Interview: Alien Invasions and Vampire Kings with Rodney Barnes
Feb 14, 2023
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
From American Gods to Winning Time -- producer-writer Rodney Barnes has an IMDB profile featuring some of the most beloved/critically-acclaimed shows of the last twenty-odd years. Inexhaustible, Barnes' creative talent stretches past must-see TV and into the four-color format we call "comics!" Horror comics, in particular.
In February 2023, Barnes invites readers to experience two very distinct worlds of suspense with the graphic novel Blacula and his new series Monarch. PREVIEWSworld's Troy-Jeffrey Allen hung out with the hardest-working man in show business to find out more about his latest forays into the world of comic books!
Troy-Jeffrey Allen: For those not familiar with Zombie Love Studios, what can you tell us about the mission of your studio? What is the hook?
Rodney Barnes: The hook is simple: to tell really great stories centered on science fiction, mystery, and horror—genre-themed fare coming from various entry points of the human experience. I’d say that more than anything else—the human experience—is the thing we’re always trying to capture.
TJA: Let’s get into Blacula first. Catch us up to speed. What is the story about?
Barnes: This takes place roughly fifty years after the original MGM Blacula film, in which Blacula re-emerges from the grave with a singular goal: to get revenge on the entity that made him a vampire and crushed his dreams: Count Dracula. Along the way, he finds friends, trudges through his dark night of the soul, and eventually, he confronts his maker.
To find out any more, you’re gonna have to get the book!
TJA: What can you tell us about Tina and Kross in the story? Why are they both seeking Blacula?
Barnes: Tina is a blogger for her podcast site Dark Knights, which chronicles stories of the macabre, and she’s determined to find out whether or not the urban myth of Blacula is in fact true. Kross is the grandson of one of Blacula’s victims and leads a group of other kids whose parents also fell prey to Blacula—or other vampires Blacula has created—in the South Los Angeles area.
TJA: Why resurrect Blacula now?
Barnes: The themes found in many of the stories told in the 70s—especially the Blaxploitation films—wrestled with what was happening in society at the time, but also mirrored American society today. I admittedly had issues with the original film, but felt I could sort of extricate them while also bringing the character of Blacula into a new era. I also had a selfish desire because I’m such a huge fan of William Marshall, who portrayed Blacula/Prince Mamuwalde in the original film. I wanted to elevate his stature to that of Bela Lugosi, who was fantastic as Dracula.
Most of all, I really love the character.
TJA: What made you team back up with Killadlephia’s Jason Shawn Alexander?
Barnes: I love his work, and we know each other so well that I was confident he could effectively capture both the Blaxploitation feel and modern feel, and merge those two things together artistically. He also has a great eye for the aesthetic of South LA.
TJA: The trade for Blacula is out currently, but then you have Monarch from Image in February. What can you tell us about Monarch without spoiling it?
Barnes: At its heart, Monarch is a love story that disguises itself as an all-out action story between kids and aliens. I love Alex Lins’ art, and I think he beautifully fuses South LA with science-fiction warfare.
TJA: What made you want to set this story in Compton?
Barnes: It felt like the least likely place I’d ever imagine an alien attack taking place. It was interesting discovering how regular folk would deal with otherworldly phenomena, sort of like War of the Worlds.
TJA: Is this more of an Independence Day invasion or something much darker?
Barnes: Much darker. These aliens aren’t here to negotiate in any way, shape, or form and aren’t waiting to plan a larger attack. They’re going for it right off the bat.
TJA: Tell us about your collaborators on the book. Who are the art teams on the two titles?
Barnes: For Blacula, the aforementioned Jason Shawn Alexander handles the art chores. For Monarch, Alex Lins, while Luis NCT does the colors, and both do a fantastic job fusing action and sci-fi elements. It’s truly an honor to work with these fine folks.
TJA: In terms of audience, who would you say Monarch is for?
Barnes: There’s something in it for everyone. There’s teen angst, a degree of social commentary, action, and romance... Putting kids in a cataclysmic setting allows for a wide range of emotions and tones which I hope resonate with all readers.
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Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. He is also the Consumer Marketing Manager for Geppi Family Enterprises. Troy's comics work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalpyse '91, the Glyph Award-nominated Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Award-nominated Magic Bullet.