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The Creeping Macabre - Part 3

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Noted horror comic writer Steve Niles sat down with Sam Moyerman to discuss the new DC series The Creeper as well as monster detective Cal McDonald and his other projects.

Part 1
Part 2

BROKEN FRONTIER: Moving on to The Creeper, why this particular character?

STEVE NILES: They offered it to me [laughs].  Dan Didio called me and said they had some characters they wanted to revive and they offered me The Creeper .  So, I went back and read some of the old classic Steve Ditko issues and after reading his absolutely weird origin I decided this was perfect for me.

I am having a blast with the character.  The origin was just so wild and crazy that there was so much I knew I could do with him.

BF: I must be honest with you, the only origin I know for the character is the one from Batman: The Animated Series, which is probably completely different from the Ditko one.

SN: You know, I’m not familiar with that one.

BF: Well, it was basically just the Joker origin, where the Joker almost recreates what happened to him and does it to Jack Ryder.

SN: Really? Now that makes sense because people are always asking me about the Joker connection and the Ditko issues didn’t have that at all.  I always assumed they were talking about the similarities in the character and laughter but no one ever mentioned that it was from the animated series.  The only source material I used for research was the original Ditko issues and I rewrote the origin based on that.

(The episode in question is Beware the Creeper and is found on the 4th collection of the Batman: The Animated Series DVDs – ed.)

BF: So are you basically starting the character over again with a slight modernization?

SN: I did modernize it a little bit.  One of the funny things about the original is that none of the technology is named.  So I went in and named them all, gave it a purpose, and make the connection to how Ryder gets caught up in all of it.  The one thing that I had to update was in the original he goes to the mobster masquerade ball (since we all know that gangsters love to get dressed up in costumes) and the reason he’s wearing that outfit is because it was the only one left in the store.  So I figured I needed to fix that and take out the masquerade party.

BF: Now, where does this fit in with the preview story we saw in Brave New World?  And the bookend of that book was showing a connection to the Monitor’s return…

SN: Actually, I had no idea about that connection.  They didn’t tell me that they were putting that in there at all, I just wrote my story for the book and then ended up seeing it in there.  The story in Brave New World actually happens after the six-issue miniseries, which will make sense when you read it.  But the six-issue series is basically the origin story for the character, and then the whole idea of Ryder declaring war on himself doesn’t happen until after that is over. 

I had already started what I was doing with the series and then they asked me if I wanted to put together the short story.  So in effect, I used that short story to show where I would want to take the character if we continued on with it.  I mean, could I be hinting any harder at wanting an ongoing with the character? I would love to do an ongoing with [the Creeper]. Three scripts in and I am loving it.

BF: One thing with characters like this is that the psyche has been displayed in a few different ways.  Sometimes they’re portrayed as having two completely different personalities, other times there is just one with two different “skins”. How are you portraying the Creeper?

SN: I have taken it as there are two distinct personalities that are extremely aware of each other and what the other wants to do.  In a way you have them battling each other for physical control of the actual body.

One other thing that Justiniano (the artist on the book – ed.) and I just started talking about is that in a sense, the Creeper is a newborn.  A lot of his lunacy comes from the fact that he didn’t exist until this thing happened—he doesn’t know the world at all.  So I have him and Ryder fighting for control because they both can’t exist at once and that has turned out to be really fun to write.

BF: In terms of the two personalities, being so distinctly different, which side has been more fun for you to write?

SN: Right now I am having an equal amount of fun.  I’ve been writing Jack Ryder as just an asshole who got caught up in his own hype.  We all know people like that.  And thus far, I’ve used the Creeper to bring him back down to earth a bit.  Because underneath that exterior of Ryder, there has to be some semblance of a guy who cares, but he’s just used being a big loudmouthed asshole to get attention and it has completely ruined his reputation with the people around him.  And the Creeper has brought him out of that shell, simply because if you have to argue with someone over who is in control of the physical body, other stuff becomes less important.  And it is especially hard on Ryder because the Creeper is out there being a superhero of sorts and Ryder has historically hated them.

BF: Speaking of the artist, how did you end up working with Justiniano on the book?

SN: Joey Cavalieri recommended him.  My biggest thing with the Creeper is that he had to look cool.  We wanted to keep the classic look and Justiano kept the basic look and really made him look cool at the same time.  The one thing I really loved is that he made that mane of hair across his back, which is actually coming out of his back and neck instead of just being a feather boa wrapped around him. 

To me, the Creeper is just about one of the coolest names you could have for a character and I really wanted to make sure that the look of the character was equally as cool.  Justiniano has done a great job with that, making him look like this crazy, out of control imp. 

Since then, he’s come up with all kinds of cool stuff.  We are definitely going to be seeing the world through the Creeper’s eyes at one point and we will see why his world view is so crazy, because Justiniano has done some amazing designs for those scenes.

All in all, I’ve had such amazing luck with the artists I’ve worked with thus far.

BF: Now that you’ve started to get a feel for Justiniano, have you found yourself writing more towards his strengths?

SN: Actually, with the best artists I’ve worked with I don’t have to worry about that.  I just let loose and try to have as much fun as I can.  There have been sometimes where I’ve gone overboard and an artist has asked me how he was supposed to do what I wrote.  But especially with The Creeper I want to get some of those Ditko proportions in.  There were scenes in the old series where he would be hitting people with every limb sometimes and I loved that stuff.  Really I just go for broke in every script and so far Justiniano has just nailed it.

BF: Finally, you mentioned the series City of Others with Bernie Wrightson earlier on…

SN: And talk about great artists!  I get to work with my hero Bernie Wrightson.  I’ve been collecting Bernie since I was a kid and now I get to do this ongoing series with him for Dark Horse.  I am literally living a dream.

Bernie is a legend and just a really nice guy and it turns out that we see horror almost identically.

BF: What is this series about?

SN: It’s about every monster on the planet and one human who happens to stumble into that world.  I’m going to be a little tight lipped about this one because I don’t want to give away any plot points.  The way I would describe it is that whenever you pick up a Marvel or DC comic there is a firmly created superhero universe and everyone exists in that universe.  This book comes from me wanting to create a universe like that for monsters.  And I feel that we’ve done it.  Every single plot twist is very strange and very off-kilter.  Sort of the way every superhero comic has a fight scene in it, we’re trying to come up with a new template of that for monsters.

The creation of these issues has also been a great experience.  We both talk about the issue and what we want to happen.  Then I write him a 22-page script but he goes through it and turns it into 26 pages of art.  After that I go back in and readapt it.  So by the time the issue is done, we’ve both had a chance to play with it.  I just couldn’t be happier.

BF: To sort of tie this all together, you spoke a bit about creating the accepted “monster universe.” Will you be holding true to any of the laws that you had in the other books and are you using this to create a sort of new monster bible?

SN: Well, I won’t be holding firm to all of the rules set out in the other books.  Certainly, I find myself holding true to some of the things used in past books.  For instance, some of the vampire rules that I used in 30 Days of Night I followed up with and used in Criminal Macabre .  But one of the things that I didn’t want to do is make a set group of rules, because I don’t think there should be any one answer.  So we’re playing with it as we go along.

Bernie and I have been discussing it and one of the things we’ll be seeing in City of Others is how the monsters have acclimated themselves to the modern world—how they’ve adapted to our way of life while still hunting us.

BF: Excellent.  And finally, to wrap everything up, is there anything else that we didn’t yet talk about?  Any further teases for the series that we missed?

SN: I just recently put out a book with Bill Roman called The Cryptics , which was basically Peanuts but starring all the monster characters.  It was one of the first all-ages books I did and it was a lot of fun to write Dracula as a small child growing up in suburbia.

I also just got hired by Fox Atomic Comics, the new line of comics from Fox Studios, to write a graphic novel that will bridge the movie 28 Days Later to the upcoming sequel called 28 Days Later: The Aftermath .

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