William Harms Interview
In the 1400s a hungry army of vampires stake a claim on Eastern Europe, and only one man can save the terrified citizens. His name is Vlad Tempes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler. He is a man literally empowered by the church to fight these beasts, and does. Fast forward to modern New York. Widower detective Victor Dailey discovers corpses in an abandoned ship, and soon the vampire horde is back. However, so is Vlad, and he’s ready to end the fight for good. This time though, he has help, with the US military and Dailey doing whatever they can to stop the snow covered city from becoming a vampire covered one too.
Impaler was originally a three issue series published by Image Comics in 2006 and 2007 but went on hiatus. Top Cow picked up the reins in October and published a Trade Paper Back of those first three issues, plus three new ones. Now, Impaler receives its own ongoing series, written by series creator William Harms with gorgeously gory art from Brit Matt Timson. These are not today’s goth-wannabe vamps. Impaler’s blood suckers are horrific monsters, not introspective shadow dwellers, and as you can see on the following pages Impaler is an unashamed horror title.
This month’s Impaler series kicks off after the recent TPB. For those who missed out are you able to give them a heads up as to what’s going on?
WILLIAM: The Impaler trade ends with the vampires busting through the military’s blockade of New York City and pushing west, toward New Jersey. (And east, toward Boston.) The US military tries a desperate, last-ditch attempt to destroy the vampires, but it fails. At this point, Vlad and Victor (the two primary characters from the trade) are hiding out in New York City, and Victor is dying from radiation sickness. The story quickly expands in its scope to include a special forces team, led by Lt. George Wagner, that is sent to Newark International Airport to look for a VIP. By the end of # 1, it’s looking pretty grim for the human race.
How difficult was it to bring a fresh take to the vampire mythos?
WILLIAM: It was pretty hard, to be honest. The most important thing to me was to not be limited by the traditional defenses against vampires, such as holy water, crosses, that kind of thing. If the only way you can kill a vampire is by either staking it in the heart or dousing it in holy water, you’re pretty limited in where you can take the story. So I decided that as long as the vampires in Impaler are in “flesh” form, they’re killed the same way we are – if you can shoot them in the head, blow them up, or cut them in half, they die. Simple as that. That idea really drove the development of the vampires in Impaler, and I’m really proud of the direction they took.
What happened that put the initial series on hiatus and how did it victoriously return?
WILLIAM: Working in independent comics, even if it’s a place like Image, is really hard. In addition to writing the book, I was the PR guy, the marketing guy, the schedule keeper, that kind of thing. It was really exhausting. And, to be honest, despite the acclaim that Impaler received, the sales weren’t quite where they needed to be. Luckily, the guys at Top Cow really enjoyed Impaler and decided to take it under their wing and give it new life. And I’m forever grateful that the book got a second chance.
How did you manage to bring a level of realism to this series?
WILLIAM: One of the things I love about writing is thinking about stuff like, “if vampires were real, what would happen?” And sitting down and writing out all of the ways they’d attack us, how we’d fight back, etc. And that really drove the realistic nature of Impaler, because it was important to me that the characters and world look like our world – just a normal place where something horrible has happened. Of course, that’s the formula that Stephen King has used his entire career, and in my mind it’s the only way to approach horror fiction.
What is your favourite interpretation of a vampire character from pop culture?
WILLIAM: “Shadow of the Vampire” (see trailer of the 2000 film below-ES) is one of my favorite movies – the idea is sheer genius. I’m also a huge fan of Salem’s Lot and I am Legend. Those are the two best vampire novels as far as I’m concerned. I read them both at least once a year.
Impaler #1 and the Impaler TPB, collecting the original mini-series with extra material are out now. Impaler #2 is out in late January. You can read a preview of #1 here.