by Jarrod Jones. Hey. You like vampires? The future? Morality tales featuring authority figures who maybe ain’t operating in our best interests? Do you like to see katana blades chop entire bodies in half in one clean vertical swipe? I have news for you, buster—Bleed Them Dry is the book that ought to be at the top of your reading stack. Today. Now.
I’ve read Bleed Them Dry—or, at least, issue #1. It’s good. The kind of good that makes you grateful that comics are a whole thing and you have full access to it. Vault Comics has been crushing it and that’s not news. But what’s alarming—crazy, even—is that each successive wave of books from this publisher seems to outdo the previous one, each time.
Bringing us back to Bleed Them Dry. Hiroshi Koizumi drafted its rager of a premise, where a detective investigates a slate of murders doled out by an anonymous vampire slayer only to suddenly fall ass-first into a rabbit hole that would make the Wachowskis swoon. And what happens. Vault pairs Koizumi with writer Eliot Rahal, who helps finesse the concept into something even more visceral, and sets Dike Ruan and Miquel Muerto loose to render something that’s a slice between Ghost in the Shell and Narc—only, y’know, with vampires.
I promise you it’s as good as that sounds. So let’s talk about it.
Eliot Rahal took time to chat with DoomRocket about Bleed Them Dry, the chance encounter that made this project happen, and the kind of stuff one has to absorb to effectively write about the darker stuff.
Congratulations on the book, Eliot—this story is nuts. In a good way!
Thank you so much! That’s, like… so nice to hear. You have no idea.
1. I’m interested in learning how ‘Bleed Them Dry’ came into being. Could we start with how you became involved with this project? How’d that come about?
Eliot Rahal: Yeah! So about two years ago I was sitting at my table during SiouxperCon—one of the best independent comic cons in the Midwest, perhaps the best—and Vault was tabling next to me. We were just talking. And outta nowhere Damian Wassell turns to me and says, “Do you want to write something really weird for us?” And I said, “Yes.” No questions. I mean… as a relatively unknown freelancer you always say yes and try to figure it. Also, I trust the Wassels. I trust everyone at Vault. And when they ask me to do something, I know they are going to be behind me and help make it something special. Then… cut to, like, five months ago. And all the sudden we were talking about this comic book idea created by Hiroshi Koizumi. And we were off to the races.
2. ‘Bleed Them Dry’ takes place in the year 3333. The world shares a currency, cities have formed (merged?) into megalopolis’, and vampires are a part of everyday life. How much of this world was constructed before you were brought onto the series?
Hiroshi had the big overall idea of the character. The spark that started all of this. He had a ton of prior material and ideas that I engaged with. But a lot of it was fluid. And he was open to playing around. What Hiroshi ultimately wanted was turning his ideas into something for the American comic book audience. None of these ideas happen without each other. Or the thoughts and concepts that came before it. All of the in-house concepts that Adrian and I cooked up were born from Hiroshi.
3. How closely were you working with Hiroshi Koizumi? Can you talk a bit about the working process you shared?
There was a lot of telephone. Basically, Hiroshi would come to Vault with what he wanted. Vault would call me. We would discuss. I’d turn in something. They’d give it to him. He’d come back with notes. Rinse and repeat until satisfaction. Hiroshi had final say/approval on everything. Which is totally his right. However, it was a lot of work. But we powered through it. And I was happy to do it. I wanted to make sure I did right by Hiroshi and Vault.
4. So what’s up with the vamps in ‘Bleed Them Dry’? Do you feel that this story is leaning into the tropes or do you feel this story is—and forgive me for this—spilling new blood?
Ya know, I really don’t know. I’m too close to it right now. All I can say is that my primary goal was to give readers something that didn’t see coming. Keep them on their toes and surprised. Keep this interesting. I didn’t want the selling point to begin and end with “Ninja Vampires.” That being said… of course we used tropes, but that was to help create a sense of reality that we knew the reader would understand. Then using that understanding, we could flip expectations. Without giving too much away there are several kinds of vampires: Natural Borns (pure blood vampires who are “born” that way), Converts (Humans who become vampires), and Bastards (half vampires and half humans). In the world of Bleed Them Dry, the vampires are normal. They are a part of everyday reality.
5. Tell me about Harper Halloway, the detective at the center of ‘Bleed Them Dry’. What’s Harper up against at the beginning of this story? How will the reader connect with her?
Harper is a homicide detective trying to stop a vampire serial killer—[a] vampire slayer. On a nuts-and-bolts level, she is our eyes and ears. She is us. She is helping guide the reader and explain the world. But my ultimate hope for her is much bigger. When we meet Harper she’s at a low point in life. Arguably, she’s depressed. My goal with her character is to get her to appreciate what it’s like to be human. To get her to remember that there are other things in this world aside from blood and sharp teeth. That there is love. That there is hope. That being alive and feeling alive are two very different things.
6. There are whispers about a great war that occurred far in the past. The city in ‘Bleed Them Dry’ is called “Asylum”. Vampires are even hired into the city’s police force. Blood is served with coffee at diners. There are clues as to what happened with humans and vampires, and there’s a peace of sorts between them. But then there’s a brutal vampire slayer out there operating with a clear agenda. Eliot, I have so many questions. Could you talk about how vampires were ultimately integrated into the society of this story? Anything you can tease here?
I’m afraid to get too deep. But the way I navigate the big questions in life is to study things through a historical and spiritual lens. The stories history tells are fascinating to me. But we always have to remember that history is written by the winners.
7. Can we talk about the art here? I’m interested in how you draft scripts for an artist like Dike Ruan, who does so much to convey the expansive (and thus oppressive) nature of the society contained within ‘Bleed Them Dry’. Are you writing things like “est. shot: city by night” and leaving it at that? How much do you want to leave for the artist to explore the concepts on their own?
Dike is a genius. Let’s just get that outta the way up top. I’m doing everything a normal comic book script has. But because there is a cultural language barrier between us, I have to be specific in cases I didn’t consider. I have to point to Dike areas where he can play and take it away. Which he does. And does to great effect. However, the process has been a learning experience for me. One that Dike has been very gracious about.
8. And colorist Miquel Muerto. There are panels and layouts in here that thrive on the colors. How has seeing what Miquel gets up to in this story affected the way you draft your pages?
Yes. Yes. Frankly, his work has inspired me. He makes me want to challenge myself. Get bigger. Find different settings and environments where his colors can really express themselves. He has single-handedly provided the entire tone and mood for the book. You open these pages. And they are stunning. It would be disrespectful to waste that kind of talent.
I’d also be foolish not to mention the work of Andworld Design—from Eisner-nominated Deron Bennett, congrats again!—and how he has really come through on this book. There has been a lot of tinkering and a lot of patience on his end. But Deron’s art has made the small moments stick out. Brilliant.
9. What kind of reading have you been doing to prime your brain for the vampiric mayhem contained in ‘Bleed Them Dry’?
Interestingly enough, I’ve been reading this book called Satan: A Biography. Which is really informing me about the nature of evil. This book also has a serial killer in it. So I read Columbine. And then this book has a somber narrator. So I read By the Iowa Sea. Comics-wise: Just my normal reading, really. But I have been revisiting Transmetropolitan to inform me a bit about future megacities. Honestly, I’ve been keeping it really light and fluffy lately. However, before the pandemic I got deep into vampire mode. Rewatched all the classics. Interview [with the Vampire], The Lost Boys, to prep. Did a deep dive on the history of the vampire legend. I’m also a big fan of Buffy.
10. There’s a bit in issue #1 where a vamp gets sliced by [SPOILER], and the panel that contains this moment literally splits in half like it had been chopped by a katana blade. Eliot! Whose idea was that?
It was, I guess, mine. But all credit goes to the execution. Execution… get it? Oh, god, I’m a hack. Oh, no—I did it again!
‘Bleed Them Dry’ #1 is in comic shops now. Issue #2 drops July 29. Contact your LCS and pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: JUN201445)
Check out this fangtastic 7-page preview of ‘Bleed Them Dry’ #1, courtesy of Vault Comics!
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