Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fireside Chat with Scott Snyder

Time for another warming chat by the Weekly Crisis Fireside, as we sip on a few snifters of the old cough medicine and have a relaxed back and forth with another comic creator.

Today’s guest is Scott Snyder, the nascent writer who is crushing the scene with his new Vertigo title, American Vampire, as well as settling in to bring us a different Dark Knight in Detective Comics. On this fine day we’ll chat about what it's like having Stephen King all over your inbox every day, why Detective Comics is seriously going to be amazing, and how Elvis helps in every situation.

Full interview after the jump!

Scott Snyder is seen as a bit of a wunderkind as some of his first work in comics has been heralded quite strongly in reviews in this past year. He has previously published an anthology of short stories, Voodoo Heart, and now he’s getting his team up on with Stephen King on the creator owned Vertigo series, American Vampire. He’s also written Iron Man: Noir, and it seems he should be pretty happy with the place he is in right now.

Ryan K Lindsay: Top of the morning to you, Scott, thanks for coming in from the cold and getting warm by the fire, how are you today, mate?

Scott Snyder: I’m good, brother. Getting ready for Halloween tomorrow! My son, who’s 3, is going as Batman and I’m going as Robin. So if you see a grown-up Robin standing next to a 3-foot Batman…

RKL: Sounds like the opening of a very, very strange scenario…ha. The real opening question has to be, how happy are you with American Vampire right now?

Snyder: That’s a softball, man! I couldn’t be happier. Of course, we’ve been really fortunate with reviews and sales – making the NY Times Bestseller List was one of the highlights of my life… But the most gratifying thing, hands down, has been the response from readers. This series is my baby – I mean I’d been thinking about it and living with the characters for a long time before it finally made it through the gate. It means a lot to me, is what I’m saying. It means a lot to Rafa, too, and Mark, and even though he was only on the first 5 issues, it means a lot to Steve, too. So getting a positive response from comic readers means the world (and comic fans are a tough crowd, all of us).

RKL: The title really is getting rave reviews, and Rafael Albuquerque is seriously putting out some of the best work on the stands today, but many reviewers are saying that your half of each issue from the first arc outgunned the other half, which was written by everyone’s idol, Stephen King. How does that sort of talk make you feel?

Snyder: Like they’re all liars :)

RKL: What’s that saying, fifty thousand fanboys can’t be wrong. What was it like working with the King?

Snyder: It’d be fine, if only it wasn’t dragging the sales of the book down. The guy’s like a fucking albatross around my neck.

Seriously though, it’s been one of the biggest thrills of my career. The thing about him - the thing that's so wild - is that when he likes a story, he writes like a hungry young writer, right out of the gate - a writer with something to prove, not like someone established (established beyond anyone out there). It's very inspiring to see someone of his stature so enthusiastic and involved in his story. We emailed and spoke every day for those couple months - talked ideas, edits... Basically, when he likes a story, he lives in it wholly. I mean, he went to town on his scripts – they’re so rich and layered and full of asides and historical detail, I’m glad they included some in the Vol. 1 Hardcover. While we were both scripting the first cycle, he emailed almost every day with editorial questions and advice – he was in very close contact is the point, very close collaboration. I couldn’t be more grateful to him. The whole series is exponentially better for his involvement.

One thing that was funny about working with him, by the way, was how he’d occasionally throw in some detail to catch you off guard, make sure you were paying attention. A couple times he turned Skinner into a bat at the end of a scene, for example. I’d see that or Mark, our great editor would, and we’d write him and he’d be like: gotcha!

RKL: That sounds like an absolute blast. Is it weird getting to call the shots with a man whose work has been influencing you since you were 9 years old?

Snyder: Very weird. No way around that. And the weirdest part is that the whole thing was a total surprise. I mean, I only sent the outline to him for a blurb. He’d been kind enough to review and blurb my story collection a few years before, and I’d stayed in close touch with him after that. So after the series got greenlit, when it came time to get quotes for press, I sent him the outline, hoping he might write a sentence or two about it for later on. Then he read it and he wrote back saying “You know I really like it. Maybe I’ll write an issue some time.” And I said, “If I tell them you’d like to write an issue, they’re going to jump at it.” And he was like, “Ahh, I don’t know, I’ve never written a comic before.” And I said, “No they’ll jump at it. I promise.” So he started just doing one issue that was pretty tightly outlined and by the end of that issue, which was really just the first issue as a backup, he took it and kept writing and kept writing and I kept getting these emails saying, “I want it to be a little longer.” And “I want it a little longer.” And pretty soon he had written these five full issues – five amazing issues.

RKL: That’s insanely lucky, and awesome. Many saw the addition of King as co-writer for the opening arc as being a grab for attention and initial numbers, but now with interest also hitting your writing how do you feel the title is faring without King with his departure after the initial 5 issue arc?

Snyder: Sales-wise, they tell me it’s doing well. But honestly, I try to avoid that stuff. I read lots of reviews, because the guys that write them are all comic fans, and I trust their opinions, and as you know, I’ve been fortunate in that department with cycle 2. Very grateful. Most of all, I’m just excited to get to tell this part of the story. Part of me was tempted to do something safer with cycle 2 because Steve was leaving and the page count was dropping – doing some Pearl’s greatest hits kind of thing, or at least staying tight on Skinner or Pearl in issue 6… But in the end, I wanted to do something that would show the scope of the story we want to tell overall. A story that’d expand the cast, touch on new aspects of the series’ mythology, the secret history and evolution of vampires. So in the end, I’m really happy with how it stands, and how it’s doing.

RKL: I’m absolutely loving the stories of Pearl and Skinner Sweet; how far into their future do you have mapped out?

Snyder: Pretty far – issues 10 and 11 will catch up with Pearl and Henry in the 30’s, detailing a run-in they have with some bad characters, and will also bring back a character from cycle 1 in a big way. 12 will focus on Skinner. And then 13 through 18 will be a big cycle about the Pacific, starring pretty much everyone, with a focus on Pearl and Skinner and Henry. As for beyond that, I know the end of the whole story – meaning, I know how everything will finish up at the very very end. When it comes to Pearl and Skinner in the 50’s the 60’s, I have sketches and outlines; I’ve talked the big plots through with Rafa, too. Things have surprised me along the way though –I’m sure they’ll continue to, too, and things could change anytime.

RKL: What can you tell us about the current arc, that you’re writing solo, to best sell us readers to stick around for?

Snyder: The current arc takes place in Las Vegas in the 1930s’s – casinos and gangsters and vampire carnage! Really though, it takes place in Las Vegas, when the city is just becoming the place we know it to be today. The Hoover Dam is being built nearby, the city is booming while the rest of the country is suffering in the depression, and all of a sudden, the bodies of prominent citizens start showing up drained of blood. The star of the arc is the young police chief – Cash McCogan- who’s trying to solve the case, and gets dragged into the word of American Vampire in the process. It’s a big, fun, dark and twisted arc that introduces new characters like Cash (and Felicia Book ,the daughter of Jim Book from cycle 1), but also brings back all the stars of cycle 1 – Skinner, Pearl, Henry. And the story really digs into vampire mythology and history, revealing secrets about both and introducing readers to new and ancient species of vamps. Check it out if you can – and please, let me know what you think. I’m very easy to find online on Facebook, Twitter, all that.

RKL: I’m sure everyone will sace out right now and let you know on Twitter @Ssnyder1835 – You’ve also been tapped to write a 12 issue run on Detective Comics that will showcase Dick Grayson in the cowl but getting back to the more detective roots of the character. Were you asked to pitch for this or did you take something to DC that you wanted to try? What can you tell us about your upcoming run?

Snyder: I was asked to pitch, so I came to them with an idea. As for starting with issue 871, I'll be taking over as writer on Detective Comics. On the surface, the run will constitute a kind of back-to-basics approach, with Dick Grayson, as the newly anointed Batman of Gotham, solving brutal crimes around the city with new, high-tech CSI toys. But the run will also be about the dark and mysterious relationship the city has to the Bat. Because for Bruce, Gotham has produced the Joker, Two-Face and all the great villains we know and love as dark and twisted reflections of Bruce himself. And now, with Dick in the cowl, the city seems to be changing, becoming meaner, more vicious. Which makes him wonder - what if being Batman in Gotham means having to face your worst childhood fears come to life, in the flesh? What if Gotham is like a black, funhouse mirror to whoever wears the cowl?

So as you can guess, we'll be introducing a lot of new villains in the coming year: street criminals who've stepped into the vacuum created by the fall of the Black Mask and the families, as well as some genuinely scary, evil individuals. Jock is drawing the feature, with David Baron on colors, and I can’t wait for people to see their art. Jock was my first choice for this run’s feature, and he has exceeded all my hopes. He’s killing it.

And like you and I talked about, the first three issues of the run will include a back-up about Jim Gordon and a dark figure from his past who returns to Gotham after a long time away (if you’re a good detective, you might even find some clues in the layouts DC released a couple weeks ago ) The back-up is tied to the feature - it's all one big narrative. And Francesco Francavila is turning in incredible work on this one, too. His pages are bold, dark, noir-ish but gritty and realistic, too… For anyone wondering about it, because of the announcement about pricing and back-ups at NYCC, after the first three issues, his story will continue in the feature, between arcs drawn by Jock. So his story will just be part of the main run.

RKL: That pitch sounds amazing, I cannot wait to get my hands on these issues. Was the whole Commissioner Gordon back-up ideas yours?

Snyder: It was. I actually pitched the Gordon back-up first. I was writing it when the feature opened up and I pitched for that, too. And about the feature – I just want to say that when it comes to Batman, I understand how high the bar is set. No other character has figured so large in my imagination. He’s my favorite, hands down. And I can promise you, I never would have stepped up to do Detective if I didn't have a story I was excited about. I just hope you guys like it.

RKL: I’d say there’s a good chance that we will. What previous Batman run or creator do you think will share the most spirit with your upcoming run?

Snyder: That’s a good question, man. I can tell you which books I’d be honored to have anything in common with: Year One, Killing Joke, Dark Knight Returns, Gotham Central, The Long Halloween, The Cult, Ed Brubaker’s work on Detective. I love what Grant Morrison has been doing with Batman over the last few years, too, exploring and expanding the past and present of Batman in general, in such wild, high-minded, mysterious ways… My favorite Batman stories are the ones that go deep into both the character psychologically and emotionally, but also explore the idea of Batman – the mythology of the Bat. The way the Killing Joke is about Bruce tempted to kill by the Joker, but also about the way Batman and the Joker are like twisted funhouse mirror reflections of each other. Or in Dark Knight Returns, the way the story is about Batman’s challenge to take back Gotham, but also about Batman as something the city always needs, always wants, despite itself.

RKL: I guess yours will be its own little classic soon enough. You’re new to the business, but you seem brilliantly advanced in your technique, are you sitting on a plethora of other comic pitches right now?

Snyder: I have one I’m really excited about. It’s another horror series, but it’s smaller than AV. It’s a deep water story. I just pitched it to Vertigo, so fingers crossed.

RKL: I’ll expect the exclusive news right here. You’ve also written a stack of short stories that were collected in anthology, and have a novel on the way; what can you tell us about your prose work?

Snyder: I wrote a short story collection called Voodoo Heart that came out in 2006 from Random House. I’m working on a novel called The Goodbye Suit on the side, but right now, I’m pretty focused on my comics work. As for the similarities, between my prose and my comics, there are a lot of similarities, I think.

RKL: I could imagine a novel on the side of all this work might take some time. We’ll wait patiently. Do you have any desire to sneak some prose text into your comics work, get a little mixed media in the future?

Snyder: I’m really satisfied as is. I miss prose sometimes, but writing AV and Detective has been very creatively fulfilling. DC has given me a lot of freedom with both titles, so I get to do a lot of what I’d do in prose, story-wise, in my comics.

RKL: You have a lot going on, how do you fit it into the one day, what's normal for you? Are there ancient broad brimmed hats, vampiric denture sets, rusted metal faceplates sitting around the office?

Snyder: I wish! I do have a couple Elvis busts – one I painted myself, and the other is a Day of the Dead Elvis. What else? Some antique plane models. A drawing by a friend of mine. Comic art... As for my days, they’re pretty straightforward. I hang out a lot with my son in the morning before school. Take him there, come home and write. I teach college and grad school fiction writing one or two days a week some semesters. So some days I’m at school. I pick up my son in the afternoon, my wife gets home from the hospital (she’s a resident). We all hang out, have dinner, watch some TV. After Jack’s asleep, Jeanie and I spend time together, and after she goes to sleep, I sometimes write some more – I’m a night owl. This is too much information, isn’t it?

RKL: Wow, family man with time to write, I’m envious. Is there any sort of soundtrack that gets you through the days and the pages?

Snyder: I’m a huge Elvis fan, so lots of Elvis, from the Sun Sessions to Moody Blue. A lot of old country, too. I’m an antiquer when it comes to music mostly. From Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family to George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens…

RKL: That’s some quality tastes, so are you an art man? What sort of stuff hangs on the walls around the Snyder residence to give inspiration?

Snyder: I wish I were more of an art man. I have some friends who are visual artists, so I have some of their stuff on the walls of our place. My favorite piece is by a close college buddy of mine. When I was getting married, my wife and I made a registry for gifts. Anyway, my friend, Karl, instead of getting us the juicer my wife had picked out, he gave us this giant, photo-realistic drawing he did of the juicer, and the drawing is titled “Things You Don’t Need.” It’s hanging in our kitchen. I’ve got my comic art, too. I have a McFarlane page I got when I was 13. Art by Rafa and Scott Wegner, who did my very first comic with me.

RKL: Maybe you can write a tale about that juicer one day. Can you remember the first ever story you wrote, what was it like?

Snyder: The first story is too hard, just because I've been doing it longer than I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of my grandmother, Claire, encouraging me to make up stories. She used to babysit me when I was a little kid, and she had this game where she'd take these planks from the woodshed and she'd draw faces on them, or have me draw faces, and we'd make up stories based on the faces. She called the planks our totem poles. I've always wanted to be a story-teller of some kind as long as I can remember.
RKL: Well, you certainly are one now. Can you remember the first comic book that grabbed you as a kid and made you a reader for life?
Snyder: Again, the first one I can’t really remember – just because my dad read them to me at night as a young kid. So a first one is hard to pinpoint. But another early memory: when I was about 8, I went to sleep-away camp for the first time. The camp I went to was very sports oriented, and as you might imagine, I was no star athlete. I was alright. I wasn't inept, but I just wasn't ever into sports. And this camp was like hyper-competitive when it came to everything, baseball, soccer, basketball... Anyway, two things I really looked forward to that summer. Every night, this one counselor I had would read to us from Stephen King's Eyes of the Dragon. I couldn't wait for that. The other thing - once a week, my dad sent me a comics care package. That summer was Secret Wars. The next summer was Crisis I think. One summer I caught up on Kraven's Last Hunt... Getting those care packages made my day.

RKL: Oh, man, those care packages would be worth heaps if you kept them mint. What other comics are you reading right now that tickle your fancy?

Snyder: That’s a tough one to narrow down. I read everything mainstream and the bar is set high right now – all the Batman books, especially Batman and Robin and Bryan’s Batgirl. I love everything Jason Aaron does, from Wolverine to Punisher… I’ve read a lot of Jeff Lemire’s Superboy and it’s going to be amazing. So many Vertigo books I like right now, too – and I’m not just playing for the home team here because I’ve become close with a number of other Vertigo guys. But Sweet Tooth, The Unwritten, iZombie… I love Cullen Bunn’s series, The Sixth Gun. Josh Fialkov’s book, Tumor and Matt Kindt’s Revolver were both great… It’s an inspiring time right now, in my opinion.

RKL: Nice to hear such enthusiasm and true fanboy credentials there. Is there any character, or team, in comics who would be your absolute fantasy to get to create stories for?

Snyder: I’m working on them right now. Honest, no one I’d rather work on, besides my own characters, than Batman.

RKL: The next section is our Literary Rorschach Test, we give you a word or concept and you have to tell us what it makes you feel. You may give us a one word response or a paragraph. Here we go:

Kung Fu – my tenth birthday.[I had a karate party with my friends. I’d been taking karate and thought I’d get to show off, look cool for the girls – this was in the Karate Kid heydays. Anyway, the instructor held up a thin board for me to break, like balsa wood. I’d been practicing a lot (which is sad, given how paper-thin this board was)… Well I walked up and got ready, raised my hand, swung, but before I even made contact, the instructor broke it himself before my hand hit it – unbeknownst to me, he was planning to snap it as my hand hit it, to make sure I broke it, but he did it too early, and so everyone saw me miss and saw the board break… I still cringe thinking about it…]
Noir – shadow
Gadgets – utility belt
Wild West – dream
Time Travel – hindsight
Typewriter – Misery [one of my favorite movies…]
Razor – Straight [too many horror movies, I guess]
Notebook – didn’t see it.
Parker – Peter
Full moon – No werewolves in AV.

RKL: Scott, you’re a legend for indulging me with so many questions but I’ll leave you with one more before you delve back into a normal day; where are you going right this moment and what will you be doing?

Snyder: I’m going to try on my Robin costume one last time, then I’m going to crash.

RKL: Toodle pip!

Snyder: Thanks again for this, man. And huge thanks to everyone at Weekly Crisis. Rafa and I love you guys!

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btownlegend said...

Cannot wait for his run on Detective.

The Dangster said...

does this mean more american vampire reviews? i want more.

fireside sets said...

An interview with the creators these comics is great. I'd wonder where they all those ideas to create one good comic story.

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