Today we have an interview with Dan Brereton, Nocturnals: A Midnight Companion artist and co-author. Read along as Dan talks about the Nocturnals and the orgins of the name Brereton, and answers the ever-burning question, “Just how crazy is Rob Zombie?”.
The interview was conducted by TS Luikart, Skull & Bones designer and Nocturnals fan.
Q. How do you describe the Nocturnals to the scant few who have never heard of them before?
A. Imagine Hp Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler locked in a treehouse on Halloween night writing a story together–if two such polarized personalities could come up with a story without completely despising one another, it might end up looking something like Nocturnals. Writer Christopher Golden once called it Monster Noir. “Spooky superheroes with guns” is what my friend Ted Naifeh (Gunwitch: Outskirts of Doom, Courtney Crumrin) calls it. To me, Nocturnals embodies the best of the coolest aspects of the pulp fiction tradition with a Halloween vibe thrown in.
Q. What are the origins of the name, Brereton?
A. My name? It’s English. There’s a Brereton Hall outside of Kent. Sir William Brereton was an infamous Lord who once slew a servant during a banquet. His punishment was to fashion a muzzle for a bear and then put the thing on an actual bear loosed on him in his cell in the Tower of London. He managed to muzzle the bear, and that image of the muzzled bear remains the family crest.
Q. What is your experience with roleplaying games, if any, before Mutants & Masterminds?
A. I held back from playing Dungeons and Dragons in high school. My younger brother and his friends played it. They paid me to illustrate their characters, and when I convinced them to let me play my comic book characters (I was writing and illustrating this 60-page comic at the time called “Storm Knight”) in the game, starting at 10th level, we began playing these crazy games. This was back in 1982. After that, I played a little Champions, and later did some illustrations for the Rune Quest game from Chaosium. In my career as an illustrator, I’ve worked for White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast, in addition to Green Ronin. I don’t game anymore–I have found that outlet is satisfied with the writing of comic book stories and creating characters to tell stories about.
Q. Which “old tongue” is the Old Tongue?
A. You’re referring to the Weirding language Eve and Doc use to command the Gunwitch?
It’s a sort of Witch’s slurring of Greek, Latin, Egyptian, and a smattering of dead languages–very potent, forbidden. It was used in ancient times by Europrean covens when sending their undead slaves on various tasks, but it’s older than even that. In Egypt it was said to send the dead back to their tombs when they sometimes escaped their resting places.
Q. Just how crazy is Rob Zombie?
A. Actually, when you get to know him, he’s really not crazy. I mean, for a guy as not-crazy as he is, it’s a head-scratcher to imagine him changing his name to “Zombie” and tatooing monsters all over his arms… If anything, I think Rob just loves old horror movies and comics. He’s completely given over to those things, but he also has a head for what the “kids” want and like, and for business. He’s very creative and very personable. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear. If you want to hear about crazy, ask me about his guitarist, Riggs… Riggs has no eyebrows and a giant pentacle tatooed on his chest with the words “scum of the earth” underneath it. He plays a guitar filled with blood and drinks from it onstage during shows!
Q. Who was the Gunwitch, in life? That Marshal’s star certainly has implications…
A. He was a lawman at one time, but he was many other things as well: outlaw, world-traveller… The Midnight Companion tells more of the story.
Q. Tell us about the origins of the Monster Shop. Is it still in business? Black Planet seems to suggest that only the (Pacific) City location was a front for the Crim.
A. The Monster Shop is a project Halcyon Labs’ Narn K division runs–the Narn K are the black ops of the Bioengineering industry. The Monster Shop’s main function is splicing the DNA of animals and humans to create hybrid species. The idea is to create new species of intelligent humanoids with military applications. The idea didn’t work, ultimately, and Doc managed to help all the hybrids escape, most of which make up the Raccoon’s Freelyncher gang. Later, the Crim’s agent, Fane, insinuated himself into the facility and used it as a cover to breed more Crim in the bowels of the facility.
Lately, rumors have surfaced that the facility is up and running again, and work has begun on new horrors, far worse than the hybrid project.
Q. As the two premier painters in the comic world, have you and Alex Ross ever compared notes?
A. Alex and I are friends. The cover painting to The Midnight Companion is based on a design by Alex. We’ve compared notes, but it’s more like trading insults. We are both very, um, vocal about what we feel is lacking in the other’s styles, but also very clearly admire each other’s gifts. And Alex loves the Nocturnals–he called me after the release of the very first issue back in 1994 to tell me. As far as art styles go, he doesn’t see a huge difference in what we do, except that he’s tighter and I’m looser. The way I compare styles is that Alex is conforming the subject matter in his stories to reality, and I’m conforming reality to the subject matter in the stories. My stories have their own reality to them–I’m not afraid to stretch it. Alex has to have a concrete tangible feel in is work–that’s his special gift. I’d like to see what Alex would come up with if he abandoned that concession to the real world. In many ways we are two sides of the same coin and our differing watercolor styles complement each other.
Q. I know it isn’t polite to ask a lady’s age, but just how long has Polychrome been a wraith? Some of her turns of phrase are fairly archaic.
A. Not that long, really. She’s definitely an old soul, though.
Q. Are we ever going to find out more about the Nation of the Bloodless?
A. Yes. For starters, the vampires, much like the Nocturnals, exist like an invisble layer under the fabric of our society. This is an underlying theme in Nocturnals–levels of societies beneath the everyday waking world. The Nocturnals aren’t the end-all, be-all of secret societies. Their world is like an onion–layer after layer waiting to be peeled back and explored.
Q. So the Doc has a slight case of lycanthropy?
A. Something like that… It’s not traditional Wolf-man lycanthropy. It’s more about reverting to an earlier form in the evolutionary chain. An altered states kind of thing…
Q. Do you realize how easy it would be to adapt The Psycho to M&M? Or for that matter, Giantkiller?
A. It hadn’t occured to me, but yeah, you’re right.
Q. How old do you reckon Eve to be, now? She has obviously aged over the course of the comics…
A. At this point, she’s 13. I’m not ready [for her] to age any more for a while. I can’t stop my daughters from getting any older, but I can make sure Eve slows way down.
Q. Many artists and writers typically have themes that they like to regularly return to. Would you say that the Nocturnals has a theme and if so, what is it?
A. There are themes of family unity, loyalty, but one thing I find myself returning to with each project is the idea that scary is fun. Dangerous, certainly, but if you read the books, you’ll see that Halloween Girl loves the idea of being immersed in danger and monsters–she trusts her dad to see them through. The Nocturnals tend to be at their best when they are facing down the bad guys. Eve is usually happy to be in the thick of the action, and Doc certainly thrives on it. It may be that the idea of grace under pressure, achieving great things while the flames are licking at your feet, comes from the pressures an artist has when faced with deadlines. I find that the personalities of the characters tend to ape those of people in my own life, and myself to a large extent, but I swear to you I don’t approach Nocturnals as a mirror for my life. It’s not intentional. I really just want to tell engaging and fun stories. Nocturnals is all about adventure and escape and I think that’s why it’s prime material for roleplaying games.
Q. Is it an accident that Doc Nicodemus Horror looks suspiciously like one Daniel Brereton?
A. Dude, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.