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Vampire Noir: The Art Of “Impaler”

by  in Comic News Comment
Vampire Noir: The Art Of “Impaler”

CBR News spoke with writer William Harms earlier this summer about his intriguing new Image Comics series, “Impaler.” In that interview with Jonah Weiland, Harms explained his inspiration for the vampire tale. “Thematically, I’m tired of wussy vampires who whine about living forever or belong to secret cabals, or worry about being discovered or any of that stuff. The vampires in ‘Impaler’ hearken back to ‘Salem’s Lot’ and ‘I Am Legend’ – they are monsters bent on destroying the world. They’re fueled by their insatiable appetite for human blood and nothing else. They are terrifying monsters.”

“Impaler” is not just about blood and gore, however. As Harms explained, the series is going for a deeper, more resonant human story featuring developed characters of the type you would expect to see in a high quality horror novel. Realizing the complexities of “Impaler” visually are Harms’ collaborators, Nick Postic and Nick Marinkovich, who gained notoriety for their excellent work on IDW’s“Underworld” comics. As part of our continuing strange attraction to this new series, CBR News spoke with artists Postic and Marinkovich about “Impaler,” and got an inside look at the pair’s creative process.

“Impaler” #2, page 7

“We open up to a short scene detailing a pitched battle between a horde of vampires – monstrous shadow creatures – and Vlad Tepes, protector of the Church, trying to hold them back,” Marinkovich explained to CBR News. “The scene ends with Vlad unleashing a spell, the effects of which will not be fully understood until later in the story. The narrative then jumps to contemporary NYC, following our protagonist, Victor Dailey, a middle aged detective about to take an early retirement after not being able to fully cope with the recent passing of his wife. The story unfolds as an abandoned freighter drifts into the harbor, leading to a series of murders which grow in number every night, and eventually casting Victor as an unlikely, and apprehensive hero in the chaos that ensues….”

If it appears that Marinkovich is particularly enamored with this story, it’s because he is. Both Nicks have been waiting for some time to illustrate William Harms’ script, which he showed them while they were still working on “Underworld.” “We were both very interested in Bill’s script, if it were still available for us in the future, and, luckily, Bill opted to hold out until we were able to come on board,” said Marinkovich.

“Impaler” #2, page 24

“What we loved about the story was Bill’s ability to build the tension via some well thought out pacing in the narrative, which is the kind of book we were looking to work on,” continued Marinkovich. “The best horror material that’s ever struck a chord with me are specifically those books or films that had me at the edge of my seat at the implication of what might or might not happen next, rather then a loud sound effect or gore, which is great for a moment, but completely forgettable the next.”

Postic added, “Thankfully, Bill has allowed us some input and leeway in terms of pacing of the story as well as how to end each of the issues. We’ve had a great amount of freedom in terms of the art and the final look of the product.”

Harms was right to give these artists the room they needed, as the look of this book is very dynamic and clearly driven by the passion of its artists. Each page is designed with intricacy and skill; each panel brimming over with mood and emotion. Postic and Marinkovich explained for us how they go about producing these images.

Pencil stage of an image for “Impaler” #2

Generally, while layouts are usually a collaboration between the two, Postic handles all the penciling work, while Marinkovich provides inks and colors. On the occasions that Marinkovich runs a little behind, Postic will step up with some inking assist, which works out very well because Marinkovich is a very faithful inker to begin with, and his inks stick to Postic’s pencils quite tightly.

The artistic responsibilities delegated, the actual work begins with reference photography, which the duo employs heavily. “I often set up the framework of the panels in the photo itself, which Postic may or may not follow,” said Marinkovich. “Postic’s pencils provide a framework for me to finish the page in, as all the lighting and shadows are done during the coloring process.”

Inks stage

Postic added, “I think what Nick is referring to is the visual contrast and sharpness that the colouring provides to the blacks since the blacks themselves are the true ‘shadow.’ This is tricky to deal with since the Vampires themselves are shadows and blend in with the other characters. One thing that does do is force the reader to pay attention to the panels a little more than usual.”

Marinkovich continued, “The biggest challenge was to make [the colors] bright and eye-catching, to complement the inks, while keeping the overall mood of the book dark.” Additionally, while the coloring process remains chiefly digital, all the textures are hand-painted, which enhances the look of “Impaler.”

Influencing the unique look of “Impaler” is in Marinkovich’s words, anything that catches his eye, although he and Postic list among their massive list of influences John Van Fleet, Jae Lee, and Alex Maleev, whose work they spoke of almost as much as their own.

Hand-painting and digital coloring stage

“[Maleev’s] recent run on Daredevil was simply amazing (both in his cover work and interiors), and everything he produces is more interesting then the last. A big nod as well to Jose Villarubia, who’s coloring I first saw back in ‘The Sentry’ series w/ Jae Lee, which was a huge inspiration. It was one of those few examples when the coloring was just as interesting to look at as the linework, which is a tall order given Jae Lee’s skill and always impressive layouts. I think of it similarly to when seeing a masterfully inked page when I was younger, where the inker left just as much of his mark on the work as the penciller had. These days, with the advances in digital coloring, the colorist has become just as critical as the inker and can leave that same kind of mark on the finished product.”

Film is just as if not more important an inspiration for Postic and Marinkovich’s work. “I wanted the book to have the feel of a stylistic film-noir-ish genre pic, of the likes of some of the Orson Welles pictures like ‘Citizen Kane’ or ‘Touch of Evil,'” Marinkovich ezplained. “While, to get a feel for the color pallet I would be using, many of the Kubrick films, such as ‘The Shining’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ played big roles. [Kubrick] would often try to capture as much ambient light in a room as possible, while minimizing any of the aritificial prop light. I wanted to capture that, as much as it were possible, on a page.”

Inked page 13 from “Impaler” #3

Further setting “Impaler” apart from the typical vampire comic is the character of Detective Victor Dailey, a man who’s eager to remove himself from the NYPD following the tragic death of his wife, and who, unlike traditional genre heroes, is middle-aged, not very tall, and not particularly thin. Marinkovich explained that Vic’s unorthodox appearance was deliberate.

” We wanted to move away from the typical ‘hero’ look. Every character in the book was to have a very naturalistic feel, which would make the vamps seem all the more unnatural in this setting,” explained Marinkovich. “With Victor, this was actually the second version of him we had developed. The first was somewhat younger, which I didn’t feel worked too well. We had to keep in mind that he was retiring.

“Anyway, I lucked out with the second incarnation of Victor as, while hanging out with one of my friends in one of his more burnt out, hung over states, I had this glaring vision of Victor Dailey and thought to myself, ‘Oh yes, he’s the one….”

This friend became the primary photographic reference for “Impaler,” capturing perfectly the look and feel of the character Victor. Postic remarked, “Every time I see new pics of Victor I crack up – and marvel at how well he captures the feel of the character. It’s a pleasure to work with someone who has so much fun while working.”

Inked page 20 from “Impaler” #3

Marinkovich agreed. “[Our friend] was particularly adept at having a range of facial expressions and being able to hold them. I’m sure any other artist who works with models can relate at just how difficult it is to get that out of some people, and how refreshing it is when you find those who can do it on their first try.”

Besides the ongoing “Impaler,” the pair of artists have recently finished work on a book for Marvel to be published online in the very near future. Marinkovich is also working solo on Devil’s Due Publishing’s “Nightwolf” with writer Steve Antczak. With two gorgeous issues of “Impaler” out the gate, Nick Postic and Nick Marinkovich look forward to working on more issues as the series progresses, which, judging by the reviews the book’s earned so far, looks to be for good sized run.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Image Comics Forum.

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