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Blacula is rising again. The cult classic horror character is returning in a new graphic novel from Rodney Barnes and artist Jason Shawn Alexander. The Blacula graphic novel has long been a passion project for Barnes, a veteran TV writer and producer whose credits include the Marvel/Hulu series Runaways and Starz’s American Gods.
Barnes grew up on the Universal monster movies, and his notion of what horror could be changed when he saw Blacula at age eight.
“I’d never seen anything with people of color prominently positioned in the piece,” Barnes told The Hollywood Reporter from the set of the upcoming HBO Lakers drama he is executive producing. “I was blown away. It was a lot more authentic than anything else I’d seen up until that point. It sort of lit a small flame in my imagination.”
Released in 1972, Blacula was directed by William Crain and starred William Marshall. It centered on Prince Mamuwalde, who in the late 1700s, seeks Dracula’s help ending the slave trade, only to be turned into a vampire and imprisoned for 200 years. The film’s social commentary and use of vampirism as a metaphor for slavery’s long-term repercussions stuck with Barnes over the years. So did his fascination with vampires.
Barnes’ first job in Los Angeles was working on another Black vampire property, Wesley Snipes’ Blade (1998). As Barnes gained more success in the entertainment industry, including as comic book writer behind titles such as Image Comics’ Killadelphia, he still dreamed of doing something with Blacula, specifically a graphic novel. The only problem? He had trouble getting an answer from MGM about the graphic novel rights. Finally, Alana Mayo, who became president of MGM’s Orion Pictures in 2020, stepped in to help and Barnes’ Zombie Love Studios get the go-ahead to move forward with the graphic novel.
Now Barnes is gearing up to publish the first of three planned graphic novels in the spring of 2022. The first will pit Blacula against Dracula, and just like the films, there will be the opportunity to use horror to examine society.
“Blacula and Dracula have lived for hundreds of years. They’ve seen it all. So they have a different perspective, being able to hear the past, speak to the present,” said Barnes. “You really don’t have that with any other monsters because other monsters are just monsters, but vampires are manipulative. They also have good memories. They know who they were.”
MGM currently has a Blacula film in the works, while Barnes would be interested in pursuing something in television. Says the writer: “I’d love to be able to explore him beyond where we are now.”
Barnes is represented by UTA, Artists First, and attorney Darrell Miller at Fox Rothschild.
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