Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Steve Niles & Horror

I’ve read a lot of the horror comics from iconic horror writer Steve Niles from his most influential creation 30 Days of Night (which is finally going to an ongoing series) to his sinister Savage and The Nail to the more somber Freaks of the Heartland and comedic exploits of The Cryptics and the noire stories of Cal McDonald in Criminal Macabre.  Niles gets around.  Not all of his stories are masterpieces (i.e. I didn’t generally enjoy Giant Monster or The Ghoul) but there is no denying that he strives to tell stories different from everyone else in the field.

One of my personal favorites of his is his epic adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic I Am Legend.  Despite the fact that I was first introduced to his work with the original 30 Days of Night series it wasn’t until I read his version of I Am Legend that I truly became a fan.  He’s the only one to truly get to the meat and potatoes of Matheson’s story and present it in a faithful way; not one of the three film versions have been able to do this yet.  Its amazing detail in story structure and execution is hands down spotless and brings out the nuances of Matheson’s story like few others have ever been able to do with the author’s material. 
Niles has done other adaptations of other authors work including Clive Barker and Bram Stoker (Dracula) and H.G. Wells (The War of the Worlds) and Mary Shelley (Frankenstein, Or the Modern day Prometheus), to name a few and he has taken some liberties with the material (not always for the best). 

Most horror writers find a niche and stick with it but Niles weaves in and out of all types of genre stories refusing to be pigeonholed into any one sub-group.  It would have been easy for Niles to have continued doing hardcore violent horror stories after the success of 30 Days of Night but instead he’s done dramatic horror with Freaks of the Heartland and comedy The Cryptics and even a giant monster story inspired by Godzilla in the form of Giant Monster and he’s even tackled Bigfoot in his series Bigfoot.  

Niles is a professional at crafting entertaining stories whether they be horror or not.  I just recently read The Cryptics (I got to it late since it was one of his series that didn’t look all that appealing to me at first because of its comic overtones).  It’s an inspired collection of short stories based around the offspring of the classic movie monsters (Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s monster, Dr.Jeckle & Mr. Hyde, and the Creature) as they go about their daily lives living in the suburbs.  Not all the stories hit their mark but there are a couple that are quite funny but the thing that struck me the most is that as standalone stories they can be just moderately entertaining but by the time I got to the last couple stories I had really gotten into the lives of these characters and found the stories more entertaining because of how much “character” Niles incorporated into the series as a whole.  If you can get past the fact that this is meant to be a coming of age comedy and not a monster free for all then you’ll enjoy the series as much as I did (I enjoyed it more the second time I read it).   Despite the types of stories he does (the horror genre), Niles’ stories are always about the characters within which is why he is so able to maneuver from one type to the next.  As long as he writes good characters then every story (no matter how strange or unusual it may be) will always be entertaining and good.

If you’ve never read a Niles story before than any of the ones I’ve mentioned above are a good start but there are plenty of others to get your hands on such as City of Others, Epilogue, Doc Macabre, The Lurkers, and many, many more.  All have their own unique take on both classic and modern horror stories and all are worth taking a look at.

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