Exclusive: Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov Talks ‘I… Vampire'


Joshua Hale Fialkov's I… Vampire (with art by Andrea Sorrentino) debuted several months ago from DC Comics as part of the company's "New 52". A reboot/continuation of the 1980s comic about a sixteenth century lord named Andrew Bennett out to stop his lover/enemy Mary Seward (a.k.a. Mary, Queen of Blood) from wiping out humanity, the book's fourth issue is due out this Wednesday, December 28th (check out our exclusive five-page preview here). In the interview that follows the jump, Fialkov talks about writing vampires in a world filled with superheroes, as well as his other new comic projects, and why he considers comics one of the greatest mediums in which to tell stories.

I… Vampire blends different genres. It has horror, but there are superheroes present…

It's fun because it's juggling. You kind of constantly have to be pushing all the buttons at the right time, otherwise the whole thing falls down. The thing that sets us apart and makes this book special is that third ball – which sounds horrible when I say it out loud [laughs] – the third ball being superheroes. Finding a way to then also incorporate it into this chaotic world… In most vampire fiction, vampires are kind of it. They're the top of the food chain. But at DCU there's a rhyming demon running around. [Laughs.] There's a walking neutron bomb walking around. There's a soldier who can remake matter at his whim. So vampires are not the big guns. They are a minority and they're a repressed class. You often get, in vampire fiction, the idea that they're the handsome Europeans with the leather coats, and they're their own class, which is better than everyone else. Well in this world they aren't better than everyone else. They're better than the normals. They're better than regular humans, but there's this whole other class above them that they're about to come smack dab into.

That being said, what horror fiction, particularly vampire fiction, has impacted your work?

Certainly Creepy, Eerie and the DC horror stuff. But I'm a Richard Matheson. So the bulk of my horror… I love the kind of super-normal. I love the idea that the most awful thing in the world is not a monster, but is the guy living next door, or more specifically the guy inside you. So what I wanted to do with I… Vampire is take the same ethos that I've used in my other books, like Echoes and Elk's Run, which are horror books in which the monsters are us. So I tried to take that same kind of mentality so that the awful thing… Certainly the murders and the genocide are horrible. But the real drive for Andrew is the personal part, that Mary led him on to think she was behaving herself when in fact she was out massacring people, and he more or less let it happen. That betrayal is the crux of the first arc. That's the part that hits people and works. It's the equivalent of having your girlfriend cheat on you. You have an understanding. You have a relationship set in stone, and this person goes behind your back and does the exact opposite. That to me is what makes the book. That's why people responded so well. It's what makes the book relatable. That it's not about the mystical stuff. It's really about people and relationships, which to me is what all good fiction should be.

You're collaborating with a pretty impressive artist on this book.

Yeah, Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo, who's the colorist, the two of them are just brilliant together. They're making beautiful, beautiful music, and I'm just lucky to have them. They capture the tone and the look of the book…. By having this nontraditional art, certainly it has the ability to alienate readers, but I think it lets you know when you pick up the book that you're reading something different, that you're experiencing a different kind of book. I think what I've found is it kind of opens readers up to this idea of a book that's told in a more complex and a more complicated way. It's not just two guys hitting each other. Not that there's anything wrong with two guys hitting each other. That's always great. [Laughs.]

Can you talk about what other projects your working on now? You've worked in different media over the years…

I have. I'm actually predominantly comics now. The hardcover collection of Echoes came out a month ago. That's a horror/psychological thriller book. That just came out and was nominated for a bunch of Harvey Awards last year. I got a book I'm doing right now for Image called The Last of the Greats, which is actually a superhero-horror book. It's essentially "What if aliens came to earth and gave us everything we wanted and we hated them and murdered everyone, except for one final of the Greats, as they call them." Aliens come to destroy us, the last of the Greats says, "I will save you if you make me God Emperor of Earth." It just gets more fun from there, I'll tell ya. [Laughs.] That's coming out right now from Image. I got a book coming out right now from Oni early next year that's a sci-fi comedy book. I'm doing all kinds of things, but those are the main things I'm doing right now. Oh, and I got a new crime noir series I'm doing with my collaborator from Tumor, Noel Tuazon. We're going to be launching it from Image in a couple of months.

Is there any new vampire fiction you're enjoying these days or has teen romance overtaken it? If so, do you feel a compulsion to bring the genre back to its roots?

Yeah, I actually think if you want to find good vampire fiction, comics is the place to do it. Right now there are four books that are amazing. I shouldn't say four, because that includes mine, and that's being pretentious. Let's say there are three other books I can think of off the cuff. You have Jeff Snyder's amazing American Vampire over at Vertigo, which is a big epic book that's not just redefining what you can do in the vampire genre, but in horror and in comics in general. Then you have Steve Niles doing the punk rock 30 Days of Night. Those books are so visceral and alive and filled with this great 1970s DIY anger and rage. They're biting, pissed-off horror, in the best way. Then you have the Buffy comics over at Dark Horse. It's the character that started all the vampire romance stuff, and the comics are amazing. Both the Buffy and Angel comics are wonderful books. So I actually think there's sort of a renaissance of vampire fiction in comics. Getting horror fans aware of them is a challenge. That's the fight that we have.  

In real life, what's your greatest fear?

You know, the stuff I'm scared of is metaphysical. I'm scared of failure. I'm scared of things that are whiney and mopey, but not necessarily like clowns or anything. Everybody's scared of clowns. There's actually a bar around the corner from my house – it's a punk rock club that has a clown theme, and when you walk in there's a dead clown in a glass case. It's really upsetting… But the scariest thing is to do what I do and have nobody out there reading.

I spend a lot of time sort of proselytizing for comics, because I'm desperate to make sure that this medium exists. Because I think it's one of the most powerful and one of the most wonderful ways to tell stories, and at the same time we've been kind of shunted off to the side of literature. But what we do in our medium is considerably harder than almost any other medium. Look, movies are hard to make, but you also have three hundred people doing them. At the end of the day a comic is five or six guys at most killing themselves to try and make something perfect and beautiful and amazing, It's very rare to find a way to tell big, huge stories on a giant canvas without the restrictions or constraints of the guys who hold your purse strings. Comics is one of the few places where you can do that. Even working on big characters for Marvel or DC, you have the freedom to tell the best story possible because that's what the medium was built to do. It sounds hokey, but my biggest fear is that we can't keep this thing going. It's really important to me that comics – and I'm not just talking about my book, I mean comics as a medium – it's really important to me that they exist, because… When you listen to Steven Spielberg talk about the things that have inspired him to make movies, he talks about comic books. What does Guillermo del Toro talk about? He doesn't talk about the books or the movies, he talks about comic books. Comic books are this visceral, powerful thing that drives imagination in a way that virtually no other art form can. I genuinely believe we're one of the most important forms of storytelling for that reason. We're helping to build the future of entertainment…

How's that for an answer? [Laughs.] Or you could just put down wolves. I'm scared of wolves. 

[Laughs.] Thank you so much for your time, Joshua.I… Vampire, comics, Joshua Hale Fialkov, interview

Thank you. I really appreciate the coverage.