Steve Niles hard-boiled detective Cal McDonald has stalked the four color world of comics (and novels) since 1990, solving cases, killing monsters, and upsetting both human and non-human characters alike.
For his latest misadventure, Niles has teamed up with artist Gyula Németh for a tale involving a beautiful vampire and a very premature retirement called Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out. Niles and Németh sat down with Horror News Network to discuss the new Dark Horse mini-series as well as what has kept Cal going all of these years.
Horror News Network: Cal McDonald is a bit “worse for wear” at the start of the new series. What has Cal been up to?
Steve Niles: Well, that’s actually the story itself—why Cal is found in such a bad state. So you’ll need to read the comic to find out why!
HNN: How do you combine the supernatural with the noir elements of the detective story in a Call McDonald mystery?
Gyula Németh: It is a real artistic dream to work on this story because I love both noir and horror aesthetics. Dark alleyways, sewers, run down buildings are always very rewarding to draw, and these places are pretty common in both noir and horror stories. These two dark genres could blend very well but I tried to avoid tropes wherever I could. I only used window blinds shadows once.
HNN: How does Gyula’s artwork bring out both the supernatural and noir elements?
Niles: Gyula’s art is perfect for Cal. His use of high contrast, and dark brush strokes really capture the style of Criminal Macabre. He’s got a full range of technique, from full black shadow to the little details in Cal’s expression, to the color work, he brought it all out in great form.
HNN: Mo’Lock is a beloved character by fans. What is his appeal in your eyes?
Niles: Mo’Lock was based on a character from Arsenic and Old Lace, played by Raymond Massey. If you’ve seen the movie, I think you get where I was coming from. But Mo’Lock is a much more refined version, he’s frightening and deadly but in all honesty, he wouldn’t want to hurt a fly. He’s the monster you can bring home for dinner.
Németh: I really think he was the very first undead or monster detective in pop-culture. Not only that but he has a very nice, calm attitude contrasting Cal’s vehement, aggressive approach. A really fun character to draw. When I was drawing zombies as a little kid, I couldn’t even dream about drawing a zombie detective as a grown up. You can do whatever you want with a zombie. You don’t want to draw a nose? Fine. Red eyes? No eyes? Anything goes. But still, I wanted to draw him as sort of like an English gentleman in a bad shape.
HNN: Is there a monster that you haven’t yet included in a Cal McDonald story that you’d like to incorporate?
Németh: Although this is Steve’s table, I’m always all ears when it comes to monsters. Monsters are a liberating, fun thing to draw, as I mentioned with Mo’Lock. There’s a nice mixture of nice and gnarly monsters in this story, and I’m sure Steve is always ready to throw a in brand new creature for Cal.
Niles: Gyula’s’s spot on. I never know who or what I’ll bring into a Cal story until he/she/it comes along.
HNN: The Big Bleed Out has the classic femme fatale at the center of the story. How is Victoria typical and atypical?
Niles: She’s classic, for sure. She’s refined, she’s fatally attractive… and smarter than Cal by miles. She just happens to be a monster, that’s where she’s a little different.
HNN: Any plans to adapt Cal for other mediums? Future projects?
Niles: Always plans in the works, but we’ll see if anything happens. I’d love to see a Cal McDonald TV series.
Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out #1 goes on sale on December 11 at finer comic book stores everywhere.