Adam McGovern Talks "Nightworld," Gothic Horror that Puts the 'Emo' in 'Demon'

Fueled by a steady diet of midnight movies, mid-century pop culture and Mexican vampire tales, writer Adam McGovern and artist Paolo Leandri have used their creative mind-meld to turn out an exquisitely executed miniseries harkening back to the glory days of horror comics. Following a demon attempting to free his lover from a curse, "Nightworld" blends atmospheric thrills and chills with a genteel sort of romance disappointingly absent from so many horror stories these days.

The concept began with the focal character of the series, an elegant demon called Plenilunio, who Leandri created over a decade ago. Through his partnership with McGovern, the story was adapted from Leandri's native Italian for American audiences, and is now being released through Image Comics. Leandri's classic gothic aesthetic -- think swirling fog, full moons, shadowed castles -- is richly enhanced by the coloring of Dom Regan, resulting in ethereal and dramatic storytelling.

McGovern spoke with CBR News about "Nightworld," sharing more on his inspirations, his unique collaboration with Leandri and what makes Plenilunio such a charming, if emo, sort of monster.

CBR News: Adam, we're just about four issues in to "Nightworld," and I'm curious to find out if the story has surprised you. Is it where you expected it to be by now when you started? 

Adam McGovern: Artist/creator Paolo and I always have ways to keep each other surprised in the moment, responding to what twists the story has taken. I'll send him story treatments that I get back with whole new scenes swapped in, which keeps me off my toes. I switched the climactic battle he had in mind for Issue #4 to a more metaphysical confrontation between our leading demons and their inner selves -- with a lot of explosions, don't worry -- since the story keeps having its own ideas about where to go. If it stays unpredictable to us, hopefully it stays intriguing for the readers!

Plenilunio is a character that your collaborator Paolo conceived over a decade ago, but you are now writing -- how have you gone about finding the voice of the character? What aspects of his being are most interesting to you? 

I like the moodiness, [which is] so offbeat for a man of action (or a demon of action). As I once said, "the damned don't scream, they cry." In a movie version of the sell-your-soul story "Faust" that I saw as a kid, the devils who come to tempt the main character are always weeping because they were cast out, and even when they come to Earth they're melancholy because, "Once having seen heaven, all other worlds are hell." I only realized consciously the other day that that was my model for "hearing" the voice of this character Paolo created. Plenilunio is everything you wish you had done differently -- and as we see, sometimes that makes him a badass, and even a jester, as well as the guy who puts the "emo" in "demon."

The poetic, romantic quality of Plenilunio isn't something we see a lot in modern American comics. It's evocative of a very mid-century sort of horror, things like "Dark Shadows" especially. Was that style something you were interested in before this collaboration? 

I always was; I grew up on reruns of Mexican vampire movies made in the 1960s, where everything was very stylized and vintage and proper, in-between the murders. It's probably why I was so haunted from the first time I saw Paolo's prototypical version of what became our first issue.

Funny you should mention "Dark Shadows," since one way I pitched "Nightworld" at one point was to say it was like Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" movie, with all the gloomy parts and jokes in the opposite places.

How do you get into the mood to write "Nightworld?"

A lifetime of regrets, way too many short boxes and horror flicks.

There's a great modern voice in some of the characters, specifically Hotspot, that gives a nice contradiction to the gothic-ness of the rest of the book. How are you keeping the story balanced between the different influences? 

We're tricksters and smart-asses, so it's not so much a matter of how to balance things as making sure not to silence that snarky voice that's throwing popcorn at the monster-movie and pointing out the rubber suits. Life takes swerves into absurdity, even at the most grim times (in some cases, especially at the most grim times), and can change from frivolous to tragic in a heartbeat, too. We just follow that. Paolo definitely came up with Hotspot as an antidote to Plenilunio's glumness -- though, like life, sometimes even they switch places, too!

Speaking of the characters, the cast is pretty small. Who have we met so far? Are there any new characters arriving at the end of this arc? 

We've met the morose demon Plenilunio; his entranced, sleepwalking lover Lidia; their mortal neighbors, Ludmilla Laskos and Grandpa Lowe; the rival demons Hotspot, Hellena and her pet dragonoid Lotus; Underboss, the CEO of Hell; and "The Super," an ex-hero serving as hell's janitor and bearing an uneasy resemblance to a certain man of yesterday. We have new characters lurking for the sequel arcs, and let's just say at the end of this arc in Issue #4 we'll meet a new -- intelligence.

How does the collaboration process work between you and Paolo? His style is so gorgeous--what are some of your favorite panels/pages?

After a brief conference between us, Paolo sent me the entire, drawn first issue, and I voice-overed it, Stan Lee style. The final issue was almost a full script from me, with Paolo's inspired modifications, and the two in-between were a volley of fireballs from each side. We often each think we came up with plot-points that the other did, such is our subconscious bond.

As to fave art, I love the engine of Hell that he did a double-page splash of in Issue #2 -- a devil-head-shaped boiler, like Moloch from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis." There's a drunken demon-brawl in Issue #3 that I think everyone will love. And the single page of writing I was most happy with in the first issue was the one where I contributed exactly two words -- "I. Rise."-- on either side of the first full-length shot of Plenilunio, a weird biblical proclamation, with no more needed to be added in words to the atmosphere and sadness and dread Paolo pictured.

So, this arc is four-issues -- are you continuing more? With Image? 

We have ideas for many more miniseries -- in the letters page to Issue #4 we reveal a bit about the next two. We hope we'll keep our haunted home with Image; there's no company that people are more excited about, and none that I read more comics from!

"Nightworld" #4 haunts stores November 5.

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