From one of Joker's thugs in The Dark Knight to Murdoc in MacGyver and Coco in Blade Runner 2049, prolific actor David Dastmalchian has brought a wide range of eclectic characters to life on both the small and big screens over the past decade, and he's now bringing them to life on the printed page as well in a new comic book series.
Following Jerri Bartman, a TV journalist turned local TV horror host who discovers that her newfound duties include fighting actual creatures, the first issue of Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter is out now from Dark Horse Comics, and we caught up with Dastmalchian in our latest Q&A feature to discuss fulfilling his lifelong dream of writing comic books, the comic's decades-long journey to becoming a reality, and he also discussed his recent work on the Twin Peaks revival and Denis Villeneuve's upcoming Dune movie.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, and congratulations on Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter! I love the idea for this comic book series. It feels similar in spirit to following the adventures of Peter Vincent from Fright Night. When and how did you come up with the idea for this series?
David Dastmalchian: Thank you! I love Daily Dead, so I’m excited to be talking to you ghouls. If I go back far enough, the seeds of Count Crowley were actually planted during my childhood in Kansas City, where I would watch our local horror host, Crematia Mortem, on Friday nights. I was entranced by her show and the many monster movies she introduced to us. It was probably where my fascination with acting began as well. But I remember thinking that it would be cool if the horror host was just someone’s cover for the REAL job of hunting monsters. Who better to slay monsters than someone who’s seen every monster movie ever made? As the years passed and my idea evolved, I always wanted to keep the character a horror host.
Did you bring this comic book series to Dark Horse Comics, or did they approach you? What was the pitch process like?
David Dastmalchian: As with so many of the big moments in my career, I believe that it was an example of preparation meeting opportunity. I spent decades mulling over this idea and allowing it to morph and grow and rest and then wake up. I had finally landed on a concept that really meant something significant to me and I thought it would make a compelling television series. I work as an actor on the TV series MacGyver and the writer/producer/mastermind behind our show (and many more, including the great film and comic R.I.P.D.) is Peter Lenkov. I was talking to Peter one day and asking him for advice about how I could pitch my Count Crowley idea as a TV series to the studios. He jumped up from his chair as I began to describe the show. We both share a love of Kolchak: The Night Stalker and many other horror and comic properties and Peter said that my idea reminded him of these. He wanted to help me bring the idea to life!
He told Mike Richardson and the good folks at Dark Horse about my idea and they were intrigued. We sent over all of the materials that I’d accrued and written in my years of brainstorming and they were really supportive. They said that they wanted to bring this monster to life and the process began… It’s all been a kind of dream for me. I’ve been collecting comics since I was 12 and Dark Horse is a company that I love. I try to get my hands on everything they publish, so it was a great honor that they believed in my vision.
How did you team up with Lukas Ketner, and what was it about his artwork style that made him the perfect fit to bring your story to life?
David Dastmalchian: My amazing editor, Megan Walker, suggested Lukas. I am such a huge fan of his work on Witch Doctor and I was really blown away when I found out that he liked my Crowley scripts and wanted to work on the book with me. Lukas has a mastery of conveying all of the classic touches of a horror tradition that I wanted expressed with the book, while still pushing boundaries and surprising us with complex emotional expressions and startling imagery. He just continues to blow me away. We began a virtual collaboration which grew into a friendship over emails, phone calls, and texting. It wasn’t until a year into our relationship that I got to finally meet Lukas in person at Rose City Comic Con. The same thing happened with our brilliant colorist, Lauren Affe. I worked with her for a long time and then finally met her at NYCC! And I still haven’t met our letter master, Frank, yet, but hopefully soon.
How many issues do you envision for Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter? Do you have multiple story arcs planned out that you’d like to tell if given the opportunity?
David Dastmalchian: We are releasing four issues initially which will be followed by the trade paperback of these first four. If that’s all I get, then I will be eternally grateful for these beautiful comics and the realization of such an important lifelong dream. But honestly, I have years and years of stories that I want to tell with Jerri and the many monsters she will encounter… both the “bad” and the “good” monsters of the world. I hope that enough people respond to the series and pick it up so that Dark Horse sees fit to let us keep going!
In addition to Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter, do you have other comic book stories that you’d like to bring to life?
David Dastmalchian: I have one other comic book idea and character that I’ve been thinking about for many years. She delivers pizzas in Chicago and has a very special ability which she’s trying to utilize to help others. I would love to write more comics, but at the moment all of my imagination and creative drive seems to be focused on plot points, creature creation stories that swirl around my dear friend Jerri Bartman, aka Count Crowley!
In addition to writing comics, you’ve been staying busy as an actor for more than a decade. How do you balance those two professions?
David Dastmalchian: I find that an actor's life provides a great deal of time where you are just waiting around. I like to read books, comics, and magazines, so I do a great deal of that when I’m on set or traveling between jobs. But I have a lot of time to also pour out my ideas onto paper or onto my laptop. In fact, I’m doing this interview right now between set-ups while shooting.
I loved your role as Pit Boss Warrick in Twin Peaks, especially since you were playing opposite Jim Belushi’s intimidating character, Bradley Mitchum. What was it like being on that set and getting to live in that rich world that David Lynch and Mark Frost created?
David Dastmalchian: One of the biggest and most important goals in my career was to work with David Lynch. His art, his work and aesthetic have had such a massive effect on me as both an audience member and a storyteller. When I found out that he wanted me to be a part of his return to Twin Peaks, I was speechless. I couldn’t believe it. Being on that set and watching the master in his laboratory was a great gift in my life. I felt like I was able to peel back the curtain and watch the Wizard of Oz behind the scenes. But unlike the Wizard of Oz, the magic behind the curtain of David Lynch’s set was nearly as mind-blowing as the film and television art that he has created. He’s a real, actual wizard.
You also have a role in the new Dune movie. What was that filming experience like?
David Dastmalchian: Being a part of Denis Villeneuve’s storytelling is an honor in every regard. He’s a visionary and a truly wonderful human being. I cannot wait for people to see the amazing epic that he’s creating!
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you’re excited about? Where can our readers go online to keep up with your work?
David Dastmalchian: I’m very excited about the upcoming Hulu series, Reprisal, by Josh Corbin. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen on TV and it’s definitely a character that I’ve never gotten to play before. I love Johnson. He says very little with his words, but you definitely don’t want to cross him…
Thank you very much for your time, David!
David Dastmalchian: THANK YOU for talking about Count Crowley! I hope all of the horror hounds and creepy kids out there will give Jerri a shot and see how much fun we’re having with all of the monsters!
[Photo Credit: Above David Dastmalchian photo by Jessica Castro.]
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