Cal McDonald

Created by Steve Niles

 Booze and pills are the least of his demons…

CAL McDONALD is another eye chasing things that go bump in the night, a sort of unlicensed private occult detective who appears in a string of novels and decidedly adult comic Criminal Macabre series by Steve Niles. With his zombie traveling companion Mo’lock by his side, Cal takes on assorted creeps, ghouls and other monsters.

What makes the series stand out is creator Steve Nile’s full-tilt embrace of the horror genre in all its bloody, gory glory. Cal’s world is nasty and violent, full of vermin and eyeball-gouging and flesh-chomping zombies who really sink their teeth in.

Cal’s pretty much your typical comic book private eye — the usual almost-parody: a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed and excessively violent son of a bitch who’s haunted by tragic events in his past. Only difference is that he sees dead people… and then he blows them away.

“Cal is written in a sparse, gruff first-person narrative which is a nod to writers like Chandler and Hammett who are huge influences on me,” explains the author. “I kind of think of Cal McDonald as the screwed-up cousin of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, but (these days) the tough talk and hard-drinking just ain’t hard enough so Cal is a total fuck-up, a drunk, a pill-popping fool and an ex-junkie. It’s not gratuitous, or a lame attempt to be shocking. This is how the character has tried to deal with his life, with the horrors he sees on a daily basis.”

Uh-huh…

You ask me, temperamentally he’s more Mike Hammer than either cold, calculating Spade or Gentleman Phil. And that’s actually part of the fun. Running on booze, pills, heroin, morphine and whatever else is handy, Cal’s a hands-on guy who doesn’t mind getting his hands a little dirty — or his senses a little fried.

When we first meet Cal, in a story called “Big-Head” in Daughters of Fly in My Eye, a 1990 Dark Horse horror comics anthology, he’s a less-than-scrupulous gumshoe shooting heroin in his office at McDonald Investigations in Washington, D.C. That story led directly to the five-part “Hairball,” serialized in Dark Horse Presents in 1996.

Cal’s subsequent appearances were in two 2002 prose novels Savage Membrane, and Guns, Drugs and Monsters. In the latter, Cal relocated to Los Angeles, after following a living, decapitated head searching for its body. (Mo’lock followed soon after, driving a U-Haul cross-country — now that musta been a trip!).

So now the boys are in LA, and hanging out at The Black Cat Club. It’s about the strangest joint you’ve ever seen, full of vampires, werewolves, zombies and people who watch way too much reality TV. So far Cal and Mo’lock have appeared in several mini-series, including Criminal Macabre (2003), Last Train to Deadsville (2004) and Two Red Eyes (2006).

Fortunately, a lot of the excesses of this series are tempered by Niles’ wacky sense of wit and dark humour. Honest!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Niles worked in comics (Spawn, Hellspawn, etc.) and film (Spawn 2), and even ran his own publishing company, where he edited and co-published several anthologies and adapted works by Clive Barker and Richard Matheson before hitting it big in comics with some of his own stories, and is one of those credited for bringing horror comics back to prominence. His comic work includes with his mini-series 30 Days of Night, about a band of vampires descending on an unsuspecting Alaskan town, which Wizard  dubbed the “#1 Breakout Event of 2002.” Other comic work includes Simon Dark, Mystery Society, The October Faction, Aleister Arkane and Batman: Gotham County Line. He was born in Jackson, New Jersey and raised in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, but he currently lives (I think) just outside of Los Angeles, just down the road. Of particular interest for fans of this site is Crime & Terror, a series anthology combining Niles’ two favourite genres: crime and terror (Well, duh!), and such one-shot eyes, such as Joe Coogan and Paul DeSanto.

UNDER OATH

  • “To me, Cal McDonald is the logical progression of the hard-boiled detective… Instead of the 40’s hard-drinking tough guy, Cal is a hard, self-medicating guy with enough personal and emotional problems to fill a file cabinet. Oh, and there are monsters.”
    — Steve Niles

NOVELS

  • Savage Membrane (2002; illustrated by Ashley Wood) Buy this book
  • Guns, Drugs and Monsters (2002; illustrated by Ashley Wood) Buy this book

SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS

  • Dial “M” for Monsters (2003) Buy this book
    A collection of Cal McDonald short stories, written by Steve Niles, and featuring illustrations by a variety of comics artists.

COMICS

 

  • DAUGHTERS OF FLY IN MY EYE | Buy this book
    (1990, Dark Horse Comics)
    One-shot horror anthology

    • “Big Head”
      Written by Steve Niles
      Art by Jim Whiting
      Cal’s first appearance, as part of a horror anthology edited by Niles.
  • DARK HORSE PRESENTS
    (1986-2000, Dark Horse Comics)

    • “Hairball: A Cal McDonald Monster Mystery, Part One” (October 1995; #102)
    • “Hairball: A Cal McDonald Monster Mystery, Part Two” (October 1995; #103)
    • “Hairball: A Cal McDonald Monster Mystery, Part Three” (October 1995; #104)
    • “Hairball: A Cal McDonald Monster Mystery, Part Four” (October 1995; #105)
      Written by Steve Niles
      Art by Casey Jones
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE
    (2003, Dark Horse)
    5-part mini-series
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Ben Templesmith

    • “Strange Gatherings” (May 2003, #1)
    • “What’s a Ghoul to Do?” (June 2003, #2)
    • “Geekstein” (July 2003, #3)
    • “Bubonic Nights” (August 2003, #4)
    • “American Freakshow” (September 2003, #5)
  • DRAWING ON YOUR NIGHTMARES
    (2003, Dark Horse Comics)
    One-shot horror anthology

    • “A Letter from B.S.”
      Written by Steve Niles
      Art by Ben Templesmith
      Amusing little tale with Cal hired by the ghost of Bugsy Siegel.
  • LOVE ME TENDERLOIN: A CAL McDONALD MYSTERY
    (2004, Dark Horse Comics)
    One-shot
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Ben Templesmith
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: LAST TRAIN TO DEADSVILLE
    (May 2004, Dark Horse Comics)
    4-issue mini-series
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Kelley Jones

    • “Last Train to Deadsville, Part One” (May 2004, #1)
    • “Last Train to Deadsville, Part Two” (June 2004, #2)
    • “Last Train to Deadsville, Part Three” (July 2004, #3)
    • “Last Train to Deadsville, Part Four” (September 2004, #4)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: SUPERNATURAL FREAK MACHINE
    (2005, IDW)
    6-issue mini-series (only three released)
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Kelley Jones

    • “Supernatural Freak Machine, Part One” (March 2005, #1)
    • “Supernatural Freak Machine, Part Two” (April 2005, #2)
    • “Supernatural Freak Machine, Part Three” (May 2005, #3)
      This aborted mini-series ran aground after three issues, and was ultimately released in its entirety in 2007 as a graphic novel.
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: FEAT OF CLAY
    (June 2006, Dark Horse Comics)
    One-shot
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Kyle Hotz
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: TWO RED EYES
    (2007, Dark Horse Comics)
    4-issue mini-series
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Kyle Hotz

    • “Two Red Eyes, Part One” (December 2006, #1)
    • “Two Red Eyes, Part Two” (January 2007, #2)
    • “Two Red Eyes, Part Three” (February 2006, #3)
    • “Two Red Eyes, Part Four” (March 2006, #4)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: MY DEMON BABY
    (2007, Dark Horse Comics)
    4-issue mini-series
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Nick Stakal

    • “My Demon Baby, Part One” (September 2007, #1)
    • “My Demon Baby, Part Two” (October 2007, #2)
    • “My Demon Baby, Part Three” (November 2007, #3)
    • “My Demon Baby, Part four” (April 2008, #4)
  • MySPACE/DARK HORSE PRESENTS
    (2007-10, Dark Horse Comics)

    • “Criminal Macabre: The Creepy Tree” (May 2008; #10)
      Written by Steve Niles
      Art by Kyle Hotz
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: CELL BLOCK 666 Buy this book
    (2009, Dark Horse Comics)
    4-issue mini-series
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Nick Stakal

    • “Cell Block 666, Part One” (September 2008; #1)
    • “Cell Block 666, Part Two” (December 2008; #2)
    • “Cell Block 666, Part Three” (February 2009; #3)
    • “Cell Block 666, Part Four” (May 2009; #4)
  • FREE COMIC BOOK DAY
    (May 2011, Dark Horse Comics)
    One-shot

    • “Criminal Macabre: Call Me Monster”
      Written by Steve Niles
      Art by Christopher Mitten
      Special double horror freebie also includes a story by Mike Mignola & Christophher Golden, with art by Ben Steinbeck
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE/THE GOON: WHEN FREAKS COLLIDE
    (May 2011, Dark Horse Comics)
    One-shot
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Christopher Mitten
    Special one shot pairing up Cal with Eric Powell’s The Goon, who has his own series.
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: NO PEACE FOR DEAD MEN
    (September 2011, Dark Horse Comics)
    One-shot
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Christopher Mitten
  • DARK HORSE PRESENTS
    (2011–, Dark Horse Comics)

    • “Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling! Part One” (September 2011; #4)
    • “Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling! Part Two” (October 2011; #5)
    • “Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling! Part Three” (September 2011; #6)
    • Written by Steve Niles
      Art by Christopher Mitten
      Collected as Die, Die, My Darling!, a one-shot, in March 2012.
    • “Criminal Macabre: They Fight By Night, Part One” (March 2012; #10)
    • “Criminal Macabre: They Fight By Night, Part Two” (April 2012; 11)
    • “Criminal Macabre: They Fight By Night, Part Three” (May 2012; 12)
    • “Criminal Macabre: They Fight By Night, Part Four” (June 2012; #13)
      Written by Steve Niles
      Art by Christopher Mitten
      Collected as They Fight By Night, a one-shot, in November 2012.
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: THE EYES OF FRANKENSTEIN
    (2013, Dark Horse Comics)
    4-issue mini-series
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Christopher Mitten

    • “The Eyes of Frankenstein, Part One” (September 2013; #1)
    • “The Eyes of Frankenstein, Part Two” (October 2013; #2)
    • “The Eyes of Frankenstein, Part Three” (November 2013; #3)
    • “The Eyes of Frankenstein, Part Four” (December 2013; #4)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: THE THIRD CHILD
    (2014, Dark Horse Comics)
    4-issue mini-series
    Written by Steve Niles
    Art by Christopher Mitten

    • “The Third Child, Part One” (September 2014; #1)
    • “The Third Child, Part Two” (October 2014; #2)
    • “The Third Child, Part Three” (November 2014; #3)
    • “The Third Child, Part Four” (December 2014; #4)

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • HAIRBALL: A CAL McDONALD MYSTERY Buy this book
    (2002, IDW)
    Reprints DHP #102-105
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE Buy this book
    (May 2005, Dark Horse Comics)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: LAST TRAIN TO DEADSVILLE Buy this book
    (May 2005, Dark Horse Comics)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: SUPERNATURAL FREAK MACHINE | Buy this book novel
    (2007, Dark Horse)
    Collects all five issues of the aborted mini-series.
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: TWO RED EYES Buy this book
    (2007, Dark Horse Comics)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: MY DEMON BABY | Buy this book
    (2008, Dark Horse Comics)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: CELLBLOCK 666 | Buy this book
    (2010, Dark Horse Comics)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: THE IRON SPIRIT | Buy this book
    (2012, Dark Horse Comics)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: NO PEACE FOR DEAD MEN | Buy this book
    (2013, Dark Horse Comics)
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: FINAL NIGHT | Buy this book Kindle it!
    (2013, Dark Horse Comics)
    The long-awaited crossover between Niles’ two most popular seires, with Cal taking on the vampires from 30 Days of Night.
  • CRIMINAL MACABRE: THE THIRD CHILD | Buy this book Kindle it!
    (2015, Dark Horse Comics)

COLLECTIONS & OMNIBUS EDITIONS

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Illustration of Cal at top of page by Tim Bradstreet.

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