'October Faction' explores family and monster drama
Brian Truitt, USA TODAY5:38 p.m. EDT October 6, 2014
Sorry, Reggie Jackson. Steve Niles is now Mr. October.
The horror writer is infamous for his works meant to be read around Halloween — 30 Days of Night, anyone? — but his latest comic book The October Faction, debuting Wednesday from IDW Publishing, is actually more about the human drama than the supernatural type.
"We live in a world where monsters come in all shapes and sizes," says Niles, who co-created The October Faction with artist Damien Worm. "Yes, we all have these preconceived notions of what a monster is, and that's something we want to explore. It is a little self-reflective.
"The creepy stuff is what comes naturally to me. What's exciting is finding these relationships and exploring them."
Niles' new effort revolves around retired monster hunter Frederick Allan trying to save his family, including ever-more-estranged wife Deloris and his kids Geoff and Vivian.
As The October Faction opens, the Allans are pretty much shattered, according to Niles. Frederick has been more focused on teaching his classics and lectures about various monsters than connecting with his clan. And it shows: Deloris is sneaking around doing something sketchy behind everyone's back while his son and daughter — both of whom have interesting abilities when it comes to specters — brainstorm on how they can win their father's attention.
"They want to impress their dad by summoning a ghost and capturing it — like all kids do," Niles says with a laugh. "But if your dad was a retired monster hunter, that'd be the kind of stuff you're aspiring for."
First, however, Frederick has to figure out that there's an issue in the first place because, well, he's kind of a jerk.
"He wants to forget about the past because he think it's going to bring danger to the family so he's not listening to his family at all," Niles says. "His family is desperate for his attention and he thinks he's helping them but he's not."
Memories are a hard thing for Frederick to shake, especially when his old partner Lucas shows up with some news and they reminisce about their 1970s heyday fighting monsters, specifically the mysterious Harlow family incident.
Many years have passed between them "and they both have a lot of regrets," Niles says. "Things have changed and so they're just now coming back together to sort out their memories."
Lucas also happens to be a werewolf, the writer adds, though "being the werewolf isn't the problem. It's something else."
While Niles has long avoided "team books," October Faction has a big cast with more families than just the Allans. One supporting character to watch out for is Dante, a 16-year-old "little Frankenstein kid" with the nickname Robot Face who doesn't know who he is or why somebody strapped a steel head on him in a lab.
Niles admits that everyone immediately thinks The Addams Family or The Munsterswhen they see the Allans' spooky façade — and their haunted-looking house — but he's not being that tongue-in-cheek thing.
Instead The October Faction reflects themes from some of Niles' favorite films likeFrankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon and King Kong.
"Those all have the same kind of thing in common where they wouldn't have been monsters if you hadn't messed with them," the writer says. "If you poke them with a stick long enough they're monsters, but they're not monsters by nature."
Niles, who loves all kinds of things that everybody else thinks is dark and terrifying, sees those kinds of notions often up close and personal.
"Like right now, everybody's decorating their house for Halloween, and I've gotta go buy pumpkins. That's it," Niles says. "It's a thing that happens to me in my own life where people refer to things as ugly and nasty and so monsters must be evil. You know, that's not always the case.
"That's something I like to talk about and definitely will be a part of The October Faction. A lot of what we perceive as horror is very normal for the Allan family."