ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with actor, writer, and Count Crowley creator David Dastmalchian about the upcoming second trade paperback collection, Count Crowley: Amateur Midnight Monster Hunter. Dastmalchian discussed working on the comic through the pandemic, his new role in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and working with David Lynch on Twin Peaks: The Return.
“In the few short months that Jerri Bartman has been back in her small hometown, she’s attended her first AA meeting, started hosting the late-night creature feature, and … taken up arms against the monsters who have been plotting their domination of mankind for millennia,” reads Volume 2’s synopsis. “If she can stay sober long enough to learn how to actually fight a werewolf, Jerri may have a shot at redemption and possibly even saving the world. Collects the four-issue miniseries.”
Spencer Legacy: How would you pitch Count Crowley to fans who have never read it before?
David Dastmalchian: So, Count Crowley tells a story of a woman who is all the things that I think all of us wrestle with. She’s self-loathing, she’s insecure, she’s riddled with anxiety and depression. All this stuff that feels like everybody I know is going through. Her career is going absolutely nowhere, which is also a struggle and frustration that I know so many people can relate to at different points in their lives. And she stumbles into this ridiculous job hosting the late-night creature feature, which is really embarrassing to her. For us as readers, it looks really cool and it’s really fun. It’s got that gothic-y throwback to 80s horror and vintage late-night creature feature vibe. But the truth is that what she’s inherited with this job is a responsibility she never saw coming.
Monsters are real. They’ve been using news and media to influence and manipulate humanity and to prepare for their vengeance against humanity. So our hero, Jerri, has to figure out not only how to deal with all of her own shit — pardon my French — but also how to fight vampires, werewolves, zombies, and a whole bevy of other monsters that are basically some of the coolest creatures brought to life on comic book page in a long time. I will say this: the writing, I hope you love, and I hope that you can really connect to my character. These books are worth buying for the artwork alone. Lukas Ketner, who is the artist and has been since the beginning, has created something here that doesn’t look like any other comic book on the market. It is both nostalgic and completely boundary-pushing at the same time. And the colors by Lauren Affe and the letters by Frank Frank Cvetkovic are just out of this world.
So that’s my pitch to you, the reader out there. I highly recommend getting the trade paperback. Volume 1 gives you the origin story in Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter. Now we’re releasing Volume 2, which you can go and get this month at your favorite comic shop — Count Crowley: Amateur Midnight Monster Hunter, and I’m just … I mean, look at this. Look at this artwork. I’m telling you, Lukas is a master and I’m so lucky. I’m so grateful that he chose my book to illustrate.
Absolutely, and trade paperbacks also sort of immortalize comic series. It becomes easier to collect and read, especially for people with less experience with comic stores, and it’s easier to display. How gratifying is it to get two volumes in TPB?
It’s insanely gratifying. I never imagined getting this far, nor the fact that as we’ve been wrapping up Volume 2, and if you read through the end of Volume 2 and you get the new TPB, you’ll see Volume 3. There is more to be coming, hopefully — speaking of “ComingSoon” — hopefully more coming soon! But for anybody who’s watching this video or reading the accompanying article that goes with it … it’s funny. For those of us in it like yourself who know and buy and read comics on the regular, TPB makes sense. I think it’s helpful for people who don’t read a lot of comics to know that trade paperback may sound overwhelming — it’s a graphic novel.
It’s basically the graphic novel that takes multiple issues from a series and combines them into a volume so that you can just read the story without having to go, which people like me do two Wednesdays a month, go to buy your favorite comic series. So it’s a big badge of honor for me to have now two graphic novels with my character, whom I love so much, on the cover. And I really hope you get your bloody paws on this thing.
The first issue came out way back in 2019. Do you approach the writing differently in any way? Have you gotten more accustomed to the process now?
I’ve learned a lot, for sure. Over the last few years, I learned a lot. I’ve learned to continue to push the boundaries because the creative partners that I have in Lukas and the rest of the team always take the emotional character-driven, plot-driven, nuanced ideas that I try to bring into the script … they always take them to the next level. I never realized how far we could go with conveying emotions, humor, horror, even in a subtle between-the-lines way through just expressions on character’s faces, through just the way that the color is used to fill in the world that we’re creating. So I learned, and I continue to learn, to take risks as a writer, to put my faith and trust in these amazing artists who collaborate with me.
I’ve also learned, through the pandemic, to just keep writing, to just keep letting my imagination go. There was a moment during the pandemic where, sadly, Dark Horse had to call me and just say, “Count Crowley is done and we’re not going to be publishing it.” And I was devastated, but I just kept writing. You just keep doing the thing you love to do. And I just kept swimming. I just kept writing these ideas down and I kept writing scripts for Jerri and I kept thinking about the places that I need her to go. Then, sure enough, many, many months later, I got a call from Megan Walker, my editor, and she said, “I have good news. Things are picking back up and a lot of people, during the pandemic, bought the graphic novel for Volume 1 and were supportive of the book and the audience grew, and now they wanted me to go into Volume 2. And I was like, “Well, guess what? I’ve already got it written and here it is.”
You’ve spoken a bit before about how you’d like to see a TV or film adaptation. Have you got any updates on that that you can talk about?
Yes. So I’ve recently launched my production company called Good Fiend Films. Very excited about that. It’s a production company where we’re telling stories that wrestle with the issues that are important to me and ideas and questions that I think are important to wrestle with all through the lens of genre. So through horror, science-fiction, and superhero stories, we’re telling both big and very small stories for film, television, stage, as well as audio and gaming.
And I have been very fortunate to help co-produce with Good Fiend Films, a film that will be coming out at South by Southwest very soon called Late Night with the Devil, which I’m incredibly excited about/ [It] wrestles with some really intricate topics around grief and mental illness, as well as being set in the 1970s and late-night television.
I have a television show I recently sold, which I can talk about soon, through the production company, and I also have two feature films on the way. So I’ve learned a lot about putting together these projects and I feel really excited and confident about the team that is starting to gather around the Count Crowley adaptation for film or television.
And hopefully, you and I will be talking again at some point in the near future where I can give you some really good news. But I just ask anybody out there watching or reading or listening to send me your good thoughts and good hopes and prayers and vibes, because I really believe this would be captivating in the format of like a series where you could see some badass powerhouse actor bringing Jerri to life. While we have really cool practical horror effects as these monsters do battle with her. Then this whole population of characters that, I think, would make really meaty, juicy roles for good actors to sink their teeth into.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is coming out this week. You’ve been in Ant-Man, you’ve been in What If…? Now you’re Veb. What’s it like to be in so many different corners of the Marvel Universe as a comic fan? That must be crazy.
It’s such a gift, man. Just yesterday, I was at Disney for a screening of a feature film that is coming out soon that I got to see called The Boogeyman from Rob Savage. Can I say it’s fucking awesome? But afterward, I spent some time, while we were there at Disney, I went and visited my friends at Marvel and I got to talk to all the architects of the MCU who have become like family to me and my family. These are my friends and they have provided me an opportunity that no other nerd I know has been given. I mean, I loved bringing Kurt to life as a sidekick to Scott Lang. I thought he was a really fun, wonderful character to explore. I loved getting to bring him to life in the animated world of What If…?, but when I knew that The Wombats were not going to be a part of the new Ant-Man film because it was going to take place going into the Quantum Realm, it was bittersweet.
I was happy that Peyton [Reed, director] was going to be able to make this epic film, but I was also a little sad that I wouldn’t be a part of it. And he said to me that I was, and I didn’t understand how, and then I met Veb. Let me tell you, man, I have never had more joy performing a role in film than I had getting to bring Veb to life. I wore a mocap suit and I was there in the dirt, on the ground, with Paul [Rudd] and the rest of my Ant-Man family getting to use my imagination, my body, [and] my voice to go as far as I possibly could with Veb. And Peyton encouraged me every step of the way.
This character is so special to me. I cannot wait for people to get to meet Veb. He is probably the sexiest MCU character that’s ever existed. He’s definitely the brawniest. I think he could whoop Drax’s ass in a second. I think he is much better looking than Thor or Captain America, all of them wrapped up in one. I know Kang is quaking in fear of Veb as we speak, knowing that the movie’s about to come out and the whole universe is about to see how Veb can whoop. So yeah, it’s an honor.
Thanos is retroactively quaking.
Yeah, he is. He’s quaking.
“Thank God I died before Veb showed up, because that would’ve been way worse.”
Yeah. Those were his last words that escaped his lips. They had to cut that, the Russos cut that from Infinity War because they were sure that it was going to be confusing for audiences. Yeah.
You’ve done all the comic book royalty, as you’ve been Polka-Dot Man, you’ve been in so many DC animated movies, but with The Suicide Squad, you worked with James Gunn, who’s now DC Studio’s co-head. What it like to see him there?
There’s no better person to have that job, dude. I can’t … it’s incredible. He is the perfect person for that job. He is such an incredible friend. I have two relationships with James: our friendship, which is its own thing, and he’s a superhero when it comes to being a friend. Then he is a superhero when it comes to being a filmmaker and an artist. So his passion for this world of DC and his love of these characters, which we’ve talked about for years at length, is the perfect recipe for the success of where DC is headed. There’s no better hands for this world to be in.
For sure. As a fan, what projects from Chapter One have you the most excited?
Oh, all of them. I mean, all of them. I’m so psyched about Creature Commandos. I’m so psyched about what’s going to happen in the new Batman storytelling that we’re going to get to see. I think that he’s made really smart choices. Obviously, he’s the smartest when it comes to this stuff, but for the source material that he’s looking into and some of the inspiration when it comes to the comic book mythologies that were created that he’s going to lean into … and I love that he’s still exploring the weirder edges and he’s not afraid to go all the way in on a character that maybe a lot of people have never heard of before.
Because he trusts in that world and he knows that when stories are told properly, these characters are so rich that even if people aren’t as familiar with someone like, say, Polka-Dot Man, there’s a way to tell a story that people can really care about this character. And I’ve been so grateful. So many people, so many fans, over the last couple years since The Suicide Squad came out, have continued to share their love and support for Abner. I’m like, “No one even knew that was a character a couple years ago.”
Yeah. That’s the best sign that he knows what he is doing.
He does. I’m so happy, I’m so excited to see the DCU go the places that we’ve all known it could go.
You were also in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story with Daniel Radcliffe and everybody. What was it like to see Jack Black and all these other actors and cameos dressed as 80s celebrities?
That was a crazy experience for me because I’ve been friends with Al for a number of years now and I’ve always wanted to way to work together. We’ve been circling each other, trying to find some way to creatively collaborate. I’ve been a fan of Al’s for my whole life.
He just randomly reached out one day and said, “Hey, we’re making this movie about myself. I’ll explain later, haha. Do you want to come play John Deacon for a day?” And I said, “I don’t even know who that is, but I’ll be there.” And I came and I figured out who John Deacon is and I looked at the script and I thought it was hilarious. Then I showed up on set and I realized that I was surrounded by comedy royalty, and I was insanely intimidated.
I’m acting opposite Dan Radcliffe, one of the great actors of his generation, and Rainn Wilson. — so funny. And on my side of the ring, you’ve got Nina West as Divine, you’ve got the Lonely Island guys as Alice Cooper and Pee-wee Herman. You’ve got Paul F. Tompkins as Gallagher, you’ve got Emo Philips as Salvador Dali, Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol, Jack Black sitting there with me as Wolfman Jack. The list goes on and on. And I was just like, “Holy shit, I have to deliver a punchline here. This sucks! I don’t know what I’m doing!” And I just played it straight and played it like I would any other character, I guess. It ended up being an incredible experience and I’m so happy for Eric [Appel], who is the filmmaker that made the film — such a talented guy.
And Al — obviously a genius. I’m so happy for them, that this film connected with audiences the way that it did. It was a breakout hit of 2022. I think a shout-out needs to be given — that movie was done on such a small budget and such short schedule. When you see the performance that Evan Rachel Wood was able to turn in as Madonna or Dan as as as Weird Al, you’re like, “Holy.” But none of that stuff means as much without … I don’t know how they did it, to be honest with you. What the costume team did and how they pulled all that together. Like the makeup artist, Kat Bardot … what she did with all those looks was insane. I remember standing there that day and looking around me at all these people and being like, “How the fuck do they do this?” It was amazing.
I’m a big fan, so I’ve got to ask, what was it like working on Twin Peaks: The Return? How was working with David Lynch?
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2010 … I moved to L.A. With the dream and the hope of being able to be a working actor, just support myself through the work. But my life goals, like the big time, big dream loft goals that I had for myself, at the top of my list every day … if I didn’t have anything else to do to work towards my daily goals, I would try and figure out something I could do to work towards my dreams. My three big life dream goals as an actor when I moved to Hollywood were number one: to work with The Muppets in some capacity or another. Number two, to play a James Bond villain. And number three, to work with David Lynch. Those were the three dreams that I carried in my heart when I drove this little busted-up Alero out from Kansas to Los Angeles in 2010.
When I got the opportunity to be a part of Twin Peaks, which was thanks to a casting director named Krista Husar, who I had auditioned for a short film — and I didn’t even get cast in that short film — but she really liked my auditions. So she kept my name on file and she brought me in for Johanna Ray, David’s main casting director. Then David invited me to play Pit Boss Warrick. It’s hard to describe how surreal that is. That would be like being a lifetime fan of The Beatles and all of a sudden, Paul McCartney looks out in the audience and is like, “Climb up on stage, I want to hear you sing a round with us.” And you’re like, “What?”
It was so strange and magical. David couldn’t have been more true to all of the dreams I had of him as a human being and as a filmmaker. He’s ethereal, he’s magical. His imagination is boundless, his work ethic is as high as any of the hardest working filmmakers I’ve ever seen, and he has this deep flowing kindness in him and this consciousness and awareness of all the things around him. I don’t know if he’s human, but whatever he is, it’s something that I think we should all aspire to be as creative people.
That’s incredible to hear. Unfortunately, that’s all the time we’ve got.
It’s great to talk to you and let’s talk again soon. We’ve got Late Night with the Devil premiering at South by Southwest. We’ve got Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania coming out this week. Everybody make sure to vote for Veb for Sexiest Man Alive. I need to dethrone Paul Rudd. It’s time for Veb to take Paul’s place in his rightful position as the sexiest man alive.