CROSSING THE NILES: An interview with Spawn: The Dark Ages writer Steve Niles

Steve Niles first got noticed by a lot of people for his work on some Todd McFarlane Productions properties like Spawn: The Dark Ages. But the truth is, he's been working in and around comics for a lot longer than that. And now, suddenly, he finds himself front and center of a brewing controversy over the use of Miracleman in Hellspawn. It seemed time to get to the bottom of just who Steve Niles is, how he got to know Clive Barker, and why he refers to this interviewer as an "asshole"...in the friendliest sort of way, that is!

Ryall: Hey, Steve. First of all, thanks a lot for agreeing to this interview. How are ya?

Niles: Sleepy.

Ryall: Now, people have seen your name lately in regards to your work with TMP, but you've been working in comics for over ten years now, right?

Niles: Way over. Try more like 15.

Ryall: Did your foray into the comics world being with Arcane, Inc.? What exactly was that, and how long did it last?

Niles: Arcane grew out of my frustration as an amateur film-maker. I was in Washington DC at the time, playing music and trying to make these short black and white horror flicks. The problem was no money, no actors, and the end result were bad, bad movies. I started thinking about comics again (this when the black and white boom began and Dark Knight and Watchmen were about to come out) as a way to tell stories. One thing led to another. I was a lot braver back then and I would call anyone out of the blue. I wound up calling and meeting Clive Barker, John Bolton, Richard Matheson, Steve Bissette and tons of other people that I admired. The next thing I know I'm running a small comic company, I have the rights to Barker and Matheson stories, I'm doing limited edition lithographs of Barker's artwork, and I'm only like 19 or 20 years old. I was incredibly lucky.

Arcane put out three publications on our own: A first mystery book that will remain a mystery, FLY IN MY EYE and the Clive Barker Lithographs. Then I had a revelation...I was the worst business man to ever walk the earth! I hated being a publisher, and business end of things started to crumble rapidly. I wanted to write, or at the very least, package books, edit and whatnot.

Along came Eclipse Comics and my buds Dean, Fred Burke and Beau Smith. Dean offered to take me under his wing and help me out. Of course they got some great properties out of the deal including the remainder of the Barker Books of Blood stories, Matheson's I Am Legend and Fritz Lang's M, but in the end it worked out great for me too. I shut down Arcane proper and used the name as a shared imprint and then slowly it just faded away.

I wound up editing and adapting tons of the Barker books and got to work with some great people. Then Eclipse folded, refused to pay me the royalties they owed, and that was the end of that.

Ryall: How did you get involved with Eclipse Comics?

Niles: Dean stalked me at the San Diego Con, but when we got to talking we had a lot in common (most of which got us in trouble) and we struck up a partnership.

Ryall: You've worked on numerous adaptations of Clive Barker's work, such as Son of Celluloid with Les Edwards, Rawhead Rex with Lionel Talaro, Twilight at the Towers with Hector Gomez, Yattering and Jack with John Bolton...the list is pretty long. How did you become associated with adapting Barker's works? Have you ever met the man personally?

Niles: I met Clive way back. He is and was a very outgoing generous man and we became friends instantly. In those early years we hung out all the time, brainstorming ideas, putting projects together and drinking. There was a lot of drinking going on back then. To this day I'm still stunned that Clive handed over the rights to his story to this punk kid with no experience, just a big mouth, but he did and I probably owe my career to him.

These days Clive and I are both in LA and I run into him once in awhile. I recently hooked him up with some friends at DreamWorks Interactive and they put out a video game called The Undying. Clive is also doing some toys with Todd so I've been helping out, reading these very cool stories that Clive wrote to go with the toys.

Ryall: You've already worked with some big names in the past, artists as well as writers like Barker and Matheson. Tell us what it's like working with a legend like John Bolton, or Harlan Ellison.

Niles: I've worked with Ellison twice. The first time was for a film festival I helped organize and Ellison was the guest. Some jackass asked me to call Ellison and ask him if he minded changing dates so we could get Clive Barker on the bill. BIG MISTAKE.

Ellison screamed at me for a half an hour and said some things about Clive I will take to my grave. The next time I ran into Ellison was when Bob Schreck asked me to adapt some stories for Dream Corridor. I had no contact with him other than I heard he liked what I did, and I'm sure he never figured out I was the guy he screamed at years before.

Richard Matheson is my all time favorite writer. When I first put Arcane together I wrote him a letter and said that I really hated the way his book I Am Legend got treated on film (Last Man On Earth, Omega Man) and I wanted to do it right as a comic. He wrote back. Said yes and asked me for one hundred dollars for the rights. I was amazed, and the funny part was, I didn't have a hundred bucks. I had to borrow it, but I got it and I'm still proud of that series even though it's just an illustrated novel.

As for John Bolton, what can I say? The man is a saint. He is the kindest human I've met and one of the most talented. I've lost contacted over the last few years, but this is something I plan to remedy soon.

Ryall: On the adaptations you've worked on, did you have any choice in the selection of artists?

Niles: Most of the time I helped track down and hire the artists we used. Dean was always very cool about letting me do leg work and making contacts. Plus many of the artist, like John Bolton, were on board with me since Arcane Comix.

Ryall: You've also adapted one of Richard Matheson's vampire novels, and have spoken elsewhere about your admiration for Matheson and his book I Am Legend. As a big fan of Rod Serling's, I've also read a lot of Matheson's work and seen shows he's written. What is it about his work that really speaks to you personally?

Niles: I think Stephen King said it best when he said Matheson was the first writer to take horror and drag it into the light and the suburbs. He made horror real, plausible and by doing so, made it all the more terrifying. It's one thing to have a vampire living in a gothic castle in a far away land. Matheson made the vampire your neighbor. I can't say enough about Matheson. He writes so simply, sparingly and yet every word counts. I love him. Huge influence.

Ryall: Other influences you've cited are Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. What's your favorite work by each?

Niles: Poe, The Raven. King, while I love a lot of his stories, books, films, it was DANSE MACABRE that really set me off. This is King's non-fiction book (launched by the intro to Night Shift) where he explored horror and fantasy in his life through books and film. It was the first time I read something that spoke to me about what I liked, and it will always be my favorite King book.

Ryall: Have you always had a proclivity for horror works in both the material you read as well as what you write?

Niles: When I was really little I was shit-my-pants scared of every horror movie I saw, but I kept coming back. And I kept coming back until the fear change to love (that sounds bad doesn't it?).

I wish I could explain it, but I love horror. Now I see movies more than I read books. Horror novels have really taken a dive in the last decade and I lost interest. As far as my writing? I think it's just in me from years of cramming and scaring myself half to death.

The high-falutin' explanation is that I feel horror brings out our true inner feeling and that it releases us from our subconscious...ah fuck it. I just love monsters. I relate to them.

Ryall: Who else do you like in the genre?

Niles: Alan Moore did the best horror comic ever. His Swamp Thing still holds up. George Romero is a hero of mine. Tim Burton. E.C. Comics. Twisted Tales. Richard Corben. Bram Stoker. Do you really want to open this gate? It may never stop.

Ryall: Any recommendations of new writers that impress you?

Niles: Right now I'm on a two year James Ellroy binge. He's hardly new or horror, but he fucking rocks!

Ryall: I thought Danielewski's House of Leaves was an interesting read.

Niles: I'll check it out.

Ryall: What were your earlier aspirations for a career?

Niles: As a kid I wanted to do special make-up effects. I was little mister project-boy. I drew pictures, I blew things up and filmed them. I covered my friends heads with mound of clay and foam latex. Like I said earlier, comics came out of my frustration as a film-maker, but one thing led to another and here I am. Comics were always a part of my life, but until I fell into it I didn't know how much it would become a part.

Ryall: Did you always plan to write? If so, in what medium?

Niles: I wrote my first stories when I was eleven. They were stories about flesh-eating zombies attacking Washington D.C. I haven't really progressed that much.

Ryall: What I'm wondering is, as someone who's been heavily influenced by horror works, you had to look at the comics field and think, "well, there's not a lot of horror comics out there any more." Did you see that and think hey, you could fill a void, or take it as a sign that horror comics just weren't where the industry's head was at?

Niles: I did think that! Then BOOM! Out came Deadworld, Swamp Thing and then Hellblazer. I thought horror was new and fresh (there had only been Twisted Tales and a few other titles at the time), but as soon as I started my anthology Fly In My Eye, Steve Bissette started Taboo. Suddenly horror in comics went from nothing to and huge explosion. I get confused about what order everything happened but suddenly there were a lot of horror comics out there, but we had Clive Barker so we had the ringer.

One thing that was very nice about Fly In My Eye and Taboo co-existing was that Steve and I worked together. We had very different ideas for our books so we were able to help each other without any bullshit competition. Later I tried to do Rawhead Rex with Steve but that turned into a big mess. We aren't deadly enemies or anything, but he's said some stupid shit in the Comics Journal that pissed me off (Mud slinging!!! Mud Slinging!!).

Ryall: Now, with the ascent of DC's Vertigo line as well as smaller publishers branching out into horror works, do you think the marketplace is more amenable to comics with a horror theme, or just more diverse in general?

Niles: Comics are still overrun by super-heroes, stories for little boys, but we are finally starting to get a glimpse of other genres making an impact. Horror is just one of them. I'd like to see more crime books out there. It would be great if somebody could pull off a straight drama comic with NO weirdness. Dan Clowes comes close. Love and Rockets came a little closer, but nobody's really done it right yet. When that happens comics will be selling as impulse items in the supermarket. Can you image? Diversity is the only thing that can save comics. You go in comics stores these days and it's really sad. It's nothing but thirty year old guys arguing over who sucks and who doesn't suck. If I were a consumer outside the comic market and saw that, I would stay away!

Ryall: There's still a dearth of other genre comics out there, like war, westerns or romance, although all of those have begun a small resurgence, too. What is it about horror comics that make people want to read them? Do they just like to be scared? Stephen King always tries to tell stories of the most normal possible setting, and introduce a horror element into it.

Niles: Nobody gets scared reading a comic. Unless you can rig a spring-loaded chain-saw inside a book, it will never happen. What horror does best in comics is crawl under your skin and take you on a slow trip through a dark side you never thought possible. Horror works best when it lingers and makes someone look over their shoulder when they're walking from their car to the house. Get an idea in the head. That lasts forever regardless of format or genre.

Ryall: When you worked on adaptations of others' works, how much creative freedom did you have?

Niles: In all cases I had tons of freedom, but out of respect for the material, I never tried anything too radical. What I had to learn was when to drop the text and let the pictures do the talking. This was especially hard with Barker because he writes so beautifully that even when he describes someone walking through the door it would be tough to cut the text. I eventually figured it out, but if you look at I Am Legend versus say, Son of Celluloid, you can see a huge difference.

Ryall: Is adapting a work from a famous writer such as Barker as rewarding as writing your own scripts?

Niles: No, nothing beats writing your own stuff. Adapting is a job. Writing is statement (this is for Art Forum magazine isn't it?).

Ryall: At this point in your career, would you prefer to do both, or just write your own works?

Niles: I'd like to adapt a comic into a film. That would be a real challenge.

Ryall: What do you think your strongest skill as a writer is?

Niles: Since you asked, I'll toot my horn. I'm fast. I love to write, and I'm not afraid to change something once it's written. I'm not afraid to try something new. When I was first offered Spawn: The Dark Ages, my initial reaction was No Way! I've never been a fan of sword and sorcery so I thought I couldn't write it. Beau Smith told me to read a couple books, watch a couple movies and the next week I had a two year outline. That taught me not to be afraid of new material. Archie? Western? I'll try anything now.

Ryall: So, after working on these books for Fantaco and Eclipse, you began working for Todd McFarlane Productions. How did that come about? Did Todd come to you, or had you always wanted to work for a larger publisher?

Niles: I came in through the back door. Ted Adams hired me to write some articles for some TMP magazines. I interviewed Ozzy Osbourne, Paul Stanley and Peter Criss. I also wrote episode guides and interviewed Todd for a horror site I freelanced for. One thing led to another (including attending a TMP writer conference with Holguin, Bendis, Jenkins, Wood and Capullo!). The next thing I know, I get the famous call, "NILES. This is Todd McFarlane."

Ryall: Did you want to write Spawn for TMP? How did Spawn: The Dark Ages get offered to you? Was this a comic you also wanted to take a crack at? You've worked in the past on books with horror themes, but this seems to have been the first medireview book you've done?

Niles: I wanted to write anything I could get my hands on. Dark Ages was the first thing offered. It started of rough, but now I love it. I've become very attached to that big ugly bastard.

Ryall: You've now been on the title for over a year, after starting your run, and a new direction, on issue 15. How has it been working on a monthly title?

Niles: I love it. I wish I worked on ten titles. The one thing I like to do is write WAY ahead and then watch the books happen.

Like I said Dark Ages has really grown on me. The lead character Covenant is so much different than Al Simmons. He's like a kid, eager to learn and grow.

Ryall: For the uninitiated out there, can you give a quick synopsis of the book? What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Niles: The basic pitch is that a Hellspawn is spawned ever few hundred years and this is the one born to the year 901 AD. What I wanted to accomplish was to tell a Hellspawn story without repeating the Al Simmons story. I think I've done it, and I hope to carry the series on until it can be resolved. The story has an ending and I'd love to see it happen.

Ryall: The art by Nat Jones and Kevin Conrad is very much in a TMP style, yet I've also found he works great at conveying big battle scenes and really playing up the horror aspects of the title. How does the collaboration between the two of you work?

Niles: I write the scripts and then he does whatever the hell he wants, then I fix it before lettering. Nat's a bastard.

I'm kidding. Nat and I have a great working relationship. I write complete scripts, but I'm not some nazi who draws layouts for him. I describe things as best I can. He takes crack at it. Most of the time it works out great. I think I've asked for one art change in ten issues. Nat did this helmet that made Spawn look like a satanic water buffalo. We changed that.

Ryall: What's up next in the book? When will we find out just who the Beast of the Wood is? Niles: Oh yeah. It's coming very soon and it's gonna be a big, bloody mess.

Ryall: Well, I guess we should head into rougher waters now-by default, your name has been bandied about quite a bit lately in regards to varying controversies with TMP.

Niles: Controversies? What controversies?

Ryall: There was the Bendis situation and now Miracleman. If nothing else, your name is getting pretty well-known!

Niles: Yeah. Great. Thanks.

Ryall: First, let's talk about Brian Bendis and the title Hellspawn. It was pretty publicly known that Bendis was removed from the book in the middle of his run, and that his final two issues were pretty heavily rewritten, something he claims was done unbeknownst to him at first.

Niles: I can only speak for myself and I can say this; I didn't re-write anybody. I wrote to artwork based on outlines and conversations. Period.

Ryall: Did you have any prior relationship with Bendis?

Niles: We used to summer together, but then he ran off and got married. I really don't want to talk about it.

Ryall: Did you feel any obligation to tell him what was going on with the title?

Niles: No more than he feels an obligation to tell me what's happening in Powers.

Ryall: How did you come to take over the book in the first place?

Niles: Bendis was off the book (pick a story, any story!). They asked me if I wanted to write it and I said yes.

Ryall: How much of Bendis' original direction for the book did you follow?

Niles: Not one bit. I don't think Bendis ever had a handle on Spawn as a character. (this is not a slam. Bendis is a great writer, so stay off the message boards! And that means you too GriffinMill! :)). I think he wanted to change him instead of figure out what he was about. I think I get Spawn because I like Spawn. He's a great character who is ever-changing and searching to find out what he will become. I like that. I like the fact that he isn't easily defined. I think others have had a hard time with that concept.

Ryall: Bendis has talked about how, even though he's credited with part of the story on Hellspawn 6, he not only didn't write it, but that he was re-written without his knowledge. When you were given the title, was it an editorial dictate from above that certain portions of the story be re-worked to transition into future stories (ie.: the return of Cy-Gor, etc.)? How do you balance an assignment from your employer versus knowing you'll be having to rewriting someone you know?

Niles: Like I said. I never saw a script. I saw art pages and I had to make them work. Those first few issues were tough because Bendis' departure was so sudden. I think people need to chill about this. It was no big deal, just a team trying to get a book out with what they had.

Ryall: What about Sam & Twitch? I see they've shown up in your Hellspawn arc, albeit in sections written by Todd, and it was first rumored that you, and not McFarlane himself, would take over that title as well. Was that ever close to happening?

Niles: Nope. Todd wanted S&T from the get-go. He's really in the crime writing frame of mind and I think he was eager to take on writing.

Ryall: So, on Hellspawn, you weather that storm and finish the initial storyline. And now the community, at least the on-line community is up in arms over the return of Miracleman.

Niles: People really need to get a fucking life. Just listen to that phrase; "up in arms over the return of Miracleman". Christ, it's nobody's business but THOSE INVOLVED, and so far nobody involved is up in arms. Of course C.C. Beck is dead, so what'd ya gonna do? This is a very complicated issue and it's just being muddied by people who think that they have a say in what happens. This is what the online world has created; a weird sort of mutant-fan who thinks they have the right to butt their nose into anything they see fit because they will or won't spend $2.50 on a book.

Ryall: Do you ever feel like you've done something to offend Todd? What next, him asking you to pitch at Barry Bonds' head to ensure his baseball collection retains its value?

Niles: I could strike out Barry Bonds.

Ryall: Seriously, the Miracleman issue has turned into quite a powder keg, to continue my use of cliches (SEE: "weather the storm"). Neil Gaiman, a fan favorite, has been vocal about how the rights to the character belong to him. And Todd has been equally vocal, and more abrasively so, that the character is his. How do you view the issue?

Niles: Oh yeah, you'd like to know wouldn't you? Ha!

I'll say this though, I'm disappointed with Neil. Instead of attempting to settle things like an adult, he's resorted to whining in public and taking it out on Ashley, me and the fans. It's really sad.

Ryall: Is it just another job?

Niles: Well, honestly, it is. At the end of the day, art aside, I'm doing it for the check. I'm sure as hell not doing it to be popular!

Ryall: Did Todd come to you to put Mike Moran into the comic or was this your idea? (cue ominous music)

Niles: Here's the thing about me discussing my opinions on the topic (and I do have them!). It's not my place to add wood to the fire. There are things here that need to be settled between those involved and anything I say will just fan the flame. So, lame-ass fire analogies aside, I'll only comment about the areas I feel involve me.

Ryall: You've been put in a rather difficult spot throughout all of this, in that decisions Todd makes for TMP come out bearing your name on the masthead. Do you ever feel like a scapegoat or just a human shield for all the epithets thrown at Todd? Or do you feel the issues have been overblown? Niles: Is this about Miracleman or Todd? I think it has more to do with Todd, and how people feel about him (And for the record, I'd like to say that Todd's been unbelievably cool to me. He's tough, but that's part of what I like about him).

The issue has definitely been overblown (the Miracleman hot-potato as Alan Moore referred to it I believe). This falls under the same problem I have with readers views of TMP and the books they publish. Don't hate us because you hate Todd. If this logic stands then apply it to the rest of your life. Ted Turner is a crazy-man so don't watch TNT or TBS or watch the Braves. Michael Eisner is a nazi prick who pisses on his employees (or those that are left) from his office window, so don't watch or buy anything from Disney and that includes ABC and ESPN.

I will write Miracleman as I write anything else. In fact I already completed the arc because I didn't want all this hubbub distracting me. All I ask is that people judge the book for what it is. You hate it, don't buy it. You like it, buy it.

This is the nature of the beast. People wouldn't be this mad if it wasn't Todd. It's very stupid actually.

Ryall: How do you approach writing a character like Miracleman (or at least, his alter ego thus far)? Many people have only heard revered things about Moore's creation but maybe not had a chance to read any of his stories. Did you read all the existing comics prior to writing him, or is this Mike Moran character a bit different than what was written in the past?

Niles: I read them when they first came out. Great stuff. Brilliant. I approach the character the same way I would approach any other character, with blind, raging disregard for it's history.

I'm kidding, of course. I'm happy with what I've done, and I hope the readers are too.

Ryall: Ashley Wood is one of the more dynamic artists working in comics today. Niles: You got that right.

Ryall: He also doesn't seem to tell a story exactly in the typical linear fashion. His work is much more expressive than that. Is writing to his style a challenge, or do you write a script the same as you would any, and let him interpret as he may?

Niles: When I write for Ashley I feel like anything is possible. Sometimes when I write I'll stop and go Wait this is too much, it's too weird, but with Ashley it never happens.

Ryall: So..taking over for Bendis...bringing back Miracleman...how do you follow this? Resurrect Bucky Barnes? What's next for you? I know you've written a couple issues of the main Spawn title as well. Was that a one-time (well, two-time) thing only?

Niles: I'm working on a few things, but nothing I can talk about just yet.

Ryall: How do you approach the main Spawn title versus Hellspawn? What's the difference in tone between the two books, and is there any difference between the character of Spawn that appears in both title?

Niles: I can't speak for Spawn except the two issues I wrote. My approach was much more of a superhero while in Hellspawn I treat Spawn as an evolving monster of sorts. Spawn is dangerous in Hellspawn, dangerous and unpredictable. Also, the subjects and language are geared for an older audience which I find nice because it allows me to go places you can't in the main Spawn title. It also faces up to the fact that there aren't many kids reading comics any more, so I feel like I'm writing to a more mature audience.

Ryall: You're also working on the screenplay for Spawn 2. How's that coming? Other than being slowed by these never-ending interview questions, I mean.

Niles: It's going great. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised.

Ryall: You and Todd are currently listed as co-writers on iMDB.com. How are you both going about working on this script?

Niles: We developed the outline together, then we take turns writing the actual script. We just pass it back and forth, and talk, until it feels right. We've done this on several projects now and it's works very well.

Ryall: Todd has said this movie will be more of a straight horror flick, with Spawn more in the background. How do you see it? How do you view the character overall?

Niles: Even when Spawn's in the background, he demands attention. The story we are working on involves Spawn down to the last detail, but you won't see the superhero action antics of the first movie.

Ryall: Have you completed a first draft of the film?

Niles: There is a finished draft, but there's still work to be done.

Ryall: What do you hope to say with this movie that the first one might have missed?

Niles: Spawn has been rotting in the alleys for over five years now, which means he's been dead for over ten. The past is the past. Now Spawn has become an eerie presence, a mystery to be discovered. In this story we would like to show what happens when different people come in contact with that presence, and/or try to exploit it.

Ryall: Speaking of movies, what did you think of the first Spawn movie? What about current flicks, anything that has made an impact?

Niles: Three favs right now are Requiem For A Dream, Best In Show and I just watched Unbreakable. I liked it. I also really enjoyed Memento.

Ryall: Do you have aspirations to write additional screenplays? Or works in other mediums, such as novels, teleplays, short stories, etc.?

Niles: I want to do it all.

Ryall: Tell us all one thing about Todd McFarlane that may not be so well-known. He's taken a lot of shots lately for his business practices, his ruthless nature, his abrasive comments. Yet at the end of the day, things are never as simple as they're portrayed (especially in the on-line world). What's the best thing about working with him?

Niles: The best thing about working for Todd is that he works like a madman and he doesn't even really need to work. He does what he does out of enthusiasm. He listens to ideas and he gives me plenty of space to work.

Ryall: What are your feelings on the on-line world that now has instantaneous comments on every facet of what goes on? Has the industry lost some of its mystique by allowing fans to know so much about the behind-the-scenes machinations? Before, it used to be that a good story was a good story, whether the creators were secretly harangued by Jim Shooter or not. Now, bad press about a creator can kill fan interest in a story undeservedly.

Niles: When they like me I love it, when they slam me I have a hard time. I hate the fact that some guy living in his parents basement can ruin my day because he is suddenly brave behind the mask of his online ID. It's a definite love/hate thing for me. While I enjoy the contact, I do think that fans are getting a bit too emotionally involved in things that don't really concern them.

Ryall: You've written columns on horror comics for Universal Studios, was it? What is it about writing an opinion column that you liked versus writing fiction? Would you ever do it again, when time allowed?

Niles: I felt strange writing reviews because I didn't really think it was my place to sway a person to buy something or not. I always tried to take the approach of describing something as best I could and letting the reader decide for themselves, unless I really hated something, then I'd tear it to shreds. I supposed I'd do it again, but the only reason I did reviews in the past was for the work.

Ryall: Now, you've also done some work for publishers like Dark Horse Comics (Steve wrote Cal McDonald's Monster Mysteries for Dark Horse Presents) Would you ever want to write for the "big two", Marvel or DC?

Niles: Sure I would. I lean towards Marvel because that's the stuff I grew up reading, the characters I know best. The only character at DC I really love is Batman (big surprise.) and I'd love to take a crack at him someday.

Ryall: Is there any existing Marvel or DC character you've always wanted to write?

Niles: The Hulk or the Thing.

Ryall: What existing title do you think you'd be a good fit on?

Niles: Hmmm, that's a tough one. I think Batman would be fun. I love the Fantastic Four, but really there's no one character that I could choose. Half the challenge is taking on something and seeing what kind of spin you can put on it.

Ryall: What comics creators do you admire, and/or most want to collaborate with?

Niles: Well, Kirby is the all-time best. I can't get enough of him. Today I like Alan Moore, Miller and Ellis. I've been picking up Jenkins stuff here and there and I like what I've read. Grant Morrison got me to buy an X-Men title so that says a lot.

Ryall: And now that we've covered comics and movies, let's talk briefly about music. What was this band Gray Matter you were in? Sounds a bit like an Oingo Boingo cover band to me.

Niles: Like I never heard that before...asshole.

Well sonny-boy, way back in the early eighties, before you were born, there was this thing called punk rock and within punk there was a thing called D.C. Hardcore. Gray Matter was a band that started in High School and we never stopped. We put out four records, toured the US and Europe. We were just friends having fun and it lasted ten years. Good times. Good times. :)

Ryall: What did you do in the band? Do you still play any music?

Niles: I played bass and sometimes guitar. I was also in charge of throwing-up before every show. I don't play music now, but recently the singer from Gray Matter moved out to LA, so who knows.

Ryall: What bands do you listen to currently?

Niles: I listen to a lot of Beatles and Rolling Stones. I love Tool, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Raging Slab, Primus, Budgie and my wife is a major Beck freak, so that makes me a fan to. I try to pick up new stuff here and there, but it gets hard as I get older. Now I run up to kids on the street and yell Tell me what's cool! What's good because I've been cut off!!!!!

Ryall: Is there a certain music you listen to while writing?

Niles: As long as it doesn't have lyrics, I'm fine. Lyrics distract me. Soundtracks mostly. I like the drama and emotion.

Ryall: Lastly, what's next for Steve NILES?

Niles: If this interview ever ends I'm going to go to the bathroom.

Ryall: Anything beyond your Spawn-related work?

Niles: I've written several original film scripts, a novel, short stories and a bazillion outlines and pitches. Something will be happening soon. I just don't know what just yet.

Ryall: Want to give us a preview of any upcoming story-lines in your books?

Niles: No.

Ryall: Well, I think I've slowed the script for Spawn 2 long enough, Steve. But I want to thank you very much for taking the time to answer all of these questions and get into some tough topics. Any parting words?

Niles: Just this. Everybody start using your REAL NAME on the messageboards. It only makes it worse when Punisher213 says you suck.

And in closing I'd like to say thanks to Chris Ryall. Maybe he'll tell you all how we met. It's pretty funny and shows us that something good can come out of online culture besides slander and calling for boycotts.



Side note: Well, I'd like to say the meeting took place under the stars, soft music playing and...wait, wrong Forum...okay, quick story: the aforementioned Chris Ryall referenced Steve's work as the punchline of a joke to Brian Bendis on his message board...it was incidental use of his name since he followed Brian's work on Hellspawn and not intended to be mean-spirited. Steve commented on this jokingly, and we got to talking from there. Just the fact that Steve even checked out Bendis' board, regularly, with some of the anti-Spawn sentiment that gets kicked around there, shows that he has a good sense of humor and doesn't take this stuff too seriously. A lesson a lot of people could learn. So I encourage you all to trash-talk creators, you never know where it might lead! (God, please let people take that last line tongue-in-cheek...)

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