Niles & Lapham Talk 30 Days of Night

On sale now is the third issue of IDW Publishing's "30 Days til Death," the latest tale from Steve Niles's 30 Days of Night universe. Niles's and artist Ben Templesmith's original series saw a gang of vicious vampires rip apart the remote village of Barrow, Alaska, during a season in which the sun didn't rise for thirty days. The current series, written and illustrated by "Stray Bullets" and "Young Liars" creator David Lapham, looks at the continuing fallout from that story, as one formerly reckless vamp tries to stay under the radar by setting up house in a sleepy suburb.

CBR News chatted with Niles and Lapham about the 30 Days concept as a whole and how "30 Days til Death" fits with what's gone before.

CBR: Tell us about how this project got started.

Steve Niles: Honestly, it was pretty easy. Believe me, I've got some 30 Days pitches where I've been like, "What? No way am I gonna do that!" Then this came in and I just loved it. When [editor] Scott [Dunbier] first brought it up with me, I just loved the idea of it. And then I started seeing the script and the ideas, and I thought he's got a really good take on it.

When you created the original "30 Days of Night," did you envision it as something that would generate all these stories and have other writers working on it?

SN: You know, I pitched this thing for like eight years before anybody did anything with it. I pitched it to Vertigo, a bunch of other places like that, then tried to pitch it as a movie, and it got nowhere. When IDW finally did the comic, it was kind of one of those things where Ted [Adams, IDW publisher] called me and said, "Well, we can't pay you anything, but do you want to do any comics?" And I said, "Here's all my failed, rejected ideas, let me know if anything appeals to you." Then the comic came out, didn't really sell that well, but then the movie thing exploded. So it was sort of one those things that just snowballed.

But the idea itself came more out of my not liking what was happening with vampires than liking vampires. I was getting really sick of the romantic notion of them, and I wanted some really mean, nasty vampires that didn't give a shit about people, let alone romancing them and all this sort of crap. The last time there was a scary vampire was, like, Nosferatu in 1922. It was more a reaction to that. Once it started happening, you know, the idea just sort of snowballed. One thing led to the other. I did not have a master plan at all.

David Lapham: For my part, I think Steve's take on the vampires, it's a wonderful concept and it's very simple: they're just bloodthirsty motherfuckers! And then the whole notion of them basically living hidden behind their own myth.

SN: Exactly.

DL: And it's wonderfully simple, but I think that's also what makes it really ripe to be expanded upon by other artists and writers. There's a lot you can do with it. Even though it's very simple it is a whole worldview.

David, your story seems to be about a bloodthirsty monster who is trying to hide in a sort of domestic suburban setting. What's the appeal to you in telling this story of a vampire hiding? Is this the vampire story that you've always wanted to tell, or is it more inspired by what's come before?

DL: This is just based on the work that Steve and Ben did, and then what came to me that I would find interesting, if I got a hold of what was going on in that universe. It appeals to me because, you know, like my work, 30 Days is not afraid to be dark and hopeless and merciless. That's what I liked about it, and the story I came up with came from reading the previous graphic novels and that's just how that happened.

It seems to contrast this idea of a vampire war with these very domestic images, of Rufus hiding and having a dog.

DL: Yeah. [Laughs.]

Do you feel there is this sort of violence waiting beneath domestic culture, waiting to break free?

DL: I'm a big fan of that violence being revealed in this normal, suburban [environment]. I grew up a pretty normal suburban kid, and I know all the killing and murder that went on in my family. No, that's just what appeals to me. I always like that, I like to do normal and then take it to an extreme.

In this, in reading Steve's graphic novel, I felt that what I did is an extension of what was going on in what he set up. I was really happy to be able to tell my vampire story in a way that would hook in to Steve's universe, in a way that people who are following it will like and be relevant to his larger world.

In "30 Days til Death," there is this cabal of vampires who say they need to "thin the herd," which is in some ways set up in the original Barrows story.

DL: Yeah, in the very first story. That's sort of the punchline.

SN: Yeah, the two factions of vampires: the young punks who think they can just do anything they want, and the second group shows up like, "What the fuck are you doing? Do you have any idea how long it took us to make people think that we didn't exist? And now you're going to do THIS?"

DL: "You think you had this great idea, you idiots, you don't think we thought of this before?"

SN: I know! It's like, yeah, we know, the arctic circle is a great feeding ground. But you've got to do it right. You can't just come in, you know, and tear towns apart.

The way I sort of expanded on it, the arctic circle was definitely a really good feeding ground in the old days, when there were more idiots going up there exploring. Do a quick Google search for "arctic disappearances," and you can see whole ships just gone. People would go up there and they'd find the ships, but then the people were gone. And I wrote into the 30 Days myth that it's been happening for hundreds of years. But you don't do something as brazen as just walking in and attacking a town, where there's all sorts of possibilities for things going wrong. And it did! They know about it, but they just can't do it. That's the thing that I always try to stress: as horrible as vampires are, as scary as they are, they have one really huge weakness. If the world knew they existed, they'd just hunt 'em during the day and just wipe 'em out. They're like rats, you just track 'em down and wipe 'em out. They're very aware of this, how fragile their existence is. The only way to maintain their power is to maintain themselves as a myth -- they'd rather people believe in Count Chocula than them. As long as people laugh at the notion of them, they can function.

David, you're writing and illustrating each issue of "30 Days till Death." How long does that take? Especially since you're doing the same with Vertigo's "Young Liars."

DL: One of the reasons I was able to do both is that I'm very far ahead on "Young Liars." I was working on "Young Liars" for a year and a half before the first one even came out. So I was looking for something else to draw and then this came along, which was a perfect fit. I can do one in a month, which is what needs to be done. I enjoy writing stuff for other artists, but I do most enjoy drawing my own stuff for a number of reasons, including that it's less work to do. Especially on the writing side -- you can write a lot less if you know you're drawing it! I know when I draw, I change so much of the writing as I'm drawing it, because more ideas come out as you're drawing the characters.

SN: I think if I were a writer-artist, nobody would ever hear from me again. I would just love that. I guess I can get a lot more stuff done, but I'm so envious of people who can write and draw their own material.

DL: It is very cool. I mean, working with other people is great. I've worked with some really great people, and it's nice when you can find someone who brings new ideas and adding, and giving you new ideas. But sometimes, you know, you wrote the script and you feel like you got everything in there, but you get it back and sometimes the artist has just sort of executed the words that you wrote without... how do I put this? In comics, the artist is like the director of a movie, or the director and the actors. You give your words, and try to get across the feeling and everything, but they have to put the looks on people's faces, and the body language, and they're telling the story. And so much happens in that part of the process.

Steve, do you oversee these stories by other writers, or are you busy doing your own thing, all of your other series you're writing now?

SN: With something like this, we came to this idea, we're not handing it off to just anybody. We're handing it off to creators that we know and respect. Like I said, when David sent the original pitch, I think I had one note -- there was something about garlic, I might even be wrong about that, a garlic or a cross thing, these supernatural elements that I just sort of erased -- but I think I had one note, and this seems to be working really well. I've done it before with Matt Fraction and with his wife, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and gotten really good results. As of now, I've written about eight of these things, plus three novels, plus the movie, so I'm a little vampired out. But I really love the universe, and I love seeing what creators I trust and admire take it.

DL: Working on this, I really got to do my thing on it. It was very important to me at the pitch to talk to Steve and know that what I'm doing jibes with the universe and he's happy and then just let me go.

SN: It's funny because -- I think it was CBR, actually -- a columnist accused me of milking the series. Have you not read comics? Have you not read Batman? They've been milking that one for a while! This is what it's about, you pass the baton and other people take it over. Right now I'm writing a Batman series ["Gotham After Midnight"], nobody's milking Batman. I think, especially for comics, it's a natural progression, the way you keep these things going. Ben's off doing other stuff, I'm doing other stuff, but it's still a really viable world and there's fans out there who really dig it. So why not keep it going?

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