When EW.com asked comic-book author Steve Niles to talk about his current projects, the writer responded, only half-joking, ”How long is this interview going to be?” The 43-year-old is certainly prolific. A by-no-means complete list of his recent output includes the one-off graphic novel Giant Monster, the comics miniseries Dead, She Said (on which he worked with legendary Swamp Thing artist Bernie Wrightson), and Batman: Gotham After Midnight.
Niles’ writing tends to feature a lot of the red stuff. And we’re not talking wine. His 2002 comic 30 Days of Night — which was turned into last year’s movie — featured vampires running very much amok in Alaska. The Nail, Niles’ 2004 comics collaboration with Rob Zombie, also featured no shortage of gore as the titular wrestler defended his family against a gang of motorcycle-riding ghouls. The same year saw the publication of the similarly gruesome Wake the Dead, a modern spin on the Frankenstein fable.
But Niles’ new effort, The Lost Ones, marks a change of direction. This tale of inter-dimensional travelers, alien cowboys, and jetpack races is notable for its lack of death and dismemberment. The project (now online at Zune Arts and appearing in hard-copy form sometime in the future) is also notable for featuring a variety of artists, including underground comic legend Gary Panter and Dr. Revolt, an original member of the Rolling Thunder Writers graffiti crew. EW.com spoke with Niles about The Lost Ones, viewing surgical operations, and why, despite rumors to the contrary, he isn’t about to step into the ring with Mr. Zombie.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did The Lost Ones come about?
STEVE NILES: It’s not typical of the way I usually get hired. A buddy of mine, Roger, was actually contacted and asked if I would be interested in writing this project. It just so happened that when he got the call he was listening to a hardcore band [Gray Matter] that I was in during the ’80s. So, evidently, that coincidence was too much and Roger wound up giving me a call and explained the project to me. It’s so different from the things I usually get offered. Because generally I’m associated with horror. And this seemed like such a cool idea, to do something I just normally wouldn’t get a chance to do.
Were you given any guidelines?
I was given these very basic ground rules. They definitely weren’t looking for my typical stuff. They didn’t want horror, they didn’t want scares. They wanted it to have an experimental feel. They wanted it to express certain ideas…like infinite possibilities. It was funny, because there was a part in there that said: ”sharing and caring.” And I was, like, have you read one of my books? The sharing and caring I do usually leads to bloodshed. I’ve been joking that 48 pages of trying not to kill the lead characters is a challenge for me.
Did you know the artists involved?
I had heard of Dr. Revolt and I had seen the work of the other two (design duo Morning Breath and illustrator Kime Buzzelli). But I’m a giant fan of Gary Panter. He’s a legend. I thought the chances of us ever crossing paths were about zero. The fact that I got to work with Gary Panter was reason enough to take on a project like this.
How much has the success of 30 Days of Night — both the comic book and the movie — changed your life?
Um, well, I have a career! Honestly, up until 30 Days of Night I’d write a little bit and then I was working retail. Bookstores, mostly. And if it wasn’t that, it was comic stores. I’m either a writer or a retail clerk. That’s the range of my skills. Now I get to write 24 hours a day. And I do, and I love it.
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