Horror master Steve Niles concludes his run with Ash And The Army Of Darkness #8 for Dynamite this week and Troy Brownfield caught up with the monster man to talk about his influences and the fan Easter eggs he dropped into the series.
TROY BROWNFIELD: Before we get into the particulars of this issue, I want to turn back the clock a bit. I understand that we have in common that we were influenced by local horror hosts at a young age. Mine in the Indianapolis area was Sammy Terry; yours in the D.C. area was Count Gore De Vol. Can you tell us about that influence and what De Vol's program meant for your interest in horror?
STEVE NILES: Count Gore was huge for me as a kid. He introduced me to Night of the Living Dead (Uncut no less) and Forry Ackerman and so many other things. Every Saturday night I saw a new horror movie my love of horror grew and grew. Then one day he disappeared off the air. I later wrote a comic called Aliester Arcane that was based on him and IDW tracked him down to write an intro. We are now friends and when I was in DC for Awesome con I went out to the counts house for dinner and we shot an episode of Creature Features. Guess what movie we showed? Night of the Living Dead.
TB: This is multi-level question. You're considered a productive creator; you always seem to have something new on the move. You also maintain a strong presence in social media, and have a lot of public interaction with peers and fans. How do you strike that balance between the work and the ongoing public conversation?
SN: I struggle with this a lot. I love the public interaction but sometimes it can get to be too much. Writing can be very lonely and now with the Internet that isn't always the case but it can easily take over your life. To me the work must come first or I'll have nothing to publicly interact with so these days I post in the mornings and evenings and try to leave the middle bits for writing.
SN: I procrastinate a lot. That's one thing I always do. I like to think things through, roll them around and really get a feel before I write. That said, I have to write every day or at least I try. I've been sober 3 years now and my whole writing process has changed. I used to wait for inspiration, wait for energy to take me over. Now I can sit and write and will the ideas to come. I don't struggle anymore but it is taking a bit of getting used to having a clear head.
TB: Zeroing in on Ash a bit more. What's your take on Ash and the Raimi films in the horror pantheon in general? What has made them stick around so long, and what elements resonate the most with fans?
SN: I think Ash's appeal throughout the films but especially Army of Darkness is that he's the lovable asshole. He's a complete dick and yet we love him because he's a dick to evil. It sounds so simple but creating a character like him is very hard to do so I think Ash is the main appeal. For me the Raimi films are also a big Indy/DIY inspiration because he did the first one on his own in the Michigan woods. I love that.
TB: And, of course, knowing about the history of the franchise, did that give you any trepidation when you sat down to write Ash for the first time? Was there something special that you felt that had to hit in terms of tone for it to exactly right for you?
SN: Yeah. It was very important to me. The Army of Darkness comics before all took place in the modern world so I thought it was very important for fans that I bring back the Dark Age setting. To me that's what set Army apart from the Evil films. I had to hit that Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court vibe. Watching the film you see that Ash and the Deadites are the comedy and everything else was played very straight. I'm doing that in the comic too. All of the laughs come from Ash.
TB: This is the last issue of this series, and as such, there are a couple of fairly large occurrences. How did Ash's BIG decision come about in the planning stages, and why was this the right time for the character to make that personal move?
SN: To be honest I based t on what it's like to move somewhere new. You hate it and hate and hate it and then one day…it's home. So that with Sheila I knew he had to make a decision.
TB: Here's a spoileriffic question: I thought that protracted hand bit in this issue was brilliant. You sold it for some physical comedy, but then had Sheila don the sword-arm to battle Ash as he wore the chainsaw; then, there's the hat trick of what it does in the story by creating a lasting change for Sheila in human form. Was the inspiration for this embedded in the original bit in "Evil Dead 2", and what does this mean for Sheila going forward?
SN: Yes! That was a little Easter Egg I planted for fans. And the hand gag is such a good one in the films I just had to try it. Sheila is a fighter so she's not too upset about the sword arm though I think she'll lean more towards her matching steel hand like Ash's.
TB: You're on the next book as well, the hilariously titled "Ash Gets Hitched". What can you tell us about that?
SN: It's exactly what it sounds like. Ash has decided to stay in the Dark Ages with the people he now considers family so the next step was to take the chance and ask Sheila to marry him. There's another reason too but I can't say yet. J
TB: Final thoughts time. If there are fans of the film out that still aren't checking out the comics, what's your pitch to get them to crack the cover?
SN: The story start ONE FRAME after the movie ends! Plus, this one I wrote for fans. I tried to give them the sequel we will never see. Thanks, Troy! That was fun!
For more on Ash And The Army Of Darkness #8, click here.