Nightlinger and Vanguard

 

In May 2015, Caliber Comics released a new graphic novel compiling all the published stories featuring the best series I’ve created, Nightlinger, and the first superhero series I created, Vanguard. I’m super-excited about this graphic novel, and, to give you an idea, I’m previewing an interview that will be running in an upcoming issue of Caliber’s promotion e-magazine, Caliber Rounds, here on my website:

Artwork and letters by Christopher Jones, circa 1993.

Cal: This graphic novel has an impressive list of artists on it.

Steve: I agree. There’s Dan Jurgens, Christopher Jones, Aldin Baroza, and S. Clarke Hawbaker, all of whom have notable credits in comics or animation.

Cal: So tell us about Nightlinger. How would you describe the series to someone who’s never seen it?

Steve: It’s The Equalizer meets The Night Stalker. Feril Nightlinger is the world’s foremost illusionist and escape artist, but he also helps people with problems – more often than not supernatural problems – as a masked mystery man. He’s helped by his personal assistant, Michael “Mike” Segretto, a beautiful young woman, and both characters are more than what they appear.  Mike worked for the Chicago Police Department and was a star prep athlete, and Feril … well … he’s got a very mysterious past he tries to keep secret.

Cal: Aldin Baroza, the artist on Nightlinger, has worked on a lot of different animation programs and films the past two decades, including Family Guy and Futurama, doing everything from storyboards to directing. People may not know that he used to work in comics.

Steve: One of the luckiest accidents in my career is meeting Aldin at ChicagoCon in the early Nineties. Caliber had just agreed to publish Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft and I was at the show searching for artists. Aldin already had worked on Tales from the Heart, and as soon as I saw his portfolio I asked him to draw a story for Lovecraft. That was “Music of Erich Zann,” and he did an awesome job. A few months later I asked Aldin to draw Nightlinger, and he agreed. I guess he must have liked working with me, because we also did The Adventure of Opera Ghost and co-created Tatters for Caliber.

Cal: Clarke Hawbaker contributed a couple of pieces to the series as well?

Steve: I’ll say. He painted the cover for the graphic novel along with what I guess you’d have to call a centerfold of Mike. Both are eye-poppers. In their own way, of course.

Cal: In your introduction to the graphic novel you say that you think Nightlinger is the best thing you have created and ever will create. Why?

Steve:  It’s a very solid series. Nothing terribly original if you judge it by its individual components, but that’s not the point with Nightlinger. I wanted it to be a series where I can tell any kind of story I love to tell, no matter the genre or the setting. If I want to tell a horror story, I can tell a horror story. If I want to tell a Batman-type story, I can tell a Batman-type story. If I want to tell a knights-of-old story, I can do that. If Nightlinger has any originality it’s in its eclecticism, the way it recombines and reinterprets elements from these different types of stories. I call Nightlinger a playground for my imagination in the introduction, and that’s what it is.

Cal: The graphic novel also features two short stories featuring your superhero Vanguard.

An unused cover for "Quazar" by Dan Jurgens, circa 1979.

An unused cover for “Quazar” by Dan Jurgens, circa 1979.

Steve:  Vanguard is the first series I created for comics. That was in high school, and it’s changed and developed quite a bit since then. These two stories have never been published together before, and Dan Jurgens drew them before being hired to pencil The Warlord at DC. Together they tell Vanguard’s origin and his first adventure.

Cal: But Chris and Clarke also worked on the stories?

Steve: Yes. The first Vanguard story was originally published in an anthology me and a friend, Dave Arnold, published called Quazar. We never were able to publish a second Quazar, try as we might, but Dave did start his own publishing company called Sundragon Comics, and one its titles was an anthology called Scales of the Dragon. Dave wanted to print the two Vanguard stories in Scales, which was fine by me, but they needed some polishing. Dan had become a name in the comics industry and wasn’t available, so Clarke penciled the first story using Dan’s art as layouts, and Chris did the same with the second story. Chris and Clarke’s styles are pretty different, so to try to give the stories a unified sheen C.P. Smith inked them both.

Cal: So how would you describe Vanguard?

Steve: A Gothic superhero, as well as an outlet for my adolescent frustrations. I created Vanguard when I was in high school, and I won’t deny there’s a lot of wish fulfillment going on in it, although that sounds a little bent when you consider the hero, Lee Cowan, gets murdered and comes back from the dead not knowing why some minor deity has given him abilities like a vampire as well as some unstated mission he has to perform. Oh, and a costume. Lee gets a costume, too. That doesn’t sound like it should be fun, but … well … it is!

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