Slowly but surely, Ariel Chylde is climbing back towards the light.
Save for a few exceptions, like last year's "The Darkness/Darkchylde: Kingdom Pain" one-shot published through Top Cow, Randy Queen's classic "Darkchylde" franchise, first established in 1996, has appeared to be somewhat inactive over the past few years -- but you know what they say about looks. Speaking with CBR News, Queen revealed that not only is the "Darkchylde" brand thriving, it's set to have an excellent year in 2011 thanks to the character's 15th anniversary.
"It'll be a nice anniversary year for Ariel," Queen told CBR in an exclusive interview. "2011 marks the 15th anniversary of Ariel Chylde, so we're producing a PVC statue with Diamond Select as part of their Femme Fatales line. I'm very much looking forward to [that]. Chuck Terceira does an outstanding job with those. We're creating a 1/4 scale museum quality piece, and also a minimates toy, which should all arrive in time for San Diego this summer. We've got the 'Dreams of Darkchylde' collection coming, and perhaps additional things as well. It's gladdening when seeds you've cultivated for so long begin to bloom, because none of these things arrive easily."
It sounds like "Darkchylde" is getting a lot of action in 2011 -- in the toy department, at least -- and Ariel is making a comeback in the comics world as well. This week, Queen released the "Darkchylde Vol. 1: Legacy and Redemption" trade paperback through Image Comics, collecting the fan-favorite "Legacy" and "Redemption" story-arcs for the very first time. Queen said of the trade: "You'll find fun stories about a very pretty girl who can become some pretty horrible creatures from her nightmares. We pick up after the deadly events of the first series with Ariel on the run. But something follows, a creature that absorbs children so it can stay young forever. Creepy, right?"
The latest "Darkchylde" trade paperback begins with multiple pin-up pieces juxtaposed against poetry written by Ariel -- or, rather, written by Ariel through Queen himself. "It's character branding for Ariel Chylde, who's had poetry in her books since issue #1," he said of the book's poetic beginnings. "These things come to me. I massage them over time, and then have a creative outlet. We've always added new content to give fans a reason to care beyond being encapsulated in a nicer volume. The new piece with the unicorn skeleton is a particular favorite. Sad, yet beautiful symbolism for Ariel."
This is the first time "Legacy" and "Redemption" have been collected, and Queen said he's grateful to see these stories back in print after being unavailable to the public for so long. "Something I've learned repeatedly is that things only happen when they can," he said. "Not just in entertainment, but every aspect of life comes down to the convergence of circumstance. I was taken off 'Starfall' to do the 'Darkness/Darkchylde' crossover, but that was such a terrific opportunity, I was thrilled for it. You just kind of follow the stream, and one can only push the river so much. We're grateful to Image that these are back in print, and it seems like a good time. Seeing the stories again is interesting in that my sensibilities are different now. I'm not the same writer or artist I was, but as a necessary learning curve, the collection has a certain sparkle that people seem to enjoy, so it's great. I read it, and it made me laugh. There's some funny stuff in there, in addition to the horror. But it's wild how fast time just zooms. Frightening, really."
As for whether or not we'll be seeing new comic book stories featuring Ariel in the near future, Queen simply said: "[We're] working on putting things together, so we will see." But he did say that he was extremely proud of his recent effort on "The Darkness/Darkchylde: Kingdom Pain" one-shot he worked on with Top Cow in 2010. "It's one of the most personal books we've ever done, very spiritual and poetic. [Collaborator Sarah Queen] knocked it out of the park with her beautiful colors, we got career-best critical reviews and it performed for the publisher, so it's a win. People like Ariel Chylde, so I'm grateful."
But even if Ariel keeps a relatively low profile in the comic book scene over coming months and years, the nightmare is still very much alive thanks to Hollywood: "Halloween" director John Carpenter is stepping behind the lens for the long-developing live-action "Darkchylde" feature film created in conjunction with Weta Workshop, the New Zealand-based studio responsible for cinematic epics such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
"The pairing of Carpenter and Weta on a gothic transformation film concerning nightmares is a dream scenario, no pun intended. It's a terrific combination for everybody," said Queen. "When I think of Carpenter, the first word that comes to mind is craftsmanship. Just watch a double feature of 'Halloween' and 'The Thing' to see how all those elements were brought together to ultimately elevate and help define the landscape of the genre. His signature widescreen compositions, his intuition for music and how it relates to images. His ability to create a rhythm, an atmosphere, and craft characters you care about. He understands top to bottom, and has participated in shaping the language of film.
"I think having John on board is such a blessing," Queen continued. "When you see a Kubrick film, a Ridley Scott or a Hitchcock or a Carpenter film, you recognize the authorship. John brings such an incredible wealth of information, but the most important thing he brings are what make him one of our most unique, and in my opinion, greatest directors. We have a compelling story in 'girl can become creatures from her nightmares,' and we have who I feel have become the world's premier FX house in Weta. Then, it comes down to casting and execution. But this is ultimately an intimate film, and that's crucial. This isn't bombast. This is emotion, beauty and danger. You've got to care about this girl."
Having Carpenter and Weta in place provides two pieces of the puzzle, but there's a major piece that remains unplaced: the casting of Ariel Chylde. Although he wouldn't name any potential actresses, Queen did reveal some of the ingredients he feels are necessary for whoever winds up in Ariel's not-so-dreamy shoes. "Ariel contains multitudes. She needs to be vulnerable so there's contrast with the creatures she becomes, but also strong and not reactionary, not depending on a boy to save her. I wouldn't want someone who screams 'actress' when you see her -- someone naturalistic and unique so you forget you're watching a film, but rather feeling the story as she does. When you first saw 'Alien,' you're not cross-referencing what other films Sigourney Weaver was in. All of these things factor and inform. It's key that she's accessibly pretty and amiable in a way girls respond to. She's a crucial choice in the success of the story."
In the end, however, Queen won't decide who stars as Ariel: "It's John's film, and I trust he'll make a decision reflective and complimentary of his desire to make it. Should be great fun to see how it all congeals." And it might take a little bit of time before fans get the chance to meet their live-action Ariel, as Queen explained, "films take the time they take, there's no way around that. We've gained terrific traction and have made significant steps forward, all necessary steps in the process. I hope everyone will wish us luck crafting something solid for them."
For now, fans that are itching to relive the "Darkchylde" nightmare have the recently released trade paperback to dive into. "It's for anyone who enjoys sequential art, particularly those who feel comics can be more than superheroes," Queen said. "No other storytelling medium -- not film, not novels, nor video games -- are as singularly defined, and thereby confined, by a sole genre. This is action and horror with no capes in sight. It's a great place to start and, ideally, you'll wish to explore the other works, either in print or digitally."
The "Darkchylde: Legacy and Redemption" trade paperback is currently in stores. Stay tuned to CBR News for more "Darkchylde" movie and comics updates!