Netflix’s ‘October Faction’: A Modern Family Tries To Keep The Beasts At Bay
Comic book adaptations are all the rage in Hollywood these days which nicely suits the sensibilities of screen storytellers like Damian Kindler who grew up with a passion for the four-color medium and its tales of caped wonders and masked marvels. It served him well as the creator of Syfy’s Krypton, the Superman prequel series, and also informed his genre work sci-fi (as creator of Sanctuary), fantasy (as showrunner for American Gods), and horror (as a writer for Sleepy Hollow) the Melbourne, Australia, native says there are some drawbacks to the increasing crowded Comic-Con sector of entertainment.
“A guy like me — someone that has done a lot of genre — I’m constantly having my interest gauged about adapting graphic novels or books or even video games and things like that,” Kindler said. “But look, I’l be honest, more often than not by the time something reaches my desk it’s already been passed on by people named Joss or J.J. or Damon and probably passed on with good reason.”
Even when a truly exciting IP option does makes it to Kindler’s in-box, he knows that the vagaries and needs of epsiodic television usually means the odds are still stacked against a smooth or seamless translation from another medium. That’s why Kindler is so excited about his latest adaptation effort, October Faction, which premieres Thursday on Netflix and already feels like an unprecedented creative change-up to veteran writer and producer.
“It’s difficult to adapt things without harming the intention or the integrity behind the source material,” Kindler said. “But then, when I read Steve Niles’ October Faction I was just instantly blown away by how human and grounded the characters were even in their minimalist fashion.And, maybe for the first time in my career, really, I saw a very bright path about how I would like to expand on the characters, the backstory, and the world in a very real and very grounded way when I read them.”
It was an unexpected and tantalizing start to a creative journey that would lead to Netflix, which on Thursday will drop the first 10 episodes of its October Faction, which is based on the best-selling IDW Publishing graphic novels of the same name. Those books were written by Niles, a veteran specialist known for writing horror characters who wear their hearts on sleeve (and, sometimes, other organs as well). Niles also wrote Criminal Macabre (a noir horror about an L.A. gumshoe with a Sixth Sense-like ability) and it was Niles with artist Ben Templesmith who gave IDW their brand-launching success back in 2002 with 30 Days of Night, the vampire bestseller that yielded two feature films.
Instead of creating densely packed mythologies with intricate backstories (which genre fans love, hence the encyclopedias that detail Star Wars, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, etc.), Niles uses a spare but vivid approach that’s closer to Jim Thompson pulp novels.
With October Faction, Niles and artist Damien Worm cooked up an eccentric supernatural adventure that Kinder describes as “Men in Black meetsRiverdale” but also could be thought of as “Ozark meets Grimm” or, in a bit of a stretch, as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Mr and Mrs Smith.”
The official synopsis: “October Faction follows Fred(J.C. Mackenzie)) and Deloris Allen (Tamara Taylor) who, after the death of Fred’s father, return to their hometown in New York with their 17-year-old twins, Geoff (Gabriel Darku) and Viv (Aurora Burghart). Subsequently, Geoff and Viv’s lives are turned upside down when they discover their seemingly unremarkable insurance sales rep parents are, in fact, trained assassins who hunt monsters.”
The Netflix series is produced by High Park Entertainment in association with IDW Entertainment (IDW is also the worldwide distributor with the exception of Canada) and their challenge will be setting the show apart from the crowd of comic book and supernatural projects in today’s marketplace. The rivals for attention include a well-heeled relative: Locke & Key, another acclaimed IDW series is also about a one-of-a-kind family with a secret supernatural heritage and it debuts next month with a Netflix series of its own (not to mention a more robust visual effects budget and plenty of pent-up fan interest).
October Faction won’t skimp on it’s vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc., but wall-to-wall visual wizardry and hyper-stylized production aren’t the places where it will be hanging its pickaxe. The show hews closer to the understated eeriness, clipped patter, and wickedly dry humor that have been part of Niles’ style for a decade and a half.
“There’s impact through directness and in a way minimalism,” Kindler said. “Less is more. Cut out the fat, cut out the filigree sensibility to his narrative and his characters. He doesn’t deploy extraneous stuff. He forces you to stay directly connected to the heart of the matter, and that’s whether it’s character or plot of both. So I just immediately connected with him and I understood his tone very clearly. Now did I achieve that in the translation my work? I don’t know. I do know I wouldn’t have even tried if Steve didn’t support and sign off on all the different creative decisions I made along the way. And, again, honestly? I didn’t want to be the douchebag who screwed up a great graphic novel.”