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Comic Booked Exclusive Interview: Steve Niles Talks Chin Music

Chin Music Steve Niles Tony Harris

Steve Niles and Tony Harris have partnered to release Chin Music, a tale of gangsters, demons, and time travel coming out from Image Comics on April 17th.

If advanced previews are an indicator, this promises to be one of the most exciting and unique stories of the year. Steve Niles sat down with Comic Booked to give readers a taste of what Chin Music is all about.

Alright…in a nutshell, give me the pitch on Chin Music.

SN: In a nutshell it’s about a time traveler mystic, of sorts, who has lost his natural powers.Chin Music Steve Niles Tony Harris

Tell me about your character Shaw. How does he fit into 1930s Chicago and the mob scene?

SN: He doesn’t fit in so much as it’s where he fell when his enemies stripped him of his powers and his flesh and tattooed his bones. He had to find his way there, and he has always helped people so he has been hiding as a Private Detective.

Kind of reminds me of the film Angel Heart. What was the seed for the story and, what made you decide on 1930s Chicago as opposed to 1950s New York or 1970s Vegas?

SN: I suppose it has an Angel Heart feel at first but it gets much stranger. 1930’s Chicago is one of the most violent times in history and the fight between the Feds and Capone has always fascinated me.

I can see that. What kind of source material did you use to help research the era?

SN: Everything from watching Scarface and The Untouchables to reading Eliot Ness’ book by the same title. I also love Ken Burns prohibition documentary.

That’s a great doc. Let’s talk about the supernatural aspect. Besides your obvious interest in the horror genre, what made you decide to mix ghouls and gangsters?

SN: It’s kind of what I do. I’ve always loved mixing noir and horror. Gangsters and horror wasn’t a big jump.Chin Music Steve Niles Tony Harris

I hear you. Ed Brubaker has done such a great job mixing it with Fatale, but Chin Music seems to have an element that makes it destined for a film adaptation. It has a more exciting element to it I suppose, and that’s no knock on Ed.

SN: Brubaker is doing the classic Lovecraft noir thing which is great, more in the vein of Hellboy. I’m going for a grittier feel and also, dare I say, Chin Music has superhero elements to it.

That’s a fair comparison. I think you hit the nail on the head for what I was trying to say. I understand you and Tony Harris have been working on this for over a year. How did it come together?

SN: Probably more like 3 or 4 years actually. We started talking at Heroes Con in North Carolina, and every year we met we’d add a little more to it. Chin Music started as a pitch for one of the major DC/Marvel characters, and slowly we realized it worked much better as creator-owned.

Tony has done amazing work in the past obviously with guys like Brian K. Vaughan and James Robinson. Who approached who on working together or was it simply born of hanging out?

SN: Tony and I always share an island at Heroes. This will be the first year I miss in years. We just started talking and gradually the story came together.

Tony is a bold artist with a strong personality, not that that’s a bad thing. How would you describe the creative process in developing the story with him?

SN: It’s funny. Tony and I have these explosive story sessions. They always start with one or both of us not wanting to work, and then before we know it we’re jumping around like kids excited about the story. Tony has had a major effect on the story. This is definitely a team effort.

Script wise, I am doing full script but only around 4-5 panels a page. Tony then takes that and adds all these detail panels in between. It’s fun. It keeps it fresh and exciting.Chin Music Steve Niles Tony Harris

His personality really comes out in a lot of his work. In the early artwork released through Newsarama, there are some really interesting scenes going on. Can you expand on this? It all looks really cool.

SN: That must be the opening scene where we meet Shaw. He’s at his desk carving a magic circle in his desk and carving identical symbols into a bullet. It seems like a very noir scene, but Shaw is actually placing a spell on the bullet. When he fires it out the window…who knows where it will go.

There is also that Egyptian looking scene up there too. That really got my attention.

SN: The Egyptian scene is important. We see Shaw doing what he does and also get our first glimpse of the bad guys chasing him through time.

Since this is called Chin Music, even though it’s not obviously about music, what kind of soundtrack are you hearing in each issue?

SN: If we could somehow smoosh Duke Ellington and Russian Circles into one sound, that would be it.

Right now, it’s scheduled to come out as a limited series, but the interest has been higher than expected. Could this turn into an ongoing series?

SN: If orders come in strong, and so far they are, there’s a very good chance we’ll keep going.

Make sure to look for Comic Booked’s continued coverage and full review of Steve Niles and Tony Harris’ Chin Music, in stores April 17th.

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Comments (4)

This book sounds awesome! I will be putting this in my pull list for that month.


Sounds great. Another excellent interview with a fantastic writer!

Steve always makes interviewing a breeze. Simply one of the most down to Earth guys in the business.

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