Fear of the unknown has been the root of nearly every iconic horror story ever told — being alone in the dark, the unseen entity creeping in the shadows, the noises from the basement and, especially, the hidden monsters lurking in the forest. Films like “The Blair Witch Project,” and “Evil Dead” have capitalized on the idea of a menacing threat just beyond the pines. This year, acclaimed writer Scott Snyder reunites with his “Detective Comics” partner Jock to give you a new reason to stay out of the woods: “Wytches.”
Announced at Image Expo, Snyder intends for this series to be pure evil, saying, “I want it to be the book I feel terrible about at my kids’ soccer game. I want this book to be like, you read it and say, ‘They let this guy write Superman?'”
CBR News found a brightly lit room with nary a tree in sight to talk with the writer about how he plans to make us all sleep with the lights on, what ramifications his new Image launch will or won’t have on his DC Comics work and his plans to release free digital work in the coming year.
CBR News: You’ve done some amazing horror work in your career so far — “The Wake,” “American Vampire,” and “Severed” — so how are you approaching horror this time around, with “Wytches?” You mentioned you wanted it to be the scariest thing you’d ever written —
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I did “Severed,” and we went pretty dark. It was freeing to be able to do that. With this one, I want to go really dark. Horror is about looking at the things you’re most afraid of, personally — about yourself, the things you’re worried are true — and turning them into a monster. “Wytches” for me hit a raw nerve. The way we’re designing them, its almost imagining that everything you know about witches is just the surface. In “Wytches,” those people — the ones persecuted, the ones with the stigma thrown onto them, are just the people who know about the witches and worship them. In reality, witches themselves are something much more primal and bestial.
It’s my chance to do the most black and twisted horror I can imagine.
I’ve always loved taking mythological creatures, mostly horror creatures, and reinventing them to make them modern and scary for me. In that way, something that’s always scared me has been the idea of people hiding out in the woods.
I was talking to a friend that had visited Salem, and I got this idea to make witches done in a way that would make them both physically different from anything we’d seen before and mythologically different.
What is the shape of the first arc?
It’s very character driven, following certain protagonists. The one we see first is this young father whose daughter sees her friend disappear from the woods in a horrific way and is scarred by that. He and his wife move away from the town where they’ve been living to somewhere more rural, where his wife grew up. His daughter starts seeing things in the trees and is convinced that something has followed them from their old town. That begins the story, and it gets scarier and scarier from there.
Where is the story set?
I don’t want to give the name of the town away — part of the name is the fun of the story — but it’s set in a fictional town based on a few actual places.
In “The Wake” and “American Vampire,” you play with the science of monsters, taking it to a place that has logical explanations as well as mythological ones. Is that going to continue in “Wytches?”
I’ve always loved science, or pseudo-science as my wife teases me. Here I wanted to do something where the elements of witches — spells and magic — were explained by their knowledge of natural sciences. They make tinctures that can cure cancer, paralysis, all kinds of diseases. And there’s nothing magical about it, they just have this unbelievable understanding of natural sciences to the point where it looks like magic. They are a type of creature that’s incredibly old and frightening. We’ve never been able to take a photo of them and very few people have lived to tell the tale from encountering one of them, although people do want to trade with them to get their cures and potions — and those trades in themselves are going to be really scary.
Do you plan on “Wytches” being a mini or ongoing series?
The idea is that we want to do five or six issues, take some time off — the Brubaker model. We really have a lot to explore in this world, so we want to make the first arc as good as it can be to keep people reading. I’m dying to tell this story for as long as I can.
Is having a creator-owned project with a long time friend like Jock inspiring you in the other books you’re on with DC and Vertigo?
I adore being at DC. They’ve been incredibly good to me, and continue to be incredibly good to me, allowing me to write “Batman” like a creator-owned book. I made Jim Gordon’s son a psychopath, I gave Batman an owl brother and I got to use Joker with his face strapped onto his head. They give me such latitude with that book. My commitment to DC and Vertigo is incredibly strong, and I don’t see this book undercutting it.
That said, I also want to do things this year that keep me vibrant and excited about my own writing. The stuff going on at Image right now, having a series that’s my own with Jock, away from the people that oversee in the best way that I do otherwise in comics, is so thrilling to me. I’m too comfortable, in some ways, being able to do Batman and Superman. I want to challenge myself, and that’s what Image is.
Are you going to be continuing to challenge yourself with other creator-owned projects?
I’m going to try to do a few more fun, surprising things on the side. Shorts with artists I adore that I’ll try to release for free digitally — stuff like that. I can afford to and why not do things that keep me young as a writer? I want to keep all of my work better than I’ve ever made it. I want this year to be about surprising people and surprising myself.