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A STORM KING horror double-feature with STEVE NILES

Interviews Editor, Andrew Irvin, welcomed renowned horror writer, Steve Niles, into the Yeti Cave to discuss his latest graphic novels releasing in July through Storm King Comics; The Killing Hole and The God List.


COMIC BOOK YETI: Steve, it’s an honor to have you into the Yeti Cave today! How are things going back in Los Angeles?

STEVE NILES: HOT! But luckily I have my own cave to retreat to.

CBY: Glad you're staying cool, and I'm especially glad I took the time to read through both The God List and The Killing Hole - a pair of stories very different from each other which both provide distinct paths into darker places. You provide an “anatomy of a page” sharing the results of your script writing process.

As someone who has written for both the page and the screen, what habits do you carry through all your writing, and are there any preferences that come through in your creative process depending on your format? What medium do you find easiest to write within?

SN: I've actually started writing screenplays this year, and I'm really enjoying that. I can really take the time with dialogue and character building. I love comics, but I usually have limited space and page count to get a full story told the way I'd like. So when I can write a screenplay, it allows me to then take everything I've written and work it down to a comic script. I'm loving doing it this way.

CBY: The dual focus of both your own career, and the emergence of Storm King Comics out of a cinematic horror tradition lead me to another comparison beyond your personal preference; after being involved in successful adaptations of 30 Days of Night and October Faction, what additional considerations and revisions do you make in the adaptation of work to the screen? I can see similarities in both the length and pacing of both comics with feature films - beyond just your writing approach, what goes into successfully pitching comic material as able to make the leap to the screen when talking between publishers and production companies?

SN: I co-wrote the 30 Days screenplay, which wasn't easy to write due to producers wanting story and character changes. I didn't write the October Faction adaptation, that was written by writers with IDW Entertainment.

Usually, when I want to pitch a comic for screen, they want to add characters as well as B-plots and C-plots, including flashbacks and backstories. Producers USUALLY want every detail explained, whereas I prefer to allow some mystery in my comics. I like to tell my stories without following a bunch of unnecessary threads, but it may not be a popular choice for how things come to screen and streaming.

CBY: In The God List, you touched upon one of my ultimate fantasies, which I’m sure is shared by many creatives - the ability to step outside of time and space to complete a piece of work without sacrificing the hours needed to reach a satisfactory output. In The Killing Hole, you crafted a world absolutely grounded and free from fantasy. Most of your horror work gravitates toward the supernatural, and you’ve employed a huge variety of monsters across your career. Which monster mythos is your favorite to play around with, and is there any unexplored territory across the horror pantheon you’re looking forward to including in future work?

SN: Thank you for that. My favorite has always been Frankenstein, and I've played with that mythos in a number of books. I always go back to wanting to write werewolves, I feel I haven't nailed the perfect werewolf story.

CBY: Regarding the art in both, I love the expressive visible paint brushstrokes and variety of inking techniques employed in the The God List, and the hatched inks and what looks like similarly expressive marker coloring in The Killing Hole. These were completed by Jennifer Lange & Scott Hampton, and Trevor Denham & Ryan Winn, respectively. Can you speak a bit more about how they communicated visual ideas with you, and how the two projects differed in artistic direction?

SN: The God List: I've worked with Scott for years, and so I knew what kind of brilliant artwork he would create for The God List. He is a traditional artist, and painted many of the pages, with Jennifer Lange doing a color palette that fits the Classical subject matter. Scott's attention to detail in The God List, from the cathedrals in Italy, to the action throughout the book, helped bring to life all the visual elements during the story's quest. His ability to illustrate William's dreams in The God List and move from those scenes into the next, I love so much.

The Killing Hole: Sandy actually suggested Trevor for The Killing Hole, and sent me some of his work. I knew to would be perfect. Trevor worked by hand, with pencil and Pen & Ink. For The Killing Hole, he drew all kinds of textures, giving it an organic feel, and he was able to illustrate the 70's so well that way. Ryan was amazing at the vibrant colors from the era, especially showing surreal moments. Trevor showed Stewart's mother explode in anger in that perfect way a teenage kid would feel deeply, and Ryan gave perfect color to that.

CBY: Yes, they each conveyed a sense of time and place very expressively. While your artistic collaborators differed, a common thread in both of these graphic novels is the editorial oversight of Sandy King. She’s had an iconic career in the pantheon of horror films, and her exploration of horror has fortunately come to include comic publication with the launch of Storm King Comics. I know between 30 Days of Night and your broader body of work, you’re deeply immersed in creating horror for both the page and the screen, and your paths certainly would have crossed paths over the years. You mentioned a conversation at ComicCon 2022 leading to publication of The Killing Hole. After decades in the creative industries, how do you decide who you want to work with, and what goes into making things come to fruition from the point of ideation? How has the process changed since your point of entry as a creative professional.

SN: I met Sandy when she was just getting started in comics, and was thrilled to be part of Storm King from the beginning. She's seriously supported my work, and holds her publishing company to a high level of output, and support of the creators. Storm King is one of my all-time favorite publishers, I'm so proud to work with her. When it comes to creating a new comic, I have ideas that come to me, and I usually have an artist in mind pretty quickly. Then I write an outline and send it to a few different publishers. It hasn't really changed much through the decades, I would say it's actually harder now, because there are less and less publishers around willing to take on creator-owned comics...

CBY: For both these titles, Janice Chiang provided the lettering, and tying the book design together and serving as managing editor is Sean Sobczak, along with coordinating support from Antwan Johnson and Wynter Mitchell. Can you tell us a bit about the team at Storm King, and how working on these books has differed from the other publishing experiences you’ve had throughout the industry over the years?

SN: It's great to have a team I can count on, and I love every single one of the members of the Storm King team!

CBY: It's always nice to have reliable teammates in your corner! Your references in The God List include an apocryphal Italian origin for the term masterpiece with Marcello Viscente and Carlo Vonte, your 16th century cabinet makers, and an account of the purges of a very real Girolamo Savonarola. In The Killing Hole, you knew the era and the community of Northern Virgina where these kids grew up very well. Can you tell our audience a bit about your research process, and the way in which you weave layers of fiction in with the historical foundation you’re building upon?

SN: Scott did so much research on The God List story, he co-authored the book with me. I have to hand it to him on those, the details came from his own work. We had a number of Zoom meetings where he would bring in his research, and we worked it into the supernatural elements of the story. The Killing Hole, well that was from elements of my own experiences, my upbringing, and my own love of music, so that just came from within.

CBY: That's a good segueway into my next question, as it might seem deeply removed in your creative career, and I don’t know how much of our regular audience is aware of your role in the D.C. punk scene in the thick of Revolution Summer and beyond. I grew up a Hüsker Düde in Ohio 20 years later, working over the Empty Bottle at Flameshovel Records, learning from the Kinsella guys and other Midwestern emo bands on Touch & Go, Polyvinyl, and some of the other indie labels in Chicago. It heavily influenced my later perspective, so I wonder; how did your time in two seminal post-hardcore bands on the Dischord roster under a renowned do-it-yourself ethos shape your approach to the rest of your career and work ethic?

SN: It totally shaped me. The scene was small, everyone knew each other, and we all seemed to naturally give each other courage to make music, art, books, whatever someone wanted to do. The DIY punk scene I came up in is exactly how I created my own comics, published my own books, and got started on my path.

CBY: It's very satisfying to see that channeled in this work, for sure. I hope we’ve done adequate justice to The Killing Hole and The God List without giving too much away! Once our readers have given your latest comics a proper read, is there anything you’ve got in the works you can share with us? What are you looking forward to completing next?

SN: Thank you! Nothing I can chat about yet.

CBY: Mystery and suspense! I always close by giving creators an opportunity to share examples of other comics or creative work (film, music, literature, etc.) that has nothing to do with the comics at-hand. When you’re not working on your own material, what has been catching your attention and inspiring you that our audience should check out?

SN: I've really enjoyed the new wave of Satan/Demon movies that recently came out: Late Night with the Devil, The First Omen, Immaculate, Where Evil Lurks... It's a lot of fun to see some inventive new ideas on older themes.

CBY: Steve, thank you for joining us in the Yeti Cave today! For our

readers at home, please feel free to include any portfolio, publication, or social media links below where they can further engage with you and your work. Your work through Storm King has me excited to see what’s coming up next!

SN: Thank you so much!

X: @steveniles

FB: @steve.niles.9

IG: @steveniles65

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