With the next Lord Baltimore story due out on May 6th, we caught up with co-creator and co-writer Christopher Golden who took time from his extremely business schedule to answer some questions about the book, his work with Mike Mignola and the continued popularity of horror books.
CC: The first time I read your work Chris was a Buffy tie-in and it was a lot darker and scarier than I expected so thanks for that. Regarding Baltimore, this isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Mike Mignola. What keeps bringing you back to the fold, as it were?
CG: I don’t look at it as coming back, really. Ever since Mike and I first became acquainted, right around the publication of the first issue of Hellboy, we’ve had an ongoing dialogue and a friendship that has spawned numerous opportunities to work together. It started with the first Hellboy novel, The Lost Army, but the list of projects since then is quite long, including two current projects that I’m not supposed to talk about yet. We’re quite different people, Mike and I, but we have a shared frame of reference, a shared love of certain kinds of storytelling, and a similar attitude about a lot of things. It doesn’t hurt that I think he’s brilliant at what he does and he thinks I mostly don’t suck at what I do. That last bit is the closest to flattery you’ll usually get from Mike.
CC: Although primarily a novelist, you’ve written comics before, Baltimore is your co-creation. How are the mediums different to work in? What problems do you have to overcome?
CG: I’ve been writing comics as long as I’ve been writing novels, but not nearly as consistently. A lot of my early comics were pretty mediocre and many were overwritten. If there was a problem
to overcome, it was the desire to explain more than needed explaining, but as far as how the mediums are different…they’re completely different. Writing comics is a unique form of storytelling, not just in the sense that you have to imagine how the particular artist on a given project is going to interpret your script but because it’s the most rigidly structured form I’ve ever worked in. You write to the artist’s strengths, to the number of panels you want on a page, to where you want the page turns to fall, and to the length of the individual issue. I’m 47, but it’s a skill I’m still learning.
CC: Of all the horror creations, both literary and comic book, which do you think “Man, I wish I’d thought of that?”
CG: Zero, really. The things I love…I’m glad I didn’t think of them because the pleasure I’ve taken from reading or watching them would be lost to me forever if I’d been the one to come up with them, and there’s no telling if I’d have been able to do the ideas justice if I had. And the things I don’t love…the ones I’m certain I could have done better…well, I wouldn’t name them, would I? It’d be cocky and unkind. I’ve enjoyed creating the things I’ve created and intend to keep going.
CC: What do you think makes Lord Baltimore so popular?
CG: I don’t know, really, but I have a couple of theories. One is the “can’t look away” theory. This guy is doomed. His situation is so awful that we want to look away but we can’t. The other is the “won’t lie down” theory. Yes, granted Baltimore has realized that he’s not going to be allowed to die until he’s fulfilled his purpose, and he wants to die, no question. But he could just curl up into a ball and let the wold go end. He’s not going to do that. Is it because he wants to hasten his death or because he wants to save the human race? I think a little of both.
CC: Having read the issue due out next week, there seems to be familiar tropes. Do you have a favourite sub genre of horror, i.e. vampires or zombies? If so, why are they your favourites?
CG: There are subgenres that don’t interest me, but far to many that do for me to name favourites. What I like are characters and real fear. I want the characters and the readers to feel like they have something to lose, something to be truly afraid of. That’s where the horror comes from.
CC: Horror books are going through a bit of a Renaissance, why do you think that is?
CG: Two things come immediately to mind. The first is connected to TV. We’ve seen such an explosion of great television in a variety of genres and one of the results of that is that the general attitude about horror being crappy has been diluted. The second is related. When horror first really hit it big in publishing in the 1980s, editors could not feed the audience’s desire for quality horror fast enough. Publishers wanted more and more and so editors ended up buying a lot of crap along with the good stuff. By the early 90s, horror publishing was falling apart. The general consensus of the movie going public was already that horror was crappy–too few of the great horror films reached the general public. So the perception of horror in pop culture was that it was a second-rate genre. Now enough time has passed and the audience has become more sophisticated, mature enough to be able to stop lumping all horror into one category. In the TV and film businesses they use the phrase “elevated genre” to differentiate between the now fading diminished expectations many people have about horror and the knowledge that it can be so much more. Of course I’m thrilled, and I expect horror to continue its resurgence for years to come.
CC: Where else can horror fans find more of your work?
G: My next horror novel is DEAD RINGERS, out in November. I should also say that horror isn’t all I do. My near-future thriller TIN MEN is out in June.
Thanks for taking time out to speak with us Chris.
Fans Lord Baltimore and Chris’s work, head over the review section for more details on Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King.