Exclusive Announcement, Q&A: Joe Hill, IDW Publishing team for “TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE” Scriptbook!Books/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,Home,News Ken W. Hanley
As many frustrated horrorheads can tell you, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE has never quite gotten the respect that it deserves. So when it was announced in 2013 that the property, with four excellent seasons and a beyond-excellent anthology film to its name, was going to get a reboot from the likes of Joe Hill, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, fright fans were understandably elated. Alas, despite a buzzworthy pilot, the series never quite came to fruition, but with an ultimately exciting silver lining, as Hill and his LOCKE AND KEY cohorts Gabriel Rodriguez and Chris Ryall would adapt his TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE stories into comic books via IDW Publishing.
However, for those wondering just what exactly might have been from Joe Hill’s TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, wonder no more, as FANGORIA is excited to announce that IDW is once again teaming with Hill to release all three original scripts for the series as TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE SCRIPTBOOK! Complete with jaw-dropping illustrations from Hill’s WRAITH collaborator Charles Paul Wilson III (which you can exclusively see in the gallery below), this hardcover release will be a look into Hill’s mind as never previously seen before, unlocking a horror hypothetical unlike anything in the current horror marketplace. Slated for an October release, this scriptbook looks to be the perfect reading companion for the 2016 Halloween season, especially for fans of the George A. Romero-created anthology project.
Yet beyond even that announcement, FANGORIA was given the exclusive first word on TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE SCRIPTBOOK from Joe Hill himself! Read on to find out more about the impending adaptations, Hill’s original intention for TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE and the potential future of the DARKSIDE pilot…
FANGORIA: It was announced earlier this year that you would be adapting your TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE scripts into comic books. What informed the decision to pursue a scriptbook as well?
JOE HILL: Well, I think [the scriptbook] was originally what [IDW and I] were talking about. When I was brought in to do TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, I was a big fan of the original series and it was really my generation’s OUTER LIMITS. At that point, I hadn’t done a lot of work in television, and they surprised me with a really big paycheck, which was kind of alarming. I had thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of money; they’re going to expect me to knock it out of the park.” So I was paid for one script, but I wound up writing three while plotting out a series bible for television.
Whatever my original plan was, I decided I needed to impress them, so what I decided was that, like the original DARKSIDE, the show would begin as individual tales of the unnatural and uncanny. But gradually, these stories would come together into an overarching plot, and characters who had appeared in one episode would turn up in others. Eventually, they would be pulled together into a shared story, so when you look back at the first season, it would have been like an assembly of puzzle pieces waiting to be put together.
We did shoot a pilot, and the pilot came out really well; it even tested really well. I’m still relatively new to the TV business, so I figured we were made in the shade, and then we ended up not getting on the air. So much goes into the decision of what to approve and what not to approve, and we were supposed to air on the CW, who was having a lot of success with their superhero shows. They decided it was least risky to stick with that, which is not a decision you can necessarily fault them with because people enjoy those programs.
For me, I had always hoped to have an audience; I always want the work in front of people to start a conversation, see what they think and maybe have some fun with it. So I was able to negotiate to get the rights to the scripts for publication that IDW would handle. So I thought, “Good! Anyone who is interested to see where the show could have gone and what the show could have been can read the scriptbooks!” But then my editor at IDW, Chris Ryall- who edited LOCKE AND KEY- said, “You know, these would also make great comics.” So he suggested we bring it to Gabriel Rodriguez, who drew LOCKE AND KEY, and I said, “Yes! That sounds great! That’ll be fun!”
Now, I don’t know if it’s going to go forward or not, but there is some talk of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE being a continuing comic book series. It wouldn’t all be written by me; it would likely be various writers dipping in, and I don’t think it’d necessarily stick to my original series bible. But it might generally follow that line; there’s a possibility, but it all depends on how the audience responds to it, if the comic book finds a readership, and some behind-the-scenes details that would need to be worked out. So it’s not a sure thing, but it’s certainly a possibility.
FANGORIA: For the scriptbook, is it solely the scripts you’d written previously, or is there any new DARKSIDE material in there as well?
HILL: It’s just the scripts I had written for the TV show, so it’s three stories: “The Window Opens,” “The Sleepwalker,” and “Black Box,” the latter of which is an origin story that builds the mythology and explains the presence of a recurring character that is seen in every episode named Newman. For the show version of DARKSIDE, Newman was a cross between Fox Mulder and Kenny from SOUTH PARK.
Every supernatural incident in each of the stories is the result of a “Darkside Event,” and Newman is intimately wrapped up in these events. At the beginning of each event, Newman appears to try to help whoever is at the center of these stories, but inevitably, Newman is wiped out before he can do much good, usually killed in some horrifying, baroque way. But it never did too much harm because he always would show up in the next episode at the beginning of the next “Darkside Event;” it was Newman’s role to die and die again.
FANGORIA: For the scriptbook specifically, are there going to be any annotations or footnotes explaining your original intentions and backstory behind TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE?
HILL: I don’t know yet! I certainly am going to write an introduction for [the scriptbook], but I don’t know how much more I’ll do beyond that. There’ll likely be some footnotes and some interstitial observations; beats and bits to explain what I would have done. So there might be some stuff but we haven’t quite settled on how much more I’ll contribute to the book, and to be honest, I’ve been very wrapped up in my new novel, THE FIREMAN, which comes out in five days, so my head has been pretty much entirely there.
FANGORIA: With THE FIREMAN and the recently announced LOCKE AND KEY news, I’d assume you’d be pretty busy as of late. With that in mind, should these comics or the scriptbook find their readership and an idea strikes you, do you think you’d carve out some time to return to this DARKSIDE universe of your design?
HILL: Yeah; I’ve already suggested to Chris [Ryall] that- should it all work out legally- a few other writers we’d like to contribute to this series, but I would definitely like to do another story and drop in from time to time to contribute, because I do have an emotional attachment to these stories, and in particular, Newman, and his nemesis, Big Winner. In addition to each episode’s big horror, there is a grand menace at the bottom of the “Darkside Events,” and that figure is Big Winner.
FANGORIA: Can you talk about working with IDW on this series? One would assume the process would be much different than the TV space, especially given your history with the company.
HILL: The six years I spent working on LOCKE AND KEY with IDW was the best time I’ve ever had creatively. Working with Gabe, Chris, Robbie Robbins, Jay Fotos and the whole LOCKE AND KEY team, we had so much fun and it’s the closest thing I can imagine to being in a rock band. We always fed off of each other’s energy, and there was always a feeling that you wanted to impress the other guys because you were so impressed with what they were doing. I remember I would write a page and I always thought, “This is going to turn out so great when Gabe draws it,” and he’d draw it, and it’d be even better than I could imagine. That was always a big charge for me, so I was very comfortable with DARKSIDE finding a home at IDW.
The other thing is that DARKSIDE has the character of one of their projects. Initially, in the beginning, before LOCKE AND KEY and even before HEART-SHAPED BOX was even published, my first publication was a book of short stories called 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS, which was put out by a small press in England in 2005 after it’d been turned down everywhere else in America. The book got some good buzz, and actually pretty immediately had a great critical reaction, and at the time, IDW was doing comic book re-prints for short story writers from my generation. They were doing some really interesting genre work- they had adapted Cory Doctorow, for example- but they had a copy of 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS and were interested in adapting some of the stories for an anthology title called DOOMED, which was a really cool, magazine-sized black-and-white-format horror comic. When they got in touch with me, I told them, “Actually, I have a really great idea for a comic instead,” and that’s actually how LOCKE AND KEY got started.
But TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE and the IDW comic DOOMED are very much the same thing, and IDW has always wanted a horror anthology comic that could gain some traction in the marketplace. So they’re looking at TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE as round two for that ambition.
FANGORIA: What should DARKSIDE fans keep an eye out for in the scriptbook and comics, in terms of easter eggs or anything in the greater DARKSIDE universe?
HILL: So, various people are touched by the supernatural over the course of these DARKSIDE incidents; some die, some are left terribly broken, but some people come out with unique powers and somewhat of a fresh lease on life. I had always assumed that the best of those characters- perhaps the four or five most heroic of those characters- would have come together as a team; my nickname for them was “The Lame Avengers.” But as we reached the end of the first season, the Lame Avengers would realize they’d have to rescue Newman from the clutches of Big Winner, so the people who read the scriptbook and the comic will get to see me beginning to put those pieces in place.
Yet, I only wrote three episodes, and I would have needed eighteen to correctly place all of those elements. So it’s really cool that people will get to see the TV series that could have been, but the scriptbook is only a taste and we’ll wait and see if the comic book becomes an ongoing thing. To tell you the truth, even if the comic book becomes an ongoing thing, it will almost inevitably find its own direction and not exactly what I had in mind as a TV thing.
FANGORIA: With a screening at Comic-Con, the original LOCKE AND KEY pilot was at least given a chance to exist- even in a minor capacity- despite not having been picked up. Do you think that there ever might be a similar presentation or release for the original TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE pilot?
HILL: You know, I have no idea. The pilot looked really great and was really fun, and there are unfinished elements of it, such as unfinished effects and a title sequence that would have been put in, had the pilot been given approval to go forward. We never got that approval, and I think to release it- for example, on iTunes- or to make it generally available, they would almost have to go back and spend however much money finish those elements and properly market it.
So basically, I’m giving you the most depressing answer in the world: it all comes down to a brute accounting question. Even if the comic does well, and even if the scriptbook sells well, the guys in suits need to make the calculations that- by releasing the pilot in some fashion- is there a chance to make money? Or will they only be losing more money? Is it worth spending that last 50, 75 grand to polish up the effects and credit sequence, or is it best to just write it off and move on? With my experience on the failed LOCKE AND KEY pilot, the accounting guys seem fairly reluctant to release because it’s financially hard to justify, and in terms of doing it to be nice to me- [laughs]. CBS has extended themselves tremendously to me by allowing me to do the comic and scriptbook, and they’re really nice guys. So, as much as I’d love to say “yes,” I think “no” is the most likely answer.
Now, I’m midway through the new pilot for LOCKE AND KEY for IDW, and IDW is committed to filming a pilot, and we’re actually talking about trying to film the entire first season. We want to take a straight-to-series approach, which is kind of a new thing, but companies who have done that before have had some great success with it. So that’s exciting, and I’m having fun writing the script; it’s all going really well, but there’s one thing I’m wondering: if we get to a point where we are actually lucky enough to get on the air, if such a thing ever happens, and we get the opportunity- and this is wildly daydreaming- but if we get a season of LOCKE AND KEY out on DVD, I wonder if FOX would want to give us that original pilot as a bonus feature. Wouldn’t that be kind of interesting?
Any of these things could come to pass; the pop culture universe is a strange place. But you don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens.
FANGORIA: With the comic, the scriptbook, the series, and THE FIREMAN, dare we ask: what’s next for Joe Hill?
HILL: I’ve got another book coming out next year, probably in the fall, called STRANGE WEATHER. It’s going to be a collection of novellas, and three of those novellas will be previously unpublished. Another one of the novellas will be “Snapshot 1988,” and that will appear in this summer’s issue of Cemetery Dance Magazine.
IDW Publishing’s TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE comic books will hit shelves this summer, and TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE SCRIPTBOOK will be available in Hardcover this October. Joe Hill’s THE FIREMAN hits shelves Tuesday, May 17th; details on his upcoming book tour can be found HERE. Check out our exclusive artwork reveal gallery below, and stay tuned for more on these projects here at FANGORIA.com!