There's a lot of buzz in the industry about writer Kurtis Wiebe, thanks to the critical success of his two new Image series, Green Wake and The Intrepids.
Now the writer has a new graphic novel out from Arcana called Snow Angel, described as a crime noir. The entire story was inspired by an image drawn by his collaborator, artist Tyler Jenkins, featuring a woman sitting in a chair with a dead body at her feet and cops busting in.
In Snow Angel, the girl in the chair is revealed as Angela. When she was just a young girl, she witnessed a murder at the hands of her father. Now she's working to win her father's approval, and the violent yet emotional journey she takes is what gives Snow Angel its heart.
The release of Snow Angel was a long time coming, tied up in publishing limbo since Wiebe wrote it back in 2009. But now that it's available, Newsarama caught up with Wiebe to find out more about the project.
Newsarama: Kurtis, there have been a lot of "hit-man or -woman" stories over the years. What makes Snow Angel unique?
Wiebe: First and foremost, Snow Angel is an emotional story about a young woman desperately trying to gain the respect and admiration of her father. It’s really a universal theme, something that everyone has struggled with in their younger years, but it just so happens that the main character’s father happens to be a drug cartel enforcer.
It adds a level of complication to the story because in every way Angela tries to impress her father, she goes about it in an entirely wrong way. The violence is really just part the world these two live in.
Nrama: Who is Angela as a character, and how does she get involved in this world?
Wiebe: Angela is the main character; we see the world through her eyes and feel the story through her journey. Her involvement comes at a very young age when her father brings her along on a job where he’s exacting revenge on behalf of the cartel he works for in Colombia. Why he does that is revealed later in the story, but from that moment, Angela believes in order to be the daughter he needs, she has to become part of the world her father lives in.
Needless to say, she has perhaps interpreted the situation a little incorrectly.
Nrama: What are Angela's strengths and faults? And how do they come into play in the story?
Wiebe: Like her father, Cesar, she is headstrong and brazen. They serve as both strengths and weaknesses, as she doesn’t have the experience of life behind her to deal properly with the situations she gets herself into. Her brashness gets her into trouble and that plays a heavy role in the story. On a few occasions, Angela is nearly killed for her inability to read a problem and charge headlong into it.
Really, she’s so desperate to impress she puts her own life on the line, sometimes without realizing it.
Nrama: With these two characters having such a dark side, was it difficult to find a way to get readers to relate to them? How do you think we can identify with them?
Wiebe: I think the complicated relationship between parent and child is something people can identify with. Not everyone has a cold-blooded killer for a father, but everyone has a parent that they’ve struggled to identify with and please. We all have this desire to make our parents proud, and that is the access point to this story.
If it was just a father daughter hit team, it’d be hard to connect and care.
Nrama: How did you come up with the ideas behind this story, and what themes are you exploring in it?
Wiebe: The original idea came from a poster that Tyler illustrated for Smoke Films. They were a new production company looking for some promo material for their website and after they saw it, they wanted more. It was a picture of a woman (now Angela) sitting in a chair, smoking a cigarette with a dead body at her feet and cops busting in.
I started off by watching the documentary Cocaine Cowboys and was inspired by the story of Griselda Blanco, this powerful matriarch of the 1980’s drug trade. I started thinking about what led her down that path and I thought that could be a very interesting story.
Nrama: Why did it take awhile for this to be released?
Wiebe: I believe it was just part of Arcana’s publishing schedule. They’re a smaller company and so obviously have to stagger the books they release. Snow Angel was finished in winter of 2009, and it was just a waiting game from that point.
Nrama: What does Tyler bring to the story? How does his style fit?
Wiebe: Being that it was his art that inspired the entire book, I’d say his style doesn’t fit the story, it is the story. Tyler was really able to encapsulate the gritty, moody atmosphere that was important to portraying this bleak world. His excellent use of heavy black inks and his ability to really nail facial expression brought the story to another level.
He also used a great color palette that complimented the emotional resonance of each particular scene. It’s so subtle you barely notice it, but it really anchors each scene in the story.
Nrama: How can readers get their hands on Snow Angel now?
Wiebe: From what I understand, it should be available from any local comic store or from online book retailers like Amazon. All my friends that ordered on Amazon have received their copies already.
Nrama: Where else can readers see your work?
Wiebe: I have two current series with Image that wind up in August. Intrepids is a six issue miniseries about a group of orphans fighting mad scientists and Green Wake is a horror mystery series in the vein of Twin Peaks. Green Wake has been turned into an ongoing series, so it’s one you’ll be able to follow as long as it sells!
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell readers about Snow Angel?
Wiebe: If you enjoyed Snow Angel, Tyler and I have an as-of-yet unannounced series coming through Image Shadowline in January which we are both extremely excited about. Stay tuned!