Creator Dan Brereton’s work includes Legends of the World’s Finest, The Psycho, Batgirl and Robin: Thrillkiller, Giantkiller, and much more. He now returns to his creator-owned characters in the original graphic novel, Nocturnals: The Sinister Path, from Big Wow Art. Brereton recently spoke with Westfield’s Roger Ash to give him the lowdown on this exciting tome.
Westfield: For someone who hasn’t encountered the Nocturnals before, what should they know going into The Sinister Path?
Dan Brereton: The Nocturnals are a group of night-roaming creatures who’ve become a family around Doc Horror and his daughter , Evening (AKA Halloween Girl). Doc is a pulp renaissance figure- an expert in many scientific fields, but also well-traveled in the supernatural and criminal underworlds , which are dual forces in the place they call home. Eve communicates with the spirit world and even hosts spirits in her toys. Their best friends are a gunslinging revenant (The Gunwitch) , a reformed wraith (Polychrome), and several other outcasts who live in a sleepy valley where the action takes place by night and townsfolk turn a blind eye. I try not to do a lot of hand-holding in successive stories , but also realize new readers have to have a frame of reference. I included a sort of Dramatis Personae at the beginning, but beyond that, readers can jump right in and get a feel without a lot of stumbling around in the dark – for me, my favorite storytelling is immersive and not heavy on origin stories. A little intro and we’re off.
Westfield: This began as a Kickstarter project. Why did you decide to go that route and how has the experience been?
Brereton: The project began for me in 2007, when I began writing and concepting the story in my sketchbooks. I had a publisher for it not long after that, but in the midst of the work, the project came to an abrupt end and I shelved it for seven years. Big Wow Art had successfully funded my 2014 art book Enchantress on Kickstarter, so we decided to give Nocturnals a try. It was nerve wracking until the second day – by day three it was clear we were actually going to make the book happen. The enthusiasm and support has been overwhelming. We planned to release the book to comic shops and the campaign made it all possible. At the end, we had funded a longer story -from 64 to 80 pages. I ended up taking 96 pages to tell it fully. We plan to do it all again soon for the follow-up to Sinister Path, but for the sake of getting a book out sooner, we’re going to stick to a reduced page count.
Westfield: What can readers look forward to in Nocturnals: The Sinister Path?
Brereton: Elements of horror and crime are always blended in most Nocturnals stories, with a good jolt of a Halloween vibe, and a sense of mystery. I set out years ago to write a hard-boiled horror noir-pulp fiction done by a guy who grew up reading comics in the 70s and 80s, who loved children’s adventure stories, crime fiction and drawing monsters. My friend Ted Naifeh calls it ” Spooky Superheroes”, and Christopher Golden calls Nocturnals “Monster Noir”. A movie producer once described it as ” Sleepy Hollow meets X-Men.” They are all valid but I invite readers to draw their own conclusions.
Westfield: The story takes place, in part, in a haunted house. Why do you think that has remained such a potent image?
Brereton: Gothic Horror lies at the foundation of The Sinister Path. I have been fascinated by haunted house stories since before I could read. Isn’t everyone? The first storybook record I remember was The Haunted Mansion. I had always wanted to do a haunted house story – and I still plan to return to it. The house in Sinister Path is just part of the story , and holds many more secrets than I could explore in one go. The opportunity for mystery, ghosts, the unknown – the secrets held there – a haunted house is a perfect place to send these characters. My wife and I visited the Winchester Mystery House over a decade ago, and so many themes and ideas washed over me there. We also love to tour and photograph Victorian homes and mansions. They are intoxicating for storytellers.
Westfield: What keeps you coming back to the Nocturnals?
Brereton: They’re so damn fun. So many things. Let’s see … their personalities fascinate me. From a writer’s perspective, each of them is yearning for something, even if they seldom can put a finger on what it is they seek. Mostly a sense of belonging. As an artist, the possibilities for imagery. The world of the Nocturnals encompass so many elements I want to explore in storytelling, I could get lost for decades. I have so many stories I want to tell. Far too many . At this point the question is, what could hold me back from them?
Westfield: You’ve been working with these characters for a number of years. Do any of them still surprise you by taking you down a road you hadn’t expected?
Brereton: All the time – I think once you have established any character and thoroughly understand them, they will lead you by the nose – surprise you, most definitely. Occasionally you have to stop and ask questions, make sure the motivations are clear to the reader, but after 20-plus years, their voices remain very strong. By the end of the story I realized I had work cut out for me I had not planned on. Their stories just became richer and fuller. It’s very exciting when that happens. I think I could write Halloween Girl’s story indefinitely.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Brereton: Readers who enjoy monsters, supernatural mystery and hard-boiled action, will be pleased and surprised – it twists to places you won’t imagine and it’s not a splatter fest, but there’s plenty of disturbing, creepy and even humorous stuff at work along The Sinister Path.