Bigfoot Shoes to Fill: Wickline talks "Savage"

In Shadowline and Image Comics' upcoming four-issue miniseries "Savage," Bigfoot is more than just a cryptozoological curiosity: the book casts the mythological Sasquatch as humanity's secret protector. "He deals with the things too scary for a normal human to even comprehend," said co-writer Dan Wickline. "But he's not just a monster; he's a man that can unleash the beast as a primal force of nature. It's a mantle that can be passed on. So the miniseries is about both the hunting of a werewolf pack and a changing of the guard so to speak."

The brainchild of Jeff Frank and Steve Niles, Wickline was brought onto "Savage" as a script doctor. Having previously previewed images from issue #1 and spoken with Frank and Mayhew about the project, CBR News caught up with Wickline to talk about his unusual role in "Savage," which launches October 29.

In addition to Bigfoot himself, "Savage" stars Peter and Sam, two characters Wickline said appear to be polar opposites, but actually have more in common than either of them realize. "Sam is the old grizzled hero on the verge of hanging it up and a step or two away from losing his mind," Wickline explained. A shoe salesman, Peter is "young, miserable and trying to find his place in the world. But the truth of the matter is they are both on the same journey, just at different places on the path." That path is a collision with ferocious werewolves and the abominable Bigfoot.

When comics newcomer Jeff Frank first conceived of "Savage," he decided to turn to a seasoned comics veteran to help him get his story off the ground. "Jeff is new to writing comics so he checked his Rolodex and found that he was good friends with Steve Niles," Wickline said. Niles and Frank put their heads together to develop the story, and shortly thereafter they recruited artist Mike Mayhew. Frank did a first pass on the script, and handed it over to Niles to produce the second draft. But when Niles's schedule proved too busy, the writer turned to his "Strange Cases" collaborator Dan Wickline.

"Mike did the cover for my book 'The Unusual Supsects,' and with both Steve and Mike on the project, I was more than happy to get involved," Wickline said. "I went through the script, made some tweaks here and there, changed up the pacing a bit, etc. They looked over what I did and asked me to stay on the project in the same capacity."

So, in short, the story credit goes to Niles and Frank, and script credit goes to Frank and Wickline. "This story is the creation of Jeff and Steve; they have the long term on this all figured out. My role was completely on the script," Wickline said, characterizing himself as the "Savage" script doctor. "Jeff did an initial pass on each of the four scripts. Basically setting the scenes, the story and his vision. But as easy at it may seem, writing a script is not simple and this was Jeff's first project."

Wickline focused primarily on pacing, dialogue and making sure the panel descriptions were clear enough for Mayhew. "It was also my job to help contain the story. Jeff has a huge concept here and this would just be the first chapter, I had to make sure we gave the reader a solid 4-issue story and not just a prelude."

Wickline was excited to have the opportunity to work with Mayhew again. "Mike is amazing to work with," said the writer. "His thumbnails are so clear and detailed that we can go over every element then and I know the final result is going to be perfect. He's a stickler for details on both the important things in a panel and the simple things like backgrounds and textures." All involved were so impressed by Mayhew's finished penciled pages that they debated publishing "Savage" as a black and white book.

But Wickline said that Mayhew's biggest strength was his interpretation of the script. "I have yet to see a panel that doesn't have every element that was described in the script and given the proper importance," Wickline said. "I honestly believe I could give Mike a script, go into a coma for two months and awaken to find a finished book that looks exactly if not better than I wanted."

"Savage" is not the only project on Wickline's horizon. "I'm continuing my work on '1001 Arabian Nights: The Adventures of Sinbad,' just starting up the scripts for the second story arc," Wickline said. "I'm also doing three more 'Grimm Fairy Tales' and a few other projects for the folks at Zenescope. I have a short prose piece in 'The Avenger' anthology from Moonstone and then I have a few other projects that are just in the early stages, too soon to mention just yet."

The first issue of "Savage" hits stands on October 29 from Shadowline and Image Comics.

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