Wyrd stars unlikable, alcoholic and seemingly invincible detective Pitor Wyrd as he investigates cases and solves problems too strange for US law enforcement. The Dark Horse series is written by Curt Pires, who took some time to talk about the philosophy behind his strange and often jarring take on the supernatural detective genre.
Stephen Cook for Comics Bulletin: First question – how is the title of the comic pronounced?
Curt Pires: It’s pronounced like weird. It’s actually an old English word meaning basically fate, sort of like the Wyrd Sisters from MacBeth. The three witches, right? They talk about fate and the concept of that – in the play it’s referred to as wyrd. So it’s kind of a play off that.
Also I just thought it was kind of funny to call a book essentially dealing with a character who solves strange crimes, all this stuff, weird — so it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek as well, not completely pretentious.
CB: Well it works for sure. So I looked a bit at your back catalogue. Tomorrows, you’re looking at young superhero teams, which really is its own subgenre. And with Wyrd you’re looking at the lonely bastard detective. What drew you to that figure?
CP: There’s such an interesting genre of work, specifically when you think about in the comics world. There’s these iconic characters who embody this archetype. And part of what started me thinking about Wyrd was I felt like comics was kind of missing a bit of that. I started cooking this idea back in I think 2014 or 2015 and I was just sort of noticing there’s not really too many great quote unquote detective comics or explorations of this archetype right now. I mean, the big one that everyone always compares this is to is Hellblazer, right, because it very consciously rips on it.
If I want to be crass about it, there’s a part of me I think that was just like the Hellblazer comics aren’t very good right now, if the people who own this character don’t want to do a good job of it, why don’t I just morph it into its own thing and I can do a good job of it and make a bunch of money and give people what they want? I think about stuff like this a lot where if I have an idea for a character I’ll just morph it into its own thing.
And I think Joe Casey has sort of talked about this before but using ideas for corporate characters just as your own thing and changing them enough that you can own it. Because it’s like why would I want to give this stuff away for someone else to own when I can just change it enough that I can do what I want and still benefit? That’s a little more business-oriented look at the thinking.
But on a craft side, to answer your question in a very roundabout way, I think it’s sort of like I’m trying to do a really postmodern take on these characters. So we brush up a lot against the conventions of the genre and I try to take a more humanist look at these interactions
‘Cause I mean the ending of issue 1 is basically like while he’s fighting, getting ready to fight this quote unquote monster, we’re basically also seeing that character’s entire story and realizing this isn’t — I mean what the creature in that issue does is not morally correct or there’s no argument to be made in killing a village of people, it’s that this is a complicated scenario where all these different political factors and arms races and international events destroyed one man’s life to the point where he is in this situation.
So it’s sort of like I’m trying to just explore the angles of these stories that get forgotten and left behind.
That’s a very long answer to your question.
CB: I think that leads into another question I wanted to ask. The second issue has the appearance of a few more real-world analogues and so it’s even a bit more, I’ll call it the Watchman formula, where you take these fantastical ideas and then maybe you do how miserable it would be in the real world, applying that lens to it.
And in that idea, what do you hope a lot of comic readers take away from reading Wyrd? The postmodern look at their favourite genre.
CP: I think what separates me from I think a lot of others, there’s still a lot of a love and reverence for this genre that’s embedded into Wyrd, which I think kind of separates it from Watchman or other deconstructionist spy fiction works. Because I always personally, as a reader, hate when the author thinks they’re better than the medium they’re working in.
Like if you’re doing a James Bond story and your whole story’s kind of about how bad James Bond is or whatever, it’s like why are you writing it? You need to acknowledge that you’re attracted to this character and I’m just trying to create three-dimensionally. It’s like yeah, there’s elements of Wyrd that are postmodern and critical of the type of story it is but there’s also a narrative level there where this comic does just function as, as the thing its critiquing.
Like you can just look at a very surface level reading of it and there’s still him going in, there’s still a mission, there’s all this stuff. So it functions on the level as the type of story which it’s trying to examine but if you really pay attention, read it, I’m trying to make it a more in depth sort of exploration of this and specifically that these characters like James Bond and John Constantine, they’re basically acting: they walk around with this machismo and this attitude to the world that’s very put on.
And I wanted to explore the mental health side of that where as the series goes on we see Wyrd starts to crack up a bit and it’s like what if James Bond started having a mental breakdown? I’m just trying to explore this concept in a real and human way.
CB: Applying that, you said it was a humanist lens to these stories?
CP: Yeah well I think in general and in life and in stories too — there’s this David Foster Wallace speech where he’s talking about when you go to the grocery store and someone at the grocery store’s being short or rude or unkind, maybe they’re just doing that because they’re an asshole but maybe they’re also dealing with something really tough or terrible in their life that’s making them do this.
So sort of extending this kindness and empathy towards other humans and embracing the thought process of not imagining yourself of the protagonist of the universe and just acknowledging that everyone you encounter and interact with has their own story and their own life and their own challenges that are just as complicated and important as yours. So that’s a life philosophy that’s bled into my storytelling, which is I’m not really interested in telling stories that present characters as singular forces of good or evil but rather just cogs in incredibly complex machines and sometimes they make the wrong choices but they’re doing so with the information they have and with sometimes good intentions, sometimes bad intentions. I’m just trying to tell stories that are as complicated as real life is, if you open your eyes.
And I think these types of stories where we present characters as cardboard cut-outs as good or evil as these like false binaries are starting to just be, to me personally, becoming very boring because no one — I mean, I don’t think anyone in real life is sitting there thinking, “I am the villain.” But I don’t know, there’s some people who are objectively bad. Like you know a Joseph Kony or Adolf Hitler — I’m not extending that sort of empathy to that, there’s a level where you’re a serial killer or orchestrating genocide, you are just objectively evil. But outside of extreme circumstances, I think there’s value in trying to understand and explore everyone’s stories.
CB: And so in some ways you’re extending that invitation to understand a miserable bastard like Wyrd.
CP: Well, I mean, maybe. It’s not even an invitation to understand, it’s an invitation to explore, right? You don’t have to necessarily understand what he does. And I’m not even particularly interested in making people feel sympathy towards him. I’m just interested in making it a complex, three-dimensional fully realized character as opposed to a hollow archetype.
CB: So what’s next for the series?
CP: Well so issue 2 is a ripped from the headlines yet very exaggerated and at times hilarious remix of a myth involving a popular politician. And then issue 3 delves into some of the stuff I was talking about: seeing Wyrd crack. And Wyrd has to deal with someone who commits an act of terrorism that has a connection to Wyrd’s past and it dances around topics like domestic terrorism and mass shootings and this kind of stuff.
But through the lens of Wyrd. It’s the continuation of this postmodern, not necessarily deconstruction, but remixing and story exploration of these tropes and archetypes of American spy slash science fiction slash comic fiction.
Wyrd #2 is now available in comic shops and online. The third issue is expected to be released Apr. 10.