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Interview: Ricardo Delgado reimagines a classic in DRACULA OF TRANSYLVANIA

By Chris

Ricardo Delgado is a renowned comic creator, storyboard artist, and character designer. He bought the vivid and vicious world of prehistoric life in the Age of Reptiles graphic novels. He has worked on films such as Apollo 13, Men in Black, The Emperor’s New Groove, The Incredibles, and much more. Now Delgado is telling his version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in Dracula of Transylvania, a new graphic novel funded thru Kickstarter. The classic vampire story will be told with a darker vision and a truly horrifying depiction of Dracula. We got the chance to interview Ricardo Delgado to ask about Vampire King and learned more about his latest project. 

EA: When approaching a Dracula story, there must be a big sense of responsibility. How do you balance honoring original concepts and trailblazing new elements?

Ricardo Delgado: I had a rule where I tried to generally follow the plot of the original story while adding to the scenes that were either too expensive to film and expanding the ghostly world around Dracula. Now that I’ve gone through this experience I’m sure that everyone before me starts out with those intentions, so in looking back I had to be careful as to how I proceeded. I also had the edict of ‘How cool would this be?’ with some of the supernatural scenes in the story. As an example, I’d cite the scene in the Lugosi/Browning Dracula, which enthralled me as a kid, where Renfield describes ‘thousands, millions’ of rats and someone else, perhaps Van Helsing shouts that a wolf ran across the back lawn of Seward Manor. Well, because a novel has no VFX budget and because I am a concept artist in film, I felt unencumbered with writing and conceptualizing that kind of imagery. I that humble sense I had an advantage over a motion picture, and I could still get my point across both in story and image. Remember, for the cost of one digital effect shot in a major motion picture, this project was funded, so I took that to heart and just tried to come up with some cool shit to fit into this already cool story and the main character.

EA: Attempts to modernize Dracula have been a bit underwhelming historically. Is there something about a gothic time period and the context of the character that gives it power?

RD: Well for me it was the contrast of the ancient world vs the modern world, the Victorian era versus the age of machines. There was a lot of significant change between 1850 and 1900, and the idea that man would be on the moon just seventy years later is fascinating to me. There’s a lot of fun, cool, tragic, horrible, amazing, quirky, and ingenious stuff during those fifty years, from the Crimean War to the building of the Eiffel Tower, and this story firmly places Dracula within those events. We as a society teach history so uninterestingly, so poorly and yet the world was full of heroes and monsters and everyone else in between, so I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be fascinating if Dracula were the ultimate fiend, a conqueror full of venom and wrath and feared by both kings, popes and Holy Roman Emperors? What if he were the actual Son of Satan and everyone from Ming Dynasty China to 1492 Spain lived in terror of his word much less his mere presence?’ So all that led me here, and now happy to share this story with everyone.

EA: The depiction of Dracula has him appearing like a true creature of the night, What will be gained by focusing less on the romanticized notions of the character?

RD: The audience gains an incredible shapeshifter with a conqueror’s complex. Not just a phantom but a force of nature that is only interested in power and will crush any and all opponents in his way and a legion of supernatural forces at his disposal and in his servitude. This Dracula takes no prisoners, asks no favors, tells no truths, makes deals that only benefit him, and answers only to the unholiest of the unholies. A true shadow of malevolence who in this story has already torn to shreds a united army of the European city/states three hundred years ago, and as a reminder left the carcasses of said army littering around the foundations of his castle. But all is not hunky/dory within Dracula’s spectral subjects, he has tithed and domineered them for centuries, and some of them have had enough, and that’s where our story starts.

EA: In the original story, Jonathan Harker seemed to take a backstep role in the subplots following Lucy, Mina, and Dracula. What can we expect from this reimagine Harker?

RD: This Jonathan Harker is more two-fisted than some of the Harkers of the past, and I’m looking at you, Jonathan Harker from Bela Lugosi’s Dracula lol! In the face of such undead ferocity, I wanted to stay away from perhaps the more Lovecraftian protagonist and cast Jonathan more in the vein of Arthur Conan Doyle meets Edgar Rice Burroughs, a more rough-and-tumble guy who really can’t hold his own against such a powerful supernatural force, but this Jonathan has two advantages: this Harker never gives up and he can rifle through coffins during the daytime.

EA: Do you have a favorite portrayal of Dracula? Who would be the perfect actor to embody the character?

RD: Christopher Lee was the ‘no fooling around’ Dracula of my childhood. Remember those blood-red eyes? And I do like the Frank Langella film, though he should have worn the teeth and they should have started with the Transylvania Castle Dracula scenes. But a good story/movie. Gary Oldman was terrific in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula but in appearance too different at times in that story, but super intense and I really liked the Victorian Era Harry Houdini in-camera trick shot atmosphere off that picture. Ideally, an unknown should be cast and surrounded by major stars. It’s a good strategy, worked in the Donner Superman and Batman Begins, for me. But lastly, that Barlowe from the original Salem’s Lot TV movie, that guy was terrifying! My Dracula of Transylvania is more along those lines. I hope you’ll check it out.

The Kickstarter for Dracula of Transylvania has some fun rewards for pledgers such as portfolio prints, hardcover editions of the novel, and original sketches. You can visit see the progress of the Kickstarter here. Richardo Delgado’s twitter is @Delgadosairus where you can see cool pics of dinosaurs, gothic horror icons, and sci-fi shows.

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