Christopher Golden and the future of Lord Baltimore
Christopher Golden is a best-selling author of novels and comic books with some big fans here at the Mighty All-Comic. We’re very fortunate to get a chance to speak with Mr. Golden about one of our favorite titles, Baltimore from Dark Horse Comics, written with Mike Mignola. This series has consistently received shining reviews from All-Comic and many other sites devoted to the medium that we love, and there are some big things on the horizon for Lord Baltimore.
All-Comic.com: Mr. Golden, it is an honor to speak with you about this incredible series. Thanks so much for giving us some of your time! First off, how did you first make the transition from novels to comic books and what was your first big project in the comic book industry?
Christopher Golden: My pleasure, guys. Believe it or not, I’ve been writing comics nearly as long as I’ve been writing novels, but it took me a lot longer to get the knack of the comics medium. My first comics gig was adapting Joe Lansdale’s cult favorite novel THE DRIVE-IN for Dark Horse Comics. That was in late 1992 and early 1993…but then Dark Horse and Joe Lansdale fell out over a contractual disagreement and that killed the deal. Years later, Avatar Press published it just the way I’d written it. A lot of similar false starts followed. I was hired to write MORBIUS for Marvel Comics…but the series was canceled before my first issue could be published. Jim Shooter told me he wanted me to do an arc on MAGNUS for Valiant right after they finished UNITY, but when UNITY was over, Jim Shooter was fired. I developed a huge launch of series and miniseries for Harris Comics with Tom Sniegoski and editor Meloney Chadwick…and then Meloney parted ways with the company. I spent two years developing an original series with Lou Stathis at Vertigo, and then Lou passed away from cancer. I did end up doing a bunch of work here and there, including a couple of Spider-Man Unlimiteds, a Blade one-shot, a Crow miniseries, my creator-owned Thundergod, and then eventually a bunch of Buffy and Angel comics for Dark Horse. After that, I virtually stopped trying to pitch to comics editors…and then other things seemed to be born from that, including Dr. Fate for DC and the creator-owned miniseries Talent and The Sisterhood, both with Tom Sniegoski.
Were you familiar with Mike Mignola’s work (e.g., the Hellboy universe) prior to your eventual collaboration? How did you two start writing together?
Christopher Golden: I’ve known Mike since Hellboy began. I interviewed him for FLUX Magazine when Hellboy first debuted. That led to a friendship and to me writing the first Hellboy novel, THE LOST ARMY, and later two others. I edited three Hellboy short story anthologies and edited a whole series of Hellboy novels, co-wrote the very first BPRD miniseries with Tom Sniegoski. Over the years, Mike and I would be on the phone and invariably he would mention this vampire graphic novel that he wanted to do someday. One day he rang me up out of the blue and said he’d realized he would never have time to do it as a graphic novel, and wondered if I’d want to collaborate with him to turn it into a novel. That was the beginning of BALTIMORE, and it led to our subsequent collaborations as well.
What is the “origin story” of the Baltimore series? Where did the idea for the character and his bleak settings come from? What were some of the main influences for the vampire plague set amidst War-torn Europe?
Christopher Golden: When Mike asked me to create the novel with him, he had about 85% of the story already worked out in his head. It’s part DRACULA, part MOBY DICK, and part Victorian supernatural tale, and those are all things that are part of Mike’s creative DNA, and part of mine as well. Mike wanted a character who was doomed. Just completely damned. People often note how much grimmer BALTIMORE is than HELLBOY, and I think that’s much more about the lead character than it is about the series itself. If Mike had done it on his own, maybe he would have been tempted to pull back on that grim quality, to provide a glimmer of light, but I think my enthusiasm for that dark direction has reinforced his original intention of keeping it about someone who is doomed and who taints others around him with that doom. As for the vampire plague–of course there was a real plague. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a world before the world, a time when all of the things we dream about–fantastical dreams or nightmarish ones–existed in pre-history. In Baltimore, of course, the focus is things of nightmare, things that were once worshipped but now are forgotten (well, things we made up, but you know what I mean). World War 1 was a horror unlike anything the world had ever seen…death and KILLING on a scale undreamt of, followed by plague. The world became a nightmare, and we’re just taking that literally.
What is the working dynamic for Baltimore? Who typically does what in the story and writing department, or is it more of a collaborative effort on both parts?
Christopher Golden: Most of the early stories were brainstormed in a single phone call. These days, I usually come up with the germ of an idea, get on the phone with Mike, and just talk about it. Truth is, once we’re talking, the stories kind of tell themselves. I then pass the plots by Scott Allie, get his blessing, write the first drafts and send them to Mike and then get back on the phone with him. We make some changes together and deliver the finished script to Scott… and then go through another edit. This whole series–with Mike, Scott, Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart…you just can’t get a better team than this.
You have consistently demonstrated equal skill in writing both longer story arcs and short stories. Do you have a preference for either when working on Baltimore?
Christopher Golden: I think each serves its own purpose. I love the short stories because you can do something that’s a snapshot, a slice of Baltimore’s life, and that illustrates something about his character that we might not have time to do otherwise. It also allows us to focus on other characters in a way we might not be able to do in a larger story. But the big story arcs…that’s my bread and butter. You’re definitely going to see more of both going forward. And believe me, we ARE going somewhere.
Do you have a personal favorite installment in the Baltimore comic book series?
Christopher Golden: I couldn’t pick just one. I love the Hammer films quality of THE CURSE BELLS, and I love the fact that we used Hitler as a major character in there and almost nobody noticed. But I loved THE INQUISITOR and THE PLAY for entirely other reasons. I couldn’t choose.
The addition of the evil locomotive in the Infernal Train arc was a particularly interesting aspect of more recent Baltimore issues. Why the train?! What was the genesis of this particular story?
Christopher Golden: Things happen organically. When I wrote THE PLAGUE SHIPS, I just liked the idea of this strange woman with a furnace that was being used to burn plague corpses and that it gave off no smoke, that it was somehow collecting the evil taint of the vampirism that’s a part of the plague. That sprang initially from me wanting to have a little steampunk flavor to the first miniseries. And yet, as soon as I put it in there, I knew while writing those few panels that it would be something we came back to, that it would be a bigger story, and the idea for THE INFERNAL TRAIN came right there and then. It was just a matter of when we came back to it.
Is there more to learn about the ancient vampires in this series? Will the next chapter of Baltimore deal with the Red King?
Christopher Golden: The Red King is not a vampire. He’s an ancient, prehistoric, prehuman deity who is the Father of All Monsters. Haigus and the other ancient vampires were his first high priests and when Baltimore “woke” Haigus, he set in motion events that have served to disturb the Red King, who is slumbering in his limbo realm. If he wakes, all of the monsters of prehistory will return to the world, but just his sort of shifting in his sleep, his dreams being disturbed, is causing all kinds of evils and monstrosities to return to the world.
The most recent Baltimore series, Chapel of Bones, was an astonishing close to the current chapter in Lord Baltimore’s dark tale, while still hinting at some big things to come! Is there an eventual end in sight for this character or is his story still developing behind the scenes?
Christopher Golden: As of last week, I had an epiphany that led to a long phone call with Mike, during which we worked out the end. I can’t say how long we’ll go–a while yet–but I know how we’ll end it.
Will the new Baltimore story pick up where we left off last time, or will we jump ahead at all?
Christopher Golden: We will – as we often do – jump ahead in time a little, but the last couple of pages of CHAPEL OF BONES set us off in a particular direction and we’ll be following up on that. We made it pretty clear that vampires and vampirism were only a symptom of the illness threatening the world. Now we’re going to see vampires less, but the evil seeping into the world is spreading and the worship of the Red King is a growing problem that could lead to catastrophe.
Now that it’s announced, are there any other hints you can give us about The Witch of Harju? Where will the story take place? Who will likely serve as the main antagonist?
Christopher Golden: You’re going to meet some new characters, maybe begin to understand the state of evil in Baltimore’s world. What we try to do with all of these stories is bring you a tale on two levels. On one level, it should be a solid Baltimore story in its own right, but on the other, it should add to the overall narrative of this world and where we’re headed. THE WITCH OF HARJU does that, I think…but it also takes us in a new direction. Current readers will have new information to contemplate but the same dark, twisty path Baltimore’s been on, but it’s also a great place for new readers to come in. Also, I’m thrilled to be working with Peter Bergting. He’s a hugely talented guy and I’ve been wanting to do a project with him for quite some time.
Do you have any other upcoming comic book projects you’re able to discuss, or is Baltimore your main focus at the moment?
Christopher Golden: Comics wise, the only things I’m working on at the moment (that I can discuss) are BALTIMORE and the CEMETERY GIRL graphic novel trilogy I’m writing with Charlaine Harris. The first volume hit in January and made it to #1 on the New York Times list. Book two is being drawn by the amazing Don Kramer now, and Charlaine and I are putting the finishing touches on the script for book three.
OFFICIAL DARK HORSE PRESS RELEASES:
ECCC: BALTIMORE HUNTS THE RED KING!
Peter Bergting debuts in the Mignolaverse!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SEATTLE, WA—Eisner Award–winning horror master Mike Mignola and #1 New York Times best-selling author Christopher Golden present a new comics series featuring the world’s greatest monster hunter, Lord Henry Baltimore, in Baltimore: The Witch of Harju.
In his newest adventure, fresh off a showdown in London, Baltimore shelters a woman on the run from a possessed dead man and the witch playing his puppet master.
This three-issue miniseries from writers Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, with Eisner Award–winning colorist Dave Stewart, will feature the artwork of Peter Bergting (The Portent: Ashes, Domovoi). Writer/artist Bergting has written young adult novels in both Swedish and English, and numerous short stories, reviews, and editorials. He has been published in the US, Sweden, Norway, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, and Italy
Baltimore: The Witch of Harju #1 is on sale in comic shops July 30. Preorder your copy today!
Once again, thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us. Baltimore has been a fantastic series and we’re very much looking forward to more!
Christopher Golden: Thanks, guys!! I hope we’ll talk again soon!
Be sure to keep an eye on All-Comic.com in the future for any breaking news on more stories about our favorite vampire hunter! If you’re still in the dark and haven’t yet checked out this incredible series, go pick up some Baltimore trades and get on board for the upcoming chapter of this perfect example of horror done right.
Follow Christopher Golden on Twitter: @ChristophGolden