Announced at Comic-Con International, Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson, two of horror comics’ biggest names, are coming together for “City of Others,” a new mini-series from Dark Horse Comics. We spoke with Niles about the series and have a first look preview for ya.
Allright, Steve, let’s start with the story. What is “City of Others” all about?
Honestly, Bernie and I aren’t talking too much about story because we want people to experience it themselves. There’s no throw away stuff here – everything feeds into something else and everything gives away a big secret. But, that being said, the one thing Bernie and I have discussed is that instead of discussing the story we’d describe the opening six pages. It’s a little hard to describe – and it sounds even more disgusting than it actually is – but basically this young pregnant woman lands at a small border town airport, probably somewhere in New Mexico. Security is handling her pretty gently since she’s pregnant, but they keep running her through the metal detectors and they keep going off. So, the finally have to use some sonogram equipment they have to examine her – they have sonogram equipment to catch smugglers. They’re very apologetic and start doing the sonogram and suddenly the sonogram screen is filled with a man’s face with a screaming expression. She’s got a head inside there!
She’s got a head …
… in her belly! She’s smuggling a head into the country. Obviously all the security guards start freaking out and they’re ambushed by some unseen people. Then you have some goons wheeling in a body with no head in a wheel chair. They take the head out of the woman, put it on the body and that’s the beginning of our story. That’s the villain arriving in the country.
Let me see if I’ve got this straight — we’re talking transportable and detachable heads.
Yeah, that’s the funniest part – it’s got everything! It’s got detachable heads, werewolves, vampires, etc … I keep trying to describe to people how Spider-Man and Batman live in comic book worlds. Well, I think Bernie and I have really hit on something – we have created a comic that really takes place in a horror world. A lot of stuff I do is real world where monsters enter, like with “The Lurkers.” With “City of Others,” the monster world comes first and the real world is entering the monster world.
Allright, now of course the big news with “City of Others” is the participation of the legendary Bernie Wrightson! How did you two get hooked up together on this project?
I’ve been a fan of Bernie’s pretty much my entire life. We met through my friends Tim Bradstreet and Tom Jane. In pursuing Bernie to do a “Bad Planet” cover, we wound up being in the same place and started talking. The more we talked, the more we realized we were like the same person in a lot of ways! So, Bernie called me one day and said he wanted to get back into comics and he wanted to do it with me. And, when I came to [laughs] we started discussing ideas.
He’s always doing something in comics – he did a Simpson’s “Tree House of Horror” story and he did the covers for “Toe Tags” – but in terms of him doing a series, it’s been a long while and certainly not an original horror series, so I’m really excited about this.
Now, in writing “City of Others,” was this a book that you wrote with him in mind, or did you know he’d be your collaborator at the time?
We wrote it together. We sat there and bounced ideas back and forth. He told me what he always wanted to do and I told him what I always wanted to do. What you have here is two guys who really love horror. There’s a lot of stuff out there that we see done over and over again, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff that nobody does and we want to try to do the stuff nobody does.
You guys come from very different backgrounds – you have very different histories in the horror genre. When you guys sat down and talked about what you wanted to do, did you guys ever find yourselves butting heads with different sensibilities?
Never, not once. If anything, we keep getting ahead of ourselves, but we’ve not butted heads thematically once. Working with him is pure pleasure. Oh, and he’s practically my neighbor now. I’m in my new apartment and he lives two blocks away from me. That first night we went out, we started talking and we started writing a different story. He threw this concept out and threw an image at me, but he didn’t know exactly where it could fit, so I pointed out how it could fit and, well, we were like two kids together.
I have to tell you this – one of the best moments I had with Bernie – probably more for me than him – we were at a local animation shop together and a woman walked up and said, “Berine, aren’t you going to introduce me to your son?” [laughs] We look just enough alike.
No offense, but he’s not that much older than you!
No, he’s not!
I guess that’s a testament to you aging well.
I guess! [laughs] Thank you, ma’am! I’ll take all I can get.
You’re now working with Bernie Wrightson, unarguably one of the masters of horror, and you also worked with Richard Corben, another fantastic horror veteran. Is working with past masters something that’s important to you and something you seek out?
Well, it wasn’t something I went after, but it’s a unique pleasure. I’m telling you, I’m from the perspective, “Bernie Wrightson? No way I’ll ever get a chance to work with him!” And here I am. I thought at best I’d take a photo with him, I’m that big a fan, but nothing like this.
Have you had to contain the fanboy within?
Yeah, I almost had an anxiety attack once or twice.
I just had to get used to it. Every once in a while when we were sitting there talking, I’d phase out and I’d begin to realize I’m not hearing what anyone is saying because I’m too busy thinking, “That’s fucking Bernie Wrightson! Good God!” [laughs] I remember my Mom yanking a magazine that had his art in it out of my hand when we were in church when I was a little kid. “You do not read that stuff in church!”
That’s hilarious, Steve. Let’s get back to you guys working on the story together. What is that creative process like?
We spitball ideas and then I go and write and send it to him. That’s about it. It’s all clicking. And his art is better than ever, I must say. Dark Horse is 100% behind us on this. We’re a ways off until this book actually comes – we want to make sure we have some books in the can – but I couldn’t be happier. I swear, if I lost every other gig, I’d be happy doing Cal McDonald stories and “City of Others.” I’ve always just wanted to a book that exists in a world of horror without any of the trappings of the genre or super heroes. This is going to be what I consider to be a true horror comic, but horror fans, for horror fans.
Oh, and by the way, it’s drawn by Bernie Fucking Wrightson!
Indeed. Thanks, Steve.