The war wages on: Kris Oprisko talks 'Underworld' prequel comic

The war between vampires and werewolves heated up something fierce earlier this year when movie theaters worldwide saw the release of "Underworld." The movie told the story of a many, many years long struggle between vampires and lycans (the name for the human form of werewolves). The film starred Kate Beckinsale as Selene, a vampire Death Dealer who's charged with hunting down the lycans. Things get complicated when Michael Corvin makes an appearance (played by Scott Speedman) who holds a secret that affects both vampires and lycans in dramatic fashion. We'll spare you further details so as not to spoil the movie for those of you who haven't already seen it, but if you like vampires, horror, goth, action and just good bloody fun, then "Underworld" is the movie for you.

For those of you who have seen it you're well aware that there's a huge back story to the war and what led up to it. Hints are revealed throughout the film, but only briefly gotten into. That all changes in February when IDW Publishing releases the first of a three-issue mini-series called "Underworld: Red in Tooth and Claw," a prequel story by the same creative team as IDW's one-shot adaptation of the film. Writer Kris Oprisko and artists Nick Postic and Nick Marinkovich are joined by the screenwriter of "Underworld" Danny McBride. Most often with licensed comics the stories found within aren't considered canon, but with "Underworld: Red in Tooth and Clow" this story is the real deal. We caught up with writer Kris Oprisko to learn more about "Underworld: Red in Tooth and Claw."

"This prequel miniseries delves into the background of the vampire-lycan war-a war that has raged for centuries," Oprisko told CBR News. "The year is 1373, and the war has spilled out of Europe and into Africa. Lycans have made their way into the African plains, with a squad of Death Dealers in hot pursuit. As death and destruction crests in the area, a local champion arises to attempt to rid the land of evil. This great African warrior is named Koro, but 'Underworld' fans will recognize him by the name he later received… Raze."

In addition to the return of Raze, other characters that inhabited the film will be making appearances in this new series.

"Lucian, the lycan leader, also has a big part, as he is with the lycans that have fled to Africa," continued Oprisko. "The vampire elder Viktor and warrior Soren make appearances in the prologue and epilogue. Besides these familiar faces, many new characters are introduced. Perhaps the most notable is Vayer, the leader of the Death Dealers who seek to exterminate the fleeing lycan band."

In the past when a license was obtained to publish comics based on a film, often that license didn't include use of the likeness of the actor. That's not the case with "Underworld," where the characters from the film that appear in the comic will be faithful likenesses of the actual actors.

Seeing as how this book is a prequel Oprisko tells us that it's not necessary to have seen the movie first, although it couldn't hurt.

"Although seeing the 'Underworld' movie before reading the miniseries is definitely not necessary to understand the story, those who have seen the film will experience a deepening of their knowledge of the 'Underworld' universe. There is such a long history of conflict between the vampire and lycan races that is as yet untold. 'Underworld: Red in Tooth and Claw' begins to fill in some of those blanks. The story for this miniseries was hatched after Danny and I completed work on the 'Underworld' movie adaptation. We wanted to further explore this universe, and jumped right into the plotting of the prequel."

Oprisko tells CBR News there were a number of reasons behind the decision to do a prequel versus a sequel. For one, the film did well at the box office and enjoys a healthy following on DVD, so a cinematic sequel is in the making. Second, a prequel seemed natural because of the hundreds of years of conflict the two sides have been engaged in. For Oprisko, one of the best parts of working on this comic is working with scribe Danny McBride.

"Working with Danny has been a great experience all along the way," said Oprisko. "With the film screenplay, Danny's managed to craft a modern horror masterpiece, and I was extremely honored to work with him in producing the movie adaptation. With this project, Danny started me off with a few ideas on veins of vampire-lycan history that would be interesting to me. I was instantly attracted Raze's history, as I have had a life-long fascination with Africa. I sketched out a basic plot outline, which I emailed to Danny, which began a long series of back-and-forth refining that finally resulted in a finished script."

IDW's seen a great deal of success publishing the horror works of Steve Niles like "Dark Days" and "30 Days of Night" and now further's their publishing of horror product with more "Underworld" comics. The excited interest show by comic fans for more horror product played into IDW's interest in the "Underworld" license.

"The fact that we've enjoyed so much success with the Niles horror books has certainly been gratifying, as we are all horror fans, and 'Underworld' certainly shares some aspects with the horror world. However, we really feel that 'Underworld' stands on its own. True, it features vampires and werewolves, which have long been horror staples, but it treats them in a way that is fresh and exciting. It puts the emphasis on action rather than scares, and creates a vibrant, living world that presents many juicy opportunities to explore. That is really what interested us in the project."

At the moment this mini-series is all IDW has planned in the way of "Underworld" stories and it's pretty much up to the fans to spread the word in order to insure that future stories are told.

"We'd love to continue making 'Underworld' comics… It's really up to the fans to get behind this book to make it a success that we can continue to build," said Oprisko.

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