Niles & Waid talk "Cthulhu Tales" Ongoing

Following on the heels (or tentacles?) of its three successful "Cthulhu Tales" one-shots, BOOM! Studios is readying the release of a new monthly version of the popular horror anthology title beginning with stories by modern master Steve Niles ("30 Days of Night") and a host of other writers and artists waiting to put their spin on the classic H.P. Lovecraft creation. CBR News turned to BOOM! Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid and writer Steve Niles to learn more about the call of "Cthulhu Tales."

"It was a no-brainer," said Mark Waid of the decision to return "Cthulhu Tales" as a monthly anthology following the success of the first three one-shots. "The more I talk to the horror writers I know, and the more I talk to the artists I know, the more they all have this secret desire to do like dark, Lovecraftian stuff, even if it's just for eight pages."

One such writer is Steve Niles, whose name was at the top of Waid's short list of "Cthulhu Tales" hopefuls. "It only made sense to go to Steve, because Steve is one of the best known names in comics horror right now," Waid said. "We were lucky enough to nab him not only for the first issue but also for the second issue -- it turns out he's got more to say than I thought, and that's great"

"Mark said to do it in six to eight pages, and I handed in eleven pages," Steve Niles told CBR News. "I got so excited, I wasn't listening"

Niles and Waid had already been discussing work for BOOM!'s "Zombie Tales" anthology when the writer was asked to contribute to "Cthulhu Tales." "In comics you're either a Batman guy or a Superman guy. [In horror], I always felt there was the Poe and the Lovecraft," Niles said. "And I've always been a Poe guy my whole life.  So I've always leaned more towards him. But I've always enjoyed Lovecraft, so this was kind of a chance to sort of tackle the other side.

"I pulled all my old Lovecraft books off the shelves and just read 'Call of Cthulhu' and a few other things like that to get back into it," Niles continued. "When you think of Lovecraft, it has such a particular vibe, so I just sort of crammed on Lovecraft and started writing stuff.  And I'm working on my second [story] right now."

Mark Waid agrees Lovecraft's work lends itself to a certain kind of comic book horror story that creators like Niles are eager to explore. "So many people wanted to do that creepy -- not bloody, not in your face-- but more that sort of creepy, unsettling horror," explained Waid. "There's not a lot whole lot of that out there in comics. There's a lot of slash/gore stuff, and we even do 'Zombie Tales' over at BOOM!, which is a nice counterpoint to 'Cthulhu' because that's all in-your-face horror, but 'Cthulhu Tales' is all that creepy, quiet, eerie stuff."

The first of Steve Niles' "Cthulhu Tales" stories is designed to invoke the feeling of the established Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos. "I really tried to capture Lovecraft in mood and tone, in the way the narrators speak, and I just wanted to sort of do a classic Lovecraft story about Cthulhu and the Ancient Ones," Niles said. "It's very much about being careful what you believe in.  It's sort of about the power of belief.  It's about a priest who encounters a blind man. The priest obviously believes in his religion and the blind man exposes him to the unseen worlds that are all around us, and turns the guy's existence completely upside down."

Illustrating this tale is Niles' old friend Chee, who fans will remember from the pair's "Dawn of the Dead" and "Wake the Dead" comics projects. "Chee was one of the artists who posted on my message board, and then IDW wound up hiring him to do books," said Niles. "I think 'Dawn of the Dead' was his first professional comic gig, and then he went on to work for Boom!, and now we're reunited.  It's really great, because I love his stuff."

"The new one that I'm writing right now is going to get much stranger," continued Niles. "This new one I'm working on is very, very weird. If I were the artist on these things -- I'm sitting here working on a story, there's a body on a slab in a morgue, and basically the world of the Ancient Ones is inside the body, so when it bursts out, we're going to have this corpse with a room full of tentacle. Man, if I was the artist I'd have so much fun drawing that.

"It's so fun. Lovecraft is so different than what I'm used to."

In addition to the fun that comes with Lovecraftian horror, the anthology format itself offers Niles with its own challenges and rewards. "I'm going to keep [writing stories for 'Cthulhu Tales'] as long as they keep doing books and keep inviting me," Niles stated.  "Between 'Cthulhu Tales' and the 'Zombie Tales,' it's a nice little break for me.  I'm doing so many long, ongoing things right now, like 'Simon Dark,' and I'm doing ['Batman: Gotham After Midnight'].  It's the exact opposite problem I had a few years ago, when all I was doing were short pieces, and now I'm doing all these long things.  It's a really nice break to sort of hop in and just do these little of vignettes.  In comics you don't really get the chance to write that many short stories. Anthologies are practically gone, so it's a nice break, it's a good writing muscle to work."

Niles and BOOM!'s "Giant Monster" (with art by "Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer's" Nat Jones) is on sale now, and the writer plans on doing more and more work with the publisher in the future, including a werewolf series he will co-write with artist Bill Sienkiewicz. "Having a writer as your editor, it's really an ideal situation," said Niles of EiC Mark Waid. "He doesn't ask for anything crazy, he knows deadlines, he knows what it's like, and he's just a dream to work with."

Other contributors to "Cthulhu Tales" include Tom Pyre, Michael Alan Nelson and William F. Loebs. "And then beyond that we've got people coming out of the woodwork," said Waid. "Sounds kind of creepy when you're talking about Cthulhu, but you know what I mean.  William F. Loebs is going to come in and write and draw stuff for us because it turns out that not only is he a brilliant comics talent but he loves the Lovecraft mythos."

"Cthulhu Tales" will continue monthly, with each issue featuring short stories between six and eight pages in length, with the occasional longer piece. All will be stand-alone, but editor Mark Waid is keeping his mind open to developments later in 2008. "As we get into the Fall of this year, we're talking about maybe drawing that stuff together a little more closely with what we're doing with the 'Fall of Cthulhu' ongoing that Michael Nelson is writing," said Waid. "And we'll kind of see where we go with that; we may be able to build on some of that."

CBR News Staff Writer Emmett Furey contributed to this story.

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