Ask anyone who has taken a date to a horror movie and they'll tell you that scares, monsters and romance have a mysterious connection with one another. Comic creators Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman plan to explore that relationship in "Undying Love," a new miniseries shipping in April from Image Comics and Corvx Studios, an action/romance revolving around John Sargent and his new love Mei who, as luck would have it, is a vampire.
Set in modern day Hong Kong, the eight issue series finds Sargent and Mei on a wild journey attempting to recover Mei's humanity. The trick of it, however, is that they have to kill the vampire who sired Mei, a vampire who just so happens to be incredibly powerful. While on their quest, the pair run afoul of not only vampires, but other creatures of the night in a story weaving together traditional Chinese monsters with the more western interpretations of bloodsuckers, a mythology that Coker and Freedman spent a lot of time customizing to fit their needs. CBR spoke with Coker and Freedman who wrote the story together with Coker doing the art and Freedman coloring the book, and got their take on vampire mythology, romance and how it all comes together in the pages of "Undying Love."
CBR News: I'm sure you're aware that romantic vampire stories are pretty big right now. How does "Undying Love" differ from the "Twilight," "The Vampire Diaries" and the rest and how would you describe the story to the uninitiated?
Daniel Freedman: The first obvious difference would be the vampires: they have fangs. They don't sparkle or glimmer or whatever. They don't attend high school forever. They are mean and nasty. They will rip out your throat and drink your blood.
"Undying Love" debuts in April
A badass American ex-soldier, John Sargent, falls in love with a beautiful Chinese woman named Mei. The only thing keeping these star-crossed lovers apart is the fact that Mei's a vampire. Determined to ensure their future together, John and Mei set out to free her from the curse by destroying the vampire that first bit her, but Sargent soon learns Mei was bitten by one of the most powerful vampires in history!
Tomm Coker: "Undying Love" is an action-horror story. It's fantasy and romance. It's about two people overcoming enormous odds to be together. It's got something for everyone. Even the "Twihards." It's an unlikely love story filled with action and monsters -- but no matter how gritty or blood-soaked it becomes -- at its core "Undying Love" is a romance.
Is "Undying Love" a story that has been kicking around your heads for a while, or is it a relatively recent idea?
Freedman: When we started "Undying Love," neither of us had ever heard of "Twilight." It just seemed like vampires were ripe for rebirth. Turns out they were -- we just didn't foresee the whole rock-hard abs and glimmer thing.
Coker: We wanted to write a love story in the vein of "True Romance" and "Sid and Nancy" where vampires were the obvious bad guy. Our goal was to push the vampire to be harder and more threatening than they'd become -- and "Twilight" only served to reinforced the type of bloodsucker we wanted to get away from.
Freedman: Hopefully, people are ready for some real fangs again.
How did the two of you start working together?
Freedman: Tomm wrote and directed a feature for Lions Gate [called "Catacombs"], and I was the editor on the project. We ended up spending about a year locked in a dark editing suite together -- that's where "Undying Love" was born.
Coker: Yeah, sitting in the dark waiting for clips to render. After dealing with the Hollywood studio system, the idea of creating a comic with only Daniel and myself to please became a pretty appealing idea.
What is your working relationship like? Do you sit in the room together, tossing ideas back and forth? Or do you each take a swing at the script and then pass it on to the other?
Freedman: Lot of walks and coffee, milling around the neighborhood throwing ideas back and forth. Once a bit seems worked out we crank through an outline then each take a pass on the scene -- talking constantly about what the story is trying to do -- exchange and repeat, then sit down together for a final polish.
Coker: It works out great. Daniel tends to work too fast and I tend to work too slowly. We balance each other out and I think that helps us end up with a stronger product.
What else can you tell us about John Sargent and Mei? How did they get together in the first place?
Freedman: John Sargent is American ex-military -- a private contractor akin to Blackwater -- receiving a weekly paycheck to soldier in an endless string of wars and police conflicts.
Coker: But when all you do is fight and kill, no amount of money is enough to buy off your conscience. That's when he meets Mei and everything changes. Sargent falls hard for the beautiful and mysterious Chinese woman with the dark past. Finally, he has something worth fighting for.
Freedman: And the fact that she's a vampire only means Sargent's got one more war to fight, but this time it's to save the woman he loves, and also himself, a little.
Was it difficult to mix vampire mythology and Chinese folklore together?
Freedman: Not at all. The process seemed completely obvious and organic. When we were researching Chinese folklore, we found an entire world of untapped and interesting stories and characters, demons and creatures. Totally mind-blowing stuff.
Coker: Once we introduced the Western vampire into the Chinese mythos, everything fell into place. The Eastern beliefs are based on the idea of reincarnation and penance, paying a price for the mistakes you make in this life in the next life. The vampire, a creature with no inhibitions, that lives forever and for the most part exists free of guilt or regret, defies that structure completely. It's perfect.
Do the Chinese vampires of myth differ much from the European versions?
Freedman: The Chinese have a very similar creature. They don't have fangs, however, so instead of sucking blood, they feed on your life force by stealing your breath.
Coker: They couldn't run or walk -- all they could do was hop. I always had the image of a zombie in a potato sack race. Not very threatening.
You've mentioned the fangs and violence, but what other traditional vampire rules and aspects are you using? Was there anything you disregarded?
Freedman: We did a lot of research into the origins of the vampire, from Bram Stoker's influences to the actual science behind the phenomenon back in the day. From there, we crafted our own take on what it means to be a vampire, basing it on what we thought were the two undeniable rules: sunlight kills and human blood is all you need to survive.
Coker: Garlic and crosses went out the window, as did the stake through the heart -- kinda. You can still kill a vampire with a stake through the heart, but you can kill anything with a stake through the heart. I'm already anticipating vampire fans having a beef with our hero using guns to kill some of the weaker bloodsuckers. But, if you think about it, all of the vampire rules were written four or five hundred years ago, way before the firearm came on the scene.
Freedman: And look at how horribly destructive one single bullet can be to a human body. It only makes sense that the weapons of today, the most destructive in history, would be fatal to even the undead.
Coker: That's not to say the more powerful vampires are just gonna get gunned down. It still takes a ton to kill 'em. It all plays back into the blood and our idea of a "Blood-Hierarchy" -- the purer the blood you were made from the more powerful you become.
Freedman: Like in any kind of breeding, the more purebred the parents, the more purebred the pup and the more that pup will display the characteristics of its breed.
In the world of "Undying Love," does the world know about vampires? Do the vampires mostly run on their own or stick together?
Freedman: Our vampires function behind closed doors. If they've been around long enough and didn't get all emo about being a vampire, then they've probably become successful in business or amassed some sort of wealth and power.
Coker: Or they could be so far down the food chain (made by a weaker vampire) that their only option is to scavenge the alleys as useless fiends.
Freedman: True. The world of "Undying Love" exists on the fringes of society -- an entire world of monsters and magic on the peripheral of human awareness.