When last we spoke to the tag team of Kieron Dwyer and Rick Remender, they were busy talking up their next work together, "Sea of Red." The frequent collaborators have met with success on that book seeing a very positive response with the first issue selling out quickly after its recent release. Certainly both men are hoping the same good fortunes await their next collaboration when they leave the high-adventure of the open seas and look inward to the horrors of the dream world.
This July sees the release of "Night Mary" #1, the first of a five-issue horror mini-series coming from IDW Publishing. The series is co-created by Remender and Dwyer who started kicking around the story several years ago, finally seeing it come together last year as the duo talked about the different projects they should tackle in the coming new year. "Rick and I developed the general storyline, then co-plotted the basic beats," Dwyer told CBR News Thursday afternoon. "Rick took those raw notes and crafted an awesome multiple issue framework and first issue script while I started developing the look of the artwork.
"As for the story, the concept is pretty simple. The logline is: teenage girl trained since birth to be a lucid dreamer is cursed to spend her nights inside the nightmares of others."
The star of our story is Mary Specter, a 17-year-old girl that Remender says is in most ways fairly typical. She's shy, a bit withdrawn and feels like she carries the weight of the entire world on her shoulders, but in Mary's case that might well be true. Remender introduced us to the characters that inhabit "Night Mary."
"Raised by her father, a dream disorder specialist, Mary has been trained to use lucid dreaming to assist him in his research," Remender told CBR News Thursday afternoon. "More important, though, he has driven her in a desperate attempt to wake his wife from a decade-long coma, hoping that the way into his wife's mind is through her dreams. Feeling guilty for having survived the tragic car accident that caused the coma, Mary is equally anxious to help rouse her dormant mother.
"After his involvement in a secret government project to harness the power of lucid dreamers, Professor Specter opened a sleep disorder clinic in Seattle, where Mary enters the ghastly dreams of severely disturbed people in an attempt to help them," continued Remender. "When several patients go from simply troubled to psychotic and murderous, the nightmare world and the waking one become intertwined, putting Mary in real jeopardy.
"David Prince is the key to the disturbances and is revealed slowly throughout the series. He is Mary's greatest adversary and shares a link to her father that ups the stakes in the entire story.
"Agent Rollins is a young buck from the FBI following the connections between several murder/suicides in the Seattle area that lead back to the Specter Clinic. He and Mary get romantically involved, further complicating matters."
Remender spoke a bit further about the character of Mary by comparing her to another female lead he's busy writing, Bethany in "Strange Girl." "Mary is in the middle of the journey to becoming a strong person, but she's not quite there yet," explained Remender. "She's still very frail and affected by the mental stress of the horrors she deals with. She has a few very difficult challenges in the first series that she must overcome. Bethany is older and has been through more. She's on the other end of becoming a strong woman. That's one thing I love about Mary, she develops a great deal in the first five issues of 'Night Mary.' When we leave the first mini she is a different person then when we met her. Isn't that the point of any good story? To see how the events a character endures affects that character. It's the events in this short chapter of Mary's life that will define her forever and hopefully give the reader a sense of identification."
"Night Mary" #1,
As we mentioned earlier, "Night Mary" itself went through a number of incarnations before finally gelling completely last summer. Once that happened, the duo pitched the series to IDW with the Red Mary image you see above. Dwyer's previously worked with IDW on the series "Remains" (for which he just received an Eisner Nomination in the Best Cover category), so it felt right to give it another try. "We were already in discussions to do the upcoming series 'THUG' (written by 'Last of the Independents' Matt Fraction), when [IDW Editor-In-Chief] Chris Ryall and [Publisher] Ted Adams said, 'Let's do it!' IDW is arguably the home of horror in modern comics and we can't wait to give readers nightmares with this one."
"We went through a period where all Kieron and I did was make up treatments for new projects," explained Remender. "In order to come up with bolder and more fascinating concepts we focused on the most imaginative ideas we could with no thought to how difficult the production of the ideas might be. 'Night Mary' was one of the best of those and it's a great fit at IDW."
One of the unique aspects of this series is what happens to Mary when she enters the dream world. For those moments, Dwyer will be illustrating the book in a decidedly different style than for the "real world" sequences. "Each issue is at least 1/3 dedicated to the dream world; these pages are all digitally painted by Kieron and he will change up his art style to fit the theme of each dream," explained Remender. "The dreams begin each issue and will set the tone for each issue's story. It's been a treat to watch a guy with his talent stretch his artistic muscles and pull off new things. The nightmare world is amazing, wide open fun to write, it's an ideal playground. To me though, the real meat is in the waking world where Mary has to deal with the repercussions of her treatments on these very disturbed people, who are ultimately victims of something outside their control."
"Virtually everyone in the series is a pawn of forces larger than themselves," added Dwyer. "Ironically, Mary has a great deal of power in the dream world, but is initially unable to exert much control in the waking one. That will change over the course of the series as she gets pushed further and further towards the edge of sanity. The dream world has a great deal of impact on the waking one in this story and the mystery/suspense aspect is probably as strong or stronger than the pure horror/fantasy side."
"Night Mary" #1,
Ten months ago Dwyer was greeted with his first son Liam. At this point being a father is still something new to him, but he said he does have a better understanding of why people make the choices they do for their children and that's helped inform his creative process. "Being a parent is ultimately about sacrifice and putting another being's life ahead of your own," said Dwyer. "Of course, if that goes too far, you lose touch with your own needs, which is dangerous and ultimately unhealthy for everyone involved.
"Mary's father has gone the opposite way. He's so obsessed with his comatose wife and consumed by guilt that he has neglected his daughter to a large degree. It's hard to understand someone making that choice, but a lot of parents neglect their children, emotionally or otherwise. Still, being a parent gives you a different slant on things. It makes it a lot harder to judge other people. A lot falls by the wayside."
Looking over "Night Mary," you might expect the creators are pulling on a variety of television programs like say "Alias," "X-Files" or even "Lost" as influences, but that's not actually the case. Remender said for him that the cult hit show "Twin Peaks" probably played a bigger inspirational role than anything else. "It's a story about a girl, who on the surface is normal, maybe a bit withdrawn but an average teenager," said Remender. "She lives in a normal suburban community in Seattle where everything is seemingly perfect, Apple pie America. All the truly disturbing things I encounter in life are on the underside, hidden. It's the polished exterior of something that makes you want to open it up and see what's inside, what dark shit is going on behind the curtain. Most David Lynch films touch on this theme and it's always been one of my favorites."
"I don't share Rick's level of Lynch enthusiasm," added Dwyer. "I do appreciate a lot of his work, notably 'Blue Velvet' and the earliest episodes of 'Twin Peaks,' but I find a lot of his work to be obtuse and self-consciously 'weird,' without actually being very thought provoking. He is a master of disturbing imagery, though, and that's hopefully something we can channel in this series. I'm much more a student of the original 'Twilight Zone' series and filmmakers like the Coen Brothers (and I know Rick backs me up on this), although they've had their share of clunkers, too. One thing I can say about every single Coen film is that regardless of whether I am 'into' it or not, I am never sure where it is going. I like that they keep me guessing and I will watch anything they do for that reason.
"Night Mary" #1,
"I don't understand the current thinking in Hollywood where so much seems to be simple cookie cutter storytelling; movies by committee where they show you all the important elements of the movie in the trailer so you know exactly what you're going to get," continued Dwyer. "Why bother going to see it if you know the outcome in the trailer? With my time as precious as it is now, I basically don't bother seeing movies anymore. I just watch the trailers online.
"Whew. Sorry. Rant over.
"Bottom line: I love mysteries. I don't want to know what's going to happen until it happens. Certainly shows like 'X-Files,' 'Alias,' 'Lost' and 'Twin Peaks' have/had that quality at their best. That's what we're aiming for with all our books: 'Night Mary,' 'Sea of Red,' 'Strange Girl,' 'THUG,' etc. Tune in each issue and see where the ride takes you."
Looking at the art included with this article you'll see that once again Dwyer is stretching his wings artistically. The artist admits he's not interested in drawing the same thing over and over again, nor does he want to work in the same style over and over again. Thus trying to compare his art on Marvel's "Avengers" to his work on "Remains" and now with "Night Mary" is practically impossible. Looking at this book, while the layout is uniquely Dwyer's, the finishes he uses are a new technique for the artist. In fact, the finishes play an important role in the storytelling with the real world presented in blue tones and the dream world in full, vibrant color.
"I am certainly a creature of habit, like most people, and I like my comforts. The one area where I am never satisfied with sitting still, however, is in my creative life," explained Dwyer. "So every project has to be an exploration of some sort for me, artistically. When I was developing my style for this, as Rick and I discussed the project more and more, the idea of splitting the dream world and the real one in some very obvious way seemed natural. I knew the dreams had to be different each issue, as they are the dreams of different people, and I wanted that sequence of each issue to really pop out. It seemed the best way to do that was to make the real world much simpler, more monochromatic. I was inspired by a lot films and videos which employ a very washed out look and wanted to convey that in 'Night Mary.'
"I've been using Photoshop and computers for many years now to do parts of my work, but this is the first time I've used the program Painter. I'd dabbled a bit with it many years ago, but as I began to see more and more comics coloring done in that program, I became intrigued, so I gave it a whirl on the cover to issue 1 of 'Night Mary' and I was very pleased with the outcome. I hope readers connect with it, too."
Don't expect the horrors of "Night Mary" to end with the first five-issue mini-series. Remender says that they've already got ten issues written. "The first treatment I wrote, based on what KD and I talked about doing, came in way too big," admitted Remender. "It was just a huge story. So KD and I sat down and found the right place to cut it. We plan to do the second series a few months after this one ends. There will be a conclusion at the end of issue five that should leave you feeling fulfilled, though. It would be irresponsible to just leave the entire thing open ended. It's more like an ending that solves just enough and leaves just enough unsolved so that you'll be satisfied with it, but need more."
"Like our book 'Sea of Red,' 'Night Mary' is a simple, strong idea which lends itself to countless stories. I mean, think about it: anything can happen in the dreamscape. When you have the dream world seeping into reality, then all gloves are off. There's a million ways this could go, and if readers come along, then we'll happily tell as many of those million stories as we can."