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MONSTER ARTIST: Stakal talks "Criminal Macabre"

In Cal McDonald's world, the unexpected is really what you should expect. The Steve Niles creation has been investigating ghouls, monsters and other things that go bump in the night since 1990 and the adventures of the supernatural detective continue in the regular Criminal Macabre series published by Dark Horse Comics.

This September sees a big addition to the series in the form of artist Nick Stakal, the former artist of Image's Strange Girl. Niles & Stakal have worked together once before about four years ago on the book Hyde, but haven't been seen together much since. That changes when the first issue of Criminal Macabre: My Demon Baby hits stands September 19, which finds Stakal thrown into the middle of some very nasty goings on. My Demon Baby sees a drug addled Cal once again following the vile transformation of his ex girlfriend into a minion of the vampire Nosferatu. His good friend and ghoul sidekick, Mo'Lock, won't let Cal wallow for long, though, as he pulls him out of his drug addled misery by bringing him onto another supernatural mystery, which finds Devil worshippers in SoCal attempting to bring Satana into the world.

Oh, those silly Devil worshippers. Wait, they may have been successful?

This and much more is what Stakal is tasked to draw in the coming months and we here at CBR News caught up with Stakal to see how he landed the Criminal Macabre gig and what it is about this series that interested him.

Stakal said film-noir and down-and-out detective type stories fascinate him, which Criminal Macabre delivers with a ghoulish twist, naturally. I draw a lot of inspiration from movies and my favorites are stuff like 'Touch of Evil,' 'Third Man,' 'Out of the Past,' 'Chinatown,' 'Angel Heart,' etc.  I guess that's what I'm trying to bring to the project too, a kind of cinematic vibe with stark lighting and maybe a more realistic look to the characters than what's been done in the past.

Niles & Stakal have stayed in touch since their Hyde collaboration and have discussed working together again, but the timing just wasn't right until now. It just happened that they were looking for a new artist and I was finishing up my commitment on 'Strange Girl.' I showed Dark Horse my 'Strange Girl' work and some Cal McDonald doodles I'd done and we were off and running.

I've been drawing it for a while now, with a few issues already in the bag, continued Stakal. I don't want to say too much about what I've been drawing for fear of spoiling the story, but let's just say the undead Knights Templar has been one of the most fun bits to draw.

It's the dark, moody world that Cal lives in that Stakal looks most forward to drawing. I love all the characters and monsters, but I especially like that they dwell in an atmosphere that's conducive to my approach to drawing. Like I mentioned earlier, this stuff is all just perfect for a dark, heavily shadowed visual delivery.

Stakal is excited to be working with Niles once again and feels he's come a long way as an artist since the last time they worked together on Hyde. Both then, and now, Steve's been relaxed about letting me do what I want with the characters and page layouts, said Stakal. His scripts are very visual in all the right ways, so I know what he wants out of a given panel or page, I don't ever feel the need to stray much from what he writes. We both have a deep love of horror flicks, sometimes the crappier the better, so when he tells me he wants something to feel like the flick 'Devil's Rain,' I'm right there on the same page as him.

Unfortunate for Strange Girl fans, Stakal's addition to Criminal Macabre means he won't be able to continue as artist on the former. When the 'Criminal Macabre' gig came along, it was too good to pass up, said Stakal. ['Strange Girl' writer] Rick Remender understood and set me free since juggling both at the same time would have been too much for me. Him and I are now good pals from having done 'Strange Girl' together and are always cooking stuff up. You'll definitely see more from us down the road.

For the moment, Stakal will focus all of his attentions on Criminal Macabre and is looking forward to the challenges it presents. Drawing comics is time consuming so I don't like to commit to more than one project at a time, said Stakal. I feel like there's a bunch of fun to be had with 'Criminal Macabre' and Dark Horse is a nice place to be, so that's where I'll stay if I have any say in the matter.

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