NYCC: Golden Rings "Baltimore: The Curse Bells"

Following on the success of "Baltimore: The Plague Ships," a five-issue miniseries fleshing out the world of Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden's novel "Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire," Dark Horse announced Friday at New York Comic-Con that Mignola and Golden would return for a second miniseries in 2011, once again festuring Ben Stenbeck on art.

Titled "Baltimore: The Curse Bells," the upcoming series finds Lord Henry Baltimore venturing to a secluded nunnery in Austria, where he believes Haigus, the scarred vampire who murdered Baltimore's family, lay in hiding. There are reports, however, that the inmates of this cloister practice black magic, and that a Bavarian soldier seeking a cure for the plague of demons and vampires that cut short the Great War may also have taken up residence within.

"Baltimore" will also feature in a Free Comic Book Day flip book opposite Steve Niles' "Criminal Macabre." CBR News caught up with Golden to get more details on the fallen world of Lord Baltimore.

CBR News: We're currently three issues into the first Baltimore miniseries, "The Plague Ships." Have you been pleased with response to the series so far? Have there been any unexpected twists and turns as you were working on it?

Christopher Golden: The reaction has been fantastic so far. I'm very curious to see the feedback as we keep peeling back the layers of this thing and readers begin to see the scopeand richness of this world. Right now, we've literally only cut a little window through which the reader has been able to peek. But after "The Plague Ships," we see a little more. It was sort of funny, actually. After the first issue was published, we got some amazing reviews, but we also had some people complaining that they didn't know anything about Baltimore or his origin because they hadn't read the novel. Once the second issue was published, I think people realized that we were going to tell them everything they needed to know.

Chronologically, how much time has passed between "The Plague Ships" and "The Curse Bells?"

Hmm. I'd have to go back and look at it, but no less than a few weeks and no more than a few months. This is Baltimore's journey we're following, across a world where ancient evils are being reborn all around him and eroding at early 20th century civilization on a daily basis.

Given that the first mini hasn't finished, it may be too early to say - but will Vanessa be returning for series two?

That would be spoiling the story. Let's see how it all plays out.

How has Lord Baltimore changed based on his experiences in "The Plague Ships?"

Several times since he set out in pursuit of the scarred vampire, Haigus, Baltimore has come tantalizingly within reach. But the events of "The Plague Ships" set him back significantly. He feels as if he is damned. Cursed. This crusade is his life's work now, and he is convinced he is dead inside. Vanessa is the first person he has encountered since he set out on this journey that he is willing to give a glimpse into himself, to talk to about what he's been through. That in itself is a tiny shard of evidence that maybe he's not quite as dead inside as he thinks he is. Though anyone who has read the novel realizes that the air of doom around him only gets thicker.

You suggested in our last interview that the second miniseries would further explore Baltimore's single-mindedness and how he becomes the character we see in the novel's second half. Can you talk a bit more about how this plays out over the story of "The Curse Bells?"

I think it's important to point out that there is a broad span of lost years only alluded to in the novel. (Well, there is one brief period explored in detail, but only one.) So the honing of the weapon that is Baltimore does not happen over the course of a single story, or a couple of stories. It is an ongoing process. Every new leg of his journey contributes to what he'll one day become, and in the meantime, we get to explore this world. In "The Curse Bells," readers will get to see Haigus up close, and he and Baltimore are going to be in the same place for the first time since Haigus murdered his wife.

"The Curse Bells" centers on a cloister in Austria where, it would seem, black magic is practiced and vampires roam free. What does this environment and what do the characters we'll meet there add to the "world in ruin" you've been establishing in the novel and miniseries?

Again, that would be spoiling it. I will say that you will meet a number of new characters in "The Curse Bells," learn a bit about the way vampirism and evil work in this world, and encounter a couple of very unexpected villains.

Is there anything you can say about the "curse bells" of the title?

You don't want them to ring.

Can you tell us anything about the Bavarian soldier seeking a cure for vampirism? Could this person be an ally for Baltimore, or is something else at play?

He is most definitely not an ally. Though entirely human, the young soldier is at least as evil as the ancient things reawakening in this world.

I think, almost instinctively, the idea of evil nuns evokes a shiver. What do you think works so well about horror based somewhat in religion? Beyond the concept itself, what can you tell us about the sect Henry Baltimore will encounter?

All kinds of horrible things go on behind high walls, out of the view of the rest of society. Things can fester and contagion can spread. Things can make nests. And what we all want, whether we admit it or not, is for those horrible things to STAY inside the walls.

Haigus is the central adversary of the Baltimore stories, but what can you tell us about any other major baddies that might appear in this miniseries?

"The Curse Bells" is very different from "The Plague Ships," which was relatively quiet. There are enemies galore in The Curse Bells, and they all have a role to play. We'll also see more of Judge Duvic of the Inquisition, who we only got a glimpse of in "The Plague Ships." The Judge fancies himself an agent of Heaven, and in the service of the Lord, he's willing to do almost anything. He has a very "scorched earth" approach to cleansing evil from the Earth.

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