An Interview with Mark Miller:
Bringing Joe Lansdale’s “Steam Man” to Comics
Giant robots, albino apes and invading Martians? It’s a tale tailor-made for comics. Mark Miller worked with the Joe Lansdale, author of the short story in question, to adapt The Steam Man for Dark Horse Comics. Recently, Miller was kind enough to answer a few questions about the process for Cemetery Dance Online.
(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)
CEMETERY DANCE ONLINE: Tell us how The Stream Man went from idea to reality. Was it something Dark Horse approached you about, or did you and Joe Lansdale bring the project to them?
MARK MILLER: It was a case of the latter. Joe was kind enough to lend a blurb to the comic I wrote with Clive Barker called Next Testament. I thanked Joe personally for the blurb and told him, if he indeed did enjoy what I had done on Next Testament, that I’d love to adapt something with him. He liked the idea, we discussed some of his short stores, and we zeroed in on The Steam Man, which has always been one of my favorites.
What was it about the source material that drew you to it?
The first time I read it, it blew my mind. The Time Machine has always been one of my favorite films and books. The way The Steam Man is told is that it jettisons you into this crazy ass world, and then slowly reveals that this is a world you’re familiar with, but it’s a telling that’s never been done before. As you read, it becomes clear that what you’re reading is what happens after ‘happily ever after.’ And that idea showed me that when you finally let your imagination free, anything is possible!
How faithful to Lansdale’s short story is this adaptation?
Incredibly faithful. We’ve added a bit more dialogue and flashbacks with some fight sequences to ramp up the action, but from start to finish, this is Joe’s story.
How closely did Lansdale work with you on this? What kind of feedback did he provide as you worked on the scripts?
It has been one of my very favorite collaborations. Joe has been very close on the project since day one. From choosing which story we should tackle, to the difference between characters saying “Yup” and “Yep” Joe has had thoughts and notes. But from day one, he has been the most supportive champion of the project. I await every one of his emails to see what kind of enthusiastic response I’ll get from him whenever a page comes in or I submit a script for approval. They always make my day better.
Is this a project that’s in any way open-ended? Any chance of The Further Adventures of Steam Man?
Oh absolutely. There’s a brutal ending at the end of this mechanical rainbow, but in a world where time has ripped the fabric of the world wide open, anything is possible.
When you look at Joe Lansdale and Clive Barker, you have two authors that, stylistically, couldn’t be any farther apart. Did you have to alter your approach any when shifting from Barker to Lansdale?
Great question! I’ve been collaborating and writing with Clive for years now. So switching to Joe’s voice was very much like working out an entirely different muscle. Clive and Joe’s styles couldn’t be more different, but their headspaces are both a hell of a lot of fun to occupy.
How does working with such diverse writers influence and enhance your own work?
It only makes me better. As Cormac McCarthy said, books are made out of books. Working with two of the most influential horror writers of our age is a master’s class in writing.
Are there other Lansdale stories or novels you’d like to adapt?
You bet your ass. One was The Bottoms, but Bill Paxton has optioned that. And I’m okay with that. The guy who directed Frailty adapting one of my favorite novels of all time? I can live with that.
What other authors would you like to work with in a similar fashion?
There are at lot on my list. I admire more authors than I can list. But the top of that list right now are two more titans: Stephen King and James Ellroy. So stay tuned!
What other projects do you have in the works?
As soon as I finish answering this, I have to get ready for the premiere of my new short film: The Great Corben, about a failed magician who can’t get over his stagefright. It’s part of a lineup of horror shorts coming out this October called Fun Size Horror. All the films are fantastic and I’m honored to be a part of it. I encourage everyone who reads this to check them out!