Interview: Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy
This week see’s the release of The Wake #2, the latest issue by the incredible team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy, two creators at the top of their field. Vertigo hooked us up to spend some time chatting with these two talented individuals about their latest team up and series.
The Wake began as an idea a few years ago. Snyder had been fascinated by the mythology, folklore and legends that grew out of the sea and how much of the underwater landscape is still unexplored. As someone who loves horror, Snyder felt that this was one of the last worlds you can draw actual terror from, because it’s so unknown. So, with all of that he wanted to tell a story that tied together horror, mystery and a story about human evolution and the future of civilization. At a bar in Brooklyn he recruited Murphy and it took a few years before both their schedules allowed them to make it a reality.
Murphy having worked with Snyder before and having such a good time with their previous collaboration on American Vampire, “it sounded like a project I’d be in to.” Plus Murphy wanted to draw a story underwater, working on details like scuba gear. It scratched “a few itches” that way. It also didn’t hurt that this would be a high profile comic.
Graphic Policy: The first issue deals a lot with marine biology, and involves the Department of Homeland Security. What research did you put in to look at those worlds?
Scott Snyder: Being terrified of the water, I didn’t do any real world research like diving into the water. In terms of folklore and mythology and series about evolution and stuff like that, it was fun doing the research. It’s the type of stuff I like looking in to. For American Vampire I did a lot on history. We did do a fair amount, both of us. You need to do just enough to make it sound plausible, otherwise it becomes procrastination.
Sean Murphy: We both work a lot from real world stuff whenever we can to keep it ground. A lot of times, I find a photo I want to use I want to use in a script and throw it in a background. And a lot of times Scott will role with it.
GP: You’ve worked together before on American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, is it easier the second time around?
Murphy: Yeah it’s a lot easier. The scripts are a bit more bare so I can fill stuff in. It’s definitely easier for me to draw.
Snyder: It’s super easy. I get worried. I hope (Sean) doesn’t mind I give him so much room. I just know you’ll do a better job drawing than I can describe it.
GP: Sean, you’ve written comics in the past. How does that affect the work dynamic between the two of you?
Murphy: With Scott, I make it clear, it’s his story, he’s the writer. I’m happy to lend an idea, but in the end, he’s the one that decides. And leaves me to make the artistic decision. That being said, there is a lot of crossover in he’ll suggest what to draw and I’ll suggest some plot. But it’s rare when one of us suggests something that doesn’t make it in.
Snyder: It’s like having a co-writer on the book, which is a dream for me. I love so much on what he offers on story. There’s a lot in there I think people give me credit for that he came up with story-wise. So, he’s a brilliant story teller visually or just as a writer, so… I have the easiest job. He does the heavy lifting on both ends.
GP: Sean, does being a writer help you as an artist? Does it give you some advantage or angle as an artist?
Murphy: Drawing comics, doing a whole comic yourself it’s stages 1 through 10. Drawing it is stages 5 through 10. For me, going back to projects or seeds, it’s helped me out with story telling or plot lines in the end.
GP: In the first issue, you look at the past, present and future which is a popular device in science fiction. Scott, what drew you to integrating that in the story?
Snyder: Well, I debated it for a while… whether I wanted to show what’s coming in the story early on. Sean and I talked about it a lot, just because a part of it, the risk is, you still want it to be exciting. Teasing it, you get a sense of the bulk of the story. What it boils down to, I wanted people to know that this is a story that has a lot of fun and familiar tropes. Tropes that I love. When I find them in a story, I know I’m going to enjoy it when they’re done differently. Like a team being brought together to investigate something mysterious. Those kinds of storytelling techniques, it was really important for me in the book, that as fun and familiar, and as sort of classic some of those tropes are, it’s something completely different than something I’ve tried to do in a book. It has a different depth and scope than anything I’ve worked on. It’s definitely the most ambitious in terms of the storytelling and where it’s going to go and the structure. And also the thinking behind it is something I want it to be clear from the beginning that it’s not just a horror story. That it’s not just about these people trapped with a creature at the bottom of the ocean. The consequences of that story, the implications of that story, will have very far reaching elements not just in thought, but also conceptually. It’s not just about, to me…. I don’t want to give away what it’s about, even with the theme. Because that telegraphs where we’re going. But what I will say is, it’s about things that matter to me and questions, deeply that I find pretty haunting in general. It’s a personal story above everything. I wanted it to be clear in the first issue that it’s an ambitious comic in its plotting, but also the exploration of its topics.
GP: Our readers felt that the comic had a great vibe from the 80s/90s Vertigo era. They wanted to know if this a style you wanted to go for, or did it just happen?
Snyder: Part of what we were trying to do with the book, was sort of announce this is part of the new direction for Vertigo. It’s supposed to be a space for creative delivery and I think that notion is seen in that we’re trying to a book with with opening pages unlike anything we’ve done before. That being said, the comics people are thinking of from Y: The Last Man to 100 Bullets, those are series that are in my DNA and got me wanting to write in the first place. So I take that as a huge compliment. It’s a great honor to mentioned with them.
Murphy: I think the reason people think this is an 80s style story, it might be also the coloring as well. The color is more of this water color looking. If you look at the comics from the 80s, they were painted in this way. I think, that’s probably why people are thinking that. When I did Punk Rock Jesus, I was thinking of 90s stuff, so maybe there’s a way in that I draw that sort of reminds people of that which is fine, because I’m a big fan of that stuff.
GP: The other question our readers want to know is how this series works in the new Vertigo?
Snyder: Yeah! Being friends with the folks at Vertigo, the creators and the editors, we’re lucky enough to see what’s coming out soon, Collider, Brother Lono, and a couple of others. The initiative that I think Vertigo is both try to allow creators to do books that are visionary and fearless and defy expectations in a lot of ways. That’s what attracted us to do it in Vertigo. We trust the editorial, story wise, and we’ve been taken good care of and on top of that, it’s exciting to be part of this drive to rebrand or drive attention to the fact that Vertigo is trying to be liberating.
GP: Who do you think The Wake is for?
Snyder: Definitely fans of fans of horror stories like The Thing and Aliens or deep sea exploration like The Abyss. The thing is, that’s what it looks like on the surface, but it’s hard to point to something with a similar storytelling structure or story ambition just because, you’ll see, when you get to the middle of the series, it gets to a different sort of mood with the storytelling. And that’s what I think Sean and I are both really excited about. It is horror and sci-fi but it’s also an adventure story, there’s a hint of that in the opening page. It’s different than anything else we’ve tried.
GP: Thanks so much!
Synder: Thank you guys at Graphic Policy. You’ve always been really supportive, so I want to thank you and your fans and readers for that.