Strange Highways On The Nocturnals’ Sinister Path
Jun 28, 2017
by Vince Brusio
What happens to a family as they grow old together? Are doors unlocked to see skeletons in the closet? Are secrets revealed to be unspoken truths? Do people change, become strange, and yet the song remains the same? The answer would be yes, yes, and yes. It’s a fact of life. All things come to pass. Winds of change are forever blowing. But pick up Dan Brereton’s latest chapter in the history of the Nocturnals and you’ll see that in The Sinister Path (APR171366), some things never change when it comes to family ties. Horizons may expand as people grow, mature, and get older, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty…blood is thicker than water. Especially when it comes to spilling someone else’s blood.
Nocturnals: The Sinister Path (APR171366) is in comic shops July 5.
Vince Brusio: In May of 2015, Nocturnals was last seen in the PREVIEWS catalog when Black Planet was listed. What has changed for the team since the events in that story, and what will we see in the new book, The Sinister Path (APR171366)?
Dan Brereton: The Black Planet TP collects the first volume of stories, primarily the first mini-series. The second collection, Nocturnals: The Dark Forever and Other Tales, (still in print from Image) picks up from there. The Sinister Path takes place a year or two later.
The Nocturnals were established as a team of hard-boiled night creatures who band together against the threats of both the criminal and supernatural underworlds, which have come to a nexus in the sleepy sea-side town of Pacific City. Doc Horror and his supernaturally-gifted daughter, Evening, are the nucleus of what becomes a family as their saga continues. Eve's abilities have been changing and developing somewhat beyond communicating with the spirit world and hosting many lost souls in her collection of possessed toys. One aspect of the new story deals with an emerging, very alarming facet of her power. Hideous creatures appear, and hover over her bed while she sleeps! Another aspect deals with Eve's protector, the Gunwitch, a silent revenant, an undead sharpshooter who will not give in to death as long as there are monsters left to slay on Earth. The Gunwitch has a shrouded past, and we'll peel back a layer or two of it in The Sinister Path.
Doc Horror has roots in the classic pulp heroes of the 1930's: he's a brilliant scientist and adventurer that’s forged a small domain, with help from a semi-retired racketeer he befriended when he first came to town. Doc has served as enforcer and physician to the old man, whose health has been failing for years. In The Sinister Path, as his legacy comes to a close, the dying gangster asks one last favor of Doc, which the entire story turns on.
The rest of the crew consists of Starfish, a feisty amphibian girl with little love for humans, Bandit, a tough-talking, gun-toting hybrid, and Firelion, a pyrokinetic swordsman. Together with Doc, they've become the dominant force in Pacific City.
Starfish has discovered her roots as part of a long-extinct race, which communed with submerged leviathans. Now she spends more time in the ocean than with her friends. She's affectionately referred to as the "Queen of Sea Monsters". Most of the Nocturnals have lives and agendas which don't revolve around Doc and Eve as much as in the past - it's very like the average family - members grow and their horizons expand, but the ties to family remain strong. They have their own stuff going on, but the roots are strong. I enjoyed exploring these roots in the new book, while introducing new monstrous characters to their world and its secret history.
Vince Brusio: While we’re not asking for you to give anything away, might there be a little more of a tease as to what we’ll see unfold in The Sinister Path?
Dan Brereton: Definitely expect generous helpings of mystery and monsters. The story has a gothic feel, and by that I mean a dark American gothic vibe. Not just because part of the story takes place in a haunted house, but owing to the legacy of its inhabitants. One of the most integral characters in the story is Judge Hemlock, a recently-deceased local figure with power and influence. His existence and shadowy past will be news to Doc and his crew. In some ways the Judge and his monstrous family are the original Nocturnals. Old and new collide with a few surprising links. Expect surprises and twists. My friend and brilliant writer, Tom Sniegoski, read the story recently and commented after finishing all 96-pages. "I wanted more," he said. When I finished making it, that's exactly how I felt. It's like opening an old chest of toys and pulling out a really cool relic, but you’re anxious to explore the rest. After a satisfying conclusion, there are still treasures to explore in future stories.
Vince Brusio: Why have the letter “s” turned backward in the sub-title “The Sinister Path” on the front cover of the book? Is this akin to hearing hidden messages in a song when we spin an LP backwards on the turntable?
Dan Brereton: That's interesting. What a great question! I hadn't thought of it that way. The left-facing "S" is a nod to all things sinister. Much of the story revolves around hidden knowledge and secrets, so the back-masking analogy is appropriate, for sure. Part of what drives these stories is the idea of a secret world existing right under our noses. As much as the Nocturnals are part of this secret world, they're always discovering hidden layers they're not even aware of.
Vince Brusio: How have you thought about the Nocturnals creatively over the years? The direction for the book, that is. You’ve worked on other projects over the years for DC and Marvel, like on your own projects The Last Battle, through Image, and the Enchantress and Mercenary art books with Big Wow Art. How have your ideas for Nocturnals changed or morphed over time while you’ve dabbled in your other projects?
Dan Brereton: You know, I'm not sure my ideas pertaining to Nocturnals have changed all that much. The challenge is to keep them entertaining and be true to the characters, but that goes without saying. Playing in their world has been a great oasis in between the other work. I enjoy everything I do in comics, but as a personal creative force, Nocturnals have persisted internally for almost 25 years, with no end in sight to possible stories. I would do them full-time if I could. I began thinking about Nocturnals in 1992, on a plane to Scotland. I was 26. In the intervening years, they remain that oasis for me, existing in their own pocket universe. Once the characters were firmly established, the main challenge in all that time has been, as a storyteller, to just be better, improve with every project. To work in service to the story and the characters. You hear a lot of talk about "service to story," but it really is the prime objective after you've established it's all going to be fun and cool and everything. It has to be good, too. An action-packed plot is fine. It's great. But fail to describe a character a reader can connect to, whether it's a villain or your protagonists, and who will really care? The characters are solidly real for me, but it's meaningless if I can't convey that to the reader.
Vince Brusio: Your publisher, Big Wow Art, is known to frequent the convention circuit, focusing on pinup good girl art over the years. How is Big Wow Art a match for what you do with Nocturnals?
Dan Brereton: I love this question because it gives me a chance to talk about Steve Morger, who IS Big Wow Art. Steve and I have been friends for decades. He's been a wonderful patron, host, and staunch ally to countless fellow collectors and artists, particularly artists with a strong illustrative sense. I relate to his desire to want to create a vibe all his own, and if you ever attended the Big Wow Comic Fest in the past, or visited us at the Big Wow Art booth in San Diego (we will be there this year) you get a very strong sense of what Steve is inspired by. He has been representing artists for years simply because he enjoys it. He's a very successful attorney, teaches Law at UC Berkeley, so immersing himself into the culture of fantasy, pin-up, and comics artists is all about fun. Steve is a true connoisseur. Being a publisher is less about being a mogul and more about relationships. Working with Big Wow on what is nearly a dozen publications and counting has been fun, easy, and gratifying. We work hard on these books, but we love it. I might also add that Steve is a huge fan of the Nocturnals! Years ago, when I mentioned wanting to work with him to produce new Nocturnals stories, and to see his face light up into a big grin, I knew it was going to be a blast.
Might I add that we've been very fortunate to have tremendous support from readers and fans of the Nocturnals. It's because of them that we've been able to do this book at all.
Knowing you have a waiting audience is a wonderful source of inspiration.
Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.