Philly’s horror comic, ‘Killadelphia,’ is about a lot more than John Adams’ vampire revolution

The horror comic, Killadelphia, uses the vampire genre to explore the sins of American politics and abandonment of inner-city neighborhoods.

The horror comic, Killadelphia, uses the vampire genre to explore the sins of American politics and abandonment of inner-city neighborhoods.

Rodney Barnes’ horror comic, Killadelphia, reads like the Philly version of The Wire, except with undead Founding Fathers drenching the streets with blood.

The story begins when a small-town cop comes home to Philly to bury his estranged father, a homicide detective killed on the job. Amid the crushing violence, poverty, and corruption, the young officer discovers that something uniquely sinister preys on his hometown: John Adams, the second president of the United States, never actually died. Instead, the shambling corpse of our oft-overlooked Founding Father has been amassing a vampire army.

What follows is a history geek’s Armageddon, with first lady Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson — also both undead — jumping into the fray (John Adams eventually sees the light).

Beautifully illustrated by cocreator Jason Shawn Alexander — and praised by Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, and Jordan Peele — Killadelphia uses the vampire genre to explore the sins of American politics and abandonment of inner-city neighborhoods. By drawing on his own estranged relationship with his police detective father, slavery’s painful legacy, and historical events, like the MOVE bombing, Barnes traces centuries of trauma.

“It is such a genuinely fresh take on the vampire idea … I thought that idea had had every shred of meat chewed off of its bones but Rodney found such a genuinely original take on it, and links it to the trauma America is going through right now,” said the actor and comedian Patton Oswalt, who has penned comics for Marvel and DC, and struck up a friendship with Barnes after reading Killadelphia.

In this Q & A, Barnes, who lives in Los Angeles, discusses why Philly is the backdrop of his vampire comic, the complicated baggage of the “Killadelphia” nickname, and the eventual conclusion of his acclaimed series.

John Adams leads a vampire revolution through Philly. How exactly did you land on that?

(Laughing) I’d always wanted to do a vampire graphic novel series. The primary idea was to be there at the beginning of America — that idea of America vs. America. I needed a character who could walk through time, seeing the evolution of America, and how so many people have fallen through the cracks.

In the horror comic, "Killadelphia," John Adams, second president of the United States, never actually died. Instead, the oft-overlooked Founding Father has been amassing a vampire army.
Why Adams?

I was at Hamilton, and the king was laughing at John Adams. I wondered what if John Adams was here? What would John Adams think of them making fun of John Adams?

Vampire John Adams wasn’t too thrilled?

Take death off the table, and now he’s got a do-over. He can make a better America, a freer America. That’s his first goal. But the rest of it is personal and ego. And probably him trying to impress Abigail.

Adams was not actually an immortal demon.

John Adams didn’t own slaves — and he was sort of progressive when it came to women’s rights. Abigail played a role in shaping his perspectives.

In the horror comic, "Killadelphia", John Adams, second president of the United States, never actually died. Instead, the oft-overlooked Founding Father has been amassing a vampire army.
Why Philly?

When you look at Philadelphia you see the beauty and you see the struggle. It has its own personality, it has its own rhythms, it has the concrete, and the cold. It’s in your face. It’s real.

We didn’t want to use it as a prop, like where we just show the Liberty Bell. We wanted to be able to speak to the community — to me, that’s honoring the city in a more substantive way.

“Killadelphia” is a painful nickname.

There is a negative connotation the same way there is with “Chi-Raq.” It’s not an indictment of a city. It’s an indictment of the problem. I’m focused on the problem.

The MOVE bombing is referenced. The city even drops bombs on a high-rise to kill vampires.

I could have ignored it, but it spoke directly to what the book is all about: taking historical events and putting them in context to the characters. How they experienced them as Americans — and how they move forward.

The book deals with issues like policing and institutional racism through story and character.

I try really hard not to take a position of left or right in the politics of the book. I tried to stay right down the middle and speak to either side when it needs to be spoken to, or when a character speaks to it. I think the book goes into the flaws we have as human beings.

Or the undead.

I think everyone in this story is trying to do the best they can, even the vampires.

In his horror comic, "Killadelphia," Rodney Barnes uses the vampire genre to explore the sins of American politics and abandonment of inner-city neighborhoods.
Generational trauma is explored powerfully, especially between the father and son characters, both Black policemen.

The father and son dynamic really came from my relationship with my father. It was always troubled. Once he passed, I remember thinking if we’d had more time, maybe we’d have been able to straighten our stuff out and get closer.

He was a cop?

He was one of the first Black police officers in Anne Arundel, Md. He and my mom broke up when I was really young, but I was always proud when he came around my elementary school in his police car. He just looked like a superhero.

Did he talk about the job?

I didn’t see him enough to actually get to know him as a person, but the symbol — the idea of him — loomed so large in my mind. … I remember being 7 or 8 and seeing his crime scene photos. It was a body in an alley, and there were little holes on the body. And he said, “Oh, rats had gotten to the body.” And it just stuck with a kid with an imagination like mine. I was like, “No, these are vampires.”

“Killadelphia” wraps up its fifth story arc next month. How long will the series go?

When it becomes too big and too fantastic, it’ll be time to end. I’ve always wanted to keep that personal connection, where the story is about people and hope living in the face of struggle.

The horror comic, "Killadelphia," uses the vampire genre to explore the sins of American politics and abandonment of inner-city neighborhoods.


Rodney Barnes and Jason Alexander’s Original Graphic Novel Sequel to the Classic MGM Film Sells Out At Distributor


LOS ANGELES CA–Zombie Love Studios, the newly launched publishing home to the work of Rodney Barnes(American Gods, HBO’s Winning Time, and the record-breaking new Star Wars: The Mandalorian comic book series) released the first of its 2023 releases in January with the critically acclaimed sequel to the classic 1972 film Blacula from the team behind the hit Image Comics series Killadelphia; writer Rodney Barnes and artist Jason Shawn Alexander. Less than two months later, the first printing has sold out at Diamond, with the last remaining copies on shelves in comic shops and bookstores.

Writer and publisher Rodney Barnes says “So excited and grateful for the tremendous response folks have had for Blacula! Looking forward to the hardcover edition and the new adventures to come!”

Set in Los Angeles, two souls; one looking for vengeance and the other seeking the truth, share one thing in common; they are both searching for the legendary vampire Blacula. Tina Thomas is a reporter for the blog Dark Knights, which chronicles all things unnatural, uneasy, and undead. She meets a young man named Kross, who asked her to help him kill Blacula, after his family was forever changed by the vampire.

Blacula: Return of the King brings the same high emotional stakes storytelling fans have come to expect from the long-running vampire epic Killadelphia to the classic characher, redefining and reinventing him for a modern audience seeking thought-provoking horror in comics and beyond.

Blacula: Return of The King is now sold out at Diamond, with the last remaining copies on shelves at your favorite comic book shop, and limited stock available through Amazon and other online book retailers.

About Rodney Barnes:

Veteran award-winning screenwriter and producer Rodney Barnes has established himself as a Hollywood mainstay, with his vibrant, emphatic voice and producing expertise securing him an overall deal with HBO in September 2020. From Adult Swim’s The Boondocks to Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Barnes has displayed versatility across a variety of genres in the industry’s largest and most influential programs.

Barnes is currently executive producer for HBO’s series, which chronicles the professional and personal lives of the 1980s Showtime Lakers during the team’s wild and fast-paced golden years, with the original film Ride Around Sharing in development at Netflix. The second arc of his critically acclaimed graphic novel Killadelphia was released in August 2020, with a television show in development at Levantine TV, has been tapped to pen a creative feature for New Regency with Jordan Vogt-Roberts attached to direct, and is writing a miniseries based on the life of golf great Tiger Woods. As well, he has signed a two-year overall agreement to write, direct, and produce original content for HBO. He has also formed Zombie Love Studios,  a graphic novel production studio that will both adapt and create original graphic novels, beginning with a sequel to legendary cult blaxploitation film Blacula in 2023. Currently, he writes Killadelphia  and Nita Hawes Nightmare Blog for Image Comics, and publishes original content through his Dark Apocrypha Presents Substack newsletter.

About Jason Shawn Alexander:

Jason Shawn Alexander is an expressionist figurative painter, illustrator, and comic book creator. Alexander pulls from the vulnerability, fear, and underlying strength of his rural upbringing, just outside of the haunting home of the Delta Blues.

Alexander’s work has been the subject of number of solo exhibitions, including the Corey Helford Gallery, Culver City, CA, and 101/exhibit. In 2009 his portrait hung in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC. His work is collected both in the US and abroad. Alexander has also worked over 20 years as an illustrator and comic book creator. He has earned two Eisner Award Nominations and the Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators. He has co-created and provided art for titles at DC/Vertigo, Dark Horse Comics, and Image Comics. He’s also worked with the publishers Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Oni Press. He has also supplied art and storyboards for independent and short films, as well as motion comics for films like Pan’sLabyrinth and Predators.

From his first solo exhibition Insomnious at 101/exhibit in 2009, it was evident that Alexander had traced the thread and was pulling it through. A reviewer from ART NEWSwas moved to write, “Recalling Bacon’s portraits, the figures seem to cry out… Alexander’s impassioned application of oil paints underscores the barely contained violence of the visions, lingering like intimations of half-remembered dreams.”

Jason Shawn Alexander is painting and drawing in Los Angeles, CA with his wife and daughter. They also have two dogs.

The Mandalorian Season 2 adaptation coming from Marvel

As we wait eagerly for the third season of The Mandalorian to arrive on Wednesday, the second season will be getting the Marvel treatment as writer Rodney Barnes and artist Georges Jeanty return (alternating issues with Hidden Empire penciller and artist Steven Cummings) to adapt the thrilling 2020 season into 8 issues, and the newsstand cover as well as 3 variants are below to check out.

Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season 2, an eight-issue adaptation of the second season of the hit Disney+ series, is on the way. Like Marvel’s first The Mandalorian series, which concludes next week, every issue will retell the story of one episode. The Mandalorian Season 2 will begin with “Chapter 9: The Marshal,” adapting a memorable episode in which Mando encounters Marshal Cobb Vanth, setting the stage for major events to come.

Mando and Grogu aren’t the only duo coming back, however: The current creative team of writer Rodney Barnes and artist Georges Jeanty are returning for the series. While Jeanty will kick off The Mandalorian Season 2 with art for issue 1, he’ll be joined by artist Steven Cummings, fresh off the Star Wars event series Hidden Empire, who will be penciling every other issue.


“Adapting The Mandalorian has been a pure treat!” Barnes tells “The series embodies all aspects of the Star Wars universe: the myth, the mystery, and spectacle that made me fall in love with it so long ago. It’s an honor to be part of this project!”

“I am thrilled to be able to be part of the world of The Mandalorian and get to draw some of his adventures,” adds Cummings. “The Lone Wolf and Cub via the Old West vibe of the show has me excited to pick up my pencil every day and dive in.”