Steve Niles is a name most people associate with scary things like vampires, and other monstrosities that go bump in the night. And that’s a good thing. Having a rep that says you can make people’s skin crawl in means plenty of people line up to buy your books, which is sure to happen with Niles’ latest project Chin Music. Hollywood liking it, Niles affirms, is secondary.
PREVIEWSworld: You say the name "Steve Niles" and most fans would reply "30 Days of Night." That legacy, and your knack for writing hard-hitting horror has made you a star in the comics community. But this new book for Image, Chin Music#1 (FEB130385), seems to be a road less travelled for you. A time travel story? The main character is in prohibition-era Chicago? What was the genesis for this flavor of the month?
Steve Niles: It's something I've been working on for a few years now. It's slightly more complicated then what I've done in the past. Tony and I are trying a few new things. At heart, the story is a horror story. It's dark and weird, but as the story progresses we get into some new territory. There is time travel, of a kind. It is not scientific in nature but spiritual. Shaw has lived in many eras and so have his enemies. Shaw hides in time and knows every time he performs a feat of magic he is shooting off a flare that could bring his enemies crashing down on his head.
PREVIEWSworld: Give us the grand tour, Steve. Show us a few exhibits so we can learn a little more about Chin Music, and where readers can expect to go in learning about Shaw's troubles.
Steve Niles: I'm going to keep it vague because I don't believe in giving away the whole story beforehand like movie trailers and a lot of comics do these days. I want the reader to come in fresh and explore and see the story they find. I'm working very close with Tony on this and the one thing we love in horror and Noir is the character who's past is a mystery, and with Shaw we have that times ten. We learn that Shaw is a fallen mystic, at one point very powerful, but when we meet him he has been stripped of all his natural powers. Now his is in Capone-era Chicago, hiding out as a Private Detective, and slowly trying to remember the millions of incantations that once came to him naturally. In many ways it’s a supernatural version of the 'gunfighter with a broken hand' story we have seen in westerns. A weakened hero with a lot of enemies is always a great way to get into a story.
PREVIEWSworld: Did you research any occult books and themes for Chin Music? If so, was this research already in your personal library, or did you venture to any particular web sites/libraries in gathering your material?
Steve Niles: I've been collecting books on the occult since I was a teenager so I didn't need to go out and get new books. If anything Chin Music reflects a lot of what I've learned. Tony is layering in occult imagery too. Because Shaw does not use one kind of magic, we are trying to incorporate spiritual and occult themes from all different cultures.
PREVIEWSworld: Mysticism sets the tone for Chin Music, and it is reinforced by page designs for the story. A glimpse of these pages can be seen in the February PREVIEWS catalog. Did you have input on page design, or did you let Tony Harris have free reign to interpret your script?
Steve Niles: Tony and I talked a lot before we ever wrote a thing. One thing we agreed on was I would write an abbreviated script. Where I generally write on a 6 panel grid, for Chin Music I am only doing 4 panels per page on average. Tony then takes the script and adds all those wonderful little bits you're seeing and expanding the storytelling visually. For Chin Music I really want the story to unfold through pictures and dialogue, and not weigh it down with excessive narrative. Tony has responded with these explosive pages. I could not be happier.
PREVIEWSworld: As you've already had one of your comic properties adapted to the big screen (30 Days of Night), has your experience with Hollywood made you think differently about comics? In other words, their potential to live longer as multimedia? In your view, is Hollywood becoming more interested in comic properties because technology allows them to do more with fantastic stories? Or is it just that comics have matured more as a medium?
Steve Niles: I really just try to focus on the comics and not get ahead of myself as far as what could happen in other media. I've written comics thinking of them as movies and honestly I think those are my weakest books. I've found that making the best possible comics automatically makes it something of interest to other media anyway, so it works out. I think 30 Days helped usher in the Hollywood/Comic partnership, but it's been The Walking Dead that has made Hollywood (TV specifically) more open to the genre. Technology certainly has helped a lot more with the Marvel/DC movies. Iron Man and the Avengers just wasn't possible before. Now the tech has caught up. I think the comic/Hollywood partnership is here to stay, and its creator-owned who has the most to gain. I look forward to the next few years, and to see what happens. In the meantime I just want to make and read some good comics. If we do that, the rest will come.
Check out these black-and-white advance pages!