Interview: How Syfy reinvigorated the ‘Wynonna Earp’ creator to expand his universe

Earlier this year, Wynonna Earp burst onto the SyFy scene with gusto. Pitched as Buffy meets Frozen in the West, the series followed Wyatt Earp”s descendant Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) as she discovers a deadly curse on her family name. Oh, and there”s monsters.

But Wynonna Earp didn”t spring fully formed into the world. In fact, the character has been kicking around comic books for over two decades. Created by Beau Smith, Wynonna has been fighting demons both supernatural and internal for a long time. But with the resurgence of interest due to the television show, Smith wasn”t above collaborating to make his work reflect the best of both worlds. Including introducing fan favorite, Officer Haught, into the comic book storyline.

HitFix Harpy recently spoke to Smith over the phone about what it”s like to see his creation take on a second life, how his work has evolved over the years, and what other characters from the television show fans can expect to see in the near future.

Image Credit: IDW Publishing

HITFIX HARPY: This was the introduction of Officer Haught to your universe, as she's not in the comic before this issue. Instead, Haught was a creation of Emily Andras and SyFy for the Wynonna Earp show. At what point did you think, “I should bring a version of her to the comic?”
BEAU SMITH: To be honest with you – whether it was going through the dailies or when we went up on the set – it's always been a point for me to bring as many of the cast members and even some of the one-episode characters into the comic as possible. The comic book is a hybrid of what Emily has created on the television show and what I've done the last 20 years. I'm trying to find a place for first-time viewers who have never read the comic. Where they can come and get more of the Wynonna Earp, they're familiar with on television. For the core audience that has been around for 20 years, I want to give them something new. So even if they haven't watched the show, they're getting something new.

So the television show and the comic are like hybrid, parallel universes?
Emily and I had talked about it. I didn't want to rehash everything that had been done on television, and at the same time, she didn't want to rehash everything that had been in the comic. It's been pretty freeing, this hybrid universe now we”ve got now. I wanted to bring Nicole Haught in the minute she walked onto the TV screen because, at that point, I had no idea where Emily was going to take the character. In my writer's head I'm thinking, “Oh, yeah, this, that, that,” and as the season developed then I got the path, and I said, “Okay, this will be good. If and when I bring her in, this is the way I'm going to have to do it.”

“As the season developed,” eh? Does that mean Waverly is also in the future for the comic?
Yes. Coming up with Waverly…she's going to be in the series, and it's going to be different than it is on the show. But it should be interesting. I've got very big plans for Officer Haught and Waverly in the series. We're building up to the climax of a major story line.

Image Credit: IDW Publishing

This issue seems like a good jumping on place for those coming in as fans of the show. It”s a new location with new characters and new realizations for Wynonna. At the end she says, I'm going to stick around,” did that mean we”ll still be in Montana for the next issue?
It's actually more of stick around for the maturity. By that, I mean Issues 5 and 6 went back to Tombstone and had the showdown with everything that stood for Wyatt Earp. That was a concerted effort. Now we start to see the change in Wynonna. The growth, the maturity. She doesn't lose the sarcasm, the wit, none of that, but now this is a tipping point. This issue is where she starts to change because, not only we have the two werewolf clans which have very racist ways of looking at each other, but also Wynonna also is forced to deal with her own racism against the paranormal. She just thought, “They're all bad, you shoot them all,” then she gets to find out it's not like that. This is a start of a change.

You've been writing these characters have been with you for two decades. When you have characters that live in your head for that long, they become almost like real people. Do you feel proud of Wynonna for beginning to grow up?
Yeah, Emily has given me a great gift with the television series. I've always had my Wynonna: Year One story in my head, but Emily has helped accelerate that. In doing so, she's added all these great layers and these great characters that she's been generous enough to let me play with as I will on my end.

Has it been difficult letting other people play in your sandbox? After all, you”ve had the reigns for a long time.
I have always felt that I work better in collaboration, and I get more reward and more satisfaction out of that than anything else. Unfortunately, in comic books, where you've got 20 pages, one issue, you don't get that chance to collaborate other than with the artist. Emily and I have this symbiotic relationship as far as collaborating from afar, and it's just been a blast for me. I always tell her, I cannot thank her enough for that because there are just so many small things, big things, that I would not have thought of and did not think to add into the Wynonna Earp universe and history. She's nudged here, and a thing here and here we go. It's just amazing to me how someone can come into a character that you've had for 20 years and get it. Again, real blessed with that.

Image Credit: IDW Publishing

The show has become a lightning rod of sorts for the LGBT community. Has the comic always dealt with social issues or is that something new to the series?
My battle 20 years ago with Wynonna Earp was a hard one. I battled with not only the publisher but with the artist to not make her a stripper with a badge. That was the way everyone wanted to portray her because that was the thing going on at the time. That was something I fought. Here I am knuckle-dragging testosterone guy, and always have been, I'll admit that, but that wasn't what I wanted. I wanted a mature woman. That was the other thing. I always wrote Wynonna at 35 to 40 years old. That wasn't happening in comic books at the time, and it wasn't happening that much in film. That was something that I wanted to get out there, but it was a battle. I even had female artists, and they were sending back, “No, this is not The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I don't want this.” It was tough, and it wasn't until I worked with Enrique Villagran on the ‘Yeti Wars” that I finally got the Wynonna Earp physically and looks-wise to match her personality. It was a tough row to hoe, and it was tough at that time because not too many people were listening.

Do you find it easier now? You've indicated clearly there may be a same-sex relationship coming down the pipe very quickly. You've dealt with themes of racism in this issue. Is there less pushback on making Wynonna the way you want?
Definitely. It's nothing that's ever forced upon me, but now it's not fought, and that's a huge thing. In fiction, a compelling story, compelling characters come first. To make them compelling, they've got to have a past or emotions that are based in the real world. How else can you get the readers or the viewers to relate and put that investment in there? If you're going to deny that, then you are going to have cardboard cutouts and no one's going to be interested in that for the long haul.

This issue is, to be honest with you, it's special to me. The fact that we do get to cover serious things, but we don't lose track of the Wynonna Earp humor. By humor, I don't mean slapstick. But the sarcasm, the fun, the conversations between the characters, which has always been something that I've wanted to add to the book And it's a stand-alone story. How often do you get that?

Wynonna Earp #8 will be available wherever comics are sold on October 5, 2016.