First it was vampires , now it’s Frankenstein. The next Steve Niles comic to hit the big screen will be “Wake the Dead,” and this time, he’s helping out as a producer, not a writer, with a little help from WETA.
“Right now, we’re scouting locations,” Niles said. “[Director] Jay [Russell] wants the movie to be ready for the next San Diego [Comic-Con]. WETA is doing the designs, and it looks amazing. And whatever they need me on, I help. Jay runs the treatment by me and I put the story together, so it begins and ends with me, but I don’t have to write it.”
“Wake the Dead” is a modern Frankenstein story, where a college student named Victor is trying to reverse death. Niles researched the comic by watching heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai, to get a look at how modern medicine might affect the telling of the tale. “I’m a horror guy, but I don’t like syringes, needles, or scalpels,” he said. “I was expecting blood and limbs everywhere, so I thought I might last ten seconds.”
This, despite an internship he had with a mortician in high school. (“Even back then, I had a fascination with the macabre,” he said).
But as it turned out, doctors “very rarely cut open the chest and do open-heart surgery anymore,” he said. One of the things Niles learned was that the trauma from opening up the body is what makes it tougher to survive surgery, so nowadays they eliminate the stress of cutting the bone just to get to the heart. “Healing time is cut in half,” he said. “Everything was so non-invasive, so tidy. It was like playing a video game.”
This understanding of how modern medicine might affect how a Frankenstein could be made is what is fueling the look for the film version of Niles’ comic.
“It’s a great opportunity to redesign Frankenstein,” Niles said. “Everyone usually riffs on Boris Karloff, and WETA is trying to move past that. ‘How does Frankenstein’s lab look?’ These are fun problems to have.”
What would a modern Frankenstein look like to you? Who would you cast as Victor? As Frankenstein himself?