short-lived in the 1970s but are making
quite the comeback!
It's October and you know what that means?! Gothic romance! As romance comic fans we are in for quite the treat this year. Over the summer, DC Comics announced they would be bringing back the Gothic romance with a three-part miniseries -- Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love.
A young woman with a conflicted heart and the ability to see ghosts,
Berenice lives with her boyfriend, Nathan, in a grand mansion in New England but is growing closer and closer to her best friend, Sam. As she struggles with her heart’s desire, a dark presence settles over the mansion, drawing the attention of the ghostly superhero Deadman. As Berenice and Deadman seek to free the house and its inhabitants from this vengeful rage, more disturbing and sinister secrets emerge, leaving Berenice in grave danger. (DC Comics)
I was provided an advanced reader copy of issue one and I think you are really going to like this homage to the Gothic romances of the '70s and the clever use of Deadman (AKA Boston Brand).* I had the opportunity to speak with the writer of the new series (and fellow romance comic book fan), Sarah Vaughn, about the project:
Preview of Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1
Written by Sarah Vaughn, Illustrated by Lan Medina
"Super excited! I’ve been reading vintage American romance comics since I was 17, so to get a call from DC to discuss writing a romance comic was a bit surreal."
Who is the target reader for this book? Will fans of romance comics dig it?
"I’ve been thinking about this, and I don’t really have a specific target audience in mind when I write. I write what I want to read, and hope that other people enjoy it, too, no matter who they are or what demographics they fall into. I know that, historically speaking, romance has skewed female, but I’ve come to believe that many people enjoy love, and it’s about the individual the story connects to, not the group.
I love romance comics, passionately. There are so many different relationship dynamics and stories to tell and read. There are certain things that always float my boat and others I’ll never go for, and I know that’s the same for other readers.
And I certainly hope that romance comics fans will enjoy the book! I wanted it to feel familiar in a way to the gothic romances of the 1960s and '70s, but the flow and length are definitely a bit different."
How much of Deadman's origin story will be depicted in the mini-series for the uninitiated?
"I haven’t forgotten Deadman’s origin, but it doesn’t take precedence. Boston Brand himself, of course, is a central character. For the most part, I wanted to tell a more intimate superhero story, almost as if it was just another story in the saga of Boston Brand, like a side quest in a longer video game."
How were you inspired by the 1970s Gothic romances published by DC Comics? Were there any specific styles, stories, or artists from the original Gothic romances that you drew inspiration from to create this homage?
"More figuratively than anything else. When I read an American romance comic that I absolutely love, I get swept up in the color, the artwork, the long looks, the romantic kisses, the drama, and I definitely wanted to convey that. It’s a little tough with old romance comics, because almost all of them are anthology, which I definitely considered paying homage to during the development stage.
But what excited me was when I first read issue 1 of The Sinister House of Secret Love, a year or two ago. It was basically a novella, and the first I had ever read of that length in American comics. One issue was one story, the end. I wanted to spend even more time with the characters, so to have it be a limited series that was a bit longer really worked for me.
Lan Medina’s art is just gorgeous. José Villarrubia’s colors and Janice Chiang’s letters really bring it all in. When I finally got to read the first issue all together, and I was just thrilled. I personally felt all the things I enjoy about romance comics. Agh, I’m really excited and nervous."
What will Deadman’s role be in the story-arc? Does he ever get the opportunity to play Cupid or find love himself?
"Without giving too much away, there are definitely parts of that for Boston! He meets someone he has a connection with, and has insight on what he sees about others. That’s all I can say for now!"
Tell us about the new character “The Darkness.” Is their vengeful rage because of a lost love?
"The Darkness is an entity of dark energy that wreaks havoc on the living, and figuring out what is actually going on at Glencourt Manor is a huge part of the book. Every character is touched by love and relationship in their own way."
Do you think that this mini-series opens DC up to more romance comics in the future -- Gothic or otherwise?
"I certainly hope so! DC published some of the best romance comics, even during the Comics Code era. I’d love to see them branch out their genres again. I’m not sure it would ever look like it did back in the day, or be in the same format, which I’d say could be a good thing. But it’s exciting to think of the possibilities with how comics have evolved over the decades and how we can go even further."
Can you talk about the reception of the concept so far? I have a feeling people are really excited for this one (myself included)!
"I don’t really know! I’ve been staying off the internet and social media for a while now, and don’t google myself or things I work on. But every now and then friends and colleagues will bring it up, and if I hear something kind down the grapevine, that always makes me really happy. But for my own peace, I just can’t seek it out. I have enough of a hard time hitting send on emails and writing answers to interview questions.
That said, I’ve put a lot of love and deep care in this story, and I really do hope people enjoy it."
Thank you, Sarah! To dive into the whole mystery of Glencourt Manor, be sure to pick up Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 tomorrow at your local comic book shop! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new series so feel free to leave a comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter!
*Fun Fact: Deadman was created by Arnold Drake (along with Carmine Infantino) in 1967. Drake had previously worked with Leslie Waller and romance comic book legend, Matt Baker, on the 1950 pulpy romance, It Rhymes with Lust (published by St. John).