In 2002, a three-issue comic book miniseries from IDW lit the horror comic genre on fire. The brilliantly simple premise behind this comic is right in the title: 30 Days of Night. Everyone knows vampires are nigh invulnerable and that their only major weakness is sunlight. However, what would happen if a clutch of vampires were freed from this limitation for an entire month?
Welcome to Barrow, Alaska, population double digits. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set for thirty days and doesn’t rise again for thirty more. Led by a vampire named Marlow, a pack of vampires descends on Barrow with ruthless aggression. These aren’t the charming, sexy creatures found in some of the modern stories. Not even close. They’re feral monsters, taking immense pleasure in the suffering of their prey.
Standing between the vampire brood and the surviving residents of the town are Eben Olemaun and his wife Stella. Eben is the town sheriff and is investigating a wave of petty crimes around town prior to the invasion. Weird stuff, but nothing too serious. Dogs and cell phones turning up missing, that kind of thing. When everything hits the fan, these strange occurrences begin to make sense.
30 Days of Night Doesn’t Feature Your Normal Vampires
Writer Steve Niles (Criminal Macabre, Disciples, Aleister Arcane) didn’t allow the Olemauns any convenient “outs” when penning the graphic novel. The sun isn’t going to rise in a few hours, so there’s no time for the humans to regroup and plan. Garlic is a joke. Who even thought of that garlic thing? (Ancient Egyptians. I know.) Crosses are ineffective. Shotgun blasts to the face only make the vampires angrier and uglier. The only thing that seems to work is decapitation.
Steve Niles actually worked on the movie script five years later when Columbia Pictures partnered with Dark Horse Entertainment to bring the story to the silver screen. This lent continuity between the graphic novel source material and the movie. The major plot points remained mostly untouched between the two mediums.
The Changes Between Movie and Comic Are Minimal
There are only a few major differences between the graphic novel and the film script. The movie script has omitted two minor subplots. The book had a conspiracy theorist mother/son duo in New Orleans trying to prove the existence of vampires to the world.
The other omitted subplot had a second vampire leader descend on the town and question the wisdom of a feeding frenzy in a world where vampires had been relegated to folklore. Since no one really believes in vampires, bringing attention to their existence with this feeding frenzy could be suicidal in the long game.
An obvious difference is that the graphic novel doesn’t really have any other human roles besides Eben, Stella, and The Stranger. The series is so fast paced and brutal in its pacing, there really isn’t any room for extra characters. They aren’t needed to move the story. The movie, needing to fill two hours of screen time, added and developed a few more characters.
In the 30 Days of Night comic, Eben and Stella are happily married. The movie begins with their relationship being strained almost to the point of divorce. By the end of the film, they come around and realize how much they still love one another. This was likely another pacing issue.
Ben Templesmith Gives The Comic The Edge
The most glaring difference between the page and the screen is the overall aesthetic. There is just no way the filmmakers would have been able to match the art by Ben Templesmith (Fell, Criminal Macabre, Silent Hill: Dying Inside). Using an almost trash polka palette (with the addition of deep, dark blues), Templesmith brought a unique blend of surreal images and photorealism that would be impossible to recreate in another medium.
Clearly, some changes have to be made in order to make a comic book mini series into a feature length film. In this case, having the original writer on the team that penned the movie script meant that those changes were minimal and made sense in context with the source material. The endings of both stories are almost identical. The major plot points weave between both stories almost seamlessly.
Based solely on the artwork by Ben Templesmith, I’m going to declare the 30 Days of Night comic was better. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the film; there just isn’t any comparison to the imagery in the pages of the graphic novel.