Today, things got even more monstrous for Snyder’s upcoming year when it was announced that the creator of “American Vampire”will introduce a second horror book to the Vertigo line-up. “The Wake,” features Snyder’s second collaboration with artist Sean Murphy (“Punk Rock Jesus,” “Joe The Barbarian”), following up the pair’s 2011 “American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest” miniseries.
The upcoming horror-charged title, set amidst claustrophobic yet beautiful and sweeping ocean-scapes, follows a discovery which will reveal a secret mythology for something that does more than go bump in dark.
CBR News spoke with Snyder, who shared details about his new sci-fi/monster mash-up as seen through the eyes of a marine biologist plunged deep into a thriller mystery, the multiple meanings of the title and what we can learn about ourselves from monsters, nightmares and our greatest fears.
CBR News: From the short tease I read about “The Wake,” the events of your new Vertigo series begin with “a single, terrifying discovery at the bottom of the ocean.” What’s the discovery?
Scott Snyder: I don’t want to give away the discovery, but the story itself is a blend of science fiction and horror on an epic scale. It has a post-apocalyptic element too, which I’m also really excited about.
What I can say is that the discovery that’s made is something that really calls into question what we know about our own evolution. It’s something that touches on themes that I love returning to in my writing, but I’m exploring them in a brand-new way. The structure of the story is going to be really, really different, too. I think people are going to be really surprised by the way it’s laid out.
I couldn’t be happier about my superhero stuff, and I am so grateful to DC for allowing me the kind of creative latitude I’ve enjoyed. I’ve fully felt that they’ve allowed me to do stories that I’ve wanted to do with almost no resistance. But doing creator-owned work, you get to build an entire world that’s completely your own, and there is no one better to do that with than Sean. We’re good friends, but also, one of the things that really impresses me about his work is how robust and rich he makes every panel. Not just with killer detail but with details that create moods and also fill this world little by little. And also, I love the way he expresses character.
For me, I’ve never taken on a task where it’s not just building a new cast, like we did in “American Vampire” where we’re exploring some surface settings. It’s really building a whole world underwater, from the ground up. I knew that Sean was the person to do this with and the stuff that he’s been doing already for us with the designs are just blowing me out of the water.
It’s also a story that we both care a lot about. We’ve been talking about it for more than a year. It’s a story that we got excited about a long time ago, and we’ve been waiting and waiting to do it until our schedules opened up so we’re both coming to it with incredible enthusiasm.
Hollywood blockbusters like “The Abyss,” as well as great novels-turned-to-movies like Peter Benchley’s “Jaws” and “The Deep,” have a long history of making the ocean a very scary place to be. What is it about water-based thrills and chills that keep us coming back more?
The things that we are going to explore here are just that; do we have a memory of something or do we know something about something that’s lurking down there that has made us so afraid of the water? One of the things that we’re going to be exploring in the book that I’m really excited about is the whole sort of roster of myths and folklore and legends that exist about the ocean — the creatures that live there, the beings that live there, all of that kind of stuff. But what we really want to do here is get to the heart of what you’re talking about. [Laughs] Or at least propose a fictional story that really supports it. We’re trying to understand where these myths and legends come from for these particular creatures and ask, do they stem from something that we just don’t remember having seen yet?
In that way, with this book, we get to explore all of these great stories of the sea and figures of the sea, throughout folklore and different sort of mythologies, as well. Again, it has a lot of the stuff that I just love writing about, yet it’s incredibly different from anything that I’ve done before.
The title — “The Wake” — brings to mind an awakening, a celebration of life after a death and, of course, a wake like the one associated with waves and the ocean. Which one are you referring to, or is it a combination?
It’s exactly all of those things. The reason I really fell in love with that title is because of all of those references has something to do with it. There is a lot of death in the book obviously. [Laughs] So there is the funeral aspect to, it but it’s very much about what the water brings and what it hides during the wake and the high tide. In time, there really is an element of discovery, which is both horrifying and also, I think, awe-inspiring. All of those things are really part of why we call it “The Wake.”
Can you tell us about the cast, specifically the main characters?
There is going to be a big cast of characters. One of the things I love is exploring the science and the biology of creatures and monsters. The cast of characters is a motley crew, but one of them, who I am very excited about it, is a female marine biologist. You have different characters than the kind I’ve had before. At the same time, I think that sense of being haunted by something will be there. I like exploring that, too. I am really hoping that you guys like this one as much as we do. We’re really over the moon about it.
The Dark Knight has his own rogues’ gallery of criminal monsters that he battles in Gotham in the pages of “Batman,” and you write about literal monsters in “American Vampire” and “Swamp Thing.” What is it about monsters that you, and we as readers, love so much?
I have always been a huge horror fan. I think I’ve told you this story before, but when I was a kid, there was a video store near my house on 26th Street at Third Avenue called Video Stop, which just closed, actually. They wouldn’t rent R-rated movies to kids in the store, but they’d deliver them if you ordered them. [Laughs] So I would get all of these horror movies when I was 8, 9 and 10. I’ve looked back to see what my fascination was, and at first I thought I just liked seeing the popular kids getting killed. [Laughs] But when you think more deeply about it, and this is why I think I’ve gravitated towards monsters in my own writing and I really believe what really attracts us all to monsters, is the great monsters, the classic monsters, are really designed in such a way that they make you afraid of the things that you find safety within.
For example, when you are doing a classic version of a vampire, it affects the people that you love. These murderous monsters are coming for you in some way. The same thing happens with a werewolf, where you have no control of your body. You become this thing that no one could love. And this happens with zombies, as well. No matter who they were in life, they’re coming to get you.
There is something primally terrifying about those classic monsters and I think in some way, fearing them makes us stronger. You have to face your greatest fears and your nightmares. The greatest nightmare for me would be that person that I love, or my own body turning into something that was uncontrollable and murderous.
When you get a thriller story like that, you get a sense of redemption as you grow stronger — kind of a trial by fire. I think people loved to be scared because it makes you feel strong and safe when you get out of it at the end.
I also think there is something deeply exploratory about monsters. They are so layered and rich unto themselves and we are really trying to create a monster here in this story out of that same stuff. It really makes us look at ourselves in a different way.