The latest offering in Dark Horse Comics’ ongoing adventures of Lord Baltimore is set for release next week with Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King. The new series, co-written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden with artwork from Peter Bergting, sees Lord Baltimore discover the truth about an ancient evil which is poised to destroy the world, and promises to serve as a perfect jumping-on point for new readers to the series. With this in mind, we were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with co-writer Christopher Golden to have a chat about the series.
Here’s how the conversation went;
Big Comic Page: First off, tell us a little about what to expect from The Cult of the Red King?
Christopher Golden: The biggest story we’ve done so far, and the best, as far as I’m concerned. Mike always pipes in and says people should start at the beginning, and I do think it’s a good idea to read the whole thing, but if you haven’t read any Baltimore at all you can absolutely start with The Cult of the Red King #1. Everything else, including the original novel, has been leading up to this. This arc is not the end, but let’s say it’s the overture that leads us into the final movements of the story. It’s big and bloody, spans continents and seas, and numerous key characters meet terrible ends. There are mysteries to be solved and truths to be revealed, and we see how the worship of the Red King is being spread and really infecting the world.
BCP: How were you initially approached by Mignola about co-creating the Baltimore series?
CG: Mike and I have known each other a long time. For years, we’d talk on the phone and he’d tell me about this “vampire graphic novel” he wanted to do. At some point he rang me up and said he’d realized he would never have time and would I like to write it as a novel instead, that he’d do a bunch of illustrations for it. So we did. The novel–BALTIMORE, OR, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER AND THE VAMPIRE–has never been released in paperback, so Dark Horse is putting it out in a trade on July 14th.
After the book came out it was optioned by New Regency. Mike and I did the screenplay, but the studio changed bosses mid-way and the project fell apart. (We have the rights back now.) All along we had talked about doing comics at some point, both to fill in the large time gap we had purposely left in the novel and to continue the story along its natural progression. We’d also always talked about what we considered the second half of the story, and when the time came, we knew we would do that in comics. So after volume four of Baltimore (Chapel of Bones), we started leading into part two.
BCP: Where do you see it fitting, if at all, into the Mignolaverse as a whole?
CG: It doesn’t. Let’s be clear on that. While I’d like everyone reading Hellboy and BPRD and the Mignolaverse titles to read BALTIMORE, it exists in its own universe, which is a pretty dark and interesting place, at least to me. Are there other stories to be told in that universe? I certainly think so. But it’s not the same universe that Hellboy lives in.
BCP: The series is now entering its fifth year, even though there have been some relatively large gaps between storylines. Is this intentional so you don’t fall behind, or do you write as and when an idea comes to you?
CG: It’s actually a fortunate confluence of several things. First, Dark Horse carefully curates its list, and flooding the market with Mignola-related titles would be bad for all of them, so they work us into the schedule when they can. Second, I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with two amazing artists on this series–Peter Bergting and Ben Stenbeck–not to mention the best and most in-demand colorist in the business, Dave Stewart. We’re not going to rush these guys or get fill-in artists or pull in someone else just to put out more issues. Finally…I love comics and this is the best thing I’ve ever done in the medium. Maybe the best thing I ever will do. But comics are still my moonlighting gig. I’m a novelist first and foremost, and writing novels is pretty time consuming. I also edit anthologies, write short stories and the occasional script.
So the fact that we couldn’t do BALTIMORE monthly has worked out perfectly well for me. In fact, it’s only recently that I’ve been jammed up with it, but that’s because of this thing I keep referring to online as MSP (for Mignola Secret Project). The schedule has gotten much harder to manage, but it’s more than worth it. My novel TIN MEN, which hits stores in June, is a near-future SF thriller about remote-piloted robot soldiers being used the way we use drones now, and what happens when anarchists are willing to destroy civilization just to stop America from using them. It took me a very long time to write, and then months more to revise. Now it’s coming out in the US, UK, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Bulgaria, and other places I can’t even think of, and I’ve got to make sure it gets the launch it needs. Time is always at a premium.
BCP: In the first issue, we see the ‘Blasphemers Library’ in a beautiful panel. Could you tell us a bit more about it?
CG: Funny you should ask. It’s partly a throwaway of the sort that always appears in Mignola stuff–the mention of stuff that obviously should exist in the world we’re presenting, but which is unlikely ever to be mentioned again. But it’s also a kind of nod to my first novel, OF SAINTS AND SHADOWS, which jumps off from a book being stolen from a secret Vatican library. The Blasphemers Library in BALTIMORE is comprised of the books that the Vatican owns but refuses, in good conscience, to keep *even in their own secret library.* The books so contrary to their beliefs that they have to keep them off site.
BCP: Speaking of Dark Horse, you’ve worked with them a lot over the years. What keeps bringing you back?
CG: Scott Allie can’t get enough of me. (Meaning I won’t leave him alone.) I’ve known Scott for very nearly as long as I’ve known Mike, which is a long time. Weirdly, Scott is from Ipswich, Massachusetts, which is about twenty minutes from where I’ve lived the past twenty-two years, and I currently live a mile from the campus where he went to college, but we met each other when he had already started at Dark Horse. I worked with Scott on some Buffy comics early on and I wrote the original Angel comics series for him. Everything else–Hellboy novels and anthologies and the Baltimore series and the MSP–has been connected to Mike. Nearly everything I’ve ever learned about writing a decent comic book, I’ve learned from either Scott or Mike. I now work pretty closely with editor Shantel LaRocque, and she’s keeping me on my toes, too.
BCP: Do you feel your writing style differs between novels and comics?
CG: I think my style differs from project to project, no matter what the medium. It depends what it is, what the genre is, who I’m working with, and yes, the medium affects it. Comics are a different narrative discipline.
BCP: Thoughts on the uprising of the beard? As a bearded gentleman myself. I’ve seriously considered getting rid of it after 6 years, just because of the way its been adopted.
CG: Even Mignola’s growing one! I first grew a beard to portray Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof my senior year in high school. I grew it back in college. I don’t even remember when, exactly, but I’ve had it ever since. Don’t worry, my friend, most of these nouveau-beardies will shave as soon as the fad passes. It’s either meant to be or it isn’t. Some faces are just incomplete without one. In fact, I have a new podcast launching soon with authors Jonathan Maberry and James A. Moore and it’s called…Three Guys With Beards.
BCP: Still on the subject of beards, Dan Slott, Alan Moore, or Jason Aaron?
CG: Warren Ellis
Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #1 goes on sale May 6th, 2015 from Dark Horse Comics.
Christopher’s upcoming novel, Tin Men, will be released on 16th of June 2015, and you can check out the cover below.