A Year in Review with Steve Niles

Thu, March 13th, 2008 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Shaun Manning, Staff Writer

"Criminal Macabre: My Demon Baby" #4 on sale April 2

2007 was a big year for Steve Niles. In addition to pumping out a stack of comic books for nearly every major publisher, the writer's most famous creation made the leap from the page to the big screen when "30 Days of Night" hit cinemas late last year. CBR News spoke with Niles about the movie, his regularly-appearing Dark Horse series-of-miniseries "Criminal Macabre," highlights from the year that was, and what fans can expect coming up.

Niles's most visible project of 2007 was the feature film adaptation of his and Ben Templesmith's "30 Days of Night," which brought the creator attention beyond the comics-reading audience. "A couple years ago I set up at a Fangoria con with IDW Publishing and we maybe sold one copy of the 'Dawn of the Dead' comic I did," Steve Niles told CBR News. "The last time I went to a Fango show, I had lines of people buying, reading, and getting comics signed, so I think we do have a spill-over [from the '30 Days of Night Movie'] and are getting new readers. To me, that's the most important thing we need to accomplish as an industry. If we keep selling to the same 100 thousand readers, eventually they move on and we need another generation to come in. So far, knock wood, I seem to be crossing over thanks to the film."

Niles kept considerably busy in the comics medium in 2007, releasing two "Criminal Macabre" miniseries, "City of Others" with Bernie Wrightson, "Simon Dark" at DC Comics, and several other series across most of the major publishers. Of these, "Criminal Macabre" is perhaps the most familiar, as Niles is continually dreaming up new stories for his drug-addicted detective Cal MacDonald. The current series, "My Demon Baby," wraps in April with issue #4.

Pages from "Criminal Macabre: My Demon Baby" #4
"The next story-arc is going to be called 'Cellblock 666' with Nick Stakal doing art and Bradstreet on covers," Niles confirmed. "Things are changing big time in Cal's world and I think readers will love what's going to be happening. It's time for Cal to figure out what he's doing with his life. He's been living like a runaway train on fire for decades now. It's time to take his work more seriously and do something about the growing threat of monsters, freaks, and a-holes in Los Angeles. Plus, with the novels finally in print again people are starting to discover him in other markets, so again, we have that crossover."

Each "Criminal Macabre" project has been illustrated by a different artist, which Niles sees as contributing something extra to his characters' world. "I always wanted to try different artists because that's what happened to the comics I loved as a kid," he said. "I saw Batman done by a zillion teams and the same for the Hulk and Spider-Man. That's the fun of comics, seeing the different interpretations. Every artist brings something new to the table. That said, I would like to settle on one artist because I'm not sure fans agree with my decision to switch up all the time."

The "Criminal Macabre" prose novels, recently collected in one volume by Dark Horse Books, represents yet another venue for Niles's prolific success. The writer said that he is interested in publishing "Criminal Macabre" stories in whatever media are available to him. "I'm always writing Cal. When I'm not working on comics or films or other contracted work I write Cal in my free time and then sell the short stories to fiction anthologies," Niles said. "Cal started in prose and I think he shines the best in prose BUT it's the comics where I get to have fun and get stories out. I hope fans check out the prose because I think they'd be shocked how much continuity there is between the comic and prose."

Pages from "Criminal Macabre: My Demon Baby" #4
Though Niles has remained very interested in bringing Cal MacDonald's world to life on the big screen, previous efforts to negotiate a movie deal have run aground. But that may be changing. "There's been lots of talk, but not much else. Now that the strike is over I'm hoping we can move a little faster. [Dark Horse publisher] Mike Richardson is behind a film and is really out there pushing it," Niles said. "We've had lots of bites, but everybody wants to change the character, so Mike and I are just waiting for the right people. We may have found our guy, but I can't say anything juuuust yet."

2007 also saw Niles co-write "City of Others" with horror comics legend Bernie Wrightson, who also provided artwork for the series. Niles described the collaboration as "a dream come true." "I always wanted to work with Wrightson and I took on 'City of Others' as a chance to do that, but also to 'channel' Wrightson a bit and create something that he owns. I did things I never thought I'd do in 'COO.' The monsters are much more traditional. I think that's because of Bernie. He brings out my love of classic horror and I hope it shows in our work."

Niles and Wrightson are also collaborating on "Dead She Said," which will be published by IDW.

In the last year, Niles has also ventured into the digital publishing realm, with "Strange Cases" and other titles appearing for sale at D2Comics.com, some with added content. "That was a test really. I'm very curious to see what people think and if they download them," the writer said. "We're heading towards being a paperless society (not in my lifetime, I hope) and we need to try all sorts of delivery systems for content. Okay, that sounded like a movie executive. I need to go lie down."

Pages from "Criminal Macabre: My Demon Baby" #4
Not that there's any time for lying down, with a whole slate of new series coming up in 2008. "There will be more 'Criminal Macabre' and 'Simon Dark,'" Niles promised. "The biggest thing I have going on is 'Batman: Gotham After Midnight' with Kelley Jones. Kelley and I are doing 12 issues a year. I worked will Kelley on 'Criminal Macabre' and we had a great time. Now we get to do Batman. I'm thrilled. Other titles to watch for are some new things from IDW including 'The Mysterie Society' with Ashley Wood, 'Dead She Said' with Wrightson, and a super-secret project with Phil Noto.

"I surrendered and moved my desk into the living room," Niles said, explaining his time management style. "I now work around the clock and love every second of it. My girlfriend is an artist and she did the same thing so we just keep movies and music loaded and work from the time we wake up until about 3-4 in the morning. It doesn't even feel like work. I mean she draws aliens and cool stuff and I'm writing comics and movies. It's tough to keep up with deadlines, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm very lucky. Sleepy, but very lucky."

What's Niles' proudest accomplishment of 2007? "It's between two things," he said. "The ['30 Days of Night'] film, obviously-there's no describing how great it feels seeing mine and Ben's work on the screen. The other is personal. I'm having more fun now, creating new ideas and old, than I ever have in my life. It hasn't been a great financial year. I got double-whammied with a divorce and the writers strike, but in terms of work and life in general things are pretty damn good."

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