Scott Snyder is a veritable juggernaut in the world of comics. From his tenure at DC, where he penned some of the biggest Batman releases to date, to his consistent independent work in the horror genre, Snyder has shown us all manner of things bizarre and horrifying. It comes as no surprise then that the first release through his new imprint, Best Jackett Press, is the action-horror series Nocterra, available now on ComiXology and at local comic shops. We were very grateful for the opportunity to sit down and discuss the new book with Snyder!
HorrorBuzz: First, I wanted to ask if there were any real-world inspirations behind Nocterra— I know that in the author’s note you discuss your fear of the dark, and seeing that fear repeated as a father, could you expand on that for us?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I had a pretty acute fear of the dark as a kid, I had a lot of night terrors. I hadn’t thought about it much since then until I saw my 9-year-old struggling with the same thing and when I asked him about it he would ask me all these questions about things that had scared him during the day and real-life anxieties. It wasn’t fantasy nightmare fears, it was things he was afraid of in the real world and that you could relate to and I really wanted to dig into that. Especially now with covid, even more things feel possible that weren’t before, things that were fantasy have become more real and relatable. Also, the darkness in Nocterra has this terrifying transformative quality that mirrors politics– over the last few years, the political landscape has gotten more heated and divided. The plot follows a darkness that separates us from each other and turns us into things we find unrecognizable, and that felt really resonant.
HB: As a follow-up, what sort of art either within or outside the world of comics helps spark your creativity? Based on the conceit of Dark Nights: Metal I imagine there’s a lot of music that inspires you, and Nocterra’s blockbuster action-horror angle points towards some specific movies
Scott: The blockbuster aspect partly came from being away from DC for about a year… Previously, my creator-owned work was for personal and darker stuff, but it felt like a great time to do a big blockbuster book in the indie world. This book really evolved in that direction, I wanted to push myself to make something earnestly Spielbergian and meant to surprise while leaning into the big superhero expectations from before. Fans can expect a lot more from Best Jackett in the future, a lot of genres I haven’t worked in to try to push myself further outside of my comfort zone creatively, but with Nocterra I think the fun was to do the opposite and not try to defy expectations. We tried to undercut what people expected of us with sheer quality. We approached this as fans of movies like Indiana Jones, Aliens, and Terminator 2 and tried to really embrace these tropes and be sincere in our love for them.
HB: I think one of the big strengths of Nocterra’s first issue is the depth and intricacy of worldbuilding that you and Tony Daniel have managed to cram into 30 some odd pages. Can you tell us a bit about your process there, how you develop those ideas and how newer writers might improve their worldbuilding?
Scott: Worldbuilding was probably the most fun part, we just kind of started with the basic premise… Tony and I sat down and thought, what would happen with power grids and to vehicles in this world. So you start with little things and build up to the bigger ones, like how the ferrymen have set up charging areas and lit up stops all over the place, stuff like the Billboard Cliffs. You see all these fun things they’ve put together and how it comes from how they’d keep themselves lit on the road. We also thought a lot about how society would create a hierarchy where the rich are making these crazy LED suits but people with less money are using low tech sorts of illumination…it all really let Tony go crazy with extrapolations from that one “what would happen if” question
HB: What about the concepts and design for the villains of Nocterra– can we expect to see crazier shades as the story goes on? Can you tell us a little more about Blacktop Bill?
Scott: Absolutely! We wanted to start out small with issue 1 and get bigger and bigger so the further you go the closer you’ll get to seeing human shades in issue five. Blacktop Bill has been in my head for a long time even before we began working on Nocterra….I always loved folktales about devils at the crossroads, the archetype of highway devils, and that whole set of American folklore. Bill is a combination of those ideas, he’s a true apex predator in this arc, but the arc that we’re doing right after this one is going to explore his history directly for a few issues.
HB: Scenes like those in Outpost 41, with lively, full backgrounds and strange technology are great spots for easter eggs, one of our favorites being the Tusken Raider behind Blacktop Bill. Can you tell us about a few of those strange suits and the references hidden there? Did you come up with any or was that all Tony Daniel?
Scott: Tony came up with most of them. I did suggest a few, like a lit-up diving suit and one with lightbulbs that screwed into a rubber bodysuit, but we just let him go crazy with high and low illuminating fashion. The idea was to come up with ways that society would stratify itself, how that would be expressed in clothing, and how people kept themselves illuminated.
HB: You have a long history in horror comics. What is, in your opinion, the scariest thing you’ve written? Can you pick just one?
Scott: I loved the Grey Man in Severed, The Batman Who Laughs, Skinner Sweet is more like an antihero but him too…they’re all like my evil children, so it’s really hard to choose one.
HB: Do you have any dream horror projects that you haven’t gotten around to writing yet? Are there any specific creatures or subgenres you’d like to take a crack at?
Scott: Oh, so many, yeah. Godzilla is at the top, he’s my favorite monster and I have high hopes for Godzillacon in spring. It’s like, as a Godzilla fan, you’re always waiting for the movie that gets it exactly right, even though there are so many good ones you’re always waiting for the one that nails everything. He’d be the top, but I’d also love to do Aliens one day, I’d love to do Predator and all sorts of slashers too. I even once had a great idea for a Friday the 13th comic, but we’ll see if it ever happens.
Wow, who else would love a Godzilla run by Scott Snyder? Let us know in the comments! Thanks again to Scott for taking the time to chat with us– don’t forget to pick up a copy of Nocterra #1, in stores now, and keep your eyes peeled for our review!