Pooping Vampires And Giant Robots: A Chat With Guillermo Del Toro

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In December, Dark Horse Comics will release the comic book adaptation of Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro's vampire outbreak novel series The Strain. io9 recently spoke with del Toro about this hemoglobin-obsessed miniseries, and the prolific director also tantalized us with details of his upcoming screen projects, like his mech pilot flick Pacific Rim and The Incredible Hulk TV show.

How did you come up with vampires' rather disgusting physiology? Why do they excrete while they eat?

That function comes from ticks. I've always been interested in how vampires relate to other species, particularly insects and arachnids. Ticks have a limited capacity to hold their food after they digest it, so while they're eating they're excreting, which is not a very pleasant habit. They're blood-sucking animals, so I took that from them. The physiology of these creatures, I started thinking about it before I did Cronos. I did some sketches back then, but I couldn't do it with my first movie. Some of it found a way to break through, but a lot of it stayed in my notebook and I was able to use the whole thing in The Strain.


You've adapted other writers' comic stories to film (such as Hellboy) but what was it like adapting your own work to comics?

The first thing I did was to make a very careful selection of the people doing it, which is essentially what you do as a producer. Selecting the writer and the artist was a very informed decision. I'm a big fan of both the creators. I actually wrote an introduction to [illustrator Mike Huddleston's] The Coffin and I loved [Strain writer David's Lapham's] Stray Bullets. I think Stray Bullets was one of the peaks of the early reinvention of the graphic novel. David still is one of the most brilliant minds in the medium. Chuck Hogan and I are very happy with how The Strain is evolving. We asked Dark Horse for more issues to pace the story. I'm very proud of this project, and I really hope fans enjoy it.


Have you ever pondered what you'd like to do with The Strain trilogy if you adapted it for the screen?


If we ever adapted it, we'd go for a long format, which would probably be a cable series. I want to expand the story, the characters, and their arcs rather than contract it. Even if we made three movies, you would end up with six hours to deal with all these character arcs.

What's your "del Toro creature file" like?

That's all in my notebooks. I maintain idea notebooks that tend to be project specific. I have a bunch of creature ideas — many of which have not been used — and I accumulate them until they come in handy.


The Strain and Cronos represented your spin on the vampire legend. Similarly, your upcoming Frankenstein film and Pacific Rim are the del Toro take on The Monster and mecha, respectively. What's the appeal of reenvisioning classic horror and scifi tropes?

The reality is that it comes not from a goal, but from the fact that I'm fulfilling my bucket list as a kid.


Speaking of Pacific Rim, how's that going?

Very good, we're at the end of our second week. We are shooting everything for the main complex in the movie, which is a huge complex in Hong Kong where the robots are maintained. We are doing that, while building downtown Hong Kong streets.


And how's your Incredible Hulk TV show progressing?

Very good. We delivered the screenplay to the network. I have a very specific idea of how to do it, and we're waiting for the green light. We know all the iterations of the Hulk pretty good. We've read all the essential stories, and we're then riffing on that. There are so many incarnations and ideas. Jeph Loeb — who did a good run [on Hulk: Grey] — is involved, and I love Peter David's Hulk. But there's really no part in that mythos that we don't know, so we are trying put our own personal spin on it.


With your many projects, could you see yourself doing more comic work in the future?

Not really. The way I see it is that The Strain comic allows us to expand on the novel. We provided David with chapters and ideas that were not used in the novel. David himself is putting his own spin on the story, and when he does that, we let him run with it. I'm invested in that, but even for me, it would be too much to get into another series. Every time there is a decision to be made in the series, whether it's a color palette or a layout, absolutely ever decision in the series is under my personal supervision. The deadline on the comic book demands that I respond within 24 hours of receiving the material, so I can only be involved with one series.


What works — either written or film — are really inspiring you these days?

I really enjoyed Drive and [director Kim Ji-woon's] I Saw The Devil, which is absolutely insane and brutal. I recommend it for the not faint of heart.


The first issue of The Strain will hit stands Wednesday, December 14 at the price of $1. You can watch our trailer for the series here.