Now that Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy's apocalyptic thriller The Wake has passed the halfway point, the story gets a whole new protagonist, new setting and new cast of characters — including a cool dolphin sidekick.
Since the 10-issue Vertigo series started in May, The Wake has concentrated on marine biologist Lee Archer. While Snyder and Murphy have revealed tiny snippets of scenes from various eras of history, the bulk of the story was about Dr. Lee Archer's discovery of an ancient, humanoid creatures hidden in the depths of the ocean.
At the end of issue #5, Archer was believed to have been killed, and February's The Wake #6 completely switched gears, taking the story 200 years into the future, where much of the Earth is flooded and humanity is dying as the "Mers" take over.
If that wasn't enough of a twist for readers, at the end of issue #6, readers found out that a woman in the future named Leeward — the story's tough new heroine (who has a dolphin sidekick) — is now able to communicate with Dr. Archer.
The cliffhanger of these two women communicating with each other, 200 years apart, got us curious what Snyder is planning for the series, so Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about The Wake.
Newsarama: Scott, with the second part of The Wake, you're telling the story from a completely different character's point of view, and 200 years in the future from the story we saw in the first five. Did you always plan to do it that way? Or did that structure kind of evolve when you started delving into the characters and their stories?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, we tried to hint at it by showing Leeward in the very beginning. It opened with her in issue #1.
But ultimately, this is the section that Sean and I built the story around, thinking this is what we wanted to explore.
The idea began with the first section, but once we started talking about doing this section, it became something where we couldn't wait to get to it.
We even played with the idea of making the entire story of issue #1-#5 just a series of small flashbacks. But we liked it too much to do that to it.
And then, Sean and I made a promise that this comic would be about us trying to experiment and have fun, and you know, pushing ourselves together, because we're friends. His art always makes me try harder. And he says the same of my writing, which I kind of have a hard time believing, but I'm honored by it.
Nrama: So you think this structure challenges you both?
Snyder: Yeah, for me to have to write in two completely different genres, and him to have to draw them. And us both to get attached to a brand new set of characters, after having lost the ones that we liked in the first part.
So that's what the book is all about, trying to defy conventions.
Nrama: We find out at the end of issue #6 that there's a link between the two of them, because of a radio transmission. But is your idea that they kind of mirror each other? Is there more to it than this potentially random radio transmission?
Snyder: Yeah! Well, I don't want to give away what there is in terms of the actual literal connection between Leeward and Lee. But there are tons of connections between the story in the first half and the second. And you're going to see a lot of surprising revelations, just in the next two issues, about how the events of the first section — the locations and the actions of a lot of the characters — have repercussions that affect the world 200 years later.
Nrama: So we'll see more of those characters from the first section?
Snyder: Yeah, you'll get glimpses of a lot of the characters you liked in the first section — Meeks and Lee, especially. And Parker as well.
So we wanted to show that the actions of these characters leaves an imprint, and what they did sort of echoes down to this set of characters. And it's part of the key to unlocking the history and the future, and why the world is the way it is.
Nrama: It seems like there's a bigger theme here, connected to the history of mankind. Is it about evolution?
Snyder: There are a couple themes like that. One of them, for me, is that sense that we have the scientific answer of where we came from, with evolution and with all of the amazing research that sort of, I think, becomes more and more exciting every day lately.
But at the same time, the feeling of being part of a history that's so incredibly long and incredibly massive — it's really hard to wrap your mind around it. And I think it lends itself to being kind of lost, you know?
In that way, it's about the emotion of that kind of longing to feel that you're at home, even though you know you are. You know evolution is true, and you know we're a part of it. You know that these other species of men came before us.
But at the same time, accepting the idea that your history and how long the human race has existed or how long modern man has existed is such a tiny thread within the scope of the history of life on the planet. It's so daunting. And that's part of what the book is about.
It's meant to be a book that's about feeling completely at home on the planet and knowing that these facts are true, and at the same time feeling totally tiny and lost all the time. You know? That's what it's about, for me.
Nrama: I know we've talked before about how you seem to base a lot of your books in history — or explore themes that relate to how people are shaped by history. Are you really into history? Or is that just the nature of being a writer and liking stories, whether from the present or the past?
Snyder: I feel worried that people will start saying I do so much with history and everything.
Nrama: Yeah, but every writer has a strength and an interest that permeates their stories. And you've got this thread of history, especially in Batman...
Snyder: No, yeah, in "Court of Owls," and in Superman Unchained. And you know, American Vampire is almost consistently all about American history.
But I've always been a big history fan. I minored in it in college, after writing.
My grandparents, I was very close to them. And they took me antiquing with them. They loved to go antiquing. And they would take me to these antique fairs, and you go very early in the morning and you bring a flashlight and everything.
And my grandmother would let me get stuff, like a toy or whatever. But she'd often encourage me to try to make up a story about where the thing came from, and who had it before me.
I don't know. I like to think that that inspired a love of history for me. But I don't know. Maybe it's just some weird thing I was born with.
I've always been really fascinated by the sense of history haunting the present. Like, it's always present in some way.
Growing up in New York City, you feel that all the time. Part of it is that in America, the cities are so young, and there are so many cities that are visually designed to look like they're basically built for this generation, you know? They're all glass and they're such beautiful modern buildings. But then you go to sections of a city, you know, cities that have old sections — like New York, down by the sea port. I used to go to the sea port quite a bit as a kid. And you feel that sense of how humbling it can be, when you realize how many lives have been lived in these buildings before you.
When I was growing up, it made me both scared and fascinated, and inspired. Because it's scary, you know? When you realize the city is that haunted, or a place is that haunted, you know? And had this history before you, and will have lives lived there after you.
I guess that's the thing that I keep coming back to, is that notion of… realizing you're living one small life in the trajectory of lives that will be lived in the place that you are now.
Nrama: Let's talk about this new setting that's beginning with issue #6. We've met some new characters, like Leeward and Dash. What is the world like now, and who are the main players in the book? Because we saw this map...
Snyder: Yeah, the biggest challenge of the book is that it's only 10 issues. Sean and I wish we hadn't made it so short, but we both have obligations after it. The story fits, but it just barely fits. So we don't have any room to do anything that isn't economically smart with the narrative.
So there are all these parts that don't get explored yet, like the Sand People, or the Deadlands, which are basically where we nuked the coast to try to stop a big influx of the creatures, where they had a nest. And there are the Tree People, and all these kinds of elements that we made up behind the scenes. There's even a history to the guy named Barlow, who you only see for a few panels there in issue #6. We're not going to get a chance to get to these things.
Nrama: But I assume the Governess is playing an important role, now that you've introduced her here.
Snyder: Yeah, yeah. The people you'll get to see a lot of are the General, and you'll also see a lot of Governess Vivian, or Viv. She plays a really big part. And you'll learn a lot about her history, and you'll learn a lot about the history of the General too. They're sort of the main antagonists of the series, in a big way, at this point.
But outside of that, I want to keep it a surprise, because there are a lot of characters coming that you won't expect.
Nrama: And most of this world has been under water for 200 years. So they've kind of adjusted to it, right? Although it's in danger.
Snyder: Yeah. It's shrinking every day. That's the feeling we want people to get in this part of the book. We're being erased, wave by wave. We're being strangled out. There's very little fresh water left, and there's less and less every day. The climate has changed. The creatures are pushing the tides in further every year. And even though the land will probably never be all the way under water, because there's elevation, they can wipe us out. We can't cross the oceans. We don't have the means. And we're land-locked. That's not our natural state. We're explorers. And so in that way, I wanted that sense of claustrophobia and paranoia about the world shrinking and shrinking and shrinking.
Nrama: So what can you tease about what's coming up in the next few issues of The Wake?
Snyder: Yeah, sure. We begin a big, cross-oceanic trip the next issue, to see if the signal is real. And you're going to see flying trucks, and giant balloon fortresses, and a lot more of Dash, I promise.
Nrama: Dash the dolphin is a great character.
Snyder: Dash is the star of the book. He will be mugging for the camera often.