[Interview] Scott Snyder Talks Deep Sea Terror In ‘The Wake’

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With “The Wake”, writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy are throwing back to classic oceanic myths and legends to deliver a sprawling deep-sea horror story. Even before Lovecraft, the fear of what lurks beneath has been potent in human history, and with “The Wake” Snyder offers his take on the horror from below. The story follows Lee Archer, a marine biologist who is called to assist with the discovery of a new creature from the deep.

The sci-fi/horror epic kicked off last month, and issue two hits shops today, June 26. Snyder took the time to chat about his love for deep-sea legends, creating a mythical creature, and working with Sean Murphy.

Bloody-disgusting: For those who haven’t picked up the first issue yet, tell us a bit about Lee Archer and how she gets involved in this creepy deep sea mission.

Scott Snyder: Lee is basically a marine biologist. She specializes aquatic mammals and their vocalization. So she’s kind of on the outs with the organization she used to work for, but she gets called by the government to come investigate a mysterious sound they found at the bottom of the ocean. She goes and meets the other people they’ve assembled to investigate, and she realizes there is a much bigger mystery at stake, and a much bigger discovery down there than they initially lead on. That’s as much as I’d give away for those who haven’t read the first issue. It’s also a story that has a big science fiction, post-apocalyptic component that will come into play as we go forward in the story.

BD: You’ve described their underwater base as a haunted house at the bottom of the ocean, which is a really interesting concept. How did this come about?

SS: For me, issue two really begins the sort of haunting of the rig in a really big way. So you’ll see specifically in a more literal sense what I’m talking about in that issue. The way it came up was that to me, there are only a few environments left in the world that are truly threatening because they are so deadly and unexplored, and the bottom of the ocean is the one, for me, that inspires the most terror and wonder. It’s so close to us, yet there is so much that is unknown. With the things that could be hiding down there in the darkness, it seems like a ripe environment to do horror and when you’re isolated in a place like that, where you’re completely cut off from everybody, it feel like the kind of landscape where it’d be really easy to start to believe that things are happening that might seem implausible on the surface. So that’s kind of the genesis of the idea and it takes big colorful and horrific form in issue two.

BD: I’ve always found the ocean to be terrifying, probably because I read so much lovecraft when I was younger.

SS: I love Loveraft. I went to school in providence and his resting place is right there.

BD: That’s so cool! I’d love to visit that. It seems that this notion that the depths of the ocean harbor sinister secrets is kind of making a resurgence in pop culture recently. Do you have any thoughts as to why now this is more relevant again?

SS: I think part of it is that we take the ocean for granted. The fact is that with global warming and all this stuff, there’s the threat of the ocean sort of rebelling with storms and flooding, and with all of this sudden awareness of how violent and powerful the forces of nature can be, it seems more urgent to take a look at it and how we can preserve them and be respectful of them. But also to protect ourselves from the environmental dangers that are new to our era.

BD: I love this notion that you’re playing with about the creature being a “raindrop” from issue #2, in that it’s responsible for a lot of mythologies and folklore. Can you elaborate on this?

SS: My thinking is that I’ve always loved myths of the sea. My parents, my dad actually, has a little globe from when I was a kid that was sort of a replica of one of these antiquated visions of the globe with sea serpents and the new world and all of this stuff painted on it. That idea of the kind of legends and folklore that the sea has inspired in so many different cultures across the world for thousands and thousands of years, it’s such a fascinating territory to explore. So, for me, it came about creating a creature that we could link to the most potent myth like sirens, mermaids, the Kraken, sea serpents and yet, at the same time, be sort of real and evolutionary. I wanted to explore a reason why we have myths that overlap, and legends that seem like they come from the sightings of one thing but are just from separate cultures. Part of the fun was creating a creature that would be this raindrop that begins a system of myths about creatures that have some kind of humanoid quality, but live deep in the ocean.

BD: It seems like you’ve put so much research into it, but after hearing that it feels like this has been in your mind since childhood. So what was the balance between research and pure fiction?

SS: It’s a bit of both. I definitely did a lot of research with Sean. We had fun looking up legends of the sea and we ordered books on amazon. It’s funny you can buy books that are sea legends for like 2 cents, these old paper backs and they’re really fun. So we got a couple encyclopedic books and looked through them to try to find creatures that we could build this one from, or new ideas we hadn’t heard. Then I did the research on the plausibility of something as an offshoot from an evolutionary branch of man from ancient times. I tried to bend the science to be as plausible as possible, to make in not unreasonable. And then you have your creature.

I think the best horror for me, the best monsters, in terms of their designs and their stories, are things that exist right on the cusp of plausibility. So it’s like you think maybe this thing can be out there, and our science almost supports it. That’s why I love doing evolutionary spin on things like in American Vampire, or here doing it a human history take on mermaids and all that kind of stuff. It inserts them into a possible lineage and it makes them feel almost like they could exist and that’s really scary as an adult you know these things cant be out there, but somebody makes it seem possible because they link these things back to science.

BD: You write with both The Wake and American Vampire with all this science background but it’s no too heavy on the exposition. How much back-story do you have in mind and how much gets out there?

SS: The scope of the backstory for this one is going to be really explored in the story itself because it becomes really urgent to figuring out how to understand what it is saying. One of the big mysteries of this story is that this creature is saying something, and part of the reason the hero studies vocalizations is because she thinks she might be able to unlock what this thing is saying over and over again. There is a message that lies at the core of the story from this monster and in that way you’ll get to see a lot more of what she figures out about what this thing is saying and its backstory.

BD: I know you don’t want to give too much away, but you jump across time quite a bit. Is there anything you can tell us about how they’ll tie together?

SS: They’ll definitely tie together, I’ll give that away [laughs]. The glimpses you’ll get of the future will be fully explored soon. You’ll get a big exploration of that world, but I cant give away why or how they link up.

BD: Sean mentioned in an interview with Comics Vine back in April that water is like another character for him. How does this come into play?

SS: That’s really Sean’s magic in the book. One of the major contributions he made to it is how incredibly expressive and terrifying and wondering he makes the oceans. Sean, to me, is just a genius. I told him the idea for this book probably about three years ago now, and I could have done it with somebody else, he could have gone and done other things, but once we talked about it we immediately wanted to do it together. There’s nobody I thought of about doing this other than him for those reasons. He’s an amazing world builder and he does the intimate scene so well that I felt like he would be great for depicting a bunch of people trapped at the bottom of the ocean with a horrifying thing. And for these other parts that we see the glimpses of in the future. There’s so much that he brings to the book. Story wise, he’s a great writer. And Matt Hollingsworth, he’s also a genius. I could write the phonebook and these guys would make it awesome.

BD: His coloring adds such texture.

SS: The layering is just phenomenal.

BD: You guys have such an incredible synergy. You seem to bring out the best in each other. What’s your collaborative process like?

SS: Thanks for saying that. It’s different with everybody, but I think the key for me is just working with guys that I really both admire and am inspired by as colleagues, but also just get along with as friends. Sean, I met him about 3 years ago when he was doing Joe, and I was about to start American Vampire. I told the guys at Vertigo how much I liked his stuff and then I went out for drink with him in Brooklyn, and we just hit it off. Same thing with Rafael on American Vampire, we talked way before we did anything and hit off, and Greg on Batman. I just feel like it’s important to get to know each other and see if you gel and like the idea you’re going for together.

At the end of the day, my feeling is with Sean that we have a synergy. I know how to give him something he’s going to love working with in terms of how much I give him on the page. Because he’s also a writer, I can leave a lot of space for him. With the raindrop page that you’ll see in issue two, where you’ll see some of the mythology, all I gave him were the myths and the dialogue and just said show this however you want. And then he came up with this amazing design. Whereas with someone like Rafael, a lot of the time, those parts I describe in more detail, but action sequences I leave up to him because I know he loves designing those. It’s about finding your synergy with somebody, but all the guys and women I work with, it’s just important for you to genuinely like each other. It’s a great blessing to be able to work with people you love. We hang out outside of this when we’re not working, so it’s nice.

BD: Do you have anything else these horror fans to know?

SS: I will just say thanks so much for reading this book. The horror and gore will gear up! I promise. The body counts rise dramatically. And I want to say thanks. Bloody-Disgusting has been incredibly supportive for us. Since I started American Vampire, you guys were one of our first reviews. So thanks to you guys who work there and to the readership.