A monstrous plague has ravaged Europe, the old vampires have risen, and ancient horrors are returning to Earth. On the plus side, the worldwide chaos has caused the First World War to fizzle out, as soldiers and civilians alike brace themselves for even greater threats. For Lord Henry Baltimore, however, the horror is deeply personal, as a vampire he wounded on the battlefield took vengeance on his family; now, Baltimore hunts the scarred vampire Haigus across Europe, striving to kill the monster at any cost. Dark Horse Comics’ “Baltimore” comics take place during gap in the timeline of Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s novel “Baltimore: Or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire.” Following on the success of the first two miniseries, “The Plague Ships” and “The Curse Bells,” Golden, Mignola, and artist Ben Stenbeck return in May with “Baltimore: Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy.” CBR News spoke with co-writer Christopher Golden about the upcoming miniseries, the nature of heroes and monsters, and Baltimore’s thankless quest.
In “The Curse Bells,” Lord Henry Baltimore came tantalizingly close to his query, Haigus, as they both found themselves captive in a cursed convent in Austria. According to Golden, the new series sees Baltimore’s travels throughout Europe continue. “When we catch up with Baltimore in the first issue of the two-part ‘Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy,’ he’s about to make a fairly dramatic entrance on the coast of Croatia, and he’s got company,” the writer said.
While Golden chose not to reveal much about the titular doctor, what he did say suggests that Baltimore will have his work cut out for him. “Dr. Leskovar is a wealthy doctor and scientist who wanted more than anything to find a cure for vampirism, but by the time Baltimore arrives in his vicinity, his plans have already gone horribly awry,” Golden said. “The remedy referred to in the title is not a cure for vampirism, though that is something Leskovar has been working on.”
“Curse Bells” also centered around a man who professed to have a cure for the plague and vampirism, but “Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy” takes a very different focus and approach. “The nature of volume three is to tell smaller stories. To that end, Leskovar has been trying to find a cure for vampirism, but he’s much less interested in the world at large than he is in the people of his own village,” Golden told CBR News. “They’re relying on him, and their need keeps him hard at work — though the situation has spiraled out of control.” Golden elaborated that this third “Baltimore” miniseries would comprise a shorter story than “The Plague Ships” and “The Curse Bells” — two issues rather than five — so as to accommodate three one-shot issues in the third trade paperback, which will include last year’s Free Comic Book Day story.
While Baltimore hunts Haigus, the Inquisition is hunting him, a dynamic that feeds into the horror of the series. “Monstrosity is defined by perception. To Baltimore, Haigus is the monster. To Duvic, they are both monsters. To the reader (and to any sane person), Duvic is just as monstrous as either of them, but each sees himself as the hero of his own story,” Golden said. “All three of these perceptions will come crashing together in — no, wait, I’m not supposed to talk about that yet. What I can say is that one of the things we’re doing in volume three is giving readers a chance to take a closer look at Haigus and Judge Duvic. Of the three one-shots that follow ‘Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy,’ one is a Haigus story and one is a Judge Duvic story. The Judge Duvic story, in particular, gives you a lot of information you didn’t have, brings past storylines current, alters the character, and propels the whole narrative forward into what comes next.”
The Inquisition angle also represents an interesting aspect of this world, in that there are many reactions to the plague. CBR News asked Golden why such an organization would gain power in the world of “Baltimore.” “A century ago, or now, the world is full of people who are afraid and who are always looking for someone to both explain the darkness and fight the fight for them. In the aftermath of a war, in the midst of a devastating plague that is killing millions, with vampires preying on their loved ones and rumors of even worse evils rising, if a faith-based organization fielded a small army of Inquisitors to combat those evils, an enormous percentage of the population would simply be grateful, no matter what,” the writer said. “In the world of ‘Baltimore,’ or in this world, a lot of people would be willing to overlook all sorts of sins and crimes in order to believe themselves to be safe. This isn’t meant to be political; it’s factual. We do it already.”
â€¨Ben Stenbeck, who illustrated the first two “Baltimore” miniseries, is returning for “Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy,” and Golden was quick to praise the artist’s style and his ability to bring out the darkness of these stories. “Ben was already great when he started with ‘Baltimore,’ but he just keeps getting better. He does mood and atmosphere as well as anyone, and when we want an action scene, he delivers,” Golden said. “With a lot of comic book artists, you get a version of what you imagined when you wrote the script, but Ben’s work is so beautifully and fully rendered that it makes me happy every time I look at it. I know that if I’m writing — as in ‘The Curse Bells’ — about a town in Austria and an old abbey, that I’m going to get exactly that. ‘The Curse Bells’ is partly an homage to Hammer films, and Ben made it work.
“On top of that, we’ve got Dave Stewart. Let me tell you, when you’ve got a colorist as talented as Dave, it brings the thing to a whole new level,” Golden added. “I’m sure Ben and Mike would agree that, as happy as we are with the story and the art, once Dave comes in and does his thing, it elevates us all. I feel incredibly fortunate to have these guys bringing Baltimore’s story to life. ‘Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy’ started as just a story idea, with no setting and no details. Early on, we got some input from Ben on some things he’d like to include, some thematic and specific things he’d enjoy drawing, so we incorporated those things and the result is blissful madness.”
With two miniseries (and the original novel) having well established the fallen world of “Baltimore,” Golden said “Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy” and the forthcoming one-shots provide an opportunity to take the vampire hunter somewhere new. “We’re going somewhere interesting with this series,” he said, “and along the way you get horror, anguish, drama, and a whole lot of monster-hunting action.”
“Baltimore: Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy” #1 goes on sale in May.