“I love you all. I’ll miss you.”
For five years, The Wicked + The Divine has told the story of death and rebirth and the endless cycle in between. September 4’s The Wicked + The Divine #45 marked the end of one of Image Comics’ most recently critically-acclaimed series, but now with these popstar gods laid to rest, Newsarama chatted with writer-artist team Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.
The duo talked about the aptness of ending the series at a funeral, how much of the epilogue had been mapped ahead and of course The Wicked + The Divine theme park!
(Not really, but maybe one day?)
Newsarama: Jamie, Keiron, the WicDiv finale hit last week, how do you both feel now that it’s over?
Jamie McKelvie: Relieved.
Kieron Gillen: Relieved, yeah.
McKelvie: No, it’s been really, I don’t know the right word...but it’s satisfying to see it connecting with people the way we wanted it to. So that’s been great.
Gillen: It’s so weird because I’ve had this whole thing in my head for five years, but woke up one morning and had this ending in my head.
Nrama: Was it intentional to end the series on a funeral? Almost like you’re putting the book to final rest as well.
Gillen: Well, it wasn’t like I accidentally wrote that [laughs]. But yes, it seems like it took me quite a long time to work out how exactly where the final Gathering would be but then it all made sense because the characters of WicDiv can’t escape their death sentence. No-one can. It’s kinda what the book was about.
Nrama: You’ve worked together for almost two decades with Phonogram, this, and your Marvel work, but what do you think you’ve learned about yourself as a team and as individual creators with a project this massive?
McKelvie: It’s coming up on 17 years, yeah. [Pauses] These are all big questions [laughs].
Gillen: It’s the fact that we’ve lasted so long is because we’re a writer-artist team who somehow managed to keep a sort of orbit around each other. The industry tends to tear teams apart who enter the medium together. That didn’t happen to us, and we stayed together long enough that we sort of became our own thing. We know each other and we’ve been together for so long. We know what the other person is doing.
McKelvie: The original plan was for me to do an arc then another artist do another one and go back and forth across the series. Then, I think...was it after the first arc maybe, maybe even during the first arc I was like "No, I want to draw all of it." I realized I wanted the whole series to be mine because I was that attached to it.
Gillen: The second arc was supposed to be Jamie as well but by then it was him getting his claws increasingly into it.
Nrama: There’s this whole dogma about not reading the comments, but now that it’s done, have you looked at the outpouring from fans and what the book meant to them?
McKelvie: Yeah, it’s been great reading people telling us how much it meant to them. But, we set up the #WicDiv hashtag and we always looked at that. I'm not sure about that “don’t read the comments” bit, but if you’re going to read them you have to go in with an understanding of what you’re going to see, good or bad.
Gillen: It’s tricky. There are boundaries we explicitly set up but we’re also quite into dialogue – not involving us, but the idea of a conversation around the work. We’re always interested in fan reaction as an entity, separate from ourselves.
McKelvie: Yeah, exactly.
Nrama: I think another thing about the finale is that is also acts as an epilogue. There’s so much at the end that goes without explanation like Laura and Lucifer, now going by Eleanor Rigby, their relationship, Zahid using them/they pronouns, how long was all of this sort of mapped out?
Gillen: That’s tricky because a lot of it was organic, and a lot of was...well, so people would always ask me what Zahid’s pronouns were in WicDiv and I would say “in the comic, he’s using he/him, but he’s clearly trying to decide what fits best” – that we pick up later, we see where that ended up. There’s a lot that I did have lying in notepads. The “Everytime it rains” line was there all along.
Let’s just tie up everything we need closure from, then we give it some space. Any specific answer we don’t need to give lessens it.
Nrama: Kieron, you recently said that you want to focus on creator-owned projects instead of work-for-hire, and Jamie you also have creator-owned stuff in the past outside of your work with Kieron like Suburban Glamour.
So Jamie, what are you focusing on post WicDiv?
McKelvie: I’m not ruling out work-for-hire stuff, but just makes more sense to be making work for me. With drawing as well, it takes up so much time. You know you can write a script a day if you wanted - though it probably wouldn't be any good - but that doesn’t really work with drawing. So yeah, I have to consider where to spend my time, and it makes sense to stick to creator-owned before anything else. Especially as I'm both writing and drawing my next book.
Gillen: I was about to say that wasn’t exactly what I said. It’s one of those situations where who knows what I’m feeling next year. As I said in the interview, if there’s a good reason to do it, I’ll do it but it’s not necessarily something that motivates me.
Nrama: Jamie, have you thought of writing stories and recruiting artists for your material?
McKelvie: Oh yeah there’s definitely going to be things I’m just writing down the line. Now that I’m off this one project that’s taken five years, I can change it up a bit.
Nrama: Have you given thought of doing something like this again that takes up a chunk of your, not just time, but just life in general?
McKelvie: I can’t speak for Kieron, but I’m going to say no [laughs].
Gillen: Oh no, but like I said in the last interview, very rarely do you go from a five-year project to another one and it’s like almost everybody has a small gap in between their big works. Warren Ellis ended up doing [Transmetropolitan] then took time off doing three-issue minis. Garth Ennis did Preacher and, then, The Boys, but he didn’t go from one to another. I would never say never, but it’s telling that we haven’t said full “yes”. You know what I mean?
McKelvie: It’s exhausting and I don’t think a lot of people understand how much. Not that I regret it, but there’s so much that goes into something like this. It’s amazing to see the whole thing done, but it’s really exhausting. So, no, would be my gut feeling right now.
Gillen: Right, it’s not a “not ever again” but definitely a “not any time soon”.
Nrama: Have you been approached to do a movie, TV show, or something based on WicDiv?
McKelvie: Nothing we can talk about at the moment [laughs].
Nrama: Hmm. You could read into that answer if you wanted to.
Gillen: I was going to be trolly and just make something but, but in reality, everybody gets approached about these sort of things all the time. There’s always some conversation around a hit book. It doesn’t mean anything though. If I were you I’d assume the answer is “yes” anytime I talked to a creator, and if it was something they could talk about, they would be.
Nrama: But nothing tangible?
Gillen: Well just keep your eyes out for The Wicked + The Divine theme park coming soon!
Nrama: So lastly, what do you have lined up after this? Obviously, Kieron, you have Die at Image and Once and Future over at BOOM! Studios, but anything we should look out for down the line?
Gillen: I’m going to finish up my Once and Future scripts, then go to the game shop pick up some paint, then go to the pub [laughs]. But now that Once is ongoing, I’m planning the second and third arcs, I can move stuff around a bit. I can actually put something in issue #7 that was going to be in issue #6, for example.
Also, Ludocrats, which was announced a while back but we have to get a new artist since David Lafuente had to drop out, but we don’t want to give too much away until we know when it’s actually coming out. It’s been delayed so long that I want to have a specific day before doing a full reveal. And Die, obviously.
McKelvie: The only thing I can really talk about is the cover I’m doing for Far Sector, the Green Lantern Black Label book. The thing I’m working on right now hasn’t been announced, but yes, I am working away on a new project.