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Scott Snyder on challenging himself creatively with second wave of ComiXology titles

Comic Books

Scott Snyder on challenging himself creatively with second wave of ComiXology titles

Scott Snyder unpacks ‘Barnstormers,’ ‘Dudley Datson and the Forever Machine,’ and ‘Canary.’

ComiXology is officially launching Scottober: West Coast Edition this week at SDCC, celebrating three new series from famed writer Scott Snyder. Joining Snyder are co-creators and artists Tula Lotay, Jamal Igle, and Dan Panosian. The much-anticipated launch is year-two in a planned eight-book deal between ComiXology and Snyder.

Luckily, unlike last year’s Scottober, we won’t have to wait long for each series, as all three land today (July 19). And this year’s crop of titles perhaps vary more than its predecessor. There’s the post-WWI historical Barnstormers (with Lotay); the all-ages sci-fi adventure Dudley Datson and the Forever Machine (with Igle); and a horror western called Canary (with Panosian). It’s a wide range of series from Snyder and company, which the writer says are meant to feature genres that he hasn’t yet tackled in an otherwise storied career.

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I spoke to Snyder just a few days ago to get an idea of the sheer work that went into this second wave. Snyder discusses what makes these three titles different from last year’s horror-centric series while also detailing the creative process with his collaborators, among other topics and tidbits.

This interview has been edited and trimmed down. You can listen to the full interview on the AIPT Comics podcast.

AIPT: You have Barnstormers, Canary, and Dudley Datson, all three new titles. Since you spoke about these a bit last summer, I was curious: have they been completed, or are they still being developed?

Scott Snyder: Canary, we’re five out of seven done, Dudley we’re three out of five right now, and Barnstormers we’re on the fourth. They’re pretty well along. Then we have two more books for the winter with ComiXology with Book of Evil with Jock and Duck and Cover with Rafael Albuquerque. So yeah, it’s been a wild ride, man. I can’t believe we’re doing so many books.

AIPT: It’s impressive.

SS: Thanks. Honestly, I could write the phone book with such great partners, and I feel like the books would be stellar. So I feel just incredibly lucky to be working with such amazing co-creators.

AIPT: The first three titles out last year were trending horror, and now these next three titles, some of them aren’t so much horror. How would you define their genres?

SS: The idea was to go out really hard with the first three titles, just things that were kind of one click away from maybe what you’ve seen from me and the co-creators on books, but sort of in the ven diagram of what you’d also expect from us.

Greg [Capullo] and I are doing big over-the-top action monster stuff with We Have Demons. We just haven’t been able to do a creator-owned before.

Clear, Francis and I have worked together a bunch of times, but we hadn’t quite done strict sci-fi or creator our own.

And Francesco and I did the same thing; it was more about doing creator own with creators you associated with me. This wave is not only creators I’ve never worked with, extensively before, but it’s also pushing into genres that I haven’t really done a lot of work in.

So my goal is, is to really try and put my money where my mouth is. It’s sort of in tandem with all the teaching I’ve been doing. The motto of that class is you have to kind of write your own favorite story for that day and stay exciting to yourself. And for me, like the idea here with a second wave was to go further afield and to do things that you haven’t seen for me, to engage a little bit with some of my prose background, that I have when it comes to a book like Barnstormers with historical fiction. Do something that appeals to my kids, doing an all-ages book, because my 11-year-old is up to his eyeballs and Amulate and Witch Boy and all of that stuff now, do something that would appeal to adults and also kids in a genre I haven’t tried. And then with Canary do something that blends a lot of genres, but is kind of mind-bending, but is rooted in a Western.

Scott Snyder Comixology

A page from Canary. Courtesy of ComiXology.

Canary is definitely sort of ambitious for me. It defies many of the storytelling conventions I’m used to leaning into. It takes a Western format, but it’s about problems and anxieties and sort of nightmarish fears, I think we have in the present day, but sort of almost imagine suddenly that in the old west they’re dealing with similar things and they don’t know why.

All these books to me are almost like if the first wave was like the lore was me working with creators that you’ve seen me work with before, but doing things that are creator-owned, in a zone that you expect from us in a fun way. Wave two is almost unexpected. These are books with people I’m not associated with that challenge me creatively on the page. And also trying things that I haven’t tried before, genre and storytelling-wise.

AIPT: Tula Lotay, Jamal Igle, and Dan Panosian all have incredibly different art styles to the point where I didn’t even know I was reading a Scott Snyder written book. How many issues does it take to start to write for a certain artist?

SS: That’s a great question. This is the format on all the books that we’re doing creator-owned, not just the ComiXology ones, but Wildfire over at IDW and how I do Nocterra. The thing that I love about creator-owned, and it’s such a joy honestly, is connecting from the ground up with the idea.

So with Deadly Datson, it’s this big epic cosmic scale story, but the way it came about was I went to Jamal and we were talking about working together. At some point, I told him I was talking to ComiXology about a deal and I had room for other books. And we said, what do you wanna do? And he was like, I’d love to write something. His daughter and my son are basically the same age. They’re both teenagers in high school. And he was like, I’d love to write something that I wish had been there for her a couple of years ago when she was super into sort of all-ages graphic novels, but would also appeal now. And I was like, that’s what I’d love to try that too.

So I said, “Listen, I have this idea about a kid, basically a secret history of the invention where all inventors throughout history kind of knew each other in the secret society and ultimately they’ve all been protecting this perpetual motion machine.” And he was like, “it’s right up my alley.”

And then he started talking about who he’d love Dudley to be and what he’d love to bring to it from his own life. And it’s that. So we build the book organically on it from page one. And I know because he designs, he does all this stuff beforehand, kind of what his priorities are on the book, he wants it to be funny and heartfelt. So I know how to write for him before we start.

Then generally what I do is I kind of do a loose outline, show it to whoever I’m working with, and say, what do you think? And then if they come back and say, listen, I need more room for this. I’d like to speed this up or whatever. I go back and redo it. So my goal is to write for them specifically. So no two scripts look alike.

Scott Snyder Comixology

A page from Dudley Datson. Courtesy of ComiXology.

For, Panosian, he loves lots of room. He’s done work as a writer as well. So he loves storytelling on his own sort of terms. So for him, I can give him sort of the emotionality of a scene and say, “Listen, this is what’s happening between Marshall Holt and Hyrum Tell. It’s incredibly tense. It’s all about him. Having finally caught this guy who’s murdered people all across the Utah territory for no reason. And he wants answers, and you’re standing at a lake, and Hyrum tell is like bathing he’s got nothing on, and he’s exposed. And we don’t know why he’s so calm with Holt, but the idea is that it’s entirely tense and like a standoff between these characters.”

And I give him the dialogue, and I’ll describe it. And then at the end of that description, Dan just goes to town, you know? And then I adjust to that afterward, when I’m sort of lettering it proper. So for me, the fun is figuring out the process that works together to make something that brings out the best in both of us and each book. I love the kind of methodology of that. Like figuring out how to write for somebody new in a way that I haven’t before.

AIPT: Dudley Datson and Clear both introduced some pretty cool technology in another life. Would you be an inventor?

SS: I love the idea of trying to sort of make it unclear where the science ends and the science fiction begins. Whether you’re doing horror or speculative sci-fi, I love it when you’re doing horror, and they’re like, not quite sure where the heart became the vampire heart along the way. All the technology we talk about in Dudley is based on real stuff. All of it is like taking something that exists in a form and then pulling it into a place that it isn’t yet, you know?

Comixology Preview: Barnstormers #1

A page from Barnstormers. Courtesy of ComiXology.

AIPT: Reading Barnstormers, I thought of that image of him holding onto that plane that was released a couple of weeks ago. What fascinates you about that American cultural phenomenon?

SS: The truth is, all of them are personal too. As I said, the way they were created has to do with approaching another person that you wanna make books and saying, “This is an idea that matters to me about this moment. Do you feel this too? Or what do you have in your mind that’s really worrying you or exciting you right now? And how do we build something outta that?”

So Barnstormers, I’ve always loved the imagery of it, first of all, and the kind of odd sort of surreal quality of people trusting each other. One person flying, and the other person literally walks out on the wing of the plane to wave at people or jump from one plane to another. The death-defying stunts they do, like playing tennis on the wings hundreds of feet up is crazy. The more I drill down into why it fascinates me in terms of its period, is that it was a moment not unlike now but it’s a hundred years ago. Almost exactly. And on top of that, it’s a moment when it’s in between a pandemic, a cataclysmic event, and World War I. And rich people are kind of celebrating this oddly booming economy that’s really only helping them. Before everything is about to crash again and fall into complete disrepair. Barnstorming. to me, it’s people taking a machine of war, essentially.

They’re taking their own decommissioned war planes that are no longer up to par. The army sold them, the military sold them for very cheap. Taking it and flying around the country and turning it into something beautiful where young people are like trusting each other in the sky against death as the whole system is being regulated away by airlines. They hated this cuz businesses thought it showed airlines as airplanes are unsafe. Because people kept dying doing it. It’s this weird, desperate sort of beautiful thing were kind of hopeful but desperate young people are doing this insane thing to survive and make money against kind of all odds. And it’s a fleeting, beautiful moment. So I love everything about it. And that’s the story.

Similarly, Dudley Datson is about people and society reaching a pinnacle of the invention, and we on Earth have become afraid of them. We have decided we are not gonna use this thing anymore. And things are falling into disrepair and fear because of that. We’re afraid to kind of reach out and be collective. And for me, even though it might not read it on the surface, you can see Jamal’s very politically active online. I’m politically active in my private life. We’re worried about like, you know, extreme right and all of this stuff destroying democracy, all of it. So the idea is it comes from a real place, and it’s supposed to be resonant at this moment.

And Canary is obviously that. The Western genre is this incredible prism that’s been used, I think, almost more than any other genre at moments of great change and transformation to reexamine the American character. So you get the Searchers in a time of civil rights discourse, you get Josey Wales during Vietnam, you get The Wild Bunch and kind of the anxiety and violence and sort of nihilism of the seventies. The famous westerns kind of correspond to their moment. We wanted to use the template of the Western to sort of have a Marshall go up against this crazy random violence that they can’t explain that’s happening.

To create almost a mind-bending mystery about this one collapsed mine, to connect it to now to say something that happened 150 years ago might happen again now in this same way. They’re all about things on our minds now, even though they approach them very differently. It’s all the comfort level of the co-creator and what we’re saying, how we’re saying it, but that’s the fun is to always make something that feels relevant to you now and feels like it’s addressing things that matter to you about your hopes and fears for yourself and your kids in the world and all of it.

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