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Thoughts From The Land of Frost:
An Interview With Steve Niles By Alexander Ness
Slushfactory.com is proud to announce the addition of talented writer Alexander Ness to our editorial line-up. Alexander will be bringing to Slush his acclaimed column, Thoughts From The Land of Frost, featuring the latest reviews and hottest interviews from around the four-color world. We kick off the launch with a discussion with Hellspawn and Fused writer, Steve Niles.
With the formalities now out of the way, we turn it over to Alexander:
Welcome to my column.
This week's column is an interview with a talented writer who after years of toil has become a "hot" writer. His works deserve such popular response and I am fortunate that he took the time to answer my questions.
So please now read and enjoy my interview with Steve Niles...
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AN: Hi, Mr. Niles, and welcome to Thoughts From The Land of Frost. Where are you from, where do you live and where did you go to college (if you did so)? Are you married? And from one cat lover to another, what are your cats' names?
SN: I live in Los Angeles. I didn't go to college and yes, I'm married. And Chloe, Stella and Fidget.
AN: My cats: Mischa and Simone. What interests do you have outside of comics?
SN: What is this outside of comics you speak of?
AN: A true fan of your medium. Never lose that. Were there any formative experiences growing up that led you towards the horror genre? Or were you pretty much just a horror movie and book fan?
SN: Actually, when I was a kid I was scared to death of horror movies to the point where I was forbidden to watch them, but I would always sneak and watch them anyway.
Somewhere along the line I went from hiding under the covers to obsessed fan.
AN: Many readers have come to know you through your recent books 30 Days of Night, Fused, and Hellspawn, but I have known your work for much longer than that. You self-published as Arcane, and that included several joint projects with Eclipse. What led you to self-publishing rather than trying to get published with an established publisher?
SN: I began self-publishing as a direct result of being a frustrated amateur film maker. I used to make these horror shorts and I was always unhappy with the results so I turned to comics as a way to get more control, or at least reduce the amount of cash I need for a quality piece of work.
AN: I consider the series "M" with Jon J Muth to be a benchmark for excellence in the comic industry. (For those not familiar, "M" was a direct scene-by-scene adaption of Fritz Lang's movie masterpiece "M." That film was based on the true crime historical child murders in 1920's Germany). How were you involved in that project, and how instrumental were you to that excellent work finding a publisher?
SN: Basically, I originated the project in that I did the footwork that got Muth doing the book. What that means is that I cleared the copyright then walked over to Muth and asked if he wanted to do it. I knew he would because I saw his M reference in his Dracula graphic novel.
AN: Few works are more deserving of being collected in hardcover or trade paperback to share with a much larger audience.
You brought many of Clive Barker's stories to comics. Were/are you friends? What led him to such a close working arrangement with you?
SN: I was lucky enough to have met Clive before the "Books of Blood" were released in the US, so this was before the madness. We became friends and he generously allowed me (a small, small, small publisher) to purchase the rights to several stories. But the real coup was his allowing me to be the first publisher in the US to publish his artwork! I loved his art from the moment I saw it and I immediately ran a portfolio in the first Fly In My Eye and later published prints of his color covers for the "Books of Blood."
AN: You have also worked similarly close with Richard Matheson (author of What Dreams May Come). How did these working partnerships come about?
SN: Both Clive and Mr. Matheson came about from my writing letters. Both men were very generous and willing to work with a 19 year-old spaz. For that I'll always be amazed.
AN: What are and who are your creative influences?
SN: I always point to Richard Matheson and Raymond Chandler with large doses of Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Hunter Thompson and George Romero thrown in.
AN: What are some of your favorite movies, books and comics?
SN: Ack! Dirty question!
AN: I just ask the questions...
SN: I'll do one each.
Movie: Night of the Living Dead
Book: I Am Legend
Comic: Ed The Happy Clown
AN: Why Horror? What about the genre is worth writing about?
SN: It's the most honest genre. There's just no time for lies when you're sh*tting your pants.
AN: What is that smell?
30 Days of Night (IDW) has become quite a sensation. When I was promoting it to various people, as soon as I referred to the premise of vampires in a place of midnight sun, everyone was awe-struck at the potential of the story. And you and your art team pulled it off and I think truly pushed the envelope. As it has now been optioned as a movie, with you as the chief screenwriter, does this mean an end to the comic series, or will there be some sort of sequel in comic form?
SN: Oh, we have a couple ideas up our sleeves, but nothing I can talk about yet.
AN: In a Nazi bad guy voice, "Herr Niles ve haff veys oft making you talk!"
IDW also published two illustrated novels of the Private Investigator Cal McDonald. Your work on it is quite dark, somewhat depressing and with little hope. Is the work on it itself depressing or is it a sort of exercise in ridding yourself of those kinds of fears? Are you an alternate world Cal?
SN: I'm not dark at all actually, and I thought the books -particularly Guns, Drugs & Monsters - were pretty light. Cal has a pretty good sense of humor considering his world is a living nightmare.
AN: I have given now two very positive reviews of your Image Comics work Fused. What the hell has happened with it that only three issues have appeared in like 9 months with four art teams? I think it is one of the better stories I have read and the potential is enormous, but I am wonder if it'll survive the sales hit that late or erratic books take.
SN: There's a theory that Fused is a cursed book, but what actually happened was Paul Lee quit after the first issue and then took months and months to complete the second on. So really, the only curse on Fused was Paul. The original intention of Fused was to have four issue story-arcs come out fast and each arc progressively building a larger and larger story.
AN: Your work on Hellspawn has been called dreamy or dreary, depressing or deep. I think it is a strange work and a complex one, very hard to assess. There have been legal questions regarding the use of the character Miracleman in its pages.
SN: I know nothing. This whole MM thing is Todd's mess. Ask him.
AN: "Acch Herr Niles ist a hard von ..."
What is your position on this, and as a fan of Miracleman at Eclipse, I wonder if you don't really enjoy using the character?
SN: I think it's a big mess. I honestly don't care if there's ever a NEW Miracleman comic produced, but it would be really nice if the original Moore series could see print so people wouldn't have to pay those ridiculous collector prices.