First published in 2011, Joe Hill‘s short story “Wolverton Station” is a nasty piece of work. It follows a cutthroat businessman, Saunders, who travels by train and slowly begins to realize he’s not the only corporate wolf on board. Per the name, some real wolves are lurking around the edges.
And now, that book has been turned into an over-sized special of Skybound and Image Comics‘ ongoing Creepshow series, titled Creepshow: Joe Hill’s Wolverton Station, hitting comic book shops just in time for Valentine’s Day. However, some changes have been made in the process of translating the story to the comic book page by the creative team of writer Jason Ciaramella, and artist Michael Walsh.
“I’ve worked with Joe Hill a lot over the years, and he’s always been very generous with the liberties I take with his stories,” Ciaramella told Comic Book Club in an interview over email. “There are no hard and fast rules I follow when doing an adaptation. I start by marking up the material, highlighting the big moments that will translate well into an illustrated story, then see how well those connect. Sometimes they don’t, and that’s when I’ll improvise. Sometimes they do, but there’s also a chance to punch up the material or make small changes that allow the adaptation to flow easier.”
Ciaramella is no stranger to adapting Hill’s works, working with the author to create IDW’s award-nominated The Cape in 2013. And Walsh is no stranger to horror, as the brains behind the gory, creative anthology The Silver Coin. Still, fleshing out (no pun intended) this story held plenty of challenges — and opportunities — for the team.
For a whole lot more on what to expect from the book, the designs of the characters, and any Easter eggs to keep an eye out for when it hits shops this Wednesday, read on.
Comic Book Club: Joe has said that he felt this story was perfect for Creepshow, but in your opinion what made it the right fit for the franchise? What was it about this story in particular that worked for the Creep?
Jason Ciaramella: For me, it was the element of humor laced into the terrifying events that unfold, and the little twist at the end, where the star of our story gets a nice serving of that sweet, sweet comeuppance pie.
Michael Walsh: I think this story is the kind of horror that really understands itself and has fun with the concept. This one has just as many laughs as screams, which I think really lends itself well to the overall catalogue of Creepshow. That said there are definitely some truly blood-curdling moments.
There are several changes here from Hill’s story, including Saunders’ job. Why make him a memorabilia collector instead of a businessman?
Ciaramella: I wanted to really amp up the connection to the werewolf theme while also making the character more interesting than just another greedy businessperson. Knowing all the readers are going to be horror fans, and a lot of horror fans are also collectors, it felt like a fun change.
Very general question, but Jason, you expand the story quite a bit here. When you’re adapting, do you have a rule of thumb in terms of what to keep, versus what to ditch? Or does it depend on the property?
Ciaramella: I’ll start by saying I’ve worked with Joe Hill a lot over the years, and he’s always been very generous with the liberties I take with his stories. There are no hard and fast rules I follow when doing an adaptation. I start by marking up the material, highlighting the big moments that will translate well into an illustrated story, then see how well those connect. Sometimes they don’t, and that’s when I’ll improvise. Sometimes they do, but there’s also a chance to punch up the material or make small changes that allow the adaptation to flow easier.
Comics are visual, versus prose (which I’m going to go out on a limb and say you knew already), so I imagine the initial “are they wolves?” nature of the prose story was not an option. So you jump right into it, they are definitely wolves… What led to this decision?
Ciaramella: When you have a talent like Michael Walsh transforming your words into pictures, you want to give him the chance to showcase himself in every panel. I wanted to see Michael draw throat-ripping werewolves, which, I’m guessing, is probably more fun than drawing regular humans who treat each other badly.
Creepshow makes its name on visceral horror, but there are some extremely graphic images here. Michael, was there anything that made you queasy? Or are you past that thanks to The Silver Coin?
Walsh: Ha! This one was an absolute bloody mess. Joe mentioned it was the goriest comic he’d ever been involved in, which felt like a notch in my belt. I’m at a point now where I’m very desensitized to gore, especially drawing it. The only thing that gets me still is when I pull up a particularly grizzly reference photo, specifically stuff with fingernails. BLEGHK!
I’m also curious about the designs of the wolves. Given the Chaney name-drop here, I imagine that was part of the inspiration.
Walsh: I consciously avoided referencing the Lon Chaney version of The Wolfman. I wanted to do my own thing and thought it would be a fun challenge to make long-snouted werewolves really emote, which has historically been one of the ways they falter on screen. I tried to make them a little bit more ‘monstrous’ in terms of form and size so that wearing human clothes was extra ridiculous.
What about the design of Saunders? I know I keep contrasting with the prose story, but it was an interesting choice to take him from a slick corporate stooge to a character who physically seems at least mildly inspired by David Bradley.
Walsh: Oh wow, I didn’t even catch the David Bradley similarity. He would be a fabulous Saunders. I must have been subconsciously channeling his detestable, fantastic performances from Game of Thrones and the Potter films. I wanted to create someone who had wealth but honestly didn’t care what others thought of him. This is what makes him so ruthless in his dealings. So he’s a bit unkempt, His shirt is often half tucked and sleeves rolled, his hair needs a cut and he hasn’t showered in a couple of days. In my mind I was considering Ted Levine or Tomas Arana.
The prose story is not-so-subtly about a man who considers himself a wolf meeting some real wolves. It’s a little more lesson-based than Creepshow tends to be, though you do thread that in this one-shot. What was important to include here, versus leave behind?
Ciaramella: I wanted to make sure the audience immediately knew that Saunders was a ruthless, obsessed shithead. Is the lesson here that there is always another shithead out there who is more ruthless and more obsessed? Or is it that ruthless, obsessed shitheads get what’s coming to them in the end? It’s probably both, but I’m not sure the second option is always true.
Wolverton is a real place and a real station… Did you look at any of the environs for inspiration?
Ciaramella: The only thing I looked at was a train map showing where Wolverton was in comparison to London. I just wanted to make sure that our story could fit into the length of time it took to get from point A to point B. Thankfully, it’s only a 40ish minute ride.
Walsh: I did… but that said I still made up many of the environments. I referenced a ton of trains, stations, and architecture, but I still wanted to make sure I could get creative with structure and framing for the comic, so there are many instances where I just did what felt suitable for the panel. The most challenging aspect of drawing this comic was framing set pieces inside the train. It’s a tight, cramped space, so I had to play fast and loose with the anatomy of the train’s interior.
Throughout there are fun little Easter eggs and extra notes – the sign on the pub at the end is pretty hilarious, and the other memorabilia Saunders collects seem like they could be little treats for fans. Were there any favorite details you put in there, either from the writing or art perspective that readers should keep an eye out for?
Ciaramella: Michael did an amazing job on these, didn’t he? My favorite is the sign the Creep is holding at the beginning of the issue—not an Easter egg, but I laugh every time I read it. I’ll leave the rest for the fans to discover on their own!
Walsh: I had a ton of fun with all the memorabilia in Saunders’ collection. Some were references to horror movies I love, and some were new creatures of my creation. I’m really hoping I get to tell the story of the bloody clown doll someday.
Are there any other Joe Hill stories you think would be prime for a Creepshow adaptation?
Ciaramella: Joe’s first collection of short stories—20th Century Ghosts—has been a wellspring of material that’s gone on to be adapted in other media. I did the adaptation of The Cape, which went on to get an Eisner Award nomination, and The Black Phone made like a trillion dollars at the box office. I think there are still plenty more in that little book that would make great Creepshow stories. Scheherazade’s Typewriter, which is hidden in the acknowledgment section, stands out as one that could be fun.
Walsh: I’m a huge fan of Joe’s work, and there are many stories that could be suitable for Creepshow, but for me, the Strange Weather collection of novellas is perfect. It’s a stellar group of four stories that would all fit in tone and theme with the Creepshow catalogue.
Creepshow: Joe Hill’s Wolverton Station is in comic book stores everywhere this Wednesday, February 14, 2024 from Skybound and Image Comics.
Comic Book Club Live Info:
Want to watch Comic Book Club live? We stream every Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and Twitter/X. Come hang out, and ask questions of our guests (and us!). And you could potentially win a $25 gift card to Midtown Comics, or Long John Silvers. You can check out a current list of upcoming guests and other live appearances on our Shows page.