire. Is that a common theme you've seen in vampire stories? And do you think that's part of why vampire stories are so compelling?
Fialkov: Well, I think we're a generation (or two) of people who feel like we've inherited something we never asked for. Global warming, crass consumerism, ineptitude in government, all of those things have virtually nothing to do with anybody under the age of 40. Those are things that've been pushed onto us, and that we have to find ways to solve. The curse of vampirism, I think, is the same.I, Vampire #3
cover.But, what I hope people get from the book is that while Andrew sees what he did to Mary as a curse, there's also a bit of joy in his own abilities and what they mean. When he sees Mary being beautiful in wolf form, that's an acceptance of his own feelings about himself.
Nrama: Does Andrew fit the role of hero despite his love for Mary? Would you call that a weakness, and does he have other weaknesses or non-heroic elements we might have seen or will see soon?
Fialkov: I steer away from such clear-cut things as heroism and villainy. I think that, again, how we define ourselves as people has very little to do with reality, and much more to do with perception and imagination. When Andrew flees the mob and leads the vampires down into the subway to feed on a train full of commuters, that's not heroic in the least.
Mistakes are something that happen, it's just in fiction your characters pay for them in big, big ways.
Nrama: Modern vampire stories have also frequently focused on a powerful vampire falling in love with a frail human. But nothing could be further from the truth in the story of Andrew and Mary. How would you describe their relationship? And can they really keep up this strange love/respect each has for the other when their paths have diverged so greatly?
Fialkov: The romance is really my favorite part of the book. Mary and Andrew have such a real relationship. One filled with an entire history of fighting and arguing and loving and caressing. They, to me, are what every relationship is. Complicated.
Nrama: We got some insight into Mary's character with issue #2. Why does her desire to have Andrew by her side outweigh her need to eliminate him as she pursues her goals?
Fialkov: Well, he's survived this long, and she's had way more at her disposal than he has, so... definitely. They both hope to change the other, but, as we all know, people don't change.
Nrama: Issue #2 also revealed Mary as having a real desire for power, yet in an oddly attractive way. How would you describe the character, and in what ways can we see why Andrew still cares about her?Fialkov: To me, she's such a liberated woman, and so proud of what she has and what she's accomplished. That's a beautiful, sexy thing. She doesn't lord her achievements over those around her, instead, she simply exudes them. I, Vampire #2
cover.She's mastered all of her powers, including her sexuality to the point where she doesn't need some sort of wacky psychic power to sway people, instead, she simply has her self.
Nrama: You've told us before that Andrew's supporting cast will be rounded out in Issue #3. Now that we're approaching that issue, can you tell us anything more about who he surrounds himself with and why?
Fialkov: He's got a classic vampire hunter character named John Troughton who he's been around since the 60's. John is as of the beginning of issue 3, the only person he's let into his life. With all of his past companions, Andrew has always been too protective to be a real team player, but, John's proven himself again and again as very capable, and that means there's a trust that neither man would've ever expected.
Nrama: How did the appearance in issue #4 of Constantine come about?
Fialkov: Matt Idelson and I talked a lot about good crossover opportunities, ways to show case that the book is set in the current DCU, and that the events around it are 'really happening.' Constantine serves as such a great gateway for that because he already stands on the side of the macabre, and his attitude is so opposite of Andrews. John is an actor, not a brooder. John is willing to do what has to be done, where as Andrew, we've seen, is slightly more hesitant.I, Vampire #1
cover.It's also great to have a character who sees the whole picture in a way Andrew can't because of his love for Mary.
Nrama: Anything you can tell us about John Constantine's role in the story?
Fialkov: Vampire attacks at night, what does Constantine do? Summon a tiny sun and grab a shotgun.
Nrama: This book has a dark edge to it, so Constantine seems to fit. Was that the same reasoning for the book's first major superhero being Batman? That he has a dark edge to him? Or is there more of a story reason for his appearance?
Fialkov: Look, any opportunity DC gives me to write Batman I'm going to take it. I can't let [Batman writer] Snyder have all the fun, you know? But, beyond that, I think we have to address what the capes think about the vampires, and, Batman, as such an insular secretive character felt like the best way to do that.
Nrama: Will we see any of the heroes of the DCU turned into vampires? What issue might we watch for that sort of scene?
Fialkov: Stay tuned. Can't say just yet, but... your wish is my command.
Nrama: Have you gotten confirmation from DC that any other books in the DCU might feature vampires?
Fialkov: In deed! In fact, I just read through an outline of another book that deals extensively with them, and, plays a part in a later issue for us. As soon as we can say which book, you'll flip out.
Nrama: How important is Sorrentino's work to the success of the comic overall?
Fialkov: Oh, very. Andrea captures a look and feel that says "This is something different," in a way that a more traditional artist simply couldn't. He also brings the mood and tone like no other.
Nrama: As you've heard feedback from readers about the first couple issues, is there anything you want to clear up that people might have gotten wrong about the comic?
Fialkov: [laughs] Everything seems perfectly in tune right now. I would say that the book is set in the DCU and it is set now, and you'll see how it plays into the greater DCU in issue 3. The few hundred missing Boston locals does get the attention of a few people.
Nrama: We've heard there will be a collection of the old "I, Vampire" stories from the characters' House of Mystery days. What made that story's appearance to revolutionary and popular that DC decided to bring it back? What was so special about the original "I, Vampire" tales?
Fialkov: Frankly, they're just terrific. J.M. DeMatteis did an amazing job taking the characters in a bold and exciting direction, and then you had guys like Bruce Jones filling out the run. All under the mighty editorial tutelage of Karen Berger of Vertigo fame. They're just damn fine comics.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about I, Vampire as we celebrate Halloween?
Fialkov: Every issue is at least 10 times crazier than the last, and the ride is amazingly fun for me. I hope you guys stick around.
For more information on Fialkov's books, including I, Vampire, Last of the Greats and Echose, visit his website at thefialkov.com.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!