Last week, writer Christopher Golden launched the latest tale in the ongoing saga of Baltimore, the former solider who now fights vampires and the undead, while tracking one nasty blood-sucker who murdered his whole family. The two part Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy finds the (second) titular character thinking he’s found a cure for the vampire plague that’s destroying the world… But as we saw with the release of the first issue, he’s far from getting it right. We chatted with Golden about this series, working with Mike Mignola, and whether we’ll ever see Baltimore cross over with any other Mignola creations:
MTV Geek: At this point, you have more stories about Baltimore in comics form, than in prose… Did you ever think he’d have this lasting comics popularity? And what, if anything, is different about comics Baltimore versus book Baltimore?
Christopher Golden: It’s funny, I haven’t really thought about it like that. I’ve now written sixteen issues of Baltimore (counting the Free Comic Book Day story), although four of those have yet to be published, and I feel like we’ve just begun. At this point I feel as if we could do two hundred of them. Of course that’s not likely to happen. But I haven’t ever thought about it in terms of it being popular, even though we were nominated for an Eisner and made the New York Times list. I’ve just been grateful that it’s sold enough copies that Dark Horse wants to keep going, at least for now.
As for what’s different between comics Baltimore and book Baltimore… Just in the past few issues we’ve seen a few momentary breaks in the grimness that is Lord Baltimore. In the novel, we got to the point where we could ask the question, what happens to this guy once he sort-of accomplishes his goal and takes his vengeance? But in the comics we can explore a bit more of what it means to be as single-minded as he is, to feel like you’re damned. And we may have more exploring of his psyche to do, though I can’t go into detail about that.
Geek: Given that you’ve explored him over these series – including the new one – yet they all exist between chapters of the novel, is there any chance of the character evolving and changing over time? Or is he on a set course?
CG: Heh. Interesting that you should ask, considering my answer to the previous question. In the novel we don’t see much from Baltimore’s point of view, so I do think we can get some glimpses into who he is that might alter our perception of who he is at the end of the novel. We know how his quest for revenge ends, but not how he got there. And we certainly don’t know what comes afterward.
Geek: Where is Baltimore, physically and emotionally, when Dr. Leskovar’s starts?
CG: In a plane that’s on fire, plummeting toward the ground, in the midst of battle with a monster that is trying to eat him. Emotionally, you’d think he’d be terrified, but because it’s Baltimore, he’s just pissed at the delay in his pursuit of Haigus. I’m only half joking. Baltimore has been numbed to nearly all emotion, other than frustration and hatred. He can feel sympathy, but it’s distant from him, like a train whistle you hear in the middle of the night that could be coming from miles and miles away. Everything he feels is a distraction. He believes that he is doomed. Damned. As far as Baltimore is concerned, he’s already dead but simply won’t be able to lie down in the grave until Haigus is destroyed.
And yet there are cracks in that certainty, fleeting moments in which the muscle of his hatred unclenches slightly, though he’d never admit it. He’s still human enough to struggle with guilt when innocents are in jeopardy, like in THE CURSE BELLS, when he ends up losing his chance at Haigus because he chooses the lives of the townspeople over his own vengeance. That didn’t work out well for anyone except Haigus, so it’s a good bet he would do things differently if he had to make that choice again.
Geek: Where’s the world? It seems almost like they’re starting to understand the vampire plague is something that isn’t going to end anytime soon.
CG: In Europe, at least, they’ve reached that point. Some areas are still fairly intact, but the plague and the vampires are still spreading outward from the war torn parts of the continent. And ancient evils keep returning to the world, reappearing in places they inhabited hundreds or thousands of years before. Some parts of Europe are practically deserted, now, thanks to the plague and the vampires, like Salem’s Lot in the King short story “One For the Road.” So, yeah…this is not getting better any time soon, and if Haigus has his way and the Red King wakes…well, go read the novel.
Geek: Since Baltimore, originally, was a metaphor for the war, how does Dr. Leskovar play into that?
CG: Leskovar’s story is the classic “meddling-with-nature” tale. He’s a scientist. All he wants to do is cure vampirism for the good of the world. The trouble is, he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. Saying more than that would lead to spoilers. Also, I don’t think of Baltimore as a metaphor for war, but certainly the idea of brutal warfare and bloodshed and guns drawing old evils to the surface to prey on mankind… Yeah, that’s a metaphor for the effects of warfare on the human spirit. That should be fairly evident to anyone reading the novel.
Geek: You’ve talked about how this series is inspired by Hammer horror… How does that play into the mix here?
CG: Baltimore the series is inspired by all kinds of things, from Moby Dick to Dracula. Really, it was the storyline in THE CURSE BELLS that was inspired by my love of Hammer films. In DR. LESKOVAR’S REMEDY, there’s a certain Hammer element, but there’s more Dr. Moreau in this one than Hammer.
Geek: What’s your collaboration with Mike Mignola like here? Is this now more your “thing,” or are you two still as thick as thieves?
CG: Mike and I go over everything together. Most of the stories we’re telling still spring from the earliest conversations we had about doing Baltimore as a comic book series. From the beginning, I wrote outlines based on those conversations and then we’d talk them out, then I’d write the scripts and we’d talk those out. Mike beats me up about places where my bad habits have come through and I fix them. Once we’re both happy, the scripts go to Scott Allie at Dark Horse, and he points out the places where they don’t make sense and gives notes about ways to tighten it all up.
Geek: Silly, fanboy question: could you ever see Baltimore crossing over with any of Mignola’s other work, like Lobster Johnson or Hellboy? Or is that impossible, since they’re two different worlds?
CG: As much as I love Hellboy and all of those characters, the answer–from me, at least–is no. I suppose I could see one of those weird stories where Hellboy gets drunk with skeletons or gets hit on the head by a coconut and wakes to find himself in some bizarre limbo realm adventure and Baltimore is there, but not really vice versa. Hellboy’s been in a number of different “worlds” that are not the tangible, gritty, human world–Faerie and Hell and weird limbos–but I don’t see that happening to Baltimore.
Geek: Leskovar, and the one-shots that follow, are shorter stories. Why was this important?
CG: There are a bunch of reasons for these stories. First, when Mike and I came up with the first barrage of Baltimore comics ideas–and a few that came later–some of them were too peculiar or quiet or simple to warrant a full-length miniseries. Second, we liked the idea of a kind of breath before we get into what is really act three of the story we’ve been telling since the first comic book. And, as it turned out, it worked out much better for Ben Stenbeck to be able to do these smaller stories to allow for some other things he has planned.
Geek: Do you have another story with Baltimore planned?
CG: More news on the upcoming one-shots will be announced soon, and we do intend there to be a fourth volume. Beyond that, we shall see.
Baltimore: Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy #1 is now on sale from Dark Horse Comics.