Interview: David Dastmalchian Talks Count Crowley, Comic Books, and His Career
Photo Credit: Storm Santos

Interview: David Dastmalchian Talks Count Crowley, Comic Books, and His Career

While best known for starring in major hits such as Ant-ManThe Suicide Squad, and Dune, David Dastmalchian is also a comic book creator. The second installment of his Count Crowley saga, Count Crowley: Amateur Midnight Monster Hunter, is out today via Dark Horse.

“It’s been a hell of a week for Jerri Bartman. She lost her job, crashed her car, took the only gig available hosting the midnight monster show, and . . . oh yeah–dismembered a zombie,” says the description. “No big deal. Now, to protect the people she loves, she’s going to have to take a crash course in monster hunting. And quickly–a vengeful vampire just booked a first-class flight into town.”

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Dastmalchian about Count Crowley, his wide-spanning career, and future aspirations.

Tyler Treese: A pleasure to speak with you again, and about something really exciting here. We have Count Crowley: Amateur Midnight Monster Hunter. I noticed you wrapped up “Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter.” They leveled up to “Amateur.” What’s behind the little name alteration here?

David Dastmalchian: So Jerri Bartman, who was our once reluctant midnight monster hunter, inherited this job that she dreaded as the late-night horror host of KSKB’s “TV Scream Theater,” and ended up discovering that her predecessor was actually moonlighting, if you will, as an appointed monster hunter. And she got thrown into the mix of having to defend herself against a freaking werewolf, and she wanted nothing to do with it back in Volume 1. She also wanted nothing to do with getting her life together, nothing to do with getting sober, nothing to do with figuring out how to live her life. And by the end of Volume 1, she recognized that if she was going to live, and be able to help protect her brother and other people that she loves, she was going to have to get her, pardon my French, shit together, and also figure out how to stop these monsters. And so now as we enter the next chapter of Jerri’s journey, she’s willing to learn how to do all these things that she’s got to do, but she doesn’t have a clue how to go about it. So she isn’t good at it. She’s a complete amateur, but she’s going to learn. And, there’s going to be some bumps along the way, but, man, if anybody can fight a werewolf, a vampire, and a zombie, it’s definitely Jerri Bartman.

We have so many different monsters in this series. What’s the process like when deciding who to bring in? We’re teasing a vampire, is anything too unrealistic, or what’s your limit?

It’s interesting. Good question. One of the really important elements for me when I’m deciding which monster is her next foe, or even project, if you will, because we’ll come to learn that Jerri doesn’t believe all monsters need to be destroyed. She actually comes to the belief that maybe some monsters can be, if not rehabilitated, cured. And so when I’m thinking about the themes that I’m wrestling with in terms of some of the deeper plot developments, character journeys, and ideas that I want to explore when I’m writing Count Crowley, and that includes issues around depression, trauma, addiction, and alcoholism, which are all things that have affected my life. I think about monsters as metaphors, so with the werewolf, you’ve got struggles with mental illness, with vampires, struggles with addiction, with zombies, struggles with, you know, mental issues, and trauma around mortality. There’s so many different ways that these traditional monsters that we’ve come to know can be great vessels through which we can explore our fear of issues that are really terrifying to us. And also, as you start to read Count Crowley, you’ll learn that the monsters over generations have been disseminating fake news and false information into human societies to keep us off their trail. So I love looking at traditional monsters like a vampire and in the world of Count Crowley, we learn that all we’ve ever been taught about vampires is a lie. The monsters have manipulated the information over the last millennia so that they could keep themselves safe from us. So wooden stakes will not kill a vampire. Sunlight does not melt a vampire, garlic…it just tastes good to a vampire. Like all that stuff that we were taught is a lie.

Hey, garlic does taste good.

Just don’t make out right after it. That’s all

Good advice, good advice. I know you’re a big fan of comics. We talked about that a lot when we were talking about Batman: The Long Halloween before. So how rewarding has it been getting positive fan feedback from this series?

There’s been so many highlights to the experience of putting Count Crowley out into the world. The three top highlights that I can tell you. The first was seeing Lukas Ketner’s art come to life for the first time with his incredible vision of what the world of Count Crowley looks like. The second was going to my hometown comic shop in Kansas City, Clint’s Books, and seeing an entire wall covered with issues of Count Crowley Volume 1, Issue 1. And the third was opening my phone the week that we published the first issue of Count Crowley and the incredible amount of messages and posts, and love that I received from fans and readers around the country and the world. I mean it’s really hard to describe how important, and how affirming, and how gratifying it is to know that something I created, which I care so much about it, which I love so much, has resonated with so many people. In the two and a half years since our first issue started coming out, it’s just grown. So now there’s an entire army of Crowley fiends out there. And, I’m so indebted to them, I feel so grateful to them.

It all ties back to the community and the bond that I feel with fellow comic nerds. As somebody who gets cast in some of the coolest comic book adaptations that exist, I take that work as seriously as I believe any of my fellow comic nerds and geeks would expect an artist to. This is mythology, and these are characters, and this is a history that means so much to us personally. So when I get a chance to then go and, you know, work on projects like The Dark Knight, The Suicide Squad, The Flash, all of these incredible opportunities. I’ve had The Long Halloween, et cetera. It’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility that I take very seriously because I know how much these stories mean to me. So I want to pour all of my personal knowledge and experience and history with the source material, into the work itself.

RELATED: David Dastmalchian on Voicing Calendar Man in Batman: The Long Halloween

There was a line in the press release that it’s being adapted for film and TV. I’m sure you can’t say too much on that, but is that something you’d want to act in, or just work on behind the scenes?

You name it. All of the above. I would love to be pumping the fog machine, putting on the, uh…helping apply, makeup prosthetics, acting, writing, helping bring artists together to tell the stories. I was just talking to my dear friend, Collin Schiffli, who directed two films that I wrote, Animals and All Creatures Here Below, about how cool it would be if someday we got to have a show or a movie based around Count Crowley, and that I would love to get him involved. And I’ve just, over the years, met so many cool artists and people with great vision that I want them all [laughs] I want, I would love to get them all involved. And, right now with the support of Dark Horse, not just publishers, but Dark Horse studios, they’re shooting for the full moon. They’re like “We don’t know where this could go, where it will go, but they support me. And they want to see, you know, who responds the story and the character, and where it could go as far as adaptations. But I mean, I dream of a world where there’s shows. I think Count Crowley could translate into an incredible tabletop game. I think it could translate into an amazing video game. But I would love, like a tabletop game ala, you know, oh, Horrified or The Thing, or any of these other awesome role-playing games that I’ve been playing lately.

Yeah. That’d be great. You mentioned video games and you had an appearance in Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie. How did that come about? Are you a fan of that YouTube series?

Speaking of, okay, speaking of Collin Schiffli, him and his brother grew up watching [Angry Video Game Nerd creator] James Rolfe religiously, and Colin used to always send me videos. You know, everything from the Halloween special, you name it. And I loved it. I thought he was hilarious. We found out that he was making a movie and he had done his crowdfunding to get the financing together to make Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie. So we just reached out and were like, “Hey, I’m a fan,” and they immediately wrote back and were like, “If you want to do this, will you come out to the desert next Wednesday and put on a military uniform and play this character?” And I was like, “Hell yeah.” And we did it. And it was awesome. And we got to hang out, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. I just, I think he’s such a smart guy and he creates such incredible content. And I love his affinity too, for like, classic horror and the horror host culture. He’s exactly like, the tradition of his own kind of, you know, he’s a video game, but horror host, like a guy in his basement, just like introducing people to things that they otherwise would’ve never known about in a really loving, charming and funny way.

You’ve done work in so many different mediums. I don’t think you’ve ever worked on a video game, correct me if I’m wrong. Is that something you’d be interested in?

I would love it and I have not. So let’s put that out with this article, this interview, we’ll put that in the universe, David Dastmalchian would love to voice a character in a video game world. I’d love to do like a Destiny character. I’d love to do Assassin’s Creed, you name it. Like it would be really fun. My son is much more into video games than I am, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t still love to come and play in a character. Maybe when we do the Count Crowley video game, I could play somebody in that.

There we go. Another deep cut here. You were in a music video for Iron and Wine, who I absolutely love, and you wind up getting in a professional wrestling ring in that video. Are you a professional wrestling fan?

I love wrestling, especially independent stuff. You know, I think that can be like some of the most fun. I love it all. I think it’s such an incredible form of entertainment and theater, so I love the big stuff, but I would definitely defer to the kind of setting like where we shot that video, which by the way, was written and directed by a freaking awesome, talented guy. A team, actually, the DP and the director really teamed up on that. Erin Elders is such a freaking great guy and Iron & Wine I love. I’m a huge fan of Iron & Wine. So I was like, “I’m in.” But then they told me the concept and I was like, “Oh, hell yes. But yeah, like Sinn Bodhi was there when we were actually shooting. I love the independent circuit. I think that’s the most fun stuff that’s out there.

That’s super cool. Obviously, you’ve been in so many big movies with big names, but when you’re seeing like John Cena and Dave Bautista, is that a bit wild? Just because they were so entrenched in it?

It is. Of course, it is. It’s insane. It’s like, oh my God. I just wanna totally like throw down a Batista bomb when I’m hanging out with like, I wanna like, but you try to be cool. You know, I always try to be cool when I’m around people who I am in awe of. It happens to me so regularly now. I’ve been getting to work on so many cool projects with so many cool people that, all of a sudden I’m standing there having to be professional and perform with someone who I’m a big fan of, and it’s hard, it’s stressful, but I do my best to just do the best work I can possibly do. Then if the right time presents itself, that we can talk about like other things they’ve done or things that I’m a fan of theirs, then I just try to be chill about it. Because I see people, Dave, John, you name it. So many of the people I’ve gotten to work with, and anywhere they go, they’re just inundated and surrounded by fans. So I try to, when they’re at work, try to be as chill as possible. So they don’t have yet another fanboy, which I am, trying to take selfies with them, which I do.

Yeah. Hard not to.

I shamelessly will ask for a selfie. Sometimes I just can’t help myself cause I’m too geek.

I love it. Your career is just having this really awesome moment and it’s kind of going full circle, you’re reuniting with Christopher Nolan. Have you really had much time to kind of relish this real wave of momentum with all these big films?

I am doing my best. I’m surrounded by an incredible group of friends and family who we spend a great deal of time doing things that mean a lot to me, like going hiking and taking my kids to their dance class or football practice. My wife and I are big gamers. So, you know, we really love to have game nights at the house and trying to take little weekend vacations together for her and I. I wouldn’t be here without so many people’s support in the world, but at the very top of that list is my wife, Evelyn Leigh. There’s no way I would be standing where I am right now if it weren’t for her. So it’s really nice even in the midst of the swirling work schedule and all the really cool, amazing things that are happening for us to just be able to sit with her every night and hang out. She’s my best friend and I get to thank her as often as I can because I know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.

I think the Marvel’s What If…? series has been so cool and we got to see Kurt in that zombies episode. That had to be so much fun to do. How cool was that experience?

It was so cool. So Brad Winderbaum, who I love and he’s a good friend of mine, Brad produced the first Ant-Man film and has produced many things. He’s been a part of Marvel since its inception. So Brad reaches out to me a couple years ago and is like, “Top secret dude, but we’re gonna do What If…?” I was like, “What? Oh my God.” And he was like, “We’re gonna use Kurt in one of the episodes.” And I was like, “What, oh my God,” and then I just assumed that it would be like a little mini cameo, maybe a line or two, because he told me all the other superheroes that, were gonna be in it. He’s like we’re gonna have Hulk and Spidey, we’re gonna have Scott Lang, but his head in a jar, and we’re gonna have Strange, blah, blah, blah.

So then I went to the recording studio to work and that’s when I got the script for the episode and I was like, “Holy shit, this is amazing.” It was all I could have wanted out of a Marvel’s What If…? I mean zombies and so many of my favorite heroes and then I got to be right in the mix of it all. Like it was totally unexpected. The MCU is just that gift that keeps giving to all of us fans. But if you can imagine for just a second, not only being a massive fan, but then getting to like be a little character in that gigantic world. It’s crazy, dude.


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