American Vampire

In my last post, I discussed vampires from space. Today, we’ll take a look at thoroughly Earth-bound vampires, though we will travel back in time to 1920s Hollywood and even a little further back to the Old West. The comic book series American Vampire first captured my attention because one of its stories was written by Stephen King. Even though King’s works had been adapted for comics, American Vampire was the first time King actually scripted a comic. What’s more, I had enjoyed the way King played with the tropes of the American west in his novel, The Gunslinger, so I hoped he’d capture some of that magic again in a novel actually set in the American west.

American Vampire

The first volume of American Vampire actually tells two stories. The lead story, written by Scott Snyder, introduces us to Pearl Jones, an aspiring actress in 1920s Hollywood. As the story opens, she’s pretty much just picked up small parts in films, but it looks like her luck may change when she’s invited to a party hosted by some of the players in the movie industry. It turns out these producers and directors are vampires and she’s there as part of the buffet. Somehow she survives the initial assault and a mysterious stranger, who also proves to be a vampire, helps her become a vampire. The mysterious stranger is Skinner Sweet, a vampire who appears to have a grudge against the old European vampires who attacked Pearl.

The other story running through the issues is Skinner Sweet’s origin story penned by Stephen King. We meet Sweet as a human outlaw on a train. A Pinkerton agent is taking him to face justice. Sweet expects to be freed by his gang, but one of the men who paid the Pinkertons is a European vampire who wants Sweet dead so he can fulfill his plans. The vampire attacks Sweet and appears to kill him. Unknown to anyone, Sweet managed to drink some of the vampire’s blood. Sweet is buried, but eventually rises again years later. This segment is told through the eyes of a successful author who wrote a book based on Sweet’s story. For the most part, it worked. King did lean heavily on the tropes of the American west, plus tropes within his own writing, but he delivered a solid vampire origin story.

The two stories weave a tale of vampires evolving in the new world. American vampires have new powers and fewer weaknesses than their European counterparts. As a metaphor for Americans embracing the new and moving forward, sometimes in dangerous ways, I found this interesting. Still, as a scientist who likes to ask why things happen, I wanted to better understand why American vampires are fundamentally different from European vampires. What’s the mechanism that caused vampires to evolve in this world? Admittedly, I’ve only read volume one, which contains the first five issues of the comic, so it’s possible this is explored more later.

Both stories were nicely told, but I think the real star of the comic was Rafael Albuquerque’s art. Having the same artist on both stories really helped to unify them. Also Albuquerque’s art felt very dynamic, which fit the stories well. I loved his use of color to both differentiate the stories and set the moods of the stories.

Another thing I appreciated in the graphic novel editions was the inclusion of sample script and early art pages. As someone who has long been fascinated by the process of creating comics, I liked this behind-the-scenes look.

You can learn more about my vampire comic, Guinevere and the Stranger by visiting http://davidleesummers.com/Tales-of-the-Scarlet-Order.html

Ursa Minor

This weekend, I’m at Las Cruces Comic Con. If you’re in town, I hope you’ll drop by the convention center, say “hi,” and browse our fine selection of books. Back in June at Duke City Comic Con, I had the opportunity to meet Tom Hutchison, owner of Big Dog Ink and writer/creator of most of the company’s titles, which include Legend of Oz: The Wicked West and the superhero comic, Critter. Another title he publishes is Ursa Minor, which imagines an alternate world where, in 2012, a pair of werewolves emerged and killed the president of the United States. Soon after that, vampires made themselves known and offered to out the werewolves, tag, and control them for humanity. However, these vampires aren’t the altruists they appear to be on the surface. They’re actually seeking a position of power among humankind and a way to utilize humans as easy food stock.

David and Tom at Duke City Comic Con

As an astronomer, I know the constellation Ursa Minor well. Its name is Latin for “Little Bear” and it’s also known as the Little Dipper, which is the constellation containing Polaris, the pole star. In Tom’s comic, the title character is Naomi, a young woman who also happens to be a werebear. In this world, werebears are among the most dangerous creatures to vampires. They are one of the few creatures strong enough to do physical harm to a vampire and they have silver in their claws, which make them an especially potent force when fighting vampires. Unfortunately for humans, werebears are quite rare and it looks like Naomi may be the only one currently alive.

As the story opens, Naomi works at Papa Gamboli’s Carnival, a carnival-themed nightclub in Los Angeles. Late at night, Naomi and her best friend, Angela, stalk the streets of LA hunting vampires. It soon becomes apparent this is a losing battle. The vampires can make more of their own kind faster than Naomi can kill them. They seek advice from their friend Onyx, a rock golem who tends bar at the Carnival. Onyx takes Naomi and Angela to Japan in search of a witch named April who he believes can help them be more effective vampire hunters. April tells them all vampires are descended from one of four “Legends.” These Legends are ultra-powerful vampires: Countess Bathory, Dracula, Vlad, and Orlock. Our team sets out to take on Dracula, but when they realize the vampires can easily deduce their plans, they change tack and confront Elizabeth Bathory instead.

One of the things that was fun about meeting Tom in person was the opportunity to get his thoughts on creating a vampire/horror comic. We also talked about how I had created a short comic based on my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires and he told me he had actually novelized the original Ursa Minor miniseries. The novelized version of Ursa Minor is available for just 99 cents at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ursa-Minor-Fear-April-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B01EHK50FS/

Ursa Minor and Guinevere and the Stranger

It was interesting to compare the comic book and prose novel versions of Ursa Minor. Tom’s prose novel is mostly a blow-by-blow retelling of the comic, but there are a few expanded scenes and the novel extends a little beyond the end of the first comic book mini-series. Interestingly, in the comic book, I felt like some of the fight scenes were over and done very quickly. In the novel, he took some time and built more suspense, making me worry more for the fate of our heroes. Overall, I felt like I got to know Naomi, Angela, April, and Onyx just a little better in the prose novel than I did in the comic series alone. As with many small press works, the prose novel would benefit from another round of copyediting, but it was enjoyable and it would be interesting to see Tom try his hand at novelized versions of some of his other universes.

You can learn more about the Ursa Minor comic series at: https://bigdogink.com

You can find my vampire comic at: https://hadrosaur.com/GuinevereStranger.php

My Scarlet Order vampire novels are at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order

World Goth Day 2022

World Goth Day happened on May 22. World Dracula Day happens on May 26, because Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released on May 26, 1897. With both of those happening within one week, I’ve decided to have a week-long celebration. The Official World Goth Day site defines it as “a day where the goth scene gets to celebrate its own being, and an opportunity to make its presence known to the rest of the world.” I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a special deal on my Gothic-literature and Dracula-inspired novels Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires and Vampires of the Scarlet Order. It’s even more appropriate, since the new novel I’m working on is tentatively titled Ordeal of the Scarlet Order and will complete the trilogy!

The Scarlet Order Books

Founded in 1067, the Scarlet Order is a band of vampire mercenaries led by Desmond, Lord Draco. Before he became a vampire, Draco was in the line of succession for the British throne. After becoming a vampire, he sought redemption and ultimately found the best way he could survive was to help those kings and princes whose causes he believed in. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires chronicles the formation of the Scarlet Order. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the United States government has started a program to create super soldiers, so they don’t have to rely on vampires any more. Unfortunately, this means they are tampering with powers far beyond their understanding.

From now through May 28, you can pick up the ebook editions of these novels for just $1.00.

If you prefer printed novels, I still have a great deal. Buy either one of my novels at hadrosaur.com and I’ll toss in the related comic book, “Guinevere and the Stranger” absolutely free. “Guinevere and the Stranger” adapts the chapter that tells the vampire Roquelaure’s origin story into comic book form. What’s more, you can get your novels signed, just fill out the contact form on the site after you place your order and let me know you’d like signed copies.

These make great gifts for the Gothic Literature fan in your life, or keep them and enjoy them for yourself! If you have both novels, but not the comic, here’s where you can find it:

My newsletter subscribers got a jump on this special. If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, just visit my website: http://www.davidleesummers.com and find the signup form right at the bottom of the page.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one celebrating Goth Day this week. Tom Hutchison of Big Dog Ink is running a Kickstarter campaign for his second annual Goth Day issue. Big Dog Ink publishes the Critter superhero comic, Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, and the vampire/shapeshifter comic Ursa Minor among others. The Goth Day specials imagine the characters from the Big Dog Ink universe existing in a darker, parallel universe.

The special Goth Day issue is written by Tom Hutchison with art by CB Zane and colors by Gat Melvyn. Each Goth Day special is a one-shot, standalone issue, but Tom has made a pack available through Kickstarter where you can pick up his entire Goth Day series. Last year’s issue introduced the idea of Tom’s darker world, and a number of its inhabitants. In 2022 he expands on that world and introduces new characters and situations…including the Mermaid Princess in the banner ad!

To support Tom’s Kickstarter, visit:

Guinevere and the Stranger Now Available

Print copies of the comic Guinevere and the Stranger are now available to order. I wrote the comic, Michael Ellis illustrated it, and Bram Meehan lettered it. The comic adapts one of the standalone interlude chapters from my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I often present these when I’m asked to give a short reading because they are not only short, but satisfying, complete tales. This comic tells a story of Queen Guinevere after the battle of Camlan. She’s now a nun in a convent and some kind of monster is killing her fellow sisters. As the former Queen of the Britons, she’s not going to stand by while innocents die. Believing it to be a wild beast, she goes on a hunt and is surprised to discover not a beast, but a vicious, beast-like man.

I’ve long wanted to try my hand at scripting a comic book. It’s a medium I enjoy greatly as a reader. I’ve also enjoyed collaborating with other artists on projects, and comic books are very much a collaborative art form. What’s more, I enjoy minimalist writing, such as short poems or flash fiction. If anything, comics are writing stripped to its bare essentials. In the process of writing the comic book, I learned that there is a little more involved than just the words people speak or that appear in captions on the finished page. I learned you have to give the artist fairly detailed descriptions of what you imagine. I did my best with this and I also gave the artist the original chapter as a reference. I also sent him links to some of the web pages I used as research when writing the story, so he could see images of the real places as they are today and as historians have reconstructed them.

As the artwork came in, I took a lot of delight in seeing the emotion that Michael brought to the characters. I loved seeing the expressions on their faces as they delivered the lines and I thought he did an amazing job of showing what I hoped to convey. I also gained a solid appreciation of the letterer’s art. It may seem simple to put words in balloons, but they need to flow so that readers can follow the dialogue. Bram also added touches to help convey emotion through the lettering, showing hopelessness at one point by reducing the font size. Not only did Bram create the lettering in the word balloons, he laid out the cover, the credits page, and an ad in the back which pointed people to the novel. He also made sure I had the book delivered in a format ready for the printer, which made for a completely trouble-free printing experience. He also formatted the comic for digital presentation and I’m excited to announce it will be available tomorrow, June 23 from Comixology.

Troy Stegner of Zia Comics in Las Cruces has reviewed the comic and shows off some of the interior pages.

You can grab a print copy of Guinevere and the Stranger exclusively at https://hadrosaur.com/GuinevereStranger.php

If you’d like it signed, just go to the contact page at hadrosaur.com after you place your order, drop me a note, and let me know who you would like the book signed to.

The digital edition will also be linked to the Hadrosaur Productions page when it goes live tomorrow.

Update 6/23/2021: The digital edition is now available! You can grab it at https://www.comixology.com/Tales-of-the-Scarlet-Order-Vampires/digital-comic/948321

Guinevere and the Stranger Cover Reveal

Back in March, I teased the comic Guinevere and the Stranger that I had been working on in collaboration with artist Michael Ellis. The project is now far enough along that I can give a few more details about the release. The first people who will get to read the comic in its entirety are my Patreon supporters. I plan to present the pages of the comic over a two-week span in June, essentially sharing a page per day after I’ve finished sharing the work I’m doing on the twentieth anniversary edition of my novel Children of the Old Stars. If you want to be one of the first people to read the comic, be sure to sign up for my Patreon at https://patreon.com/davidleesummers by June 1. You don’t have to wait to see the cover, though. I’ll share that today. The cover features art by Michael Ellis. The layout is by Bram Meehan who was responsible for lettering the interior.

Guinevere and the Stranger Cover.

Inside the front cover, I set up the story. It reads: “In the sixth century, the vampire Desmond persuaded King Arthur to seek the lost Book of Jesus and the Holy Grail. While Arthur’s knights sought these artifacts, the king’s son began a campaign to usurp the throne. It’s said Guinevere went to a convent after King Arthur’s final battle. What happened to her has long been a mystery. At last, this book tells a lost tale from Queen Guinevere’s final years.” As you can see, Dragon’s Fall elaborates on Arthurian legend. I first started delving into the early tales of Arthur in college. Of course, my Scarlet Order vampires are mercenaries involved with the highest level of government, so there was never any doubt that some of them would have known King Arthur. The involvement with the grail legend came from the realization that vampires would no doubt find an artifact so connected with the “blood of Christ” and forgiveness irresistible.

As I mentioned before, this is a retelling of a chapter from my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. I had several goals for this project when I started. First and foremost, I’m a longtime fan of the comic book medium and I’ve long wanted to try my hand at scripting a comic. I have sat in on some online courses and some panels given by the group 7000 BC, based in Albuquerque and had learned some of the basics, but realized the only way I would learn more about the process would be to actually dive in, write a script, and hire someone to illustrate it.

When I set out to create this comic, I thought it would be something I would share here at my blog as a fun way to introduce new readers to my novel. In effect, it would serve as a comic book “trailer” for the novel. If I liked how it turned out, I thought I might print some copies to give away at conventions.

What lurks outside?

The thing is, much as I enjoyed the work at Michael’s online portfolio, it really didn’t prepare me for how well he could capture the images I had in my head. As I saw the quality of the work he delivered, I realized it deserved better distribution than I had originally planned. In fact, if you go over to his page, you’ll see several of the pages from Guinevere and the Stranger without dialogue. What’s more, I realized I didn’t want this one 8-page experiment to be the end of our collaboration. Dragon’s Fall contains four short self-contained stories like Guinevere and the Stranger. each one is a brief look into the lives of the Scarlet Order vampires providing insight into who they are. What’s more, I’ve written numerous vignettes about the Scarlet Order vampires. If I can raise sufficient funds to keep paying Michael and Bram what they deserve for their work, I’d love to create more of these books.

As a first step toward this goal, I’m releasing the comic as an exclusive for those people who are signed up for my Patreon. Supporting me there will not only give you a first look at this comic, but you’ll help support the artists I’m collaborating with. After the comic is released on Patreon, a print edition will be released that I will sell at conventions and at hadrosaur.com. Look for that to appear by the middle of June. I’ll likely approach some of my friends in retail about carrying this as well. The print edition will give you the opportunity to hold a copy of the comic in your hand. Finally, I have taken the time to learn how to submit the comic to the Comixology platform for distribution, which I’ve discussed in other comic book reviews. Presuming they accept the book, I’ll share when it’s available there. Out of necessity, the print edition will be the most expensive and most of the income will go to printing costs. Likewise, much as I like Comixology, they will take a large cut of the sales. For now, supporting me on Patreon will be the least expensive way for readers to support this project, but also the way that allows most of the funds to actually go to the artists who created it. Click on the button below to go to my site and sign up.