Horror homecoming: Steve Niles reveals the secrets of Brynmore #1

Damien Worm's cover for Brynmore #1
(Image credit: IDW Publishing)

In the first issue of Brynmore, a new five-issue gothic horror from Steve Niles and Damien Worm, Mark Turner must return home and confront his troubled past once and for all. Unfortunately, home, in this case, is a cursed island and the locals aren't exactly thrilled to see a member of its founding family return.

Brynmore #1 is a typically compelling opener from Niles, the 30 Days of Night writer who, at this point, must be considered a modern master of horror, while Worm's art is heavy on doomy atmosphere. It's certainly a tantalising start to a very promising new series.

We spoke with Niles to find out more about Brynmore, the enduring appeal of island settings, his ongoing collaboration with Worm and the real world problems that his protagonist is struggling with. 

But before all that, check out a gallery of covers for Brynmore #1 below by (from left to right) Damien Worm, Francesco Francavilla and Martin Simmonds.

Newsarama: Let’s start with the plot of the new series... What is Brynmore about?

Steve Niles: Mark Turner returns to Turner Island, his childhood home, hoping to start again, while recovering from years of alcoholism, the wreck of his marriage, as well as hoping to heal his relationship with his teenage daughter. Turner Island is a small, neglected barrier island off the East Coast, named after his family hundreds of years before, and long thought to be cursed. Mark never paid much attention to that, but as he works on renovating the abandoned old church into a home for himself, he begins to find out that the old Turner Curse may be more than just a rumor.

Nrama: Tell us a little bit more about Mark, your protagonist? Who is he and what does he want?

Niles: Mark is tired, he's been running from his family legacy his whole life. So now he wants to go back to his roots in a new way, start over and deal with his demons. He's a good guy, but he's made a lot of bad choices, so we meet him right at this new start, where he's really trying to get things right.

Nrama: There's something naturally fascinating about islands, isn't there? What can you tell us about this one?

Niles: Islands are about as secluded as you can get, which is great for horror. The barrier islands off the East Coast are full of all kinds of history. I grew up in Virginia, so I knew about the Roanoke colony since I was a kid, which has always been an intriguing mystery. Placing Brynmore on one of these islands, but naming it after the main character, gives it a long and dark legacy to play around with. 

This one was also a little autobiographical on various levels, so looking at the history of the barrier islands sparked the idea.

Nrama: You mentioned that Mark is newly sober. Is there a link between the things that he's struggled with in the past and the curse that he encounters on the island?

Niles: Definitely. Alcoholism and addiction doesn't just happen, it's all about dealing with pain, and usually childhood pain. Mark's return to the very place that caused him so much pain is his way to face everything, and now he's trying to remain sober while doing it.

Nrama: Parenthood is another big theme. What made you want to tackle that?

Niles: Yeah, I tend to visit that theme a lot. I never forgot what it was like to be a kid, and my relationship with my parents wasn't easy. Family is so complicated, but the older I get, the more I understand my own parents and their struggles. We were/are all children, and the theme is universal, so adding that aspect made sense for a guy trying to figure his life out.

Nrama: You've said that you had the title Brynmore saved up for a project - what made this the right one? And where did the title come from?

Niles: Brynmore was a really cool name I came across years ago. It means "large hill", so it's a great monster name. I started something with Kelley Jones back in 2009, but it didn't end up going anywhere. Then I had a monster named Brynmore when Nat Jones and I started Sacred Hearts in 2016, but that didn't fit in the end. Brynmore feels old and tied to the land, so I needed to find the right story.

Nrama: You're working with Damien Worm on this series. What is it that you love about his work?

NIles: He's the best, I love Damien's work. It's been really cool to see his work through the years, too. He is open to ideas, he invests his time in doing research on places, costumes, looks. We have a blast going back and forth on stories.

Nrama: How has your collaboration changed over the years?

Niles: I originally found Damien on Facebook, I loved his work, so I emailed him. He was really cool and open right away, and up for challenges. I would say it's gotten even more comfortable, we both know each other well I think the two of us having October Faction go to Netflix was real a trip, and he was so cool throughout the whole process. Funny enough, we have never actually spoken, it's always been through email because neither of us speaks the other's language.

Nrama: Why do you think that horror is such a good genre for tackling big real-world themes?

Niles: Adding that kind of stress on someone struggling to go the straight and narrow path is something many can relate to. Plus, it's totally cathartic to have those relatable moments happening between scares.

Nrama: What's next for you?

Niles: I have a few things in the works coming from Dark Horse and others. Working on another project with Damien, too. This one is a Christmas ghost story.

Brynmore #1 is published by IDW on June 14.

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Will Salmon
Comics Editor

Will Salmon is the Comics Editor for GamesRadar/Newsarama. He has been writing about comics, film, TV, and music for more than 15 years, which is quite a long time if you stop and think about it. At Future he has previously launched scary movie magazine Horrorville, relaunched Comic Heroes, and has written for every issue of SFX magazine for over a decade. He sometimes feels very old, like Guy Pearce in Prometheus. His music writing has appeared in The Quietus, MOJO, Electronic Sound, Clash, and loads of other places and he runs the micro-label Modern Aviation, which puts out experimental music on cassette tape.