- In this Issue
- Kristen Bell
- Not Comics
- Press Release
- Story Archive
- Video Games
- March 2009
- February 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- January 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- October 2006
- September 2006
- August 2006
- July 2006
- June 2006
- May 2006
- April 2006
- October 2005
- September 2005
- August 2005
- June 2005
- May 2005
- April 2005
- March 2005
- February 2005
Web Exclusive Steve Niles Interview
On the heels of the 30 Days of Night movie taking the top spot at the box office, Comic Foundry’s Laura Hudson spoke with writer and co-creator STEVE NILES about the how Days first started, why it was initially rejected and why he would never date poultry.
You’ve said that you’ve had an “anti-Hollywood” experience with 30 Days of Night. To what do you attribute this?
Steve Niles: It’s Sam Raimi, and David Slade—I think Raimi understands from doing Spider-Man that when you’re gonna do something that has a fanbase already, and that’s based on some original property, you damn well better follow that if you want to get people to like it. Because if you stray from it—I could cite examples, like the Fantastic Four movie. I watched that the other night, and I was like, “Jack Kirby’s spinning in his grave. Right now. Spinning.”
Why don’t they learn this? Why do they go buy properties and make something else?
I know that the MGM deal fell through for Criminal Macabre because you had problems with that.
I’m *still* angry about MGM. I’ll tell you exactly what happened with MGM. I have this character, Cal MacDonald, who’s basically an updated version of Philip Marlowe/Sam Slade, but he deals with monsters. And instead of having a drinking problem—this is 2007, and he’s a recovering junkie. He has a recovering prescription drug habit, he has all kinds of bad habits like that. He’s not Cheech and Chong. It’s not a positive thing; it’s a negative thing in his life.
And I’ve written three novels, eight comic series—I’ve been writing him the longest. And I sold it to MGM, signed the papers, got in a room with these people. Everybody, friends included and people I trusted said, “So we’re all agreed: no drug references.” And I had to write a script that basically turned into a Scooby-Doo episode, because they took away this thing that was good about him.
And I remember being so mad at them. I said, “Why did you buy this book that I put my entire life into, when—if you want me to write a PG-13 movie [called] Monster Cop, I’ll write you that. Tell me what you want, and I’ll write it.” But don’t buy other people’s material and change it. It’s appalling. Just the arrogance and the gall of a lot of studio people really bugs me.
Who could you see playing Cal in the movie?
So far two people: Thomas Jane, because that’s how I met him. He came up to me and said, [deep gravelly voice] “I want to be Cal.” It’s like, Jesus Christ, you *are* Cal! Scared the crap out of me. And also, this is a really odd choice, but I think Robert Downey Jr. could make a fantastic Cal. After I saw his Tony Stark… How can you be that big an asshole and still be charming? That is an amazing job of acting… And Cal has his demons, and I’d like to work with an actor who understands that drugs are not a positive thing. Unlike, evidently, every studio in country. And you know, we’ll see what happens with that one, but really I’d rather just not have a movie made if they won’t do it right…
And that’s why I keep calling 30 Days of Night the anti-Hollywood experience, because they have been absolutely respectful of my and Ben’s [Templesmith] baby. That’s how we look at it. This is our baby. And you know, if people have a child, there’s not a 50 percent chance your baby’s going to be dead when you get back from the movies, with the babysitter. And you would expect the same care to be put into your creative work, too.
And I think people are gradually figuring it out. Sin City? Followed the comic. It worked. Loved it. 300? Followed the comic. They love it. Spider-Man? Followed the comic—the first one—and people love it. League of Extraordinary Gentleman—where did Tom Sawyer come from? This isn’t what Alan Moore wrote!
Literally, you can go one by one, and the successes are the ones that are actually from the material, and the failures aren’t. And what makes it even more aggravating is that -. They’re looking to comics too because—how many Stephen King books have we watched these skeletal movie versions of? It’s like trying to debone a fish with a toothpick, with his novels.
My favorite—it’s not a Stephen King book—is L.A. Confidential. Love the movie, love the book. I don’t know how they got that movie out of that book. I’m amazed. Because literally, they found the best elements of that and they figured out a way to do it as a move. But most of the time it doesn’t work.
But with comics, they have the opposite way to go. They have these nice little scenarios, and they can expand a little bit. I wish I knew what it was that makes people change… I even had the same arguments with people on 30 Days of Night. There was one producer who said, “I don’t think the vampires should talk.” And I said, “I think you should have bought a different graphic novel.” Because they talk in this one, and their mythology is a big part of this story.
You’ve mentioned that part of what you were trying to do with 30 Days was make vampires scary again–
That was what Ben and I set out to do with the comic. I’m a big horror fan, and have always been a horror fan. But vampires, with all their potential, have been turned into romantic characters.
Interview with the Vampire…
Interview with the Vampire! That’s not a horror movie! That’s like a love story. That’s like a relationship story. These two guys struggling to keep their life together, or their un-life together for an eternity. And I love Anne Rice; I never want to knock Anne Rice. But Frank Langella’s Dracula? Makes me want to jump out a window. Making him all handsome… it’s like, of course he’s gonna seduce you! He could seduce you even if he wasn’t a vampire. Noseferatu, on the other hand, the old [actor] Max Schreck, him seducing you—that’s pretty gross and scary, and I like that.
But that was a big thing we wanted to do. So part of the thing when I wrote the script, in my suggestion and instructions to Ben there were a couple things: one, they come from all over the world, because I wanted it to feel like this was a thing that had been going on for a long time and had a long history; two, don’t do the Star Trek alien thing. Make them all look different. That’s why they don’t all have two fangs… they all have these different mangled kind of teeth. And the third thing was, they don’t care about humans one bit. Not one bit. Not more than a vegetarian talks to a carrot, or we try to seduce a chicken before we eat it.
In a way, it’s kind of our own coldness towards the things we kill and eat. And that’s how they are, and I love that we find it frightening when we see that vampires are just like us. That was very intentional. Of all the monsters I always thought vampires, because they look like us, have the potential to be the scariest. And the whole dating cheerleaders on TV thing…
You don’t date your food.
You don’t date your food! You never date your food. I’d get arrested if I was walking down the street with a chicken on a date.
Didn’t 30 Days originally begin as a movie pitch, and not a comic?
It was a movie pitch that nobody ever bought, so I just threw it in a drawer. Literally, it was 30 Days of Night, Cal MacDonald, Freaks of the Heartland, Aleister Arcane—all of these things that I’ve now sold. What happened was, I was working with Ben Templesmith for Todd McFarlane, doing some of the Hellspawn comics. And it was this long approval process there, so we’d have three, four weeks with nothing to do.
Our friend Ted Adams from IDW called and said, “We’re thinking about starting a publishing company, so we can’t pay you anything, but we can give you total freedom.” I was like, “I haven’t heard that before.” Because you certainly don’t have that when you’re working for the majors, because there are characters and parameters you have to stay within.
I was kind of bummed at that point—I had been working at a bookstore, and I took the job with McFarlane so that I could write for a living, but I’m writing Spawn… So I literally just pulled this sheet, and e-mailed it to Ted Adams [and said] these are all the pitches I tried to sell as movies that are probably bad ideas, because nobody ever wanted them and they all got rejected.
And he was like, “this vampires in Alaska thing looks kinda cool!” I said, ok, sure. It was rejected by Vertigo, and Dark Horse, and… every studio in the city.
Does that seem surprising now, that every single one of them passed?
Maybe my pitch wasn’t very good? But it never happened, and so we did it as a comic. I said, ok, this will be fun. [I figured] me and Ben would do it while we were waiting for Hellspawn to start up again. We did the first issue for free, and got the first ad out. The second that ad with that image Ben did for the [graphic novel] cover—the second that hit and there was a little description of it, everybody’s phones started ringing off the hook. The very same people who had rejected it were calling me asking me why I hadn’t pitched that.
And honestly, one of my theories is, you don’t want to leave too much up to people’s imaginations. I think that’s why pitches don’t always work too well. I probably sat there in a room and said in the scene they look through the binoculars and they see vampires walking across the tundra. If you’re a horror fan and you’re a movie executive—I wonder if they pictured a bunch of Bela Lugosis in red capes going “Bleeeh! Bleeeh! Bleeeh!” across the tundra. And wow, that *is* a stupid idea. I’d reject that too. So, once we did the comic it was like, “this is what the setting looks like, and this is what the vampires look like,” and we just got it.
I remember talking to Mike Richardson, who is one of the producers on the film, when I went and brought him a comic from a whole stack of comics… And I said, “This one’s a monster detective, this one’s about vampires in Alaska, this is this thing I did about a robot,” and literally he did one of those things where he was like, “Well, I just was thinking about—did you say vampires in Alaska?” It took a second to sink in.
And I had been walking around thinking that it was the worst idea in the world, or that it had been done, or that it was just not that great, because it had been rejected so many times. It’s so bizarre how the whole thing has come full circle.
Comics have become very cross-media with movies and novels. Now even Stephen King’s doing comics–
Now. After he said for years that he didn’t think horror worked in comics. I’ve got a biiig box of stuff to send him. I always found that to be, especially from a horror fan, such a limited thing to say. But, saying that, he’s an EC guy who loves the EC Comics. That was one formula: one guy does a bad thing to somebody, a person dies, and then they come back from the dead and they punish them for it. And that was it. Three hundred of issues of variations of that. So if that was what I saw as horror comics, then yeah, I’d believe that. I think part of what Ben and I have done, or what I like about doing it is that you tell movies, you tell whole stories. Characterization, and plot, and everything that’s important to a good novel or movie is just as important to a comic, and in horror.
There’s been some criticism that some people are starting to make comics for the express reason of turning them into movies, as opposed to writing for the medium itself. Where do you stand on that?
I was comics 20 years before 30 Days; I’ve been doing comics since I was 19 years old. I started doing I Am Legend when I was 20. I love comics; I’m the exact opposite. My agent always wants to kill me, because I’m always like, “I want to movies to do well so I can do more comics.” But I have more freedom in comics; I can do what I want. Part of that was just because I was an outsider, so I do all creator-owned stuff. I haven’t really done a lot of the leotard men. But we’ll see. Wait, what was your question about?
Making comics to become movies, and not to be comics.
Well, I think it’s going to start backfiring on people when they become educated about what a good comic is. Because I’ve seen some of these comics created just for pitches. If you’re not doing something out of the love of the medium, it’s just going to backfire at some point. I would never go out to make a movie with ulterior movies other than to entertain. To use the comic medium as the way to pitch a movie, I just think it’s eventually going to backfire. One, if you don’t know how to do a good comic, it’s not going to get across anyway. You have to know how to do a good comic in order to show them that it’ll be a good movie. Just slapping pictures on the page with some word balloons is not a comic. There are a few skills involved.
I know a lot of people are doing that now, and I know a lot of people credit me and Ben with starting that, but it was actually it was the exact opposite. I said, “here’s everything the movie people wouldn’t buy, let’s just do them as comics!” Honestly, I was talked into doing stuff in movies. I’m from the East Coast; Hollywood was never part of my vision. I always wanted to be a writer.
Basically, I don’t like it. It’s just cheap, and people won’t buy it, and it’ll die. I do comics because I love comics.
How do you think the success of comic book movies like the Spider-Man and X-Men is affecting comics? Is it bringing in new fans?
I don’t think superhero movies are bringing [comics] more readers. I think 30 Days is; I think V for Vendetta did. V for Vendetta—they sold quite a few graphic novels off of that. Here’s the problem: No matter how hard I try, if you don’t care about men in leotards beating each other up, you never will. Even if I show you The Dark Knight Returns, even if I say this is the greatest superhero comic ever written, if that’s not on your radar, it never will be. You’ll go to see it in a movie, because you’re used to seeing different things in a movie, but that’s not going to make you go to a comics store.
So it’s a genre issue?
It’s a genre issue. The biggest thing America has to overcome is this stigma of comics being little boys’ escapist literature. And as long as there are more things like… They’re promoting 30 Days, and it says [on the advertisements], “Based on the graphic novel.” I wish they would have done that with History of Violence, and Road to Perdition, and Ghost World. Because I think that is the kind of that could change the perception of comics.
As a matter of fact, that was what was so funny about [A History of Violence], the only novel version of that [people saw] was the novelization of the movie. And people now think that that was the source material. It’s a constant uphill battle, but like I said, I’ve been doing it for… just way too long.
How do you think the Watchmen movie is going to fare?
You know, I’d be curious to see because of how good The Incredibles did. Basically, The Incredibles was what the Fantastic Four [movie] should have been. But they had to mess with it; they didn’t do an accurate Fantastic Four, and they turned Galactus into a cloud.
Yeah, I don’t know. Honestly, I think if we can show people that comics are a viable medium for adults… I hand people the [30 Days] graphic novel, and the first they say is, “I didn’t know you were allowed to do this in comics.” Because of the language, and the look. You can tell, they think Archie when they think comics, or superheroes. They don’t realize that there’s all this other stuff.
So superhero books aren’t necessarily helping the mainstream perception of comics?
Do you know what we look like from the outside? This is my image of the comic store: [someone says] “Oh, I’ve heard comics are great, let’s check it out.” And then there’s a bunch of fanboys fighting over the Heroclix and alienating the women. It’s like, when are you going to stop doing this? Remember when the [controversial] Mary Jane statue came out? I went off on that. I was like, [sarcastically] “Oh good.” Everybody’s wondering why more women don’t read comics. It’s the same reason more women don’t buy the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. They’re not interested in seeing themselves exploited and objectified…
And with Mary Jane, there was a comic they were putting out with her story for young girls. So what message are you sending? Is she the slut that does his laundry, or is she the strong woman that can deal with having a partner who has this secret life? Make up your mind. And that’s the thing, everybody’s bitching and complaining about how comics don’t sell, and then we do everything in our power to scare people away.Posted by Tim Leong on November 7th, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |
Advance Screenings of BSG: Razor
You’re all probably excited about seeing Battlestar Galactica: Razor, right? I can’t wait to see a TV movie about the Pegasus crew that debuts on Nov. 24th. Really, I can’t wait. That’s why I was so glad that registration on this site just opened for advance screenings in select cities on Nov. 12th!
The lucky cities include:
• Dallas/ Ft. Worth
• Los Angeles
• New York City
• San Francisco
Hurry and register before they’re out of fraking seats.Posted by Tim Leong on October 26th, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |
Mark Millar on Superman Movie Sequel
Mark Millar just posted that he got turned down for writing the Superman movie sequel because he was too associated with Marvel:
Well, sadly, I’m a Marvel guy and we were surprised to find out that WB couldn’t hire me for a DC property. They were incredibly nice and superbly apologetic about it, but when they discussed the matter seriously DC explained just how associated I am with Marvel Comics at the moment and it’s against company policy to hire the competition. It’s absolutely nothing personal. I spoke to some friends at DC and they explained this has happened with a couple of big Marvel writers in the last couple of years and I absolutely respect that.
My question is: How is that different when super-DC guy Geoff Johns wrote and produced for the Blade TV series (a Marvel property)?Posted by Tim Leong on October 24th, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |
Frank Miller’s 1776
A great 300 parody, courtesy of Robot ChickenPosted by Tim Leong on October 24th, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |
Vertigo’s I Am Legend Trailer Online
The trailer to Vertigo’s series of online comics that serve as a prequel to the December film I Am Legend is up and in HD.
The first online issue, by Steve Niles and Bill Sienkiewicz, is available here.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of flat art that’s later animated, but I’m not going to poo poo any attempt of comics moving ahead with more progressive media ideas.Posted by Tim Leong on October 23rd, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |
Buffy Sing-A-Long Shutdown
The famed Buffy Sing-A-Long that has been going on in New York and L.A. (and recently Columbus and St. Louis) is dead.
“Sad news today: Buffy (and all other Fox TV shows) have been pulled from theatrical distribution. Criterion Pictures notified me last night that Fox has pulled the license for ALL their TV shows from theatrical exhibition. This is effective immediately, and of course includes Buffy and “Once More With Feeling”. This means that we have to cancel all upcoming bookings of the Buffy Musical production. “
In the ongoing performances they screened the Once More With Feeling episode of Buffy while fans sang a long to the music. Think Rocky Horror Picture Show, but with vampires.
Whedon supporters are trying to resurrect the performance (someone get them an urn of Osiris, stat!) through web petitions. You can sign it here.Posted by Tim Leong on October 15th, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog, Music, Lifestyle |
Battlestar Galactica Season 4 Trailer
Feel that? It’s a chill going down your spine.Posted by Tim Leong on October 9th, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |
NEW Astroboy Poster!Movies, Blog | 1 Comment »
WOLVERINE Movie Gets Re-Write
The new kid on the block is Skip Woods, who’s recently scripted Hitman. That apparently impressed studio execs at Fox so much that they’ve invited him aboard our favourite adamantium-boned berserker’s solo run - and even though the film is all set to start in November in Australia, this will be more than just a tweak of the script.
Woods previously wrote Swordfish, which Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman of course starred in, but the scuttlebutt about Hitman suggests that he’s come along as a writer since then. Otherwise, we’d be expecting to see bullet-time explosions, car chases and long scenes involving Logan topless and sunbathing - which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be that bad.Posted by Tim Leong on October 1st, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |
Heath Ledger Out as the Joker…
…and Katee Sackhoff’s character from Bionic Woman is in.Posted by Tim Leong on September 27th, 2007 filed in TV, Movies, Blog |
Billy Dee Willams + Kristen Bell
Over at the MTV Movie Blog, Fanboys star Dan Fogler retells when Billy Dee Williams and Kristen Bell met on the set of Fanboys.
Obviously, his response would be the same as my own.Posted by Tim Leong on August 20th, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |
Gabriel Macht is The Spirit
Macht was most recently in The Good Shepherd, and is in another comics-to-film adaptation, Whiteout (along side Kate Beckinsale). Frank Miller is writing and directing the big screen version of Will Eisner’s book, with an October ‘09 release date.
What’s interesting is that this story came out the Thursday after Comic-Con. Why? This could’ve been one of the big announcements of the show. Either they weren’t able to get the deal in time or they were holding until after so they could be the first big post-con news. Then again, I’m just spitballing here. SourcePosted by Tim Leong on August 3rd, 2007 filed in Movies, Blog |