David Dastmalchian broke into the public consciousness with his appearance in the Christopher Nolan helmed film, The Dark Knight. Since then he’s made dozens of film and television appearances including the Ant Man series, Blade Runner 2049, Twin Peaks, Gotham, 12 Monkeys, The Belko Experiment, and MacGuyver Now, he’s got his first comic book out, Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster, which was published through Dark Horse Comics.
David took so time out of his busy schedule to discuss the book, his career and long love affair with comics.
Forces of Geek: Congratulations on Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter. The first issue was a lot of fun. What was the genesis of the project?
David Dastmalchian: Thank you so much! I freak out every time I look through Issue 1 and see the way that this has come together. Itʼs an incredible feeling.
Iʼve been collecting comics since I was a kid in Kansas and I grew up watching our local horror host, Crematia Mortem, on Friday nights. She introduced me to so many of my favorite movies, characters and actors as a kid. I always thought it would be really cool to have a monster hunter who had a secret identity as a small-town horror host. I love the way that classic monsters look, the mythology and meaning of creatures like vampires, werewolves, zombies and more.
As I grew up, my love for monsters deepened and I began to think about my own battles with the monsters and demons I have faced – both metaphorical and real.
After many years of dreaming and writing the ideas out on paper, I had a conversation with producer Peter Lenkov about the concept. He loved the idea and he introduced it to Mike Richardson and the team at Dark Horse. They were so supportive of the idea, even the most extreme and boundary-pushing and genre-bending themes that I want to explore. I am so lucky.
How did you get hooked up with artist Lukas Ketner and what do you think he uniquely brings to the comic?
I give all of the credit to my supremely talented and wise editor, Megan Walker. I had spent a long time compiling my visual inspirations for the comic which included hundreds of the classic EC comic covers, 70ʼs and 80ʼs comics styles like the old Adventures into Fear, Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula and Morbius, The Living Vampire stuff that I loved, as well as imagery from movies that were a big influence, including all of the classic Universal Monster canon, Hammer films, Castle movies, Monster Squad and even the excellent G.L.O.W TV series. She studied all of it and then said, “I know who is a great fit for this!” I had been familiar with the fantastic work that Lukas did on Witch Doctor and when Megan suggested him as our artist, I dove into everything else I could find.
There were so many things about his use of line, perspective, facial expression and his ability to surprise and shock me with his art that made him the perfect fit. Megan sent him my scripts for the first few issues and I waited nervously to see what he would say… His first reaction came with an initial sketch of some “Jerri” looks and I was blown away! He just nailed it from the beginning. He responded very strongly to the scripts and understood exactly what this story needed.
Again I will say – I am so damn lucky!
I read that Count Crowley was originally created as a television series. Were there major changes that you had to make in order to make it work as a comic?
My original concept for Count Crowley was that it would be a TV series because I had so many stories that I wanted to tell with this character and that I needed years and years to truly explore the depths of the mysteries and adventures that I wanted to create for Jerri and an audience.
I asked Peter Lenkov if he would be willing to give me some advice about how to “pitch” a TV series like this – something that includes so many elements of nostalgia and has such a specific style while incorporating some really challenging ideas and character development.
As I began to describe the story and characters to him, Peter became very excited and he told me that he loved the idea and he wanted to help me develop it. He told me that he thought this would make an incredible comic series and he wanted to tell the folks at Dark Horse about it.
You have to understand how much this blew my mind. I have been collecting comics for over thirty years. Comics shaped my life and creative journey as much as films and yet I NEVER once considered myself a potential comic book creator. I have been devouring comics for most of my life and yet I never thought I would be able to actually CREATE one.
This whole concept just shook me with so many feelings; excitement for the possibility, fear of failure, gratitude that I would even be CONSIDERED for writing a comic book. Again I say it – so damn freaking lucky.
You also wrote two feature films, All Creatures Here Below and Animals. Were your intentions always to be a writer as well as an actor, or was your focus always to be a storyteller?
I have always loved and needed writing in my life. I began journaling at a pretty young age – right around the time that I began collecting comics, in fact.
I have tried everything. Poetry, stage plays, screenplays and now… comic book scripts!
There is something about the process of crafting stories that helps me feel much less alone in this world. I think thatʼs what stories do – or at least they have the potential to achieve this goal.
When Iʼm wrestling with an idea or trying to solve some mental or existential puzzle, I find that storytelling helps me take a stab at it in a kind of “long form equation”. I have this adoration for monsters and creatures of the night.
Exploring all of these personal issues that I wanted to think about through the lens of monsters and monster-hunting has been the most rewarding storytelling experience of my life.
I have battled addiction, depression, loneliness and I am often thinking about how the media and other forces of information manipulate and control the data that weʼre given… all of these things lurk in the corners of my Count Crowley story and shade the edges of every adventure, every horror, every monstrosity that Jerri must battle.
Your feature film debut was a memorable role in The Dark Knight. Since then youʼve been in such comic book properties as Gotham, The Flash, and the Ant Man films, as well as some beloved geek properties as Blade Runner 2049, 12 Monkeys and Twin Peaks. Were you a comic book fan growing up? What about genre properties do you find appealing?
I have always loved the world of comics. I started out watching Super Friends and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but then I got a comic off a spinner rack and it changed my life forever.
Soon after that, I discovered the magic of comics shops (my first shop was Clintʼs Books South which is no longer in existence but the original shop, Clintʼs Comics, is still operating in downtown Kansas City and I will be going there on November 2nd to do an in-store appearance and actually get my OWN comic off the shelf… it will be quite a moment!).
When I first got to be a part of The Dark Knight, I had a hard time comprehending the reality of that situation.
I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the amazing journey Iʼve been able to have as an actor and storyteller. Itʼs a blessing to be able to have these gifts as I think about my struggles in the past.
Youʼve got lots of projects coming out including Reprisal, The Suicide Squad, and Dune. Any upcoming comic book projects? Any dream characters youʼd havean interest in writing?
I would LOVE to take a stab at writing some stories for Morbius, Moon Knight and I would like to see if there is a way to resurrect the Weird War Tales’ “Creature Commandos”. I have a deep love for that squadron of misfit monsters and I think it would be so fun to create new stories and adventures for them.
As far as acting goes, I would love to play so many characters in the comicsphere. I also have a life-long dream of portraying an antagonist of James Bond.
What are you currently geeking out over?
I LOVE whatʼs happening with The Immortal Hulk. I canʼt get enough of it. I am a huge fan of Beasts of Burden, indie titles like My Favorite Thing is Monsters and Bttm Fdrs, and itʼs been super fun to dig into all of the Eerie and Creepy reissues trades that Dark Horse is doing. I love Colder and Middlewest.
And my whole family is geeking out over Lumberjanes which has been such a great discovery for us. I canʼt wait for Birds of Prey.
That latest Failure album, the new Tool album and a recent discovery, Point Juncture, WA have been filling my ears with joy.
Thanks so much for talking to me! Hope you love sinking your teeth into Count Crowley!!!
Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #1
is now available in comic book stores or via digital.