It’s been 15 years since Steve Niles became an overnight sensation in comics -- after many years of work as a writer and editor -- with 30 Days of Night. The comic spawned multiple sequels, two films and has become a touchstone for a generation of horror fans. Since then, he’s gone on to write Mystery Society, Remains, Winnebago Graveyard, The October Faction, Broken Moon, and many more comic book series.
For years now, Niles has been collaborating with the great Bernie Wrightson, who passed away in March of this year after a long battle with brain cancer. City of Others, Dead She Said, Doc Macabre, and The Ghoul marked Wrightson’s return to comics after many years away. The books were strange, unsettling, beautiful and haunting.
RELATED: Remembering Bernie Wrightson
Before Wrightson became ill, he and Niles had started the miniseries Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, publishing three of the four planned issues. In January, IDW is publishing the fourth and final issue of the series, which Wrightson started, and asked artist Kelley Jones to complete the story. Niles spoke to CBR about the book, and his return to 30 Days of Night, which returns with a new six-issue series later this month illustrated by Piotr Kowalski, with covers by original series artist Ben Templesmith and the book's original cover artist, Ashley Wood.
CBR: What was the first Bernie Wrightson comic you read?
Steve Niles: The first comic was probably Swamp Thing, but my earliest memory of Bernie’s work was his Frankenstein book. This is back when it was released by Marvel. That book just blew me away. I had the cover of that book on my wall as a kid. That art still blows my mind to this day, even more so.
When you were working on these books like City of Others, Dead She Said, Doc Macabre, The Ghoul, were they different from the other projects you were working on? Was there something about these ideas that made you go, this is for Wrightson?
All of the projects I did with Bernie came out of conversations we had. We used to hang out every Friday and play Scrabble. We’d have some beers and pizza and just laughed at ideas, and then I’d go away and write. All of that was a full collaboration with Bernie from the ground up.
We worked very closely. Most of the time I write scripts and send them to the artist finished, but all of the projects I did with with Bernie came out of conversations we had. He would have ideas on the monsters he wanted to draw, which then would spur me onto how to write them into the stories.
I’m sure that when he was sick, he wasn’t worrying about work. At what point did you have that conversation about what to do with Frankenstein, Alive, Alive!?
He really wanted to work, but he was getting more and more tired and not able to get back into drawing, so we did have a serious talk about it. There was a strange moment of synchronicity in all of that. I had been thinking about what it would take to finish Alive, Alive and the only artist that I thought of who could do it was Kelley Jones. It turned out that IDW and Bernie had the same idea, so when we talked about it, Bernie instantly said Kelley would be great. I’d worked with Kelley a lot in the past, we’re old friends, and I thought his style would be just perfect. He’s capable of doing many of the kinds of things Bernie did, so we all thought he was the one to complete the book. There wasn’t even a second choice.
What had been finished and what was left to do of the issue?
Of the 19 pages of the final issue, I think three pages, including a spread, were completed. Luckily, Bernie had roughed out the entire issue, so that’s what Kelley will be working from.
You’re also revisiting another comic, in a different way. What is this new 30 Days of Night, and why did you decide to revisit the comic?
It’s been 15 years since the first series, so we thought a re-introduction to the series would be fun. The original series was only three issues long so having six issues to work with was refreshing. It’s not an exact retelling, though. I’ve added lots of new twists and turns so even people familiar with the series can read it fresh.
If it’s not too personal a question, because I know that he wasn’t just a peer and a collaborator but a good friend, but is there something you learned from working with Wrightson that you’ve taken away and has affected the way you work?
Working with Bernie was incredible. I can’t even describe what it was like to work with one of my heroes. But honestly, it was the friendship that mattered the most. I learned so much from Bernie about storytelling and art, and we spent years laughing til we cried on so much ridiculous stuff. It was amazing to see him work, and hear the stories behind his artwork, especially when we started Alive, Alive. Those issues were so clearly a new level of art for him, and getting to see that work up close and personal is unforgettable.
30 Days of Night #1 is scheduled for release on Dec. 20. Frankenstein Alive, Alive! #4 is scheduled for release on Jan. 17.