Very Vlad Things
Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon, the masterminds behind the bestselling The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, now take you back to the 15th century for a horror story unlike any other—a very true one. The story of Vlad the Impaler is awful in so many ways, and it becomes even more horrific when fleshed out through Colon’s wonderful pencils. It’s tough to read and watch the actions that earned Vlad his nickname. Even more foreboding is the dread that comes from knowing this story inspired the tale of Dracula. Here’s what Jacobson and Colon had to say about their newest work.
You two began working together on The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. Were you surprised to see that become such a bestseller?
Sid Jacobson: I think we both were surprised that The 9/11 Report became a bestseller. We knew that our publisher, Farrar Straus and Giroux, was amazingly excited and immediately got us all sorts of interviews, including an appearance on The Today Show. But a bestseller, no.
Ernie Colon: Astonished might be a better word. We were invited to many TV and radio shows by journalists we knew through watching them from a front seat in our homes. Suddenly we were being limo'd from one TV studio to another. After a few, one of the reporters asked how I felt and I said, “I feel like I'm in Peer Gynt!”
You both have long histories in the comics industry. How did you first meet?
Jacobson: We first met a lifetime and a half ago. I was an editor at Harvey Comics when Ernie was hired as an artist in the art department. Somehow we became friends immediately—we were both on our first marriages then—and even double-dated (if the term is still used).
How did you decide to start working together on these projects now?
Jacobson: Ernie had come up with the idea of a graphic version of The 9/11 Report and called me 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles to ask if I’d work on it with him. I was blown away by the idea and quickly said yes.
Colon: We’ve worked on other projects in the past. It’s been a long friendship and partnership.
Vlad the Impaler offers truly gruesome fare. Why did you choose it?
Jacobson: Why did we choose a gory subject like Vlad? The character was intriguing and I had never known of him before. You have to remember that besides Casper and Richie Rich, Harvey also published Tomb of Terror, Witches’ Tales, and Chamber of Chills, all while we were there.
Colon: It seemed a good idea to me. A change of pace—though I'm not sure what that pace is, since we work on such diversified topics.
Is it difficult to write and illustrate a book about a character who really has no redeeming qualities whatsoever? Does it take a toll on you?
Jacobson: I don’t think it took an emotional toll out of either of us. The character and the times were much too foreign for us.
Colon: No. The history of villains—both real and fictional—is that we all find them interesting, even fascinating. The truly oppressive projects are the ones that deal with fairly contemporary calamities.
How much is known now about Vlad’s life? Was it easy or difficult to research the life he lived?
Jacobson: There have been several books and movies about a fictionalized Vlad as well as the real one. It wasn’t difficult at all to research him.
Colon: That’s Sid’s turf. He’s a first-class researcher as well as writer. Nice combo.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about Vlad while creating this book?
Jacobson: The most surprising thing I learned about Vlad came from a Romanian acquaintance. Vlad, I was told, is taught in Romanian schools and taught as a great hero!
Ernie, how did you capture the look and feel of Wallachia and the inhabitants you pictured in the story?
Ernie Colon: Many of these old villages and towns still exist in almost the form they had then. If you ignore the satellite dishes, you could be right back in ancient Wallachia.
How do you two work together? Do you plot out together, does Ernie work off of a detailed script, the Marvel Method, or something else?
Jacobson: For the most part, I do the plotting and the writing in a detailed script. But Ernie then has a free hand to make changes of all kinds to better the story. And we work more than 3,000 miles apart via the internet.
Colon: A detailed script, with dialogue and scenes. All done by Sid.
One of the things you both do so well is take complicated (and very large) works and make them both compelling and approachable through the comics format. What other topics and themes are you two considering working on?
Colon: That's very kind of you. When I tried to read the original 9/11 Report, it was precisely its complexity that led me to feel Sid and I could make it more accessible—hopefully to a wider audience.
Jacobson: At present, we have signed contracts to do three more books at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, one being very much in the working stage. They are all nonfiction, all extremely important to us—and to the publisher, and none that we can or should speak of at the moment.