Debuting this week from DC Comics is "Dead Romeo," a new six-issue miniseries illustrated by Ryan Benjamin ("Grifter and Midnighter") and written by Jesse Blaze Snider. A relative newcomer to comics, Snider is hoping to break big with "Dead Romeo," an ultra-violent vampire love story he describes as being something of a cross between "The Crow" and "The Princess Bride."
The story follows John Romero, a glam rock musician who died in the 1980s, but not before falling madly in love, marrying his sweetheart and becoming a vampire. Romero returns from Hell in the present day with a chance to escape forever. All he has to do is kill one innocent virgin. But can the hopeless romantic rock singer do such a terrible thing? And if he can't, what will his Hellish companions, the evil Hollywood Vampires, to do John if he chokes?
To learn more about "Dead Romeo," CBR spoke with writer Jesse Blaze Snider.
CBR: There's a lot going on in "Dead Romeo." Is this a crazy action comic book? Is this a love story? Is this horror?
Jesse Blaze Snider: Well, let me tell everyone that this book isn't anything like "Queen of the Damned." I think a lot of people read "lead singer of '80s glam rock band" and just screamed "UNORIGINAL!"
First off, Romeo's former occupation has no bearing on the story itself, if could have been a plumber and not a single panel would have to be changed.
Second, he wasn't ever and isn't now a rockstar; he was just the singer of a struggling '80s Glam Rock band called The Dead Romeos. And the only reason why I did that was so I could put him in some rocking clothes!
Finally, the whole musician thing wasn't even in the solicitation that I wrote, because I knew some people would automatically assume we were ripping off Anne Rice. DC added it because they thought it was cool. But I assure you this is nothing like anything that Anne Rice would write.
So...now that that is out of the way.
Crazy? Action? Comic? Book? Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes! Although, the $#!+ doesn't really hit the fan until issue #2. Issue #2, #5 and #6 are nonstop action, basically 22 beautifully gory splash pages! But with a surprising amount of story.
Love story? first and foremost, it is love and regret and redemption that drives this book from its tragic beginnings to its bitter end.
Horor? Oh, yes. Well, by comic book standards. I think that it is nearly impossible to really scare someone with a comic, but you can shock and awe them and this book has plenty of both. Plus, the most amount of gore you can get in a PG-13 comic. We got some great cliffhangers, seven creepy cool villains and I tried to put every worthwhile surprise on a turn page! Hopefully ads to ruin it!
Tell us about Jonathan Romero himself, what's his deal?Â
Johnny Romeo was a hopeless romantic singer songwriter who found his muse in a girl named Story. They got married and shortly after that was transformed into a vampire, unbeknownst to him, He and his wife died tragically and was sent straight to hell.
In Hell, he hooked up with a band of evil bastards for protection (who we refer to in the book as "The Hollywood Vampires"). This motley crew began doing "jobs" for the rulers of Hell eventually earning them a chance at freedom. The Hollywood Vampires, which includes Romeo, have been sent beck to the land of the living to kill a virgin.
Now in Hell, Romeo did some terrible things, in the hope that he might eventually end his suffering and get out of Hell, but he did terrible things to sinners, not innocent people. Now he is faced with a tough choice: kill this virgin and get out of Hell or protect her and burn and suffer for eternity. It's a tough choice.
The real kicker for me is that he knows that if he kills her, she will go to Heaven So, what's the big deal? He's the one who will have to go to Hell. But it is a big deal, because he can't forgive himself for the tragic circumstances of his wife's and his own death and he sees this as a second chance to do right, for himself.
Who are the other characters that populate the world of "Dead Romeo?"
Well, our book is narrated by DEATH! Since he, you know...meets everyone...eventually. He has a relationship with Romeo and the others and has a unique perspective on everything. Writing his narration is always the most fun. He is also a character in the book; he is the go between for Hell and the Hollywood Vampires.
Then we have our virgin Whisper and her dog Mr. Growly. Whisper is an orphan whose parents died before she was born. Think on it, it is possible. She grew up in orphanages and foster homes and eventually ran away and is now living on the street. Homeless and alone, just the way her dog and her like it. She is very standoffish and distrust men, especially Romeo...initially.
Then there are the Hollywood Vampires. Seven truly evil bastards who all died at different time periods. The book takes place in LA and all of the dead vamps and such died near there. So, there is a vamp gun fighter from the "Old West." A vamp body builder from late '80s/early '90s California beach; 'cause after steroids comes vampirism. A vamp that was a struggling '70s kung fu movie star, who turned to vampirism for an edge, only to find out that vamps can't be caught on film. Plus, four others, which includes our lead who is too cool to spoil, but I'll leave you with his "Haunted Mansion" like epitaph...
A CRAZY MAN
WHO WOULD NOT DIE
BUT STILL SURVIVED
AND SO WE BURIED HIM
How did "Dead Romeo" come about?Â
DC came to me with a basic premise, which was Vampire escapes Hell, falls in love and fights the people from Hell. Mostly they just wanted a vampire romance. So I sat down and evaluated all of the vampire romances that I was aware of and I found something interesting. There was little to no effort made to appeal to men. They were all written mostly by women for women and it went the same way on the other side of things. Men wrote for other men and women wrote for other women, but both loved vampires.
So that became my mission statement, set out to write something that would appeal to both groups. With love as the driving force, but never holding back on the horror or the violence and never turning vampires into Teddy Bears.
I created what I like to call a Gothic Fairy Tale. It has all the work parts of a normal fairy tale, but it's a bit harder to swallow. It's a spoon full of sugar with thick layer of salt. I've described it as "The Crow" meets "The Princess Bride"...but with vampires.
Tell us about your collaborator Ryan Benjamin and what he brings to the book.
Well, first and foremost he brings those BEAUTIFUL COVERS! They are enough reason to read the book and if anybody does, that is why! Those covers are so nice. I shouldn't be wasting my time promoting this book with interviews, I should just send every body a note that says,Â "Buy This Book 'Cause of the Covers!" and attach all six of them!
Ryan brings that great sort of kinetic art style to the table. That kind of big action, Jim Lee style and he does it very well. I'm actually a little bummed that I didn't know he was my artist when I wrote the first issue, because I wrote too many panels for him. He doesn't have the space to stretch his wings. But truat me when I say, starting with issue two I gave him all the room he needs!
You've worked in comics before, but "Dead Romeo" is your first major series that you created from scratch. What else do you have in the works?
Yeah, the first thing I ever sold was a short Deadpool story to Marvel that appeared in "Marvel Comics Presents" #10! It was a lot of fun to do and I think it was pretty well received. That short got me my next assignment at Marvel, a Hulk one-shot drawn by Steve Kurth, who is an amazing talent over at Marvel. Our one-shot has yet to be released, though, its been finished for well over a year, but I'm promised that it will come out eventually.
Those two books got me this job. Somewhere in between those two, I wrote a four-issue miniseries for Fangoria Comics called "Strangeland: Seven Sins," but only the first issue was ever released. But I am told that the new Fangoria Graphix will release it online in its entirety very soon! So, that's cool.
Plus, I have two creator-owned projects that Robert Kirkman is trying to help me launch at Image. He and I are old fin addicts who used to nag Erik Larsen at the Chicago comic con, back when Rob was doing "Battle Pope" and I was in high school. Now he's been kind enough to give me a leg up. We shall see what happens.
But the coolest thing is the project that I might get to do, if "Dead Romeo" is well received... I can't say anything, other than that is would be a dream come true and I'd be working on one of my favorite characters of all time! And no...its not Batman.
Anyway, I truly hope that my fellow comic geeks enjoy "Dead Romeo" because it took me eight years to break into comics and they're going to have to drag me away kicking, clawing, biting and SCREAMING if they want to get rid of me!
"Dead Romeo" #1 is on sale now from DC Comics.