Published on May 16th, 2017 | by Steven Roman1
It Came From the Bad-Girl Archives: John Carpenter’s Darkchylde
Welcome back to the occasional feature called “It Came From the Bad-Girl Archives,” in which I shine a spotlight on some out-of-print and possibly long-forgotten comics that starred the sort of scandalous (and sometimes Not Safe For Work) female leads who have always reaped a goldmine in profits for comic-book publishers. Today, however, we’re talking movies.
When it was recently announced that Hollywood is bringing Everette Hartsoe’s quintessential 1990s bad-girl comic character, Razor—a blood-soaked-yet-sexy female mash-up of the Crow, Wolverine, and the Punisher—to the big screen, courtesy of original The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen, I was reminded of another comics-to-cinema adaptation that had been announced years ago with another big-name director at the helm… only in the latter case, it sadly never got off the launching pad.
John Carpenter’s Darkchylde was intended to be a screen adaptation of the popular supernatural-teen comic character created by writer/artist Randy Queen. Originally published by Rob Liefeld’s Maximum Press imprint in 1996, Darkchylde was one of many titles that rose to prominence through the efforts of Wizard, a magazine aimed more at comic collectors than comic fans that tended to stress return-on-investment over storytelling. Unlike the here-and-gone comics that Wizard often pushed on its readership, Darkchylde’s tale of a girl named Ariel Chylde who could transform into the creatures of her nightmares found a dedicated audience almost immediately, leading to extremely good sales figures—good enough to eventually draw the attention of Carpenter, the acclaimed director of the original Halloween, as well as fan-favorites The Thing, The Fog, Escape From New York, and Big Trouble in Little China.
Yet even before Carpenter’s Storm King Productions—a company he owns with his wife, producer Sandy King—made a move, Queen had teamed up with Weta Workshop, the New Zealand–based, Academy Award–winning effects company that worked with director Peter Jackson on his Lord of the Rings (and later Hobbit) films. In July 2010, they spoke with the comic site Newsarama about their efforts—and provided impressive test footage of Ariel’s transformation into her demonic side.
“We’ve got the script. Darkchylde is ready to fly,” Queen told Newsarama. “We are actively seeking producing partners and independent financing,”
It didn’t take very long for him to find that producing partner. On October 31, 2010, Storm King Productions sent out the following press release, along with a teaser-poster image:
John Carpenter To Direct Darkchylde
The Master of Horror is set to bring you the girl of your dreams. John Carpenter is onboard to direct Darkchylde, based on the comic by Randy Queen about a good-hearted Southern teen cursed to become the creatures from her many recurring nightmares. Every time Ariel Chylde transforms, she sheds her skin and a new nightmare emerges from her Id to act out her deepest, darkest impulses.
John Carpenter and Sandy King’s Storm King Productions have allied with Randy and Sarah Queen’s Darkchylde Ent. to produce the film, following the release of test footage created by Richard Taylor’s Academy Award Winning Weta Workshop. (The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, King Kong, The Hobbit)
John Carpenter says, “Randy Queen’s hijacked angel, Ariel Chylde, is the best young female character since Laurie Strode in Halloween. Bringing Ariel and her dark mysteries to life should be quite an adventure for us all.”
Adds Queen, “I’m beyond thrilled that John Carpenter, one of our most important, and legendary genre directors, and the man responsible for such landmark films as THE THING, and HALLOWEEN has come onboard with Weta Workshop to help bring the nightmarish tale of Ariel Chylde to the silver screen. As a horror fan, the thought of Carpenter and Weta together, beautiful dreamscapes, and multiple transformations, makes me incredibly excited. There is a reason nearly his entire catalogue has, or is being remade, and it’s because Carpenter is a genius.”
Offering a stark contrast to super hero comics, Darkchylde was a breakout sensation of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, garnering immediate acclaim, and an unusually large female fanbase. The property went on to outsell Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman in both domestic and foreign audiences, and has been realized in toys, trading cards, apparel, lunch boxes, mini busts, and more recently a hit crossover with Top Cow, and a statue from PopCultureShockToys. Fans can now read the Ariel Chylde saga online via Wowio and Darkchylde.com and a trade paperback collecting the “Legacy” and “Redemption” series of books ships in January from Image Comics.
John Carpenter is an acclaimed director, screenwriter, producer, and composer, who won an academy award for his short film while still just a student at USC. His storied career includes such seminal films as Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York, Starman, Christine, In the Mouth of Madness, Assault on Precinct 13, They Live, and The Fog. His most recent outing, The Ward, starring Amber Heard as an institutionalized woman tormented by a sinister spirit, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Horror fans and comic fans alike were excited by the news—John Carpenter and Weta, working together on a bad-girl movie adaptation? It sounded incredible!
But after that…silence.
Not that Carpenter was sitting on his hands—he had a new movie to promote. A month before the Darkchylde announcement, John Carpenter’s The Ward had debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, with an eventual theatrical release in 2011. Starring Amber Heard (Drive Angry, Mera of the forthcoming Justice League film) and Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost of the CW’s Flash TV series), it involved the female patients of a psychiatric institute fighting to survive against what appears to be supernatural forces. To say it was met by a severe lack of enthusiasm from both critics and moviegoers would be an understatement.
Following The Ward’s debut, news of Darkchylde—or any future Carpenter film project, for that matter—trickled away. Even Queen’s official Darkchylde website—rarely updated to begin with, even now that he has a novel out (we’ll get to that shortly)—stopped reporting on its progress.
But Carpenter fans were still interested in it. On July 9, 2012, the horror site Daily Grindhouse posted an exclusive update on the project, based on a conversation they’d had with Sandy King. According to the producer, Weta was still working on the creature concepts, and had been joined by the companies Illusion Industries and Peerless, who would handle the visual effects. With regard to casting the lead, King mentioned that Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Dark Shadows), Elizabeth Olson (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Godzilla), and Elle Fanning (Super 8, Maleficent) were “being thought of,” though there was no indication that any of the actresses had been approached.
Aaaannnd…that’s as far as the project went.
To date, The Ward remains Carpenter’s last directorial work, as he’s now focused his energies on expanding his musical career (in case you were unaware, Carpenter has, for the most part, scored all his films) and going on tour to promote his latest albums. (He hasn’t completely given up film, though—he’s involved as a producer on the new Halloween film being co-written by comedian/actor Danny McBride of Alien: Covenant.) And Storm King Productions has become a comic book publisher in its own right, releasing the series John Carpenter’s Asylum (written by Sandy King with Trent Olsen and comics veteran Bruce Jones, with art by Leonardo [Hellblazer] Manco), the two-volume anthology John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night, and the upcoming series John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction.
As for Darkchylde herself, she’s moved on from Hollywood to a more literary landscape. In April 2015, almost five years after the Storm King announcement, Randy Queen sent out word that he was developing Darkchylde: The Ariel Chylde Saga, a proposed series of young adult novels that would no doubt adapt Ariel’s comic adventures for the book market. So far, only one volume has been published, released through Curiosity Quills Press on October 31, 2016; oddly, though, neither the book nor Queen are listed on the company’s website. (Maybe not so odd—the official Darkchylde website, not updated since April 2015, doesn’t even mention the book’s been published. I only learned of its release by Googling the book’s title.)
Well, at least Queen got some use from that Carpenter teaser image…
Will Darkchylde ever make her way to the silver screen? At this point, it’s unlikely it would happen with Carpenter in the director’s chair; Storm King doesn’t even list the project on their site anymore. But if Razor—a comic property even less well known than Queen’s creation—can swing a development deal, then anything’s possible; hell, even David Quinn and Tim Vigil’s Faust got turned into a movie. Maybe now that Hellboy has been taken out of Guillermo Del Toro’s extremely capable hands, he’d be interested in adding Ariel Chylde’s story to his ever-growing list of potential films…
Barr, Jason. “John Carpenter to Direct DARKCHYLDE; Plus the First Teaser Image from the film,” Collider, October 31, 2010
Brennan, Collin. “David Gordon Green will direct new Halloween, co-write script with Danny McBride,” Consequence of Sound, February 9, 2017
“Darkchylde Concept Test Footage – Mature,” YouTube, November 1, 2010
“DG Exclusive!! We Get an Update on John Carpenter’s Darkchylde,” Daily Grindhouse, July 9, 2012
“Exclusive DARKCHYLDE Weta Workshop Test Footage Revealed,” Newsarama, July 6, 2010
Yanes, Nicholas. “Why Randy Queen’s Darkchylde: The Ariel Chylde Saga is the Next Big YA Novel Franchise,” SciFi Pulse, April 16, 2015