Celebrated comic book creator Steve Niles discusses working with Scott Hampton to adapt Dio’s Holy Diver into an original graphic novel.
Of all the pioneers of heavy metal and their influential works, none surpassed Ronnie James Dio’s 1983 album. Sacred diver. The Dio Estate teamed up with Z2 Comics to adapt the bestselling album into an original graphic novel, Dio: Saint Diver. Bringing together comic book author Steve Niles and artist Scott Hampton, the 120-page graphic novel weaves an epic fantasy tale that answers some of the album’s greatest lyrical mysteries. The Deluxe Edition of the Graphic Novel also includes a Sacred pilot vinyl reissue illustrated by Becky Cloonan.
In an exclusive interview with CBR, Niles opened up about his personal connection to heavy metal and Dio’s music, shared the lyrical and horror influences behind the graphic novel, and teased Easter eggs for Dio fans. This interview also includes an exclusive preview of the graphic novel, with illustrations by Hampton and its cover of the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz.
Steve, how did the folk elements of this story and its connection to Dio’s music come to you?
Steve Niles: Just going through the songs, Dio interviews and cover art gave me direction for the story. Dio’s music and lyrics pretty much led the way. The imagery is so strong and the story came out right away.
What is your personal connection to Dio’s work and Sacred diver?
Niles: Well, I was a punk rock kid, personally, but I was a huge fan of bands like Led Zeppelin and the early Black Sabbaths. I knew Metal music was going to come out later, but it wasn’t my favorite genre. But we were all rebelling against the system and the status quo at the time, in different ways. I have great respect for Dio, he was questioning organized religion and the abuses that underlie it long before others did, certainly. And of course, this blanket is iconic.
What was it like working with Scott Hampton on the look of this story?
Niles: I have worked with Scott several times over the years. We created Simon Dark together and several other projects. I love working with Scott. He has a look of his own and I knew he would be perfect for this book.
There is a pagan quality to this story that echoes The wicker man and Middle. What was there about that kind of sensitivity to pagan worship that you wanted to lean on here?
Niles: The cover of Sacred diver tells the story pretty much this way, and the idea behind these films is definitely similar. But I see it as a monster story. Dio has stated in numerous interviews when asked about the monster that drowned the priest: “How do you know the priest is not the monster? Things are not always what they appear to be , you have to look deeper … “
What is it about heavy metal that lends itself so well to fantasy storytelling?
Niles: I believe the musicians involved in the early days of Metal were fans of fantasy and mythology, so their songs were in that vein. I think it helped make the music larger than life, and the fans definitely attracted that. It allows for more imagination and a deeper meaning, I think.
What can you tease Dio readers and fans about this quirky graphic novel?
Niles: I hid a lot of Dio’s words in the narration and the dialogue; I think fans will have fun finding them.
Based on the Ronnie James album Dio, Dio: Holy Diver is written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Scott Hampton. The original graphic novel is available for pre-order now via Z2 Comics.
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