Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, is an illustrated novel by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, who had previously collaborated on several of the Hellboy horror novels. Going down the paranormal investigator route again, Mignola and Golden succeed in making Lord Baltimore very distinct from Hellboy in many different ways.
Born Lord Henry Baltimore, the titular character was commissioned as a captain into the British Army during World War I. After a trench raid goes wrong, he is left badly wounded on the battlefield, where at dusk, enormous vampire bats feast on the dead and dying. Defending himself from the creatures, he injures one of them in the face, prompting them all to retreat, but not before his crippled leg is infected with their breath...
Later on, Baltimore is retrieved and brought to a hospital, where his leg is amputated. He is soon visited by a well-dressed gentleman with a scarred eye, who vows revenge on him and all of humankind. By the time he is discharged from service, Baltimore finds that a mysterious plague has spread all throughout Europe which saps the life away from those infected until they are nothing but listless, "gray people". When even his family is killed by the vampire that he wounded, Baltimore swears an oath of vengeance that takes him all across the globe.
The book mainly focuses on three companions of Baltimore, who have all convened in a tavern in an unnamed city to meet with their mutual friend. While waiting, they each recount how they came to know Lord Baltimore, and just what experiences they had in their life that made them all too willingly believe Baltimore's tale of vampires and curses.
A very dark book, it deals with the atrocities of war and their consequences, specifically on those who fight in them. Yet it is an excellent story, with an ending that is truly poignant.
Mignola and Golden eventually followed it up with a comic book series, which features Baltimore's later adventures, maintaining the novel's dark tone. It is illustrated by Ben Stenbeck, who also drew Witchfinder for Mignola's Hellboy universe. Lord Baltimore's story comes to an end in the comic book series' final arc The Red Kingdom, which pits him in his final confrontation with the Red King while the rest of the world stands on the brink.
This work contains examples of the following tropes:
- Allegory Adventure - Most of the events that happen in Baltimore's portion are based on the events of the Hans Christian Andersen story of the Steadfast Tin Soldier.
- Alternate History - Obviously with the way the Great War peters out in the face of a vampiric plague, but the novel has indications that even before the plague this is not quite our Europe with the Allies fighting in Gaul against Hessians (initially this could be explained as them facing Imperial German units from Hesse but later on it becomes clear that the term is used for Germans in general), and joined by Nordic troops. Interestingly the comic series doesn't seem to take this angle with national names etc being much more like our own world.
- With the Great War ending early and subsequent events, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union have been butterflied away. However, their place has been taken by the Red King and his armies, and by 1925 the world is in the throes of an alternate World War II, this time between the Alliance and the Red King's Kingdom, which has conquered most of Asia and Europe, as told in Baltimore: The Red Kingdom.
- Anthropomorphic Personification - Arguably, the Red Death, as it not only is the supernatural source of the plague, but also its embodiment in the spiritual world.
- Baleful Polymorph - What Doctor Rose encounters during the war that convinces him that Baltimore is telling the truth.
- Bears Are Bad News - See Baleful Polymorph above. To elaborate: Doctor Rose meets an allied Norwegian soldier who is cursed to turn into a demonic bear that kills every living human it can find each time he goes to sleep at night, because he killed the previous demon bear beforehand.
- Big Bad: The Vampire Lord whom Baltimore calls "The Red King" is the mastermind behind the plagues.
- Big Damn Heroes - During the climactic battle, Baltimore appears and begins effortlessly killing the shadow vampire wraiths that his friends were barely even able to fight off.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Red Kingdom comic that serves as closure to the series has Baltimore finally succeeds in killing the Red King once and for all before his ascension and having finally fulfilled his revenge, he himself dies shortly afterwards due to removing his own heart previously. Several of his companions perished during the final battle and Europe is left in complete ruins by the Red King's destruction, but at least Lord Henry Baltimore has found peace and is implied to be with his loved ones in the afterlife.
- Church Militant: The Inquisition in the comic, and boy are they militant. They seriously calm down after the time skip, to the point they've started started recruiting non-Christian wizards.
- Crapsack World: Very much so in Europe, at least, and made especially obvious in the comic. The Red Plague has devastated the population, all manner of supernatural creatures have appeared to prey on humanity, and the church has reinstated a merciless inquisition to combat the vampires.
- At the end of Chapel of Bones #2, a map in Dr. Rose's study implies that the Red Plague has spread throughout Eurasia, with crosses extending from France to Japan and from Russia to India. Also, one of Rose's guests is an Indian Sikh, strongly hinting that Baltimore's quest will eventually take him there as well.
- In The Red Kingdom, its show how much worse the world has gotten by 1925: the Red King has conquered much of the world and he has vampires, witches and foul demons to enforce his will and sacrifice innocents daily in his name. Only a few dozens of nations are resisting against him, but they are hopeless against the Red King's unstoppable hordes.
- Devil, but No God - A very strange case of this; over the course of the book it's stated that everything Baltimore goes through is God's way of forging him into a weapon that can stop the vampire plague. Yet besides one monk who tells Baltimore this, we never actually see God (or a representative of his) actually take any direct action against the monsters. This leads to the main characters doing what needs to be done, but cursing God all the while for having to do it.
- Eldritch Abomination - Though not of Mignola's usual Lovecraft variety: The Red Death, the true source of the vampire plague, is a demonic skeleton with a scepter and coffin, whose red wing-like cloak brings death and gives birth to undead horrors.
- Greater-Scope Villain: The Red Death, the actual Red King and the source of the vampiric plague.
- He Who Fights Monsters - While obviously still good, the experiences Baltimore goes through cause him to become just as otherworldy and threatening as the vampires he hunts. Played straight with Judge Duvic.
- Historical Domain Character: The second comic volume involves a magician attempting to resurrection the famed occultist Helena Blavatsky. The magician himself turns out to be a young Adolf Hitler.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: The vampires were awakened by World War I's bloodshed, something which they were very keen on blaming humans for being berserkers and killers, as the page quote demonstrate. In The Red Kingdom, the Red King's armies were bolstered by humans hoping to indulge in vile and dark deeds as chaos ruled the world.
- Implacable Man: Baltimore, following the death of his family by Haigus' hands, he removes his own heart and becomes supernaturally driven to destroy the vampire king. Only when he is actually killed that Baltimore finally does die, showing that he was living on borrowed time himself.
- Knight Errant - A rather grim and no-nonsense one, but Baltimore becomes this in his search for the Red King over the years hunting him.
- Nested Story: see the page's literature section.
- One-Man Army: Baltimore stops a Zombie Apocalypse single handily.
- Our Vampires Are Different - For one, the plague that is killing people across Europe is actually turning them into vampires.
- Perverse Puppet: Sea Captain Aischros encountered a whole town of these in his youth.
- Purpose-Driven Immortality: Implied in Baltimore with Baltimore himself. Right after the Red King is killed, Baltimore himself dies, having previously removed his own heart. It was implied God had kept him alive for this single goal.
- Psychological Horror - Standard for a Mike Mignola work.
- Rage Against the Heavens - The main characters get very angry with God at times, and are very vocal about it; see Devil, but No God above.
- The Plague: The plague that's overwhelming Europe, which seems to be a supernatural version of The Spanish Flu.
- You All Meet in an Inn: All three of Baltimore's friends meet in a tavern to wait for him when he summons them together; they spend almost the entire novel waiting and telling each other stories about their pasts.