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Thoughts From the Land of Frost:
Writer Steve Niles Talks Fused By Alexander Ness
Steve Niles is one of those guys where you know you're in for a good time. The man who spins the tales of supernatural detective Cal McDonald now sees that work appearing in novel form from IDW, and that character also appears in an ongoing miniseries at Dark Horse entitled CRIMINAL MACABRE.
Niles received great acclaim with his 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (also at IDW and currently in development by Hollywood), and it is currently being followed by a sequel DARK DAYS. The writer also tackled Todd McFarlane's Satanic creation with the fan-favorite series HELLSPAWN. He brought demonic politics to a new low/high with that dark work. He deserves great praise for it all, but one title he started in 2002 received positive reviews and frustrated fans with its irregular schedule, and that would be FUSED. The story follows an amputee scientist who has the opportunity to access far futuristic robotic technology, and gets permanently fused with the advanced armor suit. FUSED saw a scant four issues published under Image and was placed on hiatus until various artist and production issues could be addressed. But finally, under the Dark Horse banner, FUSED is returning!
In an exclusive interview, Mister Steve, the man himself, tells us about his current projects, including FUSED, and what fans can look forward to in the future.
AN: Hi, Steve, and welcome back to my column!
SN: I'm good. How about you? Are you taking your medication?
AN: I want to say how excited I am regarding the return of FUSED. Who is the new artist and is he better with deadlines and reliability for you? What are his illustrating strengths?
SN: Well, compared to one of the last FUSED artists, Josh Medors is a dream come true. He's young, talented and a damn hard worker. His strength is that he is able to change and adapt his style and he isn't afraid to try something new. In fact, we have another project already in the works called...oops, almost slipped there. Hehe.
AN: You were forced to rely upon some guest artists in volume one and I thought Ben Templesmith's work was excellent, but I would have to say that his work on it was out of genre, as he imparts horror far better than heroics. Do you foresee arcs of the story using guest artists? Anyone we might know?
SN: Right now, I'd like to see how far Josh and I can go. We also have a great inker, Peter Repovski who's a buddy of mine. I like the idea of working with a solid team for a while. If anything we may have some guest cover artists like the mind-blowing cover Eric "The Goon" Powell. Anybody know why they call Eric the Goon?
AN: What areas of the story of FUSED were you happy with in its previous four issues, and what was the most frustrating to you. Will it (volume one) be released as a trade paperback? If yes by whom?
SN: I was most happy with the relationship moments. They felt right to me. Some of the more frustrating moments were trying to deal with a dozen characters at once. I see now how hard it is to work on team books and have a whole new respect for guys like Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek who do it so well.
Dark Horse will be releasing the original series as a trade. Expect an announcement soon.
AN: Some emailers took me to task for seeing too much in FUSED, that to them the underlying philosophies of FUSED were simple and clear and not as metaphorical as I saw it. What is the root or basic storyline to you, and does the concept of man and machine being intertwined serve as a object lesson for human condition at the moment?
SN: Ya know... I try not to read too deeply into where certain things come from. I leave that to you guys. To me Fused is about a reluctant hero and a man who loves his wife.
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AN: When Volume II appears, at what point in the story do we find the characters? Five years later? Or moments after the first volume ended?
SN: Just a month or two after the events of the first story.
AN: What inspired FUSED?
SN: Honestly? I wanted to write a big robot story and it evolved into a human story. Go figure.
AN: How different is it to work at IDW and Dark Horse versus Image? How does each publisher do things differently?
SN: You're trying to get me in trouble now. Each company has its good points and bad points. I have a very good thing going with IDW because there are some long standing relationships I have there and we are very like-minded about how we like to do things. IDW are fast and gutsy. Dark Horse knows how to get a book out there and how to get it to the widest possible audience. After my past experiences (before IDW), it's a pleasure to work for such a professional operation. Both Ted Adams at IDW and Mike Richardson at Dark Horse have treated me very well, and I hope I can return the favor.
AN: You've worked with two Aussies, Ben Templesmith and Ashley Wood. Was that the luck of the draw or is there something within their work that meshes well with your stories?
SN: Well, both of them are the kings of mood. That's really the key with the stuff I do, horror mainly. They really capture a grit and creepy realism that I just love.
AN: Your work on CRIMINAL MACABRE sold out issue #1 with Dark Horse and I gave it an enormous thumbs up of praise. Will there be a follow-up series to that?
SN: Oh yeah. Soon you'll be begging me to stop writing Cal McDonald books. We already have a 48 page one-shot LOVE ME TENDERLOIN in the works which will be followed by another mini-series called LAST TRAIN TO DEADSVILLE.
AN: I haven't read issue three of DARK DAYS yet, so I cannot guess where this work is going to end, but is it ending here or is there a final chapter yet to see print?
SN: Now, why would I tell you that? There are plans, there are plans.
AN: Also, I wonder if people realize how different in tone DD and CM are... One is filled with the nastiness of life and a rather salty detective, the other is a good, brave woman who is responding to a threat that took her husband's life. Do reviewers link CM and DD because they are appearing at the same time, because both have awesome art by Ben Templesmith, or they are all nuts.
SN: I think there has been some confusion, but most of it clears up as soon as they crack the books open. It's pretty obvious they are completely different in tone and approach.
AN: WAKE THE DEAD is a story reimagining the Frankenstein tale. You've already had artist issues on it but your take on the story has led to the property being optioned to Hollywood. How cool is that?
SN: Pretty cool. I'm having a lot of fun with DIMENSION. They really get it. Oh, and you're going to shit a brick when you hear who's writing the screenplay.
AN: And how frustrating must it have been for you to see another artist screw up?
SN: Hell, I'm a pro now! I've been through the Fused boot camp! It sucked, but as things will happen, another amazing young artist, Chee stepped in and made everything work again, so I'm happy.
AN: Sushi or steak?
SN: I like both... but I love my Carne Asada on my grill and then making like QUEST FOR FIRE, getting down on all fours and gnawing away.
AN: What conventions are planned for you in 2004?
SN: I'm going to do a lot. Dark Horse and IDW have me slated. They're just going to throw me in a shipping crate and send me around.
AN: What is your favorite giant monster movie?
SN: Bert I. Gordon's War of the Colossal Beast!
AN: Thanks Steve!
SN: Thank you!
AND NOW SOME NEWS:
Sacred Hearts is a new horror spectacular by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, the creative team behind the best-selling comics 30 Days of Night and Dark Days.
While IDW has become well known for its miniseries, especially in the horror genre, Editor-in-Chief Jeff Mariotte explains, “We’ve been looking for the right property, and the right team, to launch our first ongoing series. In Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, we have that team—Steve’s high concept storytelling is second to none, and Ben brings Steve’s ideas to life brilliantly. And in Sacred Hearts we have that property—a sure winner.”
According to writer Steve Niles, “Sacred Hearts is a combination of ideas I've been playing with for a while. It's sort of a horror soap opera with characters like vampires, werewolves, devils and one poor priest who walks the line between the holy and unholy.
“At its core,” Niles continues, “Sacred Hearts is about self discovery and the idea that no matter what life hands us, we are not doomed to any one path. The main character is a man who has just lost his adopted parents and is told a terrible secret before they pass. Everything he ever thought he was has been a lie and now, in searching for the truth he will enter a world—a gauntlet—of religious zealots, Satanic cults, and creatures of the night!
“This is pretty cliché,” Niles grins, "but it's Dark Shadows on acid.”
Artist Ben Templesmith adds, “Don’t expect the artwork to be the same as 30 Days of Night—my first printed work—but expect it to have the same vibrancy and atmosphere. I’m going to experiment like hell on this one.”
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