Steve Niles is one busy horror-writing machine. Before the year is over there will be a large number of books with Niles name on the cover at your local comics shop. There's "Batman: Gotham County Line" for DC. "Lurkers," "Secret Skull," "Horrorcide," "30 Days of Night" and "Wake The Dead" short stories in the "Tales of Terror" anthology and "30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales" coming from IDW. He's even pitching in over at Digital Webbing Presents with "Sherman Danger." So, when things get this busy, what the next thing you do? Well, do more work. Niles sat down for a chat with CBR News to talk about some of his current projects and hint at some new ones.
"I am talking to DC and Marvel about something," Niles teased during an interview earlier this week. "I don't know that it will pan out, though. I suspect the DC thing will. DC has been just great. I'm working with Dan and Joey over there on the Batman book and they just couldn't be treating me better. They've given me free range and said they'll let me know if I've gone too far. I'm having a great time with that."
Niles noted that the pitches in at both DC and Marvel are very recent, so saying any more at this point could jinx the projects and no one wants that. At the same time, Niles is also hard at work on the first of his "30 Days of Night" novels for Pocket Books, the first of which is due on his editor's desk this November. All the while, production on the feature film "Wake The Dead" moves along quickly.
"I guess everyone knows by now that Joel Schumacher is working on 'Wake the Dead,'" said Niles. Schumacher joined the film as a producer. "The movie is moving very fast now and I expect to have some news about that within a week or so. Every day there's progress. The current outline for the movie is exactly what I want."
Schumacher's a well-known director and producer in Hollywood who's dabbled in horror himself with films like "8 MM" and "Flatliners." His addition to the production staff has put "Wake the Dead" on the fast track.
"This man knows how to get movies made. He's made lots of movies. He knows what to do and I don't. He will outline things and all of a sudden all these steps are being talked about, all things that are new to me. He's been great.
"'Wake The Dead' is very much in line with themes he's played with before. Look at 'Flatliners.' This is very much territory he likes. People playing God and doing things they shouldn't do like raising corpses from the dead. I got so grounded when I did that!"
In other film news, Niles said the latest version of the script for "30 Days of Night" by writer Stuart Beattie ("Collateral," "Pirates of the Caribbean") is receiving incredible feedback and he expects the film to begin rolling shortly.
One of the projects Niles is most excited about debuts this October, "30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales." Since the announcement was made just a few weeks back, some have accused Niles of trying to milk the "30 Days of Night" name, the book that launched his career to a new level, which he disagrees with.
"I was over at Ben Templesmith's message boards and over there they seem to be a little more willing to criticize the fact that we're continuing with the '30 Days of Night' story," said Niles. "Early on I said it was a really good concept and I didn't want to milk it. For one, I hope that's not what people think. I would say I'd agree if I kept doing stories that involved the Arctic Circle, but I'm not. Really, what wound up happening is readers really enjoyed the characters. The Alaska and Arctic Circle part of the story will be relatively small. It's the point of origin, but it's not the story."
Niles says that utilizing the "30 Days of Night" name, and setting these stories in the same universe, just makes good business sense. When IDW published the sequel to "30 Days of Night," "Dark Days," the "30 Days of Night" brand was not included. As a result, Niles said there was some confusion as to what the project was and sales weren't what they had hoped for. The writer followed that project up with "30 Days of Night: Return To Barrow" and sales went up, due in part to the inclusion of the "30 Days of Night" name. With Niles still itching to explore the world of vampires, he saw no reason not to place them in the same universe and continue to capitalize on the "30 Days of Night" name, which has become a legitimate franchise within comics.
"[Vampires] really are fun characters to work with now because they really were turned into complete pansies over the last ten years. I'm not taking any swipes at the goth movement or lifestyle, nothing against that, but I got really bored with vampires. The same way I get bored with science fiction movies when they go to a planet and all the aliens look and dress exactly the same. It's so fucking narrow-minded! I think vampires should be as varied as humans. I think that makes them much scarier. It's as simple as that."
With the latest series, "Bloodsucker Tales," Niles is joined by writer Matt Fraction. Niles is writing his 11 pages per issue while Fraction writes his. Niles' story is illustrated by newcomer Kody Chamberlain while Fraction is joined by the original "30 Days of Night" artist Ben Templesmith.
Niles admits letting someone else play in the "30 Days of Night" Universe was something that took a little getting used to. The thought of someone else writing his characters made Niles a bit uncomfortable at first, but he decided that following the example of someone he used to work for wouldn't be a good idea.
" I learned something from working with Todd McFarlane. He won't let people play with Spawn. As much as it appears so, he won't. He won't let you make any major character developments. God knows I wrote some fifty times about Wanda finding out [Al's secret], but he'd never let me do it. I also wrote Wanda getting hit by a car (laughs), but that was a different day!"
Niles thought about it for a while, trying to choose whether to let writers play in the "30 Days of Night" or Cal McDonald sand boxes and ultimately he felt more comfortable letting writers into the "30 Days of Night" universe. Niles admitted, "I realized I'm just not ready to let anybody else write Cal.
"When I first read Fraction's story, I almost pulled a Todd! 'My vampires don't talk like this!' I had to tell myself, 'Well, that's because these aren't my vampires!' I'm loving it, I'm absolutely getting the biggest kick out of seeing what people are doing.
"I'm safe with Fraction. Well, as far as his writing goes. I just don't want to hang out with him too much. (laughs)"
While Niles is letting other writers play in his universe, he'll still be overseeing what happens with the franchise, as he'll be around as a creative director. Niles noted he plans on doing a "Bloodsucker" one-shot story with artist Laurenn McCubbin ("XXX Live Nude Girls") at some point in the future.
Taking a quick look at some of the other projects Niles has on tap, first up is September's "Secret Skull" with artist Chuck BB.
"It's another one of those books like 'Aleister Arcane' where I'm doing this for myself. I'm really having fun and people seem to really like it. It's a pulpy story about a person who gets bit by a ghoul and dreams murder. Basically, he has to stop the murders to stop the pain."
October sees the debut of "Lurkers," which gives Niles a chance to explore a different side of horror.
"One of the reasons why I'm doing this is I really love the idea of a ghoul as a monster. We haven't really had a new monster in a long time, so I'm having fun setting up these parameters, their history, what they're like now and what they used to be like. They actually have a really rich history. Most people assume Ghouls are Zombies and they're not. That's because there are like five monster geeks in the world and I'm one of them!"
Also in October, it's a busy month for Niles, is "Sherman Danger" to be seen in the pages of "Digital Webbing Presents" #19. Niles is joined on the title by "Bloodsucker Tales" artist Kody Chamberlain. For Niles, he's getting a chance to say thanks to some people who helped him out early on. Niles had written a four-page outline for "Sherman Danger," but the very busy Niles just didn't have the time to complete it.
"I told Kody that I don't have time to script something else. I can't! If I say yes to one more thing I might die! So, I gave it to him. He wrote 22 pages from a four-page outline that just blew me away. It's my chance to do the Kirby/Lee style of writing. He did an amazing job. You can never tell how an artist is going to read an outline. It's what I would have scripted."
"Bad Planet," the science fiction series he's co-writing with actor Thomas Jane, now has a home at IDW Publishing, but it's moving ahead slowly as the search for an artist continues.
"We thought we had one, but it fell through. We were trying to get one of the big European guys. But, you know what? Nobody does science fiction! I've finally found a stable of horror guys, but now I need to find somebody who can do sc-ifi. There's something about the Moebius vibe that just says science fiction. You think there's any way we can get an artist from Paul Benjamin at Humanoids? Have you ever seen him with his nunchuks? I don't need Paul Benjamin attacking me with nunchuks," joked Niles.
"It's a maxi-series I'm doing it with Ashley Wood. Remember the horror movie posters from the fifties where they were better than the actual horror movies? That's what this series is going to be like. Wait, I better come up with a better pitch, because that sucked! Okay, how about I want to bring those posters alive! Those posters had such energy. You know those ones that show the Earth being attacked by flying saucers or monsters, the 'Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman' and so on. I've done all this stuff with the monsters in the shadows, so this is the monsters getting their shit together. They've got a budget, they've got a military and they've figured out a way to get rid of most of the weapons that humans have to use against them and they're going to wipe us out."