Ty Whitton, a contributor for The Comic Book Yeti, recently caught up with Chris Condon, the writer behind the highly anticipated comic book, Night People #1. Preorder your copy of Night People #1 HERE or through your preferred local comic book store! Night People #1 arrives on store shelves on 03/05/2024!
COMIC BOOK YETI: I am more than gracious in welcoming you, Chris Condon, to this interview with The Comic Book Yeti! How has the past year been for you so far?
CHRIS CONDON: Thank you for having me! It’s a thrill to be here answering your questions as I have a fondness for the yetis in my life, specifically those who read comic books. Since the year is just getting started, it’s hard to say how it’s been. 2023 was great creatively. Jacob Phillips and I released The Enfield Gang Massacre and got to play a bit in the DC sandbox with Harley Quinn. But this year, a lot of it is looking forward. I’m really excited about the books I’ve got on the docket, including two that have been with me since I was in high school. It’s fun to stretch your legs, creatively speaking, and do new things —whether that’s these new books I mentioned or an adaptation of preexisting material, like Night People, which is out from Oni Press in March.
CBY: How does it feel to be part of the first creative team to kick off the miniseries adaptation of Barry Gifford’s 1992 novel, Night People?
CC: Well, I am fortunate to be a part of the first creative team and then also part of the second, third, and fourth creative teams. It’s very exciting. This is a new thing for me. I’ve never adapted a work of fiction before and to do it with an author of Barry Gifford’s stature and caliber was both thrilling and nerve-wracking. I think that the first issue has a fantastic creative team on it and I’m really excited for folks to check out this weird nightmare world that Barry created that Brian, Ronda, Shawn, and I have filtered through our own creative lenses. This is a truly unique comic book and I hope that, in reading it, people will feel that it’s a unique experience.
CBY: What initially drew you to Night People as source material for an adaptation into a comic book series?
CC: That all came from Oni Press’s Hunter Gorinson. He had wanted to adapt this book for years and when he had told me about it, he hadn’t yet secured the rights. It was a mile down the road or so, but Hunter believed in the book and believed in me enough to try to get me onboard early. He sent me a copy of Barry’s book and I read it immediately. I loved it and saw what had attracted Hunter to it. It’s a dark world, a mirror of our own. I knew it would be a challenge to adapt it, but I like to put myself into creatively uncomfortable situations. I don’t ever want an ‘easy’ project. Night People was certainly not that and I’m thankful for it. It forced me to think long and hard about what I wanted to include and why.
CBY: Were there specific elements or themes from the novel that you found particularly
challenging or inspiring to adapt? Anything you had to omit or add for streamlining the story or providing greater clarity?
CC: I think there was a lot of challenging material in Night People. In fact, I’d argue it’s all challenging material. It’s about the degradation of the American Dream at the tail-end of the 20th century, so it’s not exactly light stuff. I wanted to put myself in a position where I was writing material that I had never had the gall to creatively investigate before. True, I was doing it through someone else’s work, but I think that it allowed me to push myself to new and exciting extremes. That, in itself, is inspiring, I think. In terms of omission or additions, sure. But it all depends on the specifics of a particular scene and issue. I moved scenes around sometimes, the opening sequence of issue one, for example, is not in the book the way that it is in the comic. But I felt that we needed a really good cold open for the book and that scene lent itself nicely to being just what we needed.
CBY: How did you approach capturing the essence of Gifford’s Night People novel into a visual medium?
CC: I tried to be as faithful to Barry’s work as I could. When I could use his dialogue verbatim, I would, for example. In terms of visuals, I was transposing Barry’s world into comics, so I had to absorb as much of the information I could from the chapters within his book and really try to get the essence of those words into my panel descriptions. The rest, in terms of page layouts or angles, was up to me and then, subsequently, the artist. But Barry laid the groundwork for everything in our adaptation. If I added any scenes, which I did here and there, it was only an amplification of something that Barry may have alluded to or that I would think “Barry might have done it this way.”
CBY: Building off of the last question, how did you work with the artistic team to bring the visual elements to life while maintaining the tone of the original work?
CC: I write the script and then try to leave it there as much as I can. I think the way that I write the script is in a pretty intentional way, so that the tone and the style is clear from the get-go. But aside from that, I like to let the artist run wild. Brian Level is a fantastic artist and it would be foolish of me to try and direct him in any way that would hamper his creativity or style. Brian called me before he started working on the book because he wanted to gauge how I was, collaboratively speaking. I told him what I tell every collaborator: I write the script, that’s the base—now you build on that. Once he’s finished, I might have a thought or two about a specific aspect here or there, but I rarely do. It’s a thrilling process for me.
CBY: Are you able to share any memorable moments or insights gained from the collaborative process, since you had a number of collaborators involved?
CC: Every time Barry read a script and said “this guy gets it.”
CBY: What do you want readers to take away from this adaptation (besides an urge to go back and read the source material)?
CC: I think I want people to enjoy themselves, even if it is in a dark sort of way. That’s probably the most important thing for me. But I also hope that some of the message comes through, that America is an inherently fucked up place, built on inherently fucked up things, and no matter how we try to mask it by hiding behind the stars and stripes or singing a rousing national anthem, the truth will out. I’m not saying I’m not a proud American. I am, in fact. I love living where I live and being able to do the things I do. But I also know the history. I see current events. To move forward through this world with a blindfold is foolish. Night People is Barry ripping that blindfold off and asking us to see. I’d argue that’s what a lot of genre fiction does and what it’s always done. Sci-Fi has been warning us about AI for a century but we’re only now saying to ourselves, “maybe we should put some guardrails on this thing.” Human beings are stubborn, idiotic creatures. But we make some fucking great art.
CBY: How do you balance staying true to the source material while also considering the potential differing expectations of comic book readers?
CC: They have to be two different things. They can’t be the same. A book is black and white. Barry could travel across the universe in a paragraph. He could tell us this person’s life story. He could recount a friend of a character for a chapter in the book. In a comic, we can’t do that. It would stop the story cold. I’d love to be able to do that, but it’s just not how this medium is built. Comics have to move.
CBY: Are there any other novels or works that you would be interested in adapting into a comic book format next?
CC: No, not really. But if the opportunity arises, I’d be interested in doing it again. It just depends on what would be on offer.
CBY: What lessons or experiences from adapting Night People do you think will influence your future projects?
CC: It’s funny, I think what I had written previously influenced my approach to Night People, and I think Night People will, in turn, influence how I move forward from here. I liked having source material to refer back to. To a certain extent, we have that with That Texas Blood. We’ve got three volumes, filled with information in the form of back matter. I sometimes step on my own toes but I try to refer back to that when I can. In adapting Night People, I think I may have unlocked the desire to be more faithful to my own work than ever. I hope that makes some sort of sense…
CBY: It certainly does. Where can readers find you online or via social media?
CBY: Again, my Comic Book Yeti colleagues and I want to thank you for stepping into the Yeti Cave for an interview regarding Night People! We all wish the best for you, your adaptation, and any future work coming our way sooner or later!
CC: Thank you!