DREAMS DO COME TRUE
Writer Steve Niles Claws His Way to the Top of the TMP Heap
December 22, 2000
Steve Niles is an enigma of sorts in the world of comics, a writer and creator with a fresh voice who does his research homework and returns phone calls and e-mails in the same century. Not to mention he's a genuinely nice guy to boot. Though he's currently in the spotlight as the writer of Todd McFarlane Productions' monthly Spawn The Dark Ages and Hellspawn comic books, Niles has a lengthy history in the horror and fantasy publishing worlds. He joined up with TMP on a free-lance basis in 1999 working on editorial copy for several magazines and worked his way into the monthly comic book roster.
So, you're becoming the writer of choice at Todd McFarlane Productions. What's up with that?
I have no idea, but I'm happy and thankful to be working on anything and everything they want to throw my way. For a writer who has struggled for gigs, working for McFarlane is a dream come true. Not only do Todd and I work well together, but I couldn't be in better territory. Dead men spit from Hell. Monsters as heroes ... I feel right at home. I love it!
How much pressure is there, if any, taking over from Brian Michael Bendis on the still-new Hellspawn book?
Not much. And this is no slam against Bendis. He's one of the best out there today, but any pressure is a welcome challenge. Pressure is a good thing. I'm excited as Hell. I've already completed a few scripts and Todd, Ashley and I have planned out some mind-blowing stuff including a few multimedia extras that I think people are going to love.
How do you see the Hellspawn book changing, if at all, now that you've taken the reins?
Action. That's the biggest difference. You won't see a lot of friendly chatting in Hellspawn. It's going to be darker than dark, exciting and well ... bloody. Spawn is in a new place, since the events of #100 (regular Spawn book), and the atmosphere has gotten much more dangerous. There will be old enemies reinvented and new threats crawling out of the woodwork. I plan on taking many of the fan-favorite characters, cranking them up a few notches and letting them loose. We're starting with Cy-Gor. This is a character that I've always liked because I love the sympathetic monster thing. We've got him re-wired, re-focused and twice as deadly. It's going to get messy, but I think the fans will love it.
The titles you're working on vary widely in tone, particularly from Dark Ages to Hellspawn. Is it difficult to switch gears like that?
Not really. Sometimes I feel like my head's going to explode, but it hasn't happened yet. Everything I'm working on has such a different feel that I almost never get my wires crossed. This is an area where I've learned a lot from Todd. He's able to go from toys to comics to animation without blinking. I admire that about him and I've learned to just stay focused and take a breath before hitting the keyboard.
It seems like you jumped right in with guns blazing when you took over the writing chores on Dark Ages. Is that time period of particular interest to you?
I had a peripheral interest in the time period, but I always leaned more toward Monty Python and The Holy Grail than Dungeons and Dragons. I had to do some research, but once I started reading up and watching films and thinking of how to apply it to Spawn, I started getting excited. Historically, the Dark Ages were intense and rich with danger and growth like no other time. I saw that there were all sorts of radical changes happening and those themes fit perfectly with Spawn, who I see as an ever-changing character. And, of course, the rise of Christianity and the death of old religions is the perfect backdrop for a Hellspawn trying to find his way in the world. I have to say that when I came into this my interest in the period was somewhat limited, but now I'm a junkie for information and I just can't get enough.
Some newer fans might not know of your history in fantasy and comics, particularly with such creators as Clive Barker and others. Could you elaborate on some interesting projects you've done in the past?
I started my own company back in '86 called Arcane. I was just a punk, playing in a band and running around like a crazy-man. We put out a couple books and a set of lithographs of Barker's art. Then I teamed up with Eclipse Comics. I wrote, edited and co-published books like Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (aka the film The Omega Man), Jon J Muth's M and several Clive Barker adaptations including The Yattering and Jack, Rawhead Rex and Son of Celluloid. I went on to do Night of the Living Dead: London with Clive for FantaCo, and followed it with a few projects based on Harlan Ellison's short stories, and an original series titled Cal McDonald Monster Mysteries. After touring one last time with my band (Gray Matter for those who care), I took a job with Disney Interactive in Los Angeles. A couple years later I started working for McFarlane and ... well, here I am.
What other projects are you currently involved in?
As of right now I'm continuing work on Spawn The Dark Ages. The book is coming along great and we have some things off the ground that are going to be big down the line. I'm immersed in Hellspawn. Ashley and I have come up with a first and second story arc that will put a real wrench into Spawn's world and trigger some huge events! There are one or two surprises coming that I wish I could talk about, but I can't just yet, so hang in there and read our issues of Hellspawn for clues.
Are there any upcoming projects you can discuss?
Well, there's the comics that I just mentioned. All kinds of surprises brewing there. Plus Todd and I are working on a television project that should be announced sometime soon. There are some other projects, but my lips are sealed for right now, but trust me when I say they are big, big, big!
Please give fans some personal background: family, hobbies, interests, that sort of thing.
I just got married in Vegas to the lovely and beautiful Nikki Surel, and we couldn't be happier. We are living in Los Angeles with our two black cats, Chloe and Stella. We love to hang out, watch movies, read books and play Scrabble until 4AM. I collect anything having to do with monsters. When I get the chance I sneak into my office, where I have my toy and comic collection, and I fire up my Playstation and blast zombies or play basketball until my thumb hurts. Above all, I love to write, so most of the time I can be found at the computer, unless my wife is dragging me off to eat at some strange new place Terry Fitzgerald has discovered. All in all, things are good.