On October 8, comic book writer Scott Snyder is looking to make his scariest book ever with Wytches. That’s no small feat with American Vampire, The Wake, Severed, and the “Death of the Family” arc of Batman under his belt, but to help make it happen he asked Scottish artist Jock to help. Wytches reunites the team behind the celebrated “Black Mirror arc of Detective Comics on a creator-owned ongoing series that aims to bring the scary back to these ominous figures that have grown somewhat passé thanks to modern fairy tale storytelling. When Newsarama talked to Snyder in August about Wytches, the author said their plan was to create a new mythology for witches and witchcraft that is bereft of fanciful magic and instead relying on natural science and the scariness of the unknown.
For Jock, the allure of Wytches is the chance to work with Snyder again but also the opportunity to bring back the rough edges to the idea of witches. Although best known for his action and superhero work, Jock did a brief stint on Hellblazer and his work has a multivalent quality ideal to impart uneasiness, horror and the heartfelt moments that work to amplify the scariness of wytches.
Newsarama: Jock, Scott said he had you in mind specifically when he came up with Wytches. When he presented the idea to you, what made it something you wanted to commit to?
Jock: It was a combination of things… the most prevalent thing was that I was very keen to work with Scott again. we first worked together on the Batman arc, “The Black Mirror”, and that was such a great collaboration - not just with Scott - but with Francesco Francavilla, David Baron and our editors at DC that I was very happy to tell another tale with Scott. And the idea was so good... I love horror and Scott’s clearly a fantastic horror writer.
But timing played a part too - I was due to start a project with another writer, and he emailed me that day to say timings were an issue with then Scott emailed literally a couple hours later so the opening was there. Good timing!
Nrama: The idea of witches is a storied one going way back in fables and myth. Before Wytches came up on your radar, what came to mind for you when someone said “witches”? Any touchstone stories, movies, television, film or art that stands out to you?
Jock: Actually, the thing that stood out for me was the chance to do something new with it. Like you say, the fable is so entrenched in our psyche that it can actually be a little clichéd or cheesy. What I like the idea of was going back into that, and making it really something horrific, something primal and brutal. And that’s exactly what we’ve gone for. What we know as witches up until now - the old lady with potions and spells - is just the tip of the iceberg. Historically, these are just the people that worship the real witches. Nine foot tall, deformed creatures that live in the woods.
Nrama: So once you heard about Wytches and decided that you were doing it, how’d you go about deliberating on what you would do in terms of design, storytelling and approach?
Jock: Scott had a lot of great ideas with that. I’ve been lucky that I’ve worked with some great writers, and it’s often best to sit back and listen to what they have to say about it… so much of the subtleties of the story and world are there in the story they’re telling, I just listened to Scott’s ideas and went with them. Design-wise, the creatures themselves haven’t deviated a whole lot from those initial ideas. There’s a few tweaks and changes, but it was all pretty much there. I feel like it’s the tone of the creatures i have to get right. So long as they appear as nasty and foreboding as I can make them, then I would have done my job right.
Nrama: Scott said the design for the witches of Wytches was very deliberate, and that we won’t even see them fully until later on in this series. That being said, and without spoiling anything, can you tell us a bit about them visually?
Jock: Definitely an element of function over form. I see them as in the shadows, and we’ll see glimpses of them, never fully revealed until later.
They’re very tall, thin creatures that can hide behind trees and snatch children in the woods. They’re on the outskirts of your awareness, always there, but never fully in the light. When we do finally see them, it’s got to be horrifying!
Nrama: Scott said he’s aiming for Wytches to be his scariest story ever. What’s your thoughts on horror? Do you have a particular fascination with it?
Jock: Yeah, I love horror - i grew up in the United Kingdom in the 80’s, so “video nasties” and horror films that we basically weren’t allowed to watch are engrained in me. The censorship was much stronger in Britain... designed to protect us, but it actually just made me far more keen to seek out the really nasty movies that we weren’t allowed to see! I’m a huge fan of 70’s horror films, particularly. i hope some of that tone and influence comes through in Wytches.
Nrama: Working with you on the art side is colorist Matt Hollingsworth. What are the conversations like between the two of you about the finished page?
Jock: it’s been fantastic. We chose matt because he’s one of the best, if not the best, in the business, and the collaboration has been great. I had ideas for this to look a certain way - I think because it’s our creator owned book I’m heavily invested in it - and I’ve pushed him a little bit along the way, but he’s brought so much for the table, it’s been invaluable. The main thing, whenever collaborating with someone - is to let them do their thing, and Matt has been fantastic.
I’m really proud of the results on the book - I hope people dig it.
Nrama: You’re very in demand as an artist, working at Marvel, DC, and also doing work for movies and TV such as the recent work on Gotham. With all of that going on, what made you want to commit to a creator-owned comic book where there’s no guarantee?
Jock: I feel very lucky that I can get to pick and choose what I do, to a certain degree. But the upside of that is that I only commit to something I really believe in, and Wytches is completely one of those projects.
I don't worry about projects I take on at all — if I’m into the idea I naively hoped the audience will feel the same way. It seems to be that way so far anyway. Ask me again in a year! [laughs]
Nrama: This has the label of “horror” on it; are you doing anything particular with your art to make it more horrific in style or storytelling?
Jock: I think my style probably suits horror fairly well - there isn't anything in particular I’ve done to skew it on Wytches. With any project, I just try and service the script as best I can, and you often find that the little nuances and subtleties appropriate to the story come out along the way anyway.
Nrama: Last question – what should fans look forward to in the first issue?
Jock: I’ve loved drawing the issue. As I write this, I’m just seeing the final PDF with all of Matt’s colors and Clem Robins’ letters now in, and I’m really excited to share it. There are some horrific moments, but importantly there’s really nice character moments in there already. I really care about the family in the first issue already and I hope people will too.
That way, when the Wytches finally do wreak their havoc, it’s gonna be brutal...