Here’s a handy career tip: If somebody calls and says, You want to write a comic with Kurt Busiek? Say Yes.
Sometime in May, 2010 I got that call. I didn’t yet know the details of Kurt’s idea, but I knew I wanted to be part of it. I’d been a fan of Kurt’s for years, especially the Astro City books, and Marvels, which was a major influence on several things I’d written in the prose world.
What I love about Marvels is that Kurt and Alex Ross show what a superhero world looks like through the eyes of an ordinary man. And Kurt’s idea for Dracula: The Company of Monsters, was right in that wheelhouse. Let’s take an ordinary person, put him in a world of monsters, and see if he rises to the occasion. Evan, our protagonist, is in over his head. He’s trapped between the ancient Vlad the Impaler and his uncle Conrad, a CEO who may be worse than Dracula.
Oh, those CEO’s. I started writing the Dracula scripts when the BP oil spill was in full gush, when the recession was steamrolling us, and friends and relatives were being laid off. You may be able to pick up on some of that anger in these pages.
Give me a vampire any day. At least with monsters, you know where you stand. They aren’t telling you “we’re all family” as they hand you your pink slip.
As I write this in September, 2011, the economy is still in the toilet, and people I love are still out of work or working at jobs well below their abilities. If the situation wasn’t so awful, I’d be pleased that the themes in D:TCOM are still relevant.
But for me, the heart of the series is Evan, and what English majors call his “journey.” He’s not the usual comic book hero. He’s an heir who hasn’t accomplished anything, doesn’t know where he wants to go, and has no idea how to get there if he did. When we first meet him, he lacks spine, ambition, a purpose. He’s the Crown Prince of Maybe Later.
But Evan grows, and not always in the nicest way. If you’re meeting him for the first time in this digital version of the comic, I hope he grows on you—in the nicest way, of course.
“Dafna, meet Kurt Busiek and Daryl Gregory. They’re the “Starsky and Hutch” of this whole thing!” — Matt Gagnon, EIC, troublemaker
Matt, you might not yet be aware, has a bit of the knack for understatement. Because that? That line is total bull. Starsky and Hutch is being kind, Starsky and Hutch invokes the idea of two fun loving guys who would never terrify poor editors with stories of decapitations, disembowelings, and (god help me) dissertations on the economics of shadow vampire corporations over the centuries, exactly the kind of stories that would define the next year and a half of my life.
Soon my email inbox became a daily creature feature of whatever Kurt and Daryl could think up next — vampiric beasts chomping on poor hapless scientists in the woods, the bloody colleagues who cut their teeth in Vlad’s employ, and maybe worst of all (perhaps for being too real!), the cold-blooded CEOs of an American corporate culture gone homicidal.
Which is the best part, really, of what Kurt and Daryl do so well with this series. What might seem from the outside to be a simple tale of boy meets vampire, vampire breaks free, boy freaks the f*ck out, becomes something much more as Kurt and Daryl do what the genre has always done best: show us the stuff that REALLY freaks us out at night, the stuff we can’t escape from, or comfort ourselves in only being fiction. Lets face it, out of all the characters in the story, Conrad Barrington, with his narrow ambition and limitless greed is the most real. And Kurt and Daryl give that very real nightmare a name: vampire.
Which is what genre has always done best, hasn’t it? Give name to our nightmares, so we can have some sort of power over them?
So, welcome to the kick-off of a little BOOM! experiment I like to call: let’s give Dafna money to work with people she admires, produce work she enjoys, in a format she loves, which tells a story that needs to be told.
Also known as: DRACULA: THE COMPANY OF MONSTERS.
It’s a pretty sweet gig.