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William Harms Cuts Deep With “Impaler”

by  in Comic News Comment
William Harms Cuts Deep With “Impaler”

Angel, the vampire with a soul? You can go to hell. Again.


Spike, the vampire who got his soul back out of love? See above.


Coming this October, just in time for Halloween, Image Comics is putting the manliness back into being a bloodsucking remorseless, and well dressed creature of the night – or vampire for short – with with “Impaler.” The ongoing series is written by Willaim Harms (“Abel,” “Bad Mojo“), and penciled by Nick Postic, with Nick Marinkovich on inks & colors (yes, the same team from IDW’s “Underworld”). Those raised on “Buffy,” Angel” and other new vampire mythology may like your sweet, tender tortured soul vampires, but as Harms told CBR News, he’s not having any of that.


“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,” Harms told CBR News. “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.”


It’s not just about blood, gore, and machismo in “Impaler.” Harms is going for something a bit deeper, more resonant, and continues, “The other thing we’re doing is developing real characters, the kind that you’d see in a good horror novel. Just because people get killed doesn’t make a story ‘horror’ nor does it make it scary. What makes it scary is watching believable, sympathetic characters confront monsters. You fear for them, and that evokes an emotional response. That’s why it’s very important for us that Vic and other human survivors are fully fleshed out characters.”

Harms broke down the story for our readers.


“WALLACHIA, 1460: A ferocious horde of vampires sweep across Eastern Europe, destroying everything that crosses their path. Humanity’s only hope lies with Vlad Tepes, ruler of Wallachia, member of the Order of the Dragon, and sworn protector of the Holy Church. After enduring an arcane ritual that grants him explosive supernatural powers, Vlad sets out to defeat the vampires.


“NEW YORK CITY, THE PRESENT: Victor Dailey is set to retire as a New York City Homicide Detective. His wife died six months earlier from breast cancer, and now Dailey is nothing more than a shell of a man, going through the motions until he can turn in his badge and move to Florida.


“As Dailey finalizes the terms of his retirement, an abandoned ship named the Demetrius is found drifting off the coast of Long Island. The ship was returning from an archeological dig in Morocco and the mutilated crew is discovered in the ship’s hold. As the investigation into what happened aboard the Demetrius winds down, the remaining police officers are attacked and killed by an ancient vampire, a vampire that was inadvertently released from its prison in Morocco by the Demetrius’ crew.


“That night, as a blizzard strikes, a wave of horrific killings sweeps the city. All told, over 200 people are either dead or reported missing and the NYPD is placed on high alert, with every officer assigned to solving this terrifying epidemic. Every officer except for Dailey, who, because of his retirement, is confined to a desk job, interviewing any witnesses who happen to come in.


“The police investigate the killings, and several of them fall victim to the vampire hordes. As darkness falls, an all-out vampire assault strikes Manhattan, the vicious beasts attacking with impunity.”

When telling a vampire story, you know that Dracula – the most famous of vampires – has to be involved in some capacity. “Impaler” is no different, but Harms is being careful to do something new with Big D, instead of retreading old ground. “The other big character is Vlad Tepes. He’s historically been viewed as the ‘original’ Dracula, but ‘Impaler’ kind of puts that idea on its head. If you study his history, Vlad’s people viewed him as a hero. I took that as a starting point and ran with it. What if instead of being a vampire, Vlad fought vampires?


“At the beginning of ‘Impaler,’ Vlad is essentially the last line of defense against a massive vampire invasion. He does something that gives him the power to defeat the vampires, but it comes at a terrible price. And so Vlad is essentially cursed to spend eternity fighting the vampires.


“One of the things that really interests me about Vlad as a character is the notion that the ends justify the means. I’m not going to give anything away, but there’s a reason the tag line for ‘Impaler’ is ‘The only way to defeat evil is with evil.’


“As for the other characters, there is a small group of human survivors trapped with Victor. There will also be people coming in from outside of New York City.”


Further pushing vampire convention, don’t expect your typical garlic filled Olive Garden meal to do much good against these manly vampires, or any of those other “rules” to still work in this universe. This isn’t Harms’ attempt at being “shocking:” he’s got a lot of love for the vampire stories of old. “First of all, we’re kind of ignoring the traditional vampire ‘rules.’ Crosses, holy water and wooden stakes have no place in this story,” explained Harms. “If you can shoot a vampire in the head, it dies. Also, they don’t sleep during the day. They can’t go out into the sun, but if you’re in a dark sewer with them at three in the afternoon, you’re screwed.


“The complication is that the vampires in ‘Impaler’ are essentially shadow monsters. They can, and do, assume a full human form, but they can also turn their bodies into shadows and fire out tentacles, squeeze through cracks in walls, that kind of thing. If you shoot them when they’re in their shadow form, the bullet travels harmlessly through the vampire.


“The one weakness they have no matter their state is iron. So Vlad use a giant, double-bladed sword made of pure iron to fight them. The sword kills vampires no matter what form they’re in.”


But why vampires? As Harms told CBR News, part of it is a response to the “wussification” of vampires in general. “Too many vampire stories are about vampires lamenting the fact that they have to live forever, or all the vampires in the world are members of a secret cabal that exists in the shadows. That stuff doesn’t interest me at all. Vampires are monsters. They should act like monsters.”

The kind of vampire stories that do interest Harms are a bit more classic. “I’m a fan of old school vampire stories like ”Salem’s Lot’ and ‘I am Legend,” he admits. “The vampires in those books were scary. They were bloodthirsty monsters. That’s what I love, and what I feel has been missing from vampire stories – especially vampire comics.


“There is an homage to ‘I am Legend’ in the fourth or fifth issue of ‘Impaler’ that people will get a kick out of. I might try and sprinkle in a few other bits here and there, but it’ll have to make sense in terms of the larger story.”


Working on “Impaler” for three years, Harms has put a lot of time and passion into creating something unique for all fans of good storytelling. If nothing else convinces you that the scribe wants to do something fresh with the vampire genre, just read about his general vampire philosophy. “I’ve often thought: If vampires were real and wanted to take over the world, what would stop them? The answer is nothing. They’d be unstoppable. They’d destroy humanity. And that’s what happens in ‘Impaler.'”


If you’re going to be at Comic-Con International in San Diego this week, stop by the Image Comics booth to pick up a free “Impaler” promo poster.

CBR Staff Writer Arune Singh Contributed To This Story.

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