Boy, do I envy Steve Niles’ job! Not only does he get to dream up horrific things each day, but he gets to work on comics, books, and video games. At Dallas Comic-Con, I spoke with the horror writer about his zombie project Remains that is being adapted for television, his work with John Carpenter on FEAR3, and gritty adventures of paranormal detective Cal McDonald in Criminal Macabre.
SciFi Mafia: Now, you’ve made vampires scary again with 30 Days of Night. Did you seek to do the same to zombies in your zombie story, Remains, that is being adapted for the Chiller network? How does it distinguish itself from other zombie stories like The Walking Dead or Zombieland?
Steve Niles: In my comic, there are different sects of zombies. Some were affected by radiation differently. Some start to evolve. So you can’t use any of the normal I’m-just-going-to-hide-in-the-house-and-wait-till-they-rot methods. No, because if you wait it out, they’re just going to learn how to pull the handle and get in and climb the walls…
SFM: So they’re more intelligent zombies.
Steve Niles: Yes, and they start eating the other zombies and it starts to get nasty.
SFM: You *are* reinventing the zombie concept with this!
Steve Niles: I’m trying. A lot of the stuff we’re seeing of zombies now, it’s being done really well, but it’s stuff we’ve seen before.
SFM: You know, I think you have the best job in the world to be able to work in comics, movies, *and* video games. You worked on Fear 3 with John Carpenter.
Steve Niles: Yeah! It comes out June 21st. They bumped it again. And what’s really funny is that that’s my birthday and now Alma and I share a birthday!
SFM: How kismet is that?
Steve Niles: Especially since I was the one [that pushed for her] to be pregnant. They didn’t want to do it.
SFM: And a clip was released just before Dallas Comic-Con showing the co-op play where you must “F**king Run” from the Wall of Death. What kind of a mind-frakking experience are we to expect here?
Steve Niles: Oh, just that! Survival. They came up with these little mini-games so if anybody says that they are bored with this game, they haven’t tried everything. And they did this survival-based 30 Days of Night mode and this coop mode that they did… is not a security blanket, because you could be on one floor and your partner is above you and you can track each other but you can’t always help each other so it’s sometimes it’s ‘I could use some help here.’ But you can’t. It’s fun. Some of the coop stuff is so sickening and fun. Cuz the one character, Fetel, he’s a ghost. So he can possess any character in the game. So if you come against a wall of soldiers and you see a sniper, possess the sniper and you’re behind everybody. So it’s strategic and tactical sort of fun.
FEAR3: Co-op Play Trailer
SFM: That sounds like so much fun!
Steve Niles: It’s going to be a great game.
SFM: You get to play with so many awesome properties!
Steve Niles: Yeah, I’m really lucky. I have a lot of fun.
SFM: And you mentioned before that Criminal Macabre was coming back. Why is Cal McDonald’s story so compelling and enduring?
Steve Niles: He’s just such a hopeless case. I think people really like that about him.
SFM: The underdog appeal?
Steve Niles: Yes, he’s very much the underdog. He’s got everybody against him, including himself. At this point, he never has any friends. Everyone around him gets killed and he just never does. So his only friends are dead people, these ghouls that he hangs out with. But at the same time, he’s got a really good sense of humor, really sarcastic, really violent, and has some bad habits.
SFM: I heard that you had based him on Tom Jane?
Steve Niles: Oh, no no no, I never based him on Tom Jane. Tom would like to think that. I created Cal before Tom was born. I think the first comic was in 1984 or 1985 and I was trying to write like William Chandler … I liked William Chandler, Jim Thompson, and Hunter S. Thompson. So I started to combine those [inspirations] and I threw in some monsters and I had my character.
SFM: And Cal is perfect.
Steve Niles: Tom, when he was promoting The Punisher, came up to me and said ‘I want to play Cal McDonald.’ And I was like ‘You are Cal McDonald!’ and I would love it. I think he would make a great Cal.
SFM: But the project is still stuck in the script-writing stage?
Steve Niles: We’re on the second writer now and actually Tom’s in a really good place right now with the hit show and it would be perfect timing if we can write the script.
SFM: I hope so. That would be great!
Steve Niles: I know. I know. [smiles]
Cal is one of my fave detectives. I am seriously looking forward to seeing more Criminal Macabre and 30 Days of Night. Fear3, dudes, buckle up and try not to sh!t your pants, ok?
Keep on keeping on, Steve. Thank you so much for chatting with me at Dallas Comic-Con!