STEVE NILES WEEK, Day 3: The IDW Books

Thu, October 30th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

Steve Niles
Art by Ben Templesmith
Monday you learned about upcoming projects coming from Dark Horse and Steve Niles. Tuesday you read about Niles' own thoughts on horror and horror comics. Today we've sat down with the writer once again to learn a bit more about what he's got coming from IDW Publishing, his other publisher of choice.

In the summer of 2002 IDW Publishing released the first issue of "30 Days of Night." It was legitimately one of those "sleeper hits." There wasn't a massive press push on the book, no full page ads in Wizard, nothing of that sort that led to its success. No, simple word of mouth helped turn this title into an overnight hit. The title put both Steve Niles and IDW Publishing on the map as forces to be reckoned with.

Since that time Niles and IDW have published a follow-up to "30 Days of Night," "Dark Days" (the fifth issue of which will hit stores next week). Niles has more stories planned for the characters introduced to us in these two titles with two new publications, "30 Days of Night Annual" and "Return To Barrow."

[30 Days Of Night Annual]First up is the "30 Days of Night Annual," due to hit stores the first week of January. This 48-page comic will feature four all new short stories each drawn by a different artist. This is significant in that previous;y only artist Ben Templesmith had drawn these characters. Templesmith fans shouldn't worry too much as the artist will be handling the art chores on one of the four stores. The other three stories will be handled by artists Josh Medors (currently working on "Fused" for Dark Horse), Brandon Hovet and Szymon Kudranski. While this new annual is titled "30 Days Of Night Annual," the story picks up where "Dark Days" leaves off.

"All this week I was writing four new '30 Days/Dark Days' stores for the Annual," said Niles. "It's further explorations into some of the characters who survived, including one story about a character who didn't survive and one story where we actually go back to Barrow, starting to deal with the aftermath of what happened up there. There's another story that examines the affects of Stella's book on Middle America."

Niles chose the annual format, rather than a series of one-shots or an additional mini-series to handle these, for very specific reasons.

"I wanted to do a thick book and I wanted to do short stories," said Niles. "There's a few themes you just want to do ten pages on, you know, you don't want to do 40 pages. And it's a really good chance to work with four new artists. Well, three new artists and Ben. It's a great way to work."

Two of the three new artists Niles is working with on this title were found through his own message board. Both Medors and Kudranski frequently posted art to the Steve Niles forum. With Ben Templesmith based in Australia, Kudranksi in Poland and Medors and Hovet based in the States, this project has a true international flavor. And this isn't the first time Niles has worked with artists found in an online community.

[30 Days Of Night Hard Cover]"That's right. Ben posted on the Spawn message boards and he was found by the art director [at Todd McFarlane Productions] at the time. We did all our work through e-mail and instant messenger." Niles and Templesmith worked together on "Hellspawn" before embarking on their "30 Days of Night" journey.

Steve notes that any language barriers that could have been international artists like Kudranksi just aren't there. Speaking of Kudranksi, "His English is great. So far, his English is more legible than Ben's!"

For Niles completists there will be a special release this December that should be at the top of your holiday wish list - "Complete 30 Days Of Night."

"This is going to be really cool," enthused Niles. "It's an expensive book, which is a shame, but I think people are going to think it's really worth it. It's going to be oversized. It's going to include the Wizard prequel, the complete '30 Days' with the additional pages that were added into the trade. All the scripts, all Ben's character sketches and even some of the sketches he actually did on the script. I'm writing a new prose short story that he's going to illustrate."

The "Complete 30 Days of Night" will retail for $75.

The "30 Days of Night" love doesn't end there, though. Coming in 2004 is "Return To Barrow." This new four-issue mini-series, with art by Ben Templesmith, takes readers back to Barrow, Alaska, the town devastated by vampires in "30 Days of Night." Niles was careful not to say too much about this new series in hopes of not spoiling it for readers.

"What the hell has happened to this town since all this has happened? How have things changes? And how do they prepare every year going into total darkness again? That's what this is, me addressing that with all new characters.

"I think 'Return to Barrow' is going to be a lot of fun. I was absolutely resistant to the idea of doing any kind of direct sequel, but then 'Dark Days' worked out so well and I felt like I didn't just go over the same ground and it kind of brought up this natural curiosity of a town that goes through something like that has to go through some major changes and how would that affect them. Also, what's happening in the Vampire world and their politics? How are they dealing with it? They lost their biggest leaders. There are a lot of consequences to address."

Niles mentioned that the Barrow story in the "30 Days Of Night" annual does contain some lead-ins to "Return To Barrow," but there isn't a direct connection. "Just some supporting characters and things like that," said Niles.

Steve smiles pretty for the camera.
In "Return To Barrow" Niles will examine how the events of a major catastrophe, an attack if you will, have changed the citizens of Barrow. One could take the leap and assume that this story is Niles' comment on real world reaction to the events of September 11th, but the writer says that's just not the case.

"You know, I have no doubt that what happens in the real world affects what we write, but it's not conscious on my part. I know it's there, I'm aware of it, but I don't think about it while I'm writing."

With what will be a total of four different series covering the events that transpired in Barrow, Niles tells us that "Return To Barrow" may be the last he writes of the "30 Days" saga for a while.

"There's not an end to the story, but there's definitely an end for me writing it, only because I'm exploring monster, vampires and werewolves in other places. In Cal, he's got his own thing to do there and 'Sacred Hearts' is another way I'm addressing these things. I think 'Return to Barrow' will be the last for now."

[Savage Membrane]In February of 2004 readers will get their chance to pick up a new printing of the Cal McDonald novel "Savage Membrane." While Dark Horse will be publishing a mass-market paperback version of this book, the IDW version will differ dramatically from either the Dark Horse or previously published version through IDW.

"I'm just really excited about this," said Niles. "It's going to be a hard cover version of the Cal book. Ben's going to do a new cover and a new illustration for each chapter."

In addition to above titles already on the schedule, there are a number of other projects Niles is working on that don't have concrete release dates yet. The first we'll take a look at is "Aleister Arcane," a new series that should appeal to those that can't quite handle the gore of Niles' other material. Niles is joined by artist Breehn Burns, who just finished up "Gloomcookie" for Slave Labor Graphics, on a story that Niles has been working on for a long time, a story he pulled off his old pitch list.

"Aleister Arcane is an old late night creature feature host who is, I don't want to give away too much, but is basically forced off the air for his gory antics by conservative parents. Basically, he's turned into the town boogie man. He's the old man who lives in the house and doesn't talk to anybody. Finally, after decades go by, the children of the parents [who forced him off the air] befriend him. It's a lot more light-hearted."

[Hyde]Also coming from IDW in 2004 is "Hyde." In much the same way that Niles put his own stamp on the Frankenstein story with "Wake The Dead," the writer will modernize the classic "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

"'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' has always been a story I loved in theory, but it's just sort of played out," commented Niles. "I like the idea that human beings are divided into two parts, good and evil. There are these two halves to people and the question is what do we do with them and how do we control them?

"I think this works much better in a modern setting because we are actually attempting to do this now. We are actually trying to correct our moods with pills and potions and formulas. We're always trying to affect ourselves ahead of our environment. In the original it was very vague. It was the human soul and there was the 'Well, the human soul is two parts and I will divide them.' I'm like, 'How are you going to do that with beakers?' Now it makes a little more sense with people taking mood-altering drugs every day of their lives. That's what this story is about. I really like the twist I came up for it."

Niles found the original quite dated with modern sensibilities being what they are.

"When you look at that and consider that Hyde is this character who is social, he goes out and he wants to have a good time, but what he calls a good time is a little bit psychotic! It still has that theme, but I think what Hyde will wind up doing is just so much more horrendous."

[Remains]Scheduled for release in Spring of 2004, Niles teams up with Kieron Dwyer on the previously announced "Remains," a modern zombie story.

"I'm just starting on this," revealed Niles. "Kieron and I have an outline. We're still making adjustments day-to-day, but this is going to be the first part of what will hopefully be a whole series of zombie stories that we do that take place in various different series. The connection will be the way that the Zombie plague is started. Like 'Return of the Living Dead' had its thing with the military and 'Night of the Living Dead' had the satellite crashing to Earth. With 'Remains' we have our own take on it and that will be the recurring theme.

"In this first one that we're doing with Kieron it takes place in Las Vegas. Actually, it's another love story, really. It's kind of an unrequited love between this blackjack dealer and a stripper who are the only survivors in Vegas. That's a classic story right there and then you throw in the living dead? Like he doesn't have enough problems."

Niles did note that they may be changing cities with "Remains," but wasn't certain yet. The goal with "Remains" is to do a number of different series examining how the zombie plague affects cities around the world.

"The first thing I start to think about is 'Well, if this is world wide, what's happening in the town over there?' I love the idea of connecting the stories by characters," said Niles. "This one you have this plague breaking out all over the world. If things are bad in Vegas, what is going on in Los Angeles? I'm hoping it will trigger Kieron and I doing more or something else."

[Sacred Hearts]But wait, there's more! Niles continues his collaborations with artist Ben Templesmith on "Sacred Hearts," announced earlier this month.

"With 'Sacred Hearts' I have this story that I've been wanting to do for a while. It's about the lives of three different monsters that you don't know are monsters on the surface and how their lives intersect and affect the world. The way I'm writing it is in three separate storylines that intersect, pretty much like a soap opera with a werewolf."

The series doesn't have a set date yet and will have to wait for a while as he's currently got a lot on his plate, including a little screenplay for the "Criminal Macabre" movie, but both he and Templesmith wanted to announce it as soon as they could.

"I really liked the name and I wanted to stake the claim in it. I am working on it in my spare time and it's one of those things that as soon as we have something together we'll start putting it out."

"Dark Days" #6
Speaking of film, we checked in with Niles to see where things were at with the planned "30 Days of Night" film, produced by "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi

"I've finished my draft and Sony is now in control of the project. We're waiting for Raimi to wrap up with 'Spider-Man 2.' Then the whole thing gets rolling.

"Last I heard everybody liked what I wrote and they would probably be bringing in somebody to clean it up, but I haven't heard any names mentioned, no directors. All I've heard is that Sony is really into it and something's going to happen as soon as Sam puts his full attention to it.

With "30 Days of Night" being his big break through in comics, we asked Niles whether it bothered him that someone else may be coming in to "clean up" the script as the final will not be written by the scribe.

"Dark Days" Trade Paperback
"No, the comic will still be there," said Niles. "What I'm hoping is that it will be a level up. I think the raw material there for a good horror movie is obvious. I have high hopes for it."

While "30 Days of Night" was the first comic by Niles announced to get a big screen version, there's another IDW published book that's steaming ahead nicely.

"You know what, 'Wake the Dead' is moving pretty fast, too. We have a screen writer working on it right now. In a way it's already a little further along than 'Criminal Macabre.'"

Niles couldn't name the screen writer for "Wake The Dead," but did say, "Comic fans definitely know him."

"Wake The Dead" #2
"Regarding '30 Days of Night,'" continued Niles, "the one thing that's so amazing about Sam Raimi is he only focuses on one thing at a time. Once he turns his attention to this, I think they can move it into high gear."

With three properties now optioned for the big screen some writers might adjust the way they write future stories so as to more easily apply to film, but that's not the way Niles operates.

"I just keep slogging through. People seem to like how it worked before, so I try not to think about where it's going to be. In fact, I try not to think about people reading it! (laughs)"

And there's still another project that Niles hopes to bring to the big screen.

"Wake The Dead" #3
"I'm working with Mike Fleiss who is best known for doing "The Bachelor" and stuff like that, but he also worked with Michael Bay doing the 'Texas Chainsaw' remake. We're working together on something for 'Hyde.'"

There's a story this writer was told years ago from a friend at MTv about that wacky musician "Weird Al" Yankovic. Years ago when he'd release a new album MTv would hand over an hour of their programming schedule for him to do as he pleased. "Al TV" was a huge success each time it aired on the music channel. The ratings were fantastic, eventually earning Al the nickname in the MTv offices as "their little monkeymaker." With all the success Niles has brought to IDW, we asked if maybe they had a nickname for him.

"(laughs) I don't know, but if they do I'd like to know what it is!"

Return tomorrow afternoon, Halloween, as Steve Niles interviews Rob Zombie about "The Nail."

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