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'The Strain' Comic Book Artist Talks Working With Guillermo del Toro

Before it was an FX television series, the vampire tale was a Dark Horse comic book. Artist Mike Huddleston exclusively shares the first pages of the next issue and opens up about his work on the series.

The Strain - P 2014
Mike Huddleston/Dark Horse Comics

Guillermo del Toro’s new project The Strain premieres on FX this weekend, but many people aren’t aware that the vampire series has had not one, but two previous incarnations: the original novel trilogy by del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and an ongoing series of comic book mini-series from Dark Horse Comics, courtesy of David Lapham and Mike Huddleston.

The comic books adapt the novels, but according to the artist, this doesn’t mean that del Toro has simply left the creators to simply retell the same story without any input.

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“As busy as he is, I didn’t expect he would be so engaged with the project but Guillermo has been intimately involved with this book before day one and he still is over 500 pages later,” Huddleston told THR. “Just this week I’m working with him designing new characters for the third arc, The Night Eternal. I’m still getting notes on storytelling and final art. It’s definitely his baby.”

Huddleston—who has worked for Image Comics, Marvel and DC in the past—said that, prior to beginning work on The Strain, he was already a huge fan of del Toro’s work, adding that “having crossed paths with him earlier on a comic book project of mine called The Coffin, which James Cameron and del Toro purchased the rights to, I knew [his] was an aesthetic we shared.”

Nonetheless, he might not have seemed an obvious choice for the project for one simple reason: he doesn’t like horror stories. “I scare pretty easy,” he admits, but says that he was drawn to the project because of del Toro—“as a huge fan of his work I knew it would be something unique,” he explained—and because of the scope of the project. “A worldwide vampire invasion, and one with an ancient and mythological/ religious backstory told over what will ultimately be 700+ pages? That’s a dream job,” he said.

With the end of The Strain on the horizon (The third and final series, The Strain: The Night Eternal, launches next month), Huddleston said that, while he’s got “a bucket list of a few mainstream characters I’d like to draw sometime,” including Batman, 2000AD’s Judge Dredd and Dark Horse’s own Hellboy, he’s planning on something original. “I’ll be working with writer Phil Hester, my collaborator on The Coffin and Deep Sleeper on a new mini series entitled Deathless that’ll get me back into the experimental arena of [earlier projects] The Homeland Directive and Butcher Baker.”

In the immediate future, however, lies The Night Eternal, the final Strain series and what Huddleston calls “my favorite part of the story, also I think this is the best looking [part] of the series.”

When asked to tease what lies ahead, the artist promised “an epic and world ranging back story unveiled. I’m doing tons of historical research: native tribes, ancient empires, biblical era, etc. etc. The story is huge. Back in the present, readers will see our heroes dealing with an apocalypse they were unable to prevent. It’s intense.”

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And for those who watch the FX show and feel the need to leap ahead via the comics, Huddleston said that he thinks The Strain: Night Eternal will be a good place to start. “Seeing the historical scope and force behind the evil that is just being teased on the first episodes of the show, as well as seeing a preview of where our heroes are a few years from now, I think will make the show that much scarier to watch,” he said. And if they want to go and fill in the blanks, The Strain Volume 1, collecting the first eleven issues of the comic book, was released July 9.

The Strain begins on FX Sunday at 10pm. The first issue of The Strain: The Night Eternal will be released digitally on the Dark Horse app and in comic book stores in August. If you can't wait that long, look below for an exclusive preview of the first issue's opening pages, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.