Benjamin Percy has made a name for himself in the world of comics as the writer of everyone’s favorite furry, easily-angered mutant with claws, so writing a novela about werewolves probably wasn’t much of a stretch.
Percy’s Wereworld also contains illustrations by Francesco Francavilla, making for the perfect combination of words and pictures and is a great throw-back for those who enjoy their horror stories with vivid depictions of what is on the page.
We got a chance to talk to Percy about writing Wereworld, working with Francavilla, and his current and upcoming work for Marvel Comics in the X-Universe.
Where did the idea for Wereworld originate?
Benjamin Percy: About a year and a half ago, when COVID began to creep across the world, I was struck by the variety of opinions I encountered. We all live in bubbles, right? Many of us — once we leave high school — don’t really encounter a broad socio-economic group except at the DMV. I’ve lived across the country. I travel constantly. I work in comics, novels, movies, tv, magazines, podcasts. I’m in cities, but I live in a rural area. My in-laws are dairy farmers. So I regularly encounter a schizophrenic range of perspectives. When it came to COVID, there were the doomsdayers — who believed we were one cough away from total society collapse — and there were the denialists, who believed the disease couldn’t possibly reach their communities.
I’ve always loved a fishbowl scenario. A story in which a whole cross-section of humanity is observed in a trapped space. Stephen King writes them often — in The Mist, Under the Dome, Shawshank, for instance. So I took a street. A neighborhood in a small town. And I used it as a microscope for the variety of the world, as a contagion spreads and all hell breaks loose.
Your novella takes place over the course of one year and each chapter is dedicated to one month in the calendar year. Why did you use this as a framing device for Wereworld and how does it contribute to the story?
Percy: I was tipping my hat to Cycle of the Werewolf. I also loved the slow creep of the progression. Every month, the threat markedly elevates as more people grow infected, so that by the end houses have become armed fortresses and nobody trusts anybody.
I was also inspired by The Purge — except the end of the world comes one night every month, when the moon grows fat.
Francesco Francavilla provides the illustrations within Wereworld. What was it like working with him and what was the process like in terms of deciding which images he would bring to life?
Percy: I’ve been stalking Francesco for a long time. He’s a horror hall-of-famer. I feel so lucky to join forces with him. We spoke from the beginning about EC Comics — and about creating, for every month of the calendar, a signature terrifying visual. He’s a dream — I mean, a nightmare — to work with.
Next to vampires and zombies, werewolves are represented to a much lesser degree in horror fiction. Why do you think this is and why did they work for you as your “monster” for the novella?
Unlike vampires, werewolves aren’t aspirational. They’re hairy and smelly and shit on the carpet. But I’ve always loved them best. Because — like the story of Jekyll and Hyde or the Incredible Hulk — they tap into the knowledge that we all have something terrible caged inside us that’s waiting for the right trigger to break out.
You have been one of the chief architects of the new X-Universe at Marvel over the past few years. What has it been like writing X-Force and Wolverine?
Percy: It would always be a great time to write X-Men comics, but right now? In the Krakoan era? It’s very special indeed. I’m putting my whole ugly heart into both series. Career highlight.
Which character in the X-Universe is your favorite to write?
Percy: As a hairy, armpitty, squat, muscular dude who lives in the frozen north and likes to chomp on cigars and swill whiskey, I bet you can guess.
Percy: A huge event — called the X Lives of Wolverine and the X Deaths of Wolverine — just got teased by Marvel. It launches this January, and I can’t say much more than…it’s the greatest Wolverine story ever told. That’s what we were aiming for anyway. We’ll see if others agree.
Wereworld will be published digitally on September 14, 2021.