SDCC '10 | AiT's <i>Elvis Van Helsing</i> pits slackers vs. vampires

Elvis Yang’s life couldn’t be lamer. He’s in his sixth year of college, doesn’t have a girlfriend, lives in his parents’ basement, he’s flat broke and worst of all, his best friend Randy just kicked his ass in Wii Bowling. But everything for Elvis is about to change, including his last name.

Debuting at Comic-Con International next week is Elvis Van Helsing, written by Steve Kriozere and Mark A. Altman, with art by Jason Baroody and Zach Matheny. You can check out a trailer here. The book will hit comic shops later this fall.

Kriozere and Altman have previously worked together on a comic called The Unknowns and the television show Castle. Between them they've also worked on several other TV shows and movies, including Sliders, V.I.P., NCIS, DOA: Dead or Alive, The Specials and the William Shatner comedy Free Enterprise. Both were kind enough to share some more details on the book with me.

In addition, you can meet them next week at the AiT/PlanetLar booth (#2001) in San Diego to sign the book at the following times:

  • Thursday 1-2 p.m.
  • Friday 1-2 p.m.
  • Saturday 11 a.m.-noon
  • Sunday 1-2 p.m.

My thanks for their time, and to Larry Young for setting it up.

JK: When I first heard the title Elvis Van Helsing, the image that immediately sprang to mind was one of Elvis Presley fighting vampires. Can you talk a little bit about your "Elvis," who he is and how he ends up fighting creatures of the night?

Steve: Our Elvis is a clueless slacker who's decided to stay in college well past his graduation expiration date. He's not dumb, he's actually very, very smart, he just hasn't found his true calling in life and finds things easier if he just stays in college to avoid taking on any sort of responsibility. So when Elvis finally does find out his true calling and secret family lineage -- that he's the sole surviving heir to the Van Helsing monster hunting family and, like it or not, must battle creatures of the night -- it's a bit much for him.

Mark: What he said...

JK: Where did the idea for the book come from?

Steve: It all started with the title. I combined the greatest first name in rock'n'roll with one of the most famous (and public domain) surnames in literary history -- Elvis Van Helsing. How can you go wrong with a title like that? You're either laughing at that name or dying to find out who the hell that is. Titles are very important. Look no further than the classic 80s show Manimal. What a title! Okay, maybe it wasn't so classic.

Mark: It sort of wrote itself from there. Maybe we can get the comic book rights to Manimal, now that'd be cool. Manimal Van Helsing? Not so much. But it's true, we feel that to stand out at the comic book store, if you're not Mark Waid or Batman, you need a title that's going to catch people's interest and, hopefully, this does. We think Elvis has a really original voice, and I heard a rumor vampires are hot right now, apparently.

JK: There are a number of literary/historical references in the book, and even "guest appearances" by Bram Stoker, Stephen King and Bob Woodward. Were you guys fans of all these guys before writing the book?

Steve: I have always been a fan of Stephen King's work. The guy's imagination is twisted and endless. As for Bram Stoker, I remember reading Dracula while traveling on a train through Europe while in college on a semester abroad. Reading it while on the train at night only enhanced the creepiness of the book. I also visited Highgate Cemetery in London, which is an amazing Victorian era cemetery. Rumor has it, Stoker visited Highgate and that is where he became inspired to write his most famous work. There are also stories of a vampire lurking in the cemetery. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I didn't see any when I was there. I guess I ate too much garlic the night before?

Mark: I love King's Danse Macabre, which is one of the great non-fiction books about horror. And I've always been a poli sci junkie, so I knew a lot about Bob Woodward, and it just seemed to fit in really well to what we were trying to do, and I think it's a lot of fun. It sort of reminds me of Spicoli ordering the pizza in "Fast Times," but less stoner, more smart.

JK: How did you end up working with the artist, Jason Baroody?

Steve: I am an avid collector of original comic art and am also a member of www.comicartfans.com. Jason is a member, too. That's where I was first exposed to his art. I had bought several pieces of art by Jason, and we became friendly. When Mark and I started looking for an artist to draw the book, I hit up Jason right away. He read the script and loved it. Jason kicked all sorts of butt and worked super-fast on the book. You rock, Jason! Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our colorist and production superstar, Zach Matheny. Zach's tones brought the book up to a whole different level of awesomeness.

Mark: Yeah, Kro found Baroody, who hopefully is going to get a lot of work after this. I knew Zach from another book we did, The Unknowns, and think he's immensely talented, and they both conspired to make us look really good since we don't do a very good job of that ourselves.

JK: How did the two of you meet and start working together?

Steve: Mark and I met several years ago through mutual friends. Mark's background was predominantly in writing and producing features while mine was in television. Our first official team-up as writers was on the SciFi Channel (it wasn't called SyFy yet) original movie Dead & Deader, a 'zomedy' (zombie-comedy) starring Dean Cain as a half-human half-zombie hero, which Mark produced and we co-wrote together. We had such a blast working together; we knew there was a lot of creativity left in the tank. Elvis Van Helsing is just one of those ideas we yanked from the tank and knew we had to do something with. We're like Reece's Peanut Butter cups -- the perfect combination of creamy peanut butter in a rich milk chocolate cup that no one can resist. So which one of us is the peanut butter and which one is the milk chocolate? I'm afraid that's top secret.

Mark: It's true, we had so much fun writing a dumb zombie movie that we thought what if we try and write a smart zombie movie, and it went on from there. We've done some TV, survived a year on Castle, and sold a pilot to USA and have just been having such a great time together. It's such a fertile creative partnership between films, TV and now comics, I think my wife is getting jealous. We're also available for video games and Bar Mitzvahs.

JK: What made you both want to start writing comics?

Steve: I have been a huge comics fan since I could read. Elvis Van Helsing is my first published work, so I'm way psyched. The majority of my comics collection is still in my parents' basement, so getting Elvis Van Helsing made into a graphic novel and published is not only a big deal for me, but for them as well.

Mark: I used to write Star Trek comics for both Malibu and DC, and I loved doing it. I've been trying to do some stuff for IDW, but they keep blowing me off which pisses me off especially since I know and like those guys, so when Larry said he was big fan of my first film, Free Enterprise, I said anything you want. Flattery will get you everywhere. I even worked in one or two Trek references for good measure. It was great. Larry was really supportive and I'm thrilled to have the chance to debut it at Comic-Con. All kidding aside, Steve and I are very proud of this book and looking forward to spreading the gospel of Elvis.

JK: How did you hook up with Larry and AiT?

Steve: My good buddy Adam Beechen has published several excellent graphic novels through AiT. Adam introduced me to Larry many years ago at WonderCon in San Francisco, and we quickly became good buds. When Mark and I decided to do Elvis Van Helsing as a graphic novel, we went straight to Larry.

Mark: I don't know, Larry kept muttering something about what does God need with a starship, and I figured we were kinda kindred spirits. I guess Sybok could be considered an Astronaut in Trouble.

JK: Do you have any other comic projects in the works?

Steve: Mark and I wrote a comic called The Unknowns through our "Femme Fatales" comics line, which has stirred up some serious Hollywood interest. Two issues have been published so far and two more will be coming out soon. We also have a top secret new project in the works called Captain Greenland, which you should be hearing about soon.

Mark: The Unknowns is a great little book that no one knows about. It "stars" Monica Olsen, who is the femme fatale we based the book on and serves as the template for the lead character. She's terrific, sexy and it's a really fun, high-concept book that turns the familiar superhero action tropes on their head. We've gotten some great fan mail and Hollywood was all over it, but I want the fans to show us the love. Femme Fatales is a brand you'll be hearing a lot more about in the next few months. In addition to the comic book line, the magazine's coming back and we have our first TV show debuting next year as well.

JK: And are you guys going to be in San Diego? What else are you looking forward to at the con, besides the release of your book?

Steve: Yes, I will be in San Diego for the whole run of the convention The release of Elvis Van Helsing is clearly the thing I am most looking forward to at SDCC. A close second is Anna Kendrick.

Mark: Well, this will be like my 17th year going to San Diego and every year I swear it's my last and every year I'm back, but this will be fun. We're signing EVH and I'll be doing Starship Smackdown and a few other panels so it's always fun to see old friends and make new ones...and heckle at the Masquerade. Wait, did I just say that?

JK: And finally, the book ends on a bit of cliffhanger, or at least leaves the possibility of a second volume open. Are you already working on it?

Steve: Absolutely! You have not seen the last of Elvis Van Helsing!

Mark: True that.

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