There's been a renewed buzz about DC's Writer's Program in light of the latest round of acceptance (and rejection letters) sent out to writers involved, and that program's head teacher Scott Snyder has something to say about what the innovative program has accomplished - as well as what's to come.
In addition to that, Snyder is balancing his new All-Star Batman title with a renewed focus on his creator-owned projects such as Wytches, American Vampire, and A.D. After Death.
At the recent Boston Comic Con, Newsarama spoke to Snyder about his work on both fronts.
Newsarama: Scott, you announced at the Boston Comic Con panel that Wytches' second arc was being held back because of other projects Jock is involved with. Can you elaborate on that for those that weren't at the panel?
Scott Snyder: When you find out that your partner is involved with helping to design the world of the new Star Wars movies, it’s a no questions asked situation.
Newsarama: Jock on Star Wars - Say no more! So, you’ll be releasing the second anthology for American Vampire soon alongside co-creator Raphael Albuquerque. Who else is involved and what would you say the unifying theme is – if there is one?
Snyder: Yeah, there is. It’s sort like... a moment of adversity. My story – I actually have two, with one by Nicole Richardson that’s really short, a sort of two-page long “P.S.” and another that opens the anthology by Raphael– and it’s largely about setting up everything that happens in the next arc with "Cycle #3."
Nrama: With "Cycle #3" expected to kick off in early 2017, are you able to give us some previews of what to expect?
Snyder: It gives a lot of surprises and brings back a lot of old characters. What we’re going to do is jump to the 1970s. Everything that the VMS has tried has failed, and the Tongue has ascended. It has people in the White House, to include the Chief of Staff and other members of the presidential cabinet. It’s very much in that 1970s paranoia of our government, like we see in “The Omen.” So, our “good guys” have gathered every last monster to make a last stand. I don’t want to give away everything but we’ll see where Skinner is, where Gus is, and Felicia. But what I’m really excited for what this anthology sets up is the future of American Vampire.
Nrama: That seems to go back to your “moment of adversity” theme, no?
Snyder: I always planned to end the series around the bicentennial and then move on into the present day where we handle individual cases. But with the bicentennial, there are a lot of similar issues and concerns from that time that are in the zeitgeist of today. In the same way the characters are facing a government breakdown and the loss of hope in the wake of the 1960s, we see similar issues now with the suspicion of government, rise in terrorism, and a sense of cynicism. We wanted to connect our story to a time that mirrors the world we live in now, and I can’t help but see the connections between the 1970s and the present day.
Nrama: American Vampire isn’t the only series you have in the works. The last I saw, we were looking at a November 16th release for A.D. After Death – your Image collaboration with Jeff Lemire. And I thought I read somewhere that you mentioned it would be a comic-novel hybrid. Is this true? If so, why go this route?
Snyder: I really do love prose, even if I’ve been away from it for a while.
Nrama: Well, there was that issue of American Vampire that was part-comic book, part-prose...
Snyder: That was actually what gave me the courage to do this! I think the thing that’s so hard about prose - and what made me so quick to abandon it for a while - is the isolation that comes with it. What I realized, however, is that with the isolation comes tremendous autonomy. I love the idea of rolling around in the words.
At first, I was a little intimidated because I’d say to myself “Jock, make it dark and stormy!” and then realize Jock wasn’t there. I’d have to make it effectively dark and stormy with my words and some kind of eloquence. As I started to do that issue of American Vampire, however, it inspired me to do some kind of hybrid.
Nrama: How would you characterize A.D. After Death?
Snyder: It’s more autobiographical and more intimate, especially in the ways it explores my concerns, and paranoia really, about how quickly life goes. There’s the fear of sickness and the fear of death that can maybe make us all a little myopic. But it also has this element of taking the reader 800 years into the future that’s completely blended with all of these ideas.
And Jeff’s just the perfect artist to take on all of this. His artwork is so emotionally wrought that it’s almost trembling with feeling. There’s a sadness there that makes it almost hyperreal and saturated. And there’s an almost artistic element to the page composition as well. Some pages may only have a few spot illustrations whereas others are going to be more densely prose. For the prose, it just punctuates or emphasizes those emotional elements so that when you get to the comics, it won’t feel as jarring. Again, it feels fluid as you experience the emotional current running through it.
It’s something new for me, and I had a near-breakdown while doing it asking myself why I was doing it and questioning what it was. And I showed it to some friends, and they felt it was the best thing I’d done.
Nrama: Shifting gears a bit to the “Professor Snyder” side of things, I understand there are now two levels to the DC Writers Program: The online course that sounds like it will take more of a lecture approach for a larger number of entrants, and then there is the more in-depth, master workshop where creators will get more face time with you. Does this sound about right?
Snyder: Right. One is an intensive blast for people who are already professionals who are working at DC - that’s the master class that we’ll be doing rather soon. The other class - the one we already ran - will run again. It starts in October and it runs through January. It’s a bit smaller than the last one as we realized had a few too many students last time, even though all of the participants were absolutely great. It’s a little harder to find the opportunities for thirteen people at DC getting everyone placed when there are only eight or nine people. And I’m going to run it the same way as last time and am really proud of how it all came together and how it was received. It’s really the highlight of my week when I can get back into the classroom again - virtual or otherwise.
Nrama: And what would you say is the major thrust of your teaching?
Snyder: It’s all about making sure people are writing stories that are high stakes. It’s a superhero writing class, so those high stakes are a necessity. But they also need to be intensely personal. I really held people’s feet to the fire on this and ask them: “Why does this story matter? Why is it personal to you? What is it exploring about this character and the world?”
Nrama: One of the benefits of being a teacher is the amount you actually learn from the students and the experience of facilitating the learning process. How has this experience helped you in your creative work?
Snyder: It’s been a huge help as it keeps me honest as a writer. I make the students be exploratory when it comes to their own hopes and fears as seen through the characters they’re writing, and the do such a great job. It makes me go home and feel the drive to the same or else I feel like I’m a big hypocrite.
Nrama: I know we’ve seen a few of the first cohort already getting work published through DC in various one-shots. How else do you think the program is working?
Snyder: Yup, Mike Moreci has the El Diablo story in the Suicide Squad: Most Wanted anthology that recently came out, and Joelle Jones has a story in the American Vampire anthology as well as a few others. I don’t know if I can announce this yet, but there are also a bunch of other books coming out from people in the class as well – some Suicide Squad Most Wanted stuff, some stuff from Chris Sebela coming our way as well as Chris McMillian. They’re definitely getting some work at DC, and I’m really proud of them.
Nrama: There’s been some concerns raised about the continued lack of diversity in the DC writers’ “bullpen.” Is this program a venue for addressing this issue?
Snyder: 100%. We try very hard to be honest about picking people who are absolutely ready for the writer’s program. It’s not for newbies – it’s for people who are almost there. They just need one final push. But with that, there’s also an initiative that it’s also representative of the comics community. And that means being aware of the robust nature of our comics community - both the readership and creators as well. Luckily, I think there’s an untapped wealth of talent when it comes to people of all walks of life. So, it’s not where you have to go searching for people from different demographical backgrounds. You just read the best stuff, and not surprisingly, both times showed quite a diverse group.
So when I saw the final 40 selections, I don’t know who’s who. I don’t know their race, religion, or anything. I just read them blind and have only the stories. Both times we had a very robust and inclusive class.
And I think do think it’s important for us as a community of creators to reflect the incredibly vibrant talent pool that’s out there. When I was a kid, it was mainly just a group of older white guys creating comics. I had all of these friends growing up in NYC who were reading and loving comics, but they did not have any sort of real reflective representation. It doesn’t mean you’re giving people chances who don’t deserve them or are giving them chances over other people who do, it really winds up being there is an abundance of talent across the spectrum. When you take a legitimately wide swab, you should get a pretty diverse group.