DAN BRERETON ON RESURRECTING THE NOCTURNALS

by Benjamin Ong Pang Kean
[First published at Newsarama.com]
Winter 2006

It was recently announced that the last 12 years of Dan Brereton's Nocturnals will be collected in three oversized hardcovers by Century Guild's Olympian Publishing. The first hardcover is scheduled to be released in October and each volume features all-new stories and framing sequences.

In 2007, a brand new series, Nocturnals: The Sinister Path is set to debut.

We sat down with Brereton to talk about the evolution of Nocturnals and other projects.

Newsarama: So, this Halloween, Nocturnals will be back with three definitive oversized hardcovers from Symbolist art mavens Century Guild, under the imprint Olympian Publishing, followed by an all-new series in 2007. How did this happen? What events led you to bring back Nocturnals?

Dan Brereton: I'd always wanted to keep the Nocturnals as a going concern, but its not as easy to do when your forte is painted art, with the state of comics these days, painted art is seen as a kind of boutique book , a vanity thing that most smaller publishers cant afford. Even DC does fewer of them than in the days when I began working in comics with watercolor and brush (1989).

A publisher has to wait much longer for a return on their investment with a painted book, and they often don't own a piece of the book (no publisher ever has with Nocturnals) so it's not as attractive a proposition for publishers.

I had a really good run with Oni Press, they released four trades, three of which contained material they originally published. In the end, I think Nocturnals was too much a book for a company run, at the time, by three people not used to producing full color painted art. They eventually chose to stick to the black and white books which they excel at, and I went on to projects with less of a long-term commitment, with an eye toward doing more Nocturnals with a new publisher down the road.

In between, I wrote and co-illustrated Nocturnals: A Midnight Companion, with RPG publisher Green Ronin. The books were to serve a dual purpose, as a companion guide to Nocturnals, and as a sourcebook for gamers wishing to use the Nocturnals and their world as fodder for adventures. The book won three The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards or ENnies (high honors in the gaming industry) and proved to be a great art book as well as a worthy addition to the Nocturnals saga.

When asked what the heck I was doing with the Nocturnals by Century Guild, I gave a similar answer. This got the ball rolling, as they turned out to be great fans and supporters of the Nocturnals books. We're going to start collecting the existing Nocturnals stories into three hardcover volumes. Volume 1 will hit in the Fall, and will contain a new story and art in addition to the entire Black Planet series and more. This will help introduce new readers and fans to the characters and stories while I finish the new mini-series.

NRAMA: For those who're unfamiliar with this property, could you bring our readers up to speed? But first, a history lesson should be in order. How did you first come up with the idea for Nocturnals?

DB: They're basically a collection of stories and characters that I'd wanted to do in comics since before 1990, but hadn't really had the opportunity. A property that was purely pulp fiction- superheroes, horror and crime fiction The Nocturnals had been running around in my sketchbooks for years, until I finally came up with a name for them and a reason to do a book, a story I could sink my teeth into. It was the first time I'd ever written comics for publication, and it could have been a disaster. Instead, I found a book I was pretty sure I'd want to do forever.

NRAMA: In your own words, who are the Nocturnals (Doc Horror, Halloween Girl, Firelion, etc), and what could fans and new readers look forward to in the coming months?

DB: Doc Horror is a mad scientist and adventurer raising his daughter Eve (aka Halloween Girl) who has supernatural powers. For various reasons, they only come out at night. Doc has gathered other benevolent 'nocturnals' to help them fight evil and in the process, they've become an odd sort of family.

They include Polychrome, a ghost who's transcended her origins as a vengeful wraith and is now something very beautiful and much more powerful, a spirit of pure light; the Gunwitch is an extremely popular member of the group, a gun-fighting scarecrow and Eve's self-appointed bodyguard; Starfish, an amphibian girl who likes to fight; Firelion, a pyrokinetic samurai who's head spouts flame when he goes aggro; and the Raccoon, a feral test-tube creature who escaped the laboratory he grew up to become a notorious underworld figure.

Readers should expect a very rich and varied world of stories that range from the dark to the whimsical.

New stories will accompany the classic tales, and we're doing things like coloring the Gunwitch mini-series Outskirts of Doom, a formerly black and white affair.

The first volume features a brand new illustrated story set before Doc formed the Nocturnals, and the third volume will feature a new comic story in which Doc and Eve return to their alien-infested home to find a big surprise.

NRAMA: There's going to be a new series set to launch in 2007. What do you have in mind?

DB: It's called The Sinister Path. Without going into any detail, it introduces several new villains and monsters, and it's basically about those who choose the 'left hand path' of evil and those who manage to avoid its seduction.

In this story, those two factions collide, and the readers get to watch the monstrous results. The plan is to introduce a scary and formidable new villain with as much energy and intelligence as the Nocturnals - he's almost Nocturnals material, a creative and charismatic night creature, except that he was born without a soul.

NRAMA: You're also providing a cover for Tom Waltz's Children of the Grave from IDW this August. How did you land the assignment? Do you have more coming from IDW soon?

DB: Tom basically asked me, and when I got to a point where I could fit it in, I was happy to do it - guns and ghostly children, how could I resist? As for IDW, I would love to work with them again, but no plans at present.

NRAMA: And there's also the Death, Jr Vol. 2 covers. And the collection of The Psycho in July. Could you tell us more about these?

DB: I love Ted's work on Death Jr. and was thrilled when they asked me to contribute a cover. It's a great book, and one of the best video-gamer inspired things out there- maybe the only good one.

For The Psycho TPB, I'm unshelving a bunch of sketches and production art from 1989-90. Jim Hudnall and I are very excited to have this book out after fifteen years! We are particularly jazzed to see it printed with technology we didn't have back in the day. We get asked so much about this book, I mean, nonstop since 1991- and with the film in production at Universal, it's the perfect time.

NRAMA: Anything else on the Image Comics front? Let's not forget the Giantkiller TPB released in March...

DB: First off, for those of you who haven't yet read Giantkiller - what are you waiting for? Any time a creator gets to do exactly what he wants in a book, it's more than worth a look - and Giantkiller is exactly that, its exactly the book I wanted to make.

I love Image and will doubtless work with them again, after the Giantkiller TPB came out looking as good as it does, I'm anxious to see more of my stuff come out through them. They're great to work with and I've never had such a creator-friendly atmosphere to work in before.

NRAMA: Lastly, what's the latest word on your Disney book, The Last Battle?

DB: L'Ultima Battaglia was published in Italy last summer and sold in excess of 25,000 copies over there and will appear in other languages - but it's the U.S. version we all care about.

We're working with Disney Worldwide Publishing to set it up with an American publisher, and as soon as we finalize things, we can get it out - the sooner the better suits me fine. I get people asking me what have I been doing all the time, and I wish I could point to the book on the shelf - it's one of the most ambitious project I've ever undertaken and I'm kind of proud of my little sword-and sandals story with Italian scribe, Tito Faraci.