KOLCHAK at Fifty: A Color Graphic Novel Celebrating Our Favorite Monster-Hunting Journalist

Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. Buffy Summers. The Winchester Brothers. Besides making a living killing the creatures of the night, these beloved TV characters have something in common crawling around their family tree – and he’s wearing a white seersucker suit and pork pie straw hat. X files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and more all have traveled the path cut by Kolchak.

This month of January marks the fiftieth anniversary of The night tracker, the ABC movie of the week that introduced the world to Carl Kolchak, an investigative reporter who had a bad habit of stumbling upon supernatural chance. Based on an unpublished novel by Jeff Rice, The night tracker star A Christmas Story Darren McGavin as Kolchak, a Las Vegas crime reporter on the trail of a killer whose victims have been drained of their blood. You can probably guess what Kolchak found at the end of this rainbow. McGavin would return to play the character in another made-for-TV movie (The strangler of the night) and twenty episodes of Kolchak: the nocturnal tracker, a follow-up television show. As he encountered werewolves, mummies, demons, and ghosts, Kolchak associated each new monster with his signature humor and silly luck. Never able to prove the existence of the monsters he helped stop, Kolchak’s career was often the real victim – the character being frequently kicked out of town by the authorities or demoted by his editor.

With just two movies and one TV season, one would expect Carl Kolchak to be just a footnote in horror history – Archie’s Strange Mysteries ran longer. Thanks to years of late night TV reruns and a dedicated fanbase, The night tracker would see its legacy cast a long shadow as the show continued to inspire a new generation of creators. Chris Carter, in particular, has been extremely candid about The Night Stalker influence on X files — going so far as to cast McGavin in an episode of his show’s fifth season after years of trying to convince the former Kolchak to play Agent Mulder’s father.

Kolchak may not have had as long of a TV run as some of the shows inspired by the character, but he still looks pretty good at fifty, as evidenced by a highly successful Kickstarter campaign underway. The campaign, which exceeded its goal and more, will launch a comic book anthology graphic novel celebrating Kolchak’s fictional monster-smashing career.

At the center of the campaign is editor James Aquilone. Working with Moonstone Books, a Chicago-based publisher that has kept the Night Prowler living legacy over the past few decades through a series of comics and prose novels, Aquilone has assembled a roster of creators and artists to tell stories spanning decades in the life of Carl Kolchak.

David Avalone (Elvira: mistress of darkness) and Julius Ohta (Betty Page) tell a story set in the 1930s when a young Kolchak works at his high school’s student newspaper. Jonathan Maberry (V Wars) and Marco Finnegan (Lizard in a Zoot Costume) tell a story set during World War II. Peter David (The Incredible Hulk) and JK Woodward (star trek) see Kolchak navigate the paranoia of Cold War McCarthyism. Richard Christian Matheson (son of the first The night tracker screenwriter Richard Mattheson) made his comic book debut alongside artist Tom Rogers (Herald: Lovecraft and Tesla) in a story that sees Kolchak covering the Vietnam War. Other contributors include Kim Newman (Anno Dracula), Paul McCaffrey (Anno Dracula), Rodney Barnes (Killadelphia), Jonathan Marks Barravecchia (scarlet witch), Tim Wagoner (Supernatural), Claire Meath (midnight view), Colton Worley (The shadow), Nancy Collins (Swamp Thing), Warwick Johnson-Cadwell (Falconspeare), James Chambers (Kolchak: The Night Stalker: The Forgotten Tradition of Edgar Allen Poe), Tom Napolitano, Zac Atkinson, and publisher Aquilone himself, who will write a story set in the ’80s that finds Kolchak in the midst of the satanic panic of the decade.

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Aquilone, who grew up in the 80s, first discovered Kolchak through reruns and her love for A Christmas Story. “I was a huge fan of the show’s mix of horror and humor,” he said. “I have a series about a zombie detective named Dead Jack that was inspired by the series.”

After wrapping up a successful Kickstarter campaign for the prose anthology CLASSIC MONSTERS UNLEASHED, which saw the writers pay homage to Universal Studios’ roster of classic horror films from the 1930s and 1940s, Aquilone set out in search of a new project to tackle and remembered his love for The night tracker. “It’s the first time I’ve done a big comic book project,” laughed Aquilone. “All I did was a ploy to get into the comics.”

Aquilone contacted Moonstone Publishing, which regularly published a series of books and comics using the character in new contemporary continuity, about a new project using the character. Unlike the Moonstone books, however, Aquilone felt it was necessary for his comic book project to use a period setting. “It’s not a reboot,” he said. “We’re not going to screw up Kolchak. We’re going to have all the tropes you expect – in a sequel that’s true to the TV series and the movies.”

Aquilone thought exploring the character’s entire life would be a great idea.

“Kolchak is the same age as Darren Mcgavin – both were born in 1922 – so we stuck to that timeline by exploring his first case until his last days in the early 2000s, around the time of death. of McGavin.”

Aquilone began working on the project last June – knowing that the character’s fiftieth birthday was approaching in January. The publisher quickly assembled a dream team of writers – all creators inspired by the series – and assigned time frames, a process that happened naturally. “Nobody fought in periods,” he said. “Everything fell into place easily.”

With writers picking time periods they were excited to explore, the opportunity opened up for fun meta opportunities – including acclaimed horror author Nancy Collins penning a story set in the 90s that s ‘inspired by X files.

The end result is an anthology of over 100 pages. But wait, there’s more. In addition to the standard softcover book, fans can choose to purchase a deluxe hardcover edition of the book which will include ten additional prose stories. Plus, there are additional incentives including statues, t-shirts, posters, and more. Aquilone hopes to have the book in readers’ hands by Halloween. “We already have half of the scripts and part of the artwork,” he said.

While additional copies may be available for purchase after printing, the only way readers can guarantee a copy of the book is to support the campaign on Kickstarter.

With multiple versions of the book in print and plenty of add-ons for fans to choose from, getting the book printed and shipped is going to be a lot of work. “It gets a little overwhelming,” Aquilone said. “It’s going to be very busy this year. But as long as I don’t lose money, I’m fine.”

For Aquilone, this project was born 100% from a passion for the character.

“I was too young to work on the show and now writing a Kolchak story is the closest thing to an episode,” he said. “It’s a little crazy.”

BACK TO THE PROJECT HERE and scroll to take a look inside.

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Irene B. Bowles