One of the benefits of this great job is that sometimes you learn something you didn’t know. For example, most people are aware of Bram Stoker’s Dracula which was written in 1897. But before that, Sheridan Le Fanu was the leading “ghost story” writer of his time. Among his works was Uncle Silas, The House by the Churchyard, and the lesbian vampire novella Carmilla. Le Fanu’s work predated Stoker’s work by almost 26 years and proved to be inspiration for his iconic tale.
Fortunately, while I might not have known anything about Carmilla, the creative team behind Bloodline Comics did. Co-writers Clay Adams and David Schrader have been working for the last several years on adapting Le Fanu’s Carmilla and bringing the character up to date. This they have accomplished with Bloodline Comics Carmilla Unbound: 1973, a sexy and bloody tale which opened its Kickstarter campaign on April 25th.
Recently, we had the opportunity to visit with the creative duo, who along with talented artist Ismael Canales have brought Carmilla to life. So, lets welcome co-writers David Schrader and Clay Adams to GVN Talking Comics.
GVN: Thank you, gentlemen, for sharing a bit of your time with us. As is our normal modus operandi for
creators we haven’t had the pleasure of speaking with, let us start with your creative backgrounds. At
least in the beginning before I switch to combined questions. Starting with you, Clay. You have had a diverse creative background. Working as a voice actor, a director and writer. What made you decide to pursue the comic side of things and whose work inspired you to do so?
CLAY: I was always into super-heroes as a kid, and that led me to picking up my first comic when I was 8. One of the very first that I bought was Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” Books like that and Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One” made me love the medium, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
As an adult, it was things like Vertigo and Image Comics that kept me reading. With the advent of Kickstarter, it seemed like we were at the beginning of a new golden age for indie creators, and I knew it was time to fulfill that life-long dream of writing comics.
GVN: Same question for you David. Like Clay, you have also had a diverse career involving acting, stand-up, improv and of course, comic books. What led YOU to pursue comics and whose work inspired YOU to think it might be a path for you?
DAVID: Besides the occasional raiding of my brother’s Marvel stash, which included Fantastic Four, Avengers, Hulk, and the first Star Wars issues— I was a big fan of Peanuts and still have a collection of hundreds of books stuffed somewhere in storage. Charles Schultz and reading comic strips were my go-to, and only much, much later did I rediscover my affinity for classic comic books. It wasn’t until co-creating Baby Badass with Kristian Horn (a true comic book nerd) that I was able to play catch up with so much great stuff—old and new; Moore and Miller for what was possible, B.K. Vaughan going beyond, and on the immediate indie level I watched Dan Mendoza grow and fight for a genre-specific mini-empire, and what Charlie Stickney and Conor Hughes did with their excellent White Ash books in both the convention and Kickstarter space.
Nightmare Theater Anthologies Vol. 1 and 2
GVN: You are Co-Publishers for Bloodline Comics in which you have published two volumes of the Nightmare Theater anthologies. (Both of which we promoted during their Kickstarter campaigns). What made you both decide to start with anthologies and what do you feel you learned in the whole process of gathering creators for the books and bringing them both through Kickstarter? Did everything go as you expected for those books?
DAVID: We knew so many great indie creators that starting with anthologies seemed to make the most sense. You can bring multiple support to a book from all those angles, and it was fun to shape them around cinematic horror themes with festival hosts, origin stories etc. I learned that putting together anthologies and editing them is really, really hard. Lots of moving parts. That first NT book was just ridiculous— 27O pages or something like that.
CLAY: Like David said, we knew so many great creators, it felt natural to bring everyone together—there’s strength in numbers. For me personally, it was gratifying not only to see who wanted to be involved with the project, but also to be able to publish some new creators for the first time. Charlie Stickney, when he was co-publisher at Scout Comics, put my first comic out through the direct market, and I’m enormously grateful. To be able to pay that forward in some way, to be the place where someone got their start, is very cool.
Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu
GVN: Your latest book is an adaptation of the 1872 Gothic Novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, which preceded Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 26 years. How did you become aware of this story and please tell us whose idea it was to adapt it for a present-day audience for Carmilla Unbound 1973.
DAVID: It started even before “Nightmare Theater” when Clay casually mentioned “Carmilla.” I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of it, but I think I said, “Wait, are you telling me there’s a book about a lesbian vampire that’s public domain and we haven’t written her yet?” During research I saw that there had of course been a few movies, web series, and other under-the-radar adaptations here and there throughout the years, most recently Amy Chu released a very well-received version, but nothing quite like Carmilla Unbound. We wanted to have her evolve as a Victorian Era Dexter, outgrowing her languid hedonism, fighting the boredom of living forever by finding purpose as a vampire vigilante. She also has some pretty cool powers, as you’ll see in the book.
CLAY: I think at that time, I was doing research for another book of mine, BLAZING BLADE OF FRANKENSTEIN, when Carmilla first came on my radar. Hammer Films had done a trilogy of films loosely based on it, and I knew there was a modern-day web-series, but at the time there wasn’t anything going on in the comics space (my, how things change in a few short years…). David was gung-ho from the start, and it was his idea to specifically set this story in 1973. But the beauty of CARMILLA UNBOUND is that we can jump around in time and tell stories set in any era of her vast—and mostly unwritten—history.
Bringing ‘Carmilla Unbound: 1973’ to fruition
GVN: This has been a story several years in the making. Once you decided to take the vampire by the fangs and run with it as a one-shot issue, what took the longest? For you to get the script to your liking or choosing who your artistic partner would be in bringing your story to life? (From what I’ve seen, it was worth taking your time)
CLAY: Once we figured out our take, that we would present one-shots of this “Vampire Dexter” set in different time periods, it came together pretty quickly. We’d worked with Ismael Canales on a short for NIGHTMARE THEATER Volume 1 and knew we wanted to work with him again. David wrote the short story that introduced her in NT2, which I edited, and then we both wrote the one-shot together. But unfortunately, we had some pretty big issues with our printer on NIGHTMARE THEATER 2, which caused the book to be delayed by nearly a year. We didn’t want to launch the one-shot without fulfilling that book first, so we pushed the launch back. On the plus side, the book is 100% finished and ready to print (with a new printer!) as soon as we have the order numbers from the campaign.
DAVID: For Carmilla, we started with a short I had in Nightmare Theater 2 called, “Carmilla Comes Again,” which enabled us to see what we could do with the character. We actually went fairly quickly from story to script to art, as we knew we wanted Ismael to do the book. However, as Clay mentioned, our biggest holdup was having to wait for some major printing issues with Nightmare Theater 2, which pushed back the launch of Carmilla Unbound by six months.
Artist Ismael Canales
GVN: Speaking of artists, tell us about your partnership with talented artist Ismael Canales on Carmilla. How did your collaboration Ismael come about with Carmilla and were you at all surprised (in a pleasant way) by the pages he turned in?
DAVID: Ismael Canales is a great talent from Spain and we feel so fortunate to have worked with him again now for the third time. We found him through a placement agency for our 80’s slasher-inspired short, “Knightmare,” in the first Nightmare Theater, then the next year with “Carmilla Comes Again.” So, by this time we weren’t surprised by his excellence but still thrilled by his impeccable layouts and lines.
CLAY: I’m always blown away by Ismael’s art. Even his layouts are stellar—like, we could just publish those, and they’d be better than some art you see in comic shops. The guy is that good. At one point I told David we could’ve just published the book in black and white, because Ismael does so much detailed shading and separating of the planes, the storytelling was just crystal clear. But of course, colorist Alex Zief brought it to a whole other level. It’s always a treat to work with artists of their caliber.
GVN: Besides Ismael, you have a plethora of talented artists providing covers for the title including Ginger Seehafer, Don Nguyen, Ryan Kincaid, Luca Strati, and Mick Beyers. How did you recruit all these talented artists to lend their expertise to your project?
DAVID: It’s a slow build. Some artists we already knew through the convention circuit or word of mouth, and @girlsdrawingirls on IG is always a good resource, which is how we got in contact with Ginger. It took time to find the right artists (Ryan Kincaid does some pretty big covers and @Flops out of the UK has a uniquely cool, retro style) so we’re grateful to have such a diverse and distinctive lineup of variants for this campaign.
CLAY: David did a lot of the heavy lifting on the covers, but I brought in Luca Strati, who I met at New York Comic Con a few years back and had do a cover for my book DREAMQUEST. Mick is my studio-mate (and DREAMQUEST artist), and he’s been champing at the bit to draw Carmilla, so it was easy to get him on board.
GVN: Your Kickstarter Campaign for Carmilla Unbound 1973 is already underway and you have already met your initial goal. Congratulations on that. Regardless, if fans went to your campaign destination, what will they find to perhaps entice them to join in on the campaign?
DAVID: Thank you. It’s a tricky time for Kickstarters so we are very thankful for all the backers, both returning and new. Besides some higher tier producer credits, there are some great sketch cover and original art tiers available. The prices for the art are reasonable, including Canales’ iconic negative space NSFW version of the main cover— which will make a nice collector piece.
CLAY: Besides a great story and beautiful art behind some truly fantastic covers (and the original art David mentions), you can snag Carmilla’s first appearance in NIGHTMARE THEATER 2. We’re offering the Emanuele Taglietti cover featuring Carmilla for this campaign, as either a SFW or NSFW trade paperback or a NSFW hardcover. We’re also offering up the limited edition Carmilla poster based on Emanuele’s cover, plus some of the Bloodline Comics back catalogue as physical or digital add-ons.
GVN: Thanks once again for your kind attention, Clay and David. Before I let you both go, please let our readers know where they can visit your Kickstarter campaign, and do you have any other projects coming up you would like to share?
CLAY: I’m currently wrapping up the final script for PRODIGAL SON from Thunder Comics, a four-part Western co-created by Martin Kove, who plays Sensei Kreese on Cobra Kai. And then over at Fried Comics (my other imprint), new issues of “BLAZING BLADE OF FRANKENSTEIN” and “DREAMQUEST” are coming soon.
Thanks for having us!
DAVID: Thank you, GVN— always a class act and one of the absolute top nerd sites.
CARMILLA UNBOUND #1 by Schraderopolis — Kickstarter
We are officially taking pitches for the Nightmare Theater 3D horror anthology.
In addition, I’m working with creator Peter Murrieta on the full, Vol. 1 release of Rafael Garcia: Henchman through Whatnot Publishing, and my indie feature, Mary Tyler, Millennial is nearing a limited distribution deal. Also, like five other things but who’s counting?
Be sure to check out Bloodline Comics Carmilla Unbound:1973 by David Schrader, Clay Adams and Ismael Canales at their Kickstarter campaign at the above link.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.