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HBO's 'True Blood' sinks fangs into comic books

By KJ Matthews, CNN
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'True Blood' sinks fangs into comics
  • "True Blood" is capitalizing on popularity with a comic book
  • The first issue in the series is scheduled to be released at Comic-Con
  • The show's creator spoke with CNN about the new project and the upcoming television season

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- HBO's "True Blood" is already in its third season and it is one of the most watched shows on cable. The last show on HBO to garner as large an audience was "The Sopranos."

The show has tons of fan sites and more "True Blood" fanatics worldwide than you can shake a stake at.

So what better time to launch a comic book right? Well, that's exactly what creator Alan Ball thought. He, along with publishers IDW and HBO, are putting out the first "True Blood" comic book in a series which debuts at Comic-Con.

But if you think it's just like the TV show, think again.

CNN recently spoke with Ball about the comic book, the show and what's next for "True Blood."

CNN: So we are going into the third season of "True Blood."

Alan Ball: Yeah.

CNN: It's as popular as ever. There couldn't be a better time to bring out the comic book.

Ball: Well, we were approached last year by some comic book publishers and it seemed like a great fit.

I mean it seems like there's definitely characters and a story to fill comic books outside of the world of the show. So I said yeah, let's go for it. We got together and we talked about stories, and we came up with a story. Now issue one is ready and it's going to be available at Comic-Con on July 21.

CNN: Was it hard to create this comic book series? ... The TV show is based on a book, so are you paralleling the comic book to the actual show?

Ball: Well it was a little difficult for me because comics are such a distinct medium in which I have never worked. So I had to learn a little bit about the medium and what it was all about.

What we decided to do was to take the characters of the show and put them in a story that's independent of the show itself, but is very true to the mythology of the show. It's not something that is dependent on the show or the show is dependent on it, which makes a lot of sense.

CNN: But is it hard to essentially write two different "True Blood" scripts?

Ball: Well, you have to stay on top of the mythology. You can't have vampires being made one way in the comic book and a different way in the show. You can't have characters having different histories in the show and another one in the comic. ... You just really have to stay true to what we call the bible of the show and not deviate from that. And that's hard. As each year goes on there's more stuff to stay on top of.

CNN: The creatures are very interesting in the comic book series.

Ball: There is a new creature in the comic book that is different from any creature that we've done on the show. But who's to say what's going to happen in the future.

CNN: How hard was it to develop the picture for that?

Ball: We actually knew what the creature was. But in terms of how it manifested physically and what powers it had to work with -- well, I sort of left that up to the artist. We knew that it was vicious, it was supernatural, it was not human, and it could do some real damage. And that sort of got incorporated into the writing of the script.

CNN: Are you influenced by the fans because many times these fans know stuff that even the "True Blood" writers and publicists don't know about.

Ball: It's true, they are very hardcore.

CNN: Putting a comic book together, are you looking at some of those fan sites to see what people want or what they're saying at all? Are you influenced by that?

Ball: I'm not. I personally do not go to those sites. I don't read what people post.

There are plenty of people in the writers room who do and communicate things to me. I just don't have the time.

And obviously I spend so many hours per day working on "True Blood" that in my free time the last thing I want to do is have more "True Blood" -- you know what I mean? I tend to read or play with my dogs or go in the canyon or something like that, because I don't want to go crazy. I want to maintain some reality.

CNN: So you guys are unveiling the comic book at Comic-Con this week. Who's going to be there? What are we going to see at Comic-Con?

Ball: A lot of us are going to be there -- a lot of the cast. I know that Anna and Stephen and Ryan and Sam and Rutina and Nelson and Deborah will be there. I think Joe is going to be there. I don't think Alexander Skarsgard is going to be there because he's going to be shooting a movie. I'm assuming it'll be pretty much the same group, and we have a big panel discussion. We're going to sign autographs and just sort of partake in the wackiness that is Comic-Con. It's really fun.

CNN: How many comic books are in the first series? And how many will be put out?

Ball: We're going to do six issues this year. I think there will be a new one every month. And then once all six issues are published, they will be bound in a special collector's anthology edition. And I'm assuming we'll do it again next year if it works out well.

CNN: So where do you hope to rank in the world of comic books?

Ball: Oh I don't know, I'm such a newbie.

To use a "True Blood" term, I'm such a newbie to the world of comics that I'm not really sure.

I know the comic book is really good. It's a really fun story. It's really entertaining. It's all the characters that you know and love in a new situation fighting a new adversary. You also get some very interesting back story on all the characters, which is very true to who they are. I'm very pleased with it.

CNN: Since it's independent of the actual show, will you have new characters being introduced into future issues of the comic book series?

Ball: There is a main story where one known character encounters this creature in a situation that they can't get out of, and each of them sort of shares a story from their past and that's where we might meet some new people. We'll see some people who may no longer exist on the show.

CNN: Okay so give us a sneak peak of upcoming episodes on season three.

Ball: Very soon you're going to find out something that is very important from Eric's past and that is going to motivate him and has been motivating him for years. That is a little bit of a big shocker.