Scott Snyder has been one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed comic book writers of the last decade. Through his extensive work at DC Comics, Vertigo, and Image Comics, Snyder has established himself across many genres through his work with a number of high profile artists.
So when Snyder announced a new deal with comiXology for eight new series from his Best Jacket imprint, the comics world took notice. Only a few months into the new venture, Conskipper was able to speak to Snyder about how the bold move is going so far, his work with aspiring and established comic talent through his writing class, and the future of the comic book industry in this exclusive interview.
The second issues of Clear, We Have Demons, and Night of the Ghoul are all now on comiXology. How does it feel to have fully embarked on this new adventure and to see the positive responses to the new series?
Scott Snyder: Such a relief. We have had these series in the works for so long. These first three we have been squirling away for what seems like forever. Night of the Ghoul goes back to 2017-2018, Clear was 2018-2019, and We Have Demons began in 2019-2020 right while Greg and I were finishing up Death Metal.
We wanted to develop a number of true co-creations with Best Jacket and comiXology, and we think we were able to do that.
Your first three titles are in the horror and sci-fi noir genres, but they are all very different in terms of tone and story elements.
Snyder: Yes, they are all very different. The basic concept for Night of the Ghoul sprang out of the 2016 election and going back and watching the original Universal Monster movies. Francesco Francavilla and I talked about needing a new classic monster, so Night of the Ghoul is a homage to those great characters and also scary in a modern way.
Clear sprang out of me and Francis Manapul’s fears for our kids and all of the self-affirming algorithms that they are confronted with through social media that filter out views and content that you may not like, which is great for finding what you do like, but it is also limiting. And with We have Demons, it is a deep fried crazy burrito of gore, and also a love letter from a father to a child.
And you also have a lot of titles on the way!
Snyder: Yes, the next wave is even farther afield with Canary, a western with Dan Panosian, Barnstormers with Tula Lotay, which is a World War I high flying romance, a YA book with Jamal Igle and Juan Castro called Dudley Dotson, Duck and Cover with my American Vampire collaborator Rafael Albuquerque, and a prose story with illustrations by Jock called The Book of Evil.
What was it like going back to prose writing?
Snyder: That’s where I started, and I haven’t done any prose writing since After Death with Jeff Lemire in 2017. I wasn’t dying to return to prose writing. The isolation that it requires and the length of time that it takes to complete is extensive, and the fact that you have no collaborator; I wasn’t ready for it. But with The Book Of Evil, it brings me back to prose writing, but it also allowed me to collaborate with Jock, who is doing the illustrations for it, so it was great fun working with him.
The Book of Evil is probably my darkest and most tender story as it is about five kids who grow up in a world where everyone is born a psychopath and the story focuses on their friendship and how they attempt to survive.
Having read the first few issue of the three series, they are all so unique, and the artists are doing some of their best work to date on them.
Snyder: Yes, I think we all feel invested in this new project. The DNA of the project was that the comics would be completely 50/50 in terms of creative input and direction/collaboration and it was nice for all of us to have that type of freedom. All of us have worked almost exclusively on superhero comics over the past few years, and with the monthly nature of the superhero comic, it is tough to find the time, breadth, and space you need for a creator-driven comic.
I loved working on Batman with Greg, as terrifying as it was, but there was a lot of pressure that came with it in terms of planning for each subsequent issue, concerns about the entire Batman line and continuity, the publication schedule. We rarely got a moment to pause and do something new. With the comiXology books, we are able to push the boundaries in good ways and help others do the same.
It was recently announced that the writing room was getting underway for Wytches, and Nocterra just got picked up as a Netflix series. How do you feel about your work being adapted for a new medium?
Snyder: It opens up our work to whole other realms, which is great. With Wytches, I was thrilled that they wanted me to be a part of the writers room and also help pick out my fellow writers. Jock is also the art director on the project.
With Nocterra, it is weirdly refreshing to let other people that you admire and trust, like Roberto Patino, who is also working on HBO’s DMZ adaptation, elevate and evolve the property. I don’t feel the need to get involved in each project, although the perception in Hollywood is that comic writers want to be screenwriters. I was just talking to James Tynion about this, and so sometimes the people that option your work are surprised. We love doing comics, and being able to consult on adaptations on our work is great, but you can never have the control that you have when you create a comic. It is a very empowering experience.
Speaking of empowering writers, your Comic Writing 101 has become a very successful venture.
Snyder: So far, the class has been growing, with very little attrition. I taught writing for several years at NYU, Columbia, and Sarah Lawrence and teaching writing is a very good litmus test for your own creativity. I learn just as much from my students as they do from me. Being on Substack has worked really well, and a whole community on Discord has sprung up through the class with 700 to 800 people sharing their work.
My goal was to make everyone feel that they can write comics. Once you understand the mechanics, utilitarian craft, and the basic processes, you can use your passion as a compass to write your own comic.
Your students like Tynion, Amy Chu, Philip Kennedy Johnson, and many others have done very well in the industry, so who acted as a mentor to you when you were starting out?
Snyder: So many people. Grant Morrison helped me out immensely, and he had no reason to be so generous with me. He gave me a ton of advice, especially with Batman when he told me that I should make a birth and death with my own version of the character as a guide for my time on the comic. He also told me to go crazier with Dark Nights: Metal.
Greg Capullo, who has since become one of my best friends, helped me out so much when I started, especially because I was super green. Strangely, we didn’t get along at first, and he was super patient with me and kind. He taught me that the keys to collaboration are trust and having the room and space to develop ideas, and giving each other enough room.
You obviously had a lot of option for a new line of comics from Best Jacket, so why did you decide to go with comiXology, which is a new model for comic distribution and access?
Snyder: The digital aspect came about during the pandemic. And I asked myself if there was a way to do them digitally, as it was a huge choice, especially with myself and my co-creators continuing to work half of the time on their superhero comics and half of the time on the upcoming creator-owned comics. DC and Marvel were both kind to invite us back to work on their books while we were developing new ones. No one was getting paid to do the creator-owned ones, and everyone still wanted to do them.
At about the same time, I spoke to Will Dennis, who I worked with at Vertigo on American Vampire, who told me that comiXology was looking for creator-owned material and then I spoke to Chip Mosher about comiXology about their Originals and the deal that they just struck with Dark Horse Comics to put their digital comics into print, and that we had many options to put out the comics in all sorts of formats such as single issues, miniseries, etc.
I deeply believe in trying new things and I saw it as a way to bridge the gap between digital and print. If you look at manga, they have been able to utilize browsing digitally which also results in print sales. With all of the concerns about paper supply, distribution, and speculators, comiXology allowed us to do both, at a price point for a month of digital access being relatively the same as one physical comic.
There are plenty of comics to buy each week, and through comiXology, readers are able to browse thousands of comics which will hopefully make them want to go out to their local comic shop and buy them for collectability or to get different covers, background material, bonus material, etc.
I believe in the format and Chip and David love comics; they are comics people. When I went back to my co-creators, they were excited to do it. We also didn’t want multiple physical books coming out at the same time when people are hurting financially. On comiXology, right now people can read Dark Knight Returns or Swamp Thing, as well as We Have Demons and the other new books, and new material by emerging voices in the field.
What I saw with my kids and others during the pandemic was that people were rediscovering their hobbies, and a lot of people returned to comics. There have been good sales figures for superhero comics, but the big dilemma for comic publishers is the fact that there are now a million places to access superhero material.
It’s exciting and scary to go this route, in hopes that future creators don’t have to only work for Marvel or DC; that they have options to make a sustainable living through their own comic. And with the streaming wars and the endless pursuit of new IP, there is no a different level of awareness in regards to comics. So, while the industry is undergoing an identity crisis, there is optimism in the air.
Clear, We Have Demons, and Night of the Ghoul issues #1-2 are currently available on comiXology. Amazon Prime members can access all comiXology Originals as part of their membership, and they are also available for individual purchase or through the comiXology Unlimited subscription service. We Have Demons #3 will be available on December 14 and Clear #3 and Night of the Ghoul #3 will be available on December 21.