I’m here with Jeff Patrick, scribe of the e-tome Funeral Feast of The Dark Angel Chronicles, to chat about the book. I have been waiting for this opportunity for such a long time, and now that it’s here I can hardly contain my enthusiasm.
You can listen to another version of this interview on youtube:
JC: Just from reading Funeral Feast, I can tell that The The Dark Angel Chronicles will be an enjoyable series while maintaining a certain amount of complexity, something that might appeal to comic book lovers. You want to keep reading to find out what happens, and hope that a future book will go into more detail about Michael’s past and how he came to be. It’s obvious that this wasn’t written overnight. How long had you been rolling the idea around before you started to actually write it?
JP: Well, the idea just came to me way back in the summer of ’93. I’d been wrestling with a bout of writer’s block for about a year, and I’d just seen the obscure Rutger Hauer film Split Second, in which he played a gun-toting detective in black leather who was investigating some grisly murders that turned out to be the work of some sort of demon. I thought it might be cool to have sort of a mercenary type character in that vein, who hunted down and destroyed classic supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and zombies, with nothing more than his wits, skills and blazing guns. I kicked the concept around for really the better part of two years, until finally, on Labor Day 1995, I put pen to paper and started on the first tale chronicling Michael, ‘The Scarlet Kiss.’ Yes, it involved vampires (laughs).
JC: Now since Funeral Feast is the first book out there in the series and involved zombies, I’m assuming ‘The Scarlet Kiss’ is archived. Will we ever see that book on the market, or a variation of this story?
JP: No, it was actually quite terrible, in my opinion (laughs). Moreover, so much has changed since those first stories, most notably there was something of a ‘secret identity’ element, where Michael lived in a mansion by day and assumed the guise of the ‘Dark Angel’ by night…sort of a Batman/Bruce Wayne duality. I’ve long since abandoned that aspect, and made his mantle of the Dark Angel more of a title than an alter ego…now he’s pretty much a badass monster hunter 24/7. However, I will do a ‘re-do’ of Scarlet Kiss sometime in the not-too-distant future.
JC: Can’t wait for that one! Now, I love Paladin. Everything about him from his name to his physical description. Was he in the first books, and what was your inspiration for this character?
JP: Oh yeah, Paladin’s been part of the series from the start. As for the inspiration…well, I’ve always been fascinated by wolves for one thing. Timber, the wolf companion of Snake Eyes, my favorite character from the classic G.I.Joe series, was likely another. Oh, and probably most importantly, the old Slavic legend, that despite what you see in the Dracula films, wolves, especially white wolves, were the natural enemies of vampires. They were believed to prowl graveyards at night and devour the undead if they rose from their graves.
JC: Interesting concept! Do you use a lot of supernatural beliefs to base certain aspects of the story upon, or do you like to use a mixture of things such as monster movies from the mainstream?
JP: A good question, actually. I suppose for more traditional monsters, like vampires, werewolves, and zombies, it’s a mixture of folklore and material from mainstream horror films. My vampires are most comparable to those from the classic Hammer Studios films and the original Fright Night (1985), my werewolves most similar to those seen in the original Howling (with touches of American Werewolf in London), and my zombies are most based on the old Italian zombie films of the ’70s and ’80s, especially those of Lucio Fulci.
JC: A fellow Fulci fan! Did these films have some impact on your desire to become a writer?JP: Actually, no. I didn’t really discover those films until years later as a young adult. It was the classic horror monster films from Universal and Hammer involving Dracula, Werewolf, Frankenstein, etc. that had the most impact…as well as the monster comics published by Marvel in the ’70s like Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Man-Thing, and Tales of the Zombie.
JC: What sort of style and atmosphere do you hope to project with this series?
JP: Well, for atmosphere, something of a ‘neo-gothic’ backdrop, much like the backdrops of films such as Blade Runner or The Crow, as well as the oil painting covers of Marvel’s black-and -white magazines from the ’70s. As for style…well, my other major passion besides classic/gothic horror is hard-rock/heavy metal music. Let’s face it, Michael would look just as much at home rocking out on stage with Black Sabbath or Type O Negative as he would hunting the undead in a corrupted graveyard (laughs.) So, what I try to create in the mind of the reader is a dissemination of imagery of what you might find on heavy metal album covers, kind of like what would be on those mirrors I’d win as prizes at carnivals, or see airbrushed on vans all over the country. And I hope that through my meager writing talents I’m able to evoke such imagery.
JC: So we can pretty much bet if it’s ever on the big screen and you get to pick the soundtrack it’s going to be pretty kick-ass! Do you listen to music when you’re writing, or perhaps have other little rituals to get into what I call…”The Zone”?
JP: Yes, I do often listen to music when writing, typically of the metal/goth/industrial persuasion. Usual choices include Rob Zombie, Type O Negative, Danzig, Pantera, Slayer, Alice Cooper, Lacuna Coil, and Children of Bodom, among many others. However, I also listen to a radio program every Saturday night/Sunday morning on NPR called Echoes, which showcases a variety ambient, goth, and electronica that helps inspire my work. If I get tired of listening to music, I’ll pop in a horror film, usually one relevant to the story (i.e. a zombie film if I’m writing a zombie story.) It all helps contribute to the ‘goth-metal-horror’ aesthetic that I strive to create.
JC: A lot more is usually expected out of a first in order to set the characters and the tone for the rest of the series. Did you find it to be more stressful or difficult to write this one compared to writing the others?
JP: Not at all, because this actually wasn’t the first story in this series I wrote (laughs). I’d written several previously, but most of my stories are pretty self-contained. I chose to publish this one first because it’s one of my more popular pieces, plus an excellent introduction to new readers as it fast-paced and action-packed with the usual hallmarks: the grim and gritty death dealer, a provocative, nubile damsel in distress, scary monsters (in this case, zombies), and lots of blood and guts. Really, what’s not to love? (laughs)
JC: What is your main goal with The Dark Angel Chronicles? Do you want people to focus on the horror, the storyline, or the sheer bad-assery that is The Dark Angel?
JP: I suppose the main goal would be to restore interest in traditional gothic, supernatural horror, something desperately needed in this age of Twilight. Ideally, I’d want readers to enjoy everything the series has to offer. But if I really had to choose something, it would probably Michael’s sheer bad-assery. (laughs)
JC: (laughs) That’s what really struck me about this book. Michael just oozes cool. Now this is a question I ask most people simply because it’s something I genuinely want to know on a personal level. There are people who take zombies very seriously nowadays, so much that they’re dropping tons of cash on custom zombie-proof houses and I believe it’s in Maryland where they’re even preparing for an outbreak. Do you really believe in the Zombie Apocalypse, or do you think it’s overrated?
JP: Well, my vivid imagination prevents me from discounting the possibility altogether, but I do think the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. Moreover, I feel the ‘zombie apocalypse’ in fiction and film has been done to death, no pun intended.
JC: If a Z-War were to happen, what would be your weapon of choice?
JP: I’ve mused on that and decided that I’d probably take a page from Hobo With A Shotgun and bind a sawed-off shotgun to an ax with duct tape. For back-up, I’d carry my brushed steel Colt Combat Commander (.45 ACP), a gift from my father, and my collection of knives.
JC: Excellent choices! Now, before I let you go, could you tell me what you would like to see happen with The Dark Angel Chronicles?
JP: I’d undoubtedly love to see it branch out into other forms of media. Most people seem to agree that it’s tailor-made for a comic book/graphic novel format. My ultimate goal is an animated series, in a style similar to the 1981 Heavy Metal film…animation would be better suited to Michael’s gothic, spooky world. I’m less enthused about the idea of a live-action film or series, unless it was an independently produced with old-school monster make-up and animatronic FX. I wouldn’t trust Hollywood with it…I’m somewhat lukewarm to CGI effects, and they’d probably want to cast Ashton Kutcher as Michael. (laughs)
JC: Casting Kutcher would have Dark Angel fans everywhere engaging in mass protest! (laughs) So, what projects can we expect to see from you in the near future.
JP: Well, I hope to have my first collection of short stories about Michael out by the end of this year, if I can find an affordable cover artist soon enough. There’s enough stories for two or three volumes at least. Then there’s a novella involving him taking on a coven of gothic vampire chicks, a novella with him fighting zombies on cemetery island currently in production, and two more in the planning stages involving a ‘carnival of evil’ and werewolves. Then more will follow. (laughs)