By Christine Caprilozzi
ComicMonsters “WILDER” Interview with Mark Kidwell
“It's 1944, it's snowing, the Germans and the Allied Forces are locked in a stalemate called the Battle of the Bulge and somewhere, deep in the Ardennes Forest… something is hungry.”
ComicMonsters: So let’s start with Werewolves and Nazis, both equally as terrifying. What was the inspiration to have World War II as the backdrop for “Wilder?”
Mark Kidwell: The short answer: MOVIES. Books too, to some degree, but films set in WWII, especially the snowy, desolate ones really stamped an impression in my head. I cannot fathom the oppressive sensation of sheer dread that allied troops must have felt during that period in the early ‘40’s, dug into shallow foxholes all along the Siegfreid line, squinting through a curtain of fog, ice and snow to try and catch a glimpse of the enemy or straining their ears for the metallic grind of a Panzer’s tracks. Add that to the excruciating cold, shortage of supplies and hot food, constant shelling from enemy artillery…I’m guessing you were petrified the whole time. Now, you toss in the concept of rogue werewolves prowling the Ardennes forest all around you at the same time…brrr…now that’s spooky.
There’s a secondary reason as well…one that may not be popular among today’s “Me, Me, Me…” crowd. The period leading up to, involving and following WWII was populated (at least in my understanding and imagination) by a more…let’s say “wholesome” brand of American. People just seemed more unified, more accepting of each other. I wanted to capture that in the character of Roy Wilder. Sure, he’s gritty. He’s a hard-nosed battle vet that has seen a lot of action and knows that war isn’t a game, but his heart is there too. His comrades in arms are his brothers and they’re all suffering and fighting together. When his life takes a weird turn and he meets a whole new brand of unexpected ally, he rises to the occasion and his sense of duty and responsibility, instilled in him by his origins and the times in which he lives, carries him on a long, long path to make things right.
ComicMonsters: Horror comic fans always look forward to a gritty werewolf tale. Can you tell us a bit about what horror comic fans can expect?
Mark Kidwell: I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that isn’t soaked in grit. (Heh…) I don’t do PG 13 horror fiction or comics. I do the hard R stuff, minus the nudity. (Never really saw the need for all the bouncing comic-book boobs.) WILDER fits right in with the canon of comic horror I’ve produced for years. There’s authentic WWII combat action, as much backstory as you can fit into a 35 page one-shot book, a nasty villain named Kriel (complete with long black coat, Nazi hat and sinister, smoking cigarette), some cool and well-rounded characters (hopefully) and then (as usual) a hearty, dripping helping of lycanthropic violence and skin-ripping. Andrew and Roy are my partners in crime on the red stuff, making sure that the werewolf brawls are bloody, wet and spurting.
I’ve been accused in the past of “Myth-Building”. That’s pretty accurate in a lot of my work and I take it as a compliment (sorry smarmy critic boy). There’s a lot of that going on in WILDER. First and foremost, this first book is simply a helluva werewolf comic. It’s a great story that you can sit down with and read from beginning to end and be satisfied with WILDER and his dark adventures forever. It’s also a beginning…a teaser that gives you a peek at a long, long life spent battling the beast within and aiming oneself toward an elusive enemy for decades. So, what werewolf fans should expect is simply to be entertained by the hairy, clawed things that they love.
ComicMonsters: Fans familiar with you know that besides a storyteller, you’re also an amazing artist. With ”Wilder” you’re teaming up with Andrew Mangum. Which one of you came up with the initial design of the nefarious creature?
Mark Kidwell: Andrew pretty much did that in a pin-up piece he showed me prior to WILDER’s creation. He did this image of a hairy, leather jacketed wolf-man dude standing in a graveyard with his claws dripping. I really dug the piece and when Andrew approached me (or demanded…Andrew doesn’t really approach, he pretty much assures you that you’ll be working with him on a project) about doing a book together, I told him I wanted it to be a werewolf story and I wanted the main character to have a “Wolf-Man” stage that he could control somewhat unless his stress level got away from him and he went full-bore two-legged, hell on paws wolf. I wrote the script around Andrew’s first rendering, did my (now somewhat infamous) swastika cover piece and WILDER was born.
ComicMonsters: This is a one shot issue. Are there any thoughts of making “Wilder” and ongoing series? Do you have any further plans for the comic?
Mark Kidwell: There’s been talk…WILDER, as I mentioned before, is an origin story. It has a satisfying design, telling the story from the beginning and finishing up neatly so that if this first book is all you ever read, you’re gonna feel like you get it all. There are gigantic areas for future storytelling, though. Roy Wilder’s life is a loooong one, from the snowy Ardennes forest in 1943 to northern California in the present day and then…well, let’s just say yes…there are thoughts and plans to make WILDER much more than a one-shot.
ComicMonsters: You’ve been writing, drawing, and creating for years now. (NO! I’m NOT calling you old). What do you see as some of the advantages and disadvantages to being an independent creator?
Mark Kidwell: Could you repeat the question? Old man here…
Advantages: You get to pick your projects, work with people you like and respect, people you trust to help with the heavy lifting and produce a strong, quality story. You get to fly without a net, doing exactly what you want to do without corporate editorial input. Wanna cuss? Then cuss your brains out in your script…but keep in mind that you’ve just alienated the younger market from your potential readership. Wanna show someone’s pancreas hanging on a set of werewolf claws? SURE! Everybody loves a nice, dripping pancreas! But there again…mom and dad might just slam your little horror comic back on the shelves and junior may never get a chance to read it. Lastly…creating independently, you and your co-conspirators get a chance to “own” everything you create. You don’t have to sign away all of your rights to a property just to see it in print.
Disadvantages: It’s a tough market out there, bad economy, dwindling discretionary funds for entertainment and collecting. It’s tough to make ends meet creating independent comics and it’s a lot of work. Sometimes you’re writing the book, drawing the book, editing the book, promoting the book (BUMP), plus working on three other projects. The lion’s share of the guys I know doing it are doing it because they love it and they’d be doing it regardless of financial reward. They know (and anyone who wishes to create their own comics for print or digital media should know) that you’re going up against the “BIGS”, putting your book in Previews right next to stuff by established guys with “names” that have been doing this and succeeding for years. You’ve gotta put your best foot forward each and every time, compete for the readers’ attention. Lotta pressure…and deadlines suffer from all of that. Life gets in the way…earning a real living and supporting families gets in the way. So, sometimes things are late…sometimes things fall apart. Ya gotta be ready for all of that and you’ve gotta really want to tell stories.
ComicMonsters: “Wilder “ is now available for preorder and due out October 30th through Monsterverse. Where can fans preorder the comic and find out more?
Mark Kidwell: You can get it from Diamond through their PREVIEWS catalog with this code: AUG131372. You can also strong-arm your local comix retailer and make him turn to our page and order tons of it for his shelves.