‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker 50th Anniversary’ Graphic Novel Writer/Editor James Aquilone: The Conskipper Interview

The Night Stalker may have had a short run on television (two movies and one series from 1972 to 1975), but the influence of Darren McGavin’s quirky and intrepid investigative newspaper reporter, Carl Kolchak, has had an impact on legions of adoring fans and creators ever since.

For the better part of two decades, Moonstone has kept the legacy of Kolchak alive through a number of comic series and prose novels, so the 50th Anniversary of the character is not one that Moonstone could let slip by.

We got to speak to writer/editor James Aquilone about the new Kickstarter campaign for the Kolchak: The Night Stalker 50th Anniversary graphic novel anthology (which is currently hotter than one of Kolchak’s supernatural scoops) in this exclusive interview.

How would you describe the influence of The Night Stalker on generations of storytellers for those unfamiliar with Kolchak?

James Aquilone: Kolchak was TV’s first monster hunter. Chris Carter was very vocal about the show influencing The X-Files and there was a resurgence of interest in the Darren McGavin series in the 1990s, but Kolchak certainly also influenced shows like Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire SlayerThe X-Files “event series” in 2016 even had a nod to Kolchak with a character played by Rhys Darby wearing a blue seersucker suit and straw hat.

You have assembled a wide range of talented artists and writers for the Kolchak: The Night Stalker 50th Anniversary graphic novel.  What went into this process?

Aquilone; I was looking for amazing creators who were also Kolchak fans, and that wasn’t difficult. Most horror writers are fans, like Kim Newman, Jonathan Maberry, Rodney Barnes, James Chambers, Nancy Collins and Tim Waggoner. Other people like David Avallone reached out to me. Richard Christian Matheson contributed to my last anthology, Classic Monsters Unleashed. His father, Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), wrote the first two Kolchak TV movies, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, so R.C. was the first person I invited to this project.

As far as the artists, I tried to use ones who’ve already worked with the writers, so we have Julius Ohta reuniting with David Avallaone (Bettie Page), Kim Newman and Paul McCaffrey (Anno Dracula), Rodney Barnes and Jonathan Marks Barravecchia (Elysium Gardens), and Peter David and JK Woodward (Fallen Angel).

Moonstone has a long history of keeping the Kolchak legacy alive in comics and prose novels.  What has it been like working with the publisher?  

Aquilone: I know Kolchak is in good hands with Moonstone Book and publisher Joe Gentile. Moonstone has published some really great Kolchak books over the years, and I’m very appreciative that Joe has trusted me to continue that legacy.

Does the anthology format of this collection most closely resemble the episodic nature of the original source material?

Aquilone: Pretty much. Each story will be self-contained like the series, but we will connect a few of them and hint at a reason why Kolchak is always running into monsters. We’re definitely honoring the old series and will be using the familiar tropes, but we’re also adding a bit and expanding on the Kolchak universe.

In addition to the anthology, and as part of the Kickstarter campaign, you are also writing a stand-alone comic entitled “Satanic Panic ’88” with artist Colton Worley and a cover by Dan Brereton.  What can you tell us about the story and working with Worley?

Aquilone: “Satanic Panic ’88,” which will be in the anthology as well as a one-shot comic book, which sees Kolchak investigating the disappearance of teen goth girl in a small town in 1988. I’ve worked with Colton a bunch of times. He’s done the covers for all my books, including my Dead Jack Zombie Detective series. For years, I’ve asked him to do a comic with me but he’s always passed. He couldn’t say no to Kolchak, though. So I’m very excited to be doing this with Colton. I’m a big fan of his work.

One aspect that always stood out about The Night Stalker TV movies and series was Darren McGavin’s portrayal of the character.  What qualities that McGavin brought to the character are essential in telling a Night Stalker story in any medium?

Aquilone: Darren McGavin was really good at mixing the seriousness of the situation with the ridiculous. Kolchak was equally funny and scary. McGavin was the heart and soul of the show. He was in most of the scenes. If it wasn’t for him, the series never would have worked, and I always loved how he did the narration. So all that will be in our stories, the humor and the horror and the snarky narration.

Do you have a personal favorite episode from the original series?

Aquilone: I love “Chopper.” I think a headless biker wielding a sword is a cool way to reimagine the Headless Horseman. Plus, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (Back to the Future) wrote the episode. What’s not to love?

You have a number of other projects that you are working on right now, in particular, the Classic Monsters Unleashed anthology.  Any updates you can provide?

Aquilone: We just sent out the ebooks to Kickstarter backers for Classic Monsters Unleashed and the print books should be arriving any day now, so that’s very exciting. It’s a 450-page book with monster art, an intro by Kim Newman, and short stories by Joe Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, Ramsey Campbell, and a bunch of other amazing horror writers. And because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’m launching a Kickstarter in the summer for the next book in the series, Shakespeare Unleashed, which will have horror stories based on Shakepeare’s plays and characters.

The Kolchak: The Night Stalker 50th Anniversary graphic novel anthology Kickstarter campaign will end on Friday, February 11.

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