Halloween Week kicks off here on Splash Page with the first in our series of guest columns from comic book creators known for their work with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and all manner of terrifying subject matter. First up is writer Tony Lee, who's currently hard at work on the comic book adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," as well as the webcomic "Where Evils Dare" and his original graphic novel "From The Pages Of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula': Harker," a sequel to the classic 1897 novel. Keep it locked to Splash Page all week for more Halloween-themed guest columns, features and exclusive previews!
I was never much of a horror fan as a kid. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, I was too young for movies like "The Exorcist," "Rosemary's Baby," "The Shining" and "The Omen," only finding them later in my life. No, I was a child of the '80s, and as such, my first exposure to horror was the movies of Wes Craven and Sam Raimi. But I had a problem with the genre—I just didn't understand why there had to be so much blood.
Of course, when I hit my late teens I returned and found movies that I enjoyed like the aforementioned "Exorcist" or "The Omen"—and I realized that the horrors I enjoyed were always those of a more supernatural vein. The Devil has a child? Awesome. You're all fallen demons? Groovy. You're a maniac with an ice pick? Yeah, let us get back to you on that one.
I loved the supernatural. I didn't need blood, gore or high powered machinery—all I needed was a whiff of Armageddon, an undying curse or a creature from another time and I was hooked. And of course in the '80s everyone wanted to be Keifer Sutherland in "The Lost Boys." The Frog Brothers could go to hell—Keifer had the best clothes. And I think it was here that I became a true fan of the Vampire.
Of course, nobody truly knows what a true Vampire is—Bram Stoker stole ideas from Eastern Myth, other books, and films stole ideas from Stoker. Over the years Vampires have been affected by stakes, crucifixes, sunlight, garlic, stern words, a well made cup of tea and silver, among other things—though silver is usually reserved for visiting aunts and cups of tea for werewolves. Or something like that.
And then there's the fact that some Vampires explode in the sun while others simply weaken or, as seen in recent years, sparkle like diamonds. Whether you like it or hate it, all of these are correct, as long as they don't involve the same Vampire—because the myth was always changing, always fluid.
But I've always been a traditionalist. I like the history. When I write my "Doctor Who" stories (Editor's Note: Tony is the writer of the ongoing "Doctor Who" series from IDW) I try to ensure that there are strong links to the original shows, because I feel that it's respectful to do so. And when I've played with Vampires, I've tried to do similar.
I never saw myself as a "horror" writer. I assumed I was straying around the borders of mainstream fantasy—but the fact of the matter is that currently I'm straying a little too far into the woods that don't have the happy music playing. Last year was "Hope Falls," a revenge take on a falling Angel who kills the four men who violated and killed her while discovering the conspiracy behind her murder, and recently in the UK magazine "2000AD" I've written "Necrophim," which is effectively "Point Blank" in Hell. Currently I have "Where Evils Dare," a Zuda Comics webcomic involving classic horror characters in World War Two, and finally "From The Pages Of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula': Harker," my graphic novel sequel to "Dracula" published by AAM/Markosia, set six months after the classic book and involving every principle member of the cast, be them alive or dead.
But is there a reason for my sudden descent into darkness? I think not. It's just that sometimes these things are hit by timing—and the timing in question here is Halloween.
"Where Evils Dare" was conceived in 2005. A year ago I was convinced to make it into a webcomic for Zuda, and in the summer it was sent in. A story that brought in Vampires, Werewolves and zombies, animated by the mechanics of Viktor Von Frankenstein during World War Two, it was a fun romp—but it was much, much more than that. I wanted this to be my own little "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen," with descendants of classic literature characters involved in a fight between good and evil, with Dracula and Von Frankenstein on one side and Nazis and the grandson of Jonathan and Mina Harker on the other. The latter lead a squad that includes descendants of other characters—including, as the story went on, Doctor Jekyll, Renfield, Dorian Grey. The list is endless, but in creating such a thing, does it stay as a horror or does it suddenly start to move away from the genre?
Maybe I'll never know. Artist Stefano Martino and I only have eight pages done and, if we don't win the contest, we'll never have the chance to continue it. In a strange synchronicity, Halloween is the date that we learn if enough people wanted to know, wanted to see—if enough people cared enough to register at Zudacomics.com and vote for us It is the date where we discover if we win or not.
(Editor's Note: To read and vote for Tony's webcomic, "Where Evils Dare," visit www.zudacomics.com/node/1434 and, after you've registered an email address, vote, favorite and comment on the comic before the competition deadline at 12pm EST Thursday.)
And then there's "From The Pages Of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula': Harker." I've kept right to the source material here, I've not added any tweaks or twiddles from the offshoots, and it's so loyal to the source that noted Vampire historians Elizabeth Miller, Alexander Gallant, Ian Holt and Leslie S Klinger have given pieces, introductions, afterwords and articles—and Dacre Stoker, the Great Grand Nephew of Bram himself, has given it his blessing, and his own written piece.
But does this make me horror? No. Because nowadays, Vampires aren't horror. People watch "True Blood," "Twilight," "Vampire Academy," "Angel," "Buffy," and read half a ton of Vampire novels not because they're scary—but because of the romances. Vampire Romance is now an established shelf genre in most Sci Fi bookstores. And many of these people say that their Vampires are the same as our Vampires, just sexier. (Which is wrong, really—as I can't see "Twilight" doing that well if it starred the cast of "30 Days Of Night.")
At the end of the day, I write comics. I love comics. And I love a good Vampire story. And so I'll write a good Vampire story. With Guillermo Del Toro's "The Strain," Chris Marie Green's "Vampire" series, the official "Dracula" sequel "Dracula: The Undead" and half a dozen other Vampire related books—not to mention the "Twilight" movies—people say that Vampires have finally reached their sell-by date. People are saying that we're finally saturated in the mythos. But are we?
Dracula's still a seller. EGames release a new game called "The Dracula Files" next week, and the movie rights for "Dracula: The Undead" are being fought over among several producers. So if they're still selling, what's the real story here?
The real story is that no matter what the medium, whether it be a TV Show, movie, book, comic or musical, Vampires—in particular the dear, damned Count himself—have never been more popular. And you can expect this for another year or two, at least. Sure, Vampires might suddenly sparkle, or play baseball, or be affected by silver necklaces, or be photographed/not be photographed, but any new fan to the Vampire mythos will move their way back through the pile and eventually, they'll find themselves reading Mina Harker's diary, or learning about ol' Varney the Vampire.
And maybe, just maybe they'll read "Where Evils Dare"—if it continues—or sit down with "The Complete Dracula," adapted into comics by Leah Moore and John Reppion, and "From The Pages Of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula': Harker" for a double-bill graphic novel reading.
Just don't forget the garlic.
- Tony Lee
Tony Lee is a writer of comics who, along with writing about vampires and zombies, has written for popular characters such as Doctor Who, Spider Man, the X-Men and Shrek. He can be found at www.tonylee.co.uk and at www.twitter.com/mrtonylee. And make sure to check out Tony's favorite new game, "The Dracula Files," on Nickelodeon's Shockwave blog.