In 1988, founder and president of Northstar Comics, Dan Madsen asked Mort Castle, "Can you write comics?" Castle immediately displayed the acumen he'd acquired from more than decades as a working writer. "Can you pay me?" Castle asked.
A check in hand, Castle began his career in comics. His publications prior to that included five novels, a "how to" writing guide, and hundreds of stories in magazines ranging from university-affiliated literary publications like Firelands Arts Review and Oyez Review to women's mags like Modern Romance, True Secrets, and Intimate Story, and from genre magazines, Twilight Zone and Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine, among them to men's magazines such as Cavalier, Penthouse, Mr., and Dapper. "I'd written everything even advertising for 'swine-farming agricultural products,' by then... everything except comics. But I sure wanted to. Hey, Little Lulu and Batman were responsible for my learning to read before I entered kindergarten."
With a reputation as a horror writer, Castle was selected by New Line Cinema and Northstar to script the four issue adaptation of Leatherface. "The series was very loosely based on Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. I worked from the original script by David Schow and the heavily edited theatrical release of director Jeff Burr, but had more or less free rein to write the story the way it should have been told. The first issue sold 30,000 copies."
Among Castle's other Northstar and, later, Comico, projects, the limited series Monolith, remains a personal favorite. A spinoff of Bill Willingham's landmark Elementals, Monolith spotlighted a gifted teen-superhero. With as many years an educator as he claims as a writer, working primarily with gifted high school students, Castle followed the Prime Directive of Writing: Write What You Know.
Moving to the editorial side of the desk, Castle brought into the comics field respected writers of novels, movies, and television dramas. "We showcased the work of such people as Graham Masterton (novelist, The Manitou, ); screenwriter Richard Christian Matheson (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure), and Rex Miller Slob and Chaingang)."
When Northstar's "new management" followed a business policy that would soon lead to the company's demise, Castle said, "Exit stage right!" and became a packager for "what I maintain was and is the best horror ever released in comics format: J.N. Williamson's Masques." The two deluxe graphic album format publications were inspired by the award winning horror anthology series created by John Maclay and edited by J. N. Williamson. Castle, the only living author to have stories in each of the books, wanted "the comics version" to boast the same quality writing that had distinguished the prose works and made them so popular.
Castle chose to work with The Innovation Corporation on this project. "These stories demanded capital 'A' art and I knew Innovation's David Campiti could make it happen."
Prized collector's items today, Volumes One and Two of J.N. Williamson's Masques"--"anthologies of elegant evil"-- boast work by Stephen King, Robert Weinberg, Robert R. McCammon--'Nightcrawlers,' the only story by this remarkable writer ever to appear in comics format, and the story chosen to launch CBS's second incarnation of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone--and Castle himself." (Not at all coincidentally, Pinnacle Books has just released Dark Masques, a compilation of the first two Masques volumes and will publish DM II later this year. An all new Masques V, for which Castle's story is already contracted, is scheduled for late 2002, to be published as a hardcover from Gauntlet Press.)
A bonus for Castle was the Castle-Campiti connection. "David has become brother-in-arms, my comic book agent, and my dear pal."
Because of this natural association "Two guys who fully appreciate the subtleties of The Ritz Brothers and the vocal stylings of Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards"--Castle has, over the years, written numerous comics for Glass House clients.
And when Castle became executive editor for the California based Thorby Comics in 1998, he immediately called on "the Glass House guys." Scandals, an urban slice-of-life drama created by Campiti for Thorby, was a daring attempt to present something other than Steroidinal Superdupers. Sherloch Holmes was another literary Glass House production for Thorby. "I loved what Thorby published; wouldn't have put it out if I hadn't loved it. Been doing this too long for my motivation to be anything other than love."
One of Castle's "Thorby published loves" was Night City. With black and white art by Mark Nelson and Don Kramer, these Castle-penned stories "deal with urban violence--or the possibility of it." The comic earned a nomination for The International Horror Guild's "Best Comic of the Year" and was "...perfectly rendered," according to The Hartford-Courant.
To avoid boredom, "or the possibility of sleep on a regular basis," Castle serves as writer-in-residence for three Illinois high schools and teaches in the fiction writing department of Chicago's Columbia College. Recent or forthcoming publications include the story collection Moon on the Water, a Pulitzer Prize contender; a new collection, Nations of the Living, Nations of the Dead; Buckeye Jim: An American Audio Journey, a spoken word with musical accompaniment CD; the mass market release of Moon on the Water, from Leisure Books.
With all he has "happening, about to happen, or threatening to happen," Castle is always seeking the "100% right comics project."
"Comic books have shaped the writer I am today and I want to write comics that will shape the writers of tomorrow."