‘Joe Golem’ Writer Christopher Golden: The Horror News Network Interview

by Nick Banks

Christopher Golden is well-known to fans of horror comics and novels.  He has worked with Mike Mignola on several projects including prose adaptations of Hellboy and other characters such as Captain Baltimore and Joe Golem that started on the written page and have since received second leases on life in the form of comic series from Dark Horse. He has also worked on a wide variety of popular television and film properties writing novels based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sons of Anarchy, and Alien just to name a few. Horror News Network was able to recently conduct an interview with Golden and discussed his current series Joe Golem: The Outer Dark, his latest novel Ararat, and a “small project” he is involved in called Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen.

Horror News Network: Joe Golem originated in an illustrated novel collaboration between you and Mike Mignola.  Were there any challenges in bringing the character into the world of comics?

Christopher Golden:  Only challenges in the best possible sense. The world we created for the novel is huge and sprawling, full of crazy ideas that you only get a glimpse of while reading the novel. Even while the book was being written, we had a much bigger picture in mind going forward and backward in time, as well as exploring these characters in greater depth at at greater length. It screamed for a more fully illustrated exploration, and comics were the obvious next step. The big challenge was in choosing an artist who could really bring the world to life, and Patric Reynolds has done an extraordinary job of that.

HNN: How do you like working in a horror-noir style for the series?

Golden:  Like a kid in a candy shop. I grew up on horror and its still nearest to my heart, but I also have a deep, abiding love for noir, particularly on film. Bogart and Robert Mitchum and other hard-nosed private eyes are big influences on my view of Joe. I think I described him once as a boxer who’d had his nose broken too many times, and that’s definitely the Mitchum image in my head. I recently watched an old noir from 1947 called Out Of The Past, in which Mitchum plays a private eye who’s retired and changed his name and is hiding away in a small time when he’s dragged back into a web of violence by his old life and a beautiful woman. You could add supernatural evil to that and make it twice as great, but it’s a fantastic noir.

HNN: In the second Joe Golem series the Outer Dark, Joe’s girlfriend Lori addresses the question about the origins of the Golem and the Jewish roots of the monster in folklore and legend.  How are you working with standard traits and adding your own twist to the monster?

Golden:  According to folklore about golems, the first was Adam. He was made from clay, before God made him a man. That’s where we get the “from dust to dust” concept. Within the world of Joe Golem, the earliest magical rituals needed to create a golem did come from ancient Jewish mysticism and were later incorporated into the forbidden magic taught to a secret sect of what I’d consider benevolent magicians of a variety of faiths and practices. Lori’s referring to the most famous golem legend, that of the 16th century “golem of Prague.” The idea here is to treat that as real, and that in Joe’s world it’s just like in ours, that it’s the golem story people know…but that there have been others, and that although the magic may be rooted in Jewish mysticism, other mystics have forged golems at various times in history. The idea of Joe Golem is an exploration of humanity. Adam was nothing but clay until he became human, but in time he became clay again. Dust to dust. With Joe, we’re looking at that arc, at what the difference is between a human being and a thing of clay or dirt. There’s also a major, major Pinocchio “real boy” element, not just in the stories we’ve written, but in the background of everything we want to do.

HNN: Simon Church walks the line between friend and “keeper”.  What do you find interesting about Simon as a character and this line he straddles with Joe?

Golden: Like so many people, he’s compromised his principles for what he considers the greater good, not just for the world, but for Joe himself. The trouble with living that way is that every time you cross a line, no matter the reason, it gets easier to cross the next one. He tells himself that he’s doing what’s best for Joe, but there’s a point at which he has to ask himself how much is for Joe, and how much is from his own terror of being alone. If he’s doing it for Joe, he can forgive himself, but if he ever decides it’s just been selfishness all along, he’d never be able to live with that. 

HNN: Another character that you transported from the world of novels to comics was Baltimore. Your latest Baltimore series The Red Kingdom wraps in June.  Will we see more adventures of the Captain’s crew in the future?

Golden: Hmm. Well, I’d suggest you wait and see whether any of them are still alive at the end of the story, and then ask me again.

HNN: You recently published a new novel entitled Ararat.  How does Ararat fit in with the rest of your body of work in terms of themes and style?

Golden:  The stories I love the most are the ones in which I can take ordinary people and put them into heightened situations, moments of terror and desperation in which they must reveal who they really are at their core. Thematically, Ararat is about a lot of things, not least of which is the way perspective—including religious perspective—can so easily divide us when we need one another the most, and yet these characters are by and large very respectful of one another’s differences and beliefs, and I think we’re capable of that if we want to be. I don’t want to preach, but it’s there.  Style-wise, you’d have to ask my critics. Some will say the emphasis on atmosphere over physical detail is a detriment, others will say it makes the story creepier and more compelling. I just do what I do and hope people enjoy it.

HNN: What was is like working on the upcoming “mosaic” novel Indigo with a slew of other notable authors?

Golden:  Like herding the proverbial cats. It was halfway a blast and halfway torture. I was the fool who came up with the idea, so I ended up being the sort of editor and author-wrangler. I love this book.  Indigo is superhero-horror-fantasy-action-thriller-noir.  I was at a bar at DragonCon with Jonathan Maberry, Cherie Priest, James A. Moore, and Kat Richardson, and foolishly shared that I’d always wanted to do a sort of round robin novel, where authors took turns writing chapters—nobody writing two in a row, and with no names on the individual chapters. A true collaborative novel (not an anthology—not at all). I said I even had the bones of an idea, and that became Indigo. I recruited Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, Seanan McGuire, Mark Morris, and Tim Lebbon.  The end result is an absolute blast, just cool, pulpy, grim-as-hell fun, but I will *never* do another one of these. The amount of work involved is staggering.

HNN: Many fans were obviously excited to hear that you worked on the script for the upcoming Hellboy film Rise of the Blood Queen.  Can you share any information with us about this new feature or how you became involved in the project?

Golden: Can I tell you anything about the script?  Of course not.  But as to how I got involved in it…I was on the phone with Mike several times in the project’s infancy and he was trying to work some things out.  After a while, I just sort of offered to take a crack at it if he wanted me to, and he said “I was hoping you’d say that,” like he’d been hinting at it but I’d been missing the hints. As if he was worried it might be an imposition. I mean, of course I wanted to work on the script.  I’d write a dozen of them if I could.

Joe Golem: the Outer Dark #1, Baltimore: the Red Kingdom, and Ararat are currently on sale at your local comic shop and finer book sellers everywhere.

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