Interview by Mark Walters

 There was a time when horror comics were very, very cool.  I'm talking about the good old EC days.  Books like VAULT OF HORROR and CRYPT OF TERROR come to mind.  But over the years it seemed like horror in the comic genre fell flat.  Several forgettable titles were released, never leaving a very lasting impression.  There was brief glimmer of hope in 1989 when James O'Barr released THE CROW, which still holds up as great reading by today's standards.  But in recent years there's been new life breathed into horror-themed funnybooks, mostly thanks to the brilliant writing of Steve Niles.  His career in the industry actually began some years ago, when he started working for Eclipse, and eventually collaborating with folks like Clive Barker and Todd McFarlane.  But it was his creation 30 DAYS OF NIGHT that wowed comic fans worldwide, and showed everyone that horror comics aren't dead.  You may also be familiar with titles like CRIMINAL MACABRE, FUSED, BIGFOOT, and more recently BATMAN: GOTHAM COUNTY LINE, all featuring his work.  Steve has proven himself to be a significant talent when it comes to writing, and is highly respected in both the comic field and Hollywood circle.  Some of his projects are already in the process of becoming major motion pictures.  I had a chance to talk to Niles about some of his upcoming books, and the following is what he had to say.

MARK: Hey man.  You are staying really busy!  Seems like I see your name on everything these days.  Let's start by talking about THE CREEPER.  Here's a classic DC character that's due for an updated revamp.  I'm very interested to know what you have planned for this series.

STEVE: Dan Didio wanted to talk with me, and we sat down in San Diego two years ago.  He had this mixed bag of characters that he knew had possibilities, and mentioned THE CREEPER to me.  I went back and looked at the original Denny O'Neil and Steve Ditko issues, and didn't bother looking at the more recent stuff.  I was surprised by just how utterly bizarre it was.  It just had a rhythm and an atmosphere.  Just bizarre, just strange.  There was something about that.  This weird Ditko madness and graphic imagery, fighting with goons at the gangster Halloween costume party.  The main point is I just loved The Creeper himself.  I loved the dynamic of Jack Ryder and The Creeper, and the possibilities of that.  Because the one thing you don't know about this character is whether he's crazy or not.  There was one thing that struck me with the whole deal, and that was The Creeper was about the best name for a character you could possibly have.  I really wanted to make the name match the character.

MARK: Were you given pretty free reign on the character?

STEVE: Obviously he's yellow and green, and I don't know what the hell that thing is around his neck.  A hair poncho or something, I don't know.  I talked with the artist a lot.  I really have to give a huge credit to the artist Justiniano, for making the character truly devious, impish and questionable.  Which is I think the essence of what Steve Ditko created, and sounds like The Creeper.

MARK: Have you plotted out all the issues?  Do you know where it's all headed from beginning to end?

STEVE: I pretty much know where it's going to go.  But as far as the structure I can't give away much, because I took something from the origin and ran with it.  And hopefully it will be a big surprise to everyone.  I tried to take The Creeper world and expand it.  It's really tough trying to figure out what you want the story to be about.  Because it's about two characters, Jack Ryder and The Creeper.  You want to find the perfect blend in between.  You won't care about Jack or The Creeper, but the way they effect each other is hugely important.

MARK: It sounds like the experience has been good one.  Are you making any other changes in there?

STEVE: The biggest change I made was I changed the technology of Dr. Yatz's invention.  So instead of the remote control, I thought to myself "I can't find my TV remote" and I don't want to deal with a superhero that has to use a TV remote.  So I changed the invention to something called "Smart Skin", which is something that grows new skin.  It's specifically created to cure burn victims, and people with any kind of bad scarring.  But just by the imprints in the name "Smart Skin", it hasn't been entirely tested very well.  Beyond that I'm not saying anything.  That's really the biggest change I made.

MARK: Do you see this leading into possibly some other DC projects with some of the lesser used characters?

STEVE: Probably not.  But BATMAN and hopefully THE CREEPER, I'd love to do more with those.  I had a blast doing BATMAN.  I feel like I came out of the gate super-weird, and I'd like to do more with him.

MARK: One thing I promised someone that I would ask you, in BATMAN: GOTHAM COUNTY LINE, he uses a jetpack.  What brought on that decision?  I mean we always see Batman using the Batmobile or some derivative form of Bat-vehicle.  But a jetpack?  Interesting.

STEVE: I really want to say the final word on this.  We've seen this guy how many times with a hang glider or something, and nobody says a goddamn word.  I give a multibillionaire genius crime fighter a jetpack, and they scoff???  I'm dumbfounded by that.  Yeah.  Batman, jetpack, bats fly... better than hang gliding.  But I have to admit in my life right now, that's the most fun controversy I'm having.

MARK: You just announced some exciting news about the 30 DAYS OF NIGHT movie.  So WETA is doing the special effects?  That's so awesome.  I can't wait to see what they do with your vision of the story.  What can you tell us about where things are now?

STEVE: Well, not much.  Honestly, I haven't even seen the latest version of the script.  But I've been in contact with the director and Sam Raimi and Mike Richardson and the other producers, who have really graciously invited me into the fold.  I really think everybody involved wants to make a great horror film.  And we are in desperate need of another really scary horror movie.  As far as the director, David Slade, after seeing HARD CANDY and meeting with him several times, I couldn't be happier with the choice of director for this.  The first thing that really impressed me is that he had bought the comic off the rack as just a reader, and pursued directing this film off his success with HARD CANDY.  And his truly unique twisted vision is perfect for 30 DAYS OF NIGHT.  He can do the job.

MARK: Are they drawing on select elements from the different storylines, or sticking to one in particular?

STEVE: There's a couple of characters, as far as the town Barrow is concerned, that will be showing up in various forms.  People will be able to figure it out.  One of the best things is that everybody seems to be really aware of the balance of the story and the inspiration of the art by Ben Templesmith.  And I'm really excited to see how David Slade incorporates the look of the comic into the film.

MARK: Let's talk about the upcoming CRIMINAL MACABRE comics, particularly the Tim Bradstreet covers.   That stuff looks amazing.

STEVE: As great and excited as I am about the Bradstreet covers, the Kyle Hotz interiors are truly important, and hitting the nail on the head.

MARK: Can you tell us some of what we can expect from that?

STEVE: Well we're starting with a one-shot.  Everything will be called CRIMINAL MACABRE and have subtitles.  It's important to do a monthly comic and avoid the confusion of constantly trying to sell a mini-series.  I finally got it through my thick head to be doing an ongoing series, because I've been doing mini-series for years.  But as far as the Bradstreet covers are concerned, Tim is a longtime friend and supporter of mine, and me of him.  Being actually able to work with Tim, and create these incredible images, has made me feel that Cal and Mo-Lock actually exist.  That's how powerful Tim's artwork is.

MARK: Then you've also got THE CRYPTICS with Ben Roman, which is coming out through Image Comics.

STEVE: THE CRYPTICS is basically PEANUTS with monsters.  There's a true innocence about monsters, and it's a nice change of pace to be looking for nothing but the humor, the good side or funny side of monsters.  I love working with Ben Roman.

MARK: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you what's going on BAD PLANET.  Everyone wants to know where issue two is.  I know a little about what's going on, but do you want to give the fans an official answer?

STEVE: Not really.  But we're gonna get it done.

MARK: Speaking of BAD PLANET, how do like working with Thomas Jane on a comic book?  He's obviously very passionate about comics, and I'm wondering what the behind the scenes of it is like.

STEVE: Tom who?  (laughs)  You know what, it's really shockingly fun and easy.  I don't know about other writers and how they work, as far as comics are concerned, but I love collaborating.  Not only do things move faster, but you create this really unique voice.  And because at the end of the day, my job is to create fun stuff to read.  Collaborating with guys like Tom makes that job easier.  It's his story you know, but I think we make a good team.  Tom and I can just sit in a room and talk about the story for hours.  That combined with the talent we have access to makes for good comics.  And Image has done a fantastic job backing it up.  He's creative and passionate, and kind of unstoppable in a fun sort of way.

Thomas Jane, Steve Niles, and Tim Bradstreet signing and promoting BAD PLANET at San Diego Comic-Con 2005


MARK: It was cool seeing you work on the new MONSTERS ON THE PROWL for Marvel.  Do you have any other Marvel characters you'd like to experiment with?

STEVE: I don't want to experiment with any of them.  I want to write THE HULK.  I've said that so many times I feel like I'm begging.  I'd love to write THE HULK.  As for MONSTERS ON THE PROWL, that was about the most fun I've ever had writing a comic in my life.  It just flowed and came out.  I did so little outlining, but I felt like I knew the characters so well.  Marvel was great, letting me do whatever I wanted.  Thirty years of reading comics finally paid off.

MARK: Anything you're currently working on that we should know about?

STEVE: I have something very big on the horizon working with one of my all time heroes, but at the risk of not wanting to jinx it, I'm going to keep quiet... for now.

MARK: Cool.  I completely understand.  Thanks for talking with us man.

STEVE: Mark, you're a beautiful man.  Thank you for having me.


Check out the official Steve Niles website HERE.

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