Exclusive: Sean Murphy Talks THE WAKE
Last month writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy‘s highly anticipated series The Wake debuted. Vertigo had been teasing us about it for a while, and when it came out we saw it was well worth the wait and the hype. It earned a very solid 4.5/5 when we reviewed it (here), and the second issue was just as great. The second entry came out yesterday, but don’t worry we don’t spoil anything if you haven’t had the chance to read it just yet. I got the chance to speak with Sean Murphy late last week about the series and the beautiful work he’s doing in the deep sea saga. Murphy went from one hit to another with The Wake. He recently wrapped his mini-series Punk Rock Jesus, so anticipation was high as everyone waited to see what his next big project would be. I had to ask him about his thoughts on that series, of course, and what he thought about it becoming such a big hit. Dive in and see what Murphy had to say!
First off, I have to ask you about Punk Rock Jesus since the trade was released just a few months ago. Now that it’s all said and done and you’ve been buried under a mountain of praise for it, how does it feel? What are your thoughts on it now that a little bit of time has passed?
It feels great to have my effort validated by so many people. It was a book based on touchy subject matter which could have backfired, but instead it found an audience, warts and all.
Before we start talking about the book, I have to ask about the covers. You’ve crafted a giant interlocking mural with the first five covers. Can you talk a little about how that decision was made and how you and Scott decided on the ‘story’ you were going to tell with it?
Oddly enough, there was a communication error early on–I thought they wanted an ad that was a fold out of some kind, so I drew a three page piece. While it wasn’t what DC wanted, a few people wanted to salvage the idea for something. At first we thought about connecting 3 covers, but then I pushed for 5, that way we’d have a 5/5 split for the series. It was approved.
As far as content, I just grabbed a bunch of imagery that fit the world of the book. From then on, I balanced everything out to make it symmetrical: the shark balanced by the sub, the cave on #2 being balanced by the eye on #4, etc. We started calling it “the Bond poster” because it looked really epic, like a James Bond movie.
Speaking of Scott Snyder, you two are friends but only worked together once with American Vampire. A new story presents new challenges, but how do you guys work together? What’s the creative process like for this particular project?
Creating comics with him is a lot like improve comedy, where we’ll both be adding elements and changing things right up to the last minute. The important thing is that we all agree on the context of the story and where it’s heading. And while Scott is more concerned with the minor details, I’m more focused on the visuals. I’ll add something unexpected to the script, knowing Scott will take the baton and run with it. I’m lucky that he’s so open to my ideas. One day I’m bound to work with a writer so will demand I stick strictly to the script, and I’m sure I’ll be longing for the days when Scott and I were teaming up.
Now to the book itself, the first issue was absolutely crazy. The story really started things off right. The bookend scenes in the future and the past were kind of a shocker. It shows it’s a story with an epic scope. Is that one of the big draws for you? Do you like that this is such a broad and expansive story?
I do my best work when it’s a challenge. Easy pages, or talking head pages, usually mean the art will be doomed because there isn’t much holding my attention. But if you give me a difficult setting to draw, or a weird storytelling problem to figure out, I tend to thrive.
One of the things I read when the first issue was about to come out was you found drawing water as a challenge initially. Can you talk a little about how you worked that out and how that relates to Matt Hollingsworth’s fantastic colors?
I’ve had a “go-to” way of handling water in the past, but the challenge of a tidal wave ripping through the city meant I had to reconsider my approach to water. After the opening pages of issue 1, I realized that my “basic water rendering solutions” weren’t going to cut it in The Wake, and that the water itself was going to be a large character in the book. Since then, I’ve worked out better ways of draw different kinds of water: calm and reflective water, splashing water, choppy water filling a room, bubbly water, etc. It’s been fun.
Now that you’ve got the water nailed down, has there been something pop up in the issues you’ve been working on lately that was challenging or maybe you’ve just spent a lot more time on than you thought?
As the book continues to time shift, I’m sure there’s going to be stuff that’s bound to pull the rug out from under me. And I’ll have to scramble to adapt.
There’s a lot of great scenes in the first issue from the present, to the future and that fantastic dolphin named Dash (he’s going to be a breakout star. I can feel it). Is there a scene you really enjoyed drawing as you’ve worked on this series? Anything in particular you can tease us in future issues?
I enjoy most of the underwater tech scenes–the more mundane scenes in The Wake. Anything with people in scuba gear crawling through dark, underwater spaces is my bread and butter. The stuff I’m less responsive to is drawing, oddly enough, is the monsters. I don’t know all the details about where the series is headed, but I’m anxious to get to the Sci-fi.
One of the things it seems you wanted to say with this book is that Vertigo is still strong in the, for lack of a better term, post-Karen Berger era. The first issue is out there and has been doing very well. Do you feel like you’ve got people’s attention and started to prove that point?
I hope so. The paradigm in comics is shifting so quickly, who knows what the landscape will look like in a year.
Final question- the first issue was received very well both critically and commercially. What do you have to say to people that have really embraced the series and what do you hope to show them with future issues?
My main hope is to keep the bar set high for each book. And when the story begins to take a major turn halfway through the book, I’m hoping it re-ignites the buzz and grabs new readers and trade-waiters.
Our thanks again to Mr. Murphy for speaking with us and to DC Comics for making it happen. You can find the artist on Twitter @Sean_G_Murphy so you can tell him how much you enjoy The Wake. You can also check out his personal website by clicking here so you can keep up with what he’s doing. The Wake is an impressive series so far. Murphy and Snyder have really served up a story of epic proportions that pulls you in from page one. Two issues in and they’ve already (please forgive the pun) blew it out of the water. Murphy and Snyder make a great team, so hopefully we see them doing a lot more with The Wake. What have you thought about the series now that we’ve seen two issues?