In his tenure at Marvel Comics, writer Frank Tieri has written about the most popular mutant, Wolverine, in "Wolverine" and "Weapon X," with the latter developing a strong following. So strong, in fact, that Tieri was able to bring the series back from cancellation to write a proper conclusion to the villain-centric series. But now the scribe is about to tackle the, literally, biggest mutant of all time: Apocalypse. CBR News caught up with Tieri to learn about "Apocalypse Vs Dracula" (in stores today) and he explained the genesis of the project.
"Funny thing is, this book was actually supposed to come out years ago, back when Mark 'Super' Powers was still heading up the X-books," revealed Tieri. "Obviously, circumstances arose that prevented that from happening back then, but a passing remark about the project to Mike Marts surprisingly resurrected this baby faster than Travolta's career post-Pulp Fiction."
If you're already rolling your eyes, Tieri asks that you give him a chance to explain which characters are involved and why, before passing judgement. " Well, if the book's title is to be believed…hmmm, it says here… Apocalypse and Dracula?! Am I reading that right? Who in the name of sweet crazy Margot Kidder decided to approve this insanity?
"So, ok, that's most people's reactions when they first hear about the project. But when you sit down and actually think about it, these two guys getting together sort of makes sense.
"Both have been around for centuries and were involved in the Crusades? Check
"Both pop up later in Victorian England around the same time? (Drac in Bram Stoker's book and Poccy in 'The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix'). Check
"Both die over and over again, only to come back better than ever? Check.
"Both are top dogs for their respective races? Check-a-rooni.
"Anyway, I think you get the idea. So maybe it's not a question of why are these two meeting now, but why haven't they met BEFORE.
"Also on hand will be two characters from each villains respective lores- Drac's longtime nemesis, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (and dear God, no, this is not that crappy Hugh Jackman character from that terrible the-only-redeeming-quality-is-Kate-Beckingsdale-in-skintight-outfits movie) and Poccy's stone-ified Tonto, Ozymandias. Both will play significant roles here and since Van Helsing is the end-all authority on Drac and Ozy is basically his counterpart as far as Apocalypse goes, they'll also provide us with some fairly important insights, as well.
"Now, last but not least is probably the most notable new addition we're creating for this -- the concept of Clan Akkaba. I've always found the fact that Apocalypse, who's been alive for like thousands of years, never having any little Poccys running around to be the very worst in geek logic. And so, meet Clan Akkaba-- a secret society who are descended from Apocalypse and have inherited his specific powers. The way the Clan works is like this: The more of ol blue lips' blood you have, the more of his power you have and hence the greater standing. The one with the greatest amount of blood is known as "The Fittest"- basically, Apocalypse's "pope"-but that might not be such a great job to have considering any member of the Clan can kill you through combat and take your place. (sort of like the Tieri household) So you can just imagine it's not exactly like we have a Brady Bunch situation where they're all taking trips to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon together like one big happy-which suits Apocalypse, who they worship as their living god, just fine."
"As I insinuated before, believe me, we've heard all the smart-ass jokes by now. "What will Marvel come up with next… Mr Sinister Vs Spongebob SquarePants? Sabretooth Vs Ed Koch? "
"Ha, ha, ha. He, he, he. Ho, ho, ho. Everybody's a $%^&in' comedian.
"Look… I think you have to accept a degree of that when you do something entitled Apocalypse Vs Dracula. Is there a certain "monster movie matinee" element to all this? Of course there is-I think it would be even sillier for us not to acknowledge that. Just as long as fans realize that this is some serious stuff we're dealing with here, that a lot of things we introduce here will not only affect the Blood of Apocalypse storyline going on in the X-Men books, but change the way we look at these characters-Apocalypse in particular-forever."
It's been a while since Apocalypse made his presence known in X-Men comics, despite being part of many huge crossovers in the nineties, such as "The Twelve" and "X-Cutioners Song," and Tieri not only claimed there will be character growth for the perennial villain, but also explained why he thought the character has remained popular throughout the years.
width="127" height="190" alt="" border="0" align="right">"Four things, the way I see it:
"1) The whole "Survival of the Fittest" mantra. There's a simple and brutal finality to it: You're not fit enough? Then you're worm food, sucker. The fact that somebody out there has decided to live their extremely long life being the living embodiment of this code I think is both very cool and very kooky
"2) The long life. I happen to think people tend to like characters that are long lived-particularly their bad guys. There's a certain bad –ass quality to somebody kicking ass for thousands of years and still being around to kick even more ass (And yes, that was 3 uses of the word "ass" in that sentence. Deal with it)
"3) The powers. So what… this guy's kind of like Mr. Fantastic on steroids? Yeah his powers have always been sort of nebulous, but as long as he's cutting through X-Men teams like Kirstie Alley through Sizzler, I don't think the fans care
"4) Chicks dig the blue lips
"The problem with Apocalypse is he hasn't really been a very layered character up until this point-more of a one-note "take over the world" type of villain. Hopefully by adding the element of Clan Akkaba, by revealing the nature of his feud with Dracula, we can see how Apocalypse's way of doing things impacts others and finally add some much needed depth to the guy."
Still, astute CBR readers may ask why Apocalypse doesn't summon his inner Buffy and just stick a stake in Dracula's heart…or just, y'know, beat him senseless with that big A on his belt. "Well, if we did it your way the whole thing would be over within like 2 pages (Unless I decompressed the beejebus out of it-then I'd probably get a 6 issue collected hardcover and an Eisner nomination out of it.)" smiles Tieri.
"Instead, we have a feud that dates all the way back to the Crusades, with a pre-vampiric Drac finding himself up against the forces of Apocalypse. Let's just say he doesn't fare all that well. Now, flash forward to Victorian England where Drac's out for revenge and Clan Akkaba members are starting to get bumped off. They soon realize they have no choice but to awaken their master, and that's when Apocalypse will find himself in the fight of his long life
"And yeah, I said fight of his life. I think people tend to underestimate Dracula. Keep in mind he's gone toe to toe with the Silver Surfer, the X-Men, Generation X, Thor and Dr Strange on separate occasions, so if you're thinking of putting the championship belt on Poccy before this even starts, you're really jumping the gun here."
Marvel Comics Editor In Chief Joe Quesada has repeatedly expressed a desire to make sure every X-Men related limited series has a special meaning and something "new," both of which Tieri says are on display in this series. "We're introducing new elements, characters and ideas into the Apocalypse mythos that will be carried on, not only in the Blood of Apocalypse, but beyond that.
width="127" height="190" alt="" border="0" align="right">"And after this series is over and done with, we also believe we've taken a big step into not only making Dracula into a viable character once more, but a real threat in the Marvel U once again."
That said, this series does lead into the "Blood Of Apocalypse" storyline, which has some concerned that this project may not stand on it's own. Not so, says Tieri, adding, "While this is very much a prequel to Blood of Apocalypse, it's also it's own animal at the same time. The basic structure of the series starts with Ozimandias awaiting his master's latest resurrection and ends with – and I don't think I'm giving too much away here-the big guy waking up. In the middle is the bulk of our little tale involving Drac and the gang, taking place in the past and told by Ozy in it's entirety. So while BOA takes things from there, you're not forced to get that story to enjoy ours."
The artist onboard "AvD" is Clayton Henry, best known for his bright & shiny work on "Exiles," a series quite different from the tone of Tieri's latest project. "Let's be honest here… I think at first, Clayton's name being attached to this project raised eyebrows for some-myself included, I will admit. Not that I think that anyone thought Clayton wasn't a very capable artist, just that a project like this with a lot of battle scenes and creepy vampire stuff going on was not something that one would associate with Clayton's style. Well, the thing is, he knew that too, which is all the more reason why he wanted to take the book on and prove everybody wrong.
"And boy, did he ever. Clayton really picked up his game on this project and I truly think you'll be seeing some heavy duty gigs coming Mr Henry's way as a result of the work he's done here. He's a name to watch."
Speaking of watching names, Tieri's is one that hadn't been seen as much as times past and he explains that it's all a matter of scheduling. "Scheduling has a lot to do with that sometimes. A lot of these projects you're seeing from me lately ('Hercules,' 'Weapon X,' 'Underworld,' etc) were written a while ago, but are only seeing the light of day now.
"As for the immediate future, I did one of those Marvel Romance Redux things. (You know, because when you think of romance, you think Frank Tieri ). Another project that we'll probably announce at the New York Con involves a company that I'm working with for the first time and a character of theirs that has a fairly significant following. It's definitely a character I think most fans would have no problem imagining me involved with, so stay tuned for more on that."
As mentioned earlier, the fans helped bring back "Weapon X " from cancellation, a feat rarely seen in comics, and Tieri says it radically altered his views of the online community. "I'll tell ya, I used to be one of those guys who dismissed the internet as the same 14 geeks moaning and groaning back and forth to each other about whether Tarzan could beat up Mighty Mouse-- but the whole Weapon X episode really opened my eyes. Bottom line is, the book was dead in the water and the only campaigning I did to save it was online-and the fans responded BIG TIME. So I guess you can call me an Internet convert and I'm truly grateful to having seen the light (Can I get an Amen? Halleluiah!)