Robert Weinbergis a man with a dark aesthetic. Before he cut his teeth on comics, with Marvel Comics' "Cable," he was a horror novelist. This winter, Weinberg returned to his horror roots with a new Marvel miniseries that draws on the world he created for his prose fiction.
"'Nightside' is an occult detective series that deals with the Others, a race of beings who secretly share the Earth with mankind," Weinberg told CBR News on Tuesday. "The Others look human and act human but they're not. They're a different species who possess powers that seem supernatural to us. The Others include vampires, werewolves, ogres and other creatures from mankind's worst nightmares. Our world, the daylight hours, they call Dayside. Their time, the night and the shadows, they call Nightside.
"Sydney Taine is a female detective who works on the Nightside, solving crimes involving the Others. She's smart, beautiful, and very dangerous. And Sydney knows hides secrets that would make even the worst of the Others tremble.
"In her first mini-series, 'Ikkyu's Skull,' Sydney, with her partner, Ape Largo, investigates the murders of several prominent leaders of the New York City's Nightside. She soon finds herself involved in a web of intrigue and double-dealing that links Manhattan gangs to a Japanese secret society.
"The second Nightside mini-series is called 'Hellhounds on Her Trail' and at present, it's scheduled for release in October 2002. Just in time for Halloween."
Weinberg is mixing in a famous real life occult legend into the new miniseries.
"In the 2nd 'Nightside' mini-series, Sydney Taine finds herself dancing with the devil when she tries to protect a rock and roll diva from a family curse. Together with Ape Largo, Sydney's going to investigate the truth behind the death of the most famous blues singer of the 20th century, Robert Johnson. There'll be hellhounds howling at the crossroads when Sydney confronts the diabolical entity who calls himself Mr. Scratch. It's music, magic and mojo as Sydney battles 'Hellhounds on her Trail.'"
Horror and dark fantasy have had a great few years after being a relatively fringe genre for most of the 20th century. Now, it's becoming increasingly common on film, on television – where even the new Superboy TV show "Smallville" has many fairly dark and horrific moments – and in comics.
"I think the recent upsurge of interest in the occult and in horror fiction can be directly linked to the incredible scientific breakthroughs that have been made the past few years," Weinberg said. "The more we discover about the human genome system, the creation of the solar system, the evolution of life, and similar topics, the more people look to the supernatural and the supernormal for entertainment. We're in a world that's constantly changing, one that's growing more complicated by the minute. I think people feel that they're being washed away by technology. Thus they're looking for entertainment that doesn't involve complex machinery, advanced technology, and mental gymnastics. People like to feel that they're in control of the world and not that the world is in control of them. I think many many people are suspicious of technology and what it offers and are looking for simple, more comprehendible answers. Thus, we're seeing a huge surge in interest in fantasy fiction like the Harry Potter books, the work of David Eddings and Terry Brooks and George R.R. Martin, and the gradual decline in popularity of science fiction. I suspect more and more people feel that maybe Tolkien and not Heinlein had it right.
"In publishing, like anywhere else, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There's a lot more fantasy and occult fiction being published now than just a few years back. It happened with horror fiction in the late 1980's and it's happening with fantasy fiction today. More and more derivative junk appears, until it gluts the market that the good material is buried under piles of unreadable trash. Then, the markets crash and people stop buying everything. Then, very slowly the good stuff starts appearing again. It takes a long time. Horror fiction crashed about 15 years ago and publishers are just now starting to take chances with horror novels not written by the few big names like King and Koontz and Rice. It happened, in a very similar fashion, with comic books in general in the mid-1990s and we're still waiting for the field to rebound."
After years of doing strictly Marvel Universe – and its various subsidiaries – books, the first "Nightside" series was the first creator-owned book they published that had nothing to do with the Marvel Universe in quite some time.
"Mark Powers, my editor at Marvel when I worked on 'Cable,' encouraged me to submit any new ideas that I thought would make for a good comic book series. I had plenty. Some of them were Marvel related and some were my own creations. Mark liked 'Nightside' and Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas gave me the go-ahead to write the story.
"As to why Marvel decided to publish a comic not set in the Marvel Universe, I can't say for sure, but I know Joe and Bill have talked about expanding the Marvel line into new and different directions. And, the best way to do that is to step outside the confines of mainstream comic book continuity. I think everyone involved with Marvel is looking to produce innovative and exciting stories and hopefully fans feel 'Nightside' does exactly that.
"As to why I went to Marvel with 'Nightside,' I think Marvel's on the cutting edge of the comic book field these days. They're actively seeking new ideas and new concepts. It's an exciting time to be writing for comics and it's great to be writing for one of the major publishers in the field."
For "Nightside" readers who want more of Weinberg's writing and world, there are a number of ties in the comics to his prose fiction.
"'Nightside' is based at least in part on my horror novel, 'The Black Lodge,' that was published in 1990. Sydney's brother, Sid, stars in that, and it features the first appearance of Ape Largo. Sid also appears in a half-dozen short stories of mine that have appeared in horror and fantasy anthologies over the past 13 years. There's an excerpt of 'The Black Lodge' featuring Ape Largo on my Web site.
"There's also a link to a book service that offers paperback copies of 'The Black Lodge' (it's been out of print for 10 years but they have a small supply of copies) for sale. They also stock most of my other novels as well and my short-story collection, 'Dial Your Dreams,' which contain a number of Taine adventures. I do need to mention that my horror stuff is definitely not for people offended by graphic violence or sex."
Finally, Weinberg still has other work he's involved with at the moment.
"I've just finished writing the fifth issue of 'Extinction Event,' a creator-owned mini-series I'm doing with Brett Booth for Wildstorm. I'm not sure of the release date of the first issue but hopefully when it appears fans will take a look. Since the publicity campaign for the series hasn't begun, I can't discuss any specifics. It is a science fiction adventure set in the present day and Brett's artwork for the series is absolutely incredible.
"This summer, John Wiley & Sons will be publishing 'The Science of Suerheros' which I wrote with my friend, Lois Gresh. It's a hardcover non-fiction book that examines the science behind such characters as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. We discuss everything from the actual location of Krypton to how Submariner breathes under water. It was a difficult book to write but I'm really pleased with the results. I think comic fans will find it lots of fun. Beyond that, I have several comic book proposals being considered, a new novel, and another science book. So I'm keeping busy!"