Fans in attendance at Friday night’s “Dark Horse Builds Characters” panel had the opportunity to hear from one of the longest-standing independent comic companies about a host of subjects. These ranged from creative directions for 2015 along with a sort of “state of creator-owned comics” from Dark Horse creators such as Joelle Jones (Lady Killer), Jeff Lemire (Black Hammer), Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, (Harrow County), and Curt Pires (POP). This also included some surprise announcements regarding new titles coming out later in 2015 including Mark Miller, Joe Lansdale, and Piotr Kowalski’s The Steam Man #1.
Mark Miller spoke with Newsarama to discuss his upcoming comic with fellow collaborators, Joe Lansdale and Piotr Kowalski.
Newsarama: Mark, what led you, Joe, and Piotr to The Steam Man?
Mark Miller: A while back, us here at Seraphim Films connected with Joe and he said some very nice words about a previous comic book I was writing with Clive Barker called Next Testament. I’ve been reading Joe’s work since about as long as I could hold up a book, so to receive a blurb like that from him was very exciting. I thanked him and asked how he felt about the idea of me adapting something of his. I ran a few of my favorite Lansdale stories by him and the one we both landed on was Steam Man.
I brought the idea to Dark Horse editor Daniel Chabon, whom Seraphim has a relationship with, and he loved the idea. He asked how we felt about Piotr. What some people might not realize is that there’s another connection there. Piotr drew Nightbreed, so we had worked with him before. Knowing that he was a) a dream to work with and b) just about the best artist working today made it a no brainer.
The whole thing came together through a series of happy connections.
Nrama: Can you give us a little background on The Steam Man? It seems like it’s something of a nod to Cowboys and Aliens set in a steam punk world. What can you tell us about this series?
Miller: It’s a bit more the other way around, actually. Joe’s original short story upon which the comic is based (“The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider Get Down”) was first printed well before Cowboys and Aliens or Pacific Rim were part of the zeitgeist. It’s a completely mondo story that I first read in the Subterranean Press book, Mad Dog Summer and Other Stories. It comes completely out of left field and when I began to understand what Joe was doing with the story, my jaw dropped. I was hooked and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since.
It’s perfect for visual adaptation and I think Piotr has done some of the best work of his career so far. It’s wholly original, and if people find it as much fun to read in comic form as I found it as a short story, then they’re in for a real treat.
Nrama: Were there other sources of inspirations for you and your fellow collaborators? What were they?
Miller: Oh absolutely. The book is an amalgam of inspirations. It’s a loving mash up of old dime novels and science fiction and fantasy. The original story drew primarily from old west dime novels about steam-powered men. These are real! Stories like “The Steam Man of the Prairies,” and “The Steam Man of the Plains,” or “The Huge Hunter” – they’re all mostly forgotten, but are pretty easy to find if you just do a little digging. And so Joe, inspired by this and his other favorite stories growing up, created this blend that has a little bit of everything. It’s scary as hell, funny, and nothing short of an example of an imagination unbound. I can say these things because I didn’t create it. That’s all Joe. I’m just the one that was lucky enough to adapt it.
Nrama: Genre mashups can be a bit of a “hit or miss” thing. Taking two divergent fields like sci-fi and spaghetti Westerns is certainly a bit risky. How do you think The Steam Man makes a strong case for itself to new readers?
Miller: It’s firmly rooted in classic literature. That’s all I can say without giving too much away. But it’s important, because it ensures that the story isn’t just another hodgepodge of disposable ideas. Steam Man takes the best and lasting aspects of the fantastic, and weaves them together in a brutal, innovative way. After reading, I think you’ll find out why the original short story haunted me long after reading it.
Nrama: What sort of reader are you targeting with this comic?
Miller: I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be intrigued by this. It’s full of emotion, humor, tension, and adventure. That, and the fact that its roots are indeed embedded into the solid foundation of some favorite fantastical literary masterpieces, I think, add up to something that just about anyone can enjoy.
That being said, the story is unflinchingly violent, so if you’re squeamish, just read it with one eye open.
Nrama: When will the first issue be available? Is this going to be a mini-series or has Dark Horse given it the greenlight as a new ongoing?
Miller: We’re looking at a 5 issue mini, and the first issue hits stands in October, just in time for Halloween.