Today sees the release of Nocterra issue #1, the brand new series from Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel, where the world is plunged into everlasting darkness that turns the living into monsters. With pockets of survivors having to stay close to artificial light, the story follows Val, a "ferryman" that transports people and goods through darkness to take them to safety.
Having read the first issue, I highly recommend it to our readers, I'm really excited to see where the story goes in future issues, and I had a chance to catch up with Scott Snyder, who talked about the successful Kickstarter campaign, the state of indie comics, and what to expect from his new series and imprint:
When we last talked, you had just launched the Kickstarter campaign for Nocterra. Having significantly exceeded the campaign goal, can you talk about your experience and learnings going through the whole process?
Scott Snyder: The thing that is fascinating about Kickstarter, more than anything, is how supportive the community is of creators. I remember Kickstarter from years ago being something where each project was pretty isolated and siloed. And now there's more of a celebratory feel to it where projects that couldn't happen otherwise find life.
It's such a big community, there's a tremendous amount of support from project to project, and Kickstarter [is a great way of] connecting you with other people doing projects and helps you support each other. All of it was really inspiring to see not only how welcoming the community was, but how deeply enthusiastic they were about each other's projects. I found it to be a really wonderful experience.
It’s really interesting because I used to look at the benefits of Kickstarter from just a funding standpoint, but that community aspect allows you to build buzz for your book before release, and to build an audience that will follow you beyond the campaign. It was an incredible way to snowball excitement for something like Nocterra leading up to its first issue release.
Scott Snyder: The story of Nocterra is about the ways in which darkness separates and alienates us from one another, and changes us into things that are unrecognizable and monstrous. It was written for my kids as an inspirational book, but [I liked] the notion of being able to make the book reflect those values so that we were able to say to people with the Kickstarter, “We're in a pandemic, none of us can get together for conventions, and none of us can see each other. We'd like to offer you something that gives you a glimpse of how we're making the book to make you a part of the process.”
They get something personalized and it allows us to make sure we can make the book regardless of what's going on with the pandemic or economically. The whole thing felt really good in terms of its transparency. Some of that extra money went straight to extra assets for the book itself, like getting to be able to do extra covers, and the rest of the surplus money went straight to the next book that I'm doing called Chain with Ariela Kristantina.
COVID has impacted all business in one way or another, but we’re still seeing indie comics thrive. I’m really happy to see so many creators launch new projects and it seems like people are flocking to indie comics now more than ever. What would you attribute that to?
Scott Snyder: I think about this a lot, honestly, just because I find it really fascinating. Part of it is just a giant cultural shift away from corporate superheroes. That doesn't mean that people don't like them anymore or are sick of them in any bad way. It just oscillates and moves in cycles. There was such a saturation of fantastic superhero movies for so many years ending with the masterpiece Avengers: Endgame and it's very telling that, right now, some of the biggest cultural milestones when it comes to superheroes or comic book-related material are deconstructive. So you have The Boys, Watchmen, and you have things that are tongue in cheek.
A lot of us in comics experienced these cycles in the late ’80s, late ’90s / early 2000s, and it moves in these waves. It comes in these kind of 8–10 year cycles [where you get books like] Y: The Last Man and Preacher... and right now, you're seeing the biggest boom yet. Right now, there's a wave of people having become so familiar with the big superhero epic that they're looking for things that are more personalized or that have a different angle, a more prismatic take on comic book storytelling. So you find them moving to different material that's more eccentric or more analytical or more subversive.
And that's where indie comics come in. [People are] looking for things that speak to them in a way that aren't giant corporate products. Again, nothing disparaging about giant corporate. I work on them all the time, but there are waves like this and people right now are looking for things that are more subjectively theirs. And so that drives people towards indie comics.
And we do see a lot of companies like DC that are being very smart in the way that they're being more daring with some of the ways that they're approaching their characters. They're doing them more in niche areas as well for smaller characters, like what we’re seeing with WandaVision.
So there's a kind of sense of a movement from the central pillar of big comic book tentpole events to things that are more tailored for specific audiences. And that's where people are primed to come in and find indie comics.
It’s really interesting how people are being exposed to comic books in different ways, whether it be social media or digital releases.
Scott Snyder: As a father, I'm becoming a lot more aware of how kids and teenagers are very different kinds of consumers than we were as kids. They're not going to the comic shop to find a comic. My nine-year-old found X-Men through the Wolverine skin in Fortnite. Then he watched the movies, then he wanted the statues for his birthday, and now he's reading the Dark Phoenix Saga, Weapon X, and everything else. And my fourteen-year-old came in through manga. He loves manga, loves webtoons, and he started reading digital.
I really loved the first issue of Nocterra and can’t wait to see what you have planned for future issues. I know that you came up with this idea well before COVID, but being in the middle of a pandemic, I can see parallels with communities in hiding, checking of the gums for infection, and so on. Did COVID change how you approached any of the story?
Scott Snyder: It’s pretty much the story I had locked in, but the thing that I was wrestling with when I started writing was less the pandemic than it was divisiveness, [specifically] misleading information, anger, and fear pushing us into corners where we seemed unreachable to one another.
When the pandemic hit, it just became even more acute and the book felt more urgent in the way that we were writing it, where it felt less exploratory and almost more like the ticking clock. Just like the real world, we wanted to make it feel like they have to solve this fast because Emory is sick. So that element that there would be a bigger ticking clock on the first arc did come in at the end, so that's where subconsciously the pandemic seeped into the book.
For our readers who may not be as familiar with Nocterra. Can you tell them about the story’s central character, Val? Why is she important to you and why are readers going to like her?
Scott Snyder: The reason that the book appealed to me in the very beginning was that it had a personal angle. As a kid, I was really afraid of the dark, and it was more than just fear of the dark. I realized later that it was sort of tethered to issues that I've had with anxiety and depression most of my life.
In the dark, the worry is that all your fears could be real, and the experience of anxiety is that you feel that all your worst concerns, worries, and premonitions are not only possible, but probable and coming true. Your body is telling you that with this kind of alarm system going off all the time, and the dark is a perfect landscape for that to thrive.
Val was born with really severe cataracts and she was legally blind, and so wherever she looked, these dark spots would cover everything. In issue three, we reveal that her symbol on her visor is her call sign and they call her “Sun Dog.” Sun Dog is kind of a false sun and the image on her visor is how she saw the sun as a kid, with the spots over it with a big black smudge covering it. So she chose that deliberately to remind her that she got through that time and she'll get through this.
But she's someone who is extremely wary of being hopeful. She believes deep down that the world she experienced as a kid is the real world hiding behind this bright, paper thin reality that we think of as this kind of sunlit day-to-day life. What she felt in terms of the cruelty people dish out to one another, the lack of sympathy, the cruelty of the world itself, the spots covering everything wherever she looked, that was real.
And so for me, she's a powerfully compelling character because she's a survivor and she thinks that things like hope and aspiration beyond sort of the day-to-day are just vulnerabilities that you don't need in this world. So I find her a really endearing and rich character to write.
And I'm very grateful also to Tony for bringing so much of his own experience, both as a father with daughters and some of his heritage and background to the character as well. He wanted this book to be about how, when you're in that kind of survival mode, you think about the things you care about and how you protect them from danger. But ultimately as a father, in this world right now where everything seems so scary and uncertain, you can't raise your kids just being survivors with no hope, and so the book is personal in that regard, too. So she's a character that means a lot to both of us and I'm really proud of how she came out.
Those who have picked up the first issue get a taste of the series villain, Blacktop Bill. Can you give a tease of what we'll see from him down the line?
Scott Snyder: The whole second arc is going to fill in some of his past, but he is a character who haunts the highways and byways of this world. He's had a special procedure that bonds him to this black nano material that makes him absorb or reflect no light. So he reflects no light whatsoever. He's like a walking silhouette with teeth and he has a special car that's very fast and dangerous. He chases you down on the highways and everybody's afraid of him.
In issue three, the woman who runs the truck shop in the town that we began in calls a friend of hers to find out if they know anything about [Blacktop Bill]. And the friend, who's sort of a record keeper of all truckers says, “Don't ever mention that name over the airway again. He'll come for you!”
There's a whole mythology and legend around him that we're going to be exploring without giving too much away, but he's one of my favorite monsters in a long time.
Along with Nocterra, this is going to be a really exciting year for you because of all the work you're doing on your own imprint, Best Jackett Press What details can you share with Daily Dead readers about what’s coming up?
Scott Snyder: I wanted to go out first with Nocterra because it represents everything I like to do. For a long time, being at DC, I had a place to do my most bombastic and robust storytelling, summer blockbuster-type stuff. Now taking a break from DC, the fun is to create our own work, [and for this to become] a place to flex different creative muscles, to be more elastic, and experiment.
I wanted the first book out of the gate to embrace all of the storytelling expectations that people have around the kind of thing I like to do, and then just try and do the book [in a way] that does them so well with my partners, that it reads almost like we're not defying our expectations, we're meeting them and then exceeding them.
That's the hope with the book and what we're shooting for. The art that Tony brought to the book and Tomeu [Morey] brought through his coloring is, to me, the best work of their careers. I couldn't have better partners on the book, so I'm so grateful to them. And then beyond that, the fun is to have this be the engine for all of Best Jackett. And then, we're going to announce another eight to nine books that are all in different forms of production right now.
So my goal is to do a big expo and raise the curtain on all of it and say, here's all the books coming out between now and 2022, the release schedule, the formats, the publishers, and show the entire thing as one big ecosystem at once. I want to have Nocterra be the teaser that fuels a lot of the stuff that's coming
A lot of the other books will surprise people in terms of genres and formats that we're doing. The first one out of the gate, though, I want [people to say]: “Oh, that's what we expect, but it's even bigger and better than we'd hoped!” That was the goal to meet and then hopefully surpass expectations through the quality of the book and the hard work the team is putting in.
Nocterra #1 is now available! To learn more about Nocterra and Best Jackett Press, visit: