This October, "30 Days of Night" writer Steve Niles re-teams with "Monster and Madman" artist Damien Worm for IDW Publishing's ongoing horror series "October Faction." "October Faction" is about a former monster hunter named Fred Allan who wants to keep his family from falling apart and stop his kids from following the same path he did. The book is Niles' first ongoing series since his 2007 DC Comics series "Simon Dark," which lasted 18 issues.
Niles spoke with CBR News about his latest offering from IDW, explaining why he's so excited to write an ongoing series, sharing what sorts of monsters will be rearing their heads and revealing "October Faction's" secret tribute to late GWAR frontman and childhood friend Dave Brockie, better known to fans as Oderus Urungus.
CBR News: Steve, what is your new series "October Faction" all about?
Steve Niles: It's very simple. It's about Fred Allan, a retired monster hunter trying to keep his family together. A monster hunter with a lifetime of enemies he's hiding from. And he's got these children who want to follow in their father's footsteps, even though he's doing everything he can to persuade them that's a really bad idea.
Who are the other members of the Allan family?
Right now we've got Fred Allan, his wife Dolores, his son Jeff and daughter Vivian. There's a whole bunch of side characters, too. But that's the family. Right now.
Were any of them inspired by anyone specific?
No, it was just the family itself. I know this sounds very strange but I'm just getting to know them myself. I just turned in the fourth issue script and some of the stuff they're doing surprises even me. Part of the fun of this is that I get to know these people as we go on, too.
What monsters will they be chasing down?
You will at some point see everything. And not always the old monsters. We have a werewolf in there already, [Fred's] ex-partner is a werewolf.
Right now in the first issue we're introduced to a kid named Dante who is also known as Robot Face. We really don't know much about him except that Dolores found this robot kid hidden away in Fred's stuff. We're going to find out this kid is something very haunting from Fred's past.
Part of the reason I'm having so much fun is because it's my first ongoing since "Simon Dark." I'm getting a chance to do more intricate storytelling. I've got like five different storylines started just in the first issue.
You mentioned "October Faction" marks your first ongoing in a number of years. Why was it important to make it ongoing? Why not a number of miniseries?
Because I'm exhausted. [Laughs] That's really the simplest answer. I've been doing four- to six-issue miniseries for over ten years now. Every time I sit down to write something I have to create all the characters and a whole new world. It gets exhausting. You spend a lot of time just creating set-ups. I wanted to spend some time with some characters. Really go in-depth. See lots of stories they can go through.
There's a whole lot of things you can do with an ongoing that you just can't get done in a limited series. This is my first [creator-owned] series and hopefully I'll get a little further than "Simon Dark" did. I really want to be able to tell multiple storylines and really get in-depth with these characters.
Even though it's an ongoing, do you have some sort of a grand ending in mind down the road?
I'm just gonna go as long as they let me go. I'd like to say I do these detailed outlines and I plan everything out, but I don't. [Laughs] I really don't. Part of the fun of this is only having a loose idea of where I'm going to be going. I'm as surprised as anybody else sometimes at how things turn out.
Any hopes for "October Faction" in other media?
There's always that hope but I try not to get distracted by that anymore. "30 Days of Night" had a reaction on me and that was that I ended up spending a lot of time worrying about getting movies made instead of focusing on my comics. Right now I really want to focus on my comics. If something else happens then great but I don't want to focus on that.
It's just a crapshoot. It always is. The year I sold "30 Days of Night" I sold five or six other movies. Only one got made and that was "30 Days of Night." I spent ten years being really frustrated by a lot of that and just realized there's not a lot you can do. The best thing I can do is focus on the comics and make those as good as I can. Unless I'm actually out making moves, which is something I'm still doing. I'm making a movie right now and I'm pitching some TV shows. We just announced "Breath of Bones" has a director attached. So I'm still interested in that stuff. But when I'm doing my comics I want to focus on the comics.
Looking at Damien Worm's art on "October Faction," it feels like there are some similarities to the early work of your "30 Days of Night" artist, Ben Templesmith. Is that fair to say?
Yeah, the under-drawing is definitely different but [Damien] uses a lot of Ben's techniques. I just love it because of what I always loved about Ben's stuff, which was that it looked like a horror comic. There are a lot of horror comics out there that look exactly like superhero comics. I've even done it a lot myself. But you get these opportunities to get these artists like Damien and it's perfect for horror. I just love it. I'm going to keep that guy busy for a long time.
One of the things I love about your work with both Damien and Ben is that they bring such horrific visuals to the table. Does that allow you to be subtler in your writing, since you can rely on them to carry the mood without wordy exposition?
Yeah. Exactly. That's what I'm talking about. They get me halfway there with the mood so I don't have to spend a lot of time with narration and that kind of stuff, which I wind up doing a lot in other comics. Here I can just let the pictures tell the story.
Speaking of the pictures, in the first issue there's a beautiful page of Fred teaching a class in front of a chalkboard filled with dozens of monster names -- many of which I had never even heard of. I'd love to pick some names off that list and have you tell me what comes to mind.
First off is one I know you're very fond of because we've spoken about it before: Frankenstein's monster.
Absolutely. For me, that's just a short way of saying making people out of dead bodies. It's not always the Frankenstein monster, per se. It doesn't have to be made by Frankenstein. But I've always been fascinated by [the monster]. I've used the Frankenstein monster and his themes in, jeez, I don't even want to know how many stories now. The whole idea of people playing god and bringing the dead back to life has always fascinated me. There's even some of that at play [in "October Faction"]. There's a bit of a Frankenstein element to Robot Face. We find out more about him by issue four.
Now what about the name Bad Seeds?
Bad Seeds are evil children. You ever see the movie "Bad Seeds?"
No I haven't.
Watch it if you get a chance. The 1950s version is an absolutely amazing movie. It's just as simple as that. You ever see the movie "The Good Son?" That's an un-credited modern remake of "Bad Seeds." It really is. That whole idea of children who are just born evil.
Moving down the list, what are your thoughts on the Wendigo?
That's like the Canadian Big Foot. I hate this but I mainly know that from the Hulk. Dammit. [Laughs]
These next two names are connected: Cthulu and Dagon.
Those are ones that came up on a list I generated. I just wanted to get some H.P. Lovecraft monsters in there. Simple as that.
This next one is a breed of film-related monsters: Kaiju. Are you a big Kaiju fan?
Yeah! But am I wrong, or is Kaiju just the word for giant monster? Ever since "Pacific Rim" people call anything that's at all slightly oversized a Kaiju. But yeah, I love them. I love giant monsters!
Now, will one show up in "October Faction?" I don't know. Giant monster stories can be the toughest ones to write. You want to focus on the monster but you're forced to focus on the human story. And also, since "October Faction" is set in a small town, a Kaiju attack would probably end very quickly. [Laughs] But you never know because one of the things I do is flash back to Fred's original adventures. He was a masked monster hunter in the '70s. So you never know, we might flash back to a '70s Kaiju story.
Next on the list you have Merman. Is this a "Cabin in the Woods" reference?
No, it really isn't. It's just simply that. Merman. Male Mermaids. Male sea monsters.
I'm proud to say I recognize one of these obscure ones next. Kappa is a Japanese water demon. How did it wind up on the list?
I got that from a friend of mine who is obsessed with Japanese folklore. He was very specific. After I posted this list for my friends through Twitter and Facebook, I asked for more suggestions. [Kappa] was a contribution from that friend. I wanted to cover all areas of monsters and, as much as I'd like to say I do, I don't know Japanese folklore. Just ghosts alone, they have thousands! It's one of these things it's good to have an expert around.
Interesting. Tell me about Mothman.
It's an old urban legend monster. I wanted to get some of those in there, too.
So do you know what the absolutely last one I put on the list is? War Ghoul.
Haven't heard of that one. What is War Ghoul?
War Ghoul is Dave Brockie from GWAR. He was a buddy of mine and he passed away right when we were supposed to begin working on a comic book idea ourselves. I just want to give as many nods to Dave as I can.
It was terrible to hear when he passed away.
I've known him since we were kids. We'd been putting [doing a comic together] off forever and we finally were basically ready to start the comic as soon as he got back from Japan. And when he got back from Japan he died. [His death] was really just heartbreaking.
I want to give as many nods to Dave as I can because he was such an enthusiastic guy and such a supporter of everything everybody did. And he loved comics. I figure the very least I can do is get him in some comic books.
Would you ever consider finishing Dave's story as a tribute?
I don't know. The only thing I ever really wanted to do that didn't happen was when a few years back I did a "Criminal Macabre"/"The Goon" crossover. At the time, and Dave was into it, I wanted GWAR to be the bad guys. I wanted space barbarians to be the bad guy. So maybe someday we can do something like that. I'd love it. But Dave and I only got to talk about a couple different ideas [for our planned book] and they were all his. I don't feel right taking those ideas and running with them without his permission. Without him it would just not quite be the same.
That makes sense. Because this is an ongoing, will it affect any of your other current work?
I'm wrapping up my run on "Army of Darkness" right now. The last four issues of my run sees Ash get hitched. Ash is gonna marry Sheila and live happily every after in the dark ages. There's two issues left on my twelve-issue run on "Army of Darkness." I've also got new "Criminal Macabre" coming up soon called "The Third Child." And honestly, that's kinda it from me for comics right now. I'm trying to do less so I can focus better. For years there I was just juggling projects left and right. Everything suffered. So now I'm just picking a few things to really focus on. Like "October Faction."
The ongoing "October Faction" from Steve Niles and Damien Worm begins October 8 from IDW.