Interview With Steve Niles for Dark Horse Month

By Al Kratina
July 21, 2007 - 15:46

When Fangoria Magazine named Steve Niles as one of its “13 rising talents”, they weren’t kidding. They were lying, a little, since “rising” is a bit of an understatement. Since 30 Days of Night appeared in 2002, Niles has exploded on the comic book scene. Ever since then, pretty much everything even vaguely related to horror has had Niles’ name somewhere on the cover. A film adaptation of 30 Days Of Night will be released in theaters in October, but Niles has certainly not been resting on his laurels. The sequel, Dark Days was also a huge hit, as was his Criminal Macabre series for Dark Horse. Collaborations with Rob Zombie ( Bigfoot, The Nail) and Thomas Jane ( Bad Planet) followed, as Niles expanded his horror universe. Niles has been working with Dark Horse comics for quite some time, and currently, he’s is working on City of Others for the company, as well several upcoming Criminal Macabre stories. As well, he’s executive produced David Arquette’s directorial debut The Tripper (review to be posted on the Bin shortly). Steve was kind enough to take the time to answer some of the Comic Book Bin’s questions as part of Dark Horse Month.

CBB: Tell us about your start in the industry. You worked at Horror Online prior to working in comics, correct? How did that lead to where you are now?

SN: I got my start pretty early, when I was around 17-18. I was playing in a band at the time and we’d put out our own records and put of shows ourselves, book tours, so when I decided to try doing some comics I started my own publishing company called Arcane Comix. I was a terrible business man, but I managed to put out a few books and set of lithographs (Clive Barker Books of Blood covers) before I folded and used Arcane as a label for packaging books with Eclipse Comics. I did I AM LEGEND there and FRITZ LANG’S M and a tone of Barker material. Horror Online was a brief pit stop between getting fired from Disney and starting to work for McFarlane. How I wound up here is anybody’s guess. I just kept at out of stubbornness and lack of other options as much as anything, but I’m glad I wound up here.

CBB: Were you always interested in writing comics? Was working in comics part of your career plan?

SN: I developed a love of films, comics and music at a really young age and I always wanted to do something either in writing or film. I never thought I’d be in comics. I thought I’d just be a fan and collector who wrote things on the side, but I’m happy to have a career in writing. I’m very lucky.

CBB:Tell us about Arcane, the publishing company you started out with.

SN: I just had too much energy as a kid. I was spaz. One day I have an idea so I can get some comics out and the next thing I know I’m taking on investors and Clive Barker. Things sort of snowballed on me, but in a good way.

CBB: Obviously, horror was an interest of yours prior to working in the comic book industry, and your output so far has primarily been in the horror genre.

SN: I love horror and I’m pretty sure I’ll wind up being labeled the horror guy, but I love and am capable of writing all sorts of other material. I’d love to write some crime books someday as well as some children’s books and even some humor.

CBB: Do you foresee that changing?

SN: People are very eager to label, so I think I’m stuck being spooky boy, but I don’t mind. I have a true love of horror. The movies, the classics good and bad, are like comfort food to me. Put on The Wolfman and I feel all warm inside.

CBB: Would you like it to change?

SN: I’d like to be seen as a creator of all sorts of stuff, but if people want me to do horror, I won’t complain.

CBB: Fused was more of a sci-fi/action comic than a horror book. Did you find that more difficult to write?

SN: Nope. I really enjoy writing other genres. I’m doing it more and more with books like BAD PLANET and FUSED.

CBB: Does working with a particular artist change how you write? For example, if you know you're going to be doing a project with Ben Templesmith, would you be inspired to write it differently than if you were working with Ashley Wood?

SN: I adjust to the artist. Like with Bernie Wrightson and Bill Sienkiewicz I write 22 pages of tight scrip for a 26 page book so they can pace it the way they like and play to their storytelling strengths. Every artist is different and I try to write to their strengths. Some artist love lots of detail and some want freedom. For me it’s all about getting the best work out of them so I want to make them happy by working as a team.

CBB: Without burning any career bridges, are there any major differences between the various different comic book publishers you're working with, or have worked with? Is writing a book for Dark Horse different than writing a book for DC, or for Image?

SN: I’ve only done a couple things for Marvel and enjoyed it a lot. I grew up on Marvel so I know those characters instinctively. I’ve pitched them lots of stuff, Hulk, Spiderman, Morbius, even a Son of Satan, but so far nothing has happened. DC on the other hand, has welcomed me with open arms and I really like working with them. So far I’ve done Batman, The Creeper and now I’m doing SIMON DARK, which is a creator owned character by me and Scott Hampton which DC is allowing to exist in the DCU. THAT is amazing. Not many people get that chance. What it all boils down to for me is the editor. I have great editors at DC, Dark Horse and that makes the whole thing work. A good editor is the most important thing for me.

CBB: Could you tell us a little bit about your partnership with Rob Zombie? Is it still active?

SN: We started it because we were too busy, so we could help each other out, but now we’re both so busy we can’t even do that. I love THE NAIL and BIGFOOT. Both were fun to work on, but there’s no talk of any future projects.

CBB: How did you partnership with Thomas Jane begin?

SN: He was touring and promoting THE PUNISHER and approached me at a con. He said he had a story to pitch me (Bad Planet) and said he wanted to play Cal. Then we went out to lunch and got to talking only to discover we had both grown up in Washington DC area and he used to buy records by my band, GRAY MATTER. Forming RAW with Tom was one of the best things I’ve ever done. He’s a creative juggernaut and so far, in just a few years working together we’ve created four comic series, sold three films and a TV show. And it never feels like work. It’s fun like when I made Super 8 movies with my buddies as a kid.

CBB: What's going on with Bad Planet? When do I get to read issue #2?

SN: Come this San Diego we should have a reissue of #1 and #2. ALL of the books are completed and we’re going to release them like machinegun fire.

CBB: In terms of your comic book output, what are you most proud of?

SN: Freaks of the Heartland is one of my favorites because Greg Ruth did an amazing job. That’s the one book that I wrote a ton of narrative for and then threw it all out because the art told the story so well. I have a place in my heart for everything Cal McDonald too. I love that loser.

CBB: Is there something that you've put out that you had hoped would come out better, or done better financially ?

SN: Oh boy, yes! But I don’t want to single anything out. Sometimes people just don’t buy stuff. I always remind myself that initial orders on the first 30 Days of Night were just a little over 4 thousand. We were devastated at the time, but look what happened. Sometimes failures in comics make success in other mediums.

CBB: Could you tell us a little bit about City of Others, and your other Dark Horse projects past and future?

SN: I’ve worked with Dark Horse for a long time. I spoke to Mike Richardson the other day and realized we’ve known each other for almost 20 years now. My first gig with them was doing Cal McDonald in a run of DH Presents (which happened to feature a Bernie Wrightson Alien story). The story was HAIRBALL. I then did a bunch of Harlan Ellison adaptations and years later we hooked up again and put out FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND, FUSED, and CRIMINAL MACABRE (which contuse even today). CITY OF OTHERS is a dream come true for me. I am literarily working with a childhood idol of mine on a book that is all about monsters.

CBB: What's coming up next?

SN: A whole mess of stuff including CRIMINAL MACABRE: MY DEMON BABY with new artist Nick Stakal, a collection of the CRIMINAL MACABRE prose novels and short stories, SIMON DARK, THE SINNER, and as they say, much, much more.

CBB: I know you've got a number of projects in various stages of development in Hollywood. Could you give us a run down as to what they are, and how they're coming along? What has your experience with Hollywood been so far?

SN: Right now I’m finishing THE LURKERS and starting work on a TV show Tom and I created. I really want to get a Cal McDonald movie off the ground, but I’m having a tough time finding a studio that won’t sanitize him.

CBB: The trailer for 30 Days Of Night has just been released. Thoughts? What was working on that screenplay like?

SN: I’m thrilled beyond words. I think it looks great. David Slade is amazing. Working on the script was a little surreal because I went from writing comics alone in my apartment to driving out to Sony twice a week to develop the script with Sam Raimi. I was so nervous at first. I was star struck and had to get past that so I could write!

CBB: Tell us about The Tripper.

SN: The TRIPPER is a film written by David Arquette and Joe Harris. David, who is the brother of Tom’s wife, also directed. He came to me and Tom wanting us to help make the film and we liked it immediately. I mean come on; it’s Ronald Reagan in the woods with an axe! What’s not to like?

CBB: What inspires you as a writer? What kinds of films, novels, music do you draw upon in your work?

SN: They all inspire me on some level. The way I look at it, all these great directors, writers, artists and other creators gave us all this great stuff to consume. Naturally if you are creative, it all seeps in and one day we regurgitate what we’ve taken in and give back. Wait…did I just explain inspiration akin to vomiting? Well, yeah. Sometime it is I suppose.

CBB: Obvious film is a big influence, as much of your comic book work has been described as being cinematic. Is this deliberate? Can you tell us about some of your favorite movies?

SN: I always point to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but not just because it’s a horror film. It’s also because I am Legend, one of my favorite books, was the inspiration. It was also that George Romero was a maverick and made it outside the system. He did it himself which inspired me a lot.

CBB: Were you a comic fan as a child?

SN:Yes. I read CREEPY and EERIE, as well as BATMAN and a ton of Marvel titles. I bailed on comics in the late 80’s when everybody in comics drew characters with mullets. I just couldn’t take that.

CBB: What are you reading right now, both comic and otherwise?

SN: Book-wise, I’m reading HEART-SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill. I read all sorts of comics. I dig what Brubaker does. His CRIMINAL series is a knock-out crime book.

CBB: What's the last movie you saw and enjoyed?

SN: I just saw BEHIND THE MASK and I enjoyed it. Some of the performances were hideous but they played out a tough concept (a documentary of a masked killer) pretty damn well.

CBB: What's in your CD player right now? Okay, fine. iPod.

SN: CD player. Right now THE OMEN soundtrack. It’s good to write to. :D

CBB: That's all I've got for now, Steve. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, and I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks again,

SN: Cool. Thank YOU!

Last Updated: December 31, 2019 - 20:28

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