Get your fangs out, as Vampire: The Masquerade is on its way to comic books.
On August 5, Vault Comics launches an ongoing series based on the cult-favorite bloodsucking tabletop role-playing game - and they've enlisted three writers that happen to be long-time fans: Tim Seeley, Tini Howard, and her husband Blake Howard. You may not know Blake, but he's been running Vampire: The Masquerade games for years - and has been a player for almost two decades.
Working with artist Dev Pramanik, colorist Addison Duke, and AndWorld Design Lettering Studio, this creative clan will be telling two concurrent, overlapping stories over the course of this comic book series, with original characters working in the various Clans of the game.
Seeley and the Howards spoke with Newsarama about this project, and we even shared a bit of our own Vampire: The Masquerade fandom past to get inside their heads about what they have planned - and how it could even result in a tabletop game session when comic book conventions are a normal thing again.
Newsarama: Although created as a tabletop RPG, I personally first experienced Vampire: The Masquerade (VTM) as a live-action role-playing game in the '90s. That's really dating me but we're not going to talk about the Florida goth scene. How did you first come to know VTM?
Tim Seeley: The summer between sixth and seventh grade my friends and I got huge into RPGs. We did Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, Marvel Superheroes, Call of Cthulu...everything. We'd save up lawn mowing money just to buy comics and sourcebooks. I picked up VTM hoping to get my friends to play. We never did. But I read the sourcebook front to back. I even bought a Tim Bradstreet VTM shirt that I wore everywhere.
Blake Howard: When I was a freshman in high school, I was cast in a production of Dracula. I stopped by the local library that evening and checked out a lot of vampire folklore Encyclopedias and other 'nonfiction' reference books - one of them was a curious-looking book with a rose on the cover, called Vampire: the Masquerade.
At that age, I had only a vague idea of what a role-playing game was, but despite having no group with which to play, I devoured all of the lore found within the pages. I would eventually play my first game in 2004, right as the Time of Judgment was upon us!
Tini Howard: My dad was making a quick trip into a computer retail store and, while I was in there, I saw a box for a PC game called Vampire: the Masquerade - Redemption. And while the game, itself, didn't hold my interest for a terribly long time, the game did include an interesting little tome called The Book of Nod. Much like everyone else, the rich lore of the game's setting drew me in more than anything else.
Nrama: So you're all fans, and Vault found you. What made this a story each of you wanted to tell, individually?
Tim Seeley: For me, the thing I loved about the VTM world was that the idea that being a vampire absolutely sucked. Here you were with immortality and power, and you were stuck in the same bullshit politics of the living world, except it was even worse.
To me, VTM was always a satire, and I love satire.
Blake & Tini Howard: 'The Anarch Tales' are a story (or stories) that we wanted to tell, because the characters of Vampire that have always fascinated us are the mundane, humble, and comparatively powerless.
While it is fun to read about the exploits of the Tal'Mahe'Ra and the other big movers-and-shakers, what really interests us are the little questions. How does a Kindred mother still take care of her mortal children? Do they have to worry about utility bills? Where is their next meal coming from? In our opinion, those make the best game chronicles, and therefore, the best stories.
Nrama: Don't stop - Vault has said there are two storylines here - yours, and then Tim's.
Blake & Tini Howard: Our story centers around a coterie of pathetic anarchs, trying to make their way in the World of Darkness.
Nrama: Tim, what's yours about?
Tim Seeley: Mine is about an enforcer for the Camarilla named Cecily Bain who takes on a fledgling named Ali, just as the Twin Cities vampire community starts to blow apart.
Nrama: I've always loved the various clans of VTM, more so than classes in D&D. How are you playing with this idea in the comic?
Tim Seeley: We certainly try to make sure our characters are epitomes of their clans, but also, that they're very much individuals. To me, the structure of the Camarilla is actually even more interesting than the Clans.
Blake & Tini Howard: The way 'The Anarch Tales' are structured, each issue focuses on a particular member of the coterie - how they came to be Embraced, and just what the Curse of Caine means to them. Factors such as clan, generation, and even mortal heritage ensure that no two vampires' will ever have the same (un)life experience.
Nrama: Before we get any further, I have to ask - none of us are going to mention the Aaron Spelling Vampire: The Masquerade show Kindred: The Embraced, are we? Tim, I need to hear from you especially.
Tim Seeley: I didn't really have TV through much of the late '90s, so I had never heard of this. In fact, I'm still not convinced it exists.
Tini Howard: I'm gonna let Blake handle this one... Julian Luna's a good Ventrue, though.
Blake Howard: I'm not going to lie, I love this show.
Blake Howard: No, it's not perfect by any stretch, but it has a charm all its own. 'Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a Beautiful Corpse' is my favorite episode! The term 'guilty pleasure' comes to mind.
Nrama: Moving on... how is this collaboration between the three writers, not to mention the artists and editors and licensors, happening?
Tim Seeley: We slack. We have an ever-evolving Slack page where we keep in touch and work together. Tini and I already worked together on Hack/Slash so it's not exactly difficult for us. [Vault editor Rebecca Taylor] and I worked on Nightwing. [Vault's editor-in-chief Adrian Wassel] and I on Money Shot. Colorist Addison Duke and I worked on a ton of stuff, and live down the street from each other. We've had practice.
Tini Howard: Tim reached out to me, because we'd worked together on Hack/Slash, and I, in turn, turned to my favorite Vampire fan, my husband, Blake, who has run epic, centuries-spanning chronicles. We collaborated by using his knowledge of the game paired with my familiarity with the comics medium.
Blake Howard: I will say, as a newcomer to comics, seeing talented artists such as Nathan Gooden take ideas from our mind, and turn them into tangible, visual creations has been absolutely mind-blowing. For a Storyteller, it's an amazing experience.
Nrama: This is all happening as a fifth edition of Vampire: The Masquerade is has been released. Assuming good times ahead at some point, what's the chances of a game of Vampire at a con with everyone here?
Tim Seeley: If cons ever return, I'm in.
Blake & Tini Howard: Absolutely!
Nrama: For longtime VTM fans, what are you doing for them in this series?
Tim Seeley: We've got lots of fun stuff, including character sheets and source material unique to our city. Cities.
Blake & Tini Howard: Tim pretty much nails it.
That was one thing we all wanted to see included - things that fans of the RPG could use to implement into their own games.
Aside from that, we hope that in our characters, players of the game can see a little bit of their own characters in the stories that we write.
Nrama: And for those not necessarily VTM players but maybe just fans of vampires or one/all of you, what's in it for them?
Tim Seeley: I think you'll find this is just a really gritty, twisted vampire story. It's a noir detective tale at heart, and it's about survival and morality in a world without any.
Blake & Tini Howard: Some people are vampire fans because they love the macabre and gothic, others enjoy the blood, gore, and monstrosity, others still enjoy the dark-romance inherent in the vampire genre. VTM has room for all of these archetypes and more.
Nrama: Archetypes, clans... last question - I need each of you to tell me your clan affiliation as of this interview personally, and why.
Tim Seeley: I'm the one who is super tired and burnt out on all this bullshit, and is just spending his nights eating that trashy high-fat blood and reminiscing about the good old days. Clan Seeley.
Tini Howard: Ventrue. My inner beast hates when things are done poorly, and I confess to being a bit of a micro-manager.
Blake Howard: I've always been drawn to the arts and humanities. Therefore, my answer is, and always shall be, Clan Toreador.