When Vertigo announced its new eight-issue miniseries, “New Deadwardians,” writer Dan Abnett admitted that in recent years, his subject matter has “jumped the shark.” In his story, which will be illustrated by INJ Culbard (“At The Mountains of Madness”), Abnett pits “Twilight” against “The Walking Dead” in an epic Edwardian era battle between vampires and zombies.
But fear not, humble readers. First off, this is Dan Abnett. His pedigree alone should deescalate the trepidation of most, but if you still have your doubts, the high concept is, to borrow from our British friends, smashing.
Described as a detective story set in an alternate history in post-Victorian England, “New Deadwardians” gives an account of a fictional time when nearly everyone in the upper class voluntarily became a vampire to escape the lower classes. Why? Because those in the lower class are zombies.
CBR News spoke with Abnett, who shared his thoughts on elective vampirism, the anti-zombie campaign and Chief Inspector George Suttle, the last homicide detective at Scotland Yard who has get to the bottom of a murder in a world where everybody is already dead.
CBR News: I love that in your initial pitch, you admitted vampires and zombies, pardon the pun, had already been done to death, and yet you just couldn’t shake the urge to write your own take on the generes. Did you consider telling your tale with any other classes of undead, perhaps ghosts and ghouls?
Dan Abnett: Yes, but it doesn’t really work with any other forms of the undead. I had to work out if the world was just too sick of zombies and vamps, or if an original take was worth trying. In the end, I just liked this idea too much to let it go.
How did the concept originate? Are you a fan of the classics like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead?”
Yes, absolutely, but I’m not sure where this idea came from. I think from nowhere. Or just from the word “Deadwardians.” I wanted to know what I could do with that, worked out a story and then realized what it needed to contain.
Post-Victorian England is noted as a time of great political movement and unrest, especially amongst women and the working class. Is similar politicization of the “lower classes” evident in “New Deadwardians?”
Yes. The political and social changes and themes of the era are very much here, although all are curiously lensed through the new social order of this version of history. Social layers are much more about security and safety and free will than about wealth, per se, although it helps to be wealthy. You can afford a better quality of death.
From the announcement, we know that nearly everyone in the upper class has voluntarily become a vampire to escape the lower classes who are all zombies. How does one “voluntarily become a vampire?”
Elective vampirism. It’s a medical procedure — the very latest in late Victorian medicine. Being “sentient undead” is the only way to continue living while remaining invisible to the zombie plague, and the zombie plague isn’t necessarily composed of the lower classes. Zombies have become the lowest class of society.
Do you explore the origins of the zombie plague and the arrival of vampires to England in 1900? Or is this simply “the way it was” in this alternate history?
No, we reveal what’s led to this — some of the secret parts of that are part of the story’s plot.
Are we intended to root for the zombies or the vampires?
For the human spirit, really. The zombies are ghastly and pitiful. The vampires are just tragic. There are humans caught in the middle, too.
What can you tell us about Chief Inspector George Suttle? Is he a character cut from the same cloth as Sherlock Holmes?
He’s sad and quiet. He’s a vampire now, so he’s still apparently a young man, but he’s seen a lot. He served in the Memorial War, the anti-zombie campaign at the start of the plague, and he truly misses certain normal human parts of life. He’s a homicide detective, the last homicide detective at Scotland Yard. Murder isn’t what it used to be.
Does Suttle have any allies in his war against undead?
He’ll find a few, and not exactly who he expects.
Do King Edward and/or Queen Victoria play a role in your story as actual characters?
As influences. I don’t think we’ll meet royalty face-to-face. But then, who knows where the mystery will lead?
Can you shed any light on the young aristocrat who washes up on the banks of the Thames and fuels Suttle’s quest for the truth?
He’s dead. He’s been murdered, which is impossible. Someone is murdering the un-murderable.
Finally, fashion rose to the forefront during the Edwardian era. Does Monsieur Culbard get to explore his inner Paul Poiret in “New Deadwardians?”
Ian’s attention to period detail is amazing. He has helped realize this world — in fashion and architecture, etc. — in immaculate detail. Ian gets it, and we have huge fun working out little touches.