Life After the Vampires Win - William Harms on Impaler

William Harms on Impaler

Although it was critically acclaimed for its unique vision of a world destroyed by vampires, the Impaler comic book series by writer William Harms was left unfinished last year after only three issues.

But now, all six issues of the first volume have been completed and are being collected in trade in October, with a new ongoing Impaler series to begin later this year.

"If you want the entire first story arc, this new trade will be the only place you can get those," Harms said. "Then the new Impaler series starts in December with a new #1 issue from Top Cow."

Impaler explores what would happen if vampires destroyed the world. "It started out answering the question: 'What if vampires were real?' And the answer I came up with is, if they wanted to, they could conquer the world. And that's exactly what happens," Harms said.

Fighting against those vampires is Vlad the Impaler, adding a layer of intrigue to the story and a new twist on traditional vampire lore. "Vlad the Impaler is a historical figure and is largely believed to be the inspiration for Dracula," the writers said. "He's appeared in a lot of vampire fiction, but usually as a vampire. Well, in this, he's a vampire hunter."

Harms said he did a lot of research on Vlad the Impaler and his real life as a Romanian ruler. "He's a pretty fascinating character, so I tried to pull in as much historical reference as I could to help flesh him out as a character," he said.

One example is Vlad's membership in the Order of the Dragon, a group of knights and aristocrats who had sworn to uphold the teachings of and protect the Catholic Church. "He was really a member of that organization, so that's incorporated into the story. In fact, in the trade, he has the emblem on him when he's drawn. And in the cover to the trade, which is drawn by Jean Paul Leon, the emblem is pretty prominent on there," Harms said. "So I'm just trying to include those little historical references whenever I can, to try to ground the story and make it less overly fantastic."

The other main character in the comic is a retiring New York City homicide detective named Victor Dailey, whose wife died from breast cancer. When the story begins, Detective Dailey is finalizing his retirement so he can move to Florida to live with his brother. Unfortunately, before that can happen, vampires show up and destroy New York.

"He's really the heart of the story. The kind of struggles that he goes through in some ways mirror the kind of struggles I've gone through in my life, dealing with cancer. My dad died of cancer, my wife had cancer, so in a weird kind of way, those things informed the way he was formed as a character and kind of speak to his vulnerabilities and his strength," Harms said. "The guy's really been through the ringer. And as the story progresses and as people read, he really turns into the hero of the story by overcoming those pretty substantial odds."

The series was hailed by critics because of its realistic look at the devastation brought about by vampires as they begin to destroy the world. "One of the things that really interests me is thinking, if this was real, how would somebody react to it? That's something that drives the style of the story. For example, in the first three issues, when people start vanishing in New York City, it's almost more of a police procedural kind of thing. The detectives have some evidence that it might be vampires, but they're more interested in looking at it from a crime point of view. They don't freak out and go, 'Oh no! There are vampires running around!' It's more about them trying to get to the bottom of it."

But along with the story being grounded in reality, the vampires are plenty scary. "The vampires are kind of a shadow creature -- a mix between shadow and flesh," Harms said. "The only thing that can harm them when they're in their shadow form is things made of pure iron, which is what Vlad's sword is made from. That's why he's able to combat them pretty effectively, because as they shift, it doesn't really matter to him; he can still hack them up."

Impaler's vampires are also unique because they don't adhere to the traditional rules used in previous vampire stories, such as cloves of garlic or holy water hurting them.

"I wanted more of a hard edge. So the rules are, if you shoot them in the head, they die. So the crosses and holy water -- none of that stuff means a thing to them," Harms explained. "And they can move around in the daytime as long as they're not in the sun. So the great thing from that, from a dramatic point of view, is that it could be broad daylight out, but if you go down into the subways of New York City, there are going to be 2,000 vampires down there waiting for you. It's not like there's ever going to be a safe time when they're going to be in their coffins or anything like that. It doesn't work that way."

The new series, which begins in December, will feature art by British artist Matt Timson, and will launch with a new #1 issue so that new fans can come on board.

"The first issue was written in a way that would accomplish two things," Harms said. "One is it picks up immediately where the trade ends. But at the same time, I structured it in a way so that if someone hasn't read the trade, they can still understand what's going on. I worked really hard with the guys at Top Cow so that if someone new picks it up, they won't be totally lost."

The series, which was previously published by Image (which also publishes Top Cow’s titles), disappointed fans by stopping after three issues, but Harms feels confident that the new ongoing series will be around for a long time.

"Doing a book through Image is awesome in a lot of ways, but it's also hard because you have to do a lot of the work yourself. So it's really great to be at Top Cow now where all I have to do is write it," Harms said. "And hopefully, the kind of support systems they have in terms of reaching out to the fans and retailers will keep it around for several years."

Check back this weekend to read the full first issue of the original Impaler series for free here on Newsarama.

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