Fialkov Breathes Life into "I, Vampire" & "Alpha"

When DC Comics launched its New 52 initiative back in 2011 with 52 fresh #1 issues, there were a few titles that required the proverbial double take -- perhaps none more so than "I, Vampire."

Heck, even its Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated writer Joshua Hale Fialkov hardly gave it a chance. But right off the bat, Fialkov and artist Andrea Sorrentino delivered a fresh and exciting new take on vampires, which quickly led to a loyal fanbase and critical acclaim.

Unfortunately, the power and praise didn't translate to strong sales figures and "I, Vampire" was cancelled and Sorrentino was transferred to "Green Arrow" for an upcoming run with writer Jeff Lemire.

Solicited for April 24, "I, Vampire" #19 will serve as the series finale and Fialkov will stay to finish what he started with new artist Dennis Calero. And while Fialkov told CBR News he was disappointed the surprise hit was coming to a close, he's pleased with the story he was able to tell and promised fans that, like the first 15 issues of "I, Vampire," the final four will be a hot-blooded thrill ride.

Fialkov explained the reasoning behind having his protagonist Andrew Bennett turn to the dark side while his antagonist, Mary, Queen of Blood, became the title's resident do-gooder. He also shared his thoughts on writing another underdog, the misadventures of Peter Parker's much-maligned sidekick Andy Maguire, in Marvel Comics' five-issue miniseries "Alpha."

The writer of creator-owned projects like of "Elk's Run," "Tumor" and "Echoes," also confirmed that he has not one, but two new projects in the works at DC Comics, one of which features a character from "I, Vampire" -- but explained nothing is certain until the first issues ship.

CBR News: Looking back to when DC announced "I, Vampire" as part of the New 52, it was, shall we say, not one of the ones people thought would endure. And yet you and Andrea Sorrentino delivered a pitch perfect story, reimagining vampires within the DCU, and it became a critical darling. Now that DC has announced it's coming to a close are you surprised by the reaction from fans and the industry?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: Once Andrea was taken off the book, for me emotionally, it felt like we were clearly walking towards the end. It's been a blast so I am really glad that people have stuck with us. Dennis [Calero], our new artist, is with us on the next issue. I think we'll keep doing cool stuff so I hope people stick around. It pays off everything that we started on the book. I am trying to go out as big and as ballsy as possible because I will never get another opportunity like this where I can just blow everything up.

Your numbers have never been super-strong but your loyal following -- not to mention a spot on the NYT bestseller list for your first trade paperback -- allowed the series to run 19 issues. Was there ever talk of ending it sooner or did you have a chance to appeal or beg for more issues?

The story I want to tell is pretty much done. We moved a lot quicker through the story then I had planned. I had a three or four-year plan from the get go that I wanted to do. Year One ended up being through "I, Vampire" #8. Year Two was crammed into the last four issues. And so on. But, like I said, I don't want to continue on the book unless it can be the book that I know it can be. And, truth be told, there's not enough of an audience to keep it going either. [Laughs] I can't blame DC. I look at it as a time to look forward and move on to other things. I'm immensely proud of the work we did. I think the book will hopefully stand up over time. It's something special and I hope that it's something that people go back to.

In the next issue, you reveal the true origin of vampires in the New 52 through the life and times of Cain. For readers playing close attention, are there hints to what or who that might be if we go back and re-read previous issues?

It's been planted throughout the series. There's stuff about it when we introduced the Van Helsings. It has to do with things we did in the #0 issue. Again, thanks to DC because they gave me enough time that I can go out the way I want to go out. I really have the opportunity to tie off every loose thread.

There's even stuff that happened in #4 that is going to get wrapped up. I am going back through every issue to make sure that we hit every note. I want this to be a completely closed story because really, I just selfishly hope and pray each day that I will get an omnibus -- a beautiful, entirely self-contained omnibus. That's all I want out of the world. It's not too much too ask?

After the #0 issue, you shook the title to its core by making Andrew Bennett, your hero, a villain and Mary Queen of Blood, into a hero. Why the game-changer? And do you feel it worked?

I did it for a couple of reasons. I think for Mary, after the first year and fan reaction and everything else, it was very clear that she was a lot of the heart of the book. And for me, that was the story that I always wanted to tell. This book, as much as people will tell you it is about Andrew Bennett, is about love. It's about these two characters that are in love with each other but can never be together.

Finding the permutations that make that happen is kind of a job as far as I'm concerned. On top of that, it was just time for a change. I am mostly disappointed that we're not going to spend more time with the new status quo. I get seven issues with the new status quo but I could write the setup, as we have it now, forever. It would have been amazingly fun.

Obviously, you don't want to spoil too much...

Everybody dies. They're all dead. Deader than dead, dead, dead. [Laughs]

Okay. That makes sense because the solicitation for #18 teases a major character will die. Let me rephrase the question, does "I, Vampire" end well for Andrew Bennett?

Oh, god no, you poor bastard. Again, everybody dies. I'm serious. It's terrible. Nobody gets what they want. I really went dark. Look, I've been waiting for editorial notes so maybe they'll change all that but as it stands today, this is a dark, dark ending.

I think we've changed how vampires work in the DCU. And I'm hoping in a permanent way that will bleed into other books. By the end of the book, we have a brand new status quo. There are two new first vampires that start the process all over again. It's rad.

And then the next stuff I'm working on, a new series, one of my characters gets to come back despite the book being totally unrelated. That's all I can say. [Laughs] It's a lot of in theory right now.

I hope that the characters that we've created and the status quo that now exists in the DCU for vampires bleeds over into the rest of the DCU, which is the most flattering thing that could possibly happen.

That's great. So you can confirm you have some other projects forthcoming from DC Comics?

I have two news series, in theory. Things change so quickly so it's hard to know. I have two books tied to each other. If everything goes as planned, DC is letting me do something that I've always wanted to do that's really ambitious. It's certainly a new kind of storytelling for DC so fingers crossed.

But I really can't talk about them at all. And again, this is all in theory. But they should be announced in a couple of months. Sadly enough, the next month will be a dark month for me at DC -- but in the meanwhile, you can come and check out "Alpha" over at Marvel or "Doctor Who" for IDW. And I think, I don't know when, "The Devilers" for Dynamite should be coming out soon too.

While you have been writing a 600 year-old vampire for the past two years, "Alpha," your upcoming series from Marvel, features a character new to the do-gooding game. Was that a difficult transition?

It's nice to be writing a guy that's trying things for the first time rather than just being world weary. [Laughs] "Oh god, this again." [Laughs] No, writing "Alpha" has been the most fun I've had writing comics in years because it's writing Spider-Man but it's Spider-Man who has gone horribly wrong.

While pre-"Superior" Peter Parker was this down-to-Earth, sweet guy, Andy is a regular kid. He's a shithead. He's just a real shithead.

And with Andy [McGuire], it's this funny thing where I couldn't write him and not address the quote/unquote controversy of his existence. When I sit down to write this book, it really is me feeling bad for the character. I feel bad for him because people just hate him for no reason. And that's actually what a lot of the book is about. What does that feel like? What does it feel like to be this freakish thing? Nobody looks at you like you're anything important. You're just a nuisance.

I think, to a degree, that's how every teenage feels. Dan [Slott] and Humberto [Ramos] really handed Nuno [Plati] and I a wonderful gift. They just did such a good of establishing a very strong opinion about this character. It actually makes life easier for us. The book starts where everybody hates Alpha.

That's what the book is about. Like any good hero, he has to go from the bottom all the way to the top. And the difference is that he now has Superior Spider-Man in his corner so things are going to go differently this time.

In other words this Doc Ock inhabited Spider-Man has quite the influence on Alpha?

Oh yeah. There is a reason why he is calling himself Superior Spider-Man. He's trying to prove that he is a better Peter Parker. And a better Peter Parker can handle some schmuck with the powers of a god. Doc Ock fully understands the situation and thinks, "I can take care of this."

He gives Andy 10 per cent of his powers back. And Andy gets to come back into the spotlight but here's the thing, he's still just a dumb kid. That's at the root of the character for me. And he's not a dumb kid meaning he's dumb. He's like we all were when we were 15 years-old. He's selfish. All he thinks about is sex and sex and sometimes he also thinks about sex. He's an ego-driven kid who had the spotlight shone on him and now he's trying to figure out he can do it again and do it right but without a moral compass, without parents, without Aunt May and Uncle Ben to give him guidance. All he has is Peter Parker and Superior Spider-Man.

With great power comes great responsibility. Famous words Peter Parker used to guide his life, but they have a different meaning coming from Doc Ock. Alpha knows they are important but -- and I hate to get philosophical -- can we all learn from this maxim?

You will always have people passing judgment, whether it's against creators or storylines or all that stuff, but they don't realize is that when things are said, you're hurting people. And to me, that's what the story is about. What does it mean to this kid that everyone in the world doesn't see him as a person? They see him as an object.

They see him as this non-thing and he has to try and prove himself. "No, no, I exist for a reason. I have purpose," which, again, all we try to do when we're teenagers is try to prove how important we are. How much we matter. How much we need to exist. How we are different from those around us. How different we are from our parents.

I look at all of that stuff and think writing this book, and actually this ties back to "I, Vampire" too, but seeing the reaction of people and realizing that this thing that I do in the office alone, typing away, the work that we do actually touches people, and has an emotional impact on them, is amazing.

And I think it's something that we don't think about, probably because it is overwhelming. [Laughs] But also, because it's why we do it. I find that it's ironic that it took the cancelation of "I, Vampire" to come to terms with it. "All right, people actually read this stuff. Woohoo."

What about the other piece of advice Peter Parker gives Andy in "Alpha" #1? "Don't be a wiener." Can we learn from that, as well?

I think that's one of big things for Andy. Andy was a quote/unquote wiener before and he was led right down the path of destruction. And so now it's about whom do you follow and how do set your own moral compass. And what's fun about the book is being this kid who doesn't have that foundation to establish right from wrong. And yet, he now has so much power that he has to figure out right from wrong.

And at the end of the first issue, he does something horribly wrong, so grotesquely wrong, and that event spirals throughout the rest of the series while he tries to come to terms with what to do. What does it mean when you make a big mistake, how do you address it? How do you fix it properly?

"I, Vampire" #16 is on sale January 30 from DC Comics, and "Alpha" #1 arrives February 13 from Marvel.

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