Conceptual designer Ricardo Delgado—he’s worked on films like The Incredibles, Men in Black, and Wall-E, along with his own Age of Reptiles graphic novels—is already well-known for his striking artwork. His latest project takes on one of horror’s most iconic creatures, and io9 has a sneak peek today.
Universal Studios’ Dracula celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, so Delgado’s project is especially fitting: Dracula of Transylvania, an illustrated “reimagining” of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. The project, already funded several times over on Kickstarter, features a new take on the fearsome vampire, with 20 illustrations to help flesh out the story.
Take a look at some of the artwork below, and then read on for io9's exclusive excerpt!
“Why are you afară (11) so late in such a terrible place?” said the Romanian woman to Jonathan Harker.
They shared a carriage that rattled, bounced, swerved, shuddered and shrieked along a dark country road. They had bounced around inside the horse-drawn carriage for the entire journey in silence until this moment. The horses that pulled the carriage neighed nervously, more scared than their driver, who hurried them onward, and for good reason.
11 Romanian, meaning outside.
“I’m sorry?” said Jonathan, lonely, alone in a strange country and not the faintest inkling that his life was about to be changed forever. “This might be the roughest coach ride I’ve ever been on.”
He was being jostled around in the haggard coach like a rag doll. Twenty-one years old, with dark hair and aqua eyes that made women smile, he fidgeted in discomfort. Harker wore a nice, sharp, brown suit that seemed to gather more and more wrinkles and creases with each passing bump, shimmer and bounce of the stagecoach. He rapped a gentleman’s cane against the carriage wall in impatience. In contrast to Harker’s solidarity of ochre, the woman wore humble yet colorful traditional clothing that covered her from head to toe. She held an infant bundled in peasant cloth. They sat in the dark, rim-lit by moonlight that drifted in past curtained windows.
The vehicle that held them was two generations removed from being fashionable, had an axle that squeaked with pain and a back wheel that creaked from exhaustion. The horses’ neighing increased, exerting themselves as they raced up a prodigious climb. It was night outside and they could only see moonlit slivers of half of their faces.
“This route is a strange and dangerous place,” said the woman, “full of evil spiritele (12), Young Sir. Why a gentleman out so late tonight?”
“I was given this timetable by the landowner client I’m meeting tonight,” said Jonathan. “Must admit it’s a strange place to finalize a transaction. What brings you and your child out here?”
“My father is near moarte (13),” she said, “and he lives on the other side of this pass, in Vatra Dornei (14). This was the last coach tonight, and I must see my father before he leaves this world of the living behind. My husband is away at work, so there is no one to care for my baby, so we must both go. The driver say you pay him more to go overnight, so I am grateful. Maybe I see my tată before he passes.”
“I am sorry for you and your father,” said Jonathan with sympathy. He closed his eyes, feeling a hundred years old at the moment. “I miss New York. And Whitby.”
“Are you well, domnișor (15)?” said the woman, with a heavy accent, as she gave her infant the end of her right pinkie to suck on.
12 Romanian, for spirits. 13 Romanian for death.
14 Vatra Dornei is a small city in Northeastern Romania, on the Eastern side of the Tihuta, or Borgó Pass in Transylvania.
15 Romanian: young master
Jonathan nodded and half-shouted over the din of the carriage, “Yes, thanks, I’m fine. I’m just tired from a long trip on a miserable errand. As I said, I’ve been sent here to complete a purchase of land, but I also have to find the head of my company. He’s missing. I’ve never traveled though this part of the world before, and I miss a comfortable bed. I miss the food at Delmonico’s16. I miss my Fiancé¢.”
“I hear your accent,” said the woman as she cradled her baby. “Is it American?” She read his nod and said, “I have never been to the West.”
“I am sure your fiancée misses you as well,” continued the woman, her accent lush and beautiful. “She also is from New York?”
“No, English. From England. My parents are English as well.”
“My country is simplu and strange,” she nodded, looking beyond Harker and into the darkness.
“No, it’s beautiful, what I’ve seen of it,” said Harker with a weary smile, “The mountain ranges are amazing. I’d love to retire to a place like this someday. Climb some of these mountains. And the people are charming.”
She gave Harker a smile worth gold. “You are very kind.”
Outside, the vast Carpathians sped by, shrouded in might and mystery. The carriage kept rising, heading up a ribbon of a road hewn out of what the mountains would allow.
Harker beamed at the child. “How old is he?”
“My Nadya is seven months,” said the woman proudly, though English that had been learned after her native Romanian. “She will travel to New York one day. I am Catina.”
“Please have her come visit me,” said Harker with a grin of kindness and sincerity, which the mother reciprocated. “I am Jonathan Harker, at your service.”
Just when Jonathan thought the trip would indeed be endless, the vehicle reached a crest then skidded to a hurried stop. A hard gale swept into the carriage, and cold became colder.
“This is Borgó Pass (17), Young Master, and hurry for please,” announced the coachman from atop the carriage, through a thick, regional accent. Fear and haste lined his words. No sounds of weight shifting from atop the driver’s seat, so it was clear to Jonathan that the coachman was not getting down to help with the luggage.
16 Delmonico’s is a series of quality restaurants in New York, originally established in 1827.
17 Borgó Pass (Pasul Tihuta in Romanian) is in the Bârgãu Mountains and connects Transylvania and Moldavia.
Harker had snapped up his hat and cane when Catina reached out and snatched him by the arm, terror splashed across her face. “No, not here, Young Sir! Periculos (18)! I did not know you were going to stop here! Vrăjitorie (19)!”
“Please,” said Jonathan, gently but firmly pulling Catina’s hand off his arm. “This is where I have my business.”
“Let him be, femeie (20)! It is his concern. Hurry, good Sir!” shouted the coachman from above and outside, and Harker opened the door of the cab and slipped out into the night. Cold slapped him like a curse. The hard soil crunched under Harker’s shoes, as if it did not want him there. He looked back at the Catina, and she shook her head repeatedly at him in fear, her eyes begging him to step back inside the cab. She held Nadya as if she did not want her baby to get anywhere near the door, much less outside.
“It’ll be all right, Miss,” said Jonathan to reassure her. Clearly the local superstition was getting the better of her, he thought. Harker shut the door as she shouted, nearly hysterical, “Come back inside! Don’t let him leave you! Teren profan! This is unholy ground! “
The coachman, a native Slav covered in a blanket, coat, scarves and hat backlit by a single lantern atop the carriage, hurriedly launched two bags down from atop the carriage that landed on the ground next to Harker. He seemed to be ready to leave as fast as possible. The four horses were whinnying and stomping with alarm.
“You are armed, Young Master?” said the coachman with a shiver and a quick look around.
“Then God be with you. Domnul fie cu tine (21). Do not speak to the ghosts. Run from everything else.”
The woman reached out a hand to grab his cane and pull him back inside, but Harker stepped back and said, “Do not worry for me, Miss Catina. The master of this place comes for me. I will meet your Nadya in Manhattan soon enough.”
He gave her that smile, but she burst into tears as the coachman shouted at the four-in-hand team of horses to start, and they did. The carriage swerved to the left and headed down into the road and the other side of the pass. Even the dust clouds evaporated quickly, as if they were afraid to be seen. Jonathan realized that the lantern atop the carriage was taking the only source of illumination with it.
18 Romanian; danger, dangerous 19 Romanian; sorcery
20 Romanian; woman
21 Romanian; ‘God be with you.’
Jonathan heard Catina cry in Romanian, “Nu-l poți lăsa!” You cannot leave him! “Taci din gură sau te va lăsa, de asemenea!” shouted the driver, his voice
disappearing as fast as the carriage did. Shut your mouth or I shall leave you as well! Jonathan Harker, Englishman from New York, was alone and was enveloped by darkness.
Harker took a deep breath, then saw it exhale, and knew his eyes were merely adjusting to the night, which after a few seconds, they did. The road had crested at the top of the pass, and he stood in the middle of it. Surrounded by elaborate silhouettes of tree lines on either side, with a smaller dirt road leading off the right. A bulbous moon drew what light it could from the terrified sun and cast it down over a large bank of mist, which moved toward Jonathan faster than a man could run.
Then, stranger still.
To his left, three swollen corpses hung by rope to several large hanging posts, rotting out in the open air.
Their skeletal hands were at their throats, still trying to pull the nooses off their necks. Their bodies where covered with welts that were in the shape of upside-down crucifixes. The ropes made a dull, creaking sound as the wind swayed the corpses back and forth. Five graves lay to his right, with simple wooden crosses of various stages of decay and exposure pushed into each one. One of the graves, recently dug, swelled with unknown horror, while the four others sagged. What he thought were barren tree trunks were actually three large, ancient stone monoliths, covered with runes. They sat among the other trees, visible from the road.
Instinctively, Jonathan turned around, sensing that this was a place to be alert. A lone shrine stood next to the road. Jonathan looked closer. A small statue of the Virgin Mary stood inside it, defiant, as if it had been there for centuries. Half of her head had been cleaved off. The entire shrine was covered with hundreds of tiny crucifixes. Blood had recently been poured over the statue. Birds and animals had defecated all over the crumpled roof. The base of the statue reeked of urine.
It was a terrible place.
Mist, silence and fear embraced Jonathan Harker.
In the distance, the sounds of the carriage faded, and Jonathan now understood the urgency of the driver and Catina’s fear.
He reached into his coat pocket and found his Webley revolver. His dear friend Quincy Morris would be upset that he did not carry an American Colt, provincial as Morris was, but this was Jonathan’s favorite pistol, and the Texan was far too precious about his firearms anyway. Harker found it strange that no sound had been made, either by beast or bird, nor even tree creaking, since the carriage had left. The hard, bitter soil crunched under his shoes, sounding like thunder.
Mist cleared, then deepened again.
Cold began to seep over him.
His breath came faster, and Jonathan Harker had to fight the feeling that he was being watched. His right hand found the Webley again, for comfort. His left hand held the cane. Chiding himself for being silly, Jonathan began to steady himself when another strange thing happened.
A lone light came through the mist, toward him, and in an instant the boundaries of reality began to crumble around Jonathan Harker, who staggered backwards, terrified.
Toward him shambled an apparition. A spectre.
The ghost of a soldier, wearing the armor of a 16th century Cuirassier (22), his chest and front of his legs covered in metal, holding a lamp in one hand and a sword in the other. His head held up a helmet. The ghost was that of a man in his 30’s, and Jonathan realized he could see right through the apparition. The ghost looked like he’d fought in a hundred battles and survived ninety-nine of them. The soldier was haggard, bleeding spiritual blood from wounds and rat bites along his neck, right arm and leg. Scars old and new scribbled over his face, the ghost looked at Jonathan with the thousand-yard stare of an aged man-at-arms.
“Be ye aware,” moaned the ghost with an antiquated British accent, nodding as he spoke. “All the kyngs and realms rose again’ him! But to no avail! Gutted us lyke pigs! The Hellspawn ys vulnerable when he transforms! But we could never take the byre (23), and t’was was our decree of death. That, and hys accursed rats. It need not be yr fate. Only ours.”
22 Cuirassiers were European armored cavalry. A Cuirass is a two-piece, front and back metal breastplate.
23 Byre: Old English word for opportunity
Jonathan nodded back, his eyes larger than the moon, heart in his mouth. He trembled as the ghost staggered past him, toward whatever path a ghost takes during his or her nightly haunting.
The mist began to clear.
“He comes, even now, our conqueror, your nemesis,” said the ghostly man-at- arms as he faded into nothingness. “Heed my words, boy.”
Faster than the ghost had arrived, it evaporated, the light lingering for but a moment longer than the apparition.
Harker was once again alone.
A quick dip into his coat to check the pistol gave him miniscule comfort.
A sound of old metal parts moving together came from the smaller worn road, and a carriage came out of the mist and at Jonathan Harker, who at that very moment, forgot all about Delmonico’s or any other of the great eateries of the world.
A low growl behind him whirled Harker around yet again, wondering what he would see next. Weaving their way out of the mist and forest, a half-dozen wolves moved silently, spreading to Harker’s left and right. Behind him, the carriage clanged closer. They seemed larger, darker and more ferocious than any he had seen at the Zoological Society of London.
Jonathan had his cane in his left hand, and his right dove into his coat for the Webley.
The wolves began to snarl viciously, slathering spit, baring canines and tongues as they advanced.
Three corpses twitched in the wind, interested in the outcome of this unexpected joust.
The horrifying, swollen grave was curious as well.
Behind Harker, the coach kept coming.
“Sir!” shouted Jonathan over his shoulder as he backed up, “If you be my host, I surely hope you have a weapon!”
Harker was surprised the horses had not advanced. The wolves drew nearer, backs arching, lips back, teeth exposed and barking ferociously now. Their eyes blazed desperation and hunger. Jonathan’s patience for his silent host ran out, and he shouted without looking back, “Are you blind as well as deaf? Can you not see the wolves!”
In frustration Jonathan turned around to scold the driver when he saw that the carriage had no horses and was moving right at him, of its own will.
There was no coachman, no driver, no passengers. The carriage was a silhouette, knifing through the mist and towards him. Stunned, Jonathan tried to swallow but shock and terror clamped it shut. The carriage skidded to a sharp stop upon its own, scattering soil at Jonathan’s feet, and with a long, single creak, the passenger door opened like a coffin door. Harker was stunned beyond comprehension.
Then, a grand shadow draped itself over the carriage, a blur of complete darkness, before an enormous, black shape swept down from the macabre night and landed with tremendous force on the driver’s bench. It crouched sharp and still as a tombstone, as wings with a twenty-foot wingspan extended themselves into the mist and the night.
With the wings of a bat.
Twin eyes of fire, surrounded by a massive head with two triangular ears that folded back in anger glared down at Jonathan Harker, unblinking with fury and malice. A mouth full of opalescent fangs, canines and incisors parted and snarled at him. Jonathan sucked in air, terrified at this new menacing presence.
Then Jonathan remembered he was armed.
In a heartbeat Harker raised the Webley and opened fire.
In Harker’s hand, the Webley barked.
Again and again, shattering the eerie silence of the night, Harker emptied the revolver into the huge bat. Jonathan could feel the hammer slam against the back of the pistol after he’d pulled on the trigger, yet the thing still stood alive and stout behind the smoke of Herker’s firearm, lowering its ears ever further and squinting its crimson eyes in fury at the young man. Its snarl was like metal being torn to pieces. Realizing that the rounds had done nothing to harm the beast, Harker turned and ran.
Right into the leap of one of the wolves.
Excerpt from Ricardo Delgado’s Dracula of Transylvania reprinted by permission. Copyright Clover Press.
The campaign for Dracula of Transylvania runs through Thursday, March 25 at 8:55 p.m PDT; there are an array of rewards for supporting that you can check out right here. It’s estimated to ship in June.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.