Last week, Scott Snyder wrapped up his epic 18-issue run on Swamp Thing. Prior to Snyder’s venture with Alec Holland, Swamp Thing was hadn’t had a solid storyline for years. Now, Swamp Thing is a key figure in the DCU, and his mythology is richer than ever. Although Snyder is done with the character, the series has thrived since the beginning of the New 52, returning the most loveable monster in the DCU to horror fans.
Scott Snyder chatted with Bloody-disgusting about his feelings on concluding “Swamp Thing”, his new horror series “The Wake” from Vertigo, bringing psychological horror to Superman, and his deep love for horror films. Check it all out after the jump.
BD: It seems the main reason you are finished on swamp thing because you finished telling the story you set out to tell. How do you feel wrapping up your Swamp Thing chapter?
Snyder: It’s all these feelings at once, it’s heartbreaking and it’s also kind of exhilarating because I got to do this story with Yanick that we set out to do. The tough thing is that, toward the end, I started getting ideas for new stories that I’d love to tell. But the truth is that without Yanick as my partner, I really felt like we came in as a team and we should go out as a team. Plus I have so much else on my plate with Batman, Superman, and American Vampire coming back soon. I was worried Swamp Thing would be suffer because I still had to develop these ideas. I realized that my ideas weren’t quite up to speed, and I wouldn’t be doing justice to the character by doing that. It’s a character I think demands a certain level of rebellion and bravado and boldness and fearlessness, so I’d rather give it to some one new. Hearing what Charles has planned, I’m really excited to see the direction he goes. With a book like this, each writer should do their version that redefines what came before.
BD: Swamp thing is definitely a character where writers take a lot of risks. Do you feel you were able to take the risks you wanted to take?
Snyder: Yeah, well Swamp Thing didn’t even show up in the book for six issues. So I think we took risks that DC was very generous about. I’m grateful for having been allowed to take risks. Hopefully people have liked our take on the mythology with the rot, and the human being beneath the mantel, and when the human body dies they go into the parliament. Vertigo was also very supportive of brainstorming with me. People like Karen Berger, and those guys, who did Swamp Thing before, were wonderful with helping out on some of these ideas.
BD: Did writing Swamp Thing give you a new outlook on the mythology then?
Snyder: Yeah, I definitely feel I got a better handle on the mythology. You realize you are writing a character how rich a lot of the layers from the stories that have come before. There’s the Alan moore and the Len Wein of course, but beyond that there’s Andy Diggle and more contemporary writers that were so great. There’s a tradition of people taking the character and doing something wild with him. For me, what I hope I contributed was just an iteration of the character that had a deeper history, something that I like to do with all my work.
I think the thing I’m proudest of in the book is how human Swamp Thing is. If you go back, no matter who was writing the book, its always about someone who has been struggling with internal monsters as a human being, even when he was revealed not to have ever been one. The thing I’m proudest of is being able to do a story about Alec Holland and to reveal that he was always chosen to be Swamp Thing, to really develop that sense of destiny. It really was a chance to get deeper into Alec Holland the human and I’m proud of that element of our story and how well Yanick translated that. He developed a whole new visual language for himself on the book with the layouts and the borders. Hopefully in the trade they will publish some of his notes about all the little symbols and the covers and the borders and the coloring he asked for. He’s just been an amazing inspiration to work with.
BD: I was surprised that the first few issues really focused on Alec as a human. At first I was like, “where is Swamp Thing?” But I love the way you took that human side and brought him back so that we could see who was behind the Swamp Thing mantel.
Snyder: Thanks man! That means a lot to use because we were so nervous about it. DC was nervous too because there was so little Swamp Thing in a book called “Swamp Thing”. It’s really about Alec having to come to terms with the relationship with the green, which has been there long before he ever even became Swamp Thing. His connection to it is something that comes with a set of responsibilities that he had to choose to take on or avoid. So it’s a story of a man who has to learn, that to become a hero, he has to become a monster.
BD: Your run on Swamp Thing has been far less episodic than previous writers who took it on. This is the way you approach your other books too, but why do you move toward this type of storytelling?
Snyder: I just gravitate toward longer stories. I was joking around the other day with Scott Lobdell and he called me out. I was telling him about my Superman story and he was like, “Every story you do has to be a huge, long form narrative”. But for me I just love that format. And I’ve always loved those big epic arcs in comics, once you sign in, you’re in it for almost a whole TV season. There are little arcs, but it builds and builds to a point. That’s just the kind of way I build my stories. I love little arcs too, there’s a two issue one coming up in Batman, and American Vampire has had some smaller ones, but my favorite are the big epic arcs.
BD: I suppose writing those longer story arcs allows you to play with the secondary characters more, which you did quite a lot of with Swamp Thing. You brought in Abby and really explored her character and what she meant to Alec.
Snyder: One of the things I loved about past Swamp Thing books was that it was relatively episodic and I enjoyed how it was compartmentalized with sub plots that would come to a head. Part of the idea for me was to weave characters into the story that play a big role in this particular story about the rot and the green and the red, bring them in in away that everything was innate for all of them at once, to get that big singular thread. I had this idea for Abby form the start that she would play a bigger role than she had in the past. Giving her the connections to the rot and her destiny, together with Alec, and creating a mythology around that. I’m really happy that we did that with the book, and I hope people enjoy who Abby has become and where she is now in continuity. Even Anton too, for all his evil, we were trying to set him up and add layers.
BD: For Rot World you got to work closely with Jeff Lemire, and obviously you guys are good friends. How was working so closely with him?
Snyder: It was great. He’s kind of secretly worked with me on everything because I send him all my scripts, he’s like my first line of defense. So it was really pretty effortless to do this with him. It was a pleasure; we could just stay up late and joke around about horrible things coming up in the issues. It was almost like childhood fun.
BD: Any chance you’ll be working anything as co-writers in the future?
Snyder: We’re talking about it, we’d love to work together again in superhero comics. I can tell you that I would bet on us doing something again together in the next year.
BD: Is there anything else you want to say about Swamp Thing as a farewell?
Snyder: I’d just like to say thanks. Swamp Thing is a character that as a kid I used to trace, the Bernie Wrightson issues. I wanted to be a comic book artist before I fell into writing and that book formed some of my earliest inspirations in visual storytelling. When I got to work on it, I remember pushing for him before the New 52, and when I go the chance to do it the way I had been pushing for, I was terrified! Honestly, I was so excited that I was really scared. I would call Lemire late at night and be like, “I cant believe I’m fucking doing this! I’m going to fall on my face, I’ll never live up to people who came before”. And he would be like, “Well you have to go in there and write it to strike a chord, but also to make it radically your own”.
Just that people responded so well and have been so supportive means the world to me and everyone on the team. There aren’t a lot of monster or horror books in the DCU, so the fact that this was supported so much really warms all of our hearts.
BD: You’re on a bit of break with American Vampire, Swamp Thing is done, Death of the Family is over. Where will horror fans get their Scott Snyder fix?
Snyder: My new book, The Wake, which starts this year, is really dark horror blended with sci fi in the tradition of some of my favorite films. That idea is really about a discovery made at the bottom of the ocean that holds some of the keys to understanding the sea and this mythology that has existed for thousands and thousands of years with different cultures. And that discovery turns out to be really terrifying. So I was doing that with Sean Murphy and it will start at the end of 2013. I just saw the first pages for it and it’s really something I couldn’t be prouder of. It’s got a lot of horror. And American Vampire comes back in the fall. Batman, we’re going on our most ambitious story every starting with issue #21, and when they announce it, it’s definitely the one that we are taking the biggest risks on and using big characters and really trying to do something that you guys will think is special. And even Superman, there’s no gore or horror in that sense, he’s not cutting his face off or anything, but at the same time there is definitely psychological horror in the book. My favorite stories are the ones where characters have to face their worst nightmares about themselves. So it might not have the gothic drippings of Gotham or the Americana darkness of Swamp Thing, but it has a lot of dark undertones and some horrific situations.
BD: The Wake seems like I has some Lovecraftian influences.
Snyder: Yeah, definitely. I’m a huge Lovecraft fan. I went to college in Providence, where his grave is, and I read a ton of his work in school and continued after that. It’s in the DNA of The Wake.
BD: Obviously you’re ridiculously busy writing everything for Vertigo and DC. But are there any other characters from the dark lineup you’d like to write?
Snyder: Yeah! I’d love to write Etrigan, though the rhyming scares me a bit. I’d loved to write Zatana, I’ve always enjoyed the magic characters even though I’m intimidated by them because of the writers that have worked on them. I’d love to do some of the villains as well like Scarecrow. We’re going to be doing a big Riddler story in Batman. I’ve always leaned toward the darker characters in some ways. Which is why I think superman should be a lot of fun because I really love the character and I think I have a chance to do something dark in nature with him.
BD: Now I often ask this to comic writers just because I’m curious, could you list your top five favorite horror movies?
Snyder: Night of the Living Dead, the original is my favorite, bar none. There was a video store I used to go to called The Video Stop, that just closed down, and they wouldn’t rent R rated movies to kids, but they would deliver them to your house if you ordered them. I used to order so many slasher movies to my house. I was a huge horror buff. I watched all kinds of cheesy 80s horror and worked my way back into better horror. I didn’t even want to see Night of the Living Dead, but it was a big hole in my horror knowledge, and I wasn’t 12 or 13 til I watched it and it scared the shit out of me. It didn’t hit me til after how spooky it was. It’s just so relentlessly moving and cold, they set up all these characters you think will survive and they don’t. It was so small and claustrophobic and tight and the zombies with their march of death. Ah, it was the first movie that really gave me nightmares.
The Shinning is probably in my top three because that’s Kubrick and Stephen king at his best. He’s so good taking something that is a totem of safety, that you find to be your home, like your father in the Shinning, or your car in Christine, or your dog in Cujo and turning those things into something evil. There’s nothing scarier when you set up that emotional connection. The idea of your father coming after you with axe is so frightening. Both as a child and as an adult.
The old Frankenstein for me is one of my top. It’s my favorite book of all time, and to see something so radically different from the source material that I love, but also so incredibly moving and creepy and dark. All those really off kilter monster movies from that time, but Frankenstein holds a special place in my heart, a strange compassion and empathy. It’s also just a creepy horror story. So those are probably my favorites.
If I have to name a favorite contemporary horror film, that’s tough. I loved a lot of recent horror, like The Descent. I liked Zack Snyder’s Dawn remake, 28 Days Later.
BD: What was the one you liked most recently?
Snyder: I’ll tell you a horrible dad story. When my baby was first born, he would sleep for stretches of four hours and you could not wake him up no matter what. He would sleep like a rock. And I was like, “you know what? I’m going to see a horror movie, I’m just gonna go do it”. I think it was Cabin in the Woods. I made it to the theatre and got my ticket and I was like I’m the worst dad, I can’t do this. This is going to seep into his brain and I can’t do it. The people selling me the ticket just gave me that look like, “you’re a terrible father”. So I came close to bringing my kid to a horror movie. I love horror very deeply, so I’ll say that.
BD: Thanks so much for chatting, Scott. As always, we really look forward to what you have coming up.