EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo Give Us Insight Into “Green Wake”

Once in a while I wake up with a hangover wondering, “Where the hell am I?” Luckily that hasn’t happened to me in a while, and I hope the answer will never be Green Wake. Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo have brought us “GREEN WAKE”, published by Image Comics, the tale of a mysterious town whose residents have started turning up dead. It is Morely Mack’s mission to figure out who is behind the murders and he isn’t the only one with questions, I have some too. So keep reading for some clues behind this unusual story of a man, a murderer, and a hell of a lot of frogs.

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Johnny_Trouble: Kurtis, I would like to thank you and Riley for agreeing to the interview for “GREEN WAKE”.

Kurtis: Thanks for the interest in our series. Hopefully we can shed some light on “GREEN WAKE”. I’ll warn you, it’s not likely haha!

Johnny_Trouble: The comic takes its name from the town you have created in the story. In “GREEN WAKE” it is always nighttime, the town seems ageless, and it almost seems like purgatory. What influenced you to create the town this way?

Kurtis: The town itself was always the crux of the story. When I first came up with the idea, it was about a PI that was investigating a missing woman case that leads him to this strange town where the citizens worship an ancient, forgotten god. Riley and I liked the idea of an otherworldly town as a backdrop to the narrative, so we spent most of our time developing the details of Green Wake: who would live there, how one arrives and how one can leave.

We started to see that the town itself presented a huge history and mythology for us to play with, so we focused our energy on creating a unique, mysterious location for the story to unfold in. All the little touches you mention are the product of hours of talking about the town and how Riley and I could make it seem strange and very old with a long history.

Johnny_Trouble: Morely Mack is the main character; he is haunted by his past, and the accidental death of his lover Anna. When inducted into Green Wake he ends up being a cop there, along with his partner Kreiger. They not only serve as the police force but they also help the new arrivals to the town. What would you say makes him stand out from the rest of the population?

Kurtis: Morley is a thinker. He has accepted his fate in Green Wake, but he’s never stopped asking the important questions.

In that way, he’s very different. Everyone else just shuts themselves away, or, at the very least, carry on very superficial, empty lives.

When the murders start to happen, Morley sees a break from the status quo. Something has changed in Green Wake and at the end of the road, there might be some answers. He’s also constantly reflecting on his past, trying to make up for the loss of his wife by being a help to those he can offer assistance to. A lot of his motivations are revealed through his narrative in the flashbacks, which will be a continuing device throughout the series.

Johnny_Trouble: In the storyline most of the patrons of Green Wake seem to be stuck in the city because of something they regret, would you say this is true or are there other ways to end up in Green Wake?

Kurtis: There’s a thread to ties all the citizens of Green Wake together. That is a pretty important story element, a question that will be answered, but as to finding other ways to this town, people will have to read on to find out.

Green Wake is a difficult series to interview about because so many of the questions people have are tied into the mythology and slow reveal we have planned.

I can say this: What ties the people of Green Wake together, what leads them to this town, it happens to each individual differently. Morley loses his wife, and we assume that is what leads him to Green Wake. For any of the other characters, the circumstances are quite different. Again, that is part of the mystery.

Johnny_Trouble: The citizens of Green Wake all seem to be turning into frogs over time, there are frogs everywhere throughout the town, and frogs also surround Morely when he is taken to the town. What’s with all of the frogs?

Kurtis: They look good.

And, more than that, they serve both as metaphor and narrative devices. People are going to get an answer as to what the frogs are in Issue #2, maybe not a completely direct one as no one in Green Wake really understands what is happening there, but some citizens that have been there for quite some time will be offering their insights.

Johnny_Trouble: Ariel is the main suspect for the murders in Green Wake; she is trying to get to Babylon, which is the only place to go to get out of the town. In the series so far she seems to try to escape reality through momentary pleasures such as sex and drugs, yet she is unable to escape the regrets she had in life. What does Babylon stand for in the series? Also will we see more of her story in the future?

Kurtis: Ariel has a very important part to play in “GREEN WAKE”, and she will definitely get more time in the upcoming issues. Why she’s in town, and her connection to Carl, become more prevalent as the story unfolds. We have a brief introduction to their history together, told from Carl’s perspective in the first issue. They were once lovers, and things went sour. We will be revealing that history, as well as many of Green Wake’s secrets.

Babylon is the rumored way out of Green Wake. If you can find Babylon, you find your way home. Morley alludes to Carl that it’s a myth, that there really is no way out of Green Wake and you have to accept your lot in life when you wake up on her shores.

We answer that question, as well. What it is, and, more specifically, where you can find Babylon, are important to the story arcs of each of our characters and will be revealed by the end of the series.

See what I mean? Answers without answers.

Johnny_Trouble: Riley, you have given an eerie glow to Green Wake, a town that seems to transcend time. What were some of the goals you had creating the look and feel of the city?

Riley Rossmo: When I started this project I was, and still am, working on how to make a comic really unsettling, I thought a perpetual twilight would work the best. I wanted the city to always have the feeling that the sun was just about to dip under the horizon. The architecture is mostly a derivative of turn of the century row housing with a strong British influence. While doing the Julia Arc of “PROOF”, Alex and I gathered a lot of reference from London around the turn of the century. I really enjoyed drawing it, so I applied some of that to Green Wake. I also try to make all the buildings a tad bit out of alignment in relation to each other. I try to give the impression there are no straight streets and very few one-story buildings as well, so the characters always have structures looming over them. Kurtis and I talked a lot about the look and what to borrow from aesthetically. I used a lot of films for inspiration “M”, “NAKED LUNCH”, “TWIN PEAKS”, “DARK CITY”, ect.

Johnny_Trouble: With some of the characters that look like frogs, what features did you focus on when making sure they seemed to have amphibian qualities?

Riley Rossmo: That was kind of tough, Hayao Miyazaki has some pretty interesting frog creatures in “SPIRITED AWAY”, and while I used that as a springboard to my designs I wanted to get away from his frog look. The features are kind of an evolution the first feature that manifests is blotchy patterns on an individuals skin, second is the widening of the afflicted individuals mouths, and the third is lose of hair, ears, and the widening of the eyes. I think the eyes are the feature that is the weirdest, like in issue #2 when we meet Green Wake’s oldest bipedal inhabitant.

Ariel, the main suspect, has bright flowing red hair. She is the only one who stands out in this way. Is this done to make her easy to identify or is there a bigger purpose behind this?

Riley Rossmo: Ariel was the hardest character to figure out, I had no Idea how to represent her. The hair was kind of an accident to start. However, as I spent more time with her, it grew more appropriate from a design standpoint and also from a story standpoint. Red represents violence and emotion for the most part in Green Wake, and Ariel is at the center of that in the story, plus it looks a bit fiery.

Johnny_Trouble: Was there anything you drew inspiration from when creating the art for this series?

Riley Rossmo: A lot from film, “TWIN PEAKS”, “ALIENS”, “NAKED LUNCH”, Ramsey Campbell’s “HUNGRY MOON”, Francis Bacon, “DARK CITY”, Hayao Miyazaki, Ben Templesmith, Bernie Wrightson. “GREEN WAKE” is kind of the culmination of a lot of things I’ve wanted to express in comics.

The monsters are really hard to design its really important to me that the monsters have a slight gross factor but I’m more concerned that they have lasting visual impact. I went to Body Worlds, an exhibit of plasticized cadavers arranged in various stages of dissection. It really inspired me to mix and match anatomy to make the creatures of Green Wake, as well as a photographer Joel-Peter Witkin who buys and rearranges cadavers in his photos.

Johnny_Trouble: How did you end up teaming up with Kurtis for this project?

Riley Rossmo: He and I talked about doing something as a back up in Proof, but I was too busy for a while trying to get out “COWBOY, NINJA, VIKING” at the same time. I did a few paintings a year of so ago of Kreiger, and an early version of Ariel, but they didn’t really gel. So I left it, a while went by and I wanted to make something really scary, “PROOF” was wrapping up so Kurtis and I talked. I did another 6 or 7 paintings to get the feel of the world, and we pitched it.

Image has been releasing some amazing new comics lately, and “GREEN WAKE” is definitely one of them. If you like mysteries and unique visuals, this comic is something you should check out. The first issue is available now, and Issue #2 hits shelves on May 4th. I look forward to see where this series is headed; Kurtis’ writing and Riley’s art have come together to create a world that will leave you with questions, but few answers.