For the past three issues of Scott Snyder and Jock’s terrifying Image Comics series “Wytches,” readers have become more and more attached to the Rook family: the practical and logical mother Lucy, erratic and creative Charlie and their young, anxious daughter, Sailor. With Snyder’s rapid, emotional storytelling, the family’s deepest fears have become realized now that Sailor is at the mercy of the monsters she once thought were only in her head — the wytches. The latest installment, issue #4, sees Charlie facing his own inner demons as he travels into the burrow to find his daughter.
This issue marks an epoch in the series as the past and present narratives finally converge and the true nature of the wytches is explained. Even more captivating is the slow reveal of the bond between Sailor and Charlie, one that has the power to either fracture their relationship or save their lives. Now that recent revelations have allowed readers to understand more about the creatures stalking the family, they’re left wondering more about the humans at the heart of the story. Snyder spoke candidly with CBR News, sharing some of his reactions to the major reveals and developments of issue #4, an update on the Plan B film adaptation of the comic and how his own vulnerabilities continue shape “Wytches.”
CBR News: You’ve previously mentioned the positive fan reaction to “Wytches.” As the series progresses and the more vicious aspects take center stage, does the response continue to be positive?
Scott Snyder: It’s been great. I honestly had no expectations that fans would react so boisterously well to it. I thought it was a book that would be very small, particular type of pace. I hired a publicist honestly, because I was so sure that it would be something that would just hover around sustainability in terms of sales. My impression — and I was completely wrong — was that the books that were really driving at Image, apart from “The Walking Dead,” were generally books that were brighter and more irreverent, or darkly satirical but had notes of humor or subversive impulses to them. This book is just straight up dark, mean and personal. I remember saying to [Image Publisher] Eric Stephenson and [Director of Business Development] Ron Richards, “Are you sure it’s okay to do this? I don’t want my first big, solo Image book something that won’t do sales for you.” They were incredibly sweet and told me to just focus on doing the book that meant the most to me. The fact that it has done as well as it has — it sells between 40-50,000 [copies] — that’s just completely stunning to me and [colorist] Matt Hollingsworth and [artist] Jock. That’s before variants or any of that kind of stuff. Those numbers, wow. For us, we’re just incredibly grateful.
It’s also really inspiring in the way that the comic audience right now is incredibly supportive of creators doing books that they’re passionate about, but aren’t necessarily the books fans would expect or want from those creators. What they want, I’ve learned, is that passion and your personal investment. They want you to bring them something they didn’t know you could do, that you’re doing to challenge yourself. That’s surprising, it was an eye opener. It made me rethink the whole landscape. I always hoped readers would respond well to “Wytches” because it means a lot to the team, but I didn’t think they’d support it to a degree where we’d never have to worry about it being in the red. I could work on “Wytches” alone at this point if I wanted to, just from the support. That would be great. And I just can’t say enough thank-yous to the readership. It’s not just about this series, it’s a symbol to me and the guys on the team that you’ll follow us — creators in general — onto the projects that we want to do regardless of genre, aesthetic, structure, form, because you follow us where we’re scared and excited to go. That’s a different landscape than it was 10 years ago. It’s not that readers didn’t support creators, they did, but the fact that Image has opened up this door and that so many new readers are involved in comics, it’s the best time ever to be in comics. I feel like I wandered in at the best time ever, like some Mr. Magoo act. I finally get into comics, great! And it’s like this Renaissance moment.
Would you like to only do creator-owned work at some point?
Yeah, I think about that. Definitely. I imagine at some point I will probably do that. I don’t think I’ll ever stay away from licensed work completely because I deeply enjoy the creative challenges it offers, but financially I could step away now. I mean, I was just supposed to be a short story writer. My wife was going to be the one with the real job. So for me to be able to make anything is like, “Whoa, what?” I know there’s a perception sometimes among people that a lot of us do superheroes to pay for our indie stuff or to be a billboard for our indie stuff, but for a lot of us, it’s never the case. We do superheroes because we love doing superheroes and we do indie because we love doing indie. I’m at a point where I could choose to do one exclusively and I still do both because they flex very different muscles.
I can’t imagine that there won’t be a time soon, or in the next few years, where I just take some time to do creator-owned for a bit. But I have ideas for Captain America, for Wonder Woman, for Spider-Man and all those characters that I’d love to write for. I will say that I will never, ever not have creator-owned going while I do superhero ever again. That was the one moment that I really had trouble with. It was when I was starting “The Wake” and I only had “Superman [Unchained]” and “Batman” — and I’d made room for them because they were so intimidating for me to have at the same time. I love those characters and was sure I’d be okay with that, but I got very depressed very quickly and realized that without creator owned, I had no place to go that was completely my rules. No matter how well you know Superman or Batman, they will never belong to you. You’re figuring out how to make them yours when everybody owns them. With creator-owned books, no one can tell you what’s wrong or right because you own them, you know best. Having that freedom to me, and that creative outlet where I can push myself way beyond anything, I’ll never have that lacking while I do licensed stuff again.
Well, the success of the book is well-deserved, and speaking of “Wytches” future — the film is coming! Since this is such a personal project for you, are you able to have any input on the film that is in development? And is that something you’d want?
I’m okay with them taking it and doing anything they want as long as they’re passionate about the interpretation. Jock and I didn’t fight to have a lot of creative control over it because we get to have absolute control over the book and it exists in that form. Trying to make that in film, unless you’re going to write it and control it at every level, probably isn’t worth it. The great thing about it is that the screenwriter — I can’t say who it is — Plan B hired is someone we both love. He opted to get in touch with us to walk through what he was thinking, and since then we’ve been in contact with him. He actually came up with a couple of things, like having deep in the burrow these very old wytches that are rooted to the ground. I was like, “That’s actually in the comic!” But it wasn’t in the comic at all, so I laughed with him after and asked to steal it. He completely understands.
The films he’s done are very much about the guilt, fear and wonder of parenthood. Plan B has been great about keeping us involved about where it stands and asking what we think. We’ve been quite involved in a way I didn’t think we would be, but am excited about.
Have you met Brad Pitt yet?
No! That’s my wife’s one thing — she wants to meet Brad Pitt and I want to meet him first! We’d both fangirl/fanboy-out if we got to. So as much as I hate to admit it, we have not yet, but from your lips to Brad Pitt’s ears.
Getting back to the series, there’s a cinematic reveal in issue #4 that reveals the wytches for the first time. What was your reaction when Jock showed you the artwork?
Oh my god. Just… blown away. The first time he sent it — well, the first sketch I sent him was on the back of a calendar. I told him that I thought they should be human but odd, and he came back with this sense of them being twisted and unnatural. Their faces would be pulled in a way, and I said perfect, let’s put them on their sides. That will be the defining feature, the faces on the sides of their skulls so they can peek at you around trees very fast in this predatory way. There are wytches we haven’t seen yet that live deep within the burrows. They are older and have a more sort of hardened skin on their backs and necks. You can get a slight sense of it on the variant cover that Bill Sienkiewicz did. There’s this whole set of them. They’re androgynous and, ultimately, the thing that was really fun was making the features utilitarian. There are reasons they look the way they do. For example, when they come out into the light, their eyes are extremely pale. In the burrow where it’s dark, they have misshapen, big pupils. We thought of lots of things like that to keep it creepy and fun. Jock outdoes himself every issue. When you see the wytches that live deep in the burrow — oh my god. I can’t believe he made it and he has children in the house.
And so do you! It is such a dark book.
It’s a painfully dark book to write constantly. In some ways I wonder if it’s too much personal information — not that the stuff inside is exactly what’s happened to me, but it’s an extension of feelings or reactions I’ve had.
When you finish writing “Wytches,” what do you to to shake off that time in the darkness?
It’s weird. Its cathartic to write it. While I’m doing it, I’m troubled by it. It’s hard to know if I’m going too far sometimes, or if its too personal, but then I just go there. Afterwards it feels like I’ve gotten something off my chest. It’s very rewarding for me to write things like that. The process can be embarrassing or painful in certain ways, but it’s worth it.
There is such a sense of menace and surrealism in the series, including several points in issue #4 that have a very tense pacing. What is your collaboration process like with Jock and what is it like to see those pages for the first time after he illustrates them?
The thing with Jock and the way we work is that I’ll walk him through the issue over the phone first. I’ll tell him like, “This section is going to be a lot of intercutting, but the key thing is to turn the knob so the tension is really tight when it comes to the sense of how dark Charlie is getting and how Sailor is struggling against the darkness of the burrow.” I want the pull to be on this determined, heroic, defiant moment and he’s the villain, and then surprise with the wytches. We’ll talk it through and when I write, I panel it but I keep it pretty loose. I remind him with notes like that, about what the scene is about, so when it comes back it’s just so exciting. It’s always beyond what I expected.
We really try to understand together what things are about before the structure, and he always has the latitude to change anything structurally or visually. Sometimes things will look different but it’s always to get to that feeling we discussed. There hasn’t been a single page where I’ve been like, “Can you redo this?” He’s one of the best and, on top of that, he’s one of the hardest on himself. He redrew the wytches many times and he’ll draw things up and down. He’ll show me a page and by the time I respond, he’ll already have a new draft of it. Matt [Hollingsworth] too. The coloring is amazing and Clem [Robins], the letterer — they both throw so much into the story. They come with ideas and Matt has a really special logic to the way he colors the book and how the splatter colors represent different emotional turmoil. He sent us a whole bible on why he’s doing it the way he’s doing it.
Even though the events in “Wytches” are really scary, Charlie is getting exactly what he wants in terms of his daughter, Sailor, being okay. We see her being strong, capable and able to overcome her fears to take action, which is what he’s expressed that he needs her to do above anything else. On some level, is that a victory?
It’s definitely meant to be a victory. It plays out more in the next two issues, but you’ll come to see that who Charlie is being hard on there and who he’s really yelling at is himself, not her. As a father, believe me, these things come a lot. I’ve gone through that as an anxious kid and as someone who has anxiety. You can’t stop worrying about your kids and when you see them upset about something, you get angry because you have no way of stopping yourself from worrying more. Then, for me, the thing that’s the victory for Sailor is that Charlie comes to understand that the way she worries isn’t something she has full control over, but when she has a challenge in front of her, she rises to that challenge. She’s somebody to be real proud of. As dark as it gets, there is a lot of victory in it for both of them.
The back matter of each issue of “Wytches” asks the title “Who would you pledge?” I’m curious about what you would pledge.
That’s interesting. I get a lot of questions about who I would pledge, and I have a lot of letters saying stuff like, “I’m pledging my roommate because, you know what? I can’t stand the way he eats!” But if there was a thing I could get rid of in myself, or the way I think the book is deeply about the things we wish for that we don’t want to admit we wish for — if there was a thing I could stop thinking about would be this tremendous fear of death that runs through everything I do and is clearly there in the book. The thing about being a parent is that you can be as not worried about yourself as you grow older, but once you have a child, you’re vulnerable to the world in ways you never expected. It makes you feel so unprotected and you see things falling away that you didn’t see before. For me, I’ve never experienced the level of joy that I’ve experienced with my kids, it’s like it’s opened a different color palette of emotions. On the other end of that, the darker colors of that are new, too. The fear of losing a kid. The anger of feeling like you have to be selfless because you’d be so much more hurt if anything happened to that kid over you. It makes me feel mortal. That fear that runs through my life since even before I had kids, it’s the lynchpin of my anxiety. The things I get obsessed about are aging, illness, time passing too fast. I wish I could get rid of that and just be more okay with the ephemeral nature of it all. I always worry about what I’m going to lose, who is going to get sick, my kids growing too fast. I have a very hard time relaxing and saying things are good right now and being happy with it. I wish I was better at that for my sake and everyone’s sake.
“Wytches” #4 from Image Comics is on sale now.
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