Black Women In Horror Comics: Regine Sawyer's Eating Vampires
While conversing with Regine briefly at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in 2014, I noted that her booth caught my eye with some of the most striking images of Black characters in comics that my horror-filled heart sang with glee. Eating Vampires: Blood, Bone & Sand Mini Series (artwork by Delia Gable), is the latest novel from the Lockett Down universe. The beauty in prose found in the first issue will captivate readers and the vicious imagery necessary to the story will ignite your thirst for more. Eating Vampires has such a layered and exciting story that I'm anticipating issue number two with urgency.
The synopsis reads:
Rigel Alexa is a Battle Guardian, one of the many protectors of the Sect of Purifiers. When the realm's worst nightmare comes true and all that remains of their once powerful nation is an eleven year old girl named Evelyn; Rigel must find a way to keep her safe, even if it means traveling to the most dangerous of places. But with a mysterious band of mystical women at Rigel's disposal, she will do whatever it is that is necessary to ensure that the Purifier line continues, even if it costs her the one thing she has always wanted; a cure.
I recently caught up with Regine to discuss the importance of the comic's imagery to multi-cultural communities, the ambitious mythology, and of course, vampires!
What is it about vampire mythos that sparked the inspiration for this story?
I always loved vampires and the various stories about them in all their incarnations. However, there never seemed to be a predator, an Apex predator, that would be able to supersede them. They always had weaknesses that were the standard in almost every story, and those were the only thing that could be used as their downfall.
What do you personally love about vampires? Which vampire-themed novel, film, or TV series are you attached to?
I love their sensuality and equally their brutality; there is such a grace to it. My favorite films are Let the Right One In (the book and both films), The Lost Boys, Nightwatch, Daywatch, and Twilight Watch novels, Blood the Last Vampire, Blade II, Brams Stoker's Dracula (the film and the novel), Queen on The Damned the movie, and Interview with a Vampire.
Your main character, Evelyn, seems to wield a sword with a cheetah by her side well. Is there any significance or symbolism with the cheetah and the sword that ties into the larger universe?
Of course there is! The sword has a very special ability and plays a role in how Evelyn fulfills her duties. The ‘cheetah’, Madix, is her Guardian and can shape shift into different big cats; usually shifting between, tiger/lynx/cheetah; depending on the need. His role is deeply pivotal to the story.
Take me into the most creatively thrilling parts of working with your artist. How did you collaborate on the look of your characters, especially Evelyn? What kind of mood and tone did you want to establish with the use of color?
I actually designed most of the major characters. I can draw some, so I always sketch out my main characters for any of the artists I work with. As far as the promo images are concerned, the artist that does the Eating Vampires promo art, Rodney Sanon, is really imaginative and creates gorgeous artwork for it. I originally started writing an illustrated novel for the property 5 years ago (which I’m still working on), and gave Rodney a few chapters to read to help inspire him; that helped a lot. He took my writing and translated what he saw through imagery and color; he captured the exact tone I wanted- moody, dark yet bright and focused.
It's really unfortunate that we don't see enough, if any, young Black girls leading any projects in the space of horror/science fiction or fantasy. Evelyn is such a vision and a powerful character for an entire audience to connect to. But for Black girls in particular, was your choice to ensure Evelyn's racial identity a conscious decision?
It was absolutely a conscious decision. I wanted a character that reminded me of girls I knew while growing up. Not only that, I wanted a series that represented a multi-cultural and ethnic experience that readers don’t ordinarily see, but should. Representation matters to marginalized communities, it’s important that we see ourselves in the media. Our stories, fantastical or not, matter and need to be seen by all.
What kind of responses have touched you the most, positive and negative, about Eating Vampires thus far?
What touches me the most is that people are so happy to have a story that they can share with their kids that they can relate to. It is also heartening to have people in the Muslim community that pick up my book and connect with the imagery as well. So far it has been well received by critics and fans alike, with little criticism. (Thankfully!) I love this series very much and I’m looking forward to putting out more books for the public to read!