Few names are more synonymous with science fiction/horror than John Carpenter. With classic films like Halloween, The Thing, Escape From New York, and They Live the man literally explored almost everything that can scare you. In recent years, the director has left the silver screen and gone to the page. Carpenter and his wife and collaborator Sandy King started Storm King Productions, and have started writing and producing graphic novels and comics like Asylum and Tales For a Halloween Night. Their newest venture is Tales of Science Fiction, a monthly anthology series, with the first story “Vault” by James Ninness. Ninness worked with Storm King on Tales for a Halloween Night and has created comics Mythoi and inSanity, AZ. I got a chance to speak with Ninness about his upcoming Carpenter collaboration, which is debuting this week as well as his career, influences, and future.
Check out the interview below.
Geeks of Doom: Hey James, how are you? How’s everything?
James Ninness: Living the dream, man.
Geeks of Doom: I got to read the first part of Vault, and I really enjoyed it.
James Ninness: Oh, thanks man.
Geeks of Doom: Tell me, what were your inspirations for the story? As a huge fan of the sci-fi genre it felt like there was some Aliens there and a little bit of Event Horizon.
James Ninness: You’re not wrong. Also, probably a good dose of Sunshine by Danny Boyle thrown in there as well.
Geeks of Doom: Love that movie.
James Ninness: You really hit the nail on the head. Those are three of my favorites, and I read a lot of stuff about how we’re all doomed, and we all make the same mistakes over and over, and it’s not so obvious in the first, but I think that picture will be made more clear as we get to the next one. Not giving away spoilers. You know we tend to make decisions that are questionable, and they end up biting us in the ass. That was kind of the overarching theme for Vault, and then it was just picking and choosing my favorite flavors of sci-fi/horror, and putting them into something cohesive that John and Sandy would like.
Geeks of Doom: You brought up John and Sandy. What’s it like having your name associated with John Carpenter who is at the forefront of everything sci-fi/horror for the past few decades?
James Ninness: It’s a blessing man. Both Sandy and John are just the best people to work with. I don’t have to tell anyone all the great stuff they’ve worked on and produced, directed, and written. I mean both of them, they’re legends. But what most people don’t know is that they’re also some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They go out of their way to help other people whenever they can. They really, really care about story, about telling a great story that has purpose, and means something, and isn’t just gross horror that’ll give people cheap thrills. They are great storytellers. So getting a chance to work with both of them is a real blessing, it’s an honor.
Geeks of Doom: It’s funny, I’m a massive sci-fi/horror geek and I once waited 4 hours at a horror convention to meet John Carpenter, planned what I what going to say when I finally got up there, and then totally geeked out and blurted out “I’m a huge fan!” And he was really cool and friendly, and was like “Thanks so much, pleasure to meet you.” I totally fanboy-ed out.
James Ninness: But he put you at ease, right? The first time I met him I was sweating bullets. The first time I met John was actually at their house, to have dinner and talk about stories. I go up there and there are a couple other guys there, and none of us had ever met him. I ring the doorbell and he opens it and goes, “What do you want?” And I had the flight or fight conversation with myself, “Maybe I should I just leave him alone.” But then he laughed, put his hand on my shoulder, and said “You must be James,” and I gotta tell you, it felt like visiting someone I had known a long time. Sandy I had worked with before, but they’re just really great people.
Geeks of Doom: That’s so awesome.
James Ninness: Yeah, and that’s the story you don’t hear a lot from Hollywood. When you meet John and Sandy and they shake your hand, and they listen, and look you in the eye, that’s genuinely them. They are those people.
Geeks of Doom: How did you get connected to Storm King, I know you worked on Tales For a Halloween Night right?
James Ninness: Yes I did. I worked on the first two volumes, and I have a story coming out in the third this October. So I did a lot of the Indie publishing game for about 5 years. One of the books I put out through Quadshot was a book called Insanity, AZ, which was four writers and 26 artists. It was a horror anthology about a small town in the middle of the desert, where all the stories are sort of connected and Sandy read it. We had a mutual friend who introduced us at a show, and when she realized I was the guy who wrote that book, she asked if I wanted to have dinner. And honestly, I wasn’t writing for them, I would just meet up with Sandy for dinner, and we’d talk and this was for about a year until she finally had a project, Tales for a Halloween Night: Volume 1. And she said that her and John were writing the stories for the book, and asked if I wanted to be involved. I didn’t even have anything but I was like “Yes, definitely yes.” I haven’t scared them away yet, and they’re treating me well.
Geeks of Doom: I just wrote the article for GoD the other day that John Carpenter signed a deal with UCP to produce some television shows, and one is Tales for a Halloween Night. Would you have any chance of being a part of that, writing for TV?
James Ninness: I don’t think so. Sandy and John are handling all that, and I think a lot of the writers, creators, and artists were learning about that with you guys. I know that they didn’t make Tales to become a TV show, this isn’t part of some grand plan they had. As a comic writer, would I make the move to TV? If they called me and asked, would I say yes? Of course. But I’m a comic guy and short story guy, and I’d have a lot to learn before I would even presume to get into the TV or movie area.
Geeks of Doom: I love horror short stories too. What were your inspirations growing up, comic book wise, story wise, even sci-fi/horror movies?
James Ninness: It’s funny. I grew up reading prose, and I didn’t get into comics until college. I grew up with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Stephen King, but I also read a lot of Jack Kerouac. I was really into beatniks and stuff like that in high school. I had a different route to comics. In my senior year of college, my friend Ben, a colorist with Amazing ComicCon, he really got me into comics. He started me with top shelf stuff. The first book I read straight through was 100 Bullets. Then it was Preacher, then it was Sandman. He was just giving me the best stuff first. So for the last 7-8 years I’ve been working backwards, I just finished Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing last year. With films, obviously we talked about Aliens, Event Horizon, but The Thing was a big one for me. I know everyone says that, and I know I work with John, but I swear it was huge for me. I also like little weird sci-fi movies. You ever see Krull?
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, a while ago.
James Ninness: I always feel I’m the only one who has. I fell in love with that movie and Jason and the Argonauts, all the Harryhausen stuff, Sinbad… those were the things that got me excited. There was this cartoon Alakazam the Great that no one ever knows about, that I loved as a kid.
(At this point, we divert into a 2-3 side conversation about movie special effects, CGI vs. practical, etc.)
Geeks of Doom: To get back on track, Vault is coming out this month right?
James Ninness: Yeah, the Wednesday before SDCC.
Geeks of Doom: So this is part one of the trilogy, if I have that correct?
James Ninness: Yeah, so John and Sandy had this great idea – Tales of Science Fiction, an anthology series. It’s kinda hard to describe. They’re bringing in different creators to tell stories, and it doesn’t matter how long the story is as long as it’s told appropriately. So Vault, when I outlined it, was only three issues. So my story is three issues and then Mike Sizemore and Dave Kennedy come in with a story that Sandy created called Vortex. Those two are killer. They’ll tell that story, but they’re not connected at all. So me and Andres, Janice, and Sergio get to tell Vault, then Mike, Dave and Sandy get to tell Vortex and I know they have a third story lined up and maybe even a fourth one. It’ll keep going and it’ll all be under the Tales of Science Fiction banner. But it’ll just be different creators telling their own science fiction, horror stories.
Geeks of Doom: This almost feels like this what John originally intended Halloween 3 to be, you know the beginning of a big anthology.
James Ninness: Hahaha, no one liked that one.
Geeks of Doom: I was totally on the “there’s no Michael Myers I hate this movie” bandwagon for twenty years, but I watched it again recently, and I absolutely love it.
James Ninness: He had a plan. He had a plan for the series and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see that plan because how cool would it be if we were still getting Halloween movies that were whatever the mind came up with?
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, better than some of the sequels John had no involvement with. But anyway, so you guys will be at SDCC?
James Ninness: Yes we will be at Comic-Con, we have a panel on Friday, it’s me and Sandy and Janice (Chiang), the letterer for Vault will join which is amazing. Friday night (7/21) at 8:00pm is our panel. I’m going to be walking around Saturday, probably running away. That show is super intimidating for me.
Geeks of Doom: That’s exciting, I look forward to catching the panel, obviously we’re in New York, but I’ll definitely catch it.
James Ninness: Well, we’ll be in New York, this is the first time we’re doing NYCC. I’ll be in a booth with Storm King. We got to go to Chicago this year for C2E2 which was amazing, and then we’re going to New York.
Geeks of Doom: Well, that’s awesome. I’ll be there as well. Hey man, thanks so much for taking the time. Good luck with Vault.
If you couldn’t tell, James Ninness was just a super cool dude. As he stated, he’s “livin’ the dream,” working side by side with legends John and Sandy King Carpenter. Vault, the first story in Storm King’s Tales of Science Fiction debuts right in time for SDCC. I will have coverage of the Storm King panel from SDCC later this week, and for those on the west coast going to Comic Con, Ninness will be there with Sandy, as well as letterer Janice Chiang on Friday at 8:00pm PST in Room 28DE. Ninness is featured in Tales for a Halloween Night Volume 3. Check out the trailer from The Hollywood Reporter.
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