Undying Love hit shelves last week from Image Comics. Co-created by filmmaker/artist Tomm L. Coker and colorist Daniel Freedman, the duo has in the past been responsible for works as diverse as Daredevil: Noir, 5 Ronin: Wolverine. Now they’re tackling a creator-owned title for Image, mixing vampires, Chinese mythology, fleet-footed demons, gunplay, and romance.
And what do you know? They wanted to talk join us for the latest installment of Creator’s Commentary to walk through the first issue.
****Bloody detailed SPOILERS after the jump!*****
MTV Geek: What was the genesis of Undying Love and how did you two come to work on it together?
Daniel Freedman: Tomm co-wrote and directed a film (Catacombs for Lionsgate) in 2007 and I was hired to cut it. We spent the better part of a year locked in a dark editing bay talking through stories and ideas. Eventually we decided to write one together.
Tomm L. Coker: This was a year before Twilight and the renewed interest in bloodsuckers. At the time we felt vampires were ready for some sort of rebirth – we just didn’t foresee the whole glimmer/rock-hard-abs thing.
Geek: Why did you choose China—and in particular Hong Kong—as the setting for your story?
TLC: Originally the story was set in Spain or Italy, a place where superstitions and belief are a big part of everyday life. But once we started researching histories and folklore it all seemed too familiar – too close to America, and your typical vampire story, so we broadened our search and found China. That’s when everything clicked.
DF: We discovered so much amazing Chinese folklore – spirits and creatures and ghosts and demons – that we had to set the story in China. And Hong Kong was perfect, somewhat underused, with a strange mix of British and French, traditional and modern.
TLC: Less visually unified than Shanghai or Beijing.
DF: And we both love Wong Kar Wai’s films, the way Hong Kong always appears to be this hot sweaty neon maze of color and character. A very exciting place to set a story.
Geek: Were there any particular points of visual reference for either John or Mei?
TLC: Typical tough guy and beautiful Chinese girl – the goal for me was to make the couple feel authentic. The costume, weapons and accessories are all designed to be what these two people would actually use. There’s nothing sci-fi or black-ops about John and Mei is a blood junky going through withdrawals that last forever.
Very straight forward. Very simple.
Geek: Right here we see the first glimpse of folklore elements in the story. Besides fox spirits, are there other supernatural elements native to Chinese myth that will make their way into the book?
DF: This is only the tip of the Chinese folklore iceberg. With all of the different myths and legends we uncovered, it really allowed us to create a greater supernatural world where the vampire is only one of the creatures lurking about.
Geek: What appealed to you about Chinese folklore in particular?
TLC: The ancient Chinese system was built on principles such as karma, reincarnation and a desire towards harmony (I’m greatly oversimplifying here) and the Western idea of a vampire – passion, greed, sex and immortality – opposes those ideals perfectly.
Geek: Could you tell us a little at this point about the type of vampire being used in your story?
DF: There were two vampire rules we agreed were paramount and absolute – vampires need human blood to survive and sunlight kills. Crosses, garlic and stakes through the heart don’t matter. Also, being a vampire doesn’t automatically make you a brooding emo either. These guys are the rock stars of the monster world.
Geek: Were there any particular spins on the mythology that you were looking to explore?
TLC: There have been a million different takes on the vampire mythos and where it all began–Was Dracula first? Or Cain? Or Satan? Or even Jesus? What we tried to do was come up with a hierarchy based on bloodline and purity that addressed all these ideas while at the same time making them unimportant.
There is a source, the original vampire, but who he is doesn’t matter. What does matter is the blood. The fewer degrees of separation between your blood and that of the source the more powerful you are. But if you’re some street level creep with dirty blood that’s been diluted by a few dozen vamps before it got in your veins–not so powerful. Think of it as a drug, the more you cut it drug the less potent it becomes.
Geek: Daniel, how did you approach the coloring to the series? Although the story is essentially supernatural horror, the colors give it a nourish feel.
DF: I’ve been hearing a lot of people use “noir” to describe the color but honestly I never thought of Undying Love as “noir”. The story does have a noir-ish elements but the color concept was more to find a middle ground between what I would call naturalistic lighting and emotionally defined palettes.
So, if Sargent is walking through a lantern-lit street market, what’s the best orange and yellow palette I can use to convey, not only the sticky hot feeling of vendor’s stalls and steamer plates, but Sargent’s emotions as well.
In the end, I just try to support Tomm’s art as best I can. Simple and clear those are the key words.
Geek: Also: what is the song the drunk is singing?
TLC: We can’t say. A few people have already figured it out, and if you read it phonetically it’s not too hard but... legally it’s just a made up bunch of drunken gibberish.
Geek: To what extent will you be exploring why Mei no longer wants to kill to live?
DF: It’s coming, we wanted to get the story moving from page one so we skipped the traditional first act setup and jumped right into the second act action. But, there are a couple of scenes coming up that allow us to jump backwards and reveal the history of various characters and relationships.
TLC: That’s one of the great things about the comic format. We had all these scenes written showing how the characters are related and the history behind the grudges and conflicts and in a film they would play as flashbacks or some sort of convoluted cold open, but with a comic there are very natural ways to incorporate these bits into the book without it seeming forced or arbitrary.
Geek: By the looks of it, John’s been at the vampire killing thing for a while. Could you tell us a little about how that’s affected him and his relationship with Mei by this point?
TLC: Sargent is a guy that’s rolling with the situation. He’s been a paid soldier most of his life and he’s seen and done some pretty hairy things. When he and Mei became involved John saw a future beyond the battlefield. So, discovering an entirely new world of supernatural beings and creatures, AND having to fight his way through that world to get the girl, it’s just another assignment that needs to get done.
DF: Yeah, John is a guy on a mission and until that mission is complete there is no time to reflect. Maybe once it’s all said and done he’ll sit back and say. “Wow,” but for now he’s got his hands full.
Geek: Could you tease some of your favorite moments from upcoming issues for our readers?
DF: Sargent’s past and how he met Mei are some of my favorites, and the nasty love triangle that develops when Shang-Ji comes on the scene.
TLC: We’ve also got some great shape shifters, demon prostitutes, motorcycles, naked Frenchmen, heart gouging, ghosts, fried scorpions and a mythical giant ox
DF: And lots more love story.
Undying Love is on sale now!