You’ve seen writer Steve Niles bring a new take to vampire legends with “30 Days of Night.” He’s tackled those mindless zombies with his work in “Remains.” Now it’s time for Niles to spread his wings a bit tackling aspects of the horror world you’ve not seen him address before. Along with a whole slew of new projects comes a new publisher for Niles as well. Coming late 2005/early 2006, Steve Niles and Boom! Studios will team up to bring you three new mini-series: “Giant Monster,” “In The Blood” and “Gutwrencher.” Today we sit down with Niles and Boom! Studios Publisher Ross Richie to discuss the first two books we mention, while tomorrow we’ll sit down again with Niles and his “Gutwrencher” collaborator Keith Giffen to get the skinny on that title.
Starting with “Giant Monster,” this two-issue, 48 page mini-series with artist Nat Jones (“The Nail”) hits stores this September. “‘Giant Monster’ was originally something I was going to do with Rob Zombie through Creep Entertainment, but he’s got a movie, an album, a tour, another movie, etc., he’s got so much stuff going on right now that we decided I’d do it on my own,” Niles told CBR News.
“As if you couldn’t figure it out by the title, ‘Giant Monster’ is the ultimate giant monster story. We’re taking a little bit from ‘King Kong’ to ‘Attack of the Colossal Man’ to ‘War of the Gargantuas,’ ‘Frankenstein Conquers the World,’ ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’ and even the modern ‘Godzilla.’ This whole giant monster thing is a genre unto itself. That’s what we’re taking on with ‘Giant Monster’ and it’s real fun so far.
“The story’s about a shuttle pilot, Colonel Don Maggert, who’s going on his first solo mission to the JFK International Space Station,” continued Niles. “When he left for his mission he was having a few marital problems, a few drinking problems, basically he’s having problems with his life in general. This flight is really a big turning point that allows him to get his life together and to get back out there. While he’s flying back, he’s attacked by a space parasite! It devours his body, he crashes into the ocean and our story begins.”
Niles said that “Giant Monster” finds your typical cast of characters seen in a giant monster story. Of course there’ll be representatives from NASA as well as the wife, Julie, whose astronaut husband has become an ever-growing monster that’s eating everything in sight.
“I’m structuring the story like they did the old disaster movies where you’ll have these little pockets of stories thrown in. For instance, there’s a story about a bunch of kids in Utah and people may wonder ‘Why are you doing this story about a bunch of kids in Utah?’ Then all of a sudden, when the monster hits Utah, it makes sense. The book has a true ensemble cast.”
This series will mark Niles’ first published science fiction work (the science fiction book “Bad Planet” with Tom Jane is still in development at this time), although Niles maintains this book really falls somewhere between horror and science fiction and it’ll be loaded up with a lot of humor. “In every one of these movies, when the husband or the wife becomes a giant monster, the authorities always go to the spouse and say, ‘Go talk to him. See if you can get him to calm down.’ Inevitably there’s always that scene where they ask the spouse to appeal to him. In this case, Julie’s response is more along the lines of, ‘You know, we really weren’t on the best of terms when he left. I’m not sure I’m the right person you should be talking to.’ She does this thing, I don’t want to give away too much, but she says, ‘It might be dangerous if I talk to him, but I think I know who can talk to him.’ Then we cut away to a shot of a guy sitting in his apartment picking up his phone saying, ‘Hello? Uh huh. Uh huh. That’s Don? Oh my God! (long silence) Well, of course I’ll talk to him, but I’m only his sponsor!’ (laughs) So, they’re trying to get his AA sponsor to go talk to him down!”
Often times with these giant monster movies they end up being stories of redemption. Niles says that “Giant Monster” does play with that idea a bit, but readers shouldn’t think they know what comes next. “Don’s definitely playing out some of the frustrations in his real life as a monster, but for the second book I’ve got a whole different thing planned.”
Next up for Niles at Boom! Studios is the five-issue mini-series “In The Blood” coming in early 2006 with art from “Horrorcide” and “Fused” artist Josh Medors. “For a while now I’ve been wanting to do a werewolf story and that’s what we’ve got here,” explained Niles. “I’m very excited about this one. I love werewolves! I kind of got stuck doing vampires for a while, so this is exciting for me.
“This really gets its start by going back to the original ‘Wolfman‘ movie. I always thought Claude Raines should have given his son a little more of a shot before beating him to death.
“Really, what I’m doing with ‘In The Blood’ is asking the question how a parent would really react to something like this happening to one of their own children. I can’t give away too many plot elements because the big surprises and plot developments are all in the first issue, but it’s going to be a very different take on werewolves. Like I did with ’30 Days of Night’ by getting rid of the crosses and wooden stakes, there are no silver bullets and full moons in this book. I’m taking it very much from the point of view that being a werewolf is caused by a virus and it’s something that can be passed on from generation to generation.”
Traditionally it seems that in Hollywood, even in comics and books, werewolves haven’t received the same kind of respect or appreciation given vampires and zombies. Niles believes that’s due in part to a lack of definition for the creatures “Part of that is the fact that the ancient and modern histories of the werewolf are very different and kind of mixed up,” said Niles. “There’s the Werewolf/Lycanthrope/shape shifters which encompass the ancient history. The modern history really is dictated by the wolfman we know from the Universal movies. That whole silver bullet, full moon, pentagram on the hand and all that stuff was made up by Universal for that movie. I just don’t think werewolves have been that well defined. Since, what, I guess ‘The Howling,’ all werewolves right up to ‘Van Helsing,’ everyone’s done these big dog-headed things and I’d like to get back to the more humanoid/wolf monster.”
With “In The Blood” we’re presented with a much younger werewolf, one who emerges as an adolescent, but it won’t be your typical horror story from Niles. “I am trying to center it around the relationships in this family,” explained Niles. “That’s the most powerful stuff in any story. ‘In The Blood’ is a bit more personal, a bit smaller. It won’t have the same scale of ’30 Days of Night.'”
As we mentioned above, both of these books will be published with emerging comics publisher Boom! Studios headed up by Ross Richie. “A mutual friend introduced Ross Richie to me and we hit it off right away,” explained Niles. “He’s local, which I love. We started talking about projects and found we have a lot of similar tastes. It really just fell into place very simply.”
“Steve’s the very definition of an innovator, so I was really excited to have a chance to work with him,” Ross Richie told CBR News. “Steve nearly single-handedly revived horror as a genre in comics. You really can’t overstate what a tremendous accomplishment that is– the genre had been dormant for nearly 30 years. He’s one of the seminal creators of the past decade. How many people can put on their resume that they pulled an entire story genre out of oblivion, and re-introduced it large-scale to an entire medium?
“That’s the kind of creator I want to work with at Boom!. Boom! is about showcasing original, distinctive voices– creators who have their own thing going on, whom an audience will recognize often from their name alone. I see that it’s my job to enable a creator to do what they do well and get the hell out of the way. Once that thing is created, it’s my job to take it to market and let everyone know it’s out there.”
Niles is excited to begin working with Boom! Studios, saying their biggest strength is that they’re small, smart and enthusiastic. “The biggest problem with most comic companies that aren’t Marvel, DC or Dark Horse, is that they grow too fast,” said Niles. “How many times have we seen that happen in the last five years? They tend to loose their focus and not stay with the mission at hand. Ross seems really smart about it and he just wants to do a handful of titles at a time, while really working on the marketing and giving books the time and attention that you really need to put into books in this market.”
Richie’s excited to begin working with Niles, liking that “Giant Monster” showcases a different side of Steve’s work “People have seen Steve do vampires. And with ‘Remains’ and ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ they’ve seen him do zombies. With ‘Wake The Dead’ and ‘Little Books of Horror’ he’s done Frankenstein. This is a totally different thing– more of a monster movie, more of a sci-fi flick,” said Richie. I think there’s some appeal in seeing Steve do a different genre here. This isn’t something his fans have seen him do ever.
“Another thing that sold the project was Nat Jones,” continued Richie. “He did a fully painted cover for the first issue and it was a brilliant image with a genius execution. Nat is just a massively talented guy and he’s been such a pleasure to talk to and work with so far. He really deserves every single kind thing said about him.
“And that’s not to leave out colorist Jay Fotos. Jay has a brilliant, varied command of his pallette. He turned in a color job on the 2 page spread to pages 14 to 15, and it nearly tore off the top of my head. He’s a master.”
Niles also revealed that he and Richie are talking about launching his first ongoing series at Boom! “I’m still trying to decide about where and when I want to do it, but it’s something I’m really interested in doing,” said Niles. “Less of these four and five issue stories and spending time doing something ongoing. With mini-series, I’m always thinking beginning, middle and end. I’m always thinking within these very tight structures, but comics are much more a soap opera medium. I want to get in on that fun! And most important I want to do something that gives people a chance to get into it and enjoy it. I would say that if there’s one mistake I’ve made, the perfect example would be ‘Remains’ versus ‘The Walking Dead.’ ‘Remains’ did fine, but it might have gotten a better response had it been an ongoing. Comics are a very fast moving industry that you’ve got to always get out there and that’s something that Robert Kirkman did that was so smart. Doing ‘The Walking Dead’ as an ongoing allowed his readers to get in there and enjoy it. That’s the one thing I haven’t done as I’ve spent most of my time doing all these sort of straight-to-graphic novel ideas. I just think I’ve got to spread my wings a little bit developing these characters in an ongoing.”
That’s not to say that Niles will abandon the mini-series format, as should be obvious by the two series we’ve discussed so far, but it’s an area he’d very much like to explore. “The ongoing has always been the focus of the comic industry, but I’ve never done it,” said Niles.
Wrapping things up for today, Niles left us with a couple of big teases for his fans. “We’re going to have some news soon about Tom Jane and I making some movies and plus, here’s where I’ll be a total tease, I did a project for Marvel and…(long pause) I’m not telling you anything else!”
Come back to CBR tomorrow for more with Niles and his “Gutwrencher” collaborator Keith Giffen.