Steve Niles – Publishing Black Magick With Chet Zar And Epitaph

Steve Niles – Publishing Black Magick With Chet Zar And EpitaphRyan King attended WonderCon for Bleeding Cool. He spoke to horror comics writer Steve Niles.

Ryan King: I'm here with the ever popular horror writer, Steve Niles whose talented mind has brought us 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre, Mystery Society, among many other wonderful titles. Thank you for being here today.

Steve Niles: Thanks for having me.

RK: This year you have three very exciting projects headed our way. Let's begin by discussing one of the most intriguing, Frankenstein, Alive, Alive! You work with artist Bernie Wrightson on this sequel to Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein. What can you tell us about it?

SN: Well this time if you want to accuse me of riding coattails, this time I'm doing it and this time I'm admitting it! I'm just trying not to cover [Wrightson's] beautiful art. This is something you know I've been working on. I've done four graphic novels, four series with Bernie. I've always kind of followed his lead. I've been a big fan of him. I always thought the stuff we'd been doing was light-ish horror. You know, we've been having fun. He brought up Frankenstein. I didn't. I was always very careful not to bring up stuff because I figured everybody bugged him about it and then one day he goes, 'You know, I'm thinking about doing a sequel and I want to do it with you.' And yeah you're talking about like the eleven year old in me just was running around screaming. My mom knows that book. That's how important that book is. If I showed her, she knows the name because I talked about it incessantly as a child. So now I'm getting to work with him and he's my best friend really. So we've talked about it for years and now we just finally get to apply it, you know? All the stuff we begun to talk about. And what I love about it is, well, we're co-writing. So we're getting so much cool stuff in there. But it is a legitimate sequel to the novel as far as it picks up right after the novel ends.

RK: So how many issues were you thinking about?

SN: Twelve issues. Yeah, I figure we're looking at—you remember Black Hole? Or From Hell? Kind of took a year to come out? People should just be patient. When they see Bernie's pages, they'll understand why this is the work of his lifetime. I didn't think he could get better and he got better.

RK: At the end of last month, Image Comics announced at the first ever Image Expo your intentions of writing and releasing two new creator owned titles. The first is titled Crime and Terror with art provided by Scott Morse. What can you tell us about this future title?

SN: I think comics are at their best when the creators are having fun and me and Scott have known each other for years and we just have this language. We're creating these stories every way possible. From prose stories, to me writing one line and he does a comic. To him sending me just comic pages and I have to figure out what the story is. So we're really experimenting with them. I feel like we're sort of, to make it in key with music, we're jamming. We're jamming and we're having a lot of fun and we're getting stories out of it and it's working. So actually right now, we have 140 pages of material finished including the eight pager we did live at last year's Tr!ckster. And we're going to have a Free Comic Book Day thing come out. I am so fucking happy with Image right now. They are being the heroes. We have a lot of disfranchised creators out there right now and basically what Image is doing is smart. I'm just so happy, as you can tell, just them doing this is just what I've been wanting someone to do.

RK: The second Image title announced is a mysterious piece called Chin Music. What more can you tell us about this new series besides the fact that artist Tony Harris is on board.

SN: We'll be making the big announcement in Emerald City about really what it's about. But this is the one thing, and I'm not going to give it away at any point. That's another thing. Everyone is into spoilers. With movies they tell you the whole fucking movie before you see it. You know, I don't want to see that. Well first off 'Chin Music' that is an old term for fighting, it's an old term for punching someone in the face. And now it's a baseball term when the ball goes [Niles pulls his head back] when the pitcher goes too close it almost kills somebody. What this is going to be is obviously supernatural. What I'm doing this time is I'm dealing with an aspect of the supernatural I have never touched before. Nobody would ever expect me to write about. And it all takes place in the last years of Al Capone's reign. And it's got Eliot Ness in it. I am so excited. At the very core, it's about a lost man. It's a man who doesn't know who he is and he learns who he is by the people who are hunting him.

RK: Moving on to other exciting topics, the effort you put forth at spearheading the campaign to fund Gary Friedrich was extremely impressive. Obviously the $17,000 court order was completely unjustified and a hair shy away from ridiculous. What caused you to stand up for Friedrich and help him in his time of need?

SN: I woke up, and on this particular week there had just been lawsuits announced and this. And it just looked like comics were just… I was just upset and I looked on facebook and everybody was posting the story and underneath all the comments were, 'Somebody should do something." And then people were going you got to get in touch with Nick Cage so he can help. And I'm like Nick Cage isn't going to stick his neck out for anybody. Disney owns his ass. And I was just upset, everybody was just like somebody should do something. So I wrote Gary—I don't know Gary, I've never met him. I wrote him through Facebook, gave him my email, said, 'Look, I want to do something.' While I was waiting for him to write back I asked Monica to make me a donate button. I didn't know how to do that. And Gary wrote me back and once I saw his letter… It just broke my heart and I don't give a flying shit about the court case, I really don't. It was a creator in need, a creator that has written stuff that we've all read, that Marvel's benefited from, that we've all benefited from, and they're going to leave him out there to fucking starve and die? He's going to lose his house? I just got really pissed off and set up the page and then I just started tweeting it. So I just went for it. And it kind of got a little ugly there for a while because Marvel came after me. I was hearing really horrible things about basically saying 'you have to questions Niles motivation for doing something like this' and my only answer to that is, 'It's called helping people, you fucking dicks.' You know, that's all it's about. I didn't gain anything. As a matter of fact, when I turned over the money to Gary I had $200 in the bank and I hadn't worked for over three weeks and I had to borrow money to pay my rent. So those trolls who were saying I was doing it for my own benefit can suck it, and you can put that in there.

RK: Do you think Friedrich's recent loss says anything about the comic industry in regards to creator rights?

SN: It says Disney is now in comics and we have to watch our ass and I'm not calling Disney bad guys. You know what you're getting into. I've worked for those guys and they tell you up front, 'Don't bring your work to our building or we own it.' It's very simple. It's policy. The thing I always like to tell people about this is without looking it up on Wikipedia, who created Goofy? Nobody knows. There are human beings behind everything created. Walt created Mickey, I believe. [The other Disney characters] were created by somebody else and they have systematically erased those people. Especially the guy who created Goofy was a big animation union organizer and Disney got rid of him. Very interesting stuff to look up. That's because Marvel, and I'm not saying it's Marvel doing this, I'm saying it's Disney doing this, and this is the way they want it. They want it to look like Disney Land. It's the Magic Kingdom, you know? These creators magically appear but the problem is Marvel is trying to do it in reverse. You can't back up now and say nobody created it. We know Jack Kirby created half the God damn universe. Put his name on every movie. And Gary, I don't care about the sticking points. I grew up on a comic that had his name as 'created by.' I read Stan's soapbox where it said 'created by.' Give him the fucking credit. I'm so tired of this and I think modern fans are becoming a lot smarter and they're realizing while they love certain characters, who they're really following are creators. I'm seeing certain people like with Ed Brubaker. They love Captain America but they really love Fatale. Cause they're basically seeing them unleashed. Because a lot of people don't realize it, all these people that they love. Some creators, they go through hell to get what they get on page. They got to go through editors and this and continuity and the fact that they're actually able to cut out quality books is a fucking miracle. But when you see the creators unleashed—Vaughan and Staples Saga is wonderful and finally you're getting a straight forward science-fiction book. As good as that book is you would just never be able to do it out of a major. They're just too wound up. Too many restrictions, too many rules. Too much corporate marketing to tell you the truth.

RK: On of curiosity, how do you feel about DC's latest announcement "Before Watchmen"?

SN: I know Alan Moore is not going to take his money and he's not going to take his credit and that's his problem. Because here's the problem with that; it's a preexisting contract. I think, and I'll just say this with all due respect to Alan Moore, his message should be 'Be careful what you sign,' not 'These fucking people suck.' He signed that contract and it is what it is, and it's a mistake to be learned from but near as I can tell, DC has every right to do it as far as I know. And I in no way know all the ins-and-outs of what contract he signed. So honestly when that happened all I wanted to know was if Gibbons was getting credit? And he is, I'm fine. I'm fine with it. Personally as far as just the books are concerned, I'll wait and read them to decide if their good. People love wigging out before they know what it is. I have people on my facebook going, 'I hate the 'Before Watchmen.'' And I just go, 'When did they come out?' 'They're not out yet.' Then what do you hate? It could be good. Just stop it people. God, I swear, and I'll say it again, this is an industry of Chicken Littles. With every announcement it's, 'AHHHHH, the sky is falling!' No, dude. It's just a comic coming out. And you know what? You don't even have to buy it! That's the best thing is that these fans have the greatest weapon. They think that their greatest weapon is screaming on Twitter. Their greatest weapon is their wallet. Don't buy it. Buy what you want to support, buy what you want to see more of. That's the thing, if you hate Watchmen and if everybody agrees with you and nobody buys it, it'll go away. But it's not going to go away because you are doing a god damn petition. It's just a lot of wasted energy is what it is.

RK: Moving on a little bit. You mentioned during your spotlight today a bit about your Epitaph project. Would you care to elaborate just a little bit more?

SN: Well, basically we're partnering with Epitaph. We're partnering with Epitaph, forming a company. We're going to be their comic company, a comic label. We're going to start off small. My first book is a book called Black Magick where I'm actually bringing to life Chet Zar's artwork. I don't know if you know Chet Zar? I guarantee if you saw his artwork you would go, 'Oh, him!' So what we're doing is going through and bringing all his characters to life. It's kind of a post-apocalyptic Cal MacDonald. So Epitaph isn't starting comic distribution, we are forming a partnership with Epitaph and what me and [Matt Pizzolo] are forming the comic label, a publisher. So one of the things, you know, is we're still working out the fundraising and stuff like that. But we found a distributor. I am so thrilled.

RK: So you guys are working on it and Epitaph is not so much involved?

SN: No. They're very, very involved. We're starting small, we know two to four titles right now, still trying to fill in a slot. But we've got to find likeminded people. I keep saying everyone sees declining sales as something bad, but I just see it as that many people that are unaware of a really fantastic medium. And that's really what it is. And you know what? Mainstream thinks comic books are nothing but boys' escapist fantasies, men in leotards beating each other up—they're right! We're trying to break a myth that isn't a myth. We're trying to get more material out there like Fatale, like Walking Dead. Westerns, horror, romance. I don't have any problem with this super hero shit, but it's covered. It's well covered.

RK: Is there any launch date for this?

SN: We're going to get rolling soon. Yeah. Luckily Matt is the business brain and the tech brain and I'm just a creative idiot. I'm staying focused on that.

Steve Niles – Publishing Black Magick With Chet Zar And EpitaphRK: Do you have any thoughts to go out to Rich [Johnston]?

SN: I think Rich knows. Just don't print any shit about my personal life and don't hold up your daughter as a human shield. That's really unfair. He did that in London, and I thought that was hilarious. I was like, one, like I'm going to just go up and deck a guy. It happened once at San Diego but I was shoved. I always tell him, this is too small an industry. People's personal lives should not be news. I just wish that if you're going to be a journalist, be a journalist. Don't report about who's fucking who because no one wants to give a shit. He kind of just cost me a lot of work and a lot of stress because he was running those tapes on Bleeding Cool. And I was just like, 'What are you doing Rich?' But I think I've said everything to Rich's face. But then he also ran the sticker I made so I guess we're even…for now [winks].

RK: Well, thank you Steve!

SN: Yeah, no problem.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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