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THE FIRST DECADE

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Steve Niles is most well-known for

30 Days of Night, his vampire tale that went from the pages of IDW comic

books to the silver screen. But Niles’

legions of fans also know that a certain hard-luck, drug-addled

sleuth also holds a special place in

his cosmology–Cal McDonald. And over the years, many of

Cal’s adventures have been

presented by IDW in both comic book and novel form.

Here Steve and Kris discuss

the ins and outs of Cal’s world,

6 STEVE NILES & C

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CAL McDONALD

and the process it took to create them. KO: I’m going to start with some Savage Membrane stuff. The one thing Ted has consistently said about you is that when you guys would go up to Hollywood and you’d have to give the old high concept, that was just an excellent ability of yours–that you can sum up a story really quickly. So how about one for Savage Membrane? ____________________________________________________ Opposite Page: Dial M for Monster, art by Gilbert Hernandez.

SN: The whole thing? Oh my God–don’t always say no to drugs? I don’t know. Cal McDonald’s sort of flawed personality actually pays off ? It’s hard to sum up a novel like that, but if you have to find an underlying theme, that’s certainly one of them. You know, don’t always be so quick to point out people’s flaws, sometime they might save your life.

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Page 74

Steve Niles is most well-known for

30 Days of Night, his vampire tale that went from the pages of IDW comic

books to the silver screen. But Niles’

legions of fans also know that a certain hard-luck, drug-addled

sleuth also holds a special place in

his cosmology–Cal McDonald. And over the years, many of

Cal’s adventures have been

presented by IDW in both comic book and novel form.

Here Steve and Kris discuss

the ins and outs of Cal’s world,

6 STEVE NILES & C

H

A

P

T

E

R

CAL McDONALD

and the process it took to create them. KO: I’m going to start with some Savage Membrane stuff. The one thing Ted has consistently said about you is that when you guys would go up to Hollywood and you’d have to give the old high concept, that was just an excellent ability of yours–that you can sum up a story really quickly. So how about one for Savage Membrane? ____________________________________________________ Opposite Page: Dial M for Monster, art by Gilbert Hernandez.

SN: The whole thing? Oh my God–don’t always say no to drugs? I don’t know. Cal McDonald’s sort of flawed personality actually pays off ? It’s hard to sum up a novel like that, but if you have to find an underlying theme, that’s certainly one of them. You know, don’t always be so quick to point out people’s flaws, sometime they might save your life.

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_____________________________________________________________ Opposite page and this page: Savage Membrane, art by Ashley Wood.

KO: Brainless bodies–bad.

SN: Yep.

SN: Yeah, brain sucking–really bad. That novel is crazy and that’s why I really like it. Actually, with that one in particular, I have really distinct memories. Because that was a novel sitting in my drawer for years–I wrote it in Pittsburgh when I didn’t have a job or anything and then Ted said, “Hey, let’s do those novels.”

KO: And it wasn’t commissioned, obviously, so this is a story that had to come out of you…

KO: Is Savage Membrane the first novel-length thing you’d ever written?

SN: Yeah, I was in Pittsburgh, I was unemployed and I didn’t want to waste my days so I made myself work. I forget what it was but I set a limit, like 5,000 words or 10,000 words a day. And I just did it until I had a book. The only thing I’d written longer before this was a little Freaks of the Heartland novella. I remember when I hit 40,000 words or something, I had my little Rocky moment. 77


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KO: Brainless bodies–bad.

SN: Yep.

SN: Yeah, brain sucking–really bad. That novel is crazy and that’s why I really like it. Actually, with that one in particular, I have really distinct memories. Because that was a novel sitting in my drawer for years–I wrote it in Pittsburgh when I didn’t have a job or anything and then Ted said, “Hey, let’s do those novels.”

KO: And it wasn’t commissioned, obviously, so this is a story that had to come out of you…

KO: Is Savage Membrane the first novel-length thing you’d ever written?

SN: Yeah, I was in Pittsburgh, I was unemployed and I didn’t want to waste my days so I made myself work. I forget what it was but I set a limit, like 5,000 words or 10,000 words a day. And I just did it until I had a book. The only thing I’d written longer before this was a little Freaks of the Heartland novella. I remember when I hit 40,000 words or something, I had my little Rocky moment. 77


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KO: And then Dial M for Monster… SN: For that, I think we had about half the material and then I had to come up with the other half. I was trying to write a short story a day. I guess that’s when I didn’t spend my life on the phone. KO: Was that from a similar period–where you were trying to write a chunk of text every day? SN: By the time I wrote the second half of Dial M, I think that was post-30 Days. That’s how we refer to things now, pre- and post-30 Days. KO: Life had changed by that point... KO: So this was a first for both of us–because this was certainly my first novel editing job as well. So, it was a real learning process on both sides. I don’t know how many revisions there finally were but it was probably four or five, somewhere around there, going back and forth. SN: At least, at least. Is that the one that had the basketball scene in it? I wrote in a basketball scene and it just didn’t work. It was very out of character. It was more of me than Cal, I think. I remember you made that call and I’m really happy for that. One of my favorite scenes now is where Mo’lock just goes ape-shit at the end and dismembers those assassins, those frankenkids as we called them, and I think that came out of some notes because we found kind of a loose end there. That was really fun. I don’t think I’ve done that since because Guns, Drugs and Monsters is kind of cobbled together out of short stories that I’d written years before. Hairball actually appears in Guns, Drugs and Monsters. 78

____________________________________________________ Dial M for Monster, art by Scott Morse.

SN: That was when I was capable of doing a script and a short story a day. I think it had a lot to do with my life at that point. I just wanted to hide in my work. I would get lots of stuff done. I’ve had people mention that, because that’s when we were actually just churning out these comics and there was all the 30 Days things going on then, and Wake the Dead and just tons of books coming out all at once. KO: That raises an interesting point, too, because you’re talking about the pre- and post- 30 Days and obviously it certainly changed your life. But when you were writing in Pittsburgh and you had nothing but time, that’s exactly what you needed. Have your changed circumstances made things more difficult, because now you have so many more demands on your time outside of pure writing? SN: I always put pressure on myself. That’s how I did the novel in the first place. I just couldn’t sit there

and watch TV all day or play video games or something like that. I was unemployed so I made myself work. You would have thought after 30 Days I would have totally just said, “Whew, I’m going to rest for a while,” but everybody wanted this stuff and we were just cranking at the time. So I had the exact opposite reaction. As soon as this happened, I started working twice as much. And now, years later, I’m just now trying to learn how to say no to stuff. I was so hungry up to the point with 30 Days, when books actually started selling and Ted basically said to me, “Do whatever you want to do,” I don’t think he realized exactly what he was saying when he said that. Even now I’ve got to force myself to cut back.

SN: I have one, two, three, four, five documents open in my bay on my computer. And I’ll just spend the day jumping back and forth and trying to move each one forward a little bit. Then one will just finally catch my attention, I’ll get on a roll, hopefully, and then I’ll finish that one and send it off. One less pissed-off editor.

KO: So, it’s still hard to say no? SN: It’s really hard to say no but it’s much harder to get the work done because I’ve got so much other crap. I could have a job just being on the phone doing business stuff now. It’s much harder because I’ve got people actually pulling. It was different before when I was doing all the pushing and I’d call Ted and tell him I want to do Wake the Dead or Secret Skull or Lurkers and he would just say okay, okay, okay. And it was me pushing. Now, well, right after this interview the phone gets disconnected because I’ll be sitting here writing and then somebody will call. It’s just gotten harder to shift gears. I’m juggling like six titles right now and I can get distracted really easily. KO: Six titles? How do you manage the work flow? __________________________________ Dial M for Monster, art by Richard Sala.

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KO: And then Dial M for Monster… SN: For that, I think we had about half the material and then I had to come up with the other half. I was trying to write a short story a day. I guess that’s when I didn’t spend my life on the phone. KO: Was that from a similar period–where you were trying to write a chunk of text every day? SN: By the time I wrote the second half of Dial M, I think that was post-30 Days. That’s how we refer to things now, pre- and post-30 Days. KO: Life had changed by that point... KO: So this was a first for both of us–because this was certainly my first novel editing job as well. So, it was a real learning process on both sides. I don’t know how many revisions there finally were but it was probably four or five, somewhere around there, going back and forth. SN: At least, at least. Is that the one that had the basketball scene in it? I wrote in a basketball scene and it just didn’t work. It was very out of character. It was more of me than Cal, I think. I remember you made that call and I’m really happy for that. One of my favorite scenes now is where Mo’lock just goes ape-shit at the end and dismembers those assassins, those frankenkids as we called them, and I think that came out of some notes because we found kind of a loose end there. That was really fun. I don’t think I’ve done that since because Guns, Drugs and Monsters is kind of cobbled together out of short stories that I’d written years before. Hairball actually appears in Guns, Drugs and Monsters. 78

____________________________________________________ Dial M for Monster, art by Scott Morse.

SN: That was when I was capable of doing a script and a short story a day. I think it had a lot to do with my life at that point. I just wanted to hide in my work. I would get lots of stuff done. I’ve had people mention that, because that’s when we were actually just churning out these comics and there was all the 30 Days things going on then, and Wake the Dead and just tons of books coming out all at once. KO: That raises an interesting point, too, because you’re talking about the pre- and post- 30 Days and obviously it certainly changed your life. But when you were writing in Pittsburgh and you had nothing but time, that’s exactly what you needed. Have your changed circumstances made things more difficult, because now you have so many more demands on your time outside of pure writing? SN: I always put pressure on myself. That’s how I did the novel in the first place. I just couldn’t sit there

and watch TV all day or play video games or something like that. I was unemployed so I made myself work. You would have thought after 30 Days I would have totally just said, “Whew, I’m going to rest for a while,” but everybody wanted this stuff and we were just cranking at the time. So I had the exact opposite reaction. As soon as this happened, I started working twice as much. And now, years later, I’m just now trying to learn how to say no to stuff. I was so hungry up to the point with 30 Days, when books actually started selling and Ted basically said to me, “Do whatever you want to do,” I don’t think he realized exactly what he was saying when he said that. Even now I’ve got to force myself to cut back.

SN: I have one, two, three, four, five documents open in my bay on my computer. And I’ll just spend the day jumping back and forth and trying to move each one forward a little bit. Then one will just finally catch my attention, I’ll get on a roll, hopefully, and then I’ll finish that one and send it off. One less pissed-off editor.

KO: So, it’s still hard to say no? SN: It’s really hard to say no but it’s much harder to get the work done because I’ve got so much other crap. I could have a job just being on the phone doing business stuff now. It’s much harder because I’ve got people actually pulling. It was different before when I was doing all the pushing and I’d call Ted and tell him I want to do Wake the Dead or Secret Skull or Lurkers and he would just say okay, okay, okay. And it was me pushing. Now, well, right after this interview the phone gets disconnected because I’ll be sitting here writing and then somebody will call. It’s just gotten harder to shift gears. I’m juggling like six titles right now and I can get distracted really easily. KO: Six titles? How do you manage the work flow? __________________________________ Dial M for Monster, art by Richard Sala.

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KO: But that method seems to work for you? That kind of skipping around? Is it something where if you only have two or three things going at once that you’re maybe too focused and it’s distracting in its own way? SN: Sometimes. It’s weird because I actually remember when, it was probably Dark Days, I think Jeff Mariotte was still editing and he called me once and said, “Hey, Niles, you know this guy you have delivering this dialogue here? Well, you killed him in the last issue!” So stuff like that will happen. But I still haven’t gotten outright confused… KO: …And completely?

switched

story

lines

SN: Right–I haven’t switched story lines and put my Batman plot in my Cal plot. A literary Reese’s cup. “You got Batman in my Cal McDonald!” Luckily I’ve managed to keep it separated. I’ve always really relied on my partnerships with my artists, too. That’s why I partner up with them. I’d do 50% of the work and then Ben 80

would take the stuff and run with it and believe me, that’s a big chunk of it there. Especially, luckily with Ben, even by the time we were doing Dark Days, we’d established such a shorthand. I could just use that and write shorter scripts. KO: So, back to Savage Membrane... you wrote every day, and then you reached the end of the book and said this book seems to be done… SN: Yeah, it was done. I used it for a while to try to sell it as a movie. I had Savage Membrane and a half dozen or more short stories and I just had them all in a binder and that’s what I’d use to pitch them as films. I was constantly trying to push them. KO: So the short stories were all Cal short stories? SN: Oh yeah. Hairball was one of them, actually. It was 20 years of trying to write this one character and pushing him on people. I remember sending it to Clive Barker and getting no’s from him and then I remember also sending it to Ted–this was

_________________________________________________________________________________________________ Above: Savage Membrane promo buttons given away at comic conventions promoting the Cal McDonald novels.

before IDW–and he was going to send it to Jeff Mariotte who owned a bookstore and evidently had some connections in publishing. Jeff read it and said, “Yeah, I don’t think it’s publishable.” Years later he becomes my editor. It’s just so funny. But it probably wasn’t publishable at that point. We hadn’t really worked it out yet. I can’t imagine reading that thing just out of the blue because it’s really the craziest thing I’ve ever written. I’m really proud of that but I don’t know if I could ever repeat that. That’s sort of the benefit of writing in a void. I didn’t have anything to compare it to. KO: I remember it was certainly loose, the first drafts. I remember going through it and having a list of questions where I would just be utterly confused. I remember from our back-and-forth that there was never a point where I asked a question and you’d draw a blank. You always had an answer or something thought out. You might not have put it in the draft… SN: …That’s the problem… KO: …but the answers were there. __________________________________________ The Diamond Previews ad for Savage Membrane.

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KO: But that method seems to work for you? That kind of skipping around? Is it something where if you only have two or three things going at once that you’re maybe too focused and it’s distracting in its own way? SN: Sometimes. It’s weird because I actually remember when, it was probably Dark Days, I think Jeff Mariotte was still editing and he called me once and said, “Hey, Niles, you know this guy you have delivering this dialogue here? Well, you killed him in the last issue!” So stuff like that will happen. But I still haven’t gotten outright confused… KO: …And completely?

switched

story

lines

SN: Right–I haven’t switched story lines and put my Batman plot in my Cal plot. A literary Reese’s cup. “You got Batman in my Cal McDonald!” Luckily I’ve managed to keep it separated. I’ve always really relied on my partnerships with my artists, too. That’s why I partner up with them. I’d do 50% of the work and then Ben 80

would take the stuff and run with it and believe me, that’s a big chunk of it there. Especially, luckily with Ben, even by the time we were doing Dark Days, we’d established such a shorthand. I could just use that and write shorter scripts. KO: So, back to Savage Membrane... you wrote every day, and then you reached the end of the book and said this book seems to be done… SN: Yeah, it was done. I used it for a while to try to sell it as a movie. I had Savage Membrane and a half dozen or more short stories and I just had them all in a binder and that’s what I’d use to pitch them as films. I was constantly trying to push them. KO: So the short stories were all Cal short stories? SN: Oh yeah. Hairball was one of them, actually. It was 20 years of trying to write this one character and pushing him on people. I remember sending it to Clive Barker and getting no’s from him and then I remember also sending it to Ted–this was

_________________________________________________________________________________________________ Above: Savage Membrane promo buttons given away at comic conventions promoting the Cal McDonald novels.

before IDW–and he was going to send it to Jeff Mariotte who owned a bookstore and evidently had some connections in publishing. Jeff read it and said, “Yeah, I don’t think it’s publishable.” Years later he becomes my editor. It’s just so funny. But it probably wasn’t publishable at that point. We hadn’t really worked it out yet. I can’t imagine reading that thing just out of the blue because it’s really the craziest thing I’ve ever written. I’m really proud of that but I don’t know if I could ever repeat that. That’s sort of the benefit of writing in a void. I didn’t have anything to compare it to. KO: I remember it was certainly loose, the first drafts. I remember going through it and having a list of questions where I would just be utterly confused. I remember from our back-and-forth that there was never a point where I asked a question and you’d draw a blank. You always had an answer or something thought out. You might not have put it in the draft… SN: …That’s the problem… KO: …but the answers were there. __________________________________________ The Diamond Previews ad for Savage Membrane.

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_______________________________________________________________________________ Two years after the release of Savage Membrane, IDW released a signed, hardcover edition, Cal McDonald Casebook: Savage Membrane, with all-new illustrations by Ben Templesmith.

SN: I had no sounding board. That’s the problem. Having an editor react to your work is a really important part of writing. I had no sounding board. In my head all the questions were answered but I didn’t know if I’d put them all on paper. I remember that, when you brought it up, I was like, “Oh, that’s right!” And that’s how we wound up coming up with a lot of those, they were just like loose threads that needed to be tied up. KO: The obvious question with a character like Cal is–is this some kind of distillation of wild times that you had or is this some kind of character that you wished you could be, or is it more of an admiration for the Bukowski/Hunter S. Thompson-type characters? SN: All of the above. I had my experiences in my younger days, playing with chemicals and alcohol and all that stuff but I was in my twenties. I was resilient. I don’t think there’s a human being on Earth, at any age, that could do the amount of drugs Cal does and live. He’s a walking chemistry set. He experiments with his body and he’s in his thirties. I can’t mix beer brands now; I’ll get a hangover. So, a lot of it was big exaggeration. I never did really, really hard drugs–I can’t even get my blood tested ______________________________________ Opposite Page: Hairball, art by Casey Jones.

without somebody holding my hand. So I never did anything like that but it was around me. I knew people, especially in the music scene, who died because of it. Also, a big part of it came out of the sense of humor of my friends. When I was writing the first Cal short stories, because Hairball and all that stuff pre-dates Savage Membrane, I was writing for my band members in D.C. And the humor and his attitude totally comes out of trying to make them laugh. KO: So, it was that sounding board that you were talking about earlier. You kind of had that in the formation phase of Cal. SN: Yeah, but I was 21, 22–I really didn’t have a clue about publishing. I was starting in comics, I didn’t have a clue about getting prose done. I’d write them, hand them to my friends and if they laughed, I was happy. It was funny because, especially the horror side of it, that was all me. Because my friends, especially the band guys, were really supportive of what I did but they had interest in horror about like anybody else does. “Oh, I’ll see a good one on Saturday night.” But they didn’t have movie posters and skulls all over their rooms like I did. 83


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_______________________________________________________________________________ Two years after the release of Savage Membrane, IDW released a signed, hardcover edition, Cal McDonald Casebook: Savage Membrane, with all-new illustrations by Ben Templesmith.

SN: I had no sounding board. That’s the problem. Having an editor react to your work is a really important part of writing. I had no sounding board. In my head all the questions were answered but I didn’t know if I’d put them all on paper. I remember that, when you brought it up, I was like, “Oh, that’s right!” And that’s how we wound up coming up with a lot of those, they were just like loose threads that needed to be tied up. KO: The obvious question with a character like Cal is–is this some kind of distillation of wild times that you had or is this some kind of character that you wished you could be, or is it more of an admiration for the Bukowski/Hunter S. Thompson-type characters? SN: All of the above. I had my experiences in my younger days, playing with chemicals and alcohol and all that stuff but I was in my twenties. I was resilient. I don’t think there’s a human being on Earth, at any age, that could do the amount of drugs Cal does and live. He’s a walking chemistry set. He experiments with his body and he’s in his thirties. I can’t mix beer brands now; I’ll get a hangover. So, a lot of it was big exaggeration. I never did really, really hard drugs–I can’t even get my blood tested ______________________________________ Opposite Page: Hairball, art by Casey Jones.

without somebody holding my hand. So I never did anything like that but it was around me. I knew people, especially in the music scene, who died because of it. Also, a big part of it came out of the sense of humor of my friends. When I was writing the first Cal short stories, because Hairball and all that stuff pre-dates Savage Membrane, I was writing for my band members in D.C. And the humor and his attitude totally comes out of trying to make them laugh. KO: So, it was that sounding board that you were talking about earlier. You kind of had that in the formation phase of Cal. SN: Yeah, but I was 21, 22–I really didn’t have a clue about publishing. I was starting in comics, I didn’t have a clue about getting prose done. I’d write them, hand them to my friends and if they laughed, I was happy. It was funny because, especially the horror side of it, that was all me. Because my friends, especially the band guys, were really supportive of what I did but they had interest in horror about like anybody else does. “Oh, I’ll see a good one on Saturday night.” But they didn’t have movie posters and skulls all over their rooms like I did. 83


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______________________________ Guns, Drugs, and Monsters, art by Ashley Wood (this page and next).

And I’ve had people say Cal is really pro-drug. And I’ll say, “Have you not seen what a shitty life this guy has? I mean he’s always broke, his only friend is a dead guy, any date he ever has they usually end up murdered. He’s not a role model.” I’m basically saying an excess of anything will fucking kill you. KO: OK, reviews and critics–you can pretty much be surfing for something else and almost stumble upon a critique or criticism of your work whether you want to see it or not. How do you deal with it? Is that something you go searching for or is it something you try to avoid? SN: I used to go looking for stuff. One, out of curiosity, and two, to post stuff on my Web site– reviews and whatnot. But, honestly, it’s gotten to the point now where people are so fucking brutal. They’ll sit there and it’s not enough just to say they didn’t like my book, they’ve gotta say I’m an asshole, too. There’s this venom out there and, so now, I avoid it. There’s comic-book gossip columns where grown men are posting about my personal life. It’s ridiculous. I avoid it now. I just don’t go to any comic sites because I can’t stand the attitude. If I felt like the criticism was coming from a healthy place, I’d 84

support it. But it’s not. I haven’t quite figured out where it’s coming from, but these guys are angry. Even if every publisher right now called and told me I wasn’t going to be published there any more, I’d just go to writing my stuff for myself. But after working in a void for all those years, all you’re working towards is getting readers and that’s what I’m really appreciative of. I have people out there who lay down money to read what I write. That’s fucking incredible! And that’s what it’s all about. I have to remember who I was as a fan. And I didn’t write reviews, I never even wrote letters and when I went to conventions to get stuff signed, I didn’t say a word. I have to realize that’s what most fans are. KO: Speaking of dealing with the public, Ted was saying that he remembered your first Savage Membrane signing was at Mysterious Galaxy and you were super, super nervous about it. You must have done hundreds after that. SN: Yeah, you know what, it’s so funny because I played in a band for 10 years, and literally got sick every night with stage fright. Getting up in front of people just terrified me. Starting with that signing

and then doing movie pitches completely broke me of my stage fright. I did a 25-year reunion show of the band Gray Matter about a month ago and I was a little nervous but nowhere near the just sheer terror I felt when I walked into Mysterious Galaxy. I walked in and was like, “What’s that podium doing there?” I thought I was just going to sit at a table and Ted didn’t tell me about speaking. He said, “Oh yeah, you gotta talk for a minute. We knew you wouldn’t have come if we’d told you about this.” It’s all for the best, because I wound up having a skill I didn’t even know I had. KO: On to Hairball… It came out first in Dark Horse Presents, but wasn’t there something wrong, like a page out of order or a deleted page? SN: Yeah. It was in Dark Horse Presents in eight-page increments–it was in four installments and the fourth installment was printed completely out of order. And so when you guys collected it, it was the first time that it appeared with the pages in order. But it was also a short story that we wound up working into Guns, Drugs and Monsters. Hairball’s gone on to be a major collector’s item. I think only like 5,000 people bought it, which is actually pretty good right now

for a black-and-white reprint. When Ted and I worked at Eclipse, books were getting cancelled because they were only selling 30,000 copies. KO: Yeah, those days are long gone. SN: Yeah, long gone. It’s scary because I think the top books now sell around 100,000 copies and you can survive with the smaller presses with 5,000 sold– 10,000 and 15,000 are considered smash hits– unbelievable! KO: What existed first for Hairball? The story came first and you adapted it into a comic? SN: Yep, it was a short story first and that got adapted into a comic and then it was a chapter in Guns, Drugs and Monsters and I really changed a lot. I just stripped it down to the bare essentials because when we did Guns, Drugs and Monsters, I started working on it and I realized I didn’t remember shit about D.C. I kept calling my friends saying, “Okay, is RFK Stadium still there?” And they’d say, “No, now there’s a basketball stadium on K Street downtown.” I couldn’t keep up. So in Chapter Two or Three he hops on a plane and he has to go to L.A. And he just 85


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______________________________ Guns, Drugs, and Monsters, art by Ashley Wood (this page and next).

And I’ve had people say Cal is really pro-drug. And I’ll say, “Have you not seen what a shitty life this guy has? I mean he’s always broke, his only friend is a dead guy, any date he ever has they usually end up murdered. He’s not a role model.” I’m basically saying an excess of anything will fucking kill you. KO: OK, reviews and critics–you can pretty much be surfing for something else and almost stumble upon a critique or criticism of your work whether you want to see it or not. How do you deal with it? Is that something you go searching for or is it something you try to avoid? SN: I used to go looking for stuff. One, out of curiosity, and two, to post stuff on my Web site– reviews and whatnot. But, honestly, it’s gotten to the point now where people are so fucking brutal. They’ll sit there and it’s not enough just to say they didn���t like my book, they’ve gotta say I’m an asshole, too. There’s this venom out there and, so now, I avoid it. There’s comic-book gossip columns where grown men are posting about my personal life. It’s ridiculous. I avoid it now. I just don’t go to any comic sites because I can’t stand the attitude. If I felt like the criticism was coming from a healthy place, I’d 84

support it. But it’s not. I haven’t quite figured out where it’s coming from, but these guys are angry. Even if every publisher right now called and told me I wasn’t going to be published there any more, I’d just go to writing my stuff for myself. But after working in a void for all those years, all you’re working towards is getting readers and that’s what I’m really appreciative of. I have people out there who lay down money to read what I write. That’s fucking incredible! And that’s what it’s all about. I have to remember who I was as a fan. And I didn’t write reviews, I never even wrote letters and when I went to conventions to get stuff signed, I didn’t say a word. I have to realize that’s what most fans are. KO: Speaking of dealing with the public, Ted was saying that he remembered your first Savage Membrane signing was at Mysterious Galaxy and you were super, super nervous about it. You must have done hundreds after that. SN: Yeah, you know what, it’s so funny because I played in a band for 10 years, and literally got sick every night with stage fright. Getting up in front of people just terrified me. Starting with that signing

and then doing movie pitches completely broke me of my stage fright. I did a 25-year reunion show of the band Gray Matter about a month ago and I was a little nervous but nowhere near the just sheer terror I felt when I walked into Mysterious Galaxy. I walked in and was like, “What’s that podium doing there?” I thought I was just going to sit at a table and Ted didn’t tell me about speaking. He said, “Oh yeah, you gotta talk for a minute. We knew you wouldn’t have come if we’d told you about this.” It’s all for the best, because I wound up having a skill I didn’t even know I had. KO: On to Hairball… It came out first in Dark Horse Presents, but wasn’t there something wrong, like a page out of order or a deleted page? SN: Yeah. It was in Dark Horse Presents in eight-page increments–it was in four installments and the fourth installment was printed completely out of order. And so when you guys collected it, it was the first time that it appeared with the pages in order. But it was also a short story that we wound up working into Guns, Drugs and Monsters. Hairball’s gone on to be a major collector’s item. I think only like 5,000 people bought it, which is actually pretty good right now

for a black-and-white reprint. When Ted and I worked at Eclipse, books were getting cancelled because they were only selling 30,000 copies. KO: Yeah, those days are long gone. SN: Yeah, long gone. It’s scary because I think the top books now sell around 100,000 copies and you can survive with the smaller presses with 5,000 sold– 10,000 and 15,000 are considered smash hits– unbelievable! KO: What existed first for Hairball? The story came first and you adapted it into a comic? SN: Yep, it was a short story first and that got adapted into a comic and then it was a chapter in Guns, Drugs and Monsters and I really changed a lot. I just stripped it down to the bare essentials because when we did Guns, Drugs and Monsters, I started working on it and I realized I didn’t remember shit about D.C. I kept calling my friends saying, “Okay, is RFK Stadium still there?” And they’d say, “No, now there’s a basketball stadium on K Street downtown.” I couldn’t keep up. So in Chapter Two or Three he hops on a plane and he has to go to L.A. And he just 85


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__________________________________ More from Hairball. Art by Casey Jones.

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winds up staying there so I wrote Hairball as one of the first cases that he runs into in L.A.

the back of a train and being pulled along here–let’s see where it goes.

Those were really fun times. It was just this thing where, after 15 years of not being able to get anybody to even read the manuscript, suddenly I had actual novels out thanks to IDW.

SN: Exactly. And it definitely turned out to be a wild ride, that’s for sure. But here we are. Almost old men, still at it. KO: Never admit that.

KO: Things were happening, and they were happening fast–for everybody. We kind of had that feeling, at least on our side, that we were grabbing 86

SN: Yeah, I know, I know. Believe me, I still act like a child. IDW


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winds up staying there so I wrote Hairball as one of the first cases that he runs into in L.A.

the back of a train and being pulled along here–let’s see where it goes.

Those were really fun times. It was just this thing where, after 15 years of not being able to get anybody to even read the manuscript, suddenly I had actual novels out thanks to IDW.

SN: Exactly. And it definitely turned out to be a wild ride, that’s for sure. But here we are. Almost old men, still at it. KO: Never admit that.

KO: Things were happening, and they were happening fast–for everybody. We kind of had that feeling, at least on our side, that we were grabbing 86

SN: Yeah, I know, I know. Believe me, I still act like a child. IDW


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STEVE NILES’S OTHER IDW PROJECTS Steve’s work on 30 Days of Night is discussed in Chapter 7 and this chapter covers the Cal McDonald novels. Below you’ll find information on other projects Steve’s done at IDW. Aleister Arcane Drawn by Breehn Burns. Horror host Aleister Arcane is forced off the air and into an early grave. But he’s left a gift behind–will his hometown pay?

The Cryptics Drawn by Ben Roman. The Cryptics follows much smaller versions of horror’s most fabled characters as they grow up in the ‘burbs, go to school, and make monsters in the laboratory. If you think your kids are trouble, you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen The Cryptics. Dawn of the Dead Drawn by Chee. An adaptation of George Romero’s movie.

Horrorcide This anthology includes “Bitch” drawn by Josh Medors, “Torg’s Big Day” drawn by Chee, “Making Amends” drawn by Josh Medors, and “Neighborhood Creep” drawn by Ben Templesmith. Collected in Steve Niles’s Cellar of Nastiness trade paperback. Hyde Drawn by Nick Stakal. Written with Kris Oprisko, this is Steve’s take on a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde. Collected in Steve Niles’s Cellar of Nastiness trade paperback. I Am Legend Drawn by Elman Brown. An adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic novel. Little Book of Horror: Dracula Drawn by Richard Sala. A retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Collected in Big Book of Horror.

Remains Drawn by Kieron Dwyer. When the world goes mad, a blackjack dealer and stripper are trapped in Reno, surrounded by a veritable army of the undead. Secret Skull Drawn by Chuck BB. A mysterious killer is on the loose, but this killer only kills bad guys… or those about to be bad. Very Big Monster Show Drawn by Butch Adams. A young boy helps the old, classic monsters get their “scary” back. Collected in Steve Niles’s Cellar of Nastiness trade paperback.

American Freakshow Drawn by Chee. Steve’s first original graphic novel tells the tale of the bizarre and cruel life of a carnival freak as he seeks redemption (maybe) and murder (definitely!) in a Florida trailer park.

Bigfoot Drawn by Richard Corben. Steve co-wrote this series with Rob Zombie. A monstrous ape-man is stomping around the woods of the Pacific Northwest, and he’s not happy with mankind.

88

Dead, She Said Drawn by Bernie Wrightson. Detective Coogan knows all too well that there are some pretty shady freaks out there in the big city… but he doesn’t know that some of those freaks aren’t human! Learning that the hard way, he ends up on the wrong side of a bullet in this series that mixes horror and noir into a tightly wound nightmare of twists and turns.

Little Book of Horror: Frankenstein Drawn by Scott Morse. A retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Collected in Big Book of Horror.

Freaks of the Heartland Scriptbook Photos by Jackie C. Niles. For the first time ever, a collection of original scripts by Steve, accompanied by the beautiful photography of Jackie C. Niles. Read all six original scripts for Freaks of the Heartland.

The Lurkers Drawn by Hector Casanova. L.A. detective Jack Dietz is having a bad day. One body is bad enough, but when another turns up with human bite marks, he knows his world has just turned inside out.

Little Book of Horror: War of the Worlds Drawn by Ted McKeever. A retelling of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds. Collected in Big Book of Horror.

Wake the Dead Drawn by Chee and Milx. College student Victor works to reverse death, not knowing what a can of worms he’s opening up. But he’ll find out.

89


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STEVE NILES’S OTHER IDW PROJECTS Steve’s work on 30 Days of Night is discussed in Chapter 7 and this chapter covers the Cal McDonald novels. Below you’ll find information on other projects Steve’s done at IDW. Aleister Arcane Drawn by Breehn Burns. Horror host Aleister Arcane is forced off the air and into an early grave. But he’s left a gift behind–will his hometown pay?

The Cryptics Drawn by Ben Roman. The Cryptics follows much smaller versions of horror’s most fabled characters as they grow up in the ‘burbs, go to school, and make monsters in the laboratory. If you think your kids are trouble, you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen The Cryptics. Dawn of the Dead Drawn by Chee. An adaptation of George Romero’s movie.

Horrorcide This anthology includes “Bitch” drawn by Josh Medors, “Torg’s Big Day” drawn by Chee, “Making Amends” drawn by Josh Medors, and “Neighborhood Creep” drawn by Ben Templesmith. Collected in Steve Niles’s Cellar of Nastiness trade paperback. Hyde Drawn by Nick Stakal. Written with Kris Oprisko, this is Steve’s take on a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde. Collected in Steve Niles’s Cellar of Nastiness trade paperback. I Am Legend Drawn by Elman Brown. An adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic novel. Little Book of Horror: Dracula Drawn by Richard Sala. A retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Collected in Big Book of Horror.

Remains Drawn by Kieron Dwyer. When the world goes mad, a blackjack dealer and stripper are trapped in Reno, surrounded by a veritable army of the undead. Secret Skull Drawn by Chuck BB. A mysterious killer is on the loose, but this killer only kills bad guys… or those about to be bad. Very Big Monster Show Drawn by Butch Adams. A young boy helps the old, classic monsters get their “scary” back. Collected in Steve Niles’s Cellar of Nastiness trade paperback.

American Freakshow Drawn by Chee. Steve’s first original graphic novel tells the tale of the bizarre and cruel life of a carnival freak as he seeks redemption (maybe) and murder (definitely!) in a Florida trailer park.

Bigfoot Drawn by Richard Corben. Steve co-wrote this series with Rob Zombie. A monstrous ape-man is stomping around the woods of the Pacific Northwest, and he’s not happy with mankind.

88

Dead, She Said Drawn by Bernie Wrightson. Detective Coogan knows all too well that there are some pretty shady freaks out there in the big city… but he doesn’t know that some of those freaks aren’t human! Learning that the hard way, he ends up on the wrong side of a bullet in this series that mixes horror and noir into a tightly wound nightmare of twists and turns.

Little Book of Horror: Frankenstein Drawn by Scott Morse. A retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Collected in Big Book of Horror.

Freaks of the Heartland Scriptbook Photos by Jackie C. Niles. For the first time ever, a collection of original scripts by Steve, accompanied by the beautiful photography of Jackie C. Niles. Read all six original scripts for Freaks of the Heartland.

The Lurkers Drawn by Hector Casanova. L.A. detective Jack Dietz is having a bad day. One body is bad enough, but when another turns up with human bite marks, he knows his world has just turned inside out.

Little Book of Horror: War of the Worlds Drawn by Ted McKeever. A retelling of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds. Collected in Big Book of Horror.

Wake the Dead Drawn by Chee and Milx. College student Victor works to reverse death, not knowing what a can of worms he’s opening up. But he’ll find out.

89


IDW: The First Decade Chapter 6