Monday, January 26, 2009

Baltimore, A Haunted World

One of my favorite books from last year was Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. In a long tradition of illustrated books this one stands out as something special and unique.

Mike Mignola is one of the best comic book artists/writers to come out of the States. His synthesis of styles and his ability to contrast the dynamic and the understated makes for some of the most unique and compelling work to come out of comics.

Christopher Golden is one of the best horror writers in decades. I think He is so good because he knows where our sympathies really lie, what we really want. Golden can make the horrific real and palpable. They have fashioned an incredible tale of Vampires and plague in a strangely askew post World War One Europe. A sort of haunted dieselpunk world where the technology is both antiquated and exaggerated. I was able to ask Mr. Mignola a few questions on what was behind the world of Baltimore:

1.The technology in Baltimore fits well into a world in which the supernatural and the spiritual exist. Is there something about older technology (pre-1960's to give it a pretty arbitrary date) which fits better into a world of ghosts and monsters, as opposed to modern technology?

Being very old school I associate supernatural with gas-light and guys in big coats, couches, old trains, etc. You get much past WW1 and you start to loose me. I just like how the old stuff looks and feels.

2. You've described the world of Hellboy as "our world with monsters" and the world of Baltimore seems more of a fully realized secondary world with a similar but alternate history.What was behind this decision?How did you find telling this type of story?

Hellboy is meant to embrace all mythologies and religions and at the same time has it's own super-mythology, a creation myth (made up of/inspired by) several mythologies that is somewhere behind all the supernatural working of the HB universe. The Baltimore world is meant to be much simpler and very Catholic. My original intention was that it be our world (more or less) if everything just came to a screeching halt in the middle of WW1 because of a super plague.
3. You and Mr. Golden have placed this story in the Gothic Horror tradition. What books or stories (or films,comics etc.) had an impact on the atmosphere and story telling of this book? ) It's kind of a Vampire version of Frankenstein--With a vampire swearing to have revenge by destroying a guys family. There's a lot of Ahab from Moby Dick in there (never read the book, but love the John Houston movie) and the puppet scene is inspired by my love of the Pinocchio--love the film, but REALLY love the book. Baltimore owes a lot to Victorian supernatural literature in general and specifically various short story collections that used the device of people sitting around swapping stores.
4.Is there something intrinsically cooler about older technology?
Yes. It looks better (Disney Nautilus is a good example) and it's not as reliable. I like a steam powered giant robot and relies on some sweaty guy shoveling coal into a furnace in it's belly.
There you go...

I also had the opportunity to get a quick quote from Mr. Golden regarding the decision to tell a story in an alternate history.

“We had some interesting responses to what we did with alternate history in Baltimore. Our alterations were apparently a bit too subtle for some people (though we didn't think they were subtle at all while we were writing them). Some readers didn't notice, and others were actually upset that our changes weren't more obvious from the outset and more drastic. Strange.”

I am extremely grateful to both Mr. Mignola and Mr. Golden for taking the time from their busy schedules to consider my questions.


hattha8advertiser said...


Bruce said...

This was one of my favorites from last year, too. Besides being an excellent and entertaining story, it actually creeped me out at times. Something that doesn't quite do it for me with modern horror, books or film.

Eric Orchard said...


It was an extremely effective horror story Bruce. It worked well on a number of levels.

Lou Anders said...

Great interview!!!

Eric Orchard said...

Thanks Lou!

If anyone here already hasn't done so, please check out Lou's work! The Pyr line of books are phenomenal.

tlc illustration said...

Fun interview. It is always interesting to me to see how other creatives think.

I too, was creeped out by this book (in a mostly good way). Especially that puppet part! Marionettes may now need to be in the same category as scary clowns!

Eric Orchard said...

Thanks Tara! I loved that scene!

mattvoelker said...

Thanks for introducing me to this book, I have to get ahold of a copy and read it. I grew up in Baltimore and am a bit of a Baltimore enthusiast so regardless of whether or not this actually takes place in Baltimore, I already have an affinity for it and I've never even heard of it until now. DAMN! Thanks buddy.


Eric Orchard said...

I'm really happy to hear that Matt! It's an amazing book. Genuinely creepy and a really compelling story. And it's being made into a film so read the book first!

Dave H said...

Great interview, Eric. I love Mignola's work. It amazes me how he can create his own reality with just solid masses of black and white. No compulsive detail, hatching or feathering. Just enough to make it "real" without the need to show everything.


Brian Lue Sang said...

Excellent interview! I like that Mignola said that older technology looks better and it's not as reliable.

There's something very 'down to earth' about that as opposed to how things are at this point. Technology that has that 'hand made' feel does look cooler!

Eric Orchard said...

Thanks Dave, I agree but I think he came to that through a lot of painstaking work. Have you seen his earlier work like rocket Raccoon? It's very realistically detailed.

Eric Orchard said...

Thanks Brian. I agree.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this book. It didn't have to work at being creepy and keeping me interested, it just did.

Eric Orchard said...

I totally agree Vickie!