David Dastmalchian has no doubt been on the wildest ride of his career in the last couple of years, nabbing roles in such Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero movies as “Ant-Man” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” as well as TV series guest shots in DC's “The Flash” and “Gotham.” Dastmalchian has also been busy creating independent cinema, writing and starring in such acclaimed indies as “Animals” and most recently, “All Creatures Here Below.”
Yet for all his success, Dastmalchian said in a recent interview that perhaps his most satisfying achievement to date is something that brings him back to the place where many great fantasy tales begin: the panels of a comic book as the writer of “Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter.”
“I was a comic book geek who grew up loving film, dreaming of being an actor, and then got to work with the best of the best with David Lynch and Christopher Nolan, getting to be in Peyton Reed’s ‘Ant-Man’ films and part of the MCU, getting to be in ‘Blade Runner: 2049’ and ‘Dune’ coming up and getting to know James Gunn -- I’ve gotten to check so many boxes,” Dastmalchian enthused. “And yet, this comic book has truly been the most exciting thing I’ve done yet as a storyteller.”
New on comic book racks from Dark Horse Comics, “Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter” is a four-issue tale that’s rooted in Dastmalchian’s love of horror movies and the local, late-night TV host who presented them to him as a kid.
“I used to watch the ‘Creature Feature’ program in Kansas City growing up. It was ‘Crematia’s Friday Nightmare’ with Crematia Mortem, played by the incredible Roberta Solomon,” recalled Dastmalchian, a Kansas native. “She was our local horror hostess who introduced me to the incredible work of Lon Chaney in ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ Boris Karloff in ‘Frankenstein’ and of course, Bela Lugosi in ‘Dracula.’ Those were my early heroes.”
In Dastmalchian’s ‘Creature Feature’ world, however, “Count Crowley” delves more into the life of the host than the movies she presents. The main character is Jerri Bartman, a disgraced journalist who takes a job as a late-night horror show host named “Count Crowley” at a small TV station in her hometown, only to find out that monsters are real and she’s one of the few people who can stop them.
“Her dream is to be the hardest-hitting news journalist in the world in 1983, but life has hit her sideways and she is barely hanging on by a thread. She drinks from sunup to sundown and she has burned every bridge she has left to burn,” Dastmalchian said. “So, she begrudgingly puts on the make-up and the costume, and she introduces the late-night horror show and ends up being quite a hit. People love her bad attitude and her sassy style, but her first little taste of approval is short-lived because she finds out the Count Crowley she replaced wasn’t just a horror host. He was one of the last, great appointed monster hunters among humanity.”
However, hunting monsters isn’t easy, and Jerri needs to get sober to make things work. It’s a page that Dastmalchian has ripped out of the story of his own life, where he’s successfully battled addiction.
“This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for decades. Thinking about monsters and thinking how fun it would be if they had a secret identity,” Dastmalchian, 42, recalled. “Then I grew up, and I dealt with my battles with depression, anxiety and addiction, and I started to recognize that monsters are sometimes good and sometimes truly evil.”
Among the good ones, Dastmalchian said, are “those of us who I considered werewolves who got bit by the addiction disease and just couldn’t seem to control ourselves when the moon was out, but found help, healing and recovery in so many miraculous ways. I also think about the demons within that plague us, and the story really started to take shape.”
As for the evil monsters in this tale, they’re much closer to us than we think.
“I started to think about the news and information, and the monsters who live among us in our own society and thought, ‘How incredible would it be if all that we think we know is a lie?’ Like they’ve been spinning this fake information, and werewolves can’t be stopped with silver bullets and a stake can’t ever kill a vampire,” he said.
Dastmalchian said the year “Count Crowley” is set in is 1983. True, that was the year where he came of age as a boy reading comic books or started watching horror hosts on TV. But he selected that year more because it the dawning of a new age of media.
“The time was the beginning of cable, and I thought it would be pretty fascinating that the monsters were getting their eyes on the power of cable media and access to a wide audience,” Dastmalchian said.
Dastmalchian is no doubt in a unique position as a comic book author. In a way, he’s living a type of parallel universe, in that many of the films and TV series he’s had roles in over the past decade have originated from DC Comics and Marvel Comics.
“There’s been a wonderful renaissance in the last 10 years that I’ve been so fortunate enough to be a part of in a small, tangential way, like my role in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight,’ which I think reimagined comic book adaptation filmmaking,” Dastmalchian said. “Then, I became a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the last five years with the ‘Ant-Man’ films and getting to become a part of cinema history with what (Marvel President) Kevin Feige and his entire army of artists accomplished. And now, I’m part of the Dark Horse family with ‘Count Crowley.’ It’s been pretty amazing for me as a consumer of this type of material.”
And with any luck, Dastmalchian’s life on the pages of “Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter” will continue on after its debut run.
“If it’s just these four issues that are being published, if this is what it ends up being, I’m just trying to be here in the moment, and being as appreciative and as grateful for it as I can be,” Dastmalchian said, humbly. “My dream for it, obviously, is to go many years into the future with many different stories and monsters that I want to explore and battle.”
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