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Niles Sinks His Teeth Into “X-Files/30 Days of Night”

by  in Comic News Comment
Niles Sinks His Teeth Into “X-Files/30 Days of Night”

The truth is out there and it contains a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, a murderous taste for blood and a need to hunt in total darkness.

This July, writer Steve Niles teams with Tool guitarist Adam Jones to pen the six-issue miniseries “X-Files/30 Days of Night,” which crosses over Niles’ vampire-focused franchise with the highly successful ’90s sci-fi television series starring David Duchovny as FBI Agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as his partner agent Dana Scully. Niles first introduced the comic world to the cold of winter and dead of night in the three-issue “30 Days of Night” miniseries in 2002, a title that took a classic approach to the vampire mythos, returning the recently romanticized monsters to their more violent and terrifying roots. The title eventually spun off into over a dozen follow-up one-shots and mini series. “X-Files,” on the other hand, followed agents Mulder and Scully as they investigated unexplained cases for the FBI, ranging on topics from aliens to zombies. The show ran for nine years on Fox, winning multiple Emmy awards and spawning two major motion picture sequels.

IDW and Wildstorm Comics will be working together to publish the upcoming title, which will feature art by penciler Tom Mandrake to go along with the script by Niles and Jones. Niles spoke with CBR News about his new supernatural sci-fi series, what he loves about the horror genre and his opinions on the recent “Twilight” phenomena.

Niles told CBR that he is a longtime fan of “X-Files,” currently owning a number of season sets on DVD. A fan of shows like “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” while growing up, Niles said the monster-of-the-week nature of the Fox show fit his fandom perfectly. The author also said that the “modern monster hunter” theme of the series made it an ideal match for a crossover with “30 Days.”

“‘X-Files has a very real-world approach to the way they look at monsters. When they find monsters, there is what Mulder believes – he’s a little more inclined to believe in the impossible – but then there’s Scully, who has to get her head around it in a, for lack of a better term, science perspective,” Niles explained. “The ’30 Days of Night’ vampires, there’s none of the crosses, there’s none of the garlic or any of the trappings of the supernatural vampire. Even in the comic series, we later got into explaining that it’s more of a disease. It’s something in their blood and is more of an actual physiological change. Their body changes into something that needs blood. So, in that respect, [’30 Days’ and ‘X-Files’] worked really well together because it wasn’t going to be one of those things where it’s like, ‘We have to put a stake in his heart to kill him.’ All you’re going to do if you put a stake in the heart of a vampire from ’30 Days of Night’ is have a really mad vampire. So, the logic of the worlds worked out really well.”

Although he’s been suggested other crossover ideas before, Niles normally avoids them like a vampire avoids sunlight. However, the aforementioned matching logic and tone between these two franchises just made sense to him, so the proposed crossover – which came from both publishers – became the first he actually wanted to sink his teeth into. Of course, the new series also gave the writer a chance to pen some of his favorite fictional characters, a task Niles said he takes very seriously.

“One of the things Adam and I really paid attention to [was charactarization], because we knew it would be very important. Luckily, the guys behind X-Files were really helpful in making sure we’re in character most of the time,” said Niles. “Mulder is like engrained in my brain. You know how he’s going to say [his dialogue]. He’s got that wit. He’ll go out on a limb. But Scully is very consistent in how she sees things, and that was a little bit more of a challenge. But every time that I would get stuck, Adam and I would either talk it through or go watch an episode. Go watch an episode, get the characters back in your head and then sit down and take a crack at the dialogue.

“It’s tough, but that’s part of the fun of playing in somebody else’s sandbox. You get to play with their toys and doing it right is part of the challenge,” Niles continued. “Walking into this, I knew ‘X-Files’ has a really big following and a rabid fanbase, and I wanted to make sure they were happy. I’m not out to make anybody mad. I want people to enjoy it.”

As for the premise of the series, Niles told CBR that the story’s events take Mulder and Scully out of “30 Days'” traditional Alaskan setting and into the broader geography of the Arctic Circle. “There’s one big surprise that I can’t give away, but it’s more about the history of the Arctic Circle,” he said. “As it turns out, there is a long history of disappearances, all the way from the first Arctic explorers looking for new trading routes. We have entire ships going missing and never [being] found again. The crew, everybody, gone. So, a big part of this isn’t just Alaska. As they discover, there is a long history of these attacks and disappearances. That was an aspect of it that really lent itself to the ‘X-Files.'”

Niles also revealed that because of the timeline of the title, readers will be introduced to mostly new vampires, meaning no Eben and Stella for this go around. However, the writer couldn’t unveil any of those new bloodsuckers because “it’d be giving away a lot.”

Along with the general excitement of writing the miniseries, the title also gave Niles a chance to team with his friend Adam Jones. A longtime fan of both Jones and his band, Niles said he always appreciated Tool’s visual style when it came to their music videos, an area Jones had a hand in due to his experience as a special effects artist with Stan Winston. Jones and Niles first met when the guitarist approached the writer at a convention as a fan of Niles’ work. The compliment came as quite a shock to Niles.

“Adam walked up to me, and I’m sitting there, and he walked up and just said, ‘Hi, I’m a big fan. My name is Adam Jones.’ I remember my girlfriend at the time almost had a stroke. Even I was confused. Something just wasn’t connecting. I was like, ‘Wait. How can you possibly be a fan of me when I’m a fan of you? You’re Adam Jones,'” recounted Niles. “He turns out to be the most down to Earth creative guy and, because there’s a reason he did special effects, he’s a big old nerd. He’s a big comic fan. We’re almost exactly the same age, so we both loved ‘Night Stalker’ and we both grew up on Marvel Comics in the ’70s and reading all this great horror stuff. We became friends and he mentioned some of his ideas.

“When the ‘X-Files’ thing came along, I called him up and said, ‘I think I found something we can work on to see how we do.’ He came up with the twist that made the whole thing work,” Niles continued. “The twist that I can’t tell you. As soon as he told me that, I was 100 percent in. He’s obviously a really great collaborator, but he’s also a really great writer. So, this has been a real 50-50 piece of work here. I can’t tell you how much he contributed.”

As mentioned previously, artist Tom Mandrake is lending his experienced hand to the series. According to Niles, Mandrake’s history in the horror genre as both a creator and fan makes him an ideal contribution to the title. “He’s always done sort of edgy, macabre stuff. He’s one of the few artists who has some of the things that I love about older art, like the fine pen and ink work, but he doesn’t look dated at all. It’s looks as good as any of the new stuff out there,” said Niles. “And he knows horror. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but having someone who is a horror fan and who understands the beats of how to work horror and where you want the images and what you want hidden and when you want it shown and those little things are really big. Every time I see a page from Tom, he’s added something that’s made it even better. And in the end, that’s what you want from any collaboration.”

No stranger to the genre himself, Niles compared the enjoyment readers get from horror to the same sense of enjoyment they get from comedy. “It’s a great release. Just like laughing is a great release,” he explained. “People love to laugh and people love to be scared. It’s that safe scare. That’s the big difference people don’t understand. It’s the scare that you know isn’t going to hurt you. We all have these fears bottled up in us and our nature is to confront our fears. I think horror gives us a way to release it. Just like comedy makes us laugh. For that matter, some people really like movies that make them cry. Personally, I can’t stand it. I can’t watch a Disney movie because I’m like, ‘They’re going to kill the parents! They’re going to kill the parents and I’m going to get bummed out and it’s going to upset me.’ But horror to me is just that safe ‘you get the crap scared out of you and then you get to walk away and go home back to the real world and you know everything is okay.'”

Of course, one can’t talk vampires these days without addressing the recent “Twilight” craze. The recent bout of Twi-pires afflicting the printed page and silver screen stands in direct contrast to the intrinsically scary nature of the blood-breaking undead Niles employs in his literary works. However, the writer seemed quite fine with the current state of vampiric affairs. “I’m the scary vampire guy, and I’m alright with that because that’s what motivated me to write ’30 Days’ in the first place,” he said. “As far as the new take on vampires, you know, it’s not for me. It’s for a younger crowd. I’ve only seen a little bit of the first one, and I can go on and on about what I think they should be and what that should be, but at the end of the day, I read ‘Interview with the Vampire’ when I was a kid and it was pretty much a romantic take. But I loved it at the time. So, to me, I’m hoping what this stuff is, I’m hoping it’ll cause a curiosity and maybe the next thing they read will be ‘I Am Legend’ or ‘Dracula’ or ‘Interview with the Vampire.’ I’m hoping ‘Twilight’ is the gateway drug to bigger and better horror. I’m such an advocate of horror, I hesitate to knock anything, whether I like it or not, because I like to see the genre flourish.”

In the end, only one question remains for the creator: whether he believes the truth is out there. “Something is out there. Have you been reading what’s in the paper recently with Stephen Hawking coming out and talking about the possibility of alien invasions and things like that? It’s pretty interesting. I love hearing these brainiacs talking like, ‘Well, if aliens did invade…’ and the debate about motivations about what they’d do and all that. I would never be closed-minded enough to say what I see is all there is. But until I see it, it’s all just part of the imagination.”

Discover the truth out there yourselves this July when “X-Files/30 Days of Night” issue #1 enters comic stores everywhere.

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