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Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell breakdown the vampire saga 'West of Sundown'

Comic Books

Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell breakdown the vampire saga ‘West of Sundown’

A madcap medling of Westerns, vampires, and romance stories.

There’s a reason vampires populate so much beloved pop culture: they’re a great storytelling device. Whether you’re focusing on romance, a redemption arc, general human mortality, or just good-old fashioned tales of monsters, vamps are a powerful tool to tell stories that are equally unsettling and touching.

That last bit certainly describes West of Sundown, a new Vault Comics series from writers Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell (alongside artist Jim Terry, colorist Triona Farrell, and letterer Crank). The story follows ancient vampire Constance Der Abend, who must return to her ancestral soil of New Mexico after a terrible attack. She’s joined by her companion, Dooley, and their relationship serves as a kind of encapsulation of the story’s larger themes of romance, duty, history, and dependency. It is, as press describes, a “Western tale of survival starring a cast of literary horrors.”

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Before issue #1 drops on April 6, we caught up with Campbell and Seeley via email. There, we talked about the story’s beginnings, how to write horror in 2022, the lessons vampires still have left to teach, and much, much more.

Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell breakdown the vampire saga 'West of Sundown'AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for this series?

Aaron Campbell: The ravishing toast of the New York opera scene, Constance der Abend, is secretly a vampire. When hunters destroy her native soil she must flee to her long forgotten homeland in the care of her devoted retainer, an ex-confederate soldier named Dooley O’Shaunessey. But when they arrive in the frontier town of Sangre de Moro, their fight for survival has only just begun.

Tim Seeley: Think of a Universal Horror flick directed by Segio Leone, with all the best parts of Hammer, and you get what we were going for. Beyond that, it’s about the origin of the American monster.

AIPT: What was the collaborative process like between this group?

AC: Initially Tim reached out to me with a seed of an idea. A vampire is hunted in Manhattan in the late 1800s and has to flee west to reconnect with her destroyed soil before her body just disintegrates. It was a horror/western that would marry all the best elements of hammer horror and Sergio Leone. Once we started riffing on its potential, we both knew we needed to work on this together. And since then the process of making this book has been a true joy. Tim and I have a f-----g blast coming up with story for each issue. Once we get going, the ideas just flow.

And as a visual artist, who could ask for a better art team than Jim, Triona, and Crank. Jim is a lightning fast cartoonist with an effortless line. Seeing his pages come in is like magic. And Triona’s colors are absolutely spot on. And what else can you say about Crank. He’s one of the best letterers in the business. Dream team! Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Tim Daniel. He handles all the final design work on my cover turning them into these incredible classic movie posters. In a perfect world we would do a print run of just those covers at full movie poster scale.

TS: See, this is why I love working with Aaron. I can just say like three of my idiot words, and he can expound luridly and clearly. This book is a jam. We jam.

AIPT: Is it easier or more difficult to tell a horror story given the sheer madness and insanity of the world in 2022?

AC: If anything, now is the perfect moment for horror. There’s something actually comforting about classic horror stories. They bring order to chaos. They give us a definable enemy to struggle against and overcome. Even when the villain wins we still know who to fight, and there’s usually a promise inherent in the medium that a future hero will arise to make things right. And in the meantime we get to confront the fantastic roller of fear in the safety of our own homes.

Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell breakdown the vampire saga 'West of Sundown'

Courtesy of Vault Comics.

TS: Yeah, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest horror fairs best as a genre in times of great uncertainty and unrest. And, I think, with pretty much everything I write now, I’m trying to understand the country I live in. This one, set in this extremely defining era, helps me get at the origins of the beast and the violence the beast does.

AIPT: What was it about this timeframe in American history that really spoke to you collectively? Do you think there’s any connection back to the issues facing us today?

AC: I live in New Mexico where we set the story. The mythology of the west is the source of some of the most significant connective tissue in our nation. It’s the origin of the American obsession with manifest destiny, rugged individualism, rampant industrialism, gun culture, and so many other toxic tendencies we’re struggling with today. But under all that there is the true story of the West. The one that very few people outside this region know anything about. What of the black homesteaders who came here hoping to escape the rise of Jim Crow after the Civil War?

What about the Buffalo soldiers who participated in the horrors of the Mescalero Apache removal? Or what of the first successful revolution in North America against a European power, the all but unknown (outside the southwest at least) Pueblo Revolt? In a single day Pueblo warriors rose up and drove the Spanish colonizers from these lands. This time period has so much to offer any conversation about our current times. And that really has little to do with outlaws and shootouts. Though we have a place for that also.

TS: America is defined by this era, as Aaron said, for both good and ill. And some of the finest examples of American art are in this genre, including a lot of comics. It feels right to tap into it, and make something that feels both class and new.

West of Sundown

Courtesy of Vault Comics.

AIPT: I was really struck by the character of Dooley, the vampires’ human companion. He’s such a great foil for the themes here, and a robust source of humanity — is this a story ultimately about him in some way?

AC: We will certainly get to know Constance more through Dooley than just about anyone else. His relationship with her is going to be like an onion. Every layer peeled reveals a new tragedy. But ultimately this is an ensemble cast and like all the best tv westerns, the story is about everyone. Their struggles to survive, co-exist, and thrive among extreme personalities, and unforgiving natural and supernatural forces.

TS: Dooley is everything Constance isn’t, and he certainly acts as the anchor for a lot of themes and emotion.

AIPT: Is this also, in a way, a kind of love story? Maybe not in the traditional sense, but I get that it’s some version of love at the heart of this tale.

AC: I don’t know if I’d say pure love. Perhaps dysfunctional love and certainly obsession.

TS: Dooley clearly loves Constance in some way, even if she’s literally a harsh mistress. He sees something greater in her, even if she seems incapable of rising above what’s in her blood. But, not to overstate the theme, but I find that’s also my relationship with this country.

Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell breakdown the vampire saga 'West of Sundown'

Courtesy of Vault Comics.

AIPT: There’s heaps of great vampire stories out there. Were there any that influence the look and/or feel of this story?

AC: Bram Stoker’s Dracula of course but there’s also shades of Anne Rice and definitely some Vampire: The Masquerade sprinkled in. But it’s more than just vampire stories we’re referencing. This brings in the entire western horror canon. Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Lovecraft, Hammer Horror, Universal Horror, as well as the mythology of the Southwest.

TS: I kept coming back to Twins of Evil and Near Dark, which are nothing alike, but somehow helped ground our take on a Dracula type vampire.

AIPT: There’s some really great moments of honesty in terms of portraying people’s xenophobia and even trying to play up the question of morality. What’s the larger message of the book, and what are you hoping people glean from it?

AC: I’m not really sure if we have an overarching message we are trying to impart. I think if you treat your characters with honesty and empathy, the ultimate message you create is one of connection and shared humanity. In that context we have the capacity to address as many issues as we feel comfortable to. Tim and I are very conscientious about the delicacy by which we have to approach a lot of what we’re doing. As much as I know the history of this region, I do not share in the experience of its people. I’m from the Midwest and even though I’ve lived here for a very long time now, I know I’ll never have that experience so the focus must be on individuals and the unique stories we create within an historic, and supernatural context. At the end of the day we’re just trying to spin a darn good yarn as Sheriff Abilene might put it.

West of Sundown

Courtesy of Vault Comics.

AIPT: Without spoiling too much, what can we expect in issue #2 and beyond?

AC: Oh we’re gonna tickle every horror and western lover’s fancy. We’ve got chupacabras and self-flagellant cultists, skinwalkers and self-loathing Simulacrums, shootouts and self-serving mad scientists. And eventually, someday, if the wrong boundaries are pierced, well… ever hear tell of a shoggoth?

TC: I find it takes creators a few issues a few issues to find their footing, so if you enjoyed issue 1, i assure you, you will like issue 2!

AIPT: Why should anyone pick up issue #1?

AC: As I always say, “Get it! Or else!!!”

TC: Vault Comics is the home for these really inventive esoteric titles that allow creators to expand beyond superhero stories. When you read one of these books, you help open up the medium to a host of new readers.

Also, sexy vampire cleavage.

The following images are courtesy of Vault Comics.

Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell breakdown the vampire saga 'West of Sundown' Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell breakdown the vampire saga 'West of Sundown'

Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell breakdown the vampire saga 'West of Sundown'


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