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A visually spellbinding and riveting tale of loss and
horror, the trade paperback of GREEN WAKE VOL. 1, is currently in stores. FANGORIA
spoke with author Kurtis J. Wiebe (THE INTREPIDS) and artist Riley Rossmo
(PROOF) about how the premise of GREEN WAKE was conceived, the importance of
colors in the narrative, and the mystery behind the first story arc’s ending.
In the forgotten town of Green Wake, detective Morley Mack is on the search for a vicious seductress, who may or may not be behind a string of grisly murders.
FANGORIA: How did you start in the comic book industry?
KURTIS J. WIEBE: My first publication was with Red 5 Comics
(Atomic Robo Fame) called BEAUTIFUL CREATURES in 2009, a supernatural action
series. It wasn’t particularly successful, despite some really strong reviews.
The entire team was relatively unknown, which can definitely have an effect on
sales. I’d been pursuing publication for about a year prior to that, with a
handful of pitches that are still sitting on my hard drive.
RILEY ROSSMO: In 2006, I did my first graphic novel, SEVEN
SONS, for Ait/Planet Lar. In retrospect, it was kind of crazy. Alex Grecian and
I did 120 pages on spec. I was working full time, and doing a lot of commercial
work for ad agencies, and magazines. That led into Alex and I doing PROOF at
Image Comics, which is what I consider my real start in comics.
FANG: How did you become involved with GREEN WAKE?
WIEBE: Riley and I have been friends since about 2009,
shortly after BEAUTIFUL CREATURES came out actually. We met through a mutual
friend at a pub, where Riley was celebrating the first issue of PROOF’s
release. We chatted awhile and stayed in touch since then.
ROSSMO: Kurtis and I had discussed doing a backup in PROOF
at one point. I did a couple paintings for it, but nothing really came out of
it. A year or so later I needed another project to experiment in and we came
back to GREEN WAKE, revamped the story and visuals, and pitched the project.
FANG: How did you come up with the premise?
WIEBE: GREEN WAKE originally started as a backup in PROOF.
It was meant to be a series of short stories that Riley would draw as a sort of
exercise, and allow for me to have my work in the more public forum, but after
a few weeks of brainstorming, it became much bigger.
We decided to try for something a little grander in scale,
take GREEN WAKE into a full series, but he was overextended for the following
year working on both PROOF and COWBOY NINJA VIKING. Once both of those projects
started to wind down, Riley was looking for a new project and decided to give
my first issue script for GREEN WAKE a go. With a few covers and the first five
pages from issue #1, we pitched and it was picked up a few days later by Jim
Valentino at Image/Shadowline.
FANG: After illustrating such comics as COWBOY NINJA VIKING
and PROOF, how did you approach illustrating GREEN WAKE and its premise?
ROSSMO: I needed to make comics that were really purely
emotional reactions to the script. GREEN WAKE is all the sadness, passion and
anger I experienced and poured out onto the page. PROOF was a traditional comic
experience, from script, pencils, ink, colors, and lettering. I didn’t have
much input on the script for COWBOY NINJA VIKING. I just handled the visuals.
GREEN WAKE is more of me in terms of story and visual expression. Since I do so
much of the art than anything else I’ve worked on, I think in terms of the
finished page while I work on it, instead of just penciling or inking.
FANG: The forgotten town of Green Wake can be seen as Hell,
Purgatory, or an entire imaginary world created from Morley Mack’s troubled
mind. Tell me about how you both developed the town of Green Wake.
WIEBE: Originally, the aforementioned short story version
was about a town centered on a cult that had kidnapped a young woman. The story
would’ve followed a man hired to track down the woman and rescue her. All the
while, he was encountering some really weird situations at the hands of the
Honestly, I’m not sure how that transformed into what GREEN
WAKE is now, but the weirdness is what made the cut. We wanted the town to be
as much a character in the series as the people who lived there, and even if
all the characters found resolution, there would be this lingering question of
what the hell Green Wake was. We talked for hours about the town, establishing
the rules; why it’s there, how people get there, and for what reason.
Since we worked so closely together on the development of
the series, it was easy to collaborate on meshing the art and the writing,
because we both intrinsically knew what worked and what didn’t.
ROSSMO: We discussed a visual vocabulary at length and I did
a bunch of paintings. We watched a number of films (CITY OF LOST CHILDREN,
NAKED LUNCH, and DARK CITY), but the biggest single influence in Green Wake’s
creation was TWIN PEAKS, and some personal struggles we were
experiencing/discussing at the time of inception. Marshall Arisman’s paintings
inspired the look of the art, as well as Bill Sienkiewicz’s STRAY TOASTERS.
FANG: Since the first issue, Ariel is seen as the prime
suspect of a brutal crime. She always seems to be lost. Is she a victim? Or is
she a vicious killer hiding behind her long red hair? Because readers can look
at her two different ways, how did you want to present her in the
WIEBE: Ariel was meant to be a wild card. I wanted her to be
scary because of her brutal unpredictability. But as the story unfolded, I
wanted to usher in a real sense of sympathy. That obviously hits home in issue
#4, because it turns her arc on its head, and suddenly she isn’t fully to blame
for what’s happened.
Ariel was also one of the only people in the first arc to
carve her own path. She didn’t hide away; she violently sought a way out of the
town, when everyone else stewed in their apathy. She stood out because of her
determination to change her fate.
ROSSMO: I wanted her to be a symbol of passion. Ariel’s hair
is a symbol of madness and violence. To me, Ariel is a victim because her
emotional levees have burst and she acts out.
FANG: As a whole, the narrative centers on time
displacement. Brown represents the past, purple stands for unreality, and green
symbolizes the present. When these colors mixed in issue #3, the tone could
stand for another metaphor. How did you and artist Riley Rossmo collaborate on
the uses of color in the nonlinear storytelling?
WIEBE: It was something we decided on very early into the
development of the series. It ties directly into what I was saying before about
the rules and realities of Green Wake, and we wanted to be able to use the
comic medium specifically to get certain points across with the art. I made the
call on the use of sepia/brown for the past, but Riley really made all the
color choices for everything else, although I would indicate a need for an
emotional shift in the scene.
ROSSMO: Kurtis and I made the color decisions pretty early
on. We had started the book with a colorist. We lost him after the first 5
pages, so I decided to take the coloring on myself. After I restarted the first
5 pages, we discussed color as a storytelling device and the palettes just grew
out of that. The color decisions developed fairly organically.
FANG: In the climax of issue #4, in an unsettling sequence,
a monster touches the face of Ariel’s ex-lover. Suddenly, Carl’s face is
covered with blinking eyes. Then the eyeballs are popping themselves, like
pimples, spewing blood into the air. How much was from the script or from the
WIEBE: I wrote it in the script about the eyes coming out of
his flesh, but all the gory details were from Riley’s depraved mind. That scene
in particular is a perfect example of the level of collaboration we were able
to achieve in this series.
Issue #5 also had a disgusting transformation sequence in
the early pages, and the script was written in the way it was illustrated.
However, Riley took it in an entirely different direction than I’d imagined. He
made it organic and grotesque, whereas I imagined it more of a spiritual
blending. What came out on the page was a melding of both, and it’s one of the
strongest sequences of the series.
ROSSMO: I’d say a lot of the more violent stuff is from my
imagination. Whatever Kurtis writes, I try to take it to the farthest extreme
possible. There were a couple of scenes that were too graphic that I revised. I
think it’s pretty important that the violence and gore be as disturbing as
possible. Kurtis gave me a lot of room to interpret his scripts.
FANG: In issue #5, rarely seen in police procedurals, the
narrative focuses on what happens after Morley Mack solves the crime. What
could be seen as a short story in itself, Morley faces his fears from his past. Kurtis, tell me about the narrative’s themes of loss and mourning as it
veered into this coming-of-age tale? And Riley, was it difficult to keep the
panels interesting, because the conclusion became dialogue-driven?
WIEBE: Wow, that’s a heavy question. I’ve never hidden the
fact that GREEN WAKE dealt with the breakup of my marriage. While I was writing
the series, I was beginning to understand a lot about myself and what events
led to that major transition. Despite it being a positive decision for my life,
I felt this lingering sense of hurt and guilt, like even though I knew I was
moving in the right direction, I left a trail of suffering for others.
I really analyzed that. That theme is what pervades the
first arc of GREEN WAKE and I suppose, how I really feel after looking back and
gaining perspective on my life. I came to understand that regardless of the
choices we make; good or bad, there are consequences and no one comes out
clean. It’s whether or not we can forgive ourselves and at the end of the day,
really move onto a new part of our lives.
The final page of Morley standing at the tree, as the paper
blows away is the answer I found at the end of the journey. So, it was a
resolution for the both of us, I suppose.
ROSSMO: Nope. I love drawing talking heads. Slow-moving
dialogue is one of my favorite things to draw. The colors took longer in that
scene and after spending so much time in Green Wake, the real world was a bit
harder to draw than it used to be.
FANG: What can readers expect from GREEN WAKE VOL.2: LOST
WIEBE: Well, I’m still a messed up guy, so just as much horror and weirdness in the first volume. The focus now is going to be on the
mystery of Green Wake, what exactly the town is, and why people are there.
There’s a new series of murders that are happening and on top of that, a new
arrival named Micah has been taking the townspeople under his wing and
preaching to them a message of hope. But, not everything is as tidy as it seems;
there’s some dark purpose behind all motivations in Green Wake.
We’ll also meet familiar characters who will be given a bit
more story time. No one is safe from the lurking danger. We’ll be introducing a
few new characters, including a young woman named Esther, who has an
interesting connection to the title: LOST CHILDREN.
ROSSMO: The introduction is the most fun I’ve had in ages
drawing a page. It’s gross but more than that, it’s really surreal!
FANG: What are you working on now?
WIEBE: Lots. I recently quit my day job to focus on writing,
so I’m finally able to put the time into my comic work I’ve always wanted.
Alongside GREEN WAKE, which is an ongoing series, my next project is called
PETER PANZERFAUST, and it comes out from Image/Shadowline in February 2012,
which is also an ongoing series. I’m billing it as RED DAWN meets PETER PAN,
but there will be more details about that series coming very soon.
I also have two more Image limited series coming out in
April and May. The first is called GOBLINETTES, about a goblin punk band, sort
of a LORD OF THE RINGS meets JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS. Following that is GRIM
LEAPER, a black romantic comedy that blends QUANTAM LEAP and FINAL DESTINATION.
Those are a little ways off yet, but I’m already writing the scripts for both,
so it’s enough to keep me busy for quite awhile.
Lastly, I have a novel coming out November 18 called BETWEEN WORLDS, from
Bundoran Press, which is a modern fairy-tale noir.
ROSSMO: I’m doing a little work at Marvel. I’m hard at work
on GREEN WAKE: LOST CHILDREN, and I’m working on a graphic novella for spring
or summer next year called WILD CHILDREN, which will be from Image too.
FANG: Where can readers find out more about your work?
WIEBE: I constantly update my Facebook fan page with news and articles about my work. I’m also prevalent on twitter,
@kurtisjwiebe, and I love talking to fans and answering questions, as well as
promoting my work.
And for people who like podcasts, I host a bi-weekly
podcast, with some fellow writers, that focuses on the writing method for comic
writers called THE PROCESS. You can check it out here or
find us on Facebook.
ROSSMO: I just made a new website, which
has my art work and I keep it updated. I twitter at @rileyrossmo1 and can be
found on the Image Comics forums.
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