As Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy's apocalyptic thriller The Wake heads toward its final two issues — beginning with this week's issue #9 — readers will see the threads from both halves of the series come together in a way the writer calls meaningful.
When the 10-issue Vertigo series started last year, The Wake focused on present-day marine biologist Lee Archer's discovery of ancient, humanoid creatures hidden in the depths of the ocean. The science fiction story had a horror element to it, but felt very grounded in the current day.
But when issue #5 ended, the book's main protagonist, Dr. Archer, was believed to have been killed, and the story jumped ahead in time 200 years in the future, when much of the Earth is flooded and humanity is dying after the emergence of these horrific underwater creatures — now known as "Mers."
With the time jump, the mood of the story also switched. Although it's still tinged by the horror of the Mers, readers are also being immersed in a futuristic, fantasy-type world where kick-ass main character Leeward has a sidekick sonar dolphin named Dash, and a band of pirates are helping her escape from an evil, queen-like leader.
As different as the two halves of The Wake might feel, readers have been learning that the they aren't as separate as they might have suspected. And if the surprises so far are any indication, the conclusion promises to bring together all the story's mysteries — and time periods — in an unexpected way.
Newsarama talked to both Snyder and Murphy about the reception they've had for the series, the awesomeness of Dash the sonar dolphin, and what's coming up next in The Wake.
Newsarama: Scott and Sean, has it been fun for you to talk to fans about the series, since you guys have been talking to people at cons and online?
Scott Snyder: I think both of us are really overwhelmed by the support that people have shown the book. We've been dying to do the book, honestly, just as a project to do together that was just a labor of love, and a passion project.
For me, I wanted the book to be something that's both really experimental for me, in terms of trying to push the boundaries of the way I've been able to write, and at the same time, something that's deeply emotional, about some of the big questions that keep you up at night.
But the fun of the book has been that we thought we'd just be doing it kind of in the corner of the comics world together, experimenting and flexing our muscles and doing all kinds of weird stuff, but in fact, so many people have actually started reading the book.
I don't know how to say thank you enough or to express our gratitude for that, because I think neither of us expected that whatsoever.
Sean Murphy: It's been getting a lot more mainstream attention that I was expecting. I thought we would sort of be off the radar a bit, but the sales and the reviews and the buzz is bigger than I thought it would be, which is awesome.
Nrama: Sean, you've certainly been doing a lot of world-building, and in a somewhat limited space, since it's all in 10 issues, and the future stuff is only seen in half of it. Did you flesh out a lot more than what we're seeing? Is there more out there?
Murphy: Actually, I tend to design on the page. I don't do a lot of sketches on the side, just because we didn't really have the time. We wanted to get moving. So I would work stuff out, and if it looked good in the panel, I would just rotate shots or whatever else we needed and fill in the rest of the details.
The way I ink kind of lends itself to… a little bit of impressionism of what's happening — you know, kind of foggy in the background, but you get enough of an impression of what's going on, where it satisfies the reader.
But yeah, there's probably not as much background world-building as you would think.
But there is a lot of research. Scott hits me up with pictures and stuff in the script, which really helps me and gives me some stuff to off of.
Nrama: Even though you might not have sketches laying around, are you wanting to do more stories in this world?
Murphy: Yeah, I want to do a whole series about Dash the Dolphin.
Nrama: I think readers would buy it!
Murphy: We could do Dash Year One.
Snyder: If we do, like, an Omnibus or something, and we did an eight-page Dash story to add to it, I would be there in, like, a second.
Nrama: And Leeward is fantastic. I want more of her!
Snyder: Wait until you see! In #9, she's a pirate captain — she's first mate on the ship. So wait until you see. Issue #9 is really a pirate adventure.
Nrama: You mention the pirates, and one of the things that stands out about this story is that it incorporates ideas from many different genres, and in really new ways.
Snyder: Yeah, part of the project has been trying to be fearless, and taking things that shouldn't go together at all — like, not just science fiction and horror, or science fiction and post-apocalyptic adventure, but to take elements like a sonic dolphin and the end of the world and robot hands and all kinds of stuff that you think, these things shouldn't to go together.
And the same is true of the genres, where we're doing pirate adventure, futuristic, almost Y.A. kind of adventure story — we tried to blend it together with every myth and folk tale element about sea-faring stories that we could. We just put everything in there. So you've got from Creature from the Black Lagoon, to Godzilla — everything that is in any popular narrative about the water, trying to make it a love letter to all of those, and putting in things that are disparate and shouldn't work together, together.
Nrama: There have been a lot of revelations in these last couple issues, and a lot of things that look like they have a deeper meaning. But I think, until we see how the story ends and what happens to some of these characters, we won't know for sure. In this past issue, we met some of the Outliers and found out that they're connected to Meeks. Was that part of the plan, to tie together the first half of the book with the last?
Snyder: Yeah, Meeks became a real favorite character of both Sean and mine, I think, really, early on, because he's so offensive and difficult to write in a likable way. And he's totally dislikable on every level.
But then, he's also a character who, I think, in some ways, becomes endearing because there's at least a kernel of good in him, even if he's sort of repulsive in all these other ways.
And it became about, how do we make sure that he — and a lot of the characters other than Lee, who we knew would have a big part in the second half, even if it's just an echo, whether it's an echo or she literally appears — the challenge was to make a way for them to reverberate through the book, beyond just the sense of them having been there at the start of this huge, global change.
So Meeks is part of it, in the way that his flotilla is the base of the pirates.
You're going to see other hints of characters from the past as well, and I don't want to say how it goes with Lee, but I think fans of the first half will, hopefully, be really happy with what's going to happen in issue #9 this week, and then in issue #10.
All the questions and the things that were raised in the first half will be re-addressed here, whether it's prehistoric elements, or the futuristic elements. All those things, hopefully, will come together in a way that you guys like. I certainly like.
Nrama: And then we've also gotten to know Vivienne, and her stories of warning, and her almost mythological presence. What were your thoughts about that character?
Snyder: I love Vivienne. Vivienne is sort of the fairy tale evil queen. I mean, when Sean and I were talking about developing her, I wanted an element of fairy tale to the book, because one of the things that fascinated me, from the beginning, was the sense of a world where the map has changed and there's really no chart. There hasn't been any charting of the ocean or the world the way it remains, because people haven't really been able to cross the ocean.
So we're almost going back to these days where people believed, truthfully or not, that there were monsters in the ocean, and the boundaries of countries were drawn in pen on parchment — that sense of almost the times of fairy tales or almost a kind of time that's a legend in the past.
So we wanted Vivienne to be someone who is very real and had different dimensions and felt psychologically layered, but also sort of stood in for this queen who has a huntsman, who's coming after Leeward.
She's supposed to be at once kind of regal and iconic, but also just a total bad-ass, realistic politician.
Murphy: The first part of the script, we called her evil queen before we had any idea what her name would be. I never picked up on the fairy tale aspect, but I guess it should have been obvious. But yeah, Scott hit with me with adjectives like "regal, older, long-neck." Kind of a person who seems sleek, but when everyone's left the room, she's the big, bad villain.
There aren't very many old lady villain characters in comics, so I was glad to do something different.
Nrama: So you've got two issues left, and DC just let us know that issue #10 is being moved back to July 16th. Is that a regular sized issue?
Snyder: Yeah, and we totally apologize that it was moved back. To be totally honest, Sean just got in a mountain biking accident.
Nrama: Oh, I'm sorry!
Snyder: He broke his collar bone, so because of the injury, we had to wait a couple weeks. So big apology to the readers…
Murphy: Sorry! I was wearing a helmet, so that's good.
Nrama: It sounds like a legitimate reason.
Murphy: And there's photographic evidence online. I'm not just making it up.
Snyder: [Laughs.] And honestly, this guy has been such a trooper on this book. He's been amazing about handing in everything not just on time, but ahead.
And Matt too — Matt, who's the unsung hero of the book — the colorist, Matt Hollingsworth.
There's been such great art. The last thing we want anyone to think is that we were behind on the book. It really was that he had an accident. And we apologize to everybody.
Nrama: Scott, we've got a lot to resolve in the next couple issues. Can you tease at all what's coming up in the next couple issues as we head toward the conclusion?
Snyder: Yeah! This week's issue #9 is really the issue where everything comes to a big head, where you'll get the beginning of the answer to everything. And then #10 will bring everything together, where you'll see both the plot answers to all the questions that were raised.
The book was really supposed to be a place where the two of us could experiment and try things that we knew we could do together, because of the way we work, back and forth, because we do love working collaboratively.
We push each other. I'll say, "Can I write this in? Can you draw this?" Or Sean will say, "I want to draw this. Can you write it in?" And that's a thrilling way to work.
So the book has always been about, in a lot of ways — both when it was formed, before we started working on it, and now in the process of working on it — about pushing yourself and exploring territory that is terrifying, you know? And territory where there shouldn't be anything except failure. And trying to go there without any kind of fear.
These last issues will underscore that sense of the project — both in the most fun ways, where you'll see the book go to places I think you'll be, like, "What???" plot-wise, and then similarly, I think emotionally, what I'm really hoping for, even more than a plot satisfaction from everybody, which I really do think will be there, because it's pretty thorough, is I want it to mean something to people.
I want them to get there and really feel what it's about, you know, in issue #10.
We made a huge effort to make #10 the most emotional of the issues, and to have the revelation be both plot-oriented, but also, I think, have it be one that's bigger than just answers to the mysteries. But why'd you read the book? What's the fun of the book? Why does it matter?