Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel are creators whose names are synonymous with quality in comics. Snyder has worked on everything from Detective Comics to Justice League to Death Metal, with Daniel lending his talents to characters such as Batman and Deathstroke.
Now the two have teamed up together for a new creator-owned series called Nocterra, coming soon from Image Comics and released through Snyder’s new label Best Jackett. In the world of Nocterra, the Earth has been plunged into eternal darkness, with the black of night transforming any living creature into something weird and twisted if they remain there too long. The series follows “Val” Riggs, who ferries the remaining humans from outpost to outpost while navigating the weird world in which they now occupy.
Ahead of the comic’s release, however, the team has launched a Kickstarter campaign for the first issue: The Nocterra #1 Collector’s Edition. In addition to containing the premiere installment of Nocterra, the collector’s edition will feature behind the scenes peeks into how the comic is made. The Kickstarter also has offered a bevy of backer rewards, most recently including a chance to be drawn in the first story arc in a “red shirt” role or even a non-speaking part!
The Kickstarter has met its initial goal almost five times over, but there are still three days left to contribute. With that in mind, Mr. Snyder was kind enough to chat with me about the conceit of Nocterra, the impetus behind doing a Kickstarter, and what he hopes backers take away from the the experience.
FreakSugar: Before we get started, for folks who might be looking at the Kickstarter and haven’t read anything online, what you could tell us about the conceit of Nocterra?
Scott Snyder: The book was born out of a kind of a primal fear of the dark that I had a kid, and I had kind of forgotten that I had such a difficult time with it until my son did when he was around seven-years-old. He started having a tough time at night. So that got me thinking of the simplest concept: What if I did a story where the entire plane was plunged into an eternal night? For a kid, that’s the scariest thing they could imagine.
And so it just felt like one of those ideas you have every couple of years. You haven’t seen a series where there’s this kind of break-neck running. You don’t have any safe harbor, No refuge. It’s very 28 Days Later. Kind of nonstop propulsive terror. So this book was like that. I spoke to Tony Daniel; we’ve been friends for about 10 years since we swapped books on Detective Comics and Batman at the start of DC Comics’ The New 52.
The world of Nocterra is one where anyone that stays in the dark for too long, more than about 48 hours, begins to change into a monster called a shade. Every living creature is subject to this. So fish, birds, deer, everything changes into these shades and we play off all different sorts of mutations. So the darkness is scary. Everybody tries to stay in the light.
There are outposts now that are the last bastions of humanity around the world. Our main character is Valentina “Val” Riggs. As a kid, she has bad cataracts. When she adopted around four- or five-year-old, she had corrective surgery, but she remembers that time when she had to struggle in the dark, so she can navigate this world. She takes people from outpost to outpost in this massive 18-wheeler. It’s armed with all these weaponized lights. The book has this great scale to it where she and everyone is adapting to this new normal.
FS: The book and premise feel pretty prescient. Are you tapping into what’s going on in the world today?
SS: I think it’s a pretty resonant book. Ultimately, it’s about a darkness that separates everyone. And if you’re alone too long, you start to change into something horrifying, so it’s a pretty open metaphor for the idea right now that I think we have so many circumstances pushing us apart from one another, forcing us to be by ourselves in our own thoughts in our own sort of subjective world.
That comes from the pandemic, obviously. But, also, there’s this kind of the discourse out there, a kind of ugliness, a divisiveness, all of it. I think a really tendency for all of us to retreat from each other to disconnect. And in Nocterra, this is a world where the only way through the darkness is figuring out its nature and solving it. Getting rid of it will come through connectivity and collective action. So it does have a lot baked into the DNA that I think is in the zeitgeist, at least for me and my family and friends.
FS: The look of the book is genius. How did you decide what you wanted the look of the book to be?
SS: Yeah, well, we wanted it to be something that felt like they’re always danger lurking in the corners of the panels. There’s so much darkness in the book, so much ink and blackness. We wanted it to feel like right outside your field of vision, outside of any kind of illumination, there could be anything. So it has this claustrophobic and paranoid feel. But then, when you get into the towns like the outpost that you see in issue one, it’s this brightly lit kind of cacophony of life because people are all huddled together.
And so the only way that keep illuminated is to use whatever you can. Everybody has different ways of doing that. People that don’t have a lot of resources have, like, light bulbs hanging from batteries on their hats. People that have done well in this world have Tron-like LED suits. So there’s a lot of character design, world design, and Tony’s just having a blast with it and doing a terrific job with it. My kids saw some of the designs and were like, “That looks like a video game.” And I was like, “Yeah, you know what? That’s a good thing, right?” [laughs]
FS: Why did you choose Kickstarter as the vehicle to get this book out into the world?
SS: We wanted to try a really brand new business model. I mean, I know a lot of people have done Kickstarters for comic in general, but the idea with this comic is that it’s committed already to a published in Image Comics. We didn’t want to step on that.
But with the Kickstarter, it’s a very different version of the book. It would be offered something collectible and personal and invite people into the series. I mean, our impetus for doing the Kickstarter was two-fold. The first reason is practical, which has to do with the fact that in this moment the marketplace is just incredibly volatile. And, you know, indie publishers are really pressed. We’re creators who could try and get an advance or ask for any advance from Image or wherever we were taking books. But we didn’t want to take resources away from creators that really would probably need it more than us. But we also need to safeguard our own work against the fluctuations and volatility in the comics industry.
I’m going to talk about some of those books early next week as well, and give fans a peek into some of the stuff that will be helping to fund by backing the campaign in general. So I’m really excited about that. That’s kind of the business side of it. We wanted to also do something that would help retailers. So we have a retailer tier where they can get the book through a separate entity called Corner Box, a slightly different version with a different cover.
And 10% of the proceeds of that effort go towards the Book Industry Charitable Foundation which helps retailers and independent bookstores. And this is just us trying to do something in concert with the direct market. The hype around the Kickstarter having this special edition in the hands of backers early so that they can talk about the book.
And that’s kind of the second reason we went with Kickstarter. The edition that we’re selling and the kind of spirit of the whole campaign is meant to be connected. We wanted the emotional reason for doing a Kickstarter. It’s just that we really missed conventions.
I mean, conventions and talking with fans is so much about connections, and asking audiences to make leaps of faith where instead of a character who has 80 years of history behind him that they know and love, you’re asking them to kind of follow you into a world that you’re building from scratch together.
Those are the kinds of books that we would normally do during conventions and meet people and thank them. But because of COVID, we really can’t do any of that. So we said, “What if we use something where we’re at least giving them the opportunity to get a peek behind the curtain? See how the teamwork get more of an intimate look at our process than we normally offer into the additions that we’re selling through?”
It has a lot of material that shows you how Tony and I work together: how we put the book together, where the script differs from the art,why that happened, all of that. It’s for process geeks like me. But it also offers you a way of saying you’re in on the ground floor with us and the different tiers of the campaign offered: things like a spot in a class where I teach about writing first issues of comics; craft lessons with Tony watching him draw live; getting drawn into the book speaking.
We’re trying to make it something really inclusive and fun and celebratory that connects us with fans on every level. So those are our twin goals, that kind of double helix of the whole campaign. One is a pragmatic, and then the other is just a longing for a reconnection with fans.
FS: What can you tell us about your new label, Best Jackett Press?
SS: I’ve been working in superhero comics predominantly for 10 years, and I need myself a timeline a little while ago where I said, if I if I’m doing this, you know, for 10 years, I gotta give at least a couple of years to myself.
And DC has been very kind about letting me do a project on the side. Do you see work? But I want to do more indie. That’s my background. To be going back to that is really exciting for me. I have a big project over at DC that’ll be doing in 2021, but it’s more a Black Label sort of thing. It allows for new creators that kind of come in and get more oxygen. It’ll allow me to dedicate myself to more of my own work.
So, Best Jackett. It is really a place that I want to go to kind of push myself creatively. The name is the combination of my kids’ names Jack and Emmett, but, um, Quinn came along too late. [laughs]
The idea is to work with creators that I’ve worked with before, who I’m really familiar with and I’m close with, but to do it in ways that push us both into new territory. So, for example, I’m doing a project with Jock for one of the books, but it’s heavy prose oriented, so it’s kind of it’s almost like something we’re making a book he’s designing into a splash illustrations sort of way. I haven’t worked in that fashion before.
Similarly, I’m working with Francesco Francavilla. We teased the project together for a while, but it’s very different than our other stuff. It’s got an experimental structure to it. There are also creators I’ve never worked with before who were sort of a very different end of the spectrum when it comes to some of the more over-the-top epic action stuff that I’ve been doing at DC for a while. So I’m working with creators you wouldn’t think of me working with when you think of my work. I’m very excited to get back to that place where I can experiment.
The beauty of Best Jackett for me, too, is that it’s not committed to any one publisher. My partner on a particular book and I can make decisions.
FS: If somebody’s been on the fence about book, what would you say?
SS: We plan on doing a series for a really long time, and it means a lot to me and Tony. I’m really behind the scenes. I feel great about the energy and the spirit of the campaign and projects. If you can, give us a shot. We’re really proud of what we’re doing and I can’t wait for you to see what’s next.
Like we said, you still have THREE DAYS LEFT to contribute to the Kickstarter! Click here to check out all the rewards, including a “red shirt” role and non-speaking part!
Also, check out this breaking news from Mr. Snyder himself:
Guys – we only have 3 DAYS left on NOCTERRA! So to hit our final stretch goal:
— Scott Snyder (@Ssnyder1835) September 14, 2020