Golden Sails on "The Plague Ships"

"Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola and "Myth Hunters" author Christopher Golden follow up their novel "Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire" with the first of several comic book miniseries starring World War I-era monster hunter Lord Baltimore, beginning in August from Dark Horse. The first series, titled "The Plague Ships," is written by Mignola and Golden with Ben Stenbeck on art and Dave Stewart coloring. Set in a world in which the Great War was cut short by an overwhelming plague of vampires, Lord Henry Baltimore fights his way toward a final confrontation with Red King, the vampire who murdered his family and set undead hordes streaming across Europe. CBR News spoke with Golden about the project.

"'The Plague Ships' really serves two purposes. First, it's a creepy, unsettling, William Hope Hodgson-esque story about shipwreck and plague and death...though it starts off with a bang that introduces Baltimore and his world. Second, it provides an opportunity, in the form a pretty young French girl named Vanessa, for Baltimore to tell the tale of how the plague began, how vampires and demons and monsters began to filter back into the world after laying dormant for centuries, how he was involved in triggering all of that, how he lost his family and became cursed and why he is pursuing the scarred vampire, Haigus, across Europe on a quest for vengeance," Golden told CBR. "If you've read the novel, 'The Plague Ships' gives you something completely new and a new perspective on how Baltimore became what he is now. If you haven't read the novel, 'The Plague Ships' tells you, in brief, the things you need to know about his past. And I have to say, with Ben Stenbeck's art and Dave Stewart's colors, 'The Plague Ships' looks amazing. Ben gets better with every page and Dave is the best in the business."

"The Plague Ships" and future "Baltimore" miniseries take place during a set, unexplored period in the midst of the novel, a structure which Golden said would shed new light on the book's finale. "Based on what we have planned, there is no way you'd be able to read the sequence of stories that reveal Baltimore's travels in his quest to kill Haigus in the comics and not have that change the context of how you read the ending of the novel," the writer said. "The events won't change, but already, especially in the second miniseries, we're exploring much more of Baltimore's single-mindedness and the way he is forged into the man his friends see come into the inn at the end of the novel."

In an earlier CBR interview, Mike Mignola noted that he and Golden had set up in "Baltimore" a world falling apart, but then shifted focus away from this environment and more closely onto a particular set of characters in the second half of the novel. The "Baltimore" miniseries will reveal more about the state of this altered world, with Golden explaining where things stand as "The Plague Ships" opens. "The first miniseries takes place in 1916. The plague caused [World War I] to end prematurely, killing so many people that soldiers just threw down their weapons and went home. By 1916, the existence of vampires is widely known and most presume that they have some connection to the plague, but only a portion of the populace has become aware that there are many other monstrous breeds also returning to the world after centuries absent or dormant," the writer said. "None of these exists in great numbers. The vampires only do because they can reproduce so easily. But the original vampires, the old ones like Haigus...there are only a small number of them around as well. In addition, this is a world where industry has been short-circuited. The numbers needed for mass production of anything don't exist in Europe right now. But beyond that, Mike and I have stipulated that even before the plague, this was not the Europe we knew. Before the plague, there was a trace of steampunk running through the world, but now, the world will evolve further in that direction. We may never see a lot of it, but it's there."

Golden has previously worked with Mignola not only on "Baltimore," but also on several "Hellboy" novels and other projects. ""I first 'met' Mike over the phone, many years ago, when I was writing for 'Flux Magazine.' I interviewed him either during the publication of or shortly after the completion of the first Hellboy miniseries, and we got on well," Golden told CBR. " I suggested that he start running prose short story backups in the 'Hellboy' comics, the way Marvel's horror magazines in the '70s had done, and of course suggested that I write them. Eventually, that conversation led to the first Hellboy novel, 'The Lost Army,' which was the beginning of our creative relationship. With 'BPRD: Hollow Earth,' I was one of a lot of people who had been urging him for a while to spin the team off into their own book, and eventually he did, with me and Tom Sniegoski taking the concepts that Mike wanted to make sure were in there - including many things that are the groundwork for the way the world of the BPRD has evolved over time - and adding stuff we really wanted to include. All of the Hyperborea stuff, of course, is fundamental to the mythology that Mike has created, and during that process we learned a lot of what he had planned for Hellboy and the BPRD wayyyyyy in advance, and the secret history and all of that. I still have those notes somewhere - he wrote them out longhand and faxed them to me. The inside of Mike's mind is a maelstrom of mythology and weirdness, but it all makes sense to him and somehow he manages to create these wonderful stories out of it.

"In any case, our creative relationship has continued since that time, with me writing two more Hellboy novels, editing three Hellboy anthologies, and editing all of the Hellboy novels I didn't write," Golden continued. "But I was still pretty surprised when Mike called me and told me that this vampire graphic novel that he'd been telling me about for years was never going to get drawn, and asked if I wanted to write it as a novel for him to illustrate. From that point, we've continued working on things small and large, including a couple of short stories. I've recently begun work on our next full length novel together, the first in a two book deal with St. Martin's Press. And, of course, there's the 'Baltimore' comic book, for which we have many devious plans."

Golden is known for working with other writers on many of his novels, with his list of regular collaborators including Mignola, Tim Lebbon, Thomas E. Sniegoski and Amber Benson. "I always say that writing is a solitary occupation and I'm not a solitary person. That's very true," Golden said. "But beyond that, I'm an excitable guy. I'm passionate about ideas, and fortunately I have a lot of creative friends. Sometimes when I'm talking to one of those friends, we'll be joking around, or sometimes actually brainstorming, and we'll come up with something that we realize we ought to write together. Most of my collaborations have come about that way. With Mike, as previously noted, it evolved differently."

The author's collaborations with Mike Mignola take different paths not only depending on whether the project is comics or prose fiction, but also varying from project to project within a medium. "On [the novel] 'Baltimore,' about 85% of the plot was his. On the next novel, my plot contributions are more significant. There are things we have planned that are mostly me, or mostly him, or more balanced, but the enthusiasm is the same, no matter what," Golden said. "Most of the plot of the original 'Baltimore' novel may have come from Mike, but we are of one mind when it comes to the tone. For the comic book series, we invent together, and that's when we get the best - and craziest - shit. The second 'Baltimore' miniseries is absolutely bugf**k nuts, but I also think it's incredibly cool, and that people will dig the new characters and the grim, doom-laden nature of Baltimore's story."

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