Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fireside Chat with Kurtis Wiebe from Green Wake - Part 1

Kurtis Wiebe struck gold with The Intrepids only a few weeks ago when it launched and sold out in the first issue. I had a chat with him then about that title and now we’re back talking about his next Image titanic launch, Green Wake. Having already sampled this comic, and loved it, I am confident in announcing it this year’s greatest debut. Kurtis and I discuss why Green Wake is all about guilt, loss, fate, and regret, and if it's all real or not. This interview goes deep so join us after the jump for some great discussion and due to length we will cut and give you the second part tomorrow morning.

Kurtis Wiebe is a new writer who is dropping bombs at Image right now as The Intrepids sold out in its first issue and the second drops next week at the same time Green Wake hits with its debut issue. He previously wrote Beautiful Creatures at Red 5 and he met Riley Rossmo at a pub. Seriously.

Ryan K Lindsay: Kurtis, thanks for joining us again. It's nice to see since then you've become an official superstar with The Intrepids #1 selling out, congratulations. Now as the second issue ships, you're launching another mini, Green Wake. How would you best describe this book to the average Wednesday browser?

Kurtis Wiebe: Last time was a lot of fun, I'm glad we can have another chat!

Green Wake is a horror mystery book that combines a lot of themes and mood from shows like Twin Peak and Lost to comics like the Dark Tower. It's about a town full of secrets, where people arrive with no idea how they got there and seemingly are stuck with no hope of escape.

That all plays out as part of the world, Green Wake itself is a character. The plot follows a series of murders that are happening in the town, a string of grisly mutilations.

RKL: Which came first to you, the town or the murders?

Wiebe: Green Wake originally came about when Riley asked me to do a fill in short story for the back of an upcoming issue of Proof. He was anxious to do something horror related, where he could illustrate monsters and bloody carnage. I started to come up with a few ideas and it was through that I laid the foundation of Green Wake. It just kept growing and I pitched Riley the idea of a larger story, something we could work on over a period of time while he continued on Proof.

Riley and I have been developing Green Wake for over a year and a half. The concept of the town was the pillar of the story, and once we'd designed and solidified exactly what Green Wake was, we wanted to build a mysterious plot through which to reveal what we'd created. The main character's arc was part and parcel with the concept of the town, but we both felt there needed to be more to drive Morley forward in seeking out answers to all Green Wake's secrets.

The murders, and the mystery surrounding them, came about after a few months of tossing ideas back and forth. We wanted a murder mystery from the get-go, but wanted to find a solid motivation and resolution. Once that was done, I sat down and wrote the first script. It's changed quite a lot since the first draft as we've had the time to carefully trim all the fat and tighten the concept to where it is now.

RKL: I find the creative process fascinating so it's very interesting to hear how you put Green Wake together. It sounds like if Riley wants to do the book it's probably a good chance it'll get green lit at Image.

You've mentioned 'Twin Peaks' and 'The Dark Tower' as cultural touch points of reference for this book (and I have my own reference that I'll drop a little later) so I wanted to know more specifically, without spoilers, what elements you took from these works to inform Green Wake? Are there going to be severed ears in knowing nods or is it more that ka is a wheel?

Wiebe: Twin Peaks significantly influenced Green Wake in that they both share a similar idea: a town full of interesting characters that is poured to the brim with secrets. Twin Peaks was populated by some quirky, lovable characters, but behind the rather ordinary lives of these people, the place they called home was rich with an ancient history of pervading evil. I used that basic idea and really made Green Wake, the town, a character in the story. It's full of mysteries and while the characters have their own story arcs, Green Wake definitely has a prominent role in how all the events play out.

Dark Tower was more subtle, I suppose. The idea of humans living in a world filled with monsters, and even the most normal of people could be a monster. I don't want to comment too much further on that, as a lot of the mystery in the series is tied into that theme.

RKL: I love The Dark Tower. The Drawing Of The Three is one of those perfect teen novels I loved at that time. I'll be interested to see how Green Wake lives up to such brilliance. No pressure...ha.

The lead character, Morley, is sort of like the gumshoe of Green Wake. Will we find out how/why he falls into this role? Are there any pulp characters who inspired him? Is there an archetype you're looking to fulfil with his presence and actions?

Wiebe: Oh, man. Live up to King, eh? I've got a lifetime of work to do before I even come within a thousand miles of a master like him.

As to the gumshoe question, it's alluded to in the first issue why Morley takes on the role of the investigator, and why, in particular, he connects with the new people who wash up on Green Wake's shores. As the story goes along, readers will begin to see where Morley comes from and why he acts in the way he does. It's funny because I've been asked by a few people if there was an intentional noir tone infused into the series, but it's come about organically. Riley and I wanted to tell a really human, really scary story with Green Wake, and I think the murder/investigation angle worked itself out in a slightly noir way.

That said, I've been writing Morley as the sort of reluctant hero. He definitely doesn't see himself as a hero, he's just helping people in this crazy town because so few others do. He's got a good heart, and he's trying to deal with the pain from his past by doing whatever he can to make life easier for the residents of Green Wake.

Morley the character came from a few places. Mostly, it was in how I wanted to approach the theme, and best address some of the important questions I was asking myself with the story. He definitely is influenced by a handful of pulp noir characters, in that he's smart and sees clues and patterns much quicker than most, but he's just a normal guy in most regards. He's a man dealing with the loss of the love of his life, and he has so many questions about the fateful day she died.

I wanted Morley to be easily identified with so that readers would really want to get to know him and understand where he's come from. There has to be that connection or people won't care about Green Wake, the murders, or any of the mystery.

RKL: You do a good job of painting Morley as the every man found in a bad situation both through the way we see him enter Green Wake and through his general demeanour. He's not a gung-ho action star, he's just doing it because somebody has to. He feels like a sad soul and I'm not sure if that's because of Green Wake, his prior experiences, or that's just who he is. It works well for the book.

Now, Morley's sidekick, Krieger, is another kettle of fish. He fills a role somewhere between Dr Watson and Igor but his discerning feature is that he's starting to look rather frog-like. Frogs are playing a large metaphorical part to this tale so will we find out what causes certain members of Green Wake to slowly take on frog attributes? Is it a good or a bad thing? And is it inevitable?

Wiebe: I'm starting to realize it's difficult to talk about this series because of how important so many themes, both visual and narrative, are intertwined with the secrets of Green Wake. I'll have to learn to answer directly, while keeping it vague enough to avoid spoiling the plot. You're my guinea pig, Ryan!

I've really enjoyed writing Krieger, and a lot of the fun I find in his personality definitely has roots in the way Riley designed him. We both knew we wanted a character with significant transformation to be part of the story in same facet. He was the natural solution to a right hand man to Morley, and there are a number of reasons for that.

The most significant is that right off the bat we have three characters that allow the reader to see Green Wake in three vital ways. Morley is the main character, we see Green Wake through his eyes and through his narrative filter. A lot of the emotion that pervades this forgotten town is encapsulated by Morley's point of view.

Carl is the new guy on the block, who, like the reader, has just entered Green Wake for the first time. His importance is that because of his naivety, he has so many questions through which the reader can learn little aspects of how Green Wake works. What rules apply to this bizarre town and what it means to be caught there.

Finally, Krieger is, to an extent, a physical embodiment of how Green Wake affects the everyday citizen. It'll become clear throughout the series why he, and many others, look different. You mentioned that he has taken on very frog-like features, and you're right about that.

A lot of people are interested to know the significance of the frogs. I've been asked on a lot of forums what the hell is with their purpose; is it purely visual, does it have a thematic purpose?

Something I can say without compromising too much of the mystery is that they are extremely important, and that they, like so many other elements, are metaphor. Whether or not turning into a frog-man is inevitable, or if it's good or bad, will be answered in full and I'll have to insist you read it to find out!

RKL: Handled deftly with aplomb, my good man. Top show. Now, I'll just ask about one more character, the femme.

Every good noir needs a femme fatale and Ariel is certainly that. I'm trying to work out if she's the villain or the only enlightened one (which you probably can't answer, ha), so I will ask; if the other three men represent the views of Green Wake does Ariel represent the danger inherent in such a place?

Wiebe: Ariel, like the other central characters, is a perspective on Green Wake through a particular filter. Hers is quite specific and holds keys to the biggest secrets about the town, its history and what happens when someone breaks the rules.

It's hinted at in the early pages of the first issue that murders don't happen in Green Wake, not as long as Morley or Krieger have been there at least. Ariel, of course, looks fairly guilty of the crime early on, and while I paint her as a likely suspect, there's a lot more to her story than what appears on the surface. Her fate, and her past, are tied into the new arrival, Carl and how they know each other becomes quite important as the series progresses.

Ariel's journey is the clearest example of the themes I'm exploring in Green Wake; how we deal with guilt and loss, and what the most painful of memories can do to us when not dealt with properly. How she is an example of that is tied directly into what led her to Green Wake and why she is, quite possibly, connected to the murders.

RKL: There's so much knowledge you just dropped, I really hope people are reading this interview as closely as they must the book itself. Everything sounds so well thought out and structured. Will this text be available for classes to study, I would love to teach it, that's for sure.

The overall vibe of this book felt that bit more noir to me than flat out horror. But of course noir can be quite horrific in many circumstances in that it deals with the terrible things people are capable of and do daily. If you go through the history of noir, you'll see writers like Hammett hint at sci-fi tropes and themes and showing the world to be a darker and more mysterious place than we know but ultimately the worst terror to be known is that which resides within us all. Green Wake feels like a mixture of Hammett crossed with Lovecraft and comes out with a new flavour that is amazing. So, in trying to define the genre of this work (and I feel that's futile as it's so cross-pollinated) I'm trying to work out its parameters. I'm not sure if you can answer but is Green Wake 'real'?

Wiebe: Wow, that's a huge compliment. Thanks!

I'll answer your question as best I can, as you probably guessed, it's a major point in the series. It's a question I know everyone will be asking as they read Green Wake.

Riley and I had a conversation about Issue #5 a few days ago, and we discussed at length how we felt we could best wrap this series up and tie all the loose ends together while really hitting the reader with emotional resolution. We've known for quite a long time how the story begins, flows and then ends, but the specific details of the narrative have come together more clearly as I write and revise the scripts. As I approach the remaining scripts, I've thought long and hard about how I want to finish off this series, one that I feel is my strongest work to date.

The reason I say this is because in the conversation with Riley, we talked about how we didn't want to cheat our reader by going the easy route. When a series you've been following, whether T.V. or comics, ends on a note of, "it's all been a dream", it makes everything that was woven up to that moment totally pointless. The characters journey becomes entirely unravelled as there was never truly anything at stake.

I don't want readers to have that cold feeling on the final page of our series. I want the emotion and story to stick with them long after they read the final panel. I want the actions of the characters to matter and find resolution in a meaningful way.

Is Green Wake real?

Follow Morley down the rabbit hole, he'll let you know.

RKL: That is an answer. That most certainly is an answer. Brilliant dodged and yet elucidated.

You mention that Green Wake cannot be escaped and this raises a few lightning round questions for me. Green Wake seems to go on endlessly and I got to wondering if it looped on itself or if it became infinite the longer you wandered? Could there be a person in the furthest outreaches that even Morley didn't know was out there? Do you have a map of Green Wake worked out, and would it even be helpful? I almost imagine Green Wake moves around those within it, everything is fluid, nothing corporeal. And, finally, did you steal this concept from that town in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (the sixth Nightmare On Elm St flick)?

Wiebe: I actually address this to a certain extend in an extra features blog that I've written. ( )

The concept was to write it as though I was Morley's grandson who's discovered his old journals and is blogging about the find. In one of the posts, I talk about how Morley discovers that no matter which way you go, somehow you end up turned around and Green Wake is always on the horizon. I'd actually been influenced by the John Cusack movie Identity, there's a particular scene where something similar happens. But, before people analyze it too much, that's where the similarities end. We were also inspired by some of the visual ideas found in Dark City, and I think that is pretty obvious from a colour and tone perspective, but I know it also played a role in how I envisioned the way Green Wake worked. And, no, I've never even seen Freddy's Dead, so I can quite honestly say it had no effect on the design aspects of Green Wake.


While it's possible there are people living inside or within the vicinity of Green Wake, everyone arrives the same way: washed up on the shore in an old rowboat. Even in the first issue, Carl makes the comment after wandering for a long time (I think it takes up almost 3 pages) that, 'there is no end.'

Obviously, there isn't a physical map of the entire town, but Riley and I have some key locations designed or at least conceptualized.

To Be Continued...

Come back tomorrow for more of this chat as we'll talk about some of the cultural influences on Green Wake and how Wiebe ended up collaborating with Riley Rossmo. It's more of the same great stuff about this year's break out hit. Feel free to let us know what you thought of today's portion of the chat in the comments? Are you going to be trying Green Wake?

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