On July 13, the FX network will premier one of the most anticipated new shows of the summer: The Strain, based on The New York Times-bestselling novel by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and the Dark Horse Comics’ graphic novel adaptations by David Lapham and Mike Huddleston.
What’s immediately evident after viewing the extended trailer is how much the Dark Horse graphic novels by renowned comics creator Lapham (Stray Bullets, Silverfish) and artist Huddleston (The Coffin, Butcher Baker) have influenced the visual identity of the TV show. Del Toro worked closely with Dark Horse and the evidence is everywhere. I had a chance to chat with artist Mike Huddleston about the comic, the upcoming TV show, and working directly with Del Toro on all the designs.
Blake Northcott: Hey Mike! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.
Mike Huddleston: No problem, Blake.
BN: The new television series The Strain is an adaptation of Guillermo del Toro’s novel – but a lot of the design is being credited to you, reflecting your art from the Dark Horse comics. Can you tell me a bit about your relationship with Guillermo, and what it’s like working on the comic book version of The Strain?
MH: Sure. Guillermo has been my art director throughout the entire process so if there are similarities in design between the book and the show I’m not too surprised as you have the same guy guiding both versions. Actually I’ve been surprised how intimately involved Guillermo has been with every detail of the comic. At the beginning the conversations and the back and forth with sketches were pretty constant as we designed the vampires, important props like The Master’s coffin, locations and cast our characters, but even now, 500-something pages later, he still approves every piece of my art.
Have you seen any of the finished episodes, and how close do they come to your artistic vision?
MH: No, I haven’t seen any of the episodes yet! It’s frustrating as many people I am dealing with who work with Guillermo or in promoting the show have seen the first four episodes already and tell me, “Oh, this scene is just like the book!,” or ” I can’t wait for you to see this scene, it’s just how you drew it.” Needless to say, I’m excited to see the show.
BN: With your vampire designs for The Strain, did you draw any inspiration from other incarnations, either in comics or film? Del Toro’s Blade II had some very distinctive vampire designs – was that an influence?
MH: The design inspiration for these vamps really just came from the script and del Toro himself. Vampires having weird mouth things is definitely a theme for Guillermo though. Talking with Guillermo about the concept of these vampires: that they vomit out their internal organs that have been transformed into this tentacle like stinger; my job then was to imagine how the body would change to make that possible. How would the muscles and skeleton work to do it? How can I make this look cool?
So, no. Not really pulling from any other vampires, just running with Guillermo del Toro’s ideas.
BN: Have you always been a big horror fan, either in print or film?
MH: Actually, I’m a complete baby when it comes to horror. I get way too scared by horror movies to watch them so I’ve never actually been much of a fan. It’s ironic though as I’ve spent a good part of my career drawing horror books. People tell me all the time how creeped out they get by The Strain comics, so I guess I’m getting something right.
With the novel and comic book fan base already in place, do you feel that The Strain could take off in the same way that something like The Walking Dead has? Horror seems to have some of the most loyal fans.
MH: Well I think that’s everyone’s hope of course: to have such a successful project, but who knows…Walking Dead could be lightning in a bottle. I think The Strain will have no trouble finding its TV audience. It’s a great story in any of its versions and from what I have seen from the show it looks beautiful and scary as hell.
BN: The Strain: The Night Eternal (the third part of the comic book series from Dark Horse) hits shelves in August – can you give me any details about that, or tell us what to expect?
MH: Night Eternal is my favorite part of the story so far! Personally, I’m the most proud of the work we are doing on this last arc as I think it’s the best looking, but it’s also the craziest darkest chapter.
I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to give away actually, but we do delve into the ancient history of this plague. I’ve been drawing ancient Native Americans, Inuit tribes, Roman emperors, cavalry battles, Biblical cities. It’s huge!
But back in the present we are following our heroes trying to survive an apocalypse they weren’t able to prevent. It’s intensely dark. I can’t wait to see how it ends!
BN: Thanks for chatting with me. I can’t wait to see The Strain!
MH: Thank you!
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter or pick up her best-selling sci-Fi/superhero book Arena Mode over at Amazon.com.