Scott Snyder and Jock's Wytches is promoted on the horror of supernatural monsters, but at it's heart it's about the horror that ordinary humans can be capable of.
This week, Image released Wytches #6, the conclusion of the series' inaugural arc. Newsarama talked with Snyder about the storyline of Sailor and her family coming to grips with the idea and the reality of Wytches, and the author opens up about some semi-autobiographical elements he's included in the story and the risks and rewards of publically opening one’s closet to the world as a writer.
NOTE: Spoilers for this week's Wytches #6.
Newsarama: Scott, last we left off, Charlie was going down the hole to save his daughter, Sailor. Too good to be true, he thought he was sufficiently protected from the Wytches, but as we find out at the end, not so. Yet, Wytches #6 opens up by definitively saying “This is not an ending.”
At face value, this suggests there is life beyond this arc for the Rooks family; however, the phrasing suggests something else. What are we looking at in this issue, Scott? If it’s not an ending – and by the issue’s end, it certainly could be seen as an ending – what is it?
Scott Snyder: It’s an origin story for Sailor, the hero of the series, as Jock and I have been talking about it. It certainly is an ending for Charlie and Lucy – and the family as it stands – but it’s also the end of the innocence of those characters. A lot of this arc is about seeing and acknowledging the darkness that lies beneath the surface, both for yourself and the people you admire – your parents. All of us have parts of ourselves that we don’t want to show, and by showing them, you actually end up becoming a stronger, better person for it. So, it is an ending, but it’s an ending of the illusions the characters have about themselves and about each other.
Nrama: It’s interesting because this final setup in the arc – going down into the hole and then rising back up – seems to parallel Charlie’s life, no? Especially when taking into account the continued ferris wheel / wheel of fortune motif we see connected to him all along the way. The first splash of this issue even opens with Charlie’s character and the ferris wheel imagery … though framed with a Wytch’s maw.
Were there other themes you were particularly interested in drawing out from this first arc?
Snyder: With only six issues in this first arc, it’s always hard to try and get in everything you want with imagery and themes. I was trying to draw in the selfishness of the creative process. Charlie wants to make something and he wants to do work and become who he wants to be. Having children became frustrating and daunting. The Night Arcade – the book he comes up with – is a way of bridging those worlds in a way that is honest and true. It allows him to explore material that means something to him all the while that speaks to the idea of being a parent. He finds his balance, and it is through the telling of that story that we see some of the themes of this story being worked out.
Nrama: While the professional career works out for Charlie, it’s interesting that Lucy notes how he seemed to be the one of the two of them who called out to the Wytches in some way – even if we know he didn’t by the story’s end.
Snyder: I think in some ways, there’s a balance to be found, and I certainly struggle with that. The amount of work you have when you begin to be successful in comics and find it could be a viable career, it becomes very enticing to take on as much as you can because you feel like you’re never going to get that chance again. There’s this temptation to just throw everything else to the side so you can maximize the potential you have or the potential opportunities you could have. There’s a lot to Charlie that is very autobiographical in this story as much as I hate to admit it.
Nrama: Would you say the wheel of fortune ultimately crushes and/or redeems Charlie by the story’s end? Is that something you are interested in with your style of storytelling – the romantic notion that, in spite of present circumstances, the individual can still achieve salvation in the long-term sense?
Snyder: I always hope there’s a way of getting them there. I think in some stories, like Severed, sometimes it’s too late for them. Honestly, it really depends on the story. For this one, I wanted Sailor’s start to begin with an act of selflessness on the part of Charlie because he’s been so bad in so many ways over the years. I wanted her to walk away from this arc with an understanding that the people you know can be good; they’re not all liars, hypocrites, and traitors. I think in the way the whole world is going to darken around her in the second volume, she’s going to need that to hold onto – that sense of possibility in the world and the people itself.
The second volume is going to get very dark especially as it relates to her inability to trust the people around her.
Nrama: Now, we’ve talked about Sailor’s dad, Charlie … let’s address Lucy, the mother. I’m not sure many readers will see this coming, and in many ways, it really leans heavily against reader expectations of who might have called the Wytches down upon the Rooks family.
How do you think readers will take this shift?
Snyder: I don’t know! I really have no idea! It’s really where we’ve building from since the very outline. I hope they enjoy it. For us, it’s not really that she’s the “bad guy,” as her family history sort of allows the Wytches into the story in a way, and she’s worried that something’s going to happen to call them back to her.
She places the mantle of guilt on Charlie, so for me, it’s an extension of things we’ve been saying throughout the whole arc – that horror he feels when looking in the mirror at himself.
Nrama: What was the response from Jock, Matt Hollingsworth, and David Brothers when you showed them this angle to the finale for this first arc?
Snyder: They loved it when I first pitched them on the series. I’ve kept Lucy off stage a little more than I might have as I was a little nervous about giving anything away. They’ve been pretty happy with it, but maybe we’re just evil people!
Nrama: Jock and Matt are making some pretty strong, bold artistic choices here in terms of the art, especially Matt and this sort of supernatural psychedelic atmosphere he’s created with his lighting. Can we expect more of the same in the next arc continuing to carry forward a similar tone, or do they have something else in store for readers of volume 2?
Snyder: They have a slightly different thing going on that’s still pretty daring, I think. I’m pretty excited about it. You’ll have to wait and see.
Nrama: You’re also working with an editor for this creator-owned work – David Brothers. I’m curious: Have there been times when he’s said “Whoa! Don’t go there?”
Snyder: No, David’s been great as our editor on the book. I think the best editors, what they try to do – and I try to do this as a teacher – is make the thing the truest and best possible version of the thing in its best possible terms. So, even if you disagree with some of the darkness of something, it’s not to your taste, or your disagree with the politics of it, your job as an editor or teacher is to make it even more strongly that thing, even if it’s not for you. Not that I think this isn’t really for him – I hope he really liked it. He seems to anyhow. [Laughs]
But I always like working with editors for that reason. Image doesn’t have an editorial staff, but I like hiring people for editorial support for us as I always enjoy having a sounding board and that second set of eyes on our work.
Nrama: In some regards, the conclusion of this arc makes a strong case for creator-owned storytelling, as there are limitations on where you go take a story and what you can and cannot subject a character to in those corporately owned comics. When looking at works of yours like Severed and now Wytches, it’s clear you’re not afraid to “go there” – to get really dark and show readers that even your protagonists aren’t safe.
What led you to take Lucy in the direction?
Snyder: I wanted it to be a fairy tale nightmare. What’s the most horrible thing you can think of as a child but your parents turning against you? These are the people you trust the most in the world being in league with the Wytches and the source of terror.
For me, it became a question of whether Charlie was calling forth the Wytches. Was this what he wants? Is there a way to have there be a bigger mystery behind it that falls on Lucy but Charlie is more culpable than anyone is in the family?
So, it became about trying to create something that was nightmarish for Sailor and Charlie both. For me, it’s that: The Wytches keep you from being able to trust anyone around you for fear of being pledged or even trust yourself and your own judgment. It feels only natural then that the villain must be the one person whom you least suspect the betrayal to come from.
Nrama: Along those lines, I know you’ve been pretty vocal in your back matter in talking with readers about how you’ve poured your personal the anxieties and fears about being a parent – and in general – into this work.
No doubt, there are costs to putting yourself out there on the main stage, so to speak from negative fan feedback to coming into conflict with either peers or editorial. In putting so much of your personal thoughts and fears out there for the public to consume and judge, what are you risking? What costs have come from you pledging yourself to the Wytches?
Snyder: It’s been incredibly rewarding, honestly. The fandom for this book has exceeded anything we’ve ever expected. Jock and I never saw the book crossing the line at 40,000+ for Wytches #6! That’s where I thought we’d start with #1! So, the fact that people have been so supportive of us this fervently is hugely gratifying because it’s extremely confessional and embarrassing and all of those things you strive to be true about as a writer. But this was the first time I could really go there.
Look, there are things I’ve gone through like Charlie – not exactly, of course – but pretty close. I’ve had moments where I’ve lashed out at my family in ways that I’m not proud of. I think putting it out there in a way and having people relate to it, if you can stomach it, there is nothing more gratifying. There really is no purer way of connecting with your readership. They’re relating to things that they read and could think you’re terrible for. There’s something very inspiring about this.
Nrama: Now, I almost hate to ask this but I have to know: What’d your mother and wife have to say about this ending? [Laughs]
Snyder: [Laughs] I don’t hate moms! Moms are great! But sometimes, they’re bad guys, too! I’ve had children like James Jr. and father figures like the murderer in Severed who were evil along with moms who were heroic as we saw in The Wake. There are some good ones and bad ones all over [Laughs].
Nrama: So … this next volume. What can we expect come Fall/Winter 2015?
Snyder: Volume Two is going to be about the terrors involved with being a child when you have to let go of your history, of your parents. I think that, as a teenager, you can relate to that concept because you’re growing up and separating from them. I think Sailor relates to that experience people more along the lines of my age, where I have friends who are starting to lose their parents. It’s a world where your parents are gone, or at least, you’re moving away from them in some way. That’s sort of the “emotional engine” of the second arc.
From a plot standpoint, she’s found the Irons and has joined them. These are the people that Clara was working with as we learned in the first arc. The mythology of the second arc expands quite a bit. We’ll get to see a map of the country where these people believe the biggest burrows are and all of these kinds of things. They also use the Wytches’ science against them, so it’s going to be a lot of fun!
Nrama: Last question: You’ve covered vampires, Wytches, and we can even look at the mers from The Wake as a sort of science fiction take on the Creature from the Black Lagoon. What’s next?
Snyder: I don’t know, what’s left? [Laughs] Zombies, mummies…
Nrama: Don’t forget werewolves!
Snyder: [Laughs] That’s right, werewolves. Coming in Fall 2015. I can’t even come up with any good werewolf puns! I’m always interested in those classic monsters of mythology, these iconic creatures from lore. I think part of the thing – and I think we’ve talked about this before – that I’m fascinated with is trying to figure out what really makes them scary and endure, and then unpack that and do something that’s both contemporary and primal.