The Blood Bandits aren’t like other vampires. Instead of biting humans on the neck they rob hospitals to quench their thirst. Will they still be able to pull off heists with an FBI agent on their tail? With colors by Fred C. Stresing, color assists by Macy Kahn, and letters by Crank!, The Vain has all the makings of an amazing miniseries. Here to talk about it are series writer, Eliot Rahal, and artist, Emily Pearson.
Rachel Bellwoar: The title of this series can be taken a lot of different ways. Vain as in vanity. Vain as a homophone for “vein.” Vain as in “not be in vain,” from the newsreel that plays in the first issue. What does the title mean to you?
Eliot Rahal: It’s certainly all of those things (and a few more, too, as the story is revealed throughout the book). Also, the Dwight Yoakam song – ‘Blame the Vain’. To me, though, the Vain is sort of an electric guitar noise in my head. I hear it as Sean Connery saying, “There can only be one,” from Highlander. To me, the Vain is about wild energy. That’s the tone I tried to… inject (get it?) into the material.
Emily Pearson: The Vain as a title definitely gives a sense of the group of, this is what and who they are. A group of self-admiring teens who also happen to suck blood!
RB: Heist stories usually revolve around money but Lost and her crew steal blood. “Why” is seemingly answered by the fact that they’re vampires, but why do they need so much blood, or don’t they?
ER: They do and they don’t. It’s just like money. You need it to survive, but you’re addicted to having more of it. But also, on a practical level. The world is changing. It’s harder to be a vampire as the years move forward. Cameras change everything. So, the idea of having a stockpile. A cache of blood becomes a necessity in case they find themselves on the run or unable to hunt.
RB: What made you want to set this story in the 40s and how has that affected the look of the series? Did J. Edgar Hoover really have a portrait of a dog in his office?
ER: It’s a time period that almost everyone can recognize and understand immediately. But also it allows us to show the growth of the world, but technologically and culturally. As for Hoover. Lol. Not sure if it was a portrait, but I’m pretty sure he kept photos. He also had his desk purposefully raised so he could always be looking down at the guests in his office.
RB: Lost and her crew don’t dress like your typical robbers, though again money doesn’t seem to be an issue. Can you speak a little to the fashions in this book?
ER: The fashion choices are all 100% Emily’s brilliant design work. The only direction I gave her was to make them beautiful. Super young and hot forever.
EP: I wanted the fashion to reflect the characters’ confidence, and show how they would express themselves through each time period. Robbing banks, and going on heists always seems like a game to the group, so I wanted their outfits to reflect that as well, and try to push the most fun or over the top outfit I could for each scene.
RB: The first issue is narrated by the FBI agent who’s trying to catch them (or his journal entries at least). What made you want to tell this story from his perspective?
ER: Because his life is the tragedy of obsession. And to some degree, he is us. The F.B.I. Agent allows for a lived linear timeline of events that overlays on our nonlinear vampires.
RB: While we’re given access to Felix’s thoughts, Lost is someone where we have to rely on facial expressions and dialogue to know what she’s thinking. What can you tell us about her and how did she get that cool name?
ER: I wanted Lost to be that classic picture of a 1940’s gangster. Young, wasted (lost) youth. She is fire. She is potential. She is ambition. She is the rebel without the case. The scream against the wind. So, to some degree, the less you know about her the more I can say. And although I wish the name Lost was created to be directly associated with some of the themes in the book, it is not. Honestly… It’s a name I’ve had in my back pocket for a while. One that I was looking for an excuse to use.
EP: I think Lost is definitely one of those characters that you learn about through action over dialogue. Being the leader of the group allows her to make a lot of choices, and you get to really know her personality through the environment she’s in, rather than her conversations or dialogues with other characters.
RB: While guns are a staple of the gangster genre, they’re not something vampires typically use. What has it been like trying to find a balance between these two, very distinct genres?
ER: Sometimes, I definitely would get carried away – or overlook some opportunities. However, that’s what good editors are for! But honestly, it wasn’t as hard as you think. You use what makes sense in the context of the story and the setting.
RB: While the first issue isn’t all blood and gore, the moments you choose to play up the horror elements of the series are extremely memorable. Is it difficult figuring out how much gore to include in each issue?
ER: Woof – big question. To me it’s all about pacing and timing. You want to establish that there will be blood and gore, but you also don’t want to do too much too soon. Also, you want to make sure what you’re doing/when you’re doing it is impactful. Make it mean something or drive home a point. And allow room to grow.
EP: I think this is where our editors come in handy. There’s a couple of gory scenes, and I was actually encouraged to push them a little further in edits. But having extra people to help you know when to pull it back and not disgust the reader, or to add more helps a lot.
RB: Emily, you’ve worked with various colorists in the past and for Snap Flash Hustle you colored your own work. How has it been working with Fred C. Stresing and Macy Kahn on this series?
EP: Fred and Macy have both been great and worked incredibly hard and delivered their parts very fast. I really like the atmosphere they’ve brought to the project, and it’s wonderful seeing all this progress and work come in while I can take a break and just focus on inks for a little bit. I can’t wait for people to see how the colors look in the sequentials too and not just the covers. Everyone did a really beautiful job to bring this book to life.
ER: Fred is incredible. Really. I think he implicitly understood the tone and feel of the book because all of his colors have been so spot-on. And he was always willing to get bigger. It was a genuine pleasure to work with him. And the richness of his colors add so much emotion to these pages. As for Macy. She’s the best. She’s an incredibly talented artist in her own right. But I gotta tell you. We needed someone to flatten these pages for Fred fast. And she did it fast. Anyone who needs a good C/A , I’d definitely recommend her.
RB: The Vain was announced as a miniseries but is there any chance this series might continue somewhere down the line? I’d love to learn more about how Lost and the other Blood Bandits met and when they became vampires.
ER: Oh, I’ve got BIG ideas. Really fun ones. All depends on if I don’t annoy everyone to death about them though!
EP: I’d be excited for something like that! Drawing more angsty vampire teens always sounds fun.
The Vain #1 goes on sale October 14th from Oni Press.