In Depth With Mike Carey: "Felix Castor," Movies, Comics & More

Yesterday, CBR News brought you an in-depth interview with Mike Carey regarding the wide variety of comic work he's currently writing. Today, we're going to focus on his work in novels and his upcoming film (with a big casting announcement!), as well as another Ultimate series he's lined up at Marvel and much more. This interview picks up where the last one left off, with CBR News speaking to Mike Carey via phone from his home outside London.

Ok Mike, now let's talk about your out of comics - other media - adventures. Let's start with the fact that you're a huge Buffy fan: now that it's over on television, what's there on television, or in film, that's catching your eye?

On television, I'm still working my way through "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under." I'm massively behind on both, but still enjoying them tremendously. I'm getting hooked on Jane Austen: you know the "Pride & Prejiduce" series that the BBC did years ago? I just watched that again and I really had a blast with it. I'm now working my way through all the adaptations of 18th and 19th century novels that I can get my hands on. I'm enjoying that a lot.

Have you watched "Lost?" It's huge over here and I hear it's doing well on Channel 4 on your island.

It is doing well and I haven't seen it yet. The first season is out on DVD and I'll probably pick it up in the New Year. I got "Howl's Moving Castle" and it got me enthusiastic about anime again, so I've been watching a lot of the Studio Ghibli stuff. Looking forward to "Narnia," which just opened here, and also Peter Jackson's "King Kong," which I'll see as soon as I can get an afternoon free. It seems like a bit of a golden age for big, spectacular, widescreen movies, which I'm finding really fun.

We haven't about this yet, but have you seen "Batman Begins?" It seems right up your alley.

No I haven't, but there again I just bought it on DVD and it's sitting here, alongside "Sin City." They're both films we missed at the movies, because we have young kids, so most of what we see in movies is family stuff, and the adult stuff is bought on DVD and watched later. I've also been watching massive amounts of Japanese and Korean horror films, for various reasons, such as the work of Takeshi Miike. Just looking at the power of Far Eastern horror, it's so different, visually, from Western horror films.

What about the new "Dr. Who" series? Everyone seems to be loving it.

Yeah, it's great: that was a revelation. I wasn't expecting anything much from it and I thought that it was fantastic. Excellent choice of Doctor - wonderful assistant, right up there with Sophie Aldred's Ace, great takes on old villains like the Daleks. I can't wait to see what they do with the Cybermen and the Master.

Well, now that we know you're in touch with your inner Oprah, after seeing all the Austen stuff, and with your inner geek, after "Who," why don't you tell us about your Felix Castor novels. What are they about?

Alright, well Felix Castor is an exorcist: but he's not a man of faith, he's not a priest, and he's not a man who gained his power through any spiritual workings. He's purely and simply an ordinary guy who can bind and dispel ghosts or demons and make a living doing that. In a way, it's kind of horror noir: it's supernatural crime fiction.

One of the inspirations behind the Castor character is the work of Raymond Chandler. I'm drawing him as a gumshoe and jobbing exorcist, much like Chandler's gumshoe detectives, working for a set fee plus expenses, that sort of thing.

The setting is London of the present day, where the dead have started to rise, with a sudden increase in the number of hauntings and such, so suddenly there is a great need for people like Castor. When we meet him, he's retired: he'd been doing the exorcist thing for a number of years and he had a near miss with a demon, an encounter that went almost fatally wrong. He tried to exorcise a demon from a friend of his and almost killed the friend, and arguably did something that may be worse than killing him. So, Castor is lying low when we first meet him: he hasn't been working and he comes out of retirement to do something simple, but it turns out complex and ugly.

In terms of the sequence of novels as a whole, we start off by showing Castor in individual cases and then slowly broaden the canvas, asking the bigger questions about why the dead are rising, why is this seismic shift happening in the spirit world and is it a portent of something bigger? And we start to explore the implications for the real world: is life just one stage in a cycle like the life cycle of a butterfly? What's really going on here?

It's initially a trilogy, but it'll probably be a longer series: I'm talking to [my publisher] Orbit about that at the moment. The first novel comes out on April 6th, 2006, and the next in October.

Do you know if they're available for pre-order?

They certainly are in the U.K, but I'm not sure about the States.

The book may draw some comparisons to your work in "Hellblazer," with the two leads having otherwordly powers, but we're talking two separate entities here, right?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, in a way Castor could be compared to John, but the most valid comparison is that both men have made terrible mistakes and have to live from day to day with the consequences of those mistakes. Like John Constantine, Castor is a man literally and figuratively haunted by his past. But this is a different kind of setting and story than "Hellblazer": the crime elements are much more pronounced in Castor. There's a crime and mystery always solved in the novels. I guess some "Hellblazer" storylines have had that thriller vibe, but my "Hellblazer" stories weren't at all in that vein.

Looking at the horror or supernatural stuff you've written, I have to wonder…do you have really bad nightmares?

Sometimes I do, yeah. I had an appalling one last night, where I was walking home, just having gotten off the train, and I suddenly realized there was no light anywhere. The lights were off in all the houses and I couldn't find any sign of life. I realized that I was the only living person in the world and everyone else had disappeared. That was a nasty one.

So do you look to your dreams for ideas? Or are there other places from where you draw the ideas for your darker, supernatural work? What drives you towards the genre?

I dunno, I think I really do have a morbid imagination. Did you ever, as a kid, ever imagine something really awful and then find that you weren't able to take your mind off it? You couldn't get it out of your head?

Are you trying to make me cry?

[laughs] That's my mentality: I tend to look on the downside of things and tend to imagine and dwell on those things.

What do your wife and kids think about that?

Um [laughs] they don't see it very much. That's the side I don't show them. It's kind of like the locked box of my soul. [laughs]

Have your kids read any of your work? I know they're younger, so the stuff might a bit too adult, but I'd be interested to hear their reactions.

Louise, my daughter, who is 13, has read some of it. I let her read selective issues of "Lucifer." She read issue #28, the Gaudium one-off, and she's read a couple of others. They've all read "My Faith In Frankie," because even though there's bad language in it, I didn't think there was anything in content that they couldn't deal with. And they've all read "Spellbinders." When I wrote that, it felt great to be able to give them something that was entirely suitable for their age. [laughs]

I remember an issue of "Lucifer" way back when, where you mentioned S Club 7 and it dawned on me, "Of course he'd mention this: his kids probably love 'em." It seemed a bit out of place in "Lucifer."

[laughs] Yeah, there's also a reference to the Spice Girls in "Lucifer." Every so often I do something like that. Having Louise around is really useful because she's obviously a lot more in touch with that teen world than I am. She's trying to persuade me to listen to the new Girls Aloud album.

So are we going to see a Robbie Williams cameo in your book anytime soon? You going to steal him from Grant Morrison as well?

[laughs] It could happen. If Robbie wants to talk…

Have his people call… Louise?

[laughs] Yeah, yeah.

Now you also have a movie, a ghost film called "Frost Flowers, coming out soon Tell us what's going on with that production.

It's in production with Hadaly and BlueStar Pictures. It's an erotic ghost story: it's about a man who has a near death experience. Not only can he see ghosts, which I guess is a cliché now, but he is being drawn more and more into the worlds of the dead, finding that he can interact physically with ghosts. He becomes romantically/sexually infatuated with a dead woman and has a relationship with her, which is consummated and she gets pregnant. That's really the central idea - this incredible breach of nature, with life being brought forth from death.

So is there any casting news or anything else you can tell us?

Yes I can! And I'm happy to do so! Holly Hunter has agreed to be the lead.

And that would make you the male lead, right?

Oh god, I wish! I'm just hoping I get to go on set and meet her. My director, Andrea Vecchiato, has had a few meetings with her now and she's been coming up with all sorts of great ideas for the character, which is really exciting. There are other casting decisions, which are in progress, but we expect news on the two male leads in a couple of weeks.

How involved are you in those decisions? Or do they just do what they do?

It's more the second. Obviously, I talked with the director about how I envisioned the characters and obviously that was more a two-way discussion. Andrea had his own vision and I had mine, so we talked it through while I wrote the final draft of the script. The conception of the characters grew in a very organic way and Holly Hunter was always on the top of our wish lists.

Did you ever try getting Alyson Hannigan, since you're big fan of her, uh, work?

No [laughs]. If Alyson had been on the list, then it would have been me who went over to do the talking, even if that had necessitated killing someone! There is only the one female protagonist and that's the part that Holly Hunter will play. We'll be going into actual production in August.

Are we going to see worldwide release of the film or just the UK?

I have no idea about the roll-out of the film. I think BlueStar has an American base of operations, as well as a British one, so hopefully we have a roll-out on both sides of the Atlantic. I have no idea. All I know about films is that they take longer than they're supposed to. [laughs]

Anything else we should know about?

It's in its early stages, but I've been talking to a games developer, a guy named Devin Cambridge, and we've been working up an idea for a science fiction game with magical elements called "Sirius Sephiroth." We're looking at a possible multi-media franchise. We've got some good ideas.

And if I can detour back into comics for a moment, I've just had a miniseries idea approved at Marvel. It spins out of Warren Ellis's "Ultimate Secret"/"Ultimate Nightmare" storylines, and centres of the character of the Vision who Mak Millar has been fleshing out. It picks up just after the climax of "Ultimate Extinction" and has the Vision dealing with some really scary fallout from those events. I can't say any more than that, really, without giving away some key facts about "Ultimate Extinction," so I'll just say that it's a story based in an indirect way on a classic Lee/Kirby tale - one of my favourites - and it introduces the Ultimate version of a very cool silver age villain.

That's really what I love about the Ultimate line more than anything. The fact that you can go back to those terrific sixties and seventies stories and retell them with whatever twists and tweaks and whistles and bells you want to add on. It gives me a huge kick to do that.

Looking at your career now, you have all this success with your own creations, superheroes, books and soon, films. You've got a great reputation within the comic book industry, you got to chauffeur Jonah & I across England… what more does Mike Carey want from his creative endeavors?

I want the Castor novels to be really well-received. I would love for the trilogy to become a long series, about six or seven novels. I would love to do some more mainstream superhero work because I'm finding it really rewarding. I would love to have a movie out in movie houses, so I could say, "Look. I wrote that!" On top of that, one of the pitches at Vertigo would allow me to co-write with my daughter, if it was approved, and y'know, that would be really special.

Not that driving you and Jonah wasn't special. I mean, I remember when we went through Slough and we found the place where "The Office" was filmed. That was a moment to treasure…

Anything else you want to say to fans? It looks like 2006 is the year of Mike Carey.

[laughs] Well happy New Year would seem to be appropriate. Also, please keep buying my books. After all, you're emotionally committed now. In some countries, reading someone's comics means you're legally married to them.

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