30 DAYS OF NIGHT – Perfect Halloween Reading and Viewing

Steve Niles’ and Ben Templesmith have created a monster. The highly stylized and deeply disturbing 30 Days of Night graphic novel went on to spawn various sequels and a big screen feature film, as well as a TV mini series (Blood Trails) and an online prequel to the movie (Dust to Dust). Why have the tales of Barrow and its vampire visitors proved to be such a hit with comics fans and moviegoers? The popularity of that seminal first book (made up of the three issue IDW miniseries) is understandable on several levels. Firstly, it is a rip-roaring story told with a deft use of pacing and structure. Then there is the artwork. Ben Templesmith’s stark, high-contrast artwork is exactly as bleak as the tale needs it to be, and his stylized visions of vampire carnage are extremely memorable. Once you read the book, those images stay with you for a very long time. With a tight script and no padding, the first 30 Days of Night graphic novel is about as perfect as modern horror comics get.

Two direct sequels to the first book were released as the title’s popularity grew, namely Dark Days and Return to Barrow. As well as these two books, there have been various other titles that tie into the 30 Days of Night mythos, namely stories such as 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales, Dead Space, Spreading the Disease, Eben and Stella, Red Snow and Beyond Barrow. These works featured a variety of artists and co-writers, but were always overseen by creator Steve Niles. Niles also wrote two original prose novels based on the comics universe he created, namely ’30 Days of Night: Rumours of the Undead’ and ’30 Days of Night: Immortal Remains’.

The biggest example of how far the comics forced their way into the popular consciousness is the feature film of the first book, starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George in the lead roles. While not perfect, the 30 Days of Night movie is a very close interpretation of the graphic novel, and the distinct art style of Ben Templesmith is reproduced very well in the movie’s cinematography. The washed out complexions of the vampires are almost translucent under the sickly lighting cast over the onscreen action. The direction, from David Slade, is mercilessly tense and captures the claustrophobic survival elements of the story very well. Receiving a mixed release at the box office, it was nonetheless one of the strongest comic book movies of the last few years.

So where next for the 30 Days of Night franchise? While details are thin on the ground regarding the future of the comics series, it would appear there is interest in more screen action from this particular set of vampires. A DVD sequel has been rumoured, along with more web content, but little in the way of concrete news is available at present. Ben Templesmith has gone on to become one of the comics industry’s leading artists, and his own title, Welcome to Hoxford, is the most promising horror comic to hit the shelves since the first 30 Days of Night. I don;t think we’ve heard the last of the vampires just yet though. Rest assured, while there is darkness, there’ll be Steve Niles and ben Templesmith lurking in the shadows, ready to scar your soul.

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