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Interview: 'The Many Deaths of Barnaby James'

Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen

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Every year, the circus comes to town. However, "The Black Top" isn't like any you've seen before...

In the following interview, writers Neil Gibson and Brian Nathanson explain more about The Many Deaths of Barnaby James.  

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PREVIEWSworld: So, what is The Many Deaths of Barnaby James? As much as you can tell us without spoiling it.

Neil Gibson: In our story, the “Black Top” is a traveling circus consisting of workers who have been brought back from the dead by the hand (and magic wand) of their evil ringmaster, Azlon. They must do his bidding, without fail, or be killed again. Essentially: worst boss ever. And in today’s climate, that’s saying a lot

From there, we meet Barnaby James, a grave boy at the circus who’s desperate to reunite with the love of his former life, Delilah. He pleads with Azlon to bring her back to life over and over – only to get told no over and over again. Finally fed up, Barnaby decides to steal Azlon’s wand and resurrect Delilah himself. On his journey to find her, he encounters all sorts of evil characters -- from slavers to cannibals to necrophiliacs -- in an effort to find Delilah and find the truth about what happened to her.

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Tell us about Barnaby James. Why do we follow him through this story? 

Brian Nathanson: In the world of the Black Top circus, Barnaby James is on the lowest rung on the ladder – a grave digger, a worker bee, a “roustabout.” He needs to do Azlon’s dirty work and take abuse from the other entitled performers there. What makes Barnaby special (and earns him a place in Azlon’s heart) is that he still has managed to retain his innocence and his hopefulness despite all the darkness around him. 

Neil: So far, anyway. In a way that’s Barnaby’s ultimate test – on a personal and emotional level. Can he still be a good person despite seeing all this darkness him? Or will he succumb to that as well? It’s a mission to find Delilah, but very much a battle for Barnaby’s soul.

This isn’t a modern tale. What made you made you choose that backdrop?

Brian: I’m impressed that you picked up on that; it’s very much intentional to avoid certain hallmarks of a modern story like cell phones or computers. We wanted to create a timeless, almost dreamlike setting that can lend itself to different interpretations. Is it the 1950s? The 80s? Is this even the mortal world at all? Having that sense of uncertainty adds to the uneasiness of the world; you’re never sure what to expect because the world itself is slightly off its axis.

What can you tell us about Azlon?

Brian: Personally, Azlon is my favorite character in the story. He’s an abusive egomaniac and horrible human being, but he’s well-aware of that. For that reason, he genuinely admires Barnaby: almost as though Barnaby represents a part of his soul that he’s long since lost.

Neil: In our minds those are hallmarks of a proper villain. Azlon isn’t a “good guy,” but allowing the reader to understand the mind of an antagonist makes for a more layered story. Over the course of the book, we continually find out new information about our characters that changes the perception of them.

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How did you both get involved with The Many Deaths of Barnaby James? Did you both come up with the idea together or did one person approach the other?

Neil: Oh this was Brian’s story. I get sent a fair number of screenplays to consider for adaptation, and Brian’s was by far the best one I had read. Though it follows multiple characters, I loved how it all tied together at the end. I couldn’t wait to make the adaptation!

Brian: And fortunately for us, the storytelling structure (with rotating character perspectives) fits well into a graphic novel format. There’s some extreme darkness that may have been watered down in other hands, but Neil has always been fearless to tell stories no holds barred if they serve the story. The man’s disturbed – in the best way possible.

Looking forward, what can readers expect from The Many Deaths of Barnaby James?

Brian: We love playing in this sandbox – both in terms of the tone of a gothic fairy tale, and in terms of the specific world and characters. Hopefully, readers agree that Barnaby James himself has a satisfying beginning, middle, and end (a few ends, actually), so we’d rather let him rest there and turn the lens to others in the city of “Mortecita.” We’re developing sequels/spinoffs that focus on characters like Elena, Liberty, and the history of the Black Top circus.

In terms of audience, who is the book for?

Neil:  Honestly, it is an unusual story, but people who like dark fantasy will love it. I would say fans of Legend, Game of Thrones, The Witcher, and similar ilk. But being totally unbiased, I would just bite the bullet and give it a read. I think you’re in for a treat with Brian’s sick mind.

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The Many Deaths of Barnaby James is available now at your local comic shop. Reserve your copy now using PREVIEWSworld Pullbox! More below.

Keep an eye on's TwitterFacebookYouTube, or Instagram for more. 

(W) Neil Gibson, Brian Nathanson (A/CA) Piotr Kowalski
Every year, the circus comes to town. However, "The Black Top" isn't like any you've seen before-its performers were once dead and they've been resurrected by their fearsome ringmaster, Azlon. Barnaby James, a young gravedigger, requests that Azlon resurrect the love of his (former) life, Delilah. Time and time again, his pleas are rejected. Frustrated, Barnaby decides to steal Azlon's magic wand and bring back Delilah himself. On his desperate journey to find her, Barnaby must overcome murderers, cannibals, and sex slavers, not to mention the full fury of Azlon, or he might just find himself dead... again.
In Shops: Dec 13, 2023
SRP: $19.99
PREVIEWS Page #223


Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the Consumer Marketing Manager for Diamond Comics Distributors, Editor of, and the producer/co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His published work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalypse '91BamnFight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.

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