[INTERVIEW] Joshua Hale Fialkov – DC Comics’ ‘I, Vampire’

The re-launch of the DC Universe made headlines everywhere. One of the most surprising and talked about elements of the DC New 52 was the revival of older titles with a darker edge, which included Animal Man, Resurrection Man and the upcoming I Vampire. The choice to make these series a part of the re-launch may have appeared odd at first glance, but now that the books are finally in the greedy little hands of fans, the dark side of the new DC Comics has given fans some of the best new titles the publisher has launched in years.

I Vampire was originally conceived by writer J.M. DeMatteis and first appeared in House of Mystery during the early 1980s. The story began as a back-up feature, but quickly took over the entire book as the characters popularity skyrocketed with each issue. After an incredible 24 issue run in House of Mystery, the series fell dormant and remained there until now. The series follows vampire Andrew Bennett, who turned his lover, Mary Seward, into a vampire. Upon turning, Mary’s thirst for blood proved to be insatiable and set her on a path of destruction. Corrupt with power and drunk on blood, Mary took over leadership of the vampire nation and is now on a quest for world domination. Bennett must now take down his former lover before she destroys all of humanity.

Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (Echoes, Tumor) and artist Andrea Sorrentino (Wildstorm’s God of War) have thankfully been given the green light by DC Comics to resurrect this dark tale of hard hitting horror and twisted romance. Fialkov jumped at the chance to chat with Bloody-Disgusting about the re-launch of I Vampire, how the title differs from popular modern day vampire fiction (Twilight, True Blood) and why he’s still committed to doing creator owned work, despite being recruited to write for the “Big Two”.

How did you get involved with the new 52 and how did you come to get involved with I Vampire?

I was approached by Editor Matt Idelson.  He and Wil Moss had been fans of my work, and with Echoes, I’d made a big enough splash that they got me through the front door.  I’m sure they regret it, because now I just won’t leave.  The best thing for me has been that I’m a huge fan of the House of Mystery and House of Secrets comics, so getting to work on I Vampire is just a dream come true, especially with Wil and Matt.
 
Give us a quick rundown of the plot for I Vampire…

Andrew Bennett was turned into a vampire five hundred years ago.  The first thing he did was turn his one true love, Mary, into a vampire, too.  While he stayed more or less himself, plus Dracula style super powers, Mary become evil incarnate, the literal Queen of Blood. So now, in modern day; they’ve made peace and the vampires are more or less living in hiding at Mary’s command.  And, she’s sick of it.  She wants the vampires to inherit the earth, and, obviously Andrew won’t let her.  And, by the way, they’re still completely in love with each other. It’s mean, gnarly hard horror with a big heart.  I’m so proud of the book, and really hope folks give it a chance.
 
Originally I Vampire was created by writer J.M. DeMatteis and published in the ’80s. What was it about the character that made it so appealing to revive for DC’s New 52 project and are you striving to make this book an extension of DeMatteis’ run or something completely new?

Look, I’m sure a good amount of it was Twilight and the stuff surrounding it, from a business stand point.  One of the most successful genres consistently across literature is Vampire Romance.  Now, that’s beside the point for me.  I had to find a way to tell a story that fits into that box, but also spills over it into the things that excite me.  I actually have a soft spot for romance, and I feel like there’s a big vacuum for great romance comics. Love is something that you can convey so wonderfully in comic form, and has such a rich history. So doing a book that combines the hard horror that I’m known for, with the heart and love that I feel are missing, is a challenge that I just thrive on. 
 
Vampires are very trendy at the moment with the success of shows like True Blood and the Twilight movies. What sets this book apart from your run of the mill vampire story?

I’m lucky to be good friends with the two preeminent vampire writers in comic books right now in Steve Niles and Scott Snyder.  I’ve also worked on a lot of vampire fiction like the Dark-Hunters manga and Vampirella, so, I’ve got a pretty good handle on a pretty wide range of vampire lit.  With this I wanted to really find an original place to stand, and I feel like our book has a really unique heart that you don’t see a lot in comic books. At the same time, I think this book features a lot of the action and fright that you don’t see a lot in romance novels.  I’m immensely proud of how it turned out.

Where does a book like I Vampire fit into the DC Comics universe or does it not fit in at all?
For me, I wanted to take the best parts of horror and romance fiction, and combine it with what makes DC comics great.  We have a huge canvas to paint on, we will we rub-up against other characters and books, which is a blast to write. I’m really being given the freedom to tell a huge story all on my own with all of these great toys to play with.  You’ll definitely see some huge DC characters in the book in the not too distant future.

How did Andrea Sorrentino come into the picture on this and what has he worked on prior to I Vampire?
Andrea was a find of editor Ben Abernathy way back when, and he’s been floating around the offices for a while. I think with I Vampire we found the book that’ll break him wide in the industry.  He’s got such a brilliant style, and he’s a work horse who is really just burning through pages. It’s been a huge blast. 

Despite having a new monthly for DC and working for Marvel on Iron Man, you also have a new creator owned series called Last of the Greats starting in October. What can you tell us about this series and how did it come together?

For me, I just wanted to do something big and epic. For years I’d been scared to do something like this for a bunch of reasons, most of them related to the market, but, I felt like now was the time. I think I have the right story with the right creative partner in Brent Peeples. The book is about a group of super beings who appeared on earth twenty years ago, fixed the earth in every way, and were then systematically murdered by us.  Well, when aliens show up to destroy the earth, we have nowhere to turn but to the last of these beings who fucking hates us for what we’ve done. It’s almost like a super-powered version of I Claudius. 

Was it a conscious decision to continue doing creator owned work despite getting work from DC and Marvel? There are a lot of writers/artists that never go back to creator owned work once they get mainstream work.

Man I love writing other people’s characters, but there’s nothing on earth like creating your own stuff.  I think if there’s ever a day that all of my books are owned by someone else, I’m clearly doing something wrong.  It’s like two separate jobs almost.  Working on your own books is rewarding in a lot of ways that working for publishers just isn’t, and while there’s certainly wonderful things about writing for hire, it just doesn’t hold a candle to having complete and utter creative control. If I decide I want to kill a character, I can.  If I decide that for the story, the main character needs to become a large potted plant for a few issues, I can.  If I decide that the book is over and should end, I can wrap it up.  That’s the joy of owning what you do.  

Echoes, the black and white horror series you did at Image Comics/Top Cow was just collected into a hardcover. What has been your reaction to the success of the series and
how satisfying is it to see this book collected into a deluxe format and were

It’s been terrific; the folks at Top Cow and Image really did an amazing job with the book and there’s not a single thing I’d change.  I’m just immensely proud of the work Rahsan and I did, and think the package does the material justice.  We all kill ourselves working on everything from our creator owned epics to those dinky little backups in superhero books to make the best books possible, and Echoes is one of those times where every push and pull and stretch was completely and utterly worth it. 

What can readers who have never read Echoes expect if they grab the hardcover edition?

Brutal suspense horror.  The book’s been called “horror noir” by a lot of folks, and that’s about the best description I can think of.  It’s hopefully terrifying to read, but it’s horror that comes from a visceral, real place, rather than from monsters or jump scares or any of that.  It’s what can happen to you, right now, at any moment. That, for me, is where real horror comes from.  Echoes follows a guy who could literally be you or me, who finds himself with a possible serial killer for a recently deceased dad. New murders start happening all around him and he makes all the wrong decisions that somebody in that situation would make.  It’s every moment of your life when things start to spiral out of control compressed into five issues of crazy, crazy horror fun.  I’m so proud of it, and I really hope more people check it out, especially off of the back of Echoes and Last of the Greats.