|Cover to the first “Nocturnals” hard cover.|
It’s been more than ten years since Dan Brereton brought “The Nocturnals” to life in a comic series from the now defunct Malibu Comics. The initial series, “Black Planet,” followed the heroic Doc Horror, his daughter, and their motley crew of supernatural allies, who banded together to protect Pacific City from all kinds of threats, including the evil Crim. Brereton’s art was warmly received by fans and critics, with the artist being invited by legendary musician Rob Zombie to illustrate one of his albums, “Hellbilly Deluxe.” The series and characters lived on following that first appearance in a variety of mini-series, and the series and Brereton himself have developed a strong following over the years, due to the series’ dynamic art and unique mixture of sci-fi & pulp noir storytelling.
While the characters haven’t been seen much in recent years, fans of “The Nocturnals” will be pleased to learn that Olympian Publishing is going to fans very happy with three oversized hardcover collections of “Nocturnals,” collecting the last 12 years of stories and set to ship in October. Even more exciting, each volume will feature all-new material, from stories to connecting sequences, and even the original black & white “Gunwitch” series (spotlighting one of the popular supporting characters from “Nocturnals”) will see print in color for this collection.. Plus, fans will finally learn how Doc met his ally The Raccoon in the short story “Clean Hands.” CBR News spoke to Thomas Negovan, the owner and publisher of Olympian Publishing, and Dan Brereton himself, to learn more about these collections and a new “Nocturnals” series yet to come, “The Sinister Path.”
Like so many big deals in the comic book industry, the “Nocturnals” resurrection began at a comic book convention, and was a result of Negovan’s love for the series and characters, plus his desire to see new stories. “I was talking with Dan at Wondercon and said, ‘I know you’re tired of hearing this, but when am i going to get to read a new ‘Nocturnals’ story?!” explained Negovan. “The short version of the story is that because it’s a fully-painted comic book, the process of creating a single issue — much less an entire storyline — is a slow one that winds up becoming very expensive, as Dan has to pay rent and buy food while he’s painting! So unlike a pencil and ink story that can be turned over relatively quickly, the comic companies understandably couldn’t justify such a large expenditure for a small amount of material. (It takes Dan a whole year to produce only four issues of story.) I am such a huge fan that I wanted to do whatever it took to see new material, and proposed an idea to Dan that would be not just one story or reprint, but a whole re-launch.”
For Brereton, choosing Olympian was as a good move, on both a personal and professional level. His respect for Negovan as both a friend and entrepreneur made Olympian the perfect place to re-launch “Nocturnals.” “I’ve known publisher Tom Negovan for a while and he’s always been a huge fan of ‘The Nocturnals,’ and someone who obviously had his act together- in terms of his company, Century Guild Arts [Olympian’s parent company], which is primarily an art antiques business. His knack for promotion, presentation and outright boyish enthusiasm have always impressed me,” said Brereton. “He’s got tons of energy, drive and best of all, a sound plan. His understanding of the material and willingness to commit 110% to ‘Nocturnals’ inspired me.
“Until Olympian approached me, I’d been asked countless times when ‘Nocturnals’ would return. I knew they would, I just didn’t know when or how. Suddenly, at Wondercon last winter, the ball began rolling — its been picking up tremendous steam and momentum ever since. Tom is a dynamo. As for myself, I’ve got my sleeves rolled up and I’ve been producing new art and material (and stories, characters, ideas) in a massive tidal wave of creative energy — it took me about a two weeks to get my head back into ‘The Nocturnals’ game and now its like I never left them alone. The one thing that never ceases to change with these characters is how inspired I get and how excited I get to be able to bring new material to readers and fans of my art. The hardcover series is going to make them very happy and we hope to bring in newcomers who will climb onboard and stay with us for what we plan to be a very productive and entertaining journey.”
Sure, some people fall in love with your regular superheroes, but like so many other readers, Negovan just couldn’t help but fall for “Nocturnals.” “The universe that Dan Brereton creates is a place that I want to live,” he said. “I’ve read everything he’s put out multiple times, and I need more alleys and hollows to explore. Seeing new ‘Nocturnals’ material is the best way to do that.”
“Nocturnals” has been published through numerous companies, including Dark Horse and Oni, but the new series at Olympian is an even larger endeavor than attempted before with the characters. “It’s looking like six issues, and will pick up some time after the events of ‘The Dark Forever’ and ‘Outskirts of Doom,'” explained Brereton of the new “Sinister Path” series. “Eve is about 13 in this story and dealing with all the fun stuff that normally plagues a girl that age. At the same time, I’ll be returning to the feel of the original ‘Black Planet’ mini-series, which means more of a noir feel, but with the same supernatural elements — darker, more of a connection to the criminal element, but plenty of monsters with guns.
“I want to give the Nocturnals some major trouble in this story. I’m gonna beat the hell out of them and test their boundaries,” continued Brereton. “What would it take to get any of them, even one, to stray from a righteous path? We’ve seen the Raccoon turn from being an amoral gangster to more of a team player, even a hero, but never once has any of them weakened. What would do it? The story is about those who choose the left-hand path, as opposed to the hero’s path. The story brings in a slew of new monsters for them to face down, plus a new badass character to tangle with Doc.”
When it comes to aesthetics, the popular painter explained that with his own personal maturity has come a similar growth in his artwork. “My work tends to rely a bit more on the drawing than it used to,” revealed Brereton. “You didn’t see my linework as much in my earlier work, and now it comes through more. There’s a bit more digital work involved, but only after the stuff has been painted. I look at digital work mostly as tidying-up. Because I scan my own work, the printed work will be improved. I’m really excited about being able to step back into their world and shake the tree really hard and deliver some great visuals, explore character more. I began the first ‘Nocturnals’ story when I was 28 years old. I’m 40 now and I can’t wait to see what the old guy comes up with. I hope everyone will come along for the ride. All I’ve ever wanted to do with ‘Nocturnals’ was to just make damn good comics.”
Fans won’t see “Sinister Path” till Fall 2007, but that’s not because Brereton is slacking or Olympian isn’t timely. “The long lead time is because while Dan has already started the material, it won’t be finished until this time next year,” said Negovan. “I’m not kidding — it takes a long time for him to paint those beautiful pages. We expect to release it as a monthly book immediately after the third hardcover comes out, right when everyone is foaming at the mouth and can’t wait any longer!”
Of course, one can’t forget about those oversized hardcover collections, which will retail for only $29.99, and while that’s great for comic book fans, the format is unusual. Since the books are larger than normal size, there might some fear that bookstores might not embrace these “Nocturnals” collections as readily as Olympian would like, but Negovan isn’t worried about that possibility. “The art is such an important part of his storytelling that I want to see it larger,” Negovan explained. “And if I feel that way, then others must too. I’m a fan, first and foremost. I really view this as literature, and I think that the oversized format makes it even more enticing!”
To ensure strong bookstore sales, becoming more and more important to comic book companies, Olympian has an aggressive promotional campaign in mind. “Our main focus as a publisher is art books: subjects like Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Berlin Cabaret, with focus on artists like Mucha and Klimt,” said Negovan. “‘The Nocturnals’ is one of those books that can cross over to a non-comics collector, and we expect that placing ‘The Nocturnals’ alongside these other books and exposing him to an outside (meaning non-comic collector) audience will be rewarding. “I’ve heard over and over again that ‘Nocturnals’ was ‘my first graphic novel.’ So we’re hoping to make that possible on a larger scale. ‘Nocturnals’ has a huge cult following, and now it’s time for the Nocturnals to reach a grand new plateau! They deserve it.”
The collections will also feature a colored version of “Gunwitch: Outskirts Of Doom,” originally published by Oni in black and white with artwork by Ted Naifeh. Getting this story back out there, and in color, excites Brereton. “‘Gunwitch: Outskirts of Doom’ is a personal favorite,” he admitted. “It will run in the third volume. Ted Naifeh’s work is stunning. It’s a spin on a classic story and it was a perfect way to showcase Gunwitch on his own. I can’t wait to see it colored, and Ted has agreed to draw extra story pages for the hardcover version — I want to flesh it out a bit more and see it colored in a way that will really breathe life into what I feel is one of the best Nocturnals tales, with some really cool villains. So readers will be treated to a full-color, expanded story.”
Brereton will also be seen in series other than “Nocturnals,” and revealed, “‘Drop-Dead Girl and Other Drawings’ is a new art book I just wrapped. Copies will debut at Comic-Con International in San Diego, but hit comic shops in the fall. The trade paperback collection of ‘The Psycho’ will be out later this month from Image.(copies also available at Comic-Con), which is in development at Universal as a feature film. My Romans vs, Celts graphic novel from Disney Italia, ‘The Last Battle,’ just released in Germany and I’m hoping it will come to the States this year. I’m really anxious for readers to see it here. Olympian Publishing released a 24×36 Nocturnals poster featuring all the Nocs in a new painting, and will be available at Comic-Con.
“Currently, I’m doing a slew of new material for the first hardcover — the prose story ‘Clean Hands,’ which I wrote in 1995, is an early tale with Doc and the Raccoon before there was a Nocturnals. I’m illustrating the story (which appears in screenplay format) with 13 or so full page illustrations. After I wrap that, I’m diving into an intense comic story for volume II to bridge ‘Troll Bridge’ and the ‘Dark Forever’ stories. After that, a third story for volume III in which the Nocturnals travel back to the Black Planet, Doc and Eve’s homeworld, which was infested with the demonic, tentacle-loving, Crim. This story will basically bring us full circle and carries a pretty weird and shocking twist I’m really amped about.”
Fans venturing to Comic-Con International in San Diego next week (July 19-23) will be greeted by the aforementioned brand new “Nocturnals” poster for sale, plus a massive, 40-foot Nocturnals banner. It’ll feature 23 characters, specifically an eight-foot tall Gunwitch, so it shouldn’t be hard to spot Olympian’s booth, #2945, and under the name of Century Guild.
CBR Staff Writer Arune Singh contributed to this story.