Otava Heikkilä returns for the third installment of his vampiric graphic novel series Letters for Lucardo entitled The Silent Lord and the story takes a dark turn as the vampire Lucardo tried to save his terminally ill human lover Ed Fiedler over to the dubious god of all vampires in hopes that he can also live forever.
We got a chance to speak to Heikkilä just as the third installment launched as a crowdfunding campaign through Iron Circus Comics, and he shared his insight into the series, his thoughts on vampire fiction in general, as well as some upcoming projects in this exclusive interview.
Letters for Lucardo: The Silent Lord is the third installment in your series. How would you describe the series for newcomers?
Otava Heikkilä: Letters for Lucardo is a four-part story about Edmund Fiedler, a 61 year old human scribe becoming romantically involved with Lucardo von Gishaupt, the heir to the mysterious Night Court, a family of immortals who worship the god-patriarch Silent Lord. Edmund is a late bloomer who came to his queerness in his fifties, while Lucardo has had all the time and money in the world to self-actualize, having been thirty-something for hundreds of years. The story so far follows the early stages of their relationship, the first steps of being sexually and romantically vulnerable with somebody, as well as managing the enormous power dynamic inherent between their respective stations in society. Of course, there is also the looming reality of something secret and larger-than-life hanging in the air around them, as Ed slowly gains access deeper behind the tightly closed doors of the Night Court.
Where do we find your characters at the start of the story?
Heikkilä: At the end of book one, Lucardo’s austere father Ibauld sends the common Ed away and insists Lucardo focus on his duties over short-lived mortal romances. Lucardo schemes Ed back into the court in book two, but at the end of the book Ed has fallen ill with a lung-rotting illness that will take his life. Distraught by the thought of losing his lover, Lucardo takes his body to their cruel god-patriarch Silent Lord, to make a pact of life.
Do you think vampire fiction works best when it is a period piece?
Heikkilä: I think vampires work in any setting really, I just personally love historical fiction and diving into that specific era of gothic horror invoked by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. There’s this feeling of one world era ending and another one just being born (and, you know, now is the time of monsters). There’s a lot of xenophobia and queerphobia inherent to these old stories, where the vampire is the ring leader of “filthy foreigners” and “evil queers”, and these threats are defeated at the end by somebody who represents white western colonial values. To quote the kids online, there’s a lot to unpack there. To me (and this isn’t a fresh perspective by any means), the roles of who is the villain and who is the mirror for the audience are malleable and ripe for subverting in vampire fiction. I think modern vampires tap into different themes because the fear of death walking in the erotically loaded body of a human-eater becomes different things when mapped over our modern world, versus a historical imagined past. Regardless of the setting, there’s always a throughline of queer otherness to vampire stories for me.
What are your biggest influences in terms of your art and storytelling?
Heikkilä: It varies hugely between projects! Lately I’ve been smitten by the video game Blasphemous by the Game Kitchen and Pathologic 2 by Ice-Pick Lodge. Both are horror games that offer brutal quiet landscapes of visual storytelling, interspersed with perfectly hewn but challenging dialogue. Another long-term favorite is the Descent by Jeff Long, a book about caving and Satan living at the core of the earth. I love stories that almost want to spit you out, not because the text is too hard to read, but because it keeps testing and surprising you.
The third book of Letters for Lucardo is the darkest installment, so I have horror on my mind, but I of course have to mention EK Weaver’s the Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal as a formative comic for the project and myself; Weaver did something in 2010 that I had never seen before, which is make a long-form comic about relationships and sex and queerness of such painstakingly high quality, and releasing it all for free online. I read it and went “I want to do this, this is all I want to do.”
Iron Circus has been one of the trailblazers in terms of Kickstarter campaigns for comics. What do you see as the benefits and hurdles of crowdfunding?
Heikkilä: I make comics for queer adult audiences about sex, queerness, horror, interpersonal drama. There’s an audience but very few publishers for this stuff. I joke all the time that everything I do is completely unmarketable, and it’s kind of the truth. My paths are self-publishing and indie publishers like ICC, who are specifically committed to shouldering these hurdles for the artist. I think crowdfunders are an excellent leveling field for authors who would otherwise not get the funding they need for their works, simple as.
Heikkilä; Right now I’m working on my next long-form comic project, about transmasculine witches who grew up in an all-girl’s Witch Coven, which they left as oath breakers for abandoning their womanhood. They are both in their fifties now, with a shared tumultuous past concerning their former teacher and father-figure who has become the main suspect of a violent crime. The comic will be called Time Will Devour His Children, and I’ll self-publish the first chapter online this year. After that chapter is out, I’ll be working on the final book of Letters for Lucardo!
The Silent Lord campaign is live now and will run until April 28, 2022.