NYCC: Brereton Returns to "Nocturnals," with Friends

This summer, writer/artist Dan Brereton returns to the dark and fantastic world of the Nocturnals with a new 64-page one shot from Image Comics, and this time, he's not alone. CBR News caught up with Brereton to discuss "Nocturnals: Carnival of Beasts," the future of the series, and the artists that will give new life to the night.

To bring new readers up to date, Brereton describes the Nocturnals as "characters who inhabit the nighttime world of the stories, which exists undetected while normal folks sleep. Rather than portray a world where humans are exposed to the fantastic, my stories stay in the dark, out of sight, where they belong."

"The only exceptions are the criminal element, who fear and occasionally run afoul of our hero, Doc Horror, and his nocturnal companions. There are things going on all around us while we sleep, things we aren't aware of. That idea has haunted me since childhood. It could be as harmless as the sound of coyotes in the distance, or driving past a lone car on fire in a field. The dark is mysterious and scary, and the Nocturnals in our story live in that world while we live in ours."

The new one-shot, "Carnival of Beasts," will have several surprises in store for longtime fans. "'Nocturnals: Carnival Of Beasts' is 64 pages, prestige format," Brereton revealed. "The main story, 'Beasts,' recounts a time in the Nocturnals' history when Doc Horror has to kill three birds with one stone: two of his companions have set out to sea on a long voyage, leaving him short of muscle and thus vulnerable to his enemies; his daughter doesn't want to go to a private school for strange, nocturnal kids like her; and a nasty condition he's fought for years is about to transform him into a monster if he doesn't get help. The fun begins when all Doc's problems converge into a violent conflagration with some very unsettling people living in the woods.

"'Beasts' takes place between the first and second 'Nocturnals' miniseries, so people who have read them will find it sheds much light on what they already know, while people unfamiliar will experience it as an effective introduction to the characters."

Until now, Brereton has handled all of the writing and painted art duties on the Nocturnals books, but this time he's called on two illustrators to give their take on the nighttime world. "I wrote the three stories in 'Carnival Of Beasts,' but I only wrote one for myself to illustrate," he said. "Part of the overall plan for the new books is to have guest artists contribute art to shorter stories in the various books and mini-series we plan to do. I'd love to be able to illustrate all of them, but the truth is, I can't do it alone. So if I can concentrate on the big saga, I think readers will get a huge kick out of seeing a really exceptional artist take a stab at the characters in smaller tales packing a big wallop.

"Viktor Kalvachev and Ruben Martinez both illustrated a story in 'Carnival Of Beasts,' and the wonderful part is I might never have conceived either story as I did had it not been their particular styles I was writing for. Viktor Kalvachev is a fantastic artist who has dabbled in comics a few times, but makes his living as a concept artist. He's one of these incredibly talented folks who works for big corporations and studios and likes to slum around in comics about once a year. His story concerns the amphibian girl Starfish, in another time in Nocturnals history when she's been anointed as a sort of queen of sea monsters. I can't tell you how crazy I am for the art in this story.

"Ruben Martinez makes his living as a toy designer for the biggest toy company in the world, but took time from a very hectic schedule to illustrate a story I wrote that speaks to his talent for drawing spooky, creepy, wonderful things. The tale involves the Gunwitch and Halloween Girl visiting a haunted carnival and the artwork is deliciously evil and fun. I'm thrilled he's on board."

Though it's been a few years since the last Nocturnals book, Brereton always knew he would return to the characters. "For the most part, 'Nocturnals' projects have filled in the gaps between books I also really wanted to do, like 'Thrillkiller,' 'JLA: 7 Caskets,' 'L'Ultima Battaglia,' 'GiantKiller,' etc. But finding the right publisher, one who would really stand behind the title and help it shine out there in the marketplace was tough," Brereton said. "I've been lucky to work with publishers who were damn close. But it never seemed to stick.

"However, I've actually been working with an art book house, Olympian Publishing, since 2006 to create new material, as well as put out a hardcover collection of 'Nocturnals' material, which hit stores in 2007. Since then I've continued to work on new material for a few different Nocs projects.

"Olympian published 'A Nocturnal Alphabet' in 2007, now only available through their website. I took a break last summer to complete work on Marvel's 'Immortal Iron Fist' Annual, then got right back on the horse. It feels very comfortable working with these characters again, I'm very close to them and their world is a place you never get tired of investigating.

"Because Olympian isn't a comics publisher per se, and have only 'Nocturnals' as their comics fare, we decided to team with Image to make the comic book magic happen. We're really happy Image was up for the collaboration."

The gap in time between series may lead to subtle changes in the way "Carnival of Beasts" is presented when compared to previous Nocturnals volumes. "Readers will see a difference," Brereton said. "I've been pretty busy with both writing and art in the intervening years, so hopefully they'll discern improvement in both. As to my frame of mind, interests and outlook on life, some has changed. I'm more aware of history than I was, I'm versed in the actual parts of California landscape I've set my stories in. I'm acutely aware of each Nocturnal as a separate being with his or her own story and path. I want to depict these things in the new stories. I still love horror and monsters and toys and crime so there will be new monstrous creeps, weird beauties, spooky toys and crooks."

Following up on "Carnival of Beasts," Brereton already has plans for the next "Nocturnals" book. "I am illustrating a new story right now, in fact," he said. "It's got a bit more mystery this time. I've spent the last two years developing it, kind of struggling with it, to be honest. But that's what's making it so fun--it's a challenge and the more I push myself, the better it gets. So I'm pretty jazzed about it. In the meantime, while I wrestle with it, we're happy to offer up 'Carnival Of Beasts' to tide us all over."

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