Over the past five years, Scott Snyder has plumbed the depths of vampire lore, American history, and the DCU’s Metropolis & Gotham City for his DC Comics and Vertigo series. Now, in the second half of the ten-issue creator-owned miniseries “The Wake,” the writer is diving into a new genre, painting the picture of a post-apocalyptic America struggling against killer mermaids and the brink of extinction!
Along with “Joe The Barbarian” and “Punk Rock Jesus” artist Sean Murphy, the first half of the series introduced readers to biologist Lee Archer, watching as the scientist dove into the middle of the ocean to investigate a mysterious and deadly underwater creature. The events of the horror-tinged story continue to reverberate in the first chapter of the second half of the series, as the creature’s escape reverberates through history and into issue #6, which takes place 200 years in the future and shows America flooded and fighting against the Mers and their own species for their survival.
Speaking with CBR in the wake of “The Wake” #6, Snyder touched upon America’s cultural fascination with the end of days, his plotting process for “Batman” and “Superman Unchained” and his future at DC and Vertigo.
CBR News: The last time I talked with you about “The Wake,” we spoke a lot about how the first half is really informed by horror and horror movies like “The Abyss” and that whole 1990s underwater monster/watery disaster genre. With the story now jumping into a post-apocalyptic future, were there any specific movies or media that really informed the way you thought of the second half of “The Wake?”
Scott Snyder: Oh, sure — yeah. I mean, ever since I was a kid, I’ve been really been taken with the idea of the post-nuclear disaster, or the post-apocalyptic disaster. Everything from the really bleak horrific versions of it like “Terminator” — That obviously had an impact on me. My dad took me to see “Terminator” when it came out, which I still cannot fathom! [Laughs] I really think about this a lot lately, where I’m like, “Wait a minute, I know I saw this in the theaters!” You know what I mean? I remember having my eyes covered in certain parts, and not the wrong parts where you cover a kid’s eyes, like the death parts, but like when they’re cutting the whole eyeball out because they’re a robot! That said, since then, as an adult, the post-apocalyptic genre has taken on a whole new emotional affect, because I have kids, two little boys, and the idea of a world transformed is something that is horrifying because of the idea that you have a responsibility to protect the people you’re leaving behind.
I wanted to really hit on that with Lee at the very end; she sees what’s coming, and she knows she can’t do anything about it. At the same time, in issue six we bring that idea back, where maybe she is still down there. You don’t know, maybe that’s possible, maybe she left something behind that will help reverse all of this, if not for Parker then for the generations after. But stuff like “The Road,” which is huge a favorite of mine, “The Last Of Us” — I could not stop playing until I finally finished it. That ending, by the way, of that game really caught me off-guard. I really enjoyed that ending! I actually tweeted the writer of the game! [Laughs]
I think the thing with post-apocalyptic stories, and the fun thing about the differences between the two sections for me, is that horror is about looking at the things you’re afraid are true about yourself. The setting — an old house or an oil rig at the bottom of the ocean — is the perfect echo chamber for that stuff, where you’re trapped and you’re paranoid and you’re up against the monsters that represent, in a lot of ways, your own failings. With Lee, in the first half, a lot of it has to do with not being there for her son, at least in her own mind, even if that’s not true. In the second section, I think post-apocalyptic fiction — and at the front of it are things like “The Walking Dead,” which I adore — is that you suddenly transform the world we know. Everything that’s day-to-day and important to us transforms into a world where everything is all about survival. It has different priorities, so there’s a whole different set of priorities to write for; there’s this kind of pulse-pounding, “Are we going to make it out of this?” Every decision has special stakes. It’s a really interesting and fun balance to move from one genre to the next, because they’re so wildly different, and yet the ideas make a very coherent singular book, even though the structure and tone and everything changes.
In this issue, we also meet the Governess and the Arm, so we’ve got that dystopian, over-reaching, authoritarian government clamping down on the populace, which is a staple of the post-nuclear/post-apocalyptic story and genre. Why do you think we, as a culture of writers and readers, are so certain that when the worst-case scenario happens, we’ll continue to screw ourselves over that way?
[Laughs] Ultimately, I think what it boils down to is, when or if some terrible post-apocalyptic future comes, you’re either going to band together and try and control it and help each other and look for a better way to recreate a society that’s going to work, or you’re going to start to believe, “Look, my life is a self-contained thing.”
The Governess has a line, there’s a figure of speech in issue #8 that I’m really happy with, where she’s talking about how, essentially, your life is like an egg on a spoon you’re carrying around — that’s all it is, and at the end of the day what you need to do is protect that. For her, this world, what it highlights is the notion that we don’t want to wake up to the bigger truth, that our actions have repercussions on the generations after us. What she wants to say is, this is the dreaming world that we live in, live the dream that you’re having now to the best possible ability and don’t open your eyes to things that transcend beyond the singularity of your own life. That’s her philosophy and that’s the dichotomy: people thinking outside of themselves and looking at doing the things where the reverberations are going to help people, even if there’s danger, and people who are going to do for them and themselves. That’s the split I love in post-apocalyptic stories, from zombies to the day after the nuclear blast/robot invasion! I love stories like that, that really try to explore the worst and the best of those circumstances.
You’re a writer whose themes often arc across all of your books, and the idea of consequences and what we leave behind is an idea you’ve been playing with not just here on “The Wake,” but a lot in “Superman Unchained.” Both of these stories also have very definite endings coming up this year. While this was always meant to be a miniseries, when you started out on “Superman Unchained,” did you know there was a very specific end point or cut off you were writing to?
Yeah, I always do that. I always have the end really plotted out before I start, so the end of “Zero Year,” the end of “Court Of Owls,” all of that was in the outline. The exploring happens in the middle, where I try to give myself room to find little tangents and stories, but for the most part the big beats are really hammered down pretty firmly. That gives me something to write to. At the same time, I have friends who have the opposite process, where if they know the ending, they can’t write the story. It’s just the way I do it; I like working from something like that, because I feel I know what it’s about. “The Wake” is about certain things, and a lot of the times there are a few themes that are really similar. For me it’s the feeling of the inability to absorb how we think of the evolutionary scale. We know we exist because these things happened, and we can learn the science, but the magnitude of it, thinking of the billions of years that come before us, you just can’t wrap your mind around the thing, and that feeling is a major element, only being able to understand the now, and why is that? Playing around with that and the idea at the same time of memories and how powerful memory is, how you only remember the bottom line of events and things like that which are human and wind up being weightier.
You’re in the middle of the second half of “The Wake,” which is ending with issue #10; you’ve got “Superman Unchained,” which is also going to be ending soon; you’re returning to “American Vampire,” which also has a definite ending. “Batman” is your only remaining ongoing. Now that you’re in the middle of three projects you’re bringing to conclusion, what do you see as your future at DC and Vertigo? Do you want to do more miniseries like “The Wake” or are you interested in going off to do other ongoing series, or putting an endpoint to your run on “Batman?”
Honestly, I don’t plan on taking on a lot. What I’d like to do ultimately is, I have “Wytches” with Image, which is an ongoing, but I’ll do it in blocks — I’ll do five issues and then break, and then another five issues. But really, I’d like to do more creator-owned work both at Vertigo and outside.
“Batman” I’m really locked into with [artist] Greg [Capullo], because we have a ton of stories we’re really dying to tell for a while, through issue fifty or so! We’re committed to the series and we have our biggest stuff ahead of us, still. I have that as my big commitment for me in terms of my DC work. I am up for taking other superheroes — I’ll be honest, it really did drain me to have Superman and Batman, and I do really think I’m leaning more towards trying to do creator-owned work this year. I want to do a series of one-shots with different artists I really like, and I have “Wytches,” and “American Vampire.” I’d like to do as much creator-owned as I can, because the best things I do creatively is when I whip something up, and also concentrate on “Batman” and “American Vampire.”
“The Wake” issue #7 surfaces on March 26.