Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, who had a popular run on American Vampire, are coming back to both Vertigo and to horror with The Wake, a limited series arriving in May about something lurking deep within the ocean. Snyder and Murphy sat down for a light-hearted chat about scientific research, the ocean, and dodging our every attempt to get more spoilers out of them. We’ve also included a few preview pages to whet your appetite.
Gamma Squad: You’ve worked together before on American Vampire. Did you find you’d gotten into a rhythm the second time around?
Scott Snyder: I think so. We’re good friends outside of comics. We talk ideas, I just called Sean yesterday to see what he thought of two takes on a scene. We’re pretty close; Sean isn’t just an artist, he’s a great writer in his own right. I feel comfortable just talking story with him.
Sean Murphy: I agree! Because we trust each other, his scripts are a bit more bare. He’ll even say “Sean, I’m not going to describe this, because you know what you’re doing. I’ll just put down the dialogue.” So that saves him time and makes my work more interesting. We’re definitely firing on all cylinders here!
Gamma Squad: The ocean is a very different world. Any artistic challenges in there?
Snyder: Writing-wise, the fun is that the ocean is this environment that’s at once incredibly hostile and terrifying and last unknown landscape left. So much of it is undiscovered and so much of it is crushingly deadly to us. I think it lends itself very easily to the kinds of stories that I love, scary ones. But on top of that it’s a place of incredible wonder and mystery, and if there are any answers to some of the bigger questions that we have, about our origins and about our fate in terms of the planet, they lie in the ocean. In that way, as this undiscovered country, it’s a source of both wonder and terror that’s been really interesting to me personally.
Murphy: As for me, I’ve always wanted to do a book that takes place underwater. Any excuse to draw a submarine or scuba gear, I love that. And then books like The Underwater Welder come out, I’m like “Aw, man, I would love to do something like that someday!” But working in mainstream comics, you don’t usually get stuff like that, and if you do, it’s something like Namor or Aquaman, it’s not quite reality-based. And even though this is sci-fi, it sort of is tied to reality, and Scott has injected a lot of science into it, which I can really sink my teeth into.
Gamma Squad: Speaking of science, what kind of scientific research did you go into for the book?
Snyder: I sometimes feel like I should have a degree in comic-book science. My Google looks like the most insane research ever: looking up pressurized acclimation traps for bringing things up from the deep sea, sonic weaponry, how would you fly on makeshift wings, is there armor for dolphins… I think part of the fun is creating a world that’s both fascinatingly out of reach but just a tiny bit. For me it was about researching the possibility of some creature existing down there that could unlock some mysteries behind oceanic folklore. So I did research into different kinds of folklore, marine biology…
When I was in school, I had a teacher who loved to quote writers, and one that really stayed with me was he went to a lecture with E.L. Doctorow, who was asked how much research he did for his historical fiction, and Doctorow replied “As little as possible.”
And so I think with this, part of the fun has been to do just enough research so it’s plausible, but allow yourself to be speculative and imaginative with it. (laughs)
Murphy: Yesterday we were talking… I’m interested in science a lot as well, I had to do my own work for Punk Rock Jesus about cloning and algae and all that stuff. Yesterday Scott called up and asked “Do you know about the aquatic ape theory?” and I said “Yeah.”
Snyder: (laughs) That makes us the two people who know about it.
Murphy: “Just saw a documentary on it last month!” (laughs) It’s been good that we’ve both been sort of wired for this stuff already. I find it helpful. And as far as the other bits of the job… the other day I was drawing a submarine docking with… something… underwater, and I had to figure out how this mechanism worked. I know what the basic comic book thing to do would be, but I started looking at how a space shuttle docks and the arms that they use. Even if nobody notices that, I hope they can feel the difference in what we’re doing in The Wake on some level.
Gamma Squad: Obligatory spoilers question: Speaking of the aquatic ape theory… does that tie into the book at all?
Snyder: When you said that, Sean, I was thinking “Shhhhh!” (laughs) The story has to do with a discovery that’s made at the bottom of the ocean that essentially makes us question everything about ourselves and our status on the evolutionary chart. So, without giving too much away, yes! It is part of the fun, with the science of it.
Murphy: I don’t think it’s a spoiler, it’s too vague. (laughs)
Snyder: Have you heard of the aquatic parrot?
The Wake will be available next month… but here are a few preview pages, including that dolphin armor.