Thee Comic Column #72: Wicker

Last year I came across a comic called Ruin. After researching Ruin in its embryonic state I contacted and interviewed creators Darker Sho and Ruben Rojas. The Ruin kickstarter was a success and Ruin is in production.

During that interview Mr. Sho mentioned another forthcoming book he had written called Wicker. It sounded awesome and I tried to earmark it in my mind but it fell off my radar. Then few weeks ago I saw that the Kickstarter for Wicker had launched and in reading again about the concept for the series I was immediately a fan, not just because I thought that the way Darker Sho and his collaborators – working out of Darker Sho’s own Darker & June Entertainment Imprint – had handled that last campaign was nothing short of elegant, but also because Wicker falls into the horror genre and that is something I am all about. Horror films have reached a level of sophistication that is finally on par – in some cases – with Hollywood’s fourth quarter Prestige films, but in the world of comics, despite there being a number of great horror books, for my tastes there still just are not enough! And here Darker Sho and artist Marcelo Basile look to be turning in work that is equal parts high-end, exploitation and grindhouse. Watch the video, go to the page and support them if you can, and then read my interview with the man himself, Darker Sho:

SCB: Okay, so I have to get this out of the way first. On the Wickstarter page there’s a bit of text that introduces the concept of the book as coming from the lyrics of the Ramones’ classic Judy is a Punk. As someone who is also very influenced by music in my writing I want to know more about this. Talk to me about the role the Ramones’ song played – directly or indirectly  – in the creation of the character(s), series, theme, “logic”, etc. of the Wicker series. Any other music you feel helped shape this series?

 

DS: Music is a great source of inspiration.  I grew up in a small town…when I was a kid, music was everything to me.  Music physically alters your surroundings; it not only invades the airwaves within earshot, it affects you emotionally.  That type of magic is very powerful. Of all the live music shows I’ve been to over the years, Ramones ranks as one of the best. I’m not sure how or why inspiration strikes…but my mind is persistently solving puzzles; I’m in a constant state of daydreaming.  As a result, I was an insomniac for many years.  Judy is a Punk played one afternoon randomly on shuffle and I instantly visualized Wicker.  I equate the process to that of maybe a sculptor working the clay, finding unique characteristics inherent to that piece and running with it.  In other words…Wicker came to me as naturally as meeting someone for the first time.  I’m merely the medium or point of origin, and the story progresses organically from there.  When I write, work on paradigms, or take notes I primarily listen to Metal, a lot of TOOL, NIN, The Sword and Classical music.  When I letter the comics I listen to a lot of Hip Hop (Saul Williams, Kid Cudi), Primus, Punk & Hank III.  This comic is definitely a playground for the many adventures and emotions, inner demons, happiness and devastation expressed in music.  The bright colors, mystical storyline, Wicker’s punk attitude, the Demons–all emotion and struggle.  This comic is the rock band I always wanted to play in and never did.

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SCB: I notice a healthy dose of monsters in the art you’ve posted on the Kickstarter page. Some of these look derived of human hosts or anomalies; some that look downright demonic or otherworldly. The bio sets up the fact that Wicker is, presumably, a human girl that becomes bound to an “otherworldly stranger”, a  “wraith entity”. The specificity of the term wraith entity leads me to two questions: 1) How much of a Bestiary do you guys have set for this series? Wraith entity doesn’t sound like a convenient description, it sounds like a well-thought out entry from a catalogue of ghouls and monsters you may have to inform and populate this world that you’ve created. 2) The use of the term “otherworldly” leads me to ask whether or not parts of the story will diverge from what we know as reality and take place ‘elsewhere’. Is that accurate, and if so how far into a hierarchy of worlds have you guys gone?

 

DS: I definitely buy into Cautionary Tales and as a self-professed chronic daydreamer, I can assure you that our Bestiary is plentiful.  At the onset of the story, we are not entirely sure WHO the wraith is, seemingly their souls are bound by accident.  We then learn that this may not be the case.  It’s a lot of fun to write two characters in one…The Wraith can feel Wicker’s emotions, see her memories, sense when things aren’t right and offer guidance.  And of course, all she wants is to be rid of him. For me, that’s the horror right there…a prisoner, possibly malevolent, has taken refuge in your soul and you are affected both mentally and physically. For the first volume I’d like to walk a fine line between horror and humor.  Some fiends, Marcelo and I have “Frankensteined” them from our own deep seeded fears–seeing your inner fears materialize and then puppeteering them to interact and terrorize other characters is a lot of fun.  Other fiends are dangerous and scary, but with a dash of raunchy obscured humor that I truly have a fondness for.  All the beasts have backstory.  Virile Ens and the haunting of Hotel Sirix is our first tale.  Abandoned at the altar, she threw herself and her unborn child to their deaths from the rooftop of Hotel Sirix.  Now she haunts the Hotel grounds, luring men with her sweet lullabies, much like a Siren of the sea.  This character takes great joy in manipulating men, tearing them to shreds with her words and convincing them to take the plunge.  If that doesn’t work, she’s prone to extremely violent outbursts, and as we’ve seen in some of the art, the unborn baby pops out much like Alien blasting a  Dirty Harry .44 Magnum.  That’s scary as shit and one hell of a case of Baby Mama Drama.  I also enjoy esoteric, supernatural, and occult topics. It’s fair to surmise that the physical and spiritual worlds will commingle; there’s no out of bounds here.  Wicker experiences change throughout the story–a sort of metamorphosis if you will, both literally and figuratively–and oftentimes it’s the changes we can’t see that are most lasting.

Wicker baner 3 (1)

SCB: I’ve also noticed that on some of the character designs there are religious or spiritual iconography twisted or appropriated in some way. Are we dealing Good vs Evil or is this more of a story that deals with the gray areas?
DS: For the viewer, religious iconography takes on an immediate tone.  It’s a taboo subject; something you’re instructed not to discuss over dinner.  Mostly it’s so amorphous and so personal, that it’s all gray.  There is less of a protagonist/antagonist angle than an us vs. them (meaning everyone who disagrees with my belief structure).  Personal beliefs aside, in this story we are on the fringe looking in.  The city, as we discover later in the story, is as real as Wicker.  It’s survive and neutralize at all costs.  But at any moment, and often as we will discover, the scenery and players and their intentions may abruptly change.  As Religion may very well be an opiate to the masses…you’ll inevitably have junkies and withdrawals…which begs the question: who’s the dealer?

 

SCB: Speaking of character designs, there are a lot of character sketches with your name on them on the Kickstarter page. Do you write and design the visuals for everything and then find the artist – in this case Marcelo Basile – to bring it all to fluid life or is the visual process more collaborative?

 

pag 20 color B (1)DS: Marcelo and I share a common attribute…we can’t accept praise (it’s foreign to us) and we deflect that by focusing the attention on our collaborators.  The visuals are definitely collaborative, two fold.  I’ll have a nightmare or do a bit of research and shoot the notes to Marcelo and POOF (magic) Marcelo creates the monster.  And other times I’ll find a fiend in my inbox with little or no background and then I work out the details.  Out of all my projects, this is the most collaborative…I’m primarily in the driver’s seat, although the artists I work with are free to design characters as they see fit.  I like that working process, we take away the confines of: this is MY toy…get your own! And we’ve basically got a heated game of tennis…bouncing ideas back and forth until we become distracted and create something new.  I’ll send the guys sketches sometimes–I attended art school but nowhere near the caliber of Marcelo—because some characters are too complex for words.  It’s a visual medium after all and I’m pushing the limits as we speak with RUIN.  I write the first script and reveal the rough script only to the artist…if we mesh, I get their input.  I need an artist that does more than take direction well.  This is playtime and I want collaborators.  It’s no fun to call all the shots, and if I did, I’d seriously limit the scope and breadth of the stories.  I’m also naturally stubborn and small characteristics or details that I feel are essential, tangible or “cool,” I push for.  I think it’s about finding an artist with a similar passion and vision.

 

SCB: Now that you have one successful Kickstarter under your belt I’m sure you’ve learned some things. What are you doing differently with the Wickstarter than you did with the campaign for Ruin.

 

DS: Moving faster!  Meeting deadlines and rewards quicker, lettering and coloring faster.  We strive to be personable, and reach out to all our Backers and be as genuine as possible.  Our Editor, my co-writer and Best Friend June is handling the bulk of responses this go round.  I’m busy lettering and tending to other writing projects.  She’s instrumental, getting rewards to the printer, organizing all the Backers shipping addresses etc., her help is invaluable. Whereas with RUIN, I wanted to do ALL of it myself and as we grow, that’s just not feasible.

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SCB: Once again you guys have some of the greatest incentive packages I’ve ever seen on a Kickstarter. That’s not a question; I just wanted to express how impressed I am – once again – with how you are handling the campaign.  I would imagine to do such a good job is almost a full time job itself. How the hell do you manage?
DS: I never sleep! I work full time in Healthcare, I’m going back to school, we’ve got two rescue three-legged cats and a dog, our Daughter and numerous creative projects, not to mention the comics and the Kickstarter campaigns.  It’s a tremendous amount of work but I love it.  It makes me feel fulfilled and I’m appreciative of that.  Being idle for me verges on depression, so I like to keep the creativity flowing.  Thank you for your kind words!  We did a few new things this round, and all of our high tiered rewards are gone!  I hope to have news soon regarding our Backer at the $1K reward…their story will be illustrated (up to ten pages) and featured in an issue of Wicker.  We also opened up art commissions for the first time and a Backer will have the art tattooed on his body forever, which is rad.  Aside from the pre-order which grants us the ability to peacefully create our art and pay some bills…the best part of Kickstarter are the fun rewards and interactions with our Backers.  It’s so amazing to interact with complete strangers that somehow believe in you even though they know nothing about you.  I think it really pays homage to the power of art and that gets us through the wee hours of the morning with a smile on our faces.

SCB: What else do you want people to know about Wicker?

DS: I love the fact that Wicker is a woman that isn’t just drawn in for eye-candy.  She’s the main character and is kicking some serious ass.  And it’s on an individual level, because that’s just who she is and what she would do.  When the idea came to me, I wasn’t thinking about ways we could be original and please all of those awesome ladies out there who read comics; she just came storming through my head and demanded to be written.  She’s a force of nature and I think that nuance is important.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Thee Comic Column #72: Wicker
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