Bubbling and curdling since the dawn of the New 52, DC Comics’ epically horrific “Rotworld” story arc came to a close this week in the pages of “Animal Man” #17 by Lemire and artist Steve Pugh, and “Swamp Thing” #17, by Snyder and artist Andrew Belanger.
Like their own relationship, longtime friends Lemire and Snyder built the storyline honestly and organically, the end result was a disgustingly brilliant narrative that delved as deeply into family and love-lost as it did into monstrous motivation and hellish fantasy.
CBR News spoke with the writers of the “Rotworld” crossover event and found two creators that care passionately not only about their craft, but about the characters that have lived (and died) through a virtual nightmare these past 18 months.
Lemire also teased what’s to come in “Animal Man” in the months ahead and Snyder discussed his own sense of loss, leaving “Swamp Thing” behind as he transfers his creative passion to his highly anticipated Superman series with DC Comics’ Co-Publisher Jim Lee.
CBR News: Scott, you’ve been pals with Jeff for some time now but as a fan, not as his friend, what have you enjoyed most about his run on “Animal Man” and the evolution of Buddy Baker?
Scott Snyder: Not just during “Rotworld,” but throughout Jeff’s whole run, I think the thing that I’m always most impressed with is that he speaks to certain themes that are essential in writing, no matter what character he’s on and the stories that he crafts you can tell are personal. When you see Buddy struggling with issues of family and home throughout the book, that’s what I hope to do in my own stuff, as well.
Regardless of what character you’re on, you try to write about things that are in you. And you pick characters that you think will hit a nerve. I’m incredibly impressed with what he’s done and inspired by it all the time.
Jeff, your turn. How have you been impressed by Scott’s vision of Alec Holland’s transformation into Swamp Thing?
Jeff Lemire: I don’t know about that but I agree with Scott. I’m really impressed with myself, as well. [Laughs]
No, I think with Scott, I’m most impressed with the scope he brings to what he’s doing. You always get a sense of this huge mythology and this huge scope and clearly, as soon as I read his script we really started to tap into that, as well, in “Animal Man,” as we built this shared mythology.
He and Yanick [Paquette] have something special which stems from the tone of Scott’s writing and the way Yanick lays out pages, every page feels so important and so epic. There is a definite weight to it. I try to do that, as well, but what they do is pretty impressive.
Both of your stories feature loved ones that present specific challenges and throughlines for your leading men. How important is family and home as a touchstone in stories that are so epically horrifying?
Lemire: It’s actually the opposite. The family stuff is what the story is about. And the horror stuff is the metaphor for what’s going on with the family. Not the other way around.
Snyder: I totally agree with Jeff. For me, what makes something genuinely scary is when the things that you love are threatened. In “Swamp Thing,” and I think it’s the same for Jeff in “Animal Man,” the horror comes when you psychologically and emotionally are worried about losing what you care about the most.
It’s not so much to move the plot along as it is to really cut to the core of the characters psychologically and emotionally and produce horror that feels organic and genuinely and viscerally affective. You don’t really need the monster so much you need something in jeopardy that your character cares about.
Is “Rotworld” an epic superhero story or an epic horror story? Or more specifically, are Animal Man and Swamp Thing superheroes?
Lemire: I think Buddy wanted to be a superhero originally, but not anymore. Now he’s just a father that’s caught up in all of these crazy things he can’t control. He’s constantly trying to maintain some sense of control for his family but it has gone well beyond him wanting to become a superhero.
Snyder: I wouldn’t say Alec is a superhero. Obviously, it depends on how you define that in terms of capes and tights and all that stuff. For Alec, I think of him more as a heroic monster. What I’ve always loved about that character is that he is someone that is lot more human than a lot of us, even when he is monster.
He’s more about the internal struggles than the challenges he faces. I’m not sure whether or not that makes him anything beyond a heroic monster.
The “Rotworld” story arc has proved a great success for you as creators and for DC Comics, as well. As we come to close of this story, do you remain surprised by the response from readers and the industry as a whole or did you think you were onto something pretty special from the get-go?
Lemire: I did think when we started talking about bridging “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing” for this story we had something pretty special, but you never know. You obviously can’t predict or put any expectations on how well it’s going to do and how readers are going to react. It’s always surprising and heartwarming when you really believe in something and readers react to it, as well. It kind of renews hope. [Laughs]
Snyder: I fully agree.
Jeff, you’re staying on as the writer of “Animal Man” after “Rotworld,” but Scott, you’re leaving “Swamp Thing.” How do you feel about moving forward and leaving something behind?
Lemire: Without spoiling the big thing, definitely we will be separating the books and they will stand on their own again. You won’t see any more interaction with the Green or the Rot for the foreseeable future. Really, what I wanted to get back to with Buddy was his celebrity and exploring society’s obsession with celebrity and fame through Buddy. I think Buddy is a perfect character to do that with.
Snyder: For me, it’s really hard to walk away. At one point I was talking to Mat Idelson, my editor, and I said, “I can always come back and do something else, right?”
I already miss him as I have obviously already finished writing “Swamp Thing” #18, but as I was saying before he is the kind of character that needs to be reinvented in ways that you are incredibly excited about as a writer.
Also, I wanted to go out with Yanick and we are getting to the place where I thought would be quite emotional and the place in the story that I originally thought we would end but we just made it bigger and crazier through “Rotworld,” which was a great choice.
In part, it also became about do I really have another story that means as much to me as this one and is as strong as this one. And I wasn’t sure. In a way, I am happy to walk away and give somebody like Charles [Soule], who is terrific, a chance with the character. And do something that will really excite people rather than me doing something that I’m not 100 per cent [certain] is up to par with the stuff that I’ve been doing.
Later this year, you have “The Wake” and “Trillium,” respectively, coming out from Vertigo and you are both working on your own ongoing series for DC Comics, as well. When can we expect your next collaboration? Is there anything in the works?
Snyder: I’d love to.
Lemire: And yes, we’ve talked about it. But we’re both pretty busy for the next year, year-and-a-half. We are both scheduled back-to-back, but we’ll talk. I’d be pretty surprised if we didn’t do something together again. But nothing is planned just yet.
The epic climax of “Rotworld,” in “Animal Man” #17 and “Swamp Thing” #17, is available now.