'Count Crowley' Interview: Dastmalchian Eager For His Reluctant Monster Hunter
Oct 22, 2019
by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
In the mood for some liquor and lycans? Of course, you are. Well, good news! You need to look no further than this video interview from New York Comic Con. Indie Edge host Natasha Vineyard went to the big apple in search of unique voices in the world of creator-owned comics. What she found was actor David Dastmalchian. You'll recognize David from such films as The Dark Knight and Ant-Man. However, his biggest role yet is also a passion project of his. It's called Count Crowley: Reluctant Monster Hunter, and it is a love letter to creature features, horror hosts, b-movies, and all things that go bump in the night.
PREVIEWSworld: How did Count Crowley: Reluctant Monster Hunter come about as a project?
David Dastmalchian: I have been dreaming up the world of Count Crowley since I was about 12-years-old in Kansas City, hooked to both my comic books and the Friday night Creature Feature. Our local horror host was Crematia Mortem, and some of my favorite comics were Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night and old EC comics. My imagination was always getting carried away, and I passed many an hour thinking about how I would defeat the impending invasion of classic monsters that I was sure would be arriving... I loved (and still do!) the classic Universal and Hammer monsters and I was always certain that the world was secretly populated by both “bad” and a few “good” monsters. (also - I still do!) Fast forward several decades, and I’ve discovered that the grown-up world can be a pretty difficult terrain to navigate. I have battled and continue to treat my own struggles with depression, anxiety, addiction, and find myself often overwhelmed by the apparitions and bad monsters I see wandering our world in plain sight. I wanted to find a way to blend my youthful fascination with the battle against bad monsters, the magical world of classic comic mythology and my own struggles with my personal demons. Thus - Count Crowley was born. I told Peter Lenkov about the idea one afternoon, and he really responded to it! He and I are both comic book collectors, and we had bonded over our mutual love for the old TV series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.” Peter told Mike Richardson at Dark Horse about my idea for Count Crowley. In one of the most thrilling moments of my career, Dark Horse told me that they wanted to help me bring the Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter to life!
PREVIEWSworld: Tell us about Jerri Bartman. What makes her central to the story?
David Dastmalchian: Over the years, I’ve gotten to know a number of incredibly resilient and badass women who have survived a number of battles against some of life’s bad monsters. There was always this recurring theme where their stories, their truths were either dismissed or disbelieved, and yet these women continued to rise up, fight on and forge ahead. From my own wife to the other women in my family, my co-workers and my very strong circle of friends, I have been continually awe-struck by their strength and fearlessness. I wanted to blend that energy with what I’ve experienced in my battles with addiction and depression. I’ve been clean now for 17 years, and I remember when I was first mustering the courage to get help... it was so frustrating to know that I was trying my best and yet I kept failing. I was trying to do the right thing and yet I’d broken so much trust and burned so many bridges, that no one really believed me. When we first meet Jerri, she’s sunken into a pretty deep place of despair and has few people left in her life. Once she begins to uncover the darker truths about the monsters hiding in plain sight around her, there is a tricky paradox for her to navigate. If she tells people the truth about the monsters she’s facing, she exposes people to a dangerous vulnerability, which makes them targets of evil. Not to mention the fact that they will think she’s crazy or certainly back on the booze. All Jerri wants is to be a respected TV journalist, and yet now she’s hosting the Creature Feature. Recovery is all about humility and acceptance. Jerri’s going to have to find a LOT of that.
PREVIEWSworld: The book definitely has roots in creature features and b-movies. Tell us more about that. What inspired this book?
David Dastmalchian: As a kid in Kansas City I was raised in a pretty strict religious household. I would sneak downstairs on Friday nights to watch Crematia Mortem hosting the Friday Creature Feature on TV 41. It was everything to me. The classic monsters, the incredible performers like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price... I was transported. It was a similar experience to how I felt the first time I wandered into Clint's Comics in Kansas City. I also loved Joe Bob, Elvira, the USA shows and collecting old Halloween vinyl records. Classic Horror and Comics were my ticket to escape, to modern myth, to the characters and stories that made me feel less alone, that gave me that fantastic feeling of being frightened. When I moved to Chicago to study acting, I discovered the great Svengoolie (now nationally syndicated) and became a big fan of his show. I started researching all of the other incredible hosts from Vampira to Zacherley. I'm still obsessed. And my awesome wife has framed the covers of a large portion of my vintage Halloween vinyl collection and hung them in our haunted home.
PREVIEWSworld: Talk a bit about working with the artist. What's your creative process with Lukas Ketner like?
David Dastmalchian: When my editor, Megan Walker, suggested Lukas Ketner, I flipped! His work on Witch Doctor was so profoundly cool and the way he explored the powerful details of a horror landscape while playing with depth and perspective was exactly what I was hoping we could find in our Count Crowley artist. He read my first few scripts and seemed to just instantly understand what I was hoping to achieve with Jerri and the comic as a whole. He sent some initial sketches over, and I just sat at my desk with my jaw agape. I have been imagining and dreaming of this world for decades and to suddenly stare at it - was something I'll never forget. Every time Lukas sends anything over, I stop everything and go walking around the house with my laptop in hand, freaking out. He's so talented, and I really feel like the work he's done on these issues is going to blow readers out of the bloody water.
PREVIEWSworld: What made Lukas ideal for the book’s horror theme?
David Dastmalchian: He's perfect for Count Crowley because he understands how to tell so much story in the eyes of the characters. I wanted there to be truly scary, unforgettable moments that will shock and frighten readers as they gaze into character eyes and expressions that are authentically terrified OR terrifying. But there's so much more to it than that. I believe that readers are only going to really get their skin-crawling and hair standing on end if we can get them to care about these characters, to think in Jerri and everyone else in Beloit. Lukas can do so much without dialogue, and he's helped me to trust myself more as a writer. Each issue I find less and less dialogue, less parenthetical, and more reliance on the power of his imagery. Lukas also nailed my vision for the monsters of Count Crowley 1,000%! I wanted them to move and look and carry the echoes of so many classic monsters, and yet we discover that the mythology around these monsters is all a lie. There has been so much fake news poured into the media over the generations by monsters in power, and they are much more difficult to destroy than simple silver bullets, wooden stakes or beheadings... Jerri's got a lot of learning to do.
PREVIEWSworld: What makes this the perfect comic for the Halloween season?
David Dastmalchian: Count Crowley is the perfect addition to every collection of Halloween horror. From beneath the bright glow of a full moon, our hero Jerri Bartman will come face to face with the snarling, snapping razor-sharp teeth of a half-man, half-beast! She will adorn the makeup and attire of the great Count Crowley and uncover the magic of classic horror cinema. Blood will flow and screams will echo across the land. What more could you want in hand as you curl up by the light of a jack-o-lantern and settle in for a Halloween horror you will never forget.....
* Featuring the dynamic creative team of David Dastmalchian and Lukas Ketner!
* The perfect comic for the Halloween season!
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.