Over the past five years, Scott Snyder has quickly become one of the most popular writers in mainstream comics—largely due to his stellar, chart-topping run on Batman. But in his creator-owned work, Snyder has displayed a knack for gripping horror stories that double as explorations of very real and relatable anxieties and concerns. It’s horror steeped in humanity.
In Wytches, the Image Comics series Snyder co-created with the superstar art team of Jock and Matt Hollingsworth, the writer isn’t just completely reinventing witches—through the story of the Rook family’s dealings with the titular monsters, he’s diving deep into very real fears about being a parent, and the ugliness that hides in all of us.
In a characteristically honest fashion, Snyder sat down with EW to chat about where Wytches is going, what scares him as a parent, and the things that make normal people become the stuff horror is made of. Come for the interview; stick around for the sneak peek at this week’s Wytches #3.
EW: With the third issue, the pace is really starting to pick up. What does the rest of this first arc look like?
Scott Snyder: The first arc is about six issues long. We’re about halfway through with issue three—this is where it really starts to go off the rails in terms of horror. The issues become a little more structurally scary, too. A lot of the stuff that’s happened to this family in the past, their experiences, good and bad, start to come in through flashback.
So, for us, the book really begins to reveal itself. You start to peel back the layers of the present day and the relationships as they exist right now, and reveal some of the darker things that exist beneath the surface for the family—and also the darker things that exist in terms of the Wytches and their history, and how they’ve preyed upon people for a long time.
Yeah—there’s a scene in this issue where Charlie Rook attacks an apparition with a rock that seems to very strongly echo the prologue in issue one. Was that intentional?
Yeah, exactly—that cold open comes back in a big way, actually, in issue five and six. It’s meant to be a really circular book, where a lot of this stuff that you think you’re over, from the past—whether it’s hundreds of years ago, or its in your own life—comes back to haunt you.
Because at the end of the day, what the Wytches are … they’re terrifying. They have their faces on the sides of their heads, the two holes on the skull for the eyes are on the sides, they can peek around trees more effectively, and prey on you. They’re really spooky.
But what makes them deeply scary, and not just monster-scary, is that they really only come after people that are pledged to them. They prey on people that have been given to them, and the only way to be given to them is for someone else to give in to their deep, dark, desires, and go to the Wytches for things that they want they shouldn’t have—extended life, freedom from some illness. They want someone to fall in love with them. They want to kill somebody that they hate.
These things you’re not supposed to wish for, when you wish for them and you go to the Wytches, the Wytches are there for you. And so that’s what makes them deeply, deeply scary to me. The things you wish for [that] you don’t want to admit you wish for—that’s what they’re about.
You’ve written before that because of this, the Wytches are scary when we’re scary. What’s scary about the Rook family?
What’s scary about the Rooks, for me—Charlie, for example, he’s a character that’s very close to my heart. I mean, the things that he articulates—both his love for his daughter, but also how furious he is at his own love for his family and his daughter in some ways.
Because you love your children in a way that makes you vulnerable to the world in a way that you weren’t before. Before you have kids, it’s just you, it’s your body. If something happens to you, it happens to you. But you fall in love, and then suddenly the person that you love is now an extension of you—if they get hurt, you’re hurt.
And when you have children, it’s just exponentially worse in that regard. So, you have this capacity for love that you didn’t know you had, and it’s the great joy of life, of my life, having kids—but there’s something also there that you get angry, and you think, “I don’t want to love the kid this much. I don’t want to be afraid that something is going to happen to my kid this consistently.”
And so, what’s scary is the capacity that he has, and all the characters have, for lashing out or rebelling against their own happiness. There’s something beneath the surface in all of us that is restless, and that wants things that we shouldn’t have, and wants to say or do things that are fleeting, but are powerful. And in those ways, I think that’s what the Wytches prey on, that’s what they’re there for. They can almost smell it.
In issue four, actually, the woman that you see in issue three, Clara—she’s actually one of the few people that’s ever escaped the coven in the Burrow—she actually says, “you guys must have some secrets, because they are after you.” It’s like the way a shark can smell blood—the Wytches out there. They know when you’re restless. They can sense it.
It’s neurological—it’s not magic. It’s science. They can see it; they can smell it in you. And they wait for you to come to them and try and get what you want that you shouldn’t have.
And it’s supposed to have a parallel on the book Charlie’s working on too, you know. He’s working on a book about a mirror world, where wishes come true. And in issue one, he gets very mad at Sailor. He lashes out at her when she kind of insinuates that Annie, the bully—maybe her disappearance is Sailor’s fault, because Sailor wanted it to happen so badly.
He says, “Wishes don’t do anything.” You can’t just make something happen by willing it. It’s your actions that count. But what the Wytches are about is, maybe that’s not really so. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge some of the darker things you think you feel. And that’s the only way to come to terms with them.
There’s a real sense of frustration at the heart of these characters.
Yeah! Issue four, you see the lowest point for him [Charlie] in that way. And it was hard to write. It was the hardest part to write in the whole book, for me. It parallels things in my life too—I’ve had moments where it feels overwhelming, you know? You’re trying to make it, you’re trying to get a career started—you feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities, and your feelings for you children and all of that.
And there are moments where this part of you says, “I don’t know if I can do this,” and you lash out—Charlie has been there, too. And so has Lucy, and Sailor has her own secrets too, but that—those moments are hard to write, but they’re the most gratifying to me in the book, because it’s what makes it personal, it’s what makes it real to me. And it makes it scary too.
Your work finds horror in these very normal emotions. How do you come at them in a way that makes them terrifying?
I think you have to be willing to humiliate yourself on the page, and show the things that you’re embarrassed that you’ve felt.
I’m sure there are people in the world that don’t [have those], but for me—I’m really proud of my role as a father and how I’ve handled it in general, and as a husband. But there are certainly moments where I’ve been terrible at those things. [I’m] putting that on the page and saying “These are real, too,” even if you don’t see them day-to-day.
These things are there. And if you pretend they’re not, the Wytches are more powerful. You come to terms with them, with people, and you say, “It’s okay to have these feelings,” and to be able to be two people at once, three people at once—to not be the thing everyone thinks you are just wholly. And in that way, you find peace and I think, wholeness, in a way that defies what the Wytches want.
They’re these hungry, animalistic, twisted versions of us. They want you to come to them and say, “You know what, I can’t take it. Get rid of this person. I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want to be part of the natural system where I’m old and I’m dying. Give me thirty more years of life and take that person away for it.” That’s what they’re looking for, is that sense of the things you don’t want to admit you feel and think.
There’s usually some sense of optimism in your work. Is that going to be present here? This is very bleak and frightening stuff.
It is! I can’t really speak to it too much, because I think it would spoil what’s coming in [issue] six, but—six is the darkest moment of the whole thing. There’s a moment in six that I think people will really be surprised at. It’s how I sold Jock on the series: “And guess what happens when we get to that final issue: this.” And he was like, “Jesus, that’s dark,” and I was like “I know!”
But then there’s a moment in that moment, and after the moment, that sort of refutes it, that says, “No, it’s not exactly like that.” But it’s a dark book. It’s definitely as black as you can go—I mean, it’s not dark and black in its outlook, but it’s dark and black in the material that it plumbs. The things that it does.
These things are what make us who we are, and they can be very ugly. That’s where the stuff of horror comes from for me—the fear of the human capacity of evil, and for cruelty. That’s as a dad, but also just as a person, as an adult. That’s what’s scary.
The Wytches, these monsters—they’re scary. And I’m sure I can do a scary or fun horror book where it’s just monsters. You know, it’s just these monsters out there, and they’re cannibalistic, and a group of teens wander through a place, and they don’t realize it’s cursed with these things, and these things come out of the burrow and eat them. [Laughs] That would be fun! Maybe I’ll do that.
But the thing that’s scary to me, the thing that works about this book for me is that it’s not that. It’s about monsters that are reflections of our own capacity for cruelty and evil, you know?
Wytches #3 is on sale this Wednesday both digitally and at finer comics shops.