Much like Barrow, Alaska, horror had been cloaked in darkness—hidden under a cloud of lowered expectations and relegated to the fringes of pop culture. The nineties had declared the genre dead, and the early oughts weren’t giving a better prognosis. In 2002, conditions were perfect for a bold new vision to revive—and maybe re-define—horror as we knew it.
First developed as a film pitch by writer Steve Niles, 30 Days of Night finally found a home in an entirely different medium. IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams really liked the idea, and the unique new series was added to the young company’s upcoming slate of comics. Artist Ben Templesmith joined Niles as the other half of the creative team, bringing the bleak landscape of Barrow to nightmarish life. With letterer/designer Robbie Robbins, they created a four-color thrill ride that would grab the attention of comic fans from the get-go. It was instantly compelling, both in premise and execution.
The concept is undeniably potent: Vampires descend on a remote Alaskan town that won’t see daylight for thirty days, allowing the creatures to feed without fear of the sun. Though the frisson elicited by the brief description was enough to entice most readers, it was Niles’ clever characterizations and Templesmith’s striking visuals that drew them in. Those elements coalesced into a quick, biting subversion of the romanticized Dracula which had permeated the genre for decades. Vampires as envisioned by Niles and Templesmith were unapologetically monstrous, and they were out for blood.
Once unleashed upon the world, 30 Days of Night immediately connected with audiences. The incredible success of the comic book led to a Hollywood bidding war, and a film adaptation soon went into development. Being fans of the source material, producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert stayed true to the dark tone of the story—which included a very un-Hollywood ending. Sequels and prequels—in comic book, movie, and prose novel form—followed, all building on the themes established in the original, groundbreaking graphic novel.
Now, fifteen years since its initial release, 30 Days of Night returns. To celebrate the fifteenth anniversary and an upcoming series, the San Diego Comic Art Gallery is proud to present a special exhibition of Ben Templesmith’s original artwork. Featuring rare concept art and pages from the first series, this exclusive showcase displays some of the most eerie artwork from one of the most popular horror comics of all time. Not only does it provide fans with an inside look at the process, but it’s an excellent primer for the next chapter in the 30 Days saga.
A reimagining of the original story, the new series (#1 hits stores December 27th) puts the focus on Officer Stella Olemaun and the mayhem of the overnight vampire siege. Artist Piotr Kowalski brings a new look to Barrow and its bloody environs, and fans can expect more twists and turns to complement the carnage.
See how it all began and get ready for the next terrifying tale now at the San Diego Comic Art Gallery. It’s even more cool than Barrow at midnight.
The exhibit will run until January, 6th 2018.