You might have traveled all over the world, but you’ve never been to a town like Green Wake.This sleepy town carries with it a haunted past and a foreboding quality that permeates the streets, the buildings and even its residents. If that wasn’t enough, it’s been the scene of a string of lurid homicides that draws in a man from outside. This man, Morley Mack, finds himself in the unlikely position of investigating the source of these deaths and all roads point to another new face to town – a woman named Ariel. Mack must find out the truth and Ariel’s involvement in these crimes, as well as how he came to end up in Green Wake to begin with.
This story is told in the upcoming five-issue series Green Wake from Image’s Shadowline imprint. It’s a new partnership between two Image creators – artist Riley Mossmo (Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking) and Kurtis J. Wiebe (The Intrepids) -- whose discussions about the setting in this forgotten hamlet of Green Wake sprawled out to overtake the story and Mossmo’s signature art style. With the first issue of Green Wake on shelves now, we talked to the pair and got the five cent city tour.
Newsarama: Imagine I just showed up in the town of Green Wake – give me the tour, guys.
Kurtis J. Wiebe: Well, you wake up in a rickety old rowboat on the shore with no idea how you got to this bizarre little town. At first, it seems like an ordinary small town that you drive past on the way to someplace better, but it’s pretty clear that not all is as it seems when you find there is no discernable exit.
Green Wake is alive. It’s filled up with a reclusive population, a people physically transformed by the place in which they reside. Lucky for you, Morley Mack helps you understand what it is you’ve fallen into, at least, to the best of knowledge. He guides you around and finds a place for you to live, and there never seems to be a shortage of available housing.
From there, you’re on your own. Good luck with that.
Nrama: Why is the so remote and undiscovered?
Wiebe: Green Wake is an ancient place. As the series progresses the reader is going to learn about the history of the town, through characters that have been there for some time. Mostly, though, the heritage is revealed subtly through the art. It shows up in the backgrounds, little relics of culture and civilization that Riley fits into the dark alleys and crevices.
It’s forgotten because no one knows its origin, where it came from or why it’s even there. People accept their fate and simply exist in this town with no way to escape.
Riley Rossmo: Green Wake, like painful emotions, wants to be overlooked and repressed. But as everyone knows painful memories still need to be addressed or they come back to haunt us.
Nrama: Delving into the mysterious mutilations is a man named Morley Mack. How does he get involved with this, and why is he the one to risk it all to find the truth?
Wiebe: Morley, like all the other inhabitants of Green Wake, doesn’t know why he’s landed on its shores. When he first arrived, he found a very cold and unwelcoming place and had to figure out the basics on his own.
He swore to help everyone else at least come to an understanding of what they’ve stumbled into. In that way, he’s gotten to know a few of the residents and, to some degree, feels connected to them. On top of that, he’s dealing with his own demons, the loss of his wife for one. A death that he feels personally responsible for. Morley is trying to come to terms with his new station in life, and maybe by stopping these deaths, he can ease the burden of his own guilt.
Riley: Morley is the unofficial protector of Green Wake; he acts as a sort of sheriff. He is the only cast member (along with Krieger to a lesser degree) who cares enough to watch over the other inhabitants of the town.
Nrama: A woman named Ariel comes up as a prime suspect for these mutilations. Who is she, and how’d she get eyed as the one who did it all?Wiebe: At the outset of the story in Green Wake, Ariel is a relative newcomer. Like most others, she simply wanted to be left alone, to hide away and leave the world behind. Something changes for her, however, and that shift in her role in Green Wake is connected to the overall story we’re telling.
In the first issue we see two pieces of damning evidence that indicate her involvement in a fairly clear way. What those pieces are is revealed in the story, so readers will have to pick up a copy to find out.
Nrama: I’ve driven cross-country a couple times, and driven through more than one town that could be a stand-in for Green Wake. Where’d the idea for this story, and the inspiration of the town specifically, come from?
Rossmo: The town isn't just one town, it’s Venice, turn of the century London, every small industrial town you've ever driven through. I based a lot of it on the photos I have from the arc of Proof I did set in Victorian England.
As for real locations, it’s extrapolated heavily from Marysville, Montana and Debden, Saskatchewan, both small rural towns. As well, I borrowed from City of Lost Children and the documentary Blood of the Beasts.
Wiebe: Riley and I discussed the visual design of Green Wake for quite awhile before it was ever put to paper. I’d written the script about a year and a half ago, but a lot of the environment was left open for us to experiment with as Riley began to illustrate it. I had some basic ideas, and in the script I talked about Dark City as a visual cue. From there we started talking about movies that would be a good fit for the tone and theme we were working with.
As Riley mentioned, City of Lost Children was an obvious choice, but we also talked about Spirited Away and Pan’s Labyrinth.
The story was originally going to be a series of 5 page shorts in the back of Proof. Riley had approached me to craft a story that he would illustrate and would serialize over the course of a few issues. I wanted to do something inspired by Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos and the genesis of Green Wake was about a man investigating the disappearance of a young woman who’d fallen in with a cult in a remote backwater town.
It was the town that we talked most about and the more we tossed ideas around, the more we started to feel like we had something special. It wasn’t long before we decided to fully develop the idea and work it into a larger story that we could create while Riley continued with Proof. A little side project.
Nrama: Riley, your art is instantly identifiable – but instead of sticking with what you did in Cowboy Ninja Viking and Proof you seemed to torque your style a bit for Green Wake. Can you tell us about settling into the book and finding out the right way to approach it?
Rossmo: I'm always trying to become a better artist by expanding my repertoire and experimenting. I’d started the series with the covers because I hadn't painted for ages. I did the cover to issue one on a big piece of cardboard, and it set the tone. Before I started the painting I had researched movie posters from the 1950’s and onward. I really wanted the composition to sing.
After I was happy with the cover I tried to bring the palette and water stained look to the sequential pages. In all, I did 4-5 paintings and in the end I think we're only using two of them.
In relation to Proof and Cowboy Ninja Viking, I’m using a limited palette which I really liked from Cowboy Ninja Viking. It’s a little more sophisticated, though. What I'm bringing over from Proof is some of the monster design and expression of character. I think my strength on Proof is the range of emotion each character exhibits. I want Morley, Carl, and Krieger to have that same range of emotions.
Nrama: You mentioned a little bit on how you two got this series gong, but how did you initially hook up?
Rossmo: Kurtis knows better, I have a crap memory. I thought we just met through a mutual friend.
I did a couple covers, but was too busy to do a pitch at the time. I decided to make some time and when I did, we ended up with a new series.
There’s a longer genesis to our relationship, ask Kurtis, he knows.
Wiebe: Well, Riley gave you the short version and it looks like he’s relying on me to give you the more detailed account. I’m up to the challenge.
We did actually meet through a mutual friend a few years ago. Proof #1 had just hit the shelf that day and I was asked to go to a local pub to celebrate with him. It was one of those chance meetings that paid off in a big way. I kept in touch with Riley and pitched him a few projects, but he was either too busy or wasn’t interested in the material.
As I got to know Riley better, I knew what sort of stories he liked and I knew a horror noir story would be hard for him to resist. When he approached me for the Proof backup, I’d already decided to go with something that would be up his alley. That’s when Green Wake really took off; it’s a story we both had a lot of passion for, inspired by films and books we enjoyed, and characters we knew were interesting and relatable.