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Interview: Mike Huddleston Discusses the Third Act of THE STRAIN and the Upcoming FX Series

Artist Mike Huddleston talks about working with Guillermo Del Toro on the Dark Horse series, as well as his impressions on it becoming a series on FX. Plus, an exclusive look at NIGHT ETERNAL

For those familiar with the Dark Horse comic series or the novel, THE STRAIN, then you may know that it has been adapted for television and coming to FX. The story was developed by Guillermo Del Toro and the three part comic series was written by David Lapham and drawn by Mike Huddleston. With part three, NIGHT ETERNAL, coming out on August 20th and the series starting on July 13th, artist Mike Huddleson talked to us about the comic series, the upcoming television series, and his work with Del Toro.

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MIKE HUDDLESTON: THE STRAIN is Guillermo Del Toro's vampire apocalypse project. I think that's about as broad as I can get. It's really his take on vampires, but it rolls out a little more like a zombie story than you would expect at the beginning, but since it's Guillermo, it's very psychological.

CV: Guillermo Del Toro selected you to draw this book. How did that come about and what was it like working with him?

MH: When Dark Horse called me, they called with Guillermo already wanting me to draw the book. Our relationship really started years ago, we did a project called THE COFFIN about 10 years ago that Guillermo and James Cameron optioned and purchased for a film, so that was the first time I met Guillermo and had any sort of contact. It was a horror book with mechanics. There was a lot of technology mixed with horror. Later Dark Horse followed up, Guillermo was going to be project leader and I was going to draw it, which was great. As far as work, I'm kind of surprised because he is really involved with everything, all the way through. When we were designing everything you're seeing now in the tv show, we were designing certain sets, props, just a really involved relationship. He was guiding the entire process, everything I did, from the design of the vampires, everything. Even now, we're working on THE STRAIN: NIGHT ETERNAL, the last part of the story, and he's still looking through all my pages. It's been good with him. I'm just surprised he's so involved with it.

CV: How did this book end up becoming a show on FX? Was that always a plan for Del Toro or did it happen spur of the moment?

MH: From what I understand and this isn't something I've really talked with him personally about, it was something he wanted to do, the show, originally. I guess, years ago, when he had the idea, before a lot of these big fantasy shows were starting, no one was really interested, so he went this completely round about way of doing it as a series of novels, and now a series of graphic novels and then come full circle to being the tv show. I think he had the idea for it to begin with. It was a very roundabout process.

CV: If you've seen the first episode, what did you think of it?

MH: I actually have not seen the first episode yet. It's a little frustrating because everyone I'm dealing with that works with Del Toro or doing promotions keeps asking me that or keeps telling me “Oh this scene is done exactly the way you did it in the book” and I haven't seen it yet to have a comparison. I know just from the ads I've scene that I get a lot of deja vu “oh wow, that really looks like it came off the page.” But I haven't seen it yet.

CV: From what we've seen in the trailer for the show, the scene on the airplane, with everyone dead, really sticks out. What were your feelings about this scene?

MH: Really, it was a big sense of deja vu. I feel like I've seen this before and I have the idea that once I'm sitting and watching the show, out of everyone on Earth, I'm going to be the one person that really just going to feel really strange watching it because it's going to seem so familiar. I was excited. I took this project, to begin with, because I'm a fan of Del Toro's work, and so I wanted to work with him on something and something that's this big and crazy seemed great. What I saw and what the trailer looks like, it looks beautiful. I am really excited as a fan.

CV: Were you on set at all during production?

MH: No. They offered but during the time that they were shooting, I was still living overseas. I'm in L.A. now, but I was living in France then so it wasn't really practical for me to do that. I would have loved to but I didn't make it work.

CV: Because it's being adapted for television, were their certain things from the comic, like the level of violence or the rotted penises, that FX said no to?

MH: I don't know. One of the things that's great about doing the comic, though, is that we don't have those sorts of worries. Now, we're working on the third part,NIGHT ETERNAL, things are crazy and pretty violent and it has a lot of gruesome elements. And in the comic, you don't have to worry about it because there is no censor. We might be able to do things a little harder in the comic than tv which is kinda cool for us.

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CV: Even though THE FALL just wrapped up, when can fans expect part three, NIGHT ETERNAL, of the STRAIN trilogy comic?

MH: NIGHT ETERNAL starts on August 20th. That's coming up pretty fast. Between The Strain show is running, this week we released a hardcover that collects the first two collections of THE STRAIN, so if people don't know anything about THE STRAIN and they're learning about it because of the tv show, they can just start with the book, and then, next month, the third arc starts, it's going to be a lot of STRAIN stuff going on at the same time.

CV: When it comes to your art style, for this book, it hits the horror genre very well. Stylistically, how do you get to that level of art and do you have to be in a certain kind of mindset to draw the terrifying things you're drawing in THE STRAIN?

MH: The art is interesting because if people pick up NIGHT ETERNAL, they are going to see that the art has changed quite a lot since I started on the book. When I first started, I wasn't really sure, since I knew I was doing Guillermo's project, it wasn't my project. I think I was playing it a little safe at the beginning, and I wasn't really pushing it in some places that I am now. I'm not really a big horror fan. I'm pretty scared of horror movies. I tend to avoid them, so I don't really go to any dark place. I just read the script and it's already painted in such a picture for me, I'm just like “I'm gonna draw that.” People tell me all the time how creepy the books are and how disturbed they are when they read them.

CV: When it came to the style for this book, did you have any influences from other artists?

MH: The thing with the style that was tough for me was I had just come off a project on my own, called BUTCHER BAKER that was really more like a wildly experimental book. Coming up to this project, I didn't really know what to do at first. I can't do this crazy, insane stuff I was doing on my own. But every time I did something crazier or did some sort of stylistic thing, they loved it. Guillermo loved it the more I made it my own, personal project. I have influences of mine, but I don't know if they're really feeding that much into the book. At this point, this project feels like a personal project where I'm doing whatever I want to do and Guillermo seems to be happier the more I do that.

And [BUTCHER BAKER] was such a far out, and I was just really going crazy with the art style. When I came back in to do a project with someone else, at first, I was like “I better behave” and that's not what they were asking for at all. The more I pushed, creatively, the happier they are, so that's why I'm really excited for NIGHT ETERNAL. I think it's the best looking part, so far. At this point in the story, it's crazy because the vampires apocalypse just happened. Our heroes are living in this world that they didn't stop from happening and we're getting all the backstory which is very epic. I'm drawing Romans, centurions, and Native Americans and whole cities and it's crazy. We're going everywhere, historically and it's super dark. I'm really excited people are jumping on at the beginning, but I can't wait for NIGHT ETERNAL to start coming out.

CV: What's the craziest thing you've had to draw in NIGHT ETERNAL?

MH: Oh man. Let me think. [laughs] There's so many things. There's decapitated corpses attacking people. There's a lot of violence, a lot of battle ahead. I'll tell you, to me, the scariest moment I was drawing. It's not about the vampires at all. It's the scene where one of our main characters is in a subway tunnel and pulling her mother along and running from vampires, and her mom has Alzheimers and is making a lot of noise and is confused. There's this moment where she, our hero, takes her mom through the subway tunnel and there's a panel of knife which is behind the mom's back and she's to a point where she's like “I might just have to murder my mom to keep alive.” When I read that in the script, I froze. Are we going to this place? This is so dark. Drawing it, that was one of those panels that sticks in my head. It had nothing to do with vampires. It had nothing to do with anything else, but it was such a terrifying human moment. If I would say there's one thing I drew that like the most, I'd say it was that moment.

Check out this exclusive look at NIGHT ETERNAL and Huddleston's art process!

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Thanks a ton to Mike Huddleston for answering our questions and remember to check out The Strain television series debuting on July 13th at 10PM/ET on FX. Also, check out THE STRAIN. The first two volumes are available at your LCS and volume three, NIGHT ETERNAL, comes out August 20th.