Waking the undead, talking '30 Days of Night'

[30 Days of Night]Straight Horror comics have had mixed success throughout the history of comics. Back in the days of William Gaines' EC Comics, horror comics were at their peak form, packing readers in month after month. In recent years the horror genre has been mostly absent from mainstream comics, but coming this June writer Steve Niles, artist Ben Templesmith and IDW Publishing hope to change that entirely with a new 3-issue mini-series called "30 Days of Night." CBR News spoke with Niles exclusively to learn more about this book.

"'30 Days of Night' is about isolation and fear," series writer Steve Niles told CBR News. "It's about fighting back despite impossible odds and facing unbelievable horror. The story focuses, at first, on a husband and wife Sheriff and Deputy team who work and live in a small isolated Alaskan town called Barrow. Barrow is at the very tip of Alaska and once a year the sun goes down and doesn't come up for over thirty days. This year, when the sun goes down, some strange and hungry visitors invade Barrow and it's up to Eben and Stella to survive and help the terrified residents.

Those strange and hungry visitors are the undead -- vampires. And they're looking to have a good time, very much at the expense of the citizens of Barrow.

"I read about Barrow, Alaska in an article about depression and alcoholism of all things. Depression is very high in Barrow due to the months of darkness. The suicide rate is one of the highest in the world. Alcohol is also illegal there because it just makes things worse. So I read this article and thought, 'Hmmm, 30 days of total darkness. Sounds like a great place for a horror story.'"

For fans of horror films like "Night of the Living Dead," the more recent "From Dusk till Dawn," or even those old EC Comics we mentioned above, "30 Days of Night" should be right up your alley.

"It's straightforward, balls-out horror," said Niles. "It's a horror movie as a comic. It's a story, a straightforward horror story. I think that's what worked with the old EC's. They didn't worry about starting some sort of franchise. They told straight up, no apologies horror stories and they worked on a very basic, but effective level."

Now, if you lived in a city where all of a sudden vampires appeared and started mayhem like you've never seen before, well it's a good bet you and all your neighbors would skip town and find a place with a few less of the undead walking around. But even if that were to happen, that doesn't necessarily preclude a sequel for "30 Days of Night." Niles feels there are other stories still to be told.

[Punk Vampire]"Well, there are no plans for another Barrow story, but I have plans for some of the characters. There's one character, a woman in New Orleans that I think could be spun into another story. We'll see. It all depends on sales, doesn't it?"

Artwork for this series is provided by Australian artist Ben Templesmith, profiled during CBR's "Artist on the Verge" week last August. A quick look at his work, and the images accompanying this article, display a moodiness that's found in work from the likes of Bill Sienkiewicz and Ashley Wood, but adding his own unique style. Niles is excited to be working with Templesmith on "30 Days of Night."

"Ben's great. He's the easiest artist I've ever worked with. He works fast. He follows the script and free-styles better then anybody. By this I mean when he strays from the script it usually adds to the story. He's got a great sense of storytelling and his art is quite creepy. He's actually quite creepy too, but that's anther story!"

With Niles located in Los Angeles and Templesmith half a world away in Australia you'd think the distance is a challenge on the creative process.

"Thank god for ICQ and e-mail or we'd never talk," said Niles. "He lives on the other side of the world. If it's 2:00 here, it's like December there. It's hard, but we've managed to work it out."

In addition to "30 Days of Night" Niles is also the writer of Todd McFarlane Productions' "Hellspawn" and the creator of the recently released "Fused!" from Image Comics. For "30 Days of Night" Niles went with IDW, whose publisher he has some history with and is also the group that published his and Ashley Wood's "Savage Membrane" this month.

"I've known [IDW Publisher] Ted Adams and Beau Smith [Vice President of Sales and Marketing for IDW] since my days at Eclipse Comics waaaaay back in the eighties. They've always been great to me. In fact Ted was the first person at TMP who hired me to write which opened a lot of doors. It got me hooked up with Todd, which led to just about everything I'm doing now.

"Besides being great guys, IDW let's me do what I want and they love the material. I've never experienced so much enthusiasm from a publisher. They're great and they promote. Can't say enough out them."

For more on "30 Days of Night" visit the Idea and Design Works Web site for an 8-page preview of the book.

CBR News will have more with Steve Niles later this week in a Real Audio interview in which we discuss his work on "Hellspawn," writing the script with Todd McFarlane for the feature film "Spawn 2" and much more.

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