Steve Niles interview

He's the man behind 30 Days Of Night. He's writing stories set in Gotham City. And he's spared some time for a chat....

With 30 Days Of Night riding high in the DVD charts, and talk of a follow-up gathering pace, Den Of Geek squeezed in some time with Steve Niles to find out what’s what…

How did you initially come up with the concept for 30 Days of Night?

I read an article in the paper about Barrow Alaska and I was immediately taken by the idea of vampires using Barrow as a feeding ground. Eben and Stella and the concept of the feral or unromantic vampires came a bit later.

30 Days of Night has been credited with reinventing the vampire as an actually scary monster, rather than the Anne Rice style hedonists they seemed to have turned into. Why did you decide to make them so vicious and animalistic?

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Simply because vampires weren’t scary anymore. Dracula has become a joke, on TV vampires date teenage girls and we have breakfast cereals named after vampires. When Anne Rice “humanised” vampires she was pulling vampires from B-movies and making them sophisticated creatures with feelings and emotions. That was new then. It revolutionized vampires.

Unfortunately it also tamed them. Rice made us want to be vampires. I wanted to make them scary again. It really was just that simple. The vampires in 30 Days of Night could care less about seducing you. They want your blood and all the begging and praying in the world won’t stop them.

Why did you choose to set it in Barrow, instead of in a fictional location, given some of the liberties taken with reality – the size of the town’s population; the fact that Alaska doesn’t have sheriffs; the proximity of the pipeline, and such like?

At one point I did use a fictional name but I love that it’s a real place so I went with it. I live in LA and before that I lived in Washington DC. Both cities are used in films a lot and a lot of liberties are taken, so I thought it would be scarier to use a real place.

Er, why can’t any planes fly out of Barrow in the dark?

Because the airport is closed! There’s no visibility, high winds.

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Generally trucks move in an out and so do ships but flights are hard to come by during certain months of the year.

Will there be a follow-up movie using the story of Dark Days?

I sure hope so. Personally I love sequels that go off on their own thing like Aliens’ military approach after the intimate haunted house approach to the first. Dark Days would be set in Los Angeles and would really focus on what the vampires are about, how they move through our world…and the lengths they will go to protect their secrets.

According to Wikipedia, you initially pitched 30 Days of Night as a movie before writing it as a comic book and then adapting it into a movie. You’re now working on another comic book – will you be looking to turn that into a movie, too?

If Wikipedia said it, it must be true. It actually started as a comic pitch. After it got rejected by places like Vertigo and the like I tried pitching it as a film. The pitch fell on deaf ears so I tossed it into a drawer. Years later I handed Tec at IDW my rejected pitch list and he though “the vampire thing” sounded cool. After that my world exploded.

Very strange the way the whole thing went down.

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Is there any difference in writing for the screen or writing for a comic book?

Yes. When I write comics I wear a cape. But seriously, there are many, many differences. Like writing a novel compared to a screenplay, comics give me a whole new set of tools to play with. With comics I can have any budget I like. If I want 10 million zombies to march then all I have to do is talk the artist off a ledge instead of beg for billions from a studio.

What was it like letting other writers write stories within your universe for 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales?

It’s very odd, but at the same time extremely flattering to have other people write off something I created. It’s a real badge of honor in comics and the nerdverse to create something that other people want to write.

Simon Dark is the first character outside the Batman universe to live in Gotham City – how did that come about? Was that the initial pitch, to put the story in Gotham?

Originally I was going to create a city or even place him in LA, but my editor Joey suggested using Gotham and I loved the idea because, like LA, Gotham is a well-formed character. Placing Simon in Gotham added a whole layer of development and tension that would have taken years to build with a made-up city. Plus Gotham has a reputation for housing dark characters. I like to think Simon is right at home under the shadow of the bat.

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Does DC have any kind of “bible” that details what you can and can’t do within Gotham City stories – is there a predetermined layout, or any rules that have to be adhered to?

There are rules. There are thing Batman says and doesn’t say, things he does and doesn’t do. There are also different continuities. DC has been extremely giving and allowed Kelley and I to choose our continuity and the one I love the most is the original. In our Batman the main characters are Batman, Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon and of course the rogues gallery.

Will Simon Dark ever encounter Batman or any other established DC Universe characters? What version of Gotham does he live in – some Batman titles are darker/grittier/more adult than others, for example.

You never know what will happen in Gotham After Midnight. Anything is possible…even the impossible.

Steve Niles, thank you very much!

30 Days Of Night is available now on DVD. Read our review of the cinematic release here; and the DVD here.

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