In a matter of weeks, David Dastmalchian's Count Crowley will hit the stands at comic stores across the world. Combining classic creature features with action-packed horror, the four-issue mini-series will be Dastmalchian's first foray into creating comics, something that's been a long time coming since he bought his first comics decades ago as a teen in Kansas City.
We had the chance to speak with Dastmalchian at length about Count Crowley and while we had his attention, even delved into some chat about The Suicide Squad, The Flash, and some other upcoming projects. Keep scrolling to see what Dastmalchian has to say about his first comic series and more!
ComicBook.com: You know, Count Crowley is coming out in just over a month, right?
David Dastmalchian: Final order cut off is like days away, so I've just been trying to do a final push to let people know that FOC is coming up and then next thing you know it'll be on shelves. So it's really nerve-wracking. I’m so excited, but there’s a lot of nerves and feelings, you know.
Totally. Perfect timing too, right in the midst of spooky season.
I know, I know. When they said the strategy last year when they took on my title and Dark Horse said they wanted to go forward with it, we started looking at it immediately. My editor, Megan Walker, sat down with me and we started looking at a calendar, you know, looking at scripts and art and on deadlines, et cetera. It just landed perfectly that she was like, “Oh my God, I think that we would be right on time to drop issue one right before Halloween.” And here we are and it’s happening. It’s crazy.
Over the past few years you've been rising the ranks of Hollywood from The Dark Knight to Ant-Man and beyond. At what point do you say, “You know what? I to take on a comic book right now!”
It's so weird how it's happened. I think that it's its own story. I mean, how it came to be is such an incredible journey. Basically I started collecting comics in Kansas City as a kid and I got really into comics by about the age of 12 which, right around that same time was when my love of movies, especially monster movies were kind of my early first love. I was, you know, always a sci-fi geek, and I loved movies, but monster movies, especially those that I was introduced to by my late night creature feature hostess, were like very important to me and classic monsters like vampires, werewolves.
Early on, after seeing movies like Monster Squad and The Lost Boys all the way to like every old Universal or Hammer film. I remember thinking like that I wanted to concoct a kind of superhero who knew all the secrets of, you know, what was going on behind the scenes in the world when it came to monsters and had to battle them. It was an odd thing that I just thought of a lot and I loved horror hosts, so I always would, you know, keep up with that culture and do my own costumes and stuff like that.
Then, you know, you fast forward my career as an actor began and I became an adult and I struggled with and have been treating my illness with both addiction, depression, and anxiety for over 17 years now. And in that journey, which has miraculously turned out to be a happy ending, to all of that where right now I have a whole system of support and I have been able to have this dream career as an actor and working in all these properties that means so much to me personally, and work with so many amazing people and I have an incredible family that I love.
Meanwhile, all of that filtered its way into this idea, this concept that I had about this monster hunter. Basically, to be honest with you, when I thought about this story — when I thought of Count Crowley and the Jerri Bartman journey — I imagined it as a television series because we're in this boom of, you know,Renaissance television. I thought like, “Wow, I have years of story that I want to tell with this character and I have all these different, villains and networks that I need her to face and that I want to explore.”
I sat down with my boss, Peter Lenkov, who cast me as Murdoch on his MacGyver reboot and he also has incredible history with storytelling, I mean the guy did RIPD, he did all the awesome reboots that are hits on network television right now. He was going to give me some advice about like how I could put a TV pitch together and when he heard my idea, he like jumped out of his chair because he's a big horror guy too. He loved like Kolchak The Night Stalker, which I always loved and he was like, “Dude, I want to help you bring this story to people and I think that you should meet Mike Richardson at Dark Horse. I think that they would be perfect partners on this journey.”
So he set up a meeting for me with the Dark Horse folks and some people from his company and sure enough, they really dug the idea and they got on board and it was so weird because man, it's like…imagine you've been collecting comics your whole life and all of a sudden you're sitting in the offices of one of your favorite publishers and you're just like having them tell you that they like your idea and they want to help you bring it to life. Now, here we are. You know, it's almost October ... I just today got the cover for issue four and it's like every piece of art that Lukas makes, I want to get printed, framed and like…I won't have any more wall space in my house, you know, considering all the crap I already have hung up there.prevnext
Seeing Dreams Come to Life
You mentioned all these stories you have in mind, and I might be pulling the cart before the horse here a little bit, but everyone kind of loves their own franchise these days. Do you have plans on kind of developing this Crowley world even further past these four issues?
This is the problem, you know, speaking of the cart before the horse — I’m just trying to enjoy this moment and know that if four issues is what I get and that trade is what we get to make, I will be so proud and so grateful and so happy. But I have to say that the first four issues tell a complete story and they really, you know, will illuminate so many important things about the world that is being created here.
But, to me, it's almost like opening the cover of the book. Do you know what I mean? Like by the end of the fourth issue I feel like I've only been able to let you peel back the cover of this old mystical ancient text that like, I want so badly to take you to into the depth of what chapter one is about and then there's 73 more, you know, chapters to come.
I just hope, I pray, I send up to the comic book gods, you know, that I hope I get to keep going with this, but if this is it then, then man, I've seen now all of almost every panel of every page that Lukas has completed. And after working really hard on the scripts with the editor and the other folks at Dark Horse, I'm so proud of the scripts, but then once the art started coming to life, I mean, you know, you're a diehard comic guy and it's like…I don’t know…like I've been thinking about this character for 30 years and I've been reading comics for more than 30 years and I'm sitting here right now, like looking at her in the face. It's surreal.
Kind of like the first time I saw The Joker in person, you know, like when I got my first acting job in a movie and I was standing there next to the physical manifestation of a character that I had been obsessed with since I was 12 years old. That moment is hard for me to describe, you know? And then just like the first time I opened a PDF sent by Lukas Ketner to me of his vision for what he thought Jerri and this world would look like. And I almost fainted, like it was insane.
It's seeing a dream come to life, right? It's indescribable.
Being His Own Marketer
Without giving away too much of the plot and stuff, let's dive into Crowley, the title itself. You know Hollywood loves nostalgia. We have Super 8, Stranger Things, things like that call back to the eighties and such. What’s going to set Crowley apart from everything else available now?
The eighties was very important to me for two plot elements. Not only do I just love that era and that's when I came of age with my discovery of comic books, but also horror hosts. There was a big thriving culture of local television stations horror hosts across the country in the eighties and because my story and the way that the monsters are plotting their assault on humanity, the media and especially mass media is hugely important to the journey that Jerri's about to embark on. In 1983, when I start my story, is kind of the birth of cable television in the United States and the birth of what will become the concept of a cable news network.
Just to give you and the readers a little insight into why this all matters is Jerri has no interest in being a horror host, let alone fighting monsters. She wants to be a legit investigative journalist. She wants to be respected and she wants to be a hard hitting, you know, anchorperson.
Unfortunately, when she reports to her superiors at a big station that she's been assaulted by a star news anchor, no one believes her and they think she's just trying to capitalize and manipulate and bring down a good man. So, she's basically thrown out of the business and she winds up back in a small town she grew up in where her brother runs this small station and she's so depressed and she's so embarrassed and dark that she just drinks around the clock. The only job her brother can keep her employed at is hosting this creature feature as a fill in for the guy who stopped showing up for work called Count Crowley.
When she finally agrees to do it, she puts on this makeup, she gets on the set, she doesn't know anything about monster movies. She's utterly blasted and humiliated and she ends up being a bit of a hit in the small town. And that's kind of cool for a moment until she discovers in a really horrifying moment that the guy she replaced wasn't just a horror host. That was actually his secret identity and he was one of the last appointed monster hunters among humanity and monsters have been infiltrating our society for generations. But the way that they've been concocting their agenda is by spinning fake news and information through media into the general population. So everything that you and I know about monsters has been a lie. The fact that we think that wooden stakes would stop a vampire is a lie. The fact that you and I think, “Oh, you kill a werewolf with a silver bullet,” that's totally a lie. It's actually much harder to stop monster than you and I think.
Jerri has a whole shit ton on her plate as she gets into this and really the only person that she has as a resource that could help her is the guy who mentored Count Crowley. He was a horror host himself named Vincent Frights and Frights is now a dementia-addled old man in a nursing home who really thinks that women's place is in the kitchen and that basically all hope is lost and Jerri's like going to have to really decide, you know, who is she, what is she going to do?
It's such a great opportunity for me to explore all these themes that I love and that I struggle with and yet to me, it's not like a message comic. There isn't like some message to me. I'm hoping that what people experience is fun. The monsters look so fucking cool, dude. Lukas' art is so brilliant and they scare the way that a good classic monster adventure should. It's just underneath it all, I'm hoping we can subvert everybody's expectations. You know.
I'm totally on board. But the good thing is, man, it sounds like you're incredible passionate about the project and that’s something that should fuel the marketing flames a little bit. Did you ever imagine you'd be your own marketer?
No, no I didn't and you know what's been so fun, man? There's so many things about this journey that have been utterly amazing. I mean walking onto the floor at San Diego [Comic-Con] and seeing from 150 yards out, this 12 foot blow up of cover one that Dark Horse had put as one of the posters lining the walls of their booth, like my wife and I just broke down. I mean, this has been one hell of a journey and just to have that moment alone with like worth the price of admission, let alone every time I've opened a PDF from Lukas or every email I've gotten from my editor telling me that she loves this next plot twist or this new character I've introduced.
So when it came time to market the thing, you know, I got on the phone with all the awesome people at Dark Horse who mostly are in Oregon and I'm pretty mobile because I'm working as an actor, my family and I travel all over the world. So, I was on the phone with everybody and they were just running through their thoughts on how they wanted to romote the comic.
And I said, does this sound crazy? But like I've always dreamed of getting to be a horror host myself. I was like, “I have this kind of character that I've created called Doctor Fearless. Would you guys be cool with me if me and my buddy Colin would shoot my own like, fake horror host intro teaser?” And then we could like intro the comic.
The Dark Horse people were like, “Oh my God dude, that's fucking awesome,” and then next thing I know, Kelly Woessner from Dark Horse came down and we went to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, who are friends of mine and we set up our own fake horror host set. I got to dress up like Doctor Fearless and my friend did my makeup and it was very DIY, but at the same time it was all I could have ever dreamed.
Just being a part of this from the ground all the way up has been is such a joy. It's never for a minute felt like work and I'd say it's been the most rewarding creative experience that I've had and I've had many, many as you can imagine, rewarding creative experiences. I've worked as an actor with some of the greatest directors of our time. I've gotten to write and act in two independent films that I'm incredibly proud of, Animals and All Creatures Here Below, which, you know, just came out a few months ago and I have a lot of work that I've been able to be a part of, you know, crafting that I'm very proud of. But this experience has something unlike anything I've ever done before.prevnext
That's great. That's great. I do want to touch on a few other things real quick. You’ve got Reprisal for Hulu, but there's not too much out there publicly yet. What can you kind of tell us out, not only about your role but the series as a whole?
I want to tell you everything about it. I want to tell you everything and they haven't like put any heavy embargo shit on me, which has been cool. I feel like this is one of those shows that people are going to have to see it to believe it. It's so original and it's so cool and it's so fucking fun.
To me, it feels like the imaginations of Quentin Tarantino speeding in one direction, crashing into this lumbering awesome, strange vehicle driven by David Lynch. It feels like that and it's a very stylized, very, very complex story about a number of different people, but at the hub of it all is just a good old fashioned classic noir tale of vengeance. All this stuff that spools out from that is, it's really magical.
The guy is Josh Corbin who created this. It's interesting because as I was reading the pilot back when they sent me the script a year, more than a year ago. I remember thinking “What is this? What is the source material for this? Is it a comic that I don't know about, is it?” And then I realized no he just has that awesome of an imagination that he just thought up this whole world and the Littlefields who have done Fargo and Handmaid's Tale, they believed in it and Hulu's now putting it up on their station, which I think is a rad platform. I like Hulu a lot, so I'm proud to be a part of it.
My character is super fucking fun. He's this very enigmatic, strange dude that, where he's coming from and where he's going, I don't know if anyone but myself and Josh are going to know until the right moment. But he has deep seething mysterious secrets rolling behind that giant head of hair. It's really fucking cool.prevnext
Don't Get Attached
So you do bring up a heavily embargoed shit and I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you some Suicide Squad stuff. I mean you're not a stranger to the whole superhero world. We're talking appearances in The Dark Knight. We have Ant-Man. You played friggin’ Abra Kadabra on The Flash, right? Then you get asked to play Polka-Dot Man. What the heck goes through your head when someone asks you to play a villain like that?
What I can tell you is that I've heard that this movie is being made and that I cannot wait to see this movie. I swear dude, like as soon as I am allowed to even talk about this film in any way, shape or form, I will do it. I was literally told recently like not even like say anything.
Here's what I can tell you. There's this man in the universe, in the galaxy named James and he is the master of a form of storytelling that I think doesn't just entertain audiences, it literally like transports audiences.
The fact that he's making The Suicide Squad, the fact that he's making fucking Guardians 3 fills my little nerdy soul with so much joy because when I read that he was back on Guardians 3, there was something that just felt like, as crazy as a moment that we're living in right now, I felt like the universe righted itself just slightly. I think that all of us are so grateful that that man is making movies in this genre.
There is the graphic that’s been circulating online with all these names. I’m pretty sure you're at the very top, even.
I saw that, I saw that. That is so exciting. You know, I forget, what did he say with his post?
Don't get attached, I believe.
Don't get attached.
Right, there's Margot Robbie, there's Idris Elba, Cena, Rooker, Fillion. Taika Waititi. I mean all of a sudden we're at a bigger cast than Avengers: Endgame, it seems. As an actor, which are you looking forward to appearing on screen with?
You know what, if I actually do get to be a part of this film, like anytime that I would get to be around any of those people would be a treat, but you know we'll see. We'll see.
In fact, I think about this nerd's dream that I'm living and I can acknowledge the fact that we have wrapped production on Dune and I hope that, I think there's a lot of cross pollination between the fans of comic books and science fiction and I feel like a lot of the shops that I hang out in, there's a lot of buzz and excitement about that too. So hopefully if you're not too tired of talking to me, I can come back in a couple months and we can talk about that at length.prevnext
Other Possible Franchise Appearances
Absolutely. We're talking Dune, The Flash on the CW, probably potentially maybe Suicide Squad. Ant-Man. You’re living in franchise city over there, man. What other franchise are you chomping at the bit to be in?
You know what, I would just be so jazzed if someone would give me a shot to act in or be a part of helping to write in so many different universes, but especially the world in which Morbius lives, stalks and breathes, the world that Werewolf By Night has lived over many decades. I think that if I could ever get a chance to act in the Mignola universe, I would be so jazzed because I feel like there's so many incredible films that have yet to come out of the BPRD.
And I think that personally at some point I would, I hope somebody gives me a chance to write a screenplay about the Creature Commandos. They were one of the Weird War Tales, ongoing kind of plots that grew out Of Weird War Tales and DC and there was something about those monsters that were, I don't know. It just, it was always such a cool concept to me and I feel like I have a lot of ideas that I would love to bring to that table if I were to ever be so lucky as you know, to get to work on the creation of a big film like that, you know?prevnext
Possible Return to The Flash
Can fans expect you back as Abra on The Flash anytime soon?
You know what I have been ... we will see. I know the future because I'm from the future obviously and I have traveled back just so I could do this interview with you. I mean, I'm going to have to get back to the 64th century in a second and I think I'm on Earth-16 right now, but I will say that when they're ready to wrap things up, then it's absolutely going to be time for Abra, because Abra Kadabra will be the one that will say Presto and put poor Barry finally to sleep.
But yeah, I think that there's a whole Rogue’s gallery of cool folks that if you were to unite the powers that we each have individually, then there's no way that the pesky little little speedster could stop us. It would be really cool.
And I mean, look at what Berlanti's created. You know, I think that there's something just so right on the money when I watched, like thinking about The Flash and some of that DCTVU, I just, yeah, I'm ready. I've got wand, my deck of cards, my magic hanky and I'm ready to go.
Count Crowley: Reluctant Monster Hunter is due out October 23rd from Dark Horse comics. Dastmalchian is also set to appear in Dune on December 18, 2020 and The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021. Hulu's reprisal will be release December 6th.
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