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Famed horror-comics writer visits with a more whimsical offering.

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Writing plots based on government conspiracies and killer robots, Steve Niles is keeping it light. Creator of vampire-laced comic-turned-movie 30 Days of Night, the former Pittsburgh resident is known for bringing horror comics back to the mainstream. Now, with the release of his newest series, The Mystery Society (IDW Publishing), Niles is focusing on something a bit more whimsical -- a feisty, crime-fighting couple in love.  

"It's sort of Mr. and Mrs. Smith meets The X-Files," Niles said by phone recently, having just landed back in Los Angeles after completing the first 10 stops of his national book tour. The tour re-launches at two locations of New Dimension Comics. 

On June 17, at New Dimension' Cranberry location, and on June 18, at New Dimension at Century III Mall, 1,000 limited-edition copies of Mystery Society's first issue will be on sale. The special issue features a cover photo of local model and DJ Cy-Fi, and a new cover sketch by series artist Fiona Staples. Niles will make an in-store appearance to sign copies, which will sell for $9.99.

New Dimension has a reputation for store-specific releases. Owner Todd McDevitt's limited editions include G.I. Joe #1, Transformers #1 and Amazing Spider-Girl #1.

"It gets me behind the project and excited about it, and creates a lot of local interest," McDevitt says.

 For Niles, whose other credits include Batman titles and DC's Simon Dark, the tour is all about the interaction. "It's been fantastic meeting the fans and the retailers and seeing the reaction to the book," says the writer, who lived in the South Side and Squirrel Hill in the early '90s, before moving to L.A. to work for Disney.

The series revolves around action-oriented duo Nick and Anastasia. Former owners of an unprofitable bookstore, the couple won the lottery and formed the Mystery Society -- to have some fun and do some good in the process. Now Nick, a blond-haired stud, and Anastasia, a buxom brunette, take care of crime-fighting business all the while maintaining flirty and suggestive cell-phone repartee.  

But the biggest departure is Staples' bright, action-packed illustrations -- a far cry from the shadowy art that often accompanies Niles' writing. "She takes ideas and runs with them," Niles says. When Niles panicked about the idea of mundane jeans-and-T-shirt fashion for the heroes, Staples came to the rescue with form-fitting mini dresses and patched leather jackets.

Mystery Society, intended as a five-issue series, has garnered enough success with its inaugural issue to secure a longer run. "It's looking like we're going to be able to continue to an Issue 6, Issue 7 ... We'll go as long as the retailers keep stocking it," Niles says.

 

Steve Niles signs The Mystery Society #1 at New Dimension Comics. 9-10 p.m. Thu., June 17 (20550 Route 19, Piazza Plaza, Cranberry Township; 724-776-0433) and 4-7 p.m. Fri., June 18 (Century III Mall, West Mifflin; 412-655-8661). Free. www.ndcomics.com

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