Exclusive Preview: Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #1

As part of our month-long series of exclusives with Dark Horse Comics, we have been exploring many of the publisher's horror titles. Next up is an exclusive preview of eight pages from Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #1 by horror scribe Christopher Golden. In this, the latest in his Baltimore series, the monster hunter Lord Baltimore begins his ultimate quest to pursue the legendary, ancient evil that is the Red King.

And while humanity is on the brink of destruction, The Cult of the Red King is a great place to join the Baltimore adventures. Golden joined us to discuss the first issue of B:TCRK, to tease Baltimore's "beginning of the end" and share a few of his current preferences in the horror genre.

Where does Cult of the Red King pick up in the Baltimore storyline, and what does this plot revolve around?

By the end of Chapel of Bones, Baltimore had accomplished the task he'd set out for himself: Destroying the monster who'd murdered his family. He'd fully expected that when he'd done that, he would die -- but he didn't. He's not quite human anymore, not really allowed to die, because the powers that be have forced a different mission on him. See, the Red King is stirring in his sleep. More and more people around the world are growing aware of him and worshipping him, trying to gain favor and power through that worship. And in turn, all of that attention is disturbing the Red King's sleep more and more. If this keeps up, he's going to wake, and step right into our world, and then chances are good he'll revert it back to the maelstrom of chaos and darkness it was when the race of man was young.

This is not the first time we've heard of the Red King, but who/what is he?

He's referred to many different ways, but one that I quite like is "the god before gods." He's the father of all monsters; the thing from which all manner of monstrosities and demons came. Even sleeping, he can dream them into life. He ruled in a time before man, before gods, and worship of him went well into the age of man until it faded enough that he slipped into a kind of parallel world, his own limbo, and rested. But he won't sleep forever.

Are there other familiar characters we'll see return in some form for this?

Absolutely.  The Cult of the Red King is the beginning of the end. Nearly all of the pieces will be on the board for this story, and by end of this arc, several well-loved, established characters will be off the board for good.

What kind of "real" legends or folklore are you excited to play with in this plot?

Y'know, funnily enough -- and I think to our benefit -- we invented all of the lunatic horrors you'll see in this story. Monstrous things floating over the ocean, a coven of witches who worship the Red King, soul-sucking wraiths and human cultists. But it's the combination of those elements, how we weave them together, and how they are leading to the revelation of the Red King's history and secrets that are the real excitement. More and more, this series is becoming about the folklore and legends we're creating rather than the ones that inspired us.

Use this opportunity to discuss other creators in the horror realm. What are you digging in books, comics and films in the genre right now?

Book-wise, I think anyone who doesn't read Tim Lebbon's The Silence is really missing out. What a terrific novel, with shades of John Wyndham but with a narrative drive that blew me away. Comics-wise, I'm so enjoying Afterlife With Archie, though I wish it would come out more often, and of course Terry Moore's Rachel Rising is terrific. Of course, what Mignola, Arcudi and Scott Allie are doing in the various Hellboy universe books is growing more and more unsettling and horrific. As for movies, much as I enjoyed The Babadook, the best horror film I've seen in a long time was It Follows. Somehow, it's unique and familiar all at the same time, but when I say familiar, I mean only that it reminds me of the moments of discovery I had watching horror films in the late '70s and early '80s, when I was say, 12 through 20. In film, we're seeing all of the great horror come from non-studio sources, because the studios decide they're going to make a horror film and then they hire writers and directors whose primary passion isn't horror. The genuine horror films are coming from the indie side, maybe getting a release through a studio, but are made on a budget by people who get it -- who give a crap. Yeah, watch It Follows.

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