30 Days of Night is the little horror comic that could. After its astonishing initial success, writer Steve Niles and artist Ben Templesmith’s brainchild has spawned a run of well-reviewed sequels and spin-offs – oh, and yeah, a hit movie.
What started in the small Alaskan town Barrow has become a certifiable phenomenon, and 30 Days is about to reach a new high. Eisner Award-winning creator David Lapham – yeah, the guy who brought you the nastiness of Stray Bullets – is preparing to bring his distinct vision to 30 Days’s brand of vampire tale.
30 Days ‘Til Death, a five-issue miniseries written and penciled by Lapham, debuts later this year. When one vampire on the run from the vampire council hides out in an apartment building in upstate New York, you can expect a nasty, bloody mess for everybody involved.
We spoke to Lapham about his take on the 30 Days, what this means for his ongoing Vertigo series Young Liars, and what’s up with his most famous creation.
Newsarama: David, what got you involved with the 30 Days franchise?
David Lapham: I was talking to Scott Dunbier at IDW about doing some work, and he mentioned they were opening up the 30 Days franchise and would I be interested in doing a vampire story.
Hell yeah, I said.
NRAMA: How much can you tell us about the story of your miniseries, 30 Days ‘Til Death?
DL: One of the threads that really intrigued me about the series was the idea of the vampires wanting to remain hidden, keeping themselves on the down low. In the original graphic novel of 30 Days there’s a split between the elder vampires, who realize the importance of this, and the “newer breeds,” who are more gung ho. The basic set up is that the elders are getting fed up and organize kill squads to come to America and “thin the heard.” My story focuses on one vamp named Rufus who escapes the kill squad once and decides the only way to survive is to live “off the radar.” How does he do this? How does he blend in and still satisfy his kill cravings? What kind of life does he create? What will he do to protect it? Will he be found out, etc.?
NRAMA: Vampires are, traditionally anyway, the villain, and the 30 Days vamps are certainly known for their hunting ways. You’re choosing of focus on a vampire vs. vampire tale; how do you approach writing a horror story when the hero is a bloodsucker himself?
DL: Rufus is only a hero by way of comparison to what’s going on around him. He’s also the underdog, so that gains a certain amount of interest and sympathy, but make no mistake, he is a vampire. When it comes down to it, he’s a horror show.
NRAMA: Were you interested in telling a vampire story?
DL: Sure. How much fun is that? These are not traditional vampires with all the usual vampire rules. They’re just vicious creatures. Writing wise, it’s a no-holds-barred situation. I can be as nasty and vile as I want to be. Horror plays well into what I like to do, which is to manipulate emotions, scare—really hit readers in the gut. It’s very close to noir.
NRAMA: Your lead vamp takes shelter in a fully occupied apartment building in upstate New York. I always wonder in horror situations like this, why doesn’t everyone just leave the building once they realize something dangerous is up?
DL: Seems logical if it happened that way, but it doesn’t. It’s about how Rufus fits in, not about how he goes door to door saying “boo!” Things do hit the fan eventually, but then it happens hard and fast.
NRAMA: Gotcha. David, the original 30 Days of Night was based on the elegant high concept of vampires in northern Alaska, where the sun is below the horizon for a month. How does your story fit into the 30 Days universe, rather than being just a stand-alone vampire tale?
DL: Yes, that story was about the Barrow, but opening up the universe to other creators necessarily leads to all different kinds of stories. And the world Niles and Templesmith set up wasn’t just about vampires in Alaska, but vampires existing all over the world hiding behind their own myth. And as I said before, I do try and play off of and expand upon concepts already established by the creators.
NRAMA: Were you a fan of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s original 30 Days of Night?
DL: I was aware of it of course, and had read the original series and seen the film, but I didn’t immerse myself in it and read all the sequels until after speaking with Scott Dunbier and then Steve Niles. They’re very quick reads, fun, and very addicting.
NRAMA: You’re drawing 30 Days ‘til Death, correct? Does this mean you’re still substantially ahead on your Young Liars deadlines?
DL: Yes, I’m drawing it. Young Liars is well in hand at this point. We’ll see what happens when it’s –hopefully—time to schedule year two.
NRAMA: While we’re on the subject, quickly, from you perspective, how has reaction to Young Liars been so far, and any teases as to what’s next for Sadie and Danny?
DL: From my perspective it’s been great. It’s really given me a charge to be doing something that really comes out of me. I so much love all the real and surreal elements I can bring to it. It’s the closest I’ve come to the phrase “it writes itself.” As far as teases…I’ll say, “Beware the spiders!” Things get incredibly crazy in the second arc. We find out a lot more about the characters pasts and the present takes some big unexpected twists. I mean, people have been telling me how insane issue 5 was. I wonder how they’ll respond to some of these. There is a master plan! There is a master plan!
NRAMA: Can you give us a requisite Stray Bullets update?
DL: I have issue 41 written, but haven’t progressed beyond that yet. The longer I’ve been out here in the freelance world, the more I appreciate the freedom Stray Bullets brings. My wife says there’s one person who may pay like garbage, but who’ll always give you work….
NRAMA: What other irons do you have in the fire beyond Young Liars and 30 Days ‘til Death?
DL: I’m working on writing a sequel to Terror, Inc. I just wrote Giant Sized Wolverine #2 and am excited to be working with David Aja again, who’s only gotten about a million times better than the high level he was already at when we did the first one. Just penciled Spider Man: With Great Power…#5 after Tony Harris couldn’t do it. And I have a really cool project I’m talking with Wildstorm about doing. It’s me doing me by going into the realm of fantasy. Hopefully I’ll have more to talk about soon.