Mysteries Abound: Wickline talks "Unravel"

Hot on the heels of such critically acclaimed crime comics as "Criminal" and "Fell," writer Dan Wickline is trying his hand at the mystery genre with his new four-issue mini-series "Unravel," scheduled to debut in April from Jim Valentino's Shadowline imprint and Image Comics. Wickline sat down with CBR News to talk about his unique blending of the horror and mystery genres for the series.

The story centers around NYC beat cop Lindsey Shaw, the latest in a long line of Shaw cops in the Big Apple. "She's been testing to move up to Detective, but she's currently on the streets," Wickline said. "Her and her partner, Jack Van Der Steen, get assigned to a 211, a liquor store robbery. And she chases one of the perps into Central Park, where she comes across a guy who is about seven feet tall, bald, naked and has no memory, and meeting him is kind of the start of everything."

With several horror projects under his belt, including a collaboration with Steve Niles on IDW's "30 Days of Night: Dead Space," Wickline has become known as a horror writer. "I don't really see myself that way, I enjoy writing horror but I didn't grow up as a horror fan," Wickline admitted. "I became a horror fan more when I met my wife." But the writer has long been an aficionado of the detective story. "I have been fascinated with '30s detective stories and old radio programs. Boston Blackie, Richard Diamond, the Shadow. That's probably my first love.

"I'd say 'Unravel' is a Detective story/mystery first, but it's got some elements of supernatural or science fiction in it, and it's very dark," Wickline continued. "It's definitely noir style." And that aspect of the piece was influenced in no small part by series artist Homeros Gilani. "I sent [Gilani] the script, and he was gonna start working on it. He showed me some of his other work, and it was much more film noir, much more dark, and I realized that my pacing was too quick. I had this artist that could just tell so much in a panel that I needed to slow down. So I ended up writing the first issue to almost a crawl because I wanted to set the mood, I wanted to set the tone, and I wanted Homeros' art to really tell the story."

How Wickline's collaboration with Homeros came about turns out to be a mystery in itself. "It depends on who you ask," Wickline said. "We'll go with his version. We both were on Steve Niles' message board. [Gilani] posted some artwork. I saw it, and sent him a note saying, 'Hey, if you ever wanna work on anything, let me know.' And he was interested, so I sent him the idea, and he started drawing."

Wickline, who has been a comics fan ever since his uncle gave him a "Captain America" comic when he was five, has been plying the comics trade off and on for the last ten years. "My first published stuff was self-published, for a company called Hardline Studios, I called it," Wickline said. "We put a few books out. Problem was, our first book we did full color in 1996, right at the peak of nobody making money in comics." When Wickline went freelance in 2001, his former Hardline colleague Paul Benjamin got him a gig writing for the relaunch of Humanoids' "Metal Hurlant." "And at the same time, I started talking to William [Christensen] over at Avatar about doing some stuff with him and it just kind of took off from there."

As much as Wickline enjoys writing hard-boiled crime and horror fiction, he'd love to try his hand at superheroes. "I'd kill to write either Green Arrow or Daredevil," Wickline admitted. "I don't look at it as, 'Oh, I'm writing superhero books,' I'm just telling stories with other characters. People talk about licensed properties and what a headache it is, because you've got all these rules and these histories and stuff. But I look at it like a challenge, 'Can I find a story no one else has told?' If you're a storyteller, then what's the difference whether you're using somebody else's character? As long as you're telling the story to the best of your ability, you're doing what you love to do."

Wickline's old friend Tone Rodriguez lends his considerable talents and name-recognition to the cover artwork for "Unravel." "Homeros had some really great concepts for the covers, the designs for the covers are his," Wickline said. "But talking with [Jim] Valentino and Kris Simon, his editor there [at Image], we thought that putting a name on to do the covers would help. There's three elements to every cover, one is a city element, one is a police element and one is a forensic element."

"Unravel" isn't the only project on Wickline's in recent months. The latest chapter in the "30 Days of Night" saga, "Spreading the Disease" is already out with the final issue of the mini-series set for release in April. "I'm pretty sure that's gonna be one of the highest body counts in comic history," Wickline boasted.

"Then I've got 'The Unusual Suspects,' which is the graphic novel coming out through Top Cow for the Hero Initiative," Wickline said. "The Unusual Suspects" is a 96-page OGN consisting of 16 short stories, penned by Wickline and illustrated by an impressive array of artists, including "Unravel" collaborators Homeros Gilani and Tone Rodriguez. "All the money goes to Hero Initiative, none of the creators are taking a penny off of that," Wickline said. "So I'd really like to see the numbers go up for that one."

Wickline has also recently done a prose "Phantom" short story for Moonstone, a children's book for Actionopolis called the "St. Christopher Jr. Mystery Detective League" and is working on another as yet unannounced Steve Niles property at Image.

As busy as Wickline is, the prolific writer still isn't working at anywhere near capacity. "I write very fast, I could probably double my current workload and still be happy."

The first of "Unravel's" four issues hits stands on April 18th.

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