In 1972, the TV movie The Night Stalker aired. It introduced the world to Carl Kolchak and became a cult classic. In 2022, it will celebrate its 50th anniversary and Moonstone Books and editor James Aquilone will launch a 100+-page graphic novel paying homage to the monster-hunting reporter.
Early contributors: Rodney Barnes (Killadelphia), Kim Newman (Anno Dracula), Peter David (The Incredible Hulk), and Jonathan Maberry (V-Wars), team with artists like Colton Worley (The Shadow), Warwick Johnson-Cadwell (Mr. Higgins Comes Home), J.K. Woodward (Star Trek), and Paul McCaffrey (Anno Dracula).
Comic Book Yeti sits down with James to talk about the project and what readers can expect.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Good day, James. I was a three-year-old when Kolchak came out. I don’t recall watching the show, but I always remembered the commercials. I never forgot the image of Darren McGavin chasing after a variety of monsters, so as I got older and had the chance to view them I was so glad. What was your first experience with Kolchak? And why do you think he has endured?
JAMES AQUILONE: I wasn’t old enough to watch the TV movies or the series when they originally aired. I don’t recall when I first saw Kolchak. It was probably when it ran as a late-night movie or when it was rerun in the ’90s because of its connection to The X-Files.
There are two reasons why it has endured. One, Darren McGavin. He’s such a joy to watch as Kolchak and his narration just hit the right spot. And two, the writing. The two TV movies were written by horror master Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone), who struck a perfect balance between the humor and horror elements of Kolchak. Plus, the series, which had episodes written by David Chase (The Sopranos) and Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale (Back to the Future), continued that strong storytelling. That’s why I knew I had to find the best writers I could for the graphic novel and I think I did that. It doesn’t get much better than Rodney Barnes, Kim Newman, David Avallone, Nancy Collins and Jonathan Maberry. Not to mention, Richard Christian Matheson, the veteran horror writer and son of the original Kolchak screenwriter.
CBY: Kolchak is, in my opinion, the great uncle of the supernatural tv series. Without him there would be no X-files, Buffy, Supernatural and so much more. Today’s reimagining of classic monsters and those that fight them are all juiced up. Do you think being “dated” that the younger audience might not connect with Kolchak then the more modern “supernatural hunters” of the past few years?
JA: It's no secret the core audience for Kolchak today is older, but I’ve been seeing a lot of younger people discovering the show and loving it. When I became a fan of Star Wars as a kid, I was very interested in what inspired it, like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, and I started watching the old movie serials and old comic strips. I think if you’re a real fan of the genre, you’ll seek out what came before, and they’ll be surprised how well Kolchak holds up. Good storytelling usually does.
CBY: How did the idea of doing a 50th anniversary project come about? You have a good stable of creators. Did you have to “hunt” them down or was it as easy as saying Kolchak? What were you looking for in contributors and their stories?
JA: The idea was the easy part once I realized that the 50th anniversary of The Night Stalker was coming up. The timing was perfect for a Kickstarter campaign and Moonstone Books agreed.
Finding contributors was not a problem. There a lot of Kolchak fans out there. In terms of what I was looking for, in terms of contributors, I was just looking for writers and artists whose work I admire. I’m a big fan of them all, so I know I’ll get great stories and art. As far as stories, I’m looking for stories that have that classic Kolchak feel while bringing something new to it — and, of course, cool monsters.
CBY: Do you need to know Kolchak to enjoy the book? What can the buyers expect to get with their purchase?
JA: I don’t think you’ll need to know Kolchak. If you like monsters and fun, witty characters and great art, you’ll enjoy the book. You can expect a book that will be faithful to the original series while adding to the world of Carl Kolchak. There will be real horror but with heavy doses of humor.
CBY: Without giving away too much, what has got you excited about the book?
JA: There’s so much to be excited about. We’re the doing the first-of-a-kind Kolchak book. One that will see stories from throughout his life, from his first investigation as a high school reporter to his last story. It’s the ultimate Kolchak story.
CBY: There are a lot of tv programs going to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2022; M.A.S.H. ; The Streets of San Francisco; Kung Fu; and Banacek to name some. If you could pick another series to do a book on which one would you chose?
JA: A lot of great stuff came out in 1973. In fact, my wife was born that year too.
I would love to do more comics based on old TV shows, especially ones that ended too soon. Though some of them have already been turned into comics, my top choices would be The Greatest American Hero, Quantum Leap, and Friday the 13th: The Series.