It’s been over a year since Lady Baltimore was first announced. Co-written by Hellboy’s Mike Mignola and bestselling novelist Christopher Golden, with art by Brother Nash creator, Bridgit Connell, the five-part comic series sees Sofia Valk embrace her monster-hunting destiny by taking up the Baltimore mantle. The series also features colours by Michelle Madsen and covers by Abigail Larson and, after a year-long pandemic delay, is finally here from Dark Horse Comics.
“Her name was Sofia Valk. Once she lived in an Estonian village, before the evil came. But when Europe erupted with the early battles of World War II, it was time for Sofia Valk to embrace her destiny as Lady Baltimore.”
Golden and Mignola’s Baltimore series began in 2007 as part of his Outerverse, introducing fans to Lord Henry Baltimore, who had awakened the wrath of a vampire on the battlefields during World War I. Beginning her life on the pages of the Baltimore: The Witch of Harju, Sofia became Lord Baltimore’s most trusted ally. Now, thirteen years later, the monsters — witches, Nazis, vampires — are still coming and she must stand in their way without becoming a monster herself in Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens. Though the new series is born from the previous Baltimore stories, Golden promises that Lady Baltimore is “perfect for new readers, who can start with issue 1 and not miss a beat, while longtime fans will be thrilled to see how the Baltimore mythos evolves, as some familiar faces encounter brand new characters and fresh terrors.”
Here, Golden and Connell share their thoughts on the new series, the weight of the Baltimore legacy on their new protagonist, and what we can hope to see in the future for the Lady Baltimore.
Christopher, you’ve described Sofia as a fighter, someone who is grim, but not necessarily without hope. How do you feel about her development as a character since her inception? Has she evolved in the way you initially envisioned when you first started writing the character?
CG: I confess I had no idea when Sofia first entered the story that she would become Lady Baltimore, or that she would evolve into the character she is now. When we first meet her in Baltimore, she was an ordinary woman who had been born and raised to a simple life in Estonia. She’d been married off to a man who turned out to be a brutal drunkard, and who continued to terrorize her after his death. You can read “The Witch of Harju” for a glimpse of that history. Baltimore’s team, prior to that moment, was made up of all men, and here comes Sofia running across a field pursued by her abusive undead husband.
It’s a classic damsel in distress setup, but from the very beginning, we see that Sofia is anything but the classic damsel in distress. She’s determined and formidable. Though untrained as a fighter, she learns fast and quickly becomes as efficient as the others. That was all intentional, but then she became a more integral character. She became Baltimore’s most trusted ally and confidante, the only one to whom he’d open up at all, the one who was able to draw out a bit of humanity from him. They shared an intimacy that was entirely platonic.
While writing the final volume of Baltimore, we plotted a time jump during which nobody had seen Baltimore or Sofia for years (they’d been off plotting how to defeat the Red King). It was Baltimore’s deep conviction that he would die once he had killed the Red King, and he knew many of his team—his apostles, we called them—would also die. But if she Sofia survived, he wanted to make sure that she would be all right, have a chance at a new life, and as he had no heirs, he married her so that she would inherit his lands as Lady Baltimore.
While we were working that out, we knew that Sofia would carry on the fight into World War II, but it wasn’t until I started plotting Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens that I understood what I’d been building to all along. The forced marriage to a husband she never loved, the platonic love with Baltimore—her best friend, the fact she could not return Harish’s feelings, though she cared deeply for him. In building Sofia’s own team, it struck me that she’s queer. I’ve had LGBTQ+ characters in my work from the very beginning—the female lead in my first novel, Of Saints and Shadows (1994), was bisexual—so this was no big revelation for me. It felt right. And the romantic story between Sofia and Imogen is one of my favorite things about this series. That it simply exists, woven into the story.
Bridgit, what kind of research did you do to help form your imagery and interpretation of the words? What kind of inspiration did you draw on for your monster designs?
BC: My Baltimore book collection is now pretty darn beat-up, to be honest. I’ve definitely been flipping through Ben [Stenbeck] and Peter’s [Bergtin] work quite a bit to keep details in the story consistent, and even to drop a few subtle easter eggs. For things like the manor, I researched what part had been burnt down and did a little interior layout for myself to keep rooms consistent. Plus, Sofia has kind of fortified the manor, so there are elements I reused…that sort of thing.
For the more magical stuff, I spent a bit of time looking up actual sigils, designing my own, and exploring chaos magic designs as well, thinking of which groups in the world would use which.
For the monster designs, I definitely ask Mike about those. He has an effortless way of knowing what looks the coolest and what makes it fit into his world. Chris also had some keywords that he wanted for each beast, and I filled in the rest!
My go-to for research is to look up weird aspects of different animals. I included a picture of the little spiky guys from the first issue. Chris mentioned he wanted them to have those star-nosed mole- type faces, which were REALLY fun to play with. He wanted the bodies spiky, so I went with porcupine. Then I looked at those hairless cats for loose, stretchy skin, and koalas for the hands to make them better at climbing and grabbing.
Tell us a bit about your collaborative process. Was there a lot of back and forth between writers and artist?
CG: Bridgit’s an absolutely wonderful creative partner. Every creator has their own process of trying to make a story or a fictional world make sense for them. In the previous Outerverse stories, we’d introduced different kinds of witches and witchcraft, but what we’d done was a bit too nebulous for Bridgit, so she started to break them down into different schools or disciplines of witchcraft and I built on that, incorporating it into what we’d already established and into the larger history and mythology of the Outerverse.
During my earlier work at Dark Horse over the years, contact with the artists wasn’t necessarily discouraged but nor was it encouraged. Once we started this, I was in touch with Bridgit right away and our editor, Katii O’Brien, was really supportive of that. Bridgit and I video chat or text or whatever fairly frequently. She’ll send me questions and suggestions that I always love. I’ll invent a few background characters that I intend to do more with down the line, and Bridgit immediately wants to know more about them. So when I’m being lazy, she makes me think!
BC: Yes, it’s been amazing! This whole team has been fantastic to work with––Katii O’Brien and Jenny Blenk kicking butt on editing and communication, Michelle Madsen doing wonderful colors, and Abigail Larson blasting those covers out of the water. For me, the whole team is the best part about working on this project.
Mike and Chris have been so gracious as well. They’ve been so open to any questions I have, and it’s nice to feel like my ideas matter on this project. Especially with the lore behind the witches too, when Chris and I talked about this hierarchy of witches, I tossed some ideas his way really to just give myself some variation on witches to draw, different covens and such, and he really picked it up and ran with it. It’s exciting to come across these collaborations in the script, and getting a chance to bring them to life.
It’s been over a year since Lady Baltimore was first announced. How does it feel to finally have this story coming out after such a long wait?
CG: Honestly, we’ve sat with this thing so long that it’s kind of weird to think people haven’t read it yet. It feels in some ways like it came out already, but of course it hasn’t. I hope people love Lady Baltimore as much as we do, because we have so much we’d like to do with her!
BC: Oh my goodness, SO good. But at the same time, quarantine days seem to run AND crawl at the same time, don’t they? Still can’t believe she’s here!
Did the delay give you time to think about what might come next for the character after the five-part series?
CG: We’re actually just in the process of having that conversation. I’ve been working on many different projects and I’m so happy to be able to focus on Lady Baltimore and the rest of the Outerverse again, now that the issues are finally coming out. We have plans for Sofia and her team. I mean, if Bridgit’s going to force me to really delve into these supporting characters that barely get any screen time in the first volume, you’d better believe we’re going to make use of them next time around! As for Sofia…World War II is really just getting into full swing. She’s not going to fight the war, but the evil lurking behind it. Yeah, someone needs to focus on that, and Lady Baltimore is the woman for the job.