Chris Golden Talks Ghosts, Golems, And Occult Detectives

by Tito W. James

I recently had the opportunity to interview author Chris Golden about adapting his works into comics and film. Golden’s latest work The Pandora Room, continues the adventures of weird-science expert Ben Walker as new evidence emerges that Pandora had a sister with a jar of her own. His latest comic with Mike Mignola, Joe Golem: The Conjurors, arrived in comic shops on May 15th.

Tito W. James: Tell me about your new Joe Golem project with Mike Mignola. You’ve collaborated with him on the Joe Golem novels. What’s it like adapting prose into the comic medium?

Chris Golden: The really interesting thing about Joe Golem: The Conjurors is that by the time I got to this part of the story, I basically abandoned the original text completely. This is a different continuity from the novel. The same basic events take place, but they unfold differently, and because we’ve built this separate continuity in the comics, there are new elements that carry into this miniseries, both following up on stuff in previous comics but also introducing new characters and setting the stage for things we’re planning for the future. So, weirdly, this is a fantastic place to start reading Joe Golem.

TWJ: Aside from Mignola’s work, do you read comics, and if so what titles?

CG:  Of course I do. The only time in my life when I wasn’t reading comics was during high school and the first year of college. After that, I came to my senses, thanks to a late night conversation with my roommates that reminded me how much I loved them when I was a kid. I’ve never abandoned the medium since. Currently there are a handful of Marvel titles I’m reading, including the very excellent Immortal Hulk. Of course I read all of Mike’s comics. My favorite comics at the moment are Saga and Paper Girls, as well as the current comics by two of the most reliable creators in comics, Terry Moore’s Five Years, and Ed Brubaker’s Criminal. 

TWJ: What can prose authors and publishers do to appeal to comic readers?

CG:  I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Lots of people read both.  But for comics readers who don’t usually read novels, all I’d say is that they should pick up The Pandora Room or Ararat or Snowblind and I think they’ll find something to like. As for what publishers can do…marketing. Advertising. Try to persuade comics shops to stock SF, fantasy, horror, and mystery novels. There’s more crossover in readership than you think.

TWJ: Speaking of The Pandora Room, your Ben Walker novels are being adapted into a TV series. What excites you about the adaptation and what makes Ben Walker unique from anything else out there?

CG:  The most exciting part of this for me is that I’m writing the bible and the pilot, as well as executive producing. Of course it’s always possible that other writers will come in after me, but being able to lay the groundwork is huge. So often, studios want to keep the original writer as far away from the development process as possible, and sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes you end up with total crap and you feel like, “If only they’d let me have a crack at it.”  

This time, whatever comes of it, I’ll know I’ve done my best to make it work. I’m incredibly excited about the direction the show’s development is going.  As for what makes Walker different from everything else out there…I think back to the introduction Stephen King wrote to Detective Comics #400, where he talked about why, as a kid, when he and his friends debated who was cooler, Batman or Superman, he always chose Batman because, yeah, he was rich and he was smart and he had all kinds of cool gadgets, but at the end of the day, he was just a guy. Just an ordinary person. 

I’m not comparing Walker to Batman, of course. Nothing like that. But although he’s smart as hell and courageous, he’s just an ordinary guy who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. So often, authors and screenwriters claim that about characters, but the characters still seem superhuman in some way. Walker’s just a guy trying to do his best, like so many of us. It just so happens that he stumbles into situations full of demons and ancient ghosts and lots of murder.

TWJ: How did you originally conceive of the character of Ben Walker?

CG:  Funnily enough, when I wrote Ararat, he was just one character in an ensemble but there was something about him that readers—and this writer—really enjoyed. There’s a kind of bullish determination to him, a weariness and pain that says he’s lived a life, he’s lived through some shit, but he keeps going and tries to take care of the people around him because that’s what decent people do. Readers seized on the character and the idea that he had this history that informed that part of him. I’m grateful they did. 

TWJ: What sources do you draw from for inspiration when writing?

CG:  Everything. Music, wilderness, family drama, joy, rage, history, beauty. That all sounds fairly hokey, I’m sure, but it’s true.

TWJ: Do you have any advice for aspiring creators?

CG:  Do it because you love it. Pursue a separate, paying career until you can support yourself with your creativity. Educate yourself. Read broadly, not just in one genre or medium. Above all, enjoy creating, otherwise there’s no point.

I’d like to thank Chris Golden for taking the time to do this lengthy interview. The Pandora Room  and Joe Golem: The Conjurors are available now.

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