Boston Pops: Baron & Norton On Image's "Night Club"

STORY: The city of Boston, Massachusetts is a famous and old city. It's one of the oldest cities in the United States and home, naturally, to the infamous Boston Massacre of 1770 and the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Paul Revere called Boston home, as did Samuel Adams (who, in typical American fashion, later became better known as a beer icon). The city is also home to Major League Baseball's Red Sox who just won their first championship in 86 years.

It's also a well known fact that Boston boasts thousands and thousands of bars and pubs throughout the city, including playing host to the bar seen in the long running television show "Cheers." This April, Mike Baron and Mike Norton visit just one of those Boston bars in the four-issue mini-series "Night Club" coming from Image Comics.

"Me and Mike stay in touch regularly (even if it is a long time in between emails)," artist Mike Norton told CBR News about the genesis of this project. "I had been thinking of doing something of my own creation for a while and one day Mike said, 'Let's do something again.' [The duo had previously worked on three issues of 'Badger.'] Of course, I thought that was a great idea and we threw around ideas at each other until I finally gave him a brief synopsis and character description of a project I had in my head from, well, a long time ago. Actually 'synopsis' is probably too generous a word, but he looked at it and gave it back to me a million times better!"

In "Night Club," Boston is preparing for the annual Fourth of July celebrations, a holiday that city knows how to celebrate. Crime is out of control in this Boston and an eerie army of what appears to be zombies patrol the streets at night, threatening anyone who gets in their way. Two teen runaways, Jack and Annie (a psychic), escape these creatures, taking shelter in an old bar under a freeway.

Writer Mike Baron explained how this story came together. "Norton and I were kicking ideas around. He had one about a group of loners and losers who come together for a greater purpose -- he had their names, a few ideas about powers. It had a very noir feel. I started tinkering with it and lo and behold, they were out to save the world. They meet at night, in an ancient bar in Boston, based on a real place I used to frequent."

Inside they meet a preacher named Walter, who draws others together inside the walls of this bar to fight this new menace. "Walter is a fire and brimstone preacher who travels the country in a bus," said Baron. "A Baptist preacher, but worldly wise, with a sense of humor. Walter always expects the worst. Jesus is his answer for everything."

Another, Jerry, joins them who Baron says just radiates hostility - in his posture, words and expressions. "Jerry was caught in a lab explosion that inserted nanites into his body, which attracts machinery," said Baron. "He can't control the machinery. Sometimes it does what he wants; sometimes it acts on its own. He's bitter about what happened to him, doesn't understand it and fears his own body."

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Walter, armed with the word of God, guides these lost souls in a fight against the coming apocalypse. Together they're known as the Night Club.

"To me, 'Night Club' was always the story of four misfits turned heroes," added Norton. "People that don't even necessarily want to be doing what they're doing but are forced to, because as they soon find out, they're the only ones that can."

Baron set "Night Club" in the city of Boston for a variety of reasons, the least of which is he used to call the city home. "Not only did I live in Boston, and experience its wealth of neighborhoods, H.P. Lovecraft sets one of his most famous tales in the North End, 'Pickman's Model,'" said Baron. " I draw a connection to Lovecraft. Boston is an old city (for America,) one of the few not laid out in a grid pattern. If you threw a plate of spaghetti to the floor it would look like a map of Boston. That's part of its appeal."

Norton added, "Boston being in the story was his idea and does actually have a lot more to do with the story than him really liking the city." The artist said he's never visited Boston before, so he's been having to do a lot of research to capture the distinctiveness of Boston on the printed page.

While "Night Club" contains many of the signatures of the horror genre, both Mike's feel "Night Club" is more than just your typical horror comic.

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"Well, for me, 'Night Club' is very much about the four characters rather than the 'horror' aspect," said Norton. "I'm more interested in that part of the story. It's not really a 'horror comic' in the truest sense, although there are definitely very 'gothic' elements to the story, however. The good guys may not even win in this one, either."

"Our first goal is to entertain," added Baron. "I want the characters to speak in distinctive voices. I think I've succeeded. I want the characters to stay with the reader after he puts down the comic."

As we noted earlier, this isn't the first time Baron and Norton have worked together on a comic.

"Mike is really the reason I'm working right now in comics," said Norton. "He gave me my first job (working on 'Badger' during its Image days). He's one of my favorite creators in comics, plain and simple. I was really happy (if not a little scared) about getting to work with him again. Nobody writes a balls out crazy story like Mike."

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"I have watched in astonishment [Norton's] artistic growth," said Baron of his collaborator. "He's one of those artists, you see their work, you have got to do something with them. He's not only the right artist for this book, he's the right artist for any number of books."

With both creators hard at work on the April debuting book, writer Baron left us with one final note about the series.

"I have taken the liberty of using Satan as a character. He's not a humorous character. I hope I do him justice."

Look for "Night Club" in the Image Comics section of the February Previews and on comic shop shelves in April.

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