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AICN COMICS/AICN HORROR Q&@: Elston Gunn talks with artist Mark Wheatley on LEZ VAMPS and how it can be yours for FREE!

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Q’s by Elston Gunn!

@’s by Mark Wheatley!!!

Hello. Elston Gunn here. Artist Mark Wheatley has a treat for horror fans, particularly lovers of the lesbian vampire genre. Just in time for Halloween, he's giving away LEZ VAMPS, a horror anthology filled with stories from several different writers inspired by his paintings, for free! Wheatley has been an illustrator, writer, editor, and publisher for over thirty years. His works include BREATHTAKER, MARS and BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT. Wheatley took some time to answer questions about it for AICN.

ELSTON GUNN (EG): This all started from a single painting? How did it happen and come together?

MARK WHEATLEY (MW): Yeah, in the beginning, there was only my lesbian vampire painting, and it was good (or so my fans were telling me). Then, folks who hang out on my Facebook fanpage started in making story suggestions for some of my posted illustrations. One of my fans, Russ Rogers, came up with the idea of creating a contest to write stories based on my LEZ VAMPS painting, which he selected as having great story potential. After that, Russ and I worked out the rules and rewards.

EG: What are the plans for LEZ VAMPS in terms of distribution?

MW: FREE! I’m giving it away! During this season of TRICK OR TREAT, I’m just treating! Right now we are offering the book for free during the entire month of October. And as of this moment, we have given away well over 1,000 of these bloody books! We will have to see after that. But for right now, it is available in three digital editions. Hopefully, in the format of your preference. My own favorite is the PDF, which is the fully illustrated version with all the bells and whistles! But the eBook and mobi versions will work on your hand held device! All three formats are here!

EG: What inspired that initial painting? I know some of your collaborators are some of the biggest Hammer Horror fans out there. Do you draw a lot from that?

MW: The painting was originally done as an illustration for the FLESH & BLOOD graphic novel series by Robert Tinnell and Neil Vokes. Bob Tinnell and I collaborate on a very regular basis and he is fully responsible for educating me about the lesbian vampire genre! In fact, I learned about it when he worked a lesbian vampire scene into our Harvey Award nominated EZ STREET graphic novel a few years ago. And Bob might be one of the most intense Hammer fans on the planet. But I’m a fan all on my own!

EG: What made you to decide to go in a prose direction as opposed to a graphic novel with LEZ VAMPS?

MW: I’ve been doing lots of illustration work in the past few years – books, magazines, TV, film. And since this was an existing illustration I thought the easy thing to do would be to have the contest and the winner’s story would just use the existing illustration! What could be easier for me? But, so many of the stories submitted to the contest were good, that I ended up using almost all of them. And then I created additional illustrations to turn the book into a cool, haunting experience! So much for easy!

EG: A lot of people are serious about their vampire mythology -- the "rules" and what should and shouldn't be. Are you a more traditional guy or do you like to see the myth bent in unconventional directions?

MW: I think the rules are important. Fantasy that is just made up on the fly tends to lose that edge of believability. But if you are going to re-invent a monster or a vampire, it is important to make it an extension of the rules of the world. Personally, my favorite monsters are those that grow out of natural human emotions and psychosis. When they are acting as manifestations of personal conflict, then it is easy to believe in it!

EG: We talked last year about RETURN OF THE HUMAN, which you did for Aces Weekly, a digital comic art magazine. How do you think digital comics are faring one year later? Do you like where it's going? Do you still see the potential?

MW: RETURN OF THE HUMAN is doing great and Jeff Vaughn and I are, even now, plotting our next book in the series. ACES WEEKLY is selling better and better. I think digital comics are here to stay. In fact, I have a new series I’m developing with Mark Waid for his incredible – the potential of digital is only just starting to come to life. This is a very exciting time to be creating comics.

EG: What's your biggest surprise coming out of this project?

MW: Every single story was a surprise! Because I created the LEZ VAMPS painting based on the FLESH & BLOOD series of graphic novels, I was working from Bob Tinnell’s material and direction. In addition, I had my own thoughts of the story this painting was telling, as I worked on it. And yet, every submitted story managed to take the image into new and surprising territory! I guess this contest is ending up to be somewhat like the blind men describing an elephant! We all see it just a bit differently!

EG: What are you working on next? Do you foresee doing more anthologies like this one?

MW: I’m finishing some matte paintings for a Civil War film. And I have a long graphic novel that I’m doing with reality TV king, Thom Beers and Todd Livingston for Original Productions. Then, in February, Mark Waid and I are digging in on this new series for Oh, and Marc Hempel and I are getting ready to start work on a new BREATHTAKER graphic novel. So, I’m very busy. And I will eventually get more digital books out like LEZ VAMPS, but that’s in the future.

EG: Check out LEZ VAMPS for FREE here!

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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