Q&A: Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones Discuss Their New Graphic Novel DRACULA—BOOK 1: THE IMPALER, Now on Kickstarter!

There have been many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula over the past century, but in Dracula—Book 1: The Impaler, writer Matt Wagner and artist Kelley Jones flesh out the iconic bloodsucker’s story like never before, and with the new graphic novel (the first in a series) now on Kickstarter, we caught up with Wagner and Jones in a Q&A feature to discuss what readers can expect from their unique take on Stoker’s legendary character!

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for us, and congratulations on your new graphic novel Dracula: Book 1–The Impaler, which is coming to Kickstarter! We’ve seen many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula over the years, but you have both taken a truly unique approach to the iconic bloodsucker in this graphic novel, including his connection with Satan. How important was it for you to bring your own version of Dracula to undead life while still respecting Stoker’s seminal novel?

Matt Wagner: Bram Stoker’s classic novel creates and portrays arguably the most famous literary character of all time, but it leaves many aspects of Dracula’s history and persona only hinted at and thus, incredibly intriguing and mysterious. Dracula is such a compelling character but he’s off-stage for a lot of the active narrative. That in itself lends proof to how powerful and magnetic his character is portrayed…even from the shadows, he’s captivated audiences for over a hundred years. We’re taking all the cryptic details Stoker unveils and using those to create our version of this iconic character’s history. And I want to make it clear… this isn’t yet another retelling of the novel in comics form. We’re bringing you the never-before told stories behind the story…the sinister tales hidden in and around the narrative of the original novel. Our first graphic novel explores Dracula’s bloody history and his tenure at Satan’s legendary seminary of the dark arts, the Scholomance, a fact of his history that’s mentioned twice in the novel. We learn what led Dracula to seek out Satan’s tutelage and how he became the lord of the undead. I’ve been fascinated with Stoker’s novel and his immortal vampire lord since I was a kid and these are the stories that have literally haunted my imagination for decades.

Kelley Jones: My depiction of Dracula is less about being a monstrous vampire but more completely that of a vicious driven amoral man who thinks he’s doing God’s will, but it’s truly only his own. That ferociousness colors everything about him, including his look as an emerging vampire lord. It makes him come dangerously alive on the page no matter what he’s doing.

Matt, artist Kelley Jones has helped bring so many amazing comic books to life over the past several decades. What is it about his style that made him the perfect fit to team up with for Dracula: Book 1–The Impaler?

Matt Wagner: Kelley Jones and I have been friends for many years and we’d always intended to collaborate on something significant…not just a short story or one-shot. Finally, we both realized that the time was right and, luckily, I had something in mind that perfectly fit our mutual energy and styles. Kelley’s an absolute master of the macabre so when I felt like it was finally time to bring my Dracula obsession into narrative reality, there was just no better choice of collaborator. And our collaboration here just couldn’t have been any smoother…it literally feels like we’ve been working together like this for decades—an incredible synthesis of our two lengthy and accomplished careers in comics. Throughout this entire process, I was scripting these tales and writing to what I saw as Kelley’s strengths and always thinking to myself, “Man…Kelley is gonna draw the HELL outta this!” And then, he’d send me this fucking magnificent art and it always proved to be even more dramatic and visceral than I’d ever dared hope. This really has been a dream project for both of us…the absolute magnum opus of everything we might have dreamed it would be.

Do you have fond memories of reading and watching Dracula when you were growing up? Have any specific versions of Dracula influenced your visual style over the years?

Kelley Jones: I have loved Dracula since he first scared me on television when I was a kid—specifically the Universal and Hammer films. I became even more fascinated when I discovered he was once a living, breathing man. The chance to let all those visceral memories find a place on paper is a real joy.

Dracula: Book 1–The Impaler is the first graphic novel in a planned series. Can you give our readers an idea of what you’ll be exploring in future Dracula graphic novels?

Matt Wagner: The other three books in our Dracula series will reveal other aspects of his life and story that take place in and around the events portrayed in the novel. BOOK I—THE IMPALER firmly takes place in the fifteenth century and explores how Vlad III, known as “Dracula” (Son of the Dragon) becomes a vampire. The subsequent volumes will move up through time into the nineteenth century, the time frame of Stoker’s novel. Our goal here was always to provide readers with the character and story tropes with which they’re familiar, but also to introduce all new stories and concepts to the original legend. We recently had a huge mark of success on that front; we gave a digital copy of the book to Leslie Klinger, author of the New Annotated Dracula and widely acknowledged as one of the world’s preeminent Dracula scholars. He gave us a glowing quote of approval that really sealed the deal and let us know that we’re hitting all the right notes and chords on this project…eerie ones, of course!

Kelley Jones: Dracula will encounter all kinds of creepy things during his newfound journey into the supernatural world he now inhabits. He is, after all, attending a school of the dark arts overseen by Satan himself. Some of those are already existing in that half world of shadows and others he conjures up himself. He learns as he goes…again, from Satan’s seminary—the Scholomance!


Below, we have the official press release with additional details, and to learn more and support Dracula—Book 1: The Impaler, visit:

Press Release; (October 24, 2023) Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula introduced arguably the most famous character in horror literature, but the seminal story leaves much of the Count’s rich history and persona to the imagination. Now legendary GRENDEL creator Matt Wagner and superstar comic book artist Kelley Jones (BATMAN & DRACULA: RED RAIN, SANDMAN: SEASON OF MISTS) are revealing the secret history of Dracula in a series of all-new, 100+page graphic novels. Beginning with DRACULA—BOOK 1: THE IMPALER, this series of books will fill in these tantalizing gaps to provide a terrifying portrait of Vlad Dracula. For their first ever major collaboration, Wagner and Jones are launching a Kickstarter campaign with their brand-new company, Orlok Press. To support the project, head to Kickstarter.

DRACULA—BOOK 1: THE IMPALER explores Dracula’s bloody history and his tenure at Satan’s legendary seminary of the dark arts, the Scholomance. “The first graphic novel explores what led Dracula to seek out Satan’s tutelage and how he became the lord of the undead,” explains writer Matt Wagner. “This project is a real labor of love for Kelley and I,” says Wagner. “We are enormous fans of Dracula and the many interpretations of his mythic story. Our version of Dracula is bloody, sexy, and monstrous; this is very much a horror story, with deep roots in Stoker’s novel. But this isn’t yet another retelling of the novel in comics form. We’re bringing you the never-before told stories behind the story…the sinister tales hidden in the shadows of the original novel.”

“Matt Wagner has been a great friend of mine for over thirty years and I always regretted that we never got to collaborate on something together and told him that many times,” says Kelley Jones, who illustrated the seminal SEASON OF MISTS storyline for Neil Gaiman’s best-selling SANDMAN series from DC Comics. “I love Dracula from the novel on down and, after our first conversations about this project, I knew that Matt would tell the tale no one had told before and no one would ever forget. Being able to bring this to life has been the most rewarding achievement in my career and I think it shows.”

DRACULA: BOOK I—THE IMPALER achieves what seems impossible: to present the vampire in a fresh way that is at the same time deeply rooted in its true bloody origins,” said colorist José Villarrubia. “Wagner and Jones are pulling no punches here, with an aesthetic harking back to the Giallo films of the sixties. Prepare to be amazed!”

“Master storytellers Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones have rendered Dracula as never before experienced,” said letterer Rob Leigh. “If you’re half as entertained devouring this tale as I was lettering it, you’re in for a wonderfully wicked treat.”

“I’ve been at the forefront of the indie comics scene for over forty years. And Kelley has carved a popular mainstream niche with his uniquely individual style,” Wagner continues. “So launching this project via Kickstarter seems like the perfect fit for maintaining that mutual spirit of independence. Kelley and I are insanely proud of this project and can’t wait for our readers to see and enjoy our take on this infamous antagonist who has transcended all boundaries to become one of the most famous fictional characters the world has ever known…the vampire lord, DRACULA!

The pre-launch page for DRACULA—BOOK 1: THE IMPALER is now live on Kickstarter. For updates, follow Matt Wagner on Facebook and X and Kelley Jones on Instagram and X.

About the writer:

Matt Wagner has enjoyed a career in comics for over forty years and is best known for one of comicdom’s most respected creator-owned titles—the centuries-spanning epic, GRENDEL and for his other, more personal, allegory, MAGE. As both a writer and an artist, Matt has also worked on a wide variety of established characters over the years which include several landmark projects starring DC Comics icon, BATMAN including two crossovers series with GRENDEL. His other mainstream work includes; SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE, DR. MID-NITE, GREEN ARROW, TRINITY, MADAME XANADU, ZORRO, GREEN HORNET; YEAR ONE, THE SHADOW; YEAR ONE, THE SHADOW: THE DEATH OF MARGO LANE, THE SPIRIT RETURNS, and DJANGO/ZORRO, which he co-wrote with renowned film-maker Quentin Tarantino. Matt recently returned his roots to pen the final arc in his acclaimed fantasy trilogy, MAGE: THE HERO DENIED.

Praised for his character-driven stories and his obvious love of world history and mythologies, Matt’s efforts have won multiple Eisner Awards. He has also enjoyed the distinction of being one of the only writer/artists to team his own creation with one of DC’s flagship characters in two successive BATMAN/GRENDEL crossover publications. He later continued the same motif in another critically acclaimed crossover event, writing and drawing GRENDEL VS THE SHADOW.

His most recent work has been a new GRENDEL series, DEVIL’S ODYSSEY.

About the artist:

Kelley Jones was born in 1962 and as soon as he could recall he was held spellbound by strange things and stories. This made him perfect to enter the world of comics and bring shadows and the sense of the unknown to everything he touched.His eerie and evocative version of Deadman was an award-winning hit at DC, and led him to the legendary run of stories on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, notably ‘Dream of a Thousand Cats’ and ‘Seasons of Mist’. He followed these up with the now classic Batman graphic novel ‘Red Rain’, wherein Batman confronts….Dracula! This and a run of stunning covers for Batman and Detective for the ‘Knightfall’ epic led editor Denny O’Neil to assign Kelley the monthly Batman title which in the three years he drew it cemented him as one of Batman’s greatest creators and a comic art legend. He has continued his trailblazing style with SWAMP THING with Len Wein and the award winning series ‘Batman Kings of Fear’ and ‘Gotham after Midnight’. And now with Dracula, Kelley shows he still walks in the world of shadows and the unknown.

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