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Hello again boys and girls!
  It’s that time once again for another interview with some of the Moonstone creative talent, hosted by ME –
The Gal on the Moon!
I’ve got a special treat for you. I’m talking about KOLCHAK, Carl Kolchak, yes, The Night Stalker.
I’ve wrangled both Joe AND Dave down to answer some questions about everybody’s favorite paranormal investigator.
Joe Gentile, editor-in-chief, and Dave Ulanski, art director and TOGETHER they are the co-publishers of this very company – MOONSTONE! Both Joe and Dave have written Kolchak comics and prose, so who better to chat with about the man in the rumpled suit and silly hat?

Bios

Joe Gentile

When Joe is not doing 7000 other things, he has managed to write many graphic novels like: Kolchak, Buckaroo Banzai, The Phantom, The Mysterious Traveler, Werewolf the Apocalypse, etc.
When not writing, editing, or publishing, or swearing, Joe lays down a low groove on the bass guitar.
Of course, he may just lay down and take a nap with his two dogs Apollo and Artemis, but you know,
it's still "laying down". -AND, if that wasn't enough, he has a ridiculously supportive and beautiful wife who can sing like nobody's business and who LIKES TO READ COMICS!

Dave Ulanski

Many moons ago, from the heart of the Motherland, born was Dave Ulanski! Since then, he studied under gods and men the way of the words and the ways of the pictures. Grasping these arts, he chose to squander them on comics.
Then, from the fiery heavens, came Moonstone, where he also began to edit, a thing of which he knew nothing but he did it anyway. Andthere, to this day, he remains... writing and art-ing and editing at Moonstone. All is good.

Lori G: Well guys, let’s get rolling, shall we? I know you both have busy schedules, keeping the Moonstone boat afloat so to speak. So, let’s talk about our friend Carl. I think our readers would like to know when you first encountered Kolchak? What was your initial reaction, to the movies and tv show?

Joe: My first encounter was seeing the first made for TV movie when it originally aired. I was hooked big time! You gotta remember that there was nothing like it…nothing. This kind of stuff hadn’t been done on TV. Scared the hell out of me. I remember watching it at my next door neighbor’s house. It ended at 10pm, which was the time I was supposed to walk home, which was no big deal because I was just next door, right? That night, the “walk” home, turned into a heart pounding-blood pumping 50 yard sprint. I had to wind my way through some bushes, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t quite sure if there was anything lurking in those bushes. It all happened in slow motion, and what took probably less than 7 seconds, seemed like an eternity. So, of course, I HAD to catch the show every week after that!

Dave: Oddly enough, I really first encountered Kolchak here at Moonstone back when we were working on acquiring the license. Joe told me he was looking into picking up the comics rights to the old Kolchak TV show, and I remember thinking, “The bald guy with the sucker? Really?” So I checked out the two movies, and thought they were pretty cool… but by the time I got through the television episodes, I was totally hooked. Supernatural with a touch of humor… if felt like something tailor-made to my interests, and it somehow shot by all these years without me noticing it.

Lori G: What is the driving force behind Carl as a character, in your opinion? Why does he continue to do the one thing that constantly gets him into trouble, namely write about “unusual” occurrences, again, there are no wrong answers  here, just tell us your thoughts!

Joe:My thought is that Carl is a searcher at all costs. He just has to find the truth, no matter what it is or how he has to obtain it. He firmly believes the reporter’s credo of the public’s “need to know”. But he still is very human, and his reactions and sometimes his decisions, well…are very believably human.

Dave: I really see Carl as the average person, just like you or me. That’s what makes us able to relate to him. How could we relate to someone selected by God to experience the phenomenal? And Carl keeps at it, writing about it, exposing it… because he’s seen it, he knows it’s there, and no one else will bring it out in the open. He wants to make all of us other “average people” aware that this terrible things exist. He wants to warn us, protect us, because what we don’t know can hurt us.

Lori G: When you write a Kolchak story, of any type (comic, short story, novel), what is the most challenging part of the process?

Joe:For Kolchak…well, Kolchak is a very odd mix of humor, horror, terror (I believe there is a difference), and a touch of noir. Not even an X-files story has those same elements I think. So getting all of those in there, it has to “sound” and “feel” like a Kolchak story…can be troublesome. Plus, if you pit him against a “monster”, sometimes the challenge is finding one that is interesting and that hasn’t been done to death. Plus, you have to come to some kind of place, at least in your head, of why Carl keeps tumbling across such things. For me, that takes some balancing with reality, for otherwise Carl is in danger of becoming a parody of himself. So he needs new challenges, tastes of the past, and some character development.

Dave: At first, it was getting into the character’s head, finding his voice. Once I became comfortable knocking around inside Kolchak’s noggin… well, the more stories you write about a guy that accidentally trips across some mysterious phenomenon, the more important it is to really try to do something different. I also like to cram a lot of action into fewer pages, making for faster-paced stories, and I think doing that and making them make sense is a huge challenge. I think the jury is still out on whether or not I’m pulling that off! You’ve edited a lot of my stories, Lori… whatcha think? How’m I doing?

Lori G: Not only have I edited some of your Tales, I’ve edited two collections of Kolchak short stories, Joe’s forthcoming Kolchak/Holmes mini-series, etc, and I think everyone has done a stellar job! Now I’m the one asking questions here, so back to you two. What is your favorite thing about writing Night Stalker stories (again of any type)?

Joe:  The voice of Kolchak, or maybe more succinctly, the voice of Darren McGavin.
Its part sarcasm, part world weariness, part everyman, and part Chandler. Gotta love it! That, and the crazy characters, just people that Carl comes across that the TV show had, are a hoot to create!

Dave: Again, the formula that surrounds it. I really enjoy creepy / humorous stuff. And the fun thing about Kolchak is, you can slant it one way or the other depending on the kind of story you want to tell. Even though it had its moments of comic relief, Kolchak Tales #4 was a darker, more serious story. Flipping the switch the other way, Tales #5 and 6 was a little more light and goofy. Kolchak lends itself pretty well to either scenario, and it makes him really interesting to work with.

Lori G: Who is your favorite Night Stalker supporting character and why?

Joe: That is REALLY a tough question, since there are so few to choose from. Not sure what ‘ol Dave will have to say, but with the exception of Tony (w/o which, Carl wouldn’t be nearly as fun), I would have to go with some of the characters that we here at Moonstone created, like SGT Weber or Morgan Slate. OR…I DO like the research character WALLY COX played on the TV show. Just haven’t had much chance to use him yet. But, for the most part, it’s all “the little people” that I like the best. In keeping with the spirit of the TV show, most of the people that Carl meets in the story are a little left of center. Whether it’s the round bag lady who thinks he’s handsome, or the morgue attendant who likes to be bribed with liquor, or the gorgeous super model who thinks Kolchak is always trying to question her…they’re all fun.

Dave: Hm, tough call. As far as existing characters go, Ron Updyke tends to turn up quite a bit for appearances in my stories. If you need a little comic relief in a scene, I find that he’s the way to go. Also, at the suggestion of our Kolchak consultant Mark Dawidziak, I created the Hollywood Dispatch’s publisher Morgan Slate. He’s a lot of fun for me, also, because he’s, uh… well, a blank Slate (pun intended). I got to start developing him from the ground-up.

Lori G: I’ve got to know, because I’m sure fans would LOVE to know: What is your favorite Kolchak episode or movie and why? (Aren’t essay questions fun? It’s just like those finals back in college, hehe, I’m so evil…)

Joe: Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the first TV movie with the vampire from Vegas! It still holds up today! It still brings on the chills, man, if you know what I’m saying! But there are MANY scenes of the TV show that REALLY worked as well, but on the whole, gotta vote for the TV movie. From the TV episodes there are two scenes that stand out for me. One is from the “Zombie” episode, where Kolchak (alone and at night of course) is sitting in a car with a zombie. Kolchak is then trying to pour salt in its mouth and then sew the lips together…and then, does the zombie wake up? Crazy squirming in your seat type of stuff! The second, and still scary scene is from the “Ripper” episode I believe. Kolchak is snooping in Jack the Ripper’s present day vacant house, when the Ripper returns! There’s a series of shots that has Kolchak hidden in a closet as the Ripper keep reaching on for something, just missing Kolchak. It happens again and again until Kolchak can’t take it anymore and runs out screaming. Classic stuff.

Dave: Well, I think the original Night Stalker movie was a poignant part of Kolchak’s story, seeing as it was (as our licensors dictate) Kolchak’s first actual supernatural experience. So it all really starts there. As far as the episodes go, I liked quite a few of them, but I seem to refer to “The Spanish Moss Murders” a lot. Guess there’s something about that one that I’ve latched onto like an obsessive / compulsive out on a hand-washing holiday. (Is this working for you as an essay question? I went to art college… we didn’t have to do these kinda of question. We just drawed purty pichers!)

Lori G: One last question relating to the NEW short-lived TV show, Night Stalker. What did you guys think of it? Did you dig it or hate and why!(I’m killing myself here with these questions! I know I’m having a blast, you two are probably regretting the “yes” you gave me recently when I asked if you guys would answer a few questions about Carl for the masses, but too bad, you have to answer ALL the questions!)

Joe: Well…ultimately for me, there just wasn’t enough of the “Kolchak character” to even call him Kolchak.Plus, honestly, the casting of the show left a lot to be desired. There WERE some creepy moments, but other elements were missing, like “humor”, “conflict”, and just plain old “character”. I WAS hoping that the network would give the show more of a chance to find itself though.

Dave: Watching it felt like having the jelly matter of my brain mixed slowly with a wooden spoon. It was strangely relaxing and I felt no pain… but I can’t say I would prefer to have gone through the experience. The characters had slightly less personality than cardboard cutouts… I’m not sure whether it was the writing, the acting, or both, but there was nothing in anybody’s delivery that made you involved with the characters. Even Kolchak’s drive to reveal the truth at all costs, from the original series… seemed to be lost as he preferred to withhold stories until such a time when he was ready to tell them, or whatever his reasons were. The essence of the character was lost. I didn’t expect Stewart Townsend to be Darren McGavin… but I was still hoping that Kolchak would be Kolchak. I didn’t get that, and I was disappointed.

Lori G: I know both of you have written comics/graphic novels/short stories about Carl for Moonstone. Would you like to tell our readers which is your favorite tale you have written about Kolchak (oh, and how can I forget…and why?)

Joe: Oh man, more ego stuff…I would guess that my short story in the anthology would be my choice. It’s the most recent, with what I hope is fun dialogue, and also is about one of my favorite subjects: “Ancient astronauts”. Kolchak is sitting in a jail cell with someone of mysterious origin, trying to find the truth of why this man appeared out of nowhere, naked, and in the middle of the street asking for Kolchak by name!
OR…the most complicated Kolchak story I have written has yet to see print, but should soon: “Kolchak and Sherlock Holmes”!It is my magnum opus as far as both characters are concerned. It is a 3 issue mini series (and novel) about these two investigators working on the same case 100 years apart from each other! It has a lot of actual history and some crazy science, but I’m very proud of it. It will, hopefully, make you see each of these characters in a slightly different light. (And no, they don’t time travel at all in this story!)It is a murder mystery within a murder mystery with a side serving of myths and rumors. Gah! It’s hard not to just blurt out the whole thing right here!

Dave: Well, lemme see, here. First lemme say that we all know that you’re not supposed to say that one of your children is your favorite. However, since we all know that’s a crock and ever parent’s got a favored kid, I guess I’ll conform. It’s a toss-up between two, I think. Kolchak Tales #4, “Scratch,” is my favorite of the comic stories. Kolchak and company are trapped in a house, being hunted from behind their reflections by the urban legend Bloody Mary. Now, I’m a huge fan of the “show me your monster” concept. But anytime you can bring out creepy creatures and still focus on some really good character moments, I think that’s really cool. It’s an important story where someone from around the Dispatch office gets killed, and the repercussions from that affect Carl for many issues. Plus, there’s some neat moments between Carl and Tony Vincenzo. Besides that, the short prose story “It Came from Monkey Skull Creek” was a lot of fun for me, also. I got to bring some background on Kolchak’s early years out in the open, which hasn’t really been done before. So with that story, I had a rare opportunity to not just tell another Kolchak story, but to add to his character some. So that was nifty.


Lori G: Moonstone has many new Kolchak projects, “in the works” so to speak. Why don’t you tell us about them? What do we have to look forward to? (I realize this could take a while, but please enlighten us, don’t hold back, I want to know it ALL! Well, ok, I already know a lot of this, but please give the scoop to our readers. If I tell them about everything, it just isn’t as exciting.)

Joe: 1. First up is our second volume of Kolchak short stories: The Kolchak Casebook”.
Lots of great stories to be had with many new writers contributing: (“Buffy” novelist Pierce Askegren, (“Nexus”/Punisher comic scribe) Mike Baron, (dark horror novelist) Rachel Caine, (Kolchak biographer) Mark Dawidziak, (ex Marvel EIC)Tom DeFalco, (Horror novelist) PN Elrod, (Horror writer) John Everson, Joe Gentile, (horror novelist and comics scribe) Christopher Golden, (“Buffy” novelist) Elizabeth Massie, (“Grimjack”-Comics writer) John Ostrander, (crime writer) Gary Phillips, (western/mystery novelist) James Reasoner, (mystery novelist) Robert J Randisi, (horror writer) Richard Dean Starr, & Dave Ulanski!320 pgs with spot illustrations!

2. Then, we have “Kolchak: The Lovecraftian Horror”! This is a beautifully colored “wide vision” novel. CJ Henderson (Batman/Punisher writer) and artist Jaime Calderon have created a Kolchak masterpiece! It’s a 96pg color original TPB! What better combo could there be besides KOLCHAK and HP LOVECRAFT!

3. Then, someday soon, god willing, if the fates are smiling upon us, there will be the 3 issue color mini series EVENT!   KOLCHAK & Sherlock Holmes in “Cry of Thunder”!
It will be our first “team up”, but really unlike anything one might expect. Basically, they both are trying to solve the same mystery, a century apart from each other, and it will take both investigators to get all the facts!  It all begins as a beautiful woman brings a very old manuscript to Kolchak…
It is written by yours truly, my “magnum opus” if you will, with Kolchak art by (Vampire the Masquerade) Andy Bennett and Sherlock art by (The Phantom) Carlos Magno! Ken Wolak will be adding the colors, and there will be covers by Eddy Newell, Dan Panosian, Vatche Mavlian, Doug Klauba, and Michael Kaluta!

4. Then, even later, will be the very first original Kolchak novel in many a moon, so to speak. There will be a Kolchak/Holmes novel that will add ALL kinds of stuff to the comic mini series story! Both the novel and the comics can stand on their own, and offer something different for the reader!

5. After THAT…is another novel. This one is by CJ Henderson. It’s pure Kolchak. We’re, um, still “deciding” on the title though…!

6. And THEN, maybe Dave will tell us all when his big Kolchak cross-over story will be coming out…something he’s been talking about for almost five years now…tell him the time is now!


Dave: Well, first of all, I’m getting ready to settle done and get Kolchak Tales back on track with a few new issues. I kind of left people hanging with the ending is issue #7, so I’m beginning to write another couple of issues that will show us what Carl’s been up to since getting fired from the paper. Expect a new interior artist to follow Kirk Jarvinen’s pencils on the previous issues.

I’m editing some other Kolchak material. One is a 3-issue miniseries Call “Night Stalker of the Living Dead,” written by Christopher Mills and illustrated by Tim Hamilton. It’s a zombie-fest kinda story, so who else other than the zombie-guru Dave Aikins could provide the cover?

Then, there’s another 3-issue mini called “The Frankenstein Agenda” written by David Michelinie and illustrated by Don Hudson. Covers will be by Bob Layton. Now, if you’re wondering why I find this particularly cool… Michelinie and Layton is one of the classic Iron Man creative teams from the 1980’s… and I believe even Mr. Hudson had his hand in some of that.

Another comic nearing release is a black and white 48 page special called “Ghost Stories.” It’s a spooktacular good time, and features a story by the entire Spider-Girl creative team of Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, and Sal Buscema! How cool is that? All these classic Marvel Comics creator telling Kolchak tales. Other contributors to this book are C.J. Henderson, Ron Harris, Keith Williams, Dan Dougherty, and yours truly.

Lastly, Moonstone’s lovable Mister Wolak and myself are discussing a special Kolchak project, but that’s all I have to say about that at the moment. Whew! I hope that was enough answer for you to chew on for a while!


Lori G: Moonstone has two different Kolchak comic book formats, the graphic novels and the Tales series. (not including our prose Kolchak projects) I’ve always said that the GN’s are similar in tone and “feel” to the original Kolchak movies, the Night Stalker and the Night Strangler, and that the Tales series is closer in tone and pacing to the short lived Kolchak TV show. Thoughts on that? Am I right or completely off base, lol?

Joe:  Well, I see them as exactly that as well. Kolchak fans are pretty divided on which Kolchak they liked better. The TV show has its admirers, as do the 2 movies.

The movies have a much more serious noir tone to them, while the TV episodes were lighter and quicker. So, the graphic novels have a darker edge to them, while still sounding VERY much like Kolchak. The comics have a slightly more whimsical approach, which certainly is ALSO very much like Kolchak.

Dave: I think you’ve peeled the correct banana there. Miss Lori. In the commentary I wrote for the “Bare Bones” script book Joe and I worked on together, I made mention of that. The movies were a bit slower-paced, had more time to unfold the stories, maybe were a little more serious. This feels true to me regarding our graphic novels. The TV episodes had to move the stories along a bit more quickly, with a shorter amount of time. I think some of the sillier moments tended to shine through in the series, as well. With the comic series “Tales,” my goal was to intentionally jam a lot into that little amount of space, as well as to “stack” the stories on each other. The result is something that feels more like a serialization… or a series of stories if you will, just like the TV show was a series. The graphic novels, like the two movies, are very complete into and of themselves.


Lori G: I know you two are writing your very fist Kolchak story as a team, for the “Bare Bones” collection due out later this summer. How has that worked out exactly? Is this a short story, a script for an upcoming comic or what? How does one, or in this case, two, go about writing a story together? Do ideas get tossed back and forth, or are you two emailing each other snippets of the story?

Joe:  Well, first, you need to be completely and undeniably insane…hands down certifiable. For us, we had no idea how to do this. However, I can say I think we’re both surprised at how much fun it has been. The two of us hammered out a VERY rough outline. When I say rough…we had 8 scenes we needed, and each was described in a single sentence! That’s it. We just decided to take alternate scenes. Dave started by writing the first scene and then passed it to me, where I would then pen the second scene and return it back! Many times temptation loomed to really challenge the other guy, but for the most part, the outline helped us stop those kind of urges! But we DID manage to leave the other with some “cliff hanger” type scenes, where the other writer had to come up with the solution.  What is kind of unexpected fun, is re-reading the story each time it is passed back and forth.There has been more than one occasion where I’m re-reading the script, ready to continue it, when I come across a piece of dialogue and say to myself “Did I write that?”. It appears that Dave and I actually write a story together better than we prayed (literally) for!

Dave: Well, it was created as a “bonus story,” kind of as a perk for picking up the “Bare Bones” scripts. But it’s turned into a pretty fun story, so we’re talking about possibly having it produced into a comic down the road. We’ll have ta see how that goes! Right, Joe?
Anyway, I thought it would be fun if Joe wrote the even number pages, and I wrote all the odd number pages, and neither of us would see what the other guy did until we were finished. Can you imagine a bigger mess making less sense than that! Woooo mama, that’d be fun. We discussed a “round robin” thing where we’d take turns writing pages, but, like, actually seeing what the other wrote previously. This could have been fun, but might have wandered on for hundreds of pages looking for a plot to follow. Hey, that’s kinda trendy, I know… no slant against X-Men, right?
Ultimately, we sat down in a filthy bar down in Mexico, and decided to hammer out an outline to guide us over a couple of gallons of tequila. (Exactly what all that tequila was doing under us, I’ll never know.) So, armed with a plot that had “checkpoints” for us to hit to move the story along, Joe and I decided to alternate writing scenes, not knowing what each other wrote til it was handed to us. Then we’d add our respective scene and pass is back, and so forth. The outline kept us on track, but everything else… the details, the dialog, was a total surprise each time. I have to say… I wasn’t sure Joe and I would survive the experience walking into it. But it turned into more fun than a room full of drunken monkeys as a poop-flinging festival. (Ever been to one of those? I suggest wearing something machine-washable.)


________________________________________________________________

Lori G: I think I’ve asked you guys enough questions for one interview, thanks for taking the time. I will now let you both get back to publishing comics!

If any of our readers would like to pick up some comics by Joe and Dave, it is SO easy. All you have to do is buy ANY of Moonstone’s fine books, because they both have had a hand in all of them to some extent. OR you can buy some of these fine Kolchak products: Kolchak Chronicles short story anthology (both Joe and Dave have a short story in there), pre-order The Kolchak:Bare Bones script book from your local comic shop (it will be shipping soon).Other Joe Kolchak-related comics: Kolchak: Get of Belial GN, Kolchak: Lambs to the Slaughter GN, Kolchak: Eve of Terror GN. Other Dave Kolchak-related comics: Kolchak Tales 1-7 and the Kolchak Tales Special, Black, White and Read All Over! Don’t forget to check back frequently on this website for release information for all of the other upcoming Kolchak projects that Joe and Dave have mentioned in this interview! Until next time children…

Kisses to all,

The Gal on the Moon

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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