SDCC 2022 Interview - Dark Spaces Wildfire Writer Scott Snyder

One of the comic industry's most prolific writers of the last decade is undoubtedly Scott Snyder, and at this year's San Diego Comic-Con he was there to promote his latest slew of books with IDW.

After finishing work on last year's epic Dark Knights: Death Metal event for DC Comics, Snyder made a move toward writing more creator owned projects with companies like IDW and Comixology. Since 2021, Snyder has worked on at least eight titles for Comixology alone. More than just quantity though, all of these titles have been well received by fans and critics alike as they combine dark stories with heartbreakingly human characters. Just recently, Snyder announced Dark Places: Wildfire, which follows a group of female fire fighters going up against a raging California wildfire.


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With Snyder producing more work than ever before, it only made sense to speak with him at Comic-Con to discuss the difference between his work at DC vs his creator owned work as well as the themes of his work.

Review image of Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1

How has your Comic-Con been going?

Scott Snyder: It's been great. I've been looking forward to this one in a way that I don't know I've ever looked forward to one before. I mean, I always enjoy it, but part of it is being away for so long and part of it is also being in a different place creatively. You know, being at this con in New York, a lot of the time being with Marvel or DC brings very specific pressures. Especially when you're doing a big event, or a big book like that, because so much of the line depends on it financially, because so many jobs are hooked into it. And when you come here, and it's a pressure cooker, and you see all things promoting it, and you're out there kind of trying to sell it, it can be very stressful. So now being in a different place from doing my own stuff it's so much lighter coming here and being able to talk about it openly, not to worry about, you know, whether this group will think I did a good job with this character that they love, or this. It's liberating. So it's been great fun seeing everybody again. After the pandemic we had this Comixology party last night, and I was looking at it like a wedding. Very few times as you get older in age, do you get to see so many people you love in one space around. Energy from that is particularly effective. It's really wonderful to look out and see Becky Cloonan, and James Tynion IV, and Josh Williamson, and all my friends. It's wonderful.

What's the biggest difference between working for Marvel and DC versus working for companies like IDW and Comixology?

Scott Snyder: I love it. I love licensed stuff. I'm not disparaging it at all. And I'm sure I'll go back and do more of that at some point, whether, at Marvel or DC, but they're kind of inversions of each other. Like when you're working on something like Batman, everybody who knows Batman has an opinion about the mythology. You know, it exists without you. And you're walking into this role saying, "Please believe I have something to say through this. And I hope you enjoy it." And you're trying to get them to believe that, you know, you're worthy of this thing. When you're doing independent stuff though, it's automatically grown out of your passions and the things that you're interested in. So them showing up is them believing in you from the beginning. On top of that, there's no path, there's no history to any of that. So they're there watching you build it from the ground up. There's no pre-existing mythology. So, emotionally, I think it's exciting because it's just the opposite. You're flexing the opposite muscles. You're saying "You don't know anything about this, but if you trust me, and the way I write, and the kinds of partners I pick,  come over and check it out. When it's Batman, it's like "You love Batman, you love all these characters. But you know, I'm wanting you to trust me." This is the opposite.

You've talked before about the psychological boost you've been getting from having more creative freedom. Has that affected your workflow?

Scott Snyder: Oh, 100%. I can't believe I'm writing as many books as I am right now. I mean, they're staggered, so it's better than it looks. I think people think I'm writing like six books at once. But you know, I'm working on three to four at any time. So like, one week I'll work on one, the next week I'll work on another, in the next week I'll work on another. And if you told me I was doing that at DC, I would walk into traffic because it requires more when you're at a licensed company. There's a lot of energy that needs to go into making the story acceptable to everyone internally. So you wind up spending a lot of energy making sure your editor is okay with it. The other people in the group are okay with it. The fans are okay with it. Marketing is okay with it. Like everything is about this kind of internal machine. Then there's the external machine of fans.

Josh Williamson and I were just joking. I was like, "It takes one and a half books." He's like, "It takes two books." Like meaning two books worth of energy to do that. So he's like, it takes two books worth of battery power. Whereas not having any of that I feel so prolific and energized where I can just write what I'm feeling that day and these books talk to my creators. So, yeah, it absolutely affects workflow. I mean, I have space for those two more books than when Josh or me was at DC.

How do you balance your writing with doing research and being well read?

Scott Snyder: I have a very strict workday. I have three boys at home. So it has to be extremely compartmentalized. So my workday really is like a nine to five, you know, like nine to four, let's say. So the rest of the day, like, I'm with my kids, or my family, but it leaves a good amount of time when they're asleep. They're doing other things, which are real. So that's my time, before I go to sleep at night. When it comes to research, a teacher once told me do as little research as possible. And what he meant by that wasn't, don't respect the subject matter. Research can become very easy form of procrastination. It's a very easy rabbit hole to fall down and start to be like, well, you know what, "I'm writing a book that's set in 1927, I maybe I'll look up again, like what cars look like. I'm gonna look up who the vice president was." But it doesn't matter. Like, if it's not on the page, it doesn't matter. When you finish, it does matter, you can get something historically wrong. But you do enough to know that emotionally and psychologically you're not contradicting the research, you're not doing anything offensive, you're not disrespecting history, you're using it the right way. And then beyond that, you've got to let go and write. For me, I spent a long time when I was really unhappy working on a book that was promised to a publisher. And they would only give you the money when they approve the book at the end. After Astra, my first collection of short stories, I was working on a novel, and it was historical. It took place in 1918. My way of dodging the fact that I was so unhappy and scared was to research all the time. I'd be like, I don't know anything about 1918 food, you know? And it was like, why?

Can you talk about the genesis of Dark Spaces Wildfire? Is that something personal to you?

Scott Snyder: It's personal to me in the same way that all of the books that I'm doing right now are personal. I want to be really deeply connected to the things I'm afraid of, for my kids or for myself, or hopeful about this really precipitous inflection point in history. There are so many terrifying things happening on so many levels, it's hard to be optimistic. And the story I was listening to NPR and this woman came on and was talking about the subject and then pointed listeners to a book called Breathing Fire that was about a prison crew working on fires in California and one of the members and one of these members were killed by a boulder that came loose in the fire. So reading about it and hearing the disparity between the houses, these women are paid $2 to protect their own lives, you know and their own chances. And the way the system is rigged against them in so many ways felt up to this moment. You know, set against an apocalyptic never-ending wildfire, going after crypto in a house that nobody occupies. But as ultra-wealthy, from people that have less and less chance in life feels really resonate.

Your books do a very good job of balancing timeliness with timelessness. How do you balance that?

Scott Snyder: I think for me, with this book in particular, the way I pitched it to Mark Doyle, was that I want it to feel almost like a play, like a white knuckle pressure cooker. Sort of a morality battle, you know? And in that way, I think those are timeless. All the trimmings and the context can change. But it can be the ethics of it are about this moment. That feeling, I think, lends itself to a lot of different situations. And so it can kind of extend beyond the circumstances of this particular time. You know, it's about when the rules are set against you. In a lot of ways, you don't have a lot of chances. And suddenly an opportunity presents itself that you've seen people that don't follow the rules take and should you do it? And what does it lead to? And I feel like that feels to me like it's a timeless question. But the circumstances that we're presenting, you know, are tied to modern, very contemporary sorts of challenges I think people face.

You've developed this reputation as the comics industry's cheerleader. What to you makes comic books so special and different from any other medium?

Scott Snyder: I mean, so many things. I think the thing that I love about comics, there's so much, but the thing that I love in terms of making it is that they're deeply collaborative. It's about bringing something that you care about or are scared about, something that's personal to you to another person and saying, "Do you feel this way too? And if you feel connected to it will you help me make it, and make it better than I could make it on my own?" That connectivity, that collectivism that comes to comics is inspiring, especially in a moment when it feels like it's very hard to see collectivism out in the real world. You see tribalism, and you see myopic thinking, and you see cruelty and all of it. There's a vulnerability that comes with making a comic, there's a trust exercise that comes in making it. So the art form itself, I think, reflects values that I wish we had time for.

But in terms of also just the slate of things out there. They're like books, there's just so many different places to fall in love. There is a story for everybody. And what I really love is the way the comics industry has expanded so much. When I was a kid, it was Marvel or DC. And maybe now with IDW and Image, you have evolved. You have Comixology, Scout, A.W.A., and Aftershock. You can Kickstart your own. And so there are so many voices. And there're so many ways for people to tell the stories that matter to them. I see it as a terrifying moment. Because there's so little security financially and there's so little floor, there's not the same stability the way there was about having a three-year contract. But there's more opportunity and more ways of taking control of your own career. And that leads to more passionate, interesting stories. Tim says to me, it's both a scary moment, but also one of the most exciting things in the history of comics.

There's this fundamental humanism to your work, can you talk about that?

Scott Snyder: I really appreciate you saying that. You know, I think a lot of times I'm like, "Am I just totally like a horrible person?" Even when writing about like, monsters eating children, I hope that's there. Because, as much as I'm like, "This book is gonna be hopeless and real," I always wind up not doing that in a way. Not because I get a happy ending but because I do feel that ultimately the stories, the horror of the stories from the monster and the cruelty, they reflect our own nature or whatever it is. Like wildfire, like the temptation, the nastiness that we face all of them. There's always a kernel. We're better than this. We're better than our own nature, you know, we can try to overcome it. We can try. In trying there's grace and trying to be better than your programming and that's a running theme even when I wind up doing grimmer stuff.

I just want to also say first of all, thank you, I love what you guys do. But also I just want to really say thanks again to the team like my co-creator, Hayden Sherman for being such a powerhouse artist. And the way we work is that I went to them with the idea and said, "What do you think, just the idea of the sketches of the characters in my head?" And they came back and said, "That's so cool." What I want to do with the art is give it that kind of light that comes to smoke and makes it feel like it's another world, and I was like, "Perfect, I'll use that in the story to make it feel more claustrophobic." That kind of back and forth is such an inspiring and really great kind of relationship. So I'm very grateful, you know, just to be partners with Hayden and also with Ronda's just murdering it on art. And Darren, who does the lettering I've worked with on many, many books, he's fantastic, too. He brings his own artistry. Also Maggie and Mark who edit the book, like, yeah, just it's a real team effort. I'm very grateful to be with all of them and without making sure to throw credit to them because they really making.