Posted by Decapitated Dan |

Deep Discussions with Decapitated Dan: Kurt Amacker

I recently had a chance to talk to Kurt Amacker about his new comic Dead Souls. Check it out: 

Decapitated Dan: Hey Kurt thanks for taking time to talk with me about the Dead Souls. First of all lets talk about you. Who are you and what do you do?

Kurt Amacker: I’m a comic book writer born, living, and working in New Orleans.  While I was in college, I got dumped by a girl and ended up in a pretty dark place for months after.  As a sort of “eff-you” to everyone, I decided to join the Marines.  I took a semester off and joined the Reserves.  After I graduated, my unit was slated to go Iraq.  But, I was injured in training and ended up stuck at Camp Pendleton.  While I was laid up, I decided to write a comic book script. That first script became Dead Souls. I was lucky enough to gain the public endorsements of both Alan Moore and Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth right off the bat. After writing comics for a few years, The 69 Eyes from Finland asked me to write their comic, which I did through my old publisher, Seraphemera (co-written with the publisher Marc Moorash). That book led to a job with Cradle of Filth writing their graphic novel The Curse of Venus Aversa. So, I’m a former Marine who used to be a Goth DJ, and who writes artsy black and white comic books for rock bands.

DD: How did you find yourself getting into making comics?

KA: Prior to graduating, a friend introduced me to Cradle of Filth.  I was so moved by their reverence for the darker side of history and myth, that I started reading voraciously again.  I’ve always read comics, since I was about seven and an uncle introduced me to them.  After binging on Cradle’s music for months, I had an idea of a comic about Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory as vampire vigilantes (I was young), and it wouldn’t leave my mind.  I thought that was a good cue to develop the idea further.

DD: So what can you tell me about Dead Souls. What’s it all about?

KA: The opening hook was, again, the idea of these two historical murderers alive and killing criminals in modern New Orleans. But, after discarding a few ideas I boiled it down to the idea that historical serial killers, dictators, and other unsavory types were coming back to life all around the world.  Vlad and Elizabeth are just two of them, but there are others.  They are immortal, and as far as they know, nothing can kill them.  The seed of the idea remained, though.  Vlad and Elizabeth decide to kill criminals--him, to sate his misanthropy and search for meaning; and her, to fulfill her bloodlust--but, the plan goes disastrously off the rails.  They attract the attention of the police (obviously), someone who hunts their kind, and a conspiracy of other immortals that have formed a paramilitary cult in Antarctica.

DD: Who are the main characters?

KA: Vlad and Elizabeth are the main characters, of course.  But, there are two detectives from the New Orleans Police Department--John Brite and Mark Walpole.  When our immortal killers hit the streets, they obviously attract the attention of the police, but, Michael Hartford and his men, who claim to be from the FBI also shows up to “take over the case” (you’ve seen crime shows).  However, we learn quickly that they may be from another organization entirely.  There is a cult in New Orleans seeking their help in importing child sex slaves from Vietnam, and they may tie into the paramilitary cult mentioned before.

DD: Where did this idea come from?

KA: As I said, I was listening to a lot of Cradle of Filth and reading as many legitimate history books (and not History Channel shite) about famous killers--Vlad Dracula, Elizabeth Bathory, Jack the Ripper, Gilles des Rais, H.H. Holmes, and others.  A lot of serial killer and horror culture traffics in hyperbole and legend about these figures, so I looked for solid historical texts--including the Bathory trial transcripts and contemporary writings about Dracula (which I should point out were, very often, also trumped up).

DD: What can readers expect in terms of Horror?

KA: Obviously, Dead Souls was very violent in its first incarnation. This new graphic novel, subtitled Resurrection, is even more bloody and visceral. Both Dracula and Bathory were incredibly violent and sadistic individuals. To pretend otherwise or to emphasize their better qualities--he was a Romanian patriot, and she was a willful female noble that could run with the men--ignores how terrible both of them were, even by the standards of their own time. But, Dead Souls also deals with a more philosophical horror--how man negotiates meaninglessness. For all of us, we can wonder about why we are here, whether there is a god, and the other big questions until death removes our ability to even ask. The immortals in Dead Souls don’t even have that luxury. The idea is that an endless life without answers might be even worse than one that simply ends.

DD: If you were to give this book a movie style rating (G, PG, PG-13, R,  X) what would it get, and
why would you say that?

KA: It’s so R-rated that it’s not even funny. My comics aren’t for kids. Although, I might like the challenge of writing a meaningful, interesting all-ages comic--so that’s not completely out of the question for me. But, Dead Souls is littered with violence, profanity, adult themes (vigilantism, human trafficking), and even a bit of nudity that I wouldn’t give it to a kid. Then again, everyone allows their children to play Grand Theft Auto these days. My youthful efforts to sneak The Crow graphic novel and Marilyn Manson CDs almost seem quaint by comparison.

DD: What are you hoping readers can take away from this story?

KA: I hope they leave with a deeper appreciation of historical studies. There is so much misinformation about Vlad, Elizabeth, and other historical killers. If people are interested in figures like that, I would hope they would find solid texts by historians and not just rely on the History (Histrionic?) Channel. Vlad and Elizabeth are written as close to their historical counterparts as I could, while understanding that there has to be a little room for artistic license. But, I would like readers to take away what any good story offers--insight into their own life and experiences, and a new perspective they may not have had. Dead Souls is not a hopeful book. Vlad doesn’t find faith or salvation by the end. Rather, it is about the search for meaning in the apparent absence of it. Spiritually and philosophically, how do you create something out of nothing?

DD: Were you into any horror titles growing up that lead you to want to create a book like this?

KA: As far as comics, I really loved Marvel’s horror characters. I loved reading Tomb of Dracula reprints when I was a kid and there was a really good Morbius the Living Vampire solo series that came out in the early 1990s. James O’Barr’s The Crow was also an enormous influence. And while it’s not horror, I’ve always liked the bleak, misanthropic, and cynical quality of The Punisher when it’s written well--the idea that Frank Castle is just an empty shell of a man who only has a single-minded, violent pursuit to define him. He has nothing left after surviving Vietnam and losing his family. If he didn’t kill criminals, he’d have to just kill himself. So what I’m saying is that I’m really cheerful and loads of fun at parties.

DD: What was the most horrific thing that happened to you when you were working on this book?

KA: God, besides blowing out my left knee in the Marines? I remember that I almost got into a fight with a guy at my first signing because he wouldn’t leave me alone about the Nikolai Gogol novel entitled Dead Souls. He asked me if I’d read it, I said that I hadn’t, and then he badgered me for a while before I told him to back off. I named the comic after the Joy Division song, but a few hipsters have tried to one-up me by asking me about the novel (why is it always Russian literature with people like that?). I haven’t read it, though I would like to.

DD: Can we expect more from you horror comic wise in the future?

KA: Of course. Horror is where my heart is. Oftentimes, though, I find that comics are better suited for less tangible forms of horror. It’s hard to jump out at someone on a page, or even gross them out. But, you can traffic in disturbing ideas. While a lot of my work probably won’t scare you or make you keep the lights on, it might make you ask difficult or uncomfortable questions--or see the world around you as a bleaker or more disturbing place. And visually, you have to be really creative. Everyone’s seen everything now. When we were kids in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, seeing R-rated movies or a Playboy was like finding gold. Now, you can see people being executed by firing squads or having their heads cut off by terrorists online. And obviously, porn is everywhere. You have to get really creative to disturb people now. I look to directors like David Cronenberg who invented new kinds of gore for inspiration. Or for comics, in the Swamp Thing issue Alan Moore wrote where the guy eats one of the orange tubers that he takes from ST. You can’t just show people losing limbs anymore. It’s boring, and it’s not scary.

So where can readers find out more about this book?

KA: Right now, they should go to We’re trying to raise the funds to move forward on this project. We were able to raise almost $43,000 for Cradle of Filth for The Curse of Venus Aversa. I’m hoping we can leverage the fans we gained from that project to support this one. Everyone can also check out my personal website and my publishing company’s site at

DD: So in summary give me a quick recap on Dead Souls and why fans should give it a try.

KA: Dead Souls is a visceral, thoughtful, historically accurate look at two figures who are usually misrepresented by the myths that have surrounded them. For traditional comics, it has criminals getting shot in the face. For independent comic fans, there are compelling character moments, philosophical exploration, and a moody noir atmosphere. For music fans, there are nods to metal and rock culture throughout the book--so much so that Dani Filth and Jyrki 69 of the 69 Eyes are both involved with the book--with Jyrki singing on an exclusive soundtrack CD by New Orleans industrial rockers Shrapnihil. It is, in many ways, a culmination of my youthful influences and experiences. And now, Douglas Freeman will be giving it the love and care that it deserves. I hope everyone checks it out.