Dynamite Entertainment is bringing a fresh take to their flagship title “Army of Darkness” this November, overhauling the series with acclaimed horror comics writer Steve Niles. On board for a full year of penning the next stage of Ash Williams’ saga, Niles is picking up his “Ash and the Army of Darkness” story just after the conclusion of the film, with Dennis Calero on art. Hinting at a growing cast of characters, Niles returns Ash to the Dark Ages to face a new Deadite menace.
No stranger to horror comics with comedic undertones, Niles is a perfect fit to helm the newest take on Ash, and as a fan of Sam Raimi’s original “Evil Dead” and “Army of Darkness” films, the writer couldn’t be more thrilled for the gig.
CBR News spoke with Niles about “Ash and the Army of Darkness,” his love of the films and going George R.R. Martin on the Deadite armies.
CBR News: Steve, is writing “Ash and the Army of Darkness” a dream project for you? How did it come about?
Steve Niles: It really is a dream project for me. I know the material so well and Ash is a great character. Dynamite’s Publisher Nick Barrucci and I have been talking for years, maybe almost a decade now, about working together. I always had too much going on and I had a very bad habit of taking on too much — over the years I’ve slowed down a lot. I knew I wanted to do at least one licensed book, so when Nick said “Army of Darkness” I wanted it right away. We worked out the details and here I am for at least a 12 issue run, which is another thing I’m excited about. I usually do 4 to 6 issue self-contained stories, so the chance to plan and write a full year is great.
Do you remember your first time watching the “Evil Dead” and “Army of Darkness” films?
I was just ending my life as a musician in the band Gray Matter and starting to take on comics full time in 1992. I was a huge “Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead 2” fan. As an indie horror guy, those two films mean an awful lot — Raimi was like the new Romero to me. “Evil Dead” was one of the first films coming out of the ’80s that I thought stood apart and was actually scary. Man, that first one freaked people out. When “Army of Darkness” released I was blown away. I love that Raimi was able to take an idea and do an entirely different version of it.
What’s the story you’re looking to tell in “Ash and the Army of Darkness?” Where — or when — are you sending him?
Well see, that’s just the thing. My story begins one frame after the “Army of Darkness” film ends and Ash quickly learns things aren’t so back-to-normal. In fact — you guessed it — he botched getting home. My arc takes place in the 1300s and things have gotten much, much worse for Arthur, Henry the Red, Wiseman and the others.
I always thought the thing that separated “Army of Darkness” from the other films was the 1300s setting. I like the time-jumping aspect of the story, and we may go to other times down the road, but anchoring the story in the original setting in the Dark Ages makes it really fun. Ash is at his best when he’s off balance, and nothing keeps him off balance better then being completely out of his comfort zone. He really hates being around these people he sees as savages and from that we get a lot of comedy — and a Dark Ages overrun by hordes of Deadites makes for great horror.
Do you approach structure and pacing differently in a 12-issue arc than you would in your more typical 4-6 issue stories?
I still look at every issue as a self-contained story in itself, but now I get to have more story, more characters, more action and a variety of plots revolving around Ash. I’m so used to doing contained 3-4 issue arcs that it feels really good to stretch out a bit. I am able to do more sweeping plots. I’ve joked that I’m looking at this as a horror “Game of Thrones” — with Ash — but I swear I’ll be nicer to the characters.
Will we be seeing the return of Sheila?
In the first issue, Sheila is missing along with another familiar character. We find out what happened to her in the first few issues. I’ll try not to go George R.R. Martin on her. That’s the most I can promise.
What does artist Dennis Calero bring to the story?
I’ve worked with Dennis before, back when we did a “28 Weeks Later” story for an OGN related to the first two films. It was one of my favorites parts of the book. I’ve already seen pages for “Army of Darkness” and I can tell you they look fantastic. We also have some great covers on the way.
“Army of Darkness” has a tone that’s different than much of your other work — it’s more light-hearted and satirical. What’s your take on Ash’s world?
I’m comfortable with lighter stuff. “Mystery Society” was very light with lots of comedy and I have always thought of “Criminal Macabre” as a comedy as much as a horror series. I slipped into writing Ash pretty easily because he writes himself. The worse the situation, the more Ash acts up — I love that. Plus, Ash isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, so that always makes for some laughs.
Who, or what, is now leading the Deadites? Is there a grand evil force at work?
If you look at those preview pages, you might be able to see who it is. If not, just remember — whom did Ash leave the Book of the Dead with?
Dynamite’s “Ash and the Army of Darkness” by Steve Niles & Dennis Calero goes on sale in November