20 Questions With Master Of Horror Steve Niles

SteveNiles Steve Niles is best known for creating 30 Days of Night, the comic that inspired the movie, but he is a man with fingers in a lot of pies. Since the early 1990s he has worked for pretty damn near every comic company, big and small. He has written Batman, The Creeper, Spawn, 28 Days Later, and X-Files, as well as his own creations Cal McDonald, Simon Dark, Mystery Society, and more. Generally eschewing super-heroes for the horror genre, he has gained a large following of dedicated fans. With his strong DIY attitude and outspoken push for better creator rights, women€™s rights, gender equality, and animal rights, Steve is a man of principle. He is also one of the nicest and most gracious people in comics. Steve always has time to interact with his fans, both online and at conventions or signings. He has generously taken time out of his busy schedule, creating comics and practicing with his newly reunited band, to talk about his history, comics, politics, DIY aesthetic, and a whole lot more. You've played music for years, in the D.C. hardcore scene, more recently with your fiancé, Monica Richards, and now reuniting with the D.C. hardcore scene. How did it all start, and how did the reunion come about? I got into the scene around the time I was 17 or 18. I lived in the Virginia suburbs and I would take busses into DC and sleep in abandoned factories or on people's floors. Eventually I met Dante, Mark and Geoff and that€™s when the band started. My involvement with music had as much to do with my friendship with those guys as it did being part of an amazing music scene. Looking back those were crucial years for me. Being part of a scene that preached a DIY ethic as well as an activist mentality shaped me in many ways. It's where I learned art and that helping others is more important than any amount of money or popularity. You can make money doing what you want to do, but to be able to do it without stabbing others in the back is something special. Anybody can be a conniving jerk, but to open your eyes and treat everybody with respect and fairness is the way I like to work. It's why I avoid corporate work as much as possible. The reunion came about because I've remained close friends with all these guys. We are a very tight group. No matter how many years we don't see each other, we are instantly comfortable. GrayMatterYou have some obvious influences in Richard Matheson, George A. Romero, and of course your friend Bernie Wrightson. Who or what were your earliest influences, and do they still influence you as greatly? There are so many. In comics Jack Kirby is a hero to me for creating just about every Marvel character, for being an amazing creator in general. John Carpenter is a big one for me too, because he did things his way and made some of my favorite genre films. I can't say enough about Richard Matheson. His work meant the world to me and so did he. Amazing man. Amazing career. Were you ever a fan of Kolchak: The Night Stalker? It just seems like a show you would be into. Of course! I'm a big Dan Curtis fan. I loved the Jeff Rice book and Richard Matheson wrote the TV films. How could I not love it? You've been a fan of the legendary Bernie Wrightson for years, and now you've become collaborators and great friends. How did the friendship with Bernie come about, and how did it lead to Frankenstein Alive! ALIVE!? I met Bernie at a con in Dallas only to find we lived three blocks apart in LA. We became immediate friends and did City of Others, Dead, She Said, the Ghoul and Doc Macabre together, then one day Bernie is over at the house and he says he wants to do more Frankenstein and he wants me to work with him. I've been a fan of Bernie's as long as I can remember so hearing those words come out of his mouth were a dream come true. FrankieNow for a couple of obvious questions. How did you get your start in this crazy thing we call "comics"? I started my own comic company. I was young and inexperienced but it taught me a lot and got me in the door. 30 Days of Night is obviously one of your most well known works. How did it initially come about, and how did you and Ben Templesmith originally hook up? Not very exciting, I'm afraid. I met Ben on the Spawn message boards. We wound up doing Hellspawn together, then one day Ted Adams called and asked if we wanted to do something at IDW. We said yes and that project wound up being 30 Days of Night. 30 Days of Night is one of the books credited with the returning horror to comics. Was this the plan, or just a happy accident? Total accident. If I could plan something like that I would have done it a lot sooner. :) 30DaysYou've always got quite a lot on your plate, and you've dipped your feet in the Marvel and DC swimmin' holes, but you are most well known for working with independent and smaller press publishers. What are the pros and cons of working for smaller publishers? Some people can work for those two. I feel now like it was a big mistake for me and an unnecessary distraction from the course I was already on. I just can't and won't play the corporate game. I don't like how creators are treated, and honestly I don't like what I've seen it do to some people. I see way too much backstabbing and other poor behavior. I also prefer to be judged by my work, not by who I know or whose ass I kiss. That's just me. Some people are great at maneuvering the corporate world. I am not one of those people. Working for a smaller publisher (or doing it yourself!) offers so much. You€™re only limited by your imagination. If you were offered carte blanche to do anything you wanted at one of the Big Two, without any editorial interference, what would be your ultimate dream story? Was the greatly missed Simon Dark THAT book? Do you even have an urge to go back to that world? If you asked me this even a few ears ago I would have said the Hulk or Batman but I've decided I don't fit the corporate world. I think corporate culture is one of the most dangerous things in the world today and I just don't want to be a part of it. Whether people like it or not corporations do a lot of damage to people and the world, and I don't want to play even a small part in that. I'm also not a fool. You can't avoid it all in this age, but when I can, I will and for now and in the future I'd rather create my own properties instead of dealing with that world. And yes, I miss Simon Dark a lot, but despite years of trying and various promises, he's still sitting and rotting at DC. SimonDarkYou are very outspoken when it comes to creator rights and working in a very DIY landscape. Your involvement with 44Flood, Bloody Pulp Books, and Black Mask Studios, even Arcane Comix and IDW back in the day, all seems to be pretty damn successful. Why, in the age of digital comics and Kickstarter, do you think more creators haven't gone this route? Most of us dream of growing up and working on characters we read as kids. I get why people do it, but like I said, I try to avoid being part of things I find harmful to the world. We are entering a world where being self-sufficient is easier and easier. Frankly we don't need the big companies to find an audience. Look at what Image has been doing, they are creating a place for creators to go and do their thing and I think more and more will. Here's the thing, and I hear people say this all the time, if you work for those companies you will be screwed over and cast aside at some point. It€™s not a question of if, its matter of when. It happened to everyone from the creators of Superman to Jack Kirby. I see a lot of people throwing over friends for a shot at the big two and it makes me very sad because someday they will be cast aside because they are only cogs in a machine and the second they don't do exactly what is needed to advance the corporation they will be thrown aside. Unfortunately the comic industry has a bad track record for treating creators like s**t and I don't see it stopping. You tend to be outspoken in general when it comes to politics, animal rights, equality, veganism, being sober, gun laws, etc. I know your fans respect your candor. Why the hell did you move to Texas of all places? Seriously though, has your outspoken nature ever gotten you into trouble? I get in trouble all the time but that just tells me I'm doing something right. I believe what I believe and I have no trouble expressing myself, but it's just my opinion. I know how I felt when I was stuck out in the suburbs and when I heard a creator I loved speak out I knew there were others out there so in a way I'm just carrying that on. I think creator rights are important. I also happen to believe being sober is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Most of my friends drink. I just don't. I love having a clear head. I truly wish more people in fandom were more outspoken and cared about others more. I think it's something we as an industry need to work on. They say that many horror writers use their stories as a way to vent, or just to write characters that they could never be them self. Is hard drinking, chain smoking, drug abusing Cal McDonald that character for you? Is it hard writing that character, now that you're sober? I worried about it at first but since I sat down to write him he was a screwed up as ever. He's a rather extreme character. While some of his exploits were based on my own, most of it is pure imagination. I've always been careful not to glamorize drugs, drinking and smoking. Cal is a major addict but he also has an amazingly sh**ty life so I feel like I walk the line close enough. I never wrote Cal as a reflection of me. He's a bunch of people I know rolled into one. It should also be noted I'm not a vampire and I'm able to write about them without drinking blood. CalMcDThere have been a great many hot button issues over the last few years, many of which you address on a daily basis on social media. What do you feel is the biggest issue facing us as a nation right now, and do you see things getting better any time soon? Global warming is huge, but I honestly believe we have already responded too slow. Christ, we have idiots out there denying it even exists. It's definitely happening and we are definitely in trouble, but guess what? The planet will be fine, better off without us. If we don't start to turn things around soon our time will pass. Simple as that. Other issues driving me insane right now are conservative dicks trying to take away women's rights. It feels like a last ditch effort to roll back the clock. Here€™s where I feel good about the future though. I talk to teens now and they don't care about race or sexual orientation. They are well advanced and way ahead of the old white men trying to take away rights. People have to stand up and fight back now but I feel good about the coming generations. In a way I feel like all these sudden attacks on women are just the death rattle of ideas that we are evolving away from. Human rights are very important, but I also believe that animal rights will be one of the next big issues. Someday we have to look at the way we treat other creatures on this planet and look inside ourselves and decide if this is the kind of world we want to be in. You, along with many other creators, have embraced Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, to really interact with fans and other creators. You're also very approachable online, as well as at conventions and signings. What is your favorite thing about interacting with your fans? Have you ever had any scary or downright weird fan encounters? I go back and forth on this. I see how Facebook and Twitter help, but I also see how they hurt. I am trying to pull back, not because I don't love the contact, but it€™s the random attacks and the roller coaster of rapid fire information we get. As far as being accessible, I think it's part of my job. I owe fans and readers a lot and I don't mind being there for them. I have pretty great fans, a very eclectic lot so I love meeting them. ChinMusicSome people, Mike Mignola comes to mind, have movies on in the background as they work. Some listen to music, while others need absolute silence. I tend to listen to movie scores, classical music, or electronic music. What is going on in the background as YOU write? I can put on movies I am very familiar with as background. Like 2001. I watch that maybe once a month. Hearing it in the background is a comfort. Usually though I play music. Lots of soundtracks and instrumental music by musicians like Lustmord, the Russian Circle, and Red Sparrows. Lyrics distract me. You post a lot of pictures of your dogs, cats, and tortoises. Do you feel this hurts your reputation as a writer of horror stories? Ha! I hope so. I don't really give a s**t. I'm very much myself online and I have fun. It's a major misconception that horror writers are dark and creepy like the stories they tell but I have found the opposite to be true. Stephen King is a hilarious down to earth guy; Clive Barker is one of the most generous people I've met. In general horror people are very friendly because we get the s**t out, we don't hold anything inside. Now you want to meet some mean dudes, go talk to the guys who draw Tinkerbell. LustYour work with 44Flood, LUST in particular, has been really interesting and impressive. It was cool seeing you and Ben reunite for the first time in years, especially because you have both grown as creators. Do you have any other work with 44Flood or Ben Templesmith coming down the pipeline? Ben and I drifted apart after doing an obscene amount of work together. We're kind of getting reacquainted now and I'm having the time of my life. He's always been one of my favorite collaborators and he remains one of my favorite artists. We will be doing more together. We have something planned. I will also being doing more with Menton3 and 44Flood. Currently you have Chin Music, Criminal Macabre, Breath of Bones, Frankenstein Alive! ALIVE!, and Mystery Society coming out, and it was announced at San Diego Comic-Con that you will be writing an ongoing Ash and the Army of Darkness series for Dynamite. What else can we be expecting from you this year and next? Any exclusives you can give us? That's not enough? Ha ha! Those are the main titles I will be working on. I will be dropping one to free some time and I am currently working on developing what will hopefully be my first creator-owned ongoing, something I've never really done before. I will also be doing a series for Black Mask with Chris Mitten. AshWhat is one story you always wanted to tell that just never happened? Was there ever a story that was so close, but just fell apart? Sure. There are plenty. That€™s why I juggle so many things. If I juggle ten projects, one or two will happen. I'm pretty persistent. I tried Breath of Bones at IDW, then Image, and finally did it at Dark Horse so not too much has fallen by the wayside. I've been very lucky. Other than 30 Days of Night, you've had Remains turned into a TV movie for the Chiller Network, and Wake the Dead has been optioned as well. Are any of your other stories headed to the big or small screen? I have a few things in various stages of development. Freaks of the Heartland has been getting some traction, and also Criminal Macabre. I try to stay focused on the comics. You have to be very careful how much you give over to Hollywood because they will wring you dry if you let them. That said, I am working on a screenplay for Breath of Bones. No sale or anything. I haven't even shopped it. I just want to write the script. RemainsBonus question: Now, just for funsies, who would win in a fight, Frankenstein's monster or the Creature? That depends, are they fighting in water or on land? I think the Monster would win on land, but the Creature would win a water battle. Steve€™s work can be found on amazon.com and Big Box retail chain store, but I€™m sure he€™d prefer you buy at your local comic shop. He can be found at steveniles.com. And if you see him at a convention, feel free to say hi. As seen in this interview, he won€™t bite.
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A writer in spirit, a baker by profession. Carl has been a comic shop impresario, comic book illustrator, record store clerk, electronic musician, late night radio DJ, club promoter, graphic designer, and other cool things you wish you could be. He mistakenly had purple dreadlocks once. For three years. Which made him way less cool. He doesn't actually know what the word impresario means, and is way too lazy to Google it. Carl is also an American, and for that he apologizes.