Kurtis J. Wiebe: Intrepid Word Wrangler

A comics interview article by: Felicity Gustafson

urtis J. Wiebe, wrangler of words and author of both The Intrepids and Green Wake, steps in to give us a little window into the world of writing. He goes into detail about his experiences working on both series and leaves a trail of irresistible bread crumbs that lead to his new ongoing project, Green Wake: Lost Children. Read about everything from recent projects, inspirations, writing moods and even podcasts. Apparently the last few months have been busy. Busy enough that Wiebe mentions turning towards full time writing! 

Felicity Gustafson: So what’s new in the World of Wiebe? Are you working on anything special?

Kurtis Wiebe: The last few months have been a pretty crazy ride, Felicity. Having two Image series out at the same time has been an amazing experience, but it’s also been a huge eye opener. The amount of time and work it really is was far more than I ever expected. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Right now I’m plugging away at Green Wake, trying to stay ahead of Riley as he’s one of the faster artists I’ve worked with. Issue #7 is waiting to be written, but the ideas are all there. 

I’m also gathering a pile of pitches as I ready myself for a full time jump into the writing gig. I recently made the decision to drop the day job and give my undivided attention to my craft. It’s scary, but a necessary step I think. My goal is to have at least four series come out in 2012, which is a lot, but I’m ready to make time for it.

And, finally, I launched a writing podcast with Ryan Lindsay from CBR and Jeremy Holt at Joy Hog calledThe Process (Episode 1 & Episode 2). It’s a fun little chat session about writers talking about their projects, their creative process and books or series they like to read. It’s hosted at Image Addiction, if anyone is interested in checking it out. There's also a Facebook page.

Gustafson: Some comic writers are struggling to even get one book out and, as I understand it, you’re working on at least two really successful projects right now -- The Intrepids (the last issue came out 8/24) andGreen Wake. What do you attribute your success to? Are you hiding some magical pixie dust that makes everyone love your stories or what?

Wiebe: Nothing magical about it, really. I’ve worked really hard and listened when given harsh criticism. I think it’s the level of commitment I’ve been willing to put into my career that helps me stand out from the crowd. I’d also like to think that it’s because I can write an entertaining story, and I’m sure there’s a level of reality to that, but I’ve had the great opportunity to attach amazing artists to my projects which makes me look so much better.

Maybe the artists are the magical pixie dust you refer to.

Gustafson: Do you have any advice for aspiring new writers? Is there any way of sticking the proverbial foot in the door without getting it broken?

Wiebe: I mentioned earlier being able to take criticism. It’s such an industry cliché, but it’s backed by a lot of truth. That, combined with the willingness to not give up at the first obstacle. I remember a time about two years ago I was ready to throw in the towel. My series with Red 5 Comics had come out, but didn’t sell. I couldn’t get any pitches together, and I was very frustrated with the amount of work I was putting in for no payoff whatsoever. 

I managed to overcome that and I made 2010 my year. I put all my energy into breaking in, I saved my meager pennies and booked a flight to Seattle for ECCC that year and it was that drive that allowedIntrepids to happen.

Gustafson: Green Wake and The Intrepids are completely opposite genres. Can I talk you into summarizing both of them for the people who haven’t read them yet?

Wiebe: A video reviewer recently made an awesome comment that I felt summarized Green Wake in a way I was never able to. It’s the movie Seven on acid. In more detail, it’s about a mysterious town that people wake up in with no recollection of how they got there and there’s no apparent way out. And people start to get murdered horrifically. 

Intrepids is more lighthearted. It’s a high action superteam book that mashes Scooby Doo and James Bond together where an aging inventor has taken in a group of ragtag orphans and made them fantastic tech to assist in wiping out mad scientists.

Gustafson: Do you find it difficult to switch writing genres? Is one genre easier to write than others?

Wiebe: I had moments where it was difficult, especially because I’m pretty affected by the way I’m feeling on that particular day. Sometimes I just had to write Green Wake, and other times it was anIntrepids sort of day. Generally I shied away from switching between the two when one script was only partially complete. I wanted closure to each issue before moving on, or else it really affected the quality and tone. I learned that lesson early on, Green Wake tone spilled over into an early draft of Intrepids #4 and it was all kinds of wrong.

Gustafson: As a writer, I’m sure at some point you’ve encountered the horrible bane of writer’s block. What do you normally do to battle the dreaded foe of every author? Do you have something to get you into the mood to write? 

Wiebe: Music. Music, music, music. I can barely write without it anymore as it has the ability to set the tone and mood for the writing experience in a quick, effective manner. It’s a little bit of self manipulation, but I’ve always had to dive into scripts efficiently as I was working a full-time day job. 

I also find reading or watching a film also helps to get inspired, to see the creativity of others can be a great motivator.

Gustafson: Does anything in real life inspire your writing? Do you ever base characters off of people you know or situations that happened to you?

Wiebe: I think it’s pretty difficult to escape using life experiences in what you write. Most of the time I see the influence retrospectively, but sometimes I go into a story with a full understanding of where it comes from. Green Wake was that way for me. I’d recently ended a very long relationship and I knew I had to write about it. I channeled those emotions into the script and those thoughts came out in the voices of my characters. 

I think that’s why writing the first arc of Green Wake was difficult, I was working through some pretty heavy things at the time. 

That said, I try to keep my characters close to my heart. It’s a fine line to use people around you as influence for characters, but it is somewhat inevitable. You want to be sensitive to the people in your life, not scare them off from fear of appearing in one of my stories. There has to be that level of respect. I hope my friends and family see I’ve tried to maintain that level of integrity.

Gustafson: Have you ever considered an attempt at doing the artistry for a comic as well as the writing?

Wiebe: [laughs] Lord, no. Trust me, it’s better this way.

Gustafson: What’s been your favorite piece of writing to work on so far? Do you have a favorite character or scene that’s really stood out for you?

Wiebe: Both my Image series for two completely different reasons.Intrepids has been a fun, lighthearted story that really stretched my skills. Green Wake has been an emotional journey that I felt was some of my strongest writing ever. My favourite scene was the finale toGreen Wake, probably the lastsix6 pages. When the art came in, I knew I’d accomplished exactly what I set out to do and that was a very rewarding victory for me.

I think my favourite characters are Chester from Intrepids and Krieger from Green Wake. Chester is this cynical wiseass, and I think it’s a part of my personality that I don’t let out often enough. If I’ve had a bad day, it creeps through sometimes, but Chester is the perfect outlet. I dig Krieger because he’s got this dry sense of humour, and I’m having a lot of fun with his character in the second arc. He’s a bit of a scrapper and takes delight in strange things. He’s very quirky.

Gustafson: Since your first project, Beautiful Creatures, do you believe you’ve changed much as a writer?

Wiebe: I don’t know that I’ve changed that much. I’ve improved and learned so much since that series. Pacing, flow, succinct dialog and paneling -- I’ve a much firmer grasp on those concepts than I did even two years ago.

I’ve definitely changed as a person, and I think that has changed the tone of my work. I find the really introspective, emotionally charged writing significantly easier than the silly, comedic stories. 

Gustafson: When Green Wake turned into an ongoing series, were you surprised? Did you intend for Green Wake to grow or did it morph on its own?

Wiebe: I was very surprised when I got the e-mail from Jim Valentino asking if there was any interest in developing the series further. Riley and I had talked about it before, if the series sold well enough could there be enough content for more stories in Green Wake. We’d originally just thought of doing stand alone arcs set in Green Wake with new characters each time, but we’d really come to love Krieger and Morley and I think their presence really plays a large role in the familiarity of the series. 

We’ve been asked a lot if the upgrade to ongoing changed the first arc, and believe it or not, it didn’t. It ended exactly the way I’d always planned. The only addition was the scene with Krieger at the end, but truthfully, even that scene was going to be included, but on a much darker level. Green Wake was never going to end on a happy note. I’m far too cynical for that nonsense. It would explain my love of foreign film.

Gustafson: Was Green Wake: Lost Children something you pitched to Image or did they come to you? I know Green Wake was met by a lot of reviews with almost perfect marks across the board. It seems to be universally adored.

Wiebe: Image wanted the ongoing series, and we happily obliged. The new arc is entirely our own design and Jim has been a fantastic support for the series. We’re hoping the second arc brings new readers, while it is critically reviewed well, our sales could be better. That has been part of the frustration, just getting people to read it. The other part is kind of out of our hands in that Green Wake really polarizes audiences. One group of people hates it for the same reason the other loves it. 

Gustafson: I’m not sure of the release date for the first issue of Green Wake: Lost Children, but I feel the need to ask if you can give us any juicy tidbits? Can you give us a hinting of future events? Any foreshadowing? I’m happy either way because I know Krieger’s making a reappearance, complete with his little bowler hat and fuzzy jacket that the ladies seem to love. But will the basic set up be the same, simply with a new batch of characters?

Wiebe: Green Wake has changed in the new arc which arrives October 6th. We hint at it in the final few pages of Issue #5, there’s a visual difference and the weather is obviously different. Winter has settled onto the town, which is something completely new, both to the reader and to the inhabitants. There is, of course, a reason for it which will be fully explored as the series continues.

The title "Lost Children" hints at some new residents of Green Wake, a type of inhabitant that has never before been seen: children. This arc is all kinds of heartbreaking. 

The set up is generally the same, but whereas before Morley was more the central character, the focus from this point on is Green Wake. We’re going to see some characters from the first arc, and fate isn’t so kind to a few of them, and there’s a handful of new characters who bring their own experiences into the picture. 

And, finally, there’s a political change in Green Wake. A man named Micah is rallying the citizens of the town to his banner, and his message of hope and love might not be exactly genuine. How does that sound?

Gustafson: Sounds fantastic to me. Green Wake has a certain depth to it that’s kept me hooked from the beginning. I’m glad to see that it’s going to stretch the limits and dig even deeper. Micah sounds like an interesting character to write. I’m really looking forward to its release!

Feel free to follow Kurtis on Facebook and Twitter.

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