Vertigo Comics’ “The Wake,” a 10-issue miniseries written by “Batman” scribe Scott Snyder and drawn by “Punk Rock Jesus” creator Sean Murphy, comes to an end this July, wrapping up a time-jumping, globe-spanning, watery war story between humans and venomous, ocean-dwelling humanoids.
Originally slated to end in June, the book was pushed back with the finale landing July 16 instead, and the penultimate issue of “The Wake” on sale now. With “The Wake” nearly at the end of its journey, Snyder and Murphy took a moment to speak with CBR News about their killer mermaids, visually designing the future and pushing back issue #10 to July.
CBR News: I understand you two have been pretty busy between working on this and Scott being in Puerto Rico for a convention–
Scott Snyder: It was really fun, I’ve never been; my wife came and we went to Old San Juan. It was fantastic.
I imagine that you were looking at the ocean and imagining killer mermaids crawling out with “The Wake’s” finale coming up. [Laughter]
Snyder: I feel like its everywhere I go — you’re at your kid’s soccer game and you’re like, “What if the devil came out of the ground?” You’re thinking of those things and you’re hoping nobody can tell.
Sean Murphy: He even did that in Ireland, we were at the shore looking at the beautiful ocean and Scott says his deepest, most macabre thoughts and we’re like, “Dude, why don’t you relax? Turn it off!” [Laughter]
Let’s dive into those macabre thoughts with “The Wake” and the approaching finale. What does it feel like for both of you to be coming up on the penultimate issue and end of your run on this miniseries?
Snyder: It’s really sad to be done with it! I had a hard time finishing it, only because it’s the end of the project, not because the ending was difficult. It’s been one of the most thrilling experiences for me work-wise, really ever, getting to do this book with Sean. It gave us the chance to go and flex different muscles than we normally flex, try the craziest things we could think of and mix elements together that shouldn’t go together generally, narrative-wise and art-wise. To make it something that’s really personal as well; it’s about why a lot of us, I think, feel lost a lot of the time and hopeless, that sense of longing you feel sometimes. To be able to have done all that and get to the end — I miss it already. I miss the characters. At the same time, we were really overwhelmed by the support the fans have shown the book. I never expected to get that sort of readership and the response it’s got, so we’re grateful.
Murphy: Yeah, I’ve been doing this non-stop for about a year now — we took a break in the middle, Scott and I did some “Batman” stuff — and it’ll be strange to move on from it. Writers do multiple books at once, but for artists you’re in this world for a year, so it’s hard to let go.
Sean, looking at these last couple of issues there’s a lot of big world building with the mer-person pirate ship and the kite-bomb/plane the Governess has. How do you go about designing the world of the future? Does it all come from the script or as the artist do you do a lot of research for references on your own?
Murphy: I think it starts with Scott usually telling me on the phone what he’s going to do and then we shift around ideas and then I’ll get the script and it’ll have more in there, along with jpegs of stuff he found online which can really help me out. I usually read that stuff and then find some more on my own, I’ll throw it in there myself. We have a good relationship and I know what he’s looking for and what he might go with and what helps him to write around new ideas and build it up back and forth, so that’s sort of how we go about it.
Snyder: Yeah, it’s easily one of the most fun collaborations that way. I mean, we’re all friends so we can hop on the phone and be like, “What if?” Or Sean will call me up and be like, “Can you manage to write this in?” That’s the fun of this particular book, trying to get everything in that way.
And now we know you guys are thinking about these ideas at the beach, too. [Laughter] Looking at the story we have the big question of whether the Archer recording is real, but we also had the Neanderthals and ancient humans with bombs from the past who haven’t popped back up yet. So are we going to see what that was about in this penultimate issue? Or are you saving it all for so it can come to a head in the tenth issue, the big finale?
Snyder: We plan on answering none of that, we plan to dine and ditch entirely! [Laughter] No, we’ll answer those questions, I promise, issue #9 starts to bring up those elements. Without giving too much away, you’ll start to see a call back to some of the very ancient things that we showed in a big way, and you’ll get a lot of the answer in #9 to whether the signal from Lee is real or not. So we really plan on answering all those plot questions in #9 and #10 — and anyone who picks this book up, #9 is easily the most fun issue, I think! [Laughs] It has the craziest stuff; basically Leeward has become the first mate of the Outlier, so she’s basically a pirate captain and its her and the crew on this creature/ship having adventures all over the world as they get to the coordinates that they’ve set out for. This is our sea-faring adventure issue, and it could not have been more fun to write — and Sean’s art is just out of control on it.
But the big answer will start to come in issue #9, and by #10 you’ll definitely get answers. I’ve said this before but I hope readers will see with #10 that, as much as the book is an experiment to see how many things we can put together in a mash-up, it’s really, deeply about that sense of exploration. The reason we wanted to do it to begin with, and what I told Sean and what we started to, is that we need to be unafraid to try things that normally you might not think would go together in one book. It’s meant to be a book about not being afraid to explore. What the call is, and what the signal is about, the world that Leeward lives in and even the world that Lee lives in, and the people of the world before that — all of that stuff is meant to have a bigger answer then the plot answer that will come in #10. To me, the thing I love the most about issue #10 is, besides giving you all the answers, I feel it’s the most resonant issue that I’m able to do. It’s deeply personal, it’s about why we feel the way we feel a lot of the times.
Because the whole idea of this was to experiment and explore, would the two of you want to go back and do more stories set in this world? Or is this story really done for you once you hit issue #10?
Snyder: We were just joking around about coming back and doing a short story about Dash the dolphin! [Laughter] I would never say no to anything working with Sean; if we wanted to come back and do another story set in this world I would be deeply delighted to do that. But we also have other things we’d love to do together too–
Murphy: We’re always working! We’re like Rafael Nadal but with comics! [Laughter]
Looking at the second half of the series, one of the characters that has been most interesting and mysterious is the Governess. We’ve gotten bits and pieces from her, but as writer and artist what do you feel are her motivations? How do you approach how she looks, especially in that Marlow hallucination scene in issue #8 that revolved around her with the ice animals?
Snyder: In a lot of ways, when we started I wanted her to almost be a fairytale figure, for her to be the evil queen of the series who is hunting Leeward with her huntsman, the General, and to play off this feeling of a world that is essentially forming and is different than the one we know. One of the things that was a big impetus for doing the book was the sense of, can we do a world that feels like it did before we mapped everything — things are still uncharted, so those oceans are both deadly and mysterious and incredibly enticing to go out and find out what’s out there. So in one way she’s meant to be an iconic figure, a kind of fairytale figure, but the challenge is to make her psychologically layered and badass so she seems like somebody who could have gained control the way she has. She knows a lot more then she’s saying, too, which you’ll see in #9 and #10. For me, she has a really interesting history, and that will become clearer as the series goes on.
Murphy: With the idea of the visual of the frozen animals with the veins running through them, I wasn’t quite sure — we spoke about it afterwards — but while I was drawing it I wasn’t quite sure where it was heading other than I knew he was hallucinating and Vivenne is in the hallucination naked and [there’s] a little sexuality there, but not that much. And then when I got the issue back I read it like anybody else and I was like, “Okay, that’s why I drew that!” [Laughs] But I was totally satisfied by it, and it’s always fun to be able draw stuff like that and let our colorist, Matt [Hollingsworth], to play around with colors a lot on those pages. So I was really happy to have that scene in this issue.
While Vivenne is your evil queen, with the end of the run in sight are there any characters that have wormed their way into your hearts or surprised that you care so much about? Any you’ll be especially sad to leave?
Snyder: I’ve really fallen in love with the whole cast, they’ve been tremendously fun to write, from the rig boss in the first half to Marlow who took on a whole different depth then I expected him to.
Snyder: [Laughs] I think Dash the dolphin is the definitely the one everyone falls in love with, although I really like Gabby the parrot drone. I have a real soft spot for Gabby the crazy, deadly parrot drone!
Murphy: When we do our prequel, our “Year One” with Dash, we’ll have her there.
“Gabby: Zero Year.” I’d look forward to that! [Laughter]
So what’s next for you two? Are there any other projects in your immediate future you are either collaborating on, or want people to keep their eyes peeled for as they start coming out?
Murphy: Scott and I are planning on doing something else in the future, but we can’t talk about it. [Snyder laughs] It sounds like going to be big and there’s a lot to chat about getting it done, but I’m looking forward to that possibility.
The last issue is now coming out July 16–
Murphy: It’s my fault, I feel off my mountain bike and broke my collarbone; it’ll heal up but I’m out for a few weeks.
Snyder: We wanted to make it really clear to fans, because this art team has been so amazing, Sean and Matt Hollingsworth have been not just on time but sending in so much more than they need to ahead of time, if anyone’s behind it is just because he had an accident — and I was like, I think it would be fun, dude, if you include photographic proof for the interview! Like at the end of the interview it’s you pointing to your totally jacked arm! [Laughter]
Murphy: I can draw on my arm–
Snyder: You should, dude! Just put a little mermaid thing over it! When the characters curse it’s in fish symbols, just have you cursing in fish symbols over it.
Murphy: Oh, that’s good! That’s why you’re the writer, man!
Snyder: That’s why they pay me the big bucks. [Laughter]
Just include that in the back page of the final issue!
Murphy: I may have to Photoshop myself a little bit, but yeah, you’ve got a deal. [Laughter]
What else can you say about the series as it reaches its final issues?
Snyder: Just thank you. Honestly, it’s been pretty overwhelming for both of us, where we were thinking we’d do a left field corner of comics and we weren’t expecting the response to this at all. The fact that I get so many people bringing it up to me at cons, that it can rival “American Vampire” and “Batman” in terms of number of books for me to sign, it’s just really been exhilarating and overwhelming. I think both of us are super surprised by that and grateful, so thank you everyone who has been picking it up. I hope you love the last two issues as much as we do.
Murphy: Yup, I agree with all that!
“The Wake” issue #9 is on sale now; issue #10 hits shelves July 16.