Only two issues deep into the terrifying tale of good intentions gone wrong, and Scott Snyder and Jock's "Wytches" has proven to be another hit for the talented team. Filled with sympathetic characters and a rich mythology, the Image Comics series might just be one of the scariest of 2014.
Following Charlie, Lucy and Sailor Rook, "Wytches" explores the dark world of esoteric monsters and the powers that feed them -- namely, the unspeakable desires of average folks. Such desires have led young Sailor to be marked as prey for the shadowy beings, luring her away from the safety of her parents into the psychedelic, blood-splattered forest where the wytches reign supreme.
With Charlie left with a handful of strange clues and a fractured family, wondering where he can turn next to save his daughter, Snyder sheds some light on what's in store for the Rooks, while sharing an exclusive, demented preview of the upcoming third issue.
CBR News: As we head into issue #3, we've seen the family's history unfold a bit more while gaining a clearer understanding of their current misfortune. Where is everyone at as we being the next issue?
Scott Snyder: Everybody is really at a very paranoid place. Sailor is completely convinced that these things are real, and the things she's felt out there pursuing her for a very long time are really out there. She's afraid to tell her parents because of things that have happened in the past, which will come out soon. Charlie is just absolutely determined to prove that the family is under attack by somebody out there because he feels so guilty about missing the opportunity to protect Sailor from Annie, and to protect the family from real threats. Lucy is just trying to hold it all together. She's listening to what Sailor is afraid of and honoring that, while keeping in mind that these fears have to be some kind of fantasy. They are broken apart in certain ways, and they're desperately trying to stay together. Lucy and Charlie are both focused on finding Sailor, but they're coming at it from very different angles that speak to some of the secrets of what's passed between them, which will become clear very soon.
Is her mom's commitment to keeping the family safe a large influence over how the story will continue to unfold? â€¨â€¨Yeah. It's hinted at that she has secrets of her own, especially in issue #2 when you see the way that she saw her car crash. Is it what she saw or not? But there are things she's withholding, and things she's doing for private reasons because she thinks it'll make the family better off. But those decisions will come back to haunt her the same way Charlie's will come back to haunt him.
How vulnerable do the Rooks' secrets make them? Are they a liability?
Yeah, they're totally a liability. I think the idea is that getting away from the wytches means coming to terms with the things you don't want to admit to, the things you feel. In issue #1, you see Charlie react pretty strongly to Sailor when he's putting her to bed and they're talking about Annie. She says, "What if I wished it in a way that caused her to disappear?" And he tells her that it's impossible, things don't happen because you wish them. And yet the book he's writing and drawing has a lot to do with that. He's created this volume in his popular graphic novel series that's a mirror world, where wishes come true and you get anything you want. Deep down, that's what the wytches allow for -- give them what they want, and you can get things that are unnaturally acquired, things you shouldn't be able to get. In issue #3, he looks in the mirror in the end and he asks for help to find her, and it's like we begin to enter the mirror world.
Charlie really finds out everything he needs to know to save Sailor in issue #4. He has the tools he needs to go to the burrow. The horror of the situation hits him in a way that I think will surprise readers. Both what he finds out and what the burrow is and how deep it goes I think will scare people.
It seems like Sailor's bond to her father is really developing in a way that guides the story, especially with Sailor missing. What is their relationship like?
Her dad is the one that's always been the more playful one with her. He's the bigger softie, in certain ways, but he's also pretty hard on her. He encourages her not to be so afraid and hates that she's nervous so much of the time, and hates that she has the anxieties she does. It makes him afraid of the world, and that's a really big strain in the story. Her mom is the rock of the family and her father is more of the dreamer.â€¨â€¨
You've always spoken about what a personal story this is for you, especially as a parent. Is that getting stronger as the series continues?â€¨â€¨"Wytches," for me, is deeply about the fact that our desires, the things beneath the surface -- the longing, the restlessness, anger, hurt, resentment, love -- all of these things aren't expressed, but are felt. That's what the wytches respond to, like a shark smelling blood. They are out there, waiting for you to act on those things.
There's a theory in the book that comes out in issue #4 about how the wytches use their senses. They can sense restlessness and desire, and it's almost a neurological or hormonal reception. They creep closer to places where they feel it; they create burrows near places where these feelings are more intense. There's a sense of culpability: wytches are there because we allow them to be there. We go to them because we want things that we don't admit we want, and in going to them, you activate them. The haunted house is your heart. All of these things on the surface for these characters, they're really the lifeblood for the monsters themselves. They are the stuff they traffic in.
I'm thinking back on an early conversation we had about the book, and how you were keeping quiet about locations where the story would be set. Is the history of the land still factoring into the future of "Wytches?"â€¨â€¨Yeah, literally, in issue #4. With the second arc and as the series progresses, you'll see a remapping of the United States in terms of wytches. The second arc deals with people that are hunting them and travel into their burrows to get rid of them and the history of that movement. It brings in characters from this arc too, but you'll learn more about the world. For example, places with no trees, like the Southwest, are where a lot of the people that have had experiences with wytches take up. The deepest wooded and isolated places are where a lot of these burrows are, even places that are really swampy. There's a big one in Louisiana. There's a big one up in the Northwest, in Wyoming. The burrows themselves are these big, elaborate subterranean nests and there are reasons why they are where they are, and why they aren't where they're not.
The timeline has bounced between past and present. Will that continue or will we catch up to present day at some point?
Issue #4 has the most of that and after that it becomes mostly present-day story, really giving you the most penetrating glimpse into the family at their roughest time in the past, both when Lucy had her accident and when Charlie was having a rough time with the idea of a second pregnancy and with Sailor's social anxieties. I'm very proud of the issue, it's very personal for me. I hope that's clear in the book. One of the things I said in the essay in the backmatter of issue #3 is that it's definitely the most personal book I've ever written. As a father, the feelings Charlie has and the things he struggles with are things that I do, too. You worry about your kids incessantly, and that worry is born of love, but that worry doesn't go away and it can become infuriating because you can't stop it. As an artist, or someone that works in the arts, you can be an inherently selfish person, too. You want time to yourself to make things. There's something singularly kind of introspective about the process. That tether to the world and being vulnerable to the world is hard.
The thing Charlie goes through as a person, a father, an artist in the ugly moments he has are very close to my heart. I've had similar moments in my life, particularly when we were having our first kid and then our second kid, that I'm not proud of. I'm very proud of my role as a father, nothing makes me happier than being with my kids, but believe me, I've had my bad moments where I've lashed out at my own life. That's because it becomes overwhelming, and that's part of what this book is about. The witches wait for you to lash out.
Is there ever a time where you'll let your boys read "Wytches?"
It's really weird. My office is so off-limits to them. They can come in and play, but when I'm working and I have the material out, like "Wytches" or Joker with his face cut off, I try to keep them shielded from it. But it feels really schizophrenic sometimes. I'll be at their soccer game or holiday party and I'll be thinking about the stories I'm working on, and I'm like, how can I think of these horrific things during these cheerful moments? It's a weird dichotomy, so I just keep it out of my head, if they'll ever read this. Maybe they'll totally like my books and it'll be a connection between us when they're older, who knows. It's too much to process for me since they're just seven and three. They still believe in Santa and they're such -- children, you know?
I love your stories about Jack especially, and what you share in the backmatter in issue #3 with how you make the world easier for him is so great. What comics is he reading these days?
He loves "Batman Adventures." It's funny, because it's old -- it's "Batman: The Animated Series" in comics form. I've been going to my LCS since before I worked in comics, and the owner, Glen, has watched me make my way into the industry. It's a mom and pop shop, and we're very close. They had basically the entire series in long boxes, so that's his most favorite thing. He loves "Justice League" and "Justice League Unlimited" and he's just getting into "Adventure Time" and "Regular Show," which he completely adores. He's about to turn 8 and I just started reading more adult comics with him, like "Ultimate Spider-Man." I think "Superman: Secret Origin" is next.
The Rooks are currently going through the most terrifying experience of their lives. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you?
Really, as an adult, I'd have to say they all center around my kids. Jack had a health scare when he was three, and you can actually read this in the comic. We woke up one morning to take him to school, and he'd been complaining for a couple of days that his neck hurt. It was right when "American Vampire" was starting, and I'd just gotten the Jim Lee variant in my email. Anyway, I was taking him to school and he was complaining about his neck, so I looked and there was a giant lump there. So Sailor's lump has a corollary to the real world for me. I took him to the emergency room and he had to be put on an IV. We were there for three or four days. It was terrible, they had no idea what it was. They thought it was a lymphomic reaction, but they weren't sure if it was lymphoma, or maybe a pathogen, but it was just this terrible period. So my first series is coming out, and I remember just being completely disconnected from everything but that. Luckily, it was that he had been exposed to something like Chicken Pox, which he was immunized for, but his immune system had some very strange reaction. It went away, but in the moment it was horrifying. I felt completely helpless and my little kid has this IV -- just the most depressing and pathetic looking little thing. â€¨â€¨The second one that comes to mind is not far away from that. I was standing in a pool with Jack -- and I'm sure these moments are coming with the little one, Emmett -- and he was around four, about a year [after the lump scare]. My friend came out to say hello and I looked up to say hi and let go of Jack's hand. In that moment, no more than five or ten seconds, it the shortest amount of time, I turned back around and somebody was jumping into the pool behind me because Jack and gone off the step. He was underwater and I saw his hands just going under. It was my friend's aunt and she was picking him up out of the water. He was laughing, he didn't care, but for me, the image of him under the water with his hands up because I'd taken my off of him for long enough to wave -- splash, and someone is pulling your kid out of the water. He doesn't even remember, but for me it was, "Tomorrow: swimming lessons. We are never getting into the water again."
There's nothing scarier than when your kids are in danger.