Kurtis Wiebe stops by the Outhouse to talk about Green Wake and The Intrepids!
If you haven't heard of Kurtis Wiebe, you probably will be soon. Wiebe has exploded onto the comic book scene with The Intrepids and Green Wake. Green Wake proved to be so popular, it was promoted to a regular series. Wiebe stopped by the Outhouse to talk about his recent comics and the comic scene on the West Coast of Canada.
The Outhouse: For readers who haven't heard of you before, how did you get your start in comics?
Kurtis Wiebe: My first publication was through Red 5 Comics with the title Beautiful Creatures. It's a modern fantasy story about four college aged women attending a fictional school in England who discover that they are each host to the reborn spirit of an ancient mythological creature.
The series actually met with some solid reviews, but as I was totally unheard of at that point, the sales were dismal and it went virtually unnoticed. I think you can still get the four issues on Comixology. It was a great learning experience, by far the greatest was a lesson in pacing. I still think Beautiful Creatures is a decent comic, but it suffered from pacing issues due to it being a four issue series rather than six.
OH: How is the comic scene on the West Coast of Canada?
KW: West Coast? I'm not sure, I live in the Midwest, but I can do some research for you if that'd float your boat! Kidding!
The comic scene where I'm from is quiet. Saskatoon is a city of a quarter million, and it's pretty isolated from other major centers. (Check it out on Google maps, you'll see what I mean) The longer I've lived here, the more I've noticed a small but growing comic community. I've tried to meet with local creators and encourage them to promote their work.
We're lucky, the local comic stores are avid supporters of home brewed talent and host signings and comic art shows that bring that community together and get people talking. It's a slow process, but creators are coming out of the wood work, and it's really exciting to see.
OH: Tell the readers a little bit about The Intrepids, your first Image miniseries.
KW: Intrepids is an over the top action spy series with cyber bears and battle baboons. It's about four orphans that are taken in by this aging inventor who makes them wicked tech to assist them in stopping mad scientists from wreaking havoc on the world.
OH: What influenced the Intrepids? I see the Rocketeer, The Avengers television series, some James Bond, maybe even the X-Men.
KW: Most of the shows you're referencing are definitely touchstones, but mostly on the art end. Scott loves the retro look and he infused the early script with this kinetic, retro-pulp style that brought the script into a whole new, more interesting world.
I'd actually been inspired by Umbrella Academy as far as story was concerned, but I wanted to make it a bit lighter and not take it too seriously. What Ba and Way crafted in their series was a beautiful, unique story and I admired the idea of a cast of misfits caught up in a bizarre world.
OH: One of the villains refers to the team in The Intrepids as "eccentric teenagers". Why a team of teenagers to battle mad scientists?
KW: At its heart, Intrepids is a coming of age story, about the unrealistic expectations we have of the future and also the very specific filter through which young adults see the world. I know from personal experience, as most people do, what a shock is was to be thrown out into the world and learn on your own the realities of living day to day.
To make this story relatable was important, and to tell the plight of a young cast of characters trying to discover who they are while battling baboons was, I felt, necessary to balance all the zaniness.
OH: Who do you see as the audience for the Intrepids?
KW: All ages. Really. There are a few jokes here or there that might not be appropriate for kids, but as with movies like The Princess Bride, people of all ages can enjoy it for different reasons.
I remember going back to The Princes Bride at various stages in my life; when I was younger, I loved the larger than life characters and the action. As a teenager I loved the quotable lines and as an adult I adored the dialog, the sheer genius of the intricate and slapstick comedy.
I'm not saying Intrepids is anywhere near Princess Bride, but I think it can be compared in appropriate audience. I've had a few parents email me and say their kids loved the book, as young as seven years old, and I received an email from a man who said he's been reading comics for fourty years and Intrepids reminded him exactly why he loved comics.
Hitting such a wide gap of readership is so rewarding.
OH: You mention in the afterward that the Intrepids changed as you worked on it. How did the original idea differ?
It was a little darker, again, inspired by Umbrella Academy. The violence was going to be a bit more brutal, but after Scott came on board and brought his unique vision to the series, I changed the overall tone to something a bit more light-hearted. There's still a hint of it in the first issue where Rose slices that snipers throat, but after that we decided to keep it toned down.
OH: Justin Scott's colors are amazing on this book. How did you find him?
KW: Scott and Justin attended the same art college and we were lucky enough that he had some free time to help us out. We had originally sent out a call for a colourist with some sample pages to impress us with and Justin's was our favourite by far. He managed to emulate Scott's original colour work from the pitch, yet bring a personalized vision to make it his own.
OH: You have two Image comics hitting the shelves at the same time: The Intrepids and Green Wake. Did Image pick up both books at the same time or were you able to use one of the books getting greenlighted to push the other in front of Image?
KW: Intrepids was picked up about six months before Green Wake, and I think having an upcoming series with Image Central helped the pitching process. Though, having Riley Rossmo on board for art duties was probably the biggest sell. Jim (Valentino, Shadowline ) published Cowboy Ninja Viking, and was eager to work with Riley again as he'd received a lot of praise for his style in that successful series. I was lucky enough to get a pitch together with Riley as CNV was winding down.
OH: Intrepids and Green Wake are totally different in tone. Is this an effort on your part not to be thought of as a writer of horror or kitsch mystery? Or are you just taking your best ideas and running with them?
KW: I'm not convinced it's a conscious decision on my part, I just write whatever is going through my mind at the time. I definitely prefer writing more serious toned stories with heavy content, but I'm not worried about being pigeon holed. I hope to continue writing a wide variety of stories, to continually challenge myself to try new avenues of narrative.
OH: Green Wake's artist Riley Rossmo captures a feeling of wicked sin and dread in his pencils. Does this influence at all how you write the book, or was the book written before Rossmo was attached?
KW: Green Wake was written with Riley in mind. He and Alex Grecian had asked me to do an original back up story to fill the pages of Proof at the time (this was a few years ago now), and that was where Green Wake germinated. I'd come up with this idea of a strange town full of cultists that worshiped some long dead alien god, very inspired by Lovecraftian folklore.
Once I started detailing the town, I felt there was a lot more to explore than a few short stories. I decided to write the first script and hope that somewhere down the road, Riley would have the time to try it out. It took almost 2 years, but obviously it happened.
OH: How would you describe Green Wake. Is it a horror comic? A murder mystery?
KW: It's both a horror and murder mystery comic. The series is heavily tied into themes of guilt and loss, and there's something scary about facing our regrets and being forced to relive them. Blood and guts are visually disturbing, but everyone relates to feelings of guilt and shame and doing their best to avoid thinking about them.
That's what is frightening about Green Wake. The people who run from their past are damned.
OH: Green Wake seems like a very bleak and desolate place. What stories can we expect to see from Green Wake in the future?
KW: Well, the main story arc following Morley will be wrapped up in this five issue series. Even with the announcement of Green Wake becoming an ongoing series, we will not change our plans to have a complete, succinctly told story in the first instalment.
I spoke with Riley this morning about future story arcs, and we're brewing something fiendishly delightful. I don't want to say much more, because the concept is still pretty young at this point.
OH: The protagonist of Green Wake, Morley, is seen in the first panels being covered in frogs. Is Green Wake going to be full of mystery? When will we start to see the broader picture?
KW: Green Wake is a character with its own history and even motivations. It plays an active role in the daily lives of her citizens and exactly what that is, and how it all plays out will be answered in the first arc. We promised readers disclosure and we're going to stick with that game plan.
That said, answers are coming. Some reviews disliked the book because they felt I was withholding too much information just for the sake of it, but it's too bad if they don't pick up the second issue because there's a pretty big reveal about the importance of the frogs in it.
OH: Do you have any other projects coming up that you can talk about?
KW: Well, now that Green Wake is ongoing, it's going to be a priority. I have three other projects I'm getting pitches together for, but I suspect with the workload of an ongoing series I'll have to commit a lot of time to that, which I'm completely happy to do. It was a rather pleasant, unexpected surprise, and I count myself lucky for the opportunity.
OH: If you had to convince readers to pick up Green Wake or Intrepids, what would you tell them?
KW: Support independent creators. Give new stories a chance. By putting your money into creator owned books at publishers like Image and Oni, you're supporting brand new, original content that you can find nowhere else. It allows people like me to keep writing stories that I would want to read, and it keeps comics fresh and exciting.
Also, if you don't pick up Green Wake or Intrepids, I won't be your friend.
Written or Contributed by: Martin John and Christian Hoffer