Dampyr FAQ

Dampyr FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo reply to your questions

Everything you need to know about Dampyr

It is indeed an unusual name which undoubtedly reminds fans of the genre of the word 'vampire' or of the original Slavic term "vampyr" which, in certain literature and horror films, is often used to define the vampire. We're not trying to hide the direct link with the vampire myth, even though we've taken the liberty of twisting the meaning. The dampyr in our series isn't a character we invented. He comes from Slavic folklore where he is used to represent the child of a vampire father and a human mother. We were inspired when we were looking through an old Dylan Dog Almanac of Fear. In the monographic section I, (Mauro Boselli), had compiled a vampirologist's handbook. In this dossier I quoted some texts on vampires by Ornella Volta and other writers. I talked about the unique figure of this vampire hunter, probably a charlatan, who is said to have the power of killing the creatures of the night and who wanders through Eastern villages as a healer. This character existed in some countries until just after the Second World War. And so it was this very idea which inspired Dampyr. Against a background of concurrent wars, the vampires, a race of alien predators, cunningly take advantage ofthe widespread fighting throughout the world to exercise their sinister power without being discovered. A hero in the best tradition of a certain type of science-fiction (I'm thinking of Philip José Farmer's novels, "The Maker of Universes" or of Stan Lee's "Thor"), he takes action against them. He finds out he's not really an ordinary human being but a man with a mysterious past who has lots of strange powers and a mission to fulfill. Our hero's name is Harlan Draka, and he's a real dampyr - he finds this out in the first episode, becoming aware of it in the following one. And so he becomes a hero who is half human, half alien, fighting to save umanity from the vampires and, more generally, from the Evil which sparks off both wars and the nightmares every one of us has. We have always been fascinated by vampires and horror, by mystery stories and the supernatural in general. The vampire mythos has been reincarnated thousands of times. Most recently, he has been defined as the "Post-Modern vampire" which is very interesting but does not quite describe him, because our vampires are neither gentlemen nor those with existential problems. The vampires in Dampyr are undoubtedly superior beings, charismatic and charming but also completely evil. They are the baddies in the series together with other characters who have traditionally represented Evil in adventure stories generally, or else mercenaries, warlords, gangsters, monsters of various kinds and psychopaths. Following a certain tradition, not only that of Bonelli and comics but in common with all adventure stories, our hero is accompanied by a couple of "pards". These second lead characters are representative of humankind and serve to create around the figure of the "honest hero" a catalogue of psychological traits which enrich his personality and increase his fascination. Harlan isn't completely human nor totally alien, but has at his side the completely human ex-mercenary, Kurjak, as well as the vampire Tesla, a female character who has the temperament of a true fighter and a very strong personality. Their vampire enemies are extremely unusual and are divided into two sorts - the Masters and the Pack. The Masters can survive daylight, going around in the sunlight without coming to any harm. They have much greater powers, therefore, than vampires have had until now, something which our readers will find out gradually during the various stories.

Obviously, we have our sources, but we're against quoting directly because it seems too easy, a short-cut to resolving narrative problems. And so in Dampyr you'll find literary and cinematographic references but they haven't been used repeatedly. Coming back to how we were inspired, our ideas have been taken from a wide field reaching beyond those    of comic strips and cinema, originating even in a certain type of literature. In this series we started off with an original idea, later developing it to take in a broad spectrum of adventure situations which are partly re-worked ideas from European and Central European imaginary literature. And so our readers will rediscover settings loved by Franz Kafka or Leo Perutz, whilst at the same time - and I want to be quite clear about this - they will also see the revival of old ghost-stories in the style of Montague Rhodes James. As far as pure action is concerned, however, the action, while being in the Classic and Western adventure culture, tends more noticeably towards the type of modern movie action and comic-strip cartoons of Vertigo D.C. As regards a certain oneiric dimension which you find in Dampyr, we were thinking of "Sandman" and "Preacher", on account of the slightly ironic attitude towards action and the type of relationships between the characters. All these are significant but accidental assonances: we didn't know "Preacher" when we started writing Dampyr. Our style of writing, while allowing us to change scenes quickly, is much less oneiric than in Dylan Dog and there are far fewer inexplicable contrivances. The stories are decidedly logical with an ending and explanations which don't leave the reader wondering what has happened.

The field of comic-strip cartoons has for a long time been linked exclusively to America. Dylan Dog was the first to revive certain European settings. Our characters move also around America and England but most stories in the series are set in foggy Central Europe, in cities like Prague and Berlin. In any case, vampires, as we have said, cover every part of the world.  And so we are able to change Harlan and his pards into veritable horror film adventurers who even go to Africa and the Amazon. We have just mentioned Dylan Dog - its author, Tiziano Sclavi, has chosen a typical comic-strip setting, building around his characters a city enveloped in fog (not only meteorologically speaking, but also in a metaphoric meaning), and thus a rather blurred landscape. Other characters from the Bonelli tradition on the other hand, such as Tex, have been situated in more realistic and even anthropological environments (Indian tribes). In defining our series' settings, we think we have come near to the school of Edgar P.Jacobs and other modern writers: if the set of the story is Berlin or New York the reader will recognize its typical streets and monuments. We think that our choice of extreme realism will involve the reader more immediately with Harlan and his friends' adventures. This love of geographic detail arises also out of my (Mauro Boselli) love of travel. When I am travelling I love observing, taking note of, and learning about the mythology of the countries I am visiting.

Real subject-matter both from the past and the present will be developed in Dampyr. We are able to enjoy this great freedom of movement thanks to one of the most important characteristics of vampires - they are long-lived creatures, completely unique in that they have lived through and witnessed the events of history. This means we have been able to make use of a narrative taste which can be seen in mystery or detective stories by authors from John Dickson Carr to Ross MacDonald. In their stories the past returns and the present mystery is often revealed by solving a past mystery. In the Dampyr stories where pure action is less predominant, and so there is a hard and realistic approach, an underlying almost fairytale vein will emerge which will, however, maintain gloomy, nightmarish connotations.

First of all we should say that Harlan isn't a detective, even though he will clearly have to conduct a type of investigation which will prompt him to dig into the past. We must remember that his quest is two-fold: he bumps into enemies by chance or intentionally but he is, after all, looking for his father. Harlan's personality, as it is presented to the reader, starts to develop right from the first issue in the series. In the second his character is well defined, a person who is decisive, strong-willed, clearly like Tex. His pards are also no less so. Anyway, the reader will witness a sort of light-hearted relationship between the three and this will lead to their characters developing, helped also by the introduction of new ones. In spite of his ambiguous nature, half human, half alien, Harlan has chosen to be on the side of the Goodies. And so he fights and conquers the vampires, knowing that half of him is linked to Evil. Moreover, this aspect of the character is accentuated by the presence within the series of a supernatural element, taken from heroic fantasy: a struggle in progress between the Good and Evil in the World. If we had to summarize our hero's moral position, we could state that Harlan is sitting on the fence. He has chosen to fight against Evil, it's true, but the struggle takes place on different levels and, in the series, a certain Manichaeistic style is lacking, which we think could have debased the character and made him less interesting.

Our hero has powers which are gradually revealed during the series' first numbers. They are partly of supernatural origin - for example, Harlan is longer-lived and more resilient than ordinary humans, but can, nonetheless, be injured and killed. He also has an extraordinary power that we don't want to reveal too soon.
We got our inspiration for Harlan's physical appearance from the actor Ralph Fiennes (star of "Strange Days", "The English Patient", "Onegin"). The reason why we chose this actor, however, was not solely for his physical appearance but also for his spiritual aspect. In "Strange Days", a film which we both loved, Fiennes plays the part of a loser, who, in the end manages to come out on top. Harlan also appears on the scene, right at the beginning, as a  loser, rather cynical and gloomy, but within a few pages he begins to reveal his true fighting heroic spirit. As for his pards, Kurjak is a macho type, a mercenary as hard as a rock, strengthened both physically and mentally by his life's dramatic experiences. Even Tesla, the girlfriend, is a fighter and has a look half-way between Annie Lennox (the singer in the Eurythmics) and a punk, well-suited to her character.

We both love rock, but not only rock. Of the vampires which have flocked onto the scene during the last two decades - thanks to writers like Anne Rice - we especially liked the attempt to revitalize the figure of the vampire, bringing him in line with the present and up-dating him. This re-working hasn't only been conducted on the aesthetic plane but has involved the very psychological essence of the creature of the night. Our Harlan Draka, while he isn't a rock star like Lestat of the Rice, obviously shows traces of these influences, which we have re-worked and developed, in affectionate, atmospheric quotations. This is why music has an important role in the series, becoming the perfect background sound track, the counterpoint to the narrative events. In a story set in Louisiana, for example, we were inspired by the very popular group of the Lynyrd Skynyrd. The strange Southern rock band which plays a role in the story is very like them. But the soundtrack to Dampyr won't include only rock. For the most tense sequences, for example, we would choose Bernard Hermann's gloomy, moving score (Alfred Hitchcock's favourite composer), while for the stories set in the Balkans, the folk rock of Goran Bregovic. Then there are lots of other names which we believe inspired us: Mozart, Les Tambours du Bronx with their tribal and urban impact, Creedence Clearwater Revival. But it wasn't only the film sounds and images which were our sources of inspiration. There are other images, often fragments from
irregular outlines, which come from and mask other very different backgrounds. From the theatre, for example, where we like to remember the devastatingly emotional impact on the spectators of La Fura dels Baus. From poetry: a verse taken from a poem by Boris Vian inspired a whole episode of the story. And, last of all, scenes and memories from a journey (the ancient Freiburg University inspired a story set on a university campus).