THE WAKE: SNYDER, MURPHY Dive Into Underwater, Sci-fi Horror

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With The Wake, creators Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy are exploring the wonder of discovery, but against the danger that lurks beneath the ocean.

The new, 10-issue Vertigo maxi-series reunites Murphy and Snyder after the two worked together on an American Vampire spin-off mini-series titled Survival of the Fittest. According to Snyder, they've wanted to work together on something else ever since.

Snyder told Newsarama last year that the underwater adventure is set in a world that is "post-apocalyptic," and that The Wake will introduce "new heroes and new monsters."

The sci-fi/horror epic begins in May, and it will feature covers by Murphy on the first five issues that fit together to form one big mural. The story, Snyder told Newsarama, has a mood that is both "claustrophobic" and "world-building."

The main character is marine biologist Lee Archer, who is called upon by the Department of Homeland Security to assist with the discovery of a new threats in the depths of the ocean.

Newsarama talked to Murphy and Snyder about the series and found out more about their collaboration and the ideas behind The Wake.

Newsarama: Scott, the first time we talked about this series, all you were revealing was that it was "new characters" and "new monsters." Now that we're closer to the series, can you describe the premise of the series?

Scott Snyder: Yeah, it's sort of a deep-sea, sci-fi, horror epic, with elements of post-apocalyptic storytelling to it as well.

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The main character is a marine biologist named Lee Archer, and she's called upon to examine and give her analysis of something that was found at the bottom of the ocean. And in doing so, it sort of begins this terrifying adventure. The discovery they've made, this creature, essentially opens up the doors to a lot of myths and folklore of the sea, but also to huge ramifications in the real world right now.

It's meant to be something that's both an underwater horror and science fiction story, but also something that explores some big questions and big themes. And it has a different part of the book that you'll see in the opening pages and the preview that winds up being incredibly expansive and different than anything Sean or I have done before.

Nrama: Are you saying there are two different parts of the book?

Snyder: Yeah, there are two narratives. There's two parts, without giving too much away. You'll get a sense of that really early on in the story. I think one part is really claustrophobic and horror driven, and one part is really expansive and science fiction based. So I really hope you like it.

Nrama: It sounds like you were able to experiment a little with the story structure.

Snyder: Well, it's definitely a risk for us to try stuff that's less conventional, in terms of story structure. But it's also really exciting and fun. So I hope everyone enjoys it as much as we do.

Nrama: While you've worked with horror before in American Vampire, was the science fiction part of this new for you?

Snyder: Yeah, because there's an element of speculative science fiction and sort of huge adventure that I've never tried before. So yeah, it's brand new for me. I love the fact that I get to do that with Sean and get to risk stuff. Maybe I'll fall on my face. Maybe I won't. But this is the book where you go to experiment and push yourself creatively. And I hope that shines through on the pages.

Nrama: Sean, when we talked to Scott, he said you'd been doing a lot of design on the book. Can you describe the kind of stuff that you're designing?

Murphy: Yeah, some of it's one generation removed from where our technology is now. So there's this submarine in one part of it, so I had to figure out how would it work and what would be realistic. I didn't want to go for easy, comic book-y, sci-fi solutions. I wanted to be as realistic as possible. You know, movies like 2001 always resonated with me because of how possible they felt, so I didn't want to take the science out of sci-fi when I started tackling these things.

Nrama: Did you use references for some of the underwater technology?

Murphy: Yeah, I went to look at a lot of pictures of submarines and different technology throughout the decades, and also NASA technology, because when they train astronauts, obviously, they do it underwater. So I tried to pull as much as I could from that.

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But even when I was drawing the antagonist character, I was trying to base it off of what actually happened in evolution, and what other creatures that evolved on this planet were like, and how I would fit that in, so that it makes sense.

Nrama: So even the monsters feel real.

Murphy: Yeah, I mean, even in American Vampire, I tried to do that. At one point, we had a skeleton of a vampire with wings, and I didn't do the back wings, but had the wings coming from the hands. I really get into that stuff and try to make real, logical decisions on why I do things a certain way.

Nrama: In these pages that we're previewing today, what was your approach?

Murphy: One of the things I struggled with in those pages was how to draw water, — not just a flat-water surface, but a surging tidal wave. And I realized very early on that water was going to be a huge character in the book, so I tried to cut my teeth as far as I could. I tried hard to really draw the surge of a tidal wave with the proper crash and the proper white water that washing over it.

I experimented with a few techniques. And while I sort of struggled with it in the first few pages, which is what you guys are seeing in the preview, a little further into the book, I really felt like I came into my own with it.

The other thing about those pages that I was really happy with was how Matt [Hollingsworth] took care of the colors. Having him do all his color work and his magic really helps.

It would mean a lot to me if, after the series — you know, how a lot of artists are referred to for doing certain things — like, here's an interesting way to handle your water. Sean Murphy did a pretty good job; here's what he did. So it would be nice to be in the bible of comic book water artists, if there's such a thing.

Nrama: Scott, I find it interesting that you're telling this horror story with a female lead character. I know Jeff Lemire's using a female lead in his new Trillium series. Why do you think you leaned that way?

Snyder: I just copy everything Jeff does. [Laughs.]

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No, I didn't really set out to create a female character in her. But I think I gravitate toward female protagonists sometimes, like in American Vampire with Pearl and Felicia being lead characters in that series along with Skinner.

Here, I think part of what I was looking for was someone who has a lot stacked against them. She's someone who's the best at what she does. She's a marine biologist with a specialty in sitology.

She's fascinated by unlocking the mysteries of the ocean and what's down there. And yet, at the same time, she's someone who's run into a lot of professional and personal problems because of some decisions she's made that are actually ethically sound.

So, in some ways, I don't know if that made it seem like a woman would be better than a man. But she just occurred to me that way. There was never really a question that she'd be a man. I just said, "I think the main character of this series is going to be this marine biologist, this woman."

Nrama: Her gender was a nature part of the character's creation.

Snyder: Yeah, she was just sort of conjured up that way to me. There wasn't any thought behind it in that regard.

Nrama: Scott, I know you've told me several times how important collaboration has become for you as a writer, and how much you enjoy that, after coming from the world of prose. And Sean, you've cleared your schedule to specifically work with Scott on this project. Can you describe what it is about working together that made you want to do this project in particular together?

Snyder: Sure, I mean, I'd work with Sean on anything. We're friends outside of comics, but even if I hated his guts, I would admit that I think he's, like, one of the best working artists in the industry today. I knew he'd be the perfect person for this, where you need to create a believable world at the bottom of the ocean, or in a sort of post-apocalyptic environment.

One of the things that I love about his work the most is the kind of detail he just described to you about how scientific he gets, and yet at the same time how incredibly inventive and speculative he's able to be. Some of it is so grounded and looks architecturally real.

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And then the characters in particular just look so wonderfully expressive and exuberant that they almost feel like they're bursting with life on the page against these technical backgrounds.

A book like this need someone who can create an underwater claustrophobia and build a world down there that feels real in all of its strange details.

And also, for the other part of the book, really build a world from scratch, with all the wondrous trappings in that way. I can't think of anybody that would be more suited to it than him. But even if I was just, like, writing the phone book, I know he could make it look amazing. I'd work with him on pretty much anything.

Murphy: And that goes both ways. I would do anything with Scott. He's really making history right now, and I think time will prove that he's one of the biggest writers of the decade. On top of that, we also happen to be friends. And I was also anxious to draw something underwater. He just happened to hit on a genre that I was interested in already. So for me, it was the triple, three reasons why I wanted to do this book. And the timing finally lined up correctly.

Nrama: Then to finish up, how would you guys summarize what readers can expect from The Wake?

Snyder: Well, I hope you guys will give it a try, and thanks for everyone at Newsarama for being so kind to us.

 

But I hope what you'll take away from it is that we're trying something different for both of us. This is the kind of book that we love to do, because we love working together, but also because it allows us to flex our muscles and take risks together.

Murphy: I think when people pick it up and read, I think they'll feel that sense of how Scott and I go back and forth on a lot of the aspects of the story, and how we work very closely. And how we're very malleable.

Also, this is just a pure endeavor, free of previous characters. We don't have to tie into other books. There's no corporate oversight or anything like that. But I think people will feel that vibe when they read the book.

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