Gods, Mortals and Pop on Fire: Chatting with Team #WicDiv at NYCC [Interview]

By | October 22nd, 2014
Posted in Interviews | % Comments

Have you heard of this “The Wicked + The Divine” comic? We kind of like it. And if you’re like us, the issue that dropped today and concluded the series’s first arc has left you in all sorts of tatters, seeking emotional support through the internet and by yelling at your friends to just read the damn book already.

Thankfully, at this year’s New York Comic Con, we huddled with Team #WicDiv inside the secret storage rooms of the Image booth to talk about the title’s fan base, the direction the next arc is taking, and whether or not Kidz Bop have done any Baphomet covers. Check out our interview below, but please note that our interview contains mild spoilers for the first four issues of the series.

First question: Is it pronounced “The Wicked Plus Sign the Divine” or “The Wicked and The Divine”

Jamie McKelvie: And.

Matt Wilson: And.

Kieron Gillen: Have we ever said it in public? We mentioned it in a few interviews but never actually recorded we were playing with calling it “Wicked” and “Divine” as in we do two sets of print runs where one has “Wicked” on the front and the other has “Divine” and we never actually say what the book is called. So it exists as a sort of hypersigil.

JM: And that would’ve infuriated everybody – nobody would’ve bought it.

MW: “What did we pre-order from you?” WE DON’T KNOW!

KG: We decided if you come into a shop and ask for your book it’s probably a good idea if they can ask for your book. So for once we decided to be sensible.

This is the first comic convention, or at least the first New York Comic-Con, since the release of #WicDiv. How’s the fan support been here?

KG: Very disappointing.

JM: [laughing] Absolutely insane.

KG: We’ve had queues every table we go, weirdly. We sold all the issues yesterday [Friday] so we have no stock to sell and we’ve gone through almost 200 t-shirts so far. The cosplay’s been incredible. Yeah, fucking hell.

So after the convention you’re all taking all the money and retiring?

To an island yeah. Not the British islands but somewhere with nice weather. Issue #1 came out two days before Heroescon in June and we had five or six cosplayers immediately. It was like an immediately strong fan reaction.

Yeah, what do you think about WicDi-

KG: I like it.

Besides the fact it’s sort of a good comic, is there anything you feel there’s anything particularly special about it that’s created this rabid fan base relatively out of nowhere?

KG: If I start speaking I’ll speak for half an hour so someone say something and I’ll say some stuff later.

JM: Alright. Well, it’s a book about creating for a start and wanting to be a creator which feeds into things like cosplay. We’ve worked really hard on making it a visually strong book with distinct styles which I think helps as well. Beyond that, is there anything you wanna say?

KG: It’s a book about creation, as Jamie says, but it’s also a book about fandom. And especially the second arc ‘Fandemonium’ which is very key, it’s actually set around fan gatherings which I use a very broad definition of. It’s memetically sticky as a book. There’s lots of things like the icons and its all about performance. Yeah, I don’t know. We designed it to be a world we think we could lose ourselves in.

JM: This isn’t something where we give away elements of the book to fans. We don’t tell you what the icons are; you see people trying to find out what they are, so it does engender that involvement.

MW: Yeah, I feel it sends people on an informational scavenger hunt. You give them just enough to set them off.

I remember with the second issue there was some paintings in the background that led to the revelation that Lord Byron was one of the pantheon.

KG: I think that’s not even worth confirming because the “Big Bad and Dangerous” quote, you know, that’s a direct reference to Byron. So the Byron in that universe, we have Lucifer instead of Byron.

Continued below

So #canon?

KG: Yeah that’s #canon.


JM: There’s the other two, you could talk about them.

KG: Yeah, Mary Shelley is The Morrigan which speaks a lot to how Shelley was. That brief sequence also introduces the idea that, yes, this world is different. There are some things we should say like David Bowie existed in our world, in “WicDiv”, but things are significantly changed. Whatever those people did these gods did in their appearance. It grounds the world and we are talking about art and we’re not interested just in fantasy.

I mean, fantasy is a way of transforming how you look at the world. I’ve always had people say they think of themselves as phonomancers as they do things that phonomancers do when they go to clubs and it changes how they move around the world. Fantasy is a device to make the world more interesting. “WicDiv’s” like that and it’s designed to lose yourself in it. We want it to be like that. We’re very needy.

You know, I’m somebody whose life was transformed by art and this is a very important book for me. I wanna take a “Young Avengres” reader who’ve only read “Young Avengers” through the forty issues of this and have what “The Invisibles” did to me do to them.

“Young Avengers” at this point seems like a very crafty way for you guys to take Marvel’s fan base and drag them right into “Phonogram”.

KG: [Shit-eating grin] Would we be that cunning?

Speaking of which, after the second arc Jamie’s going to take some time off and go into “Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl”, right?

JM: Yeah.

How do you feel about going back to “Phonogram” after so much time away?

JM: I guess I gotta deal with it. It’s going to be great, but we always felt that “Phonogram” was unfinished as there’s a third part that needed to be told that previously wasn’t possible. Now we get to do it so it’s great to get a chance to.

KG: I reread all the scripts recently and found myself thinking, I put [Lady Gaga’s] “Paparazzi” on the “WicDiv” playlist and that makes me think paparazzi is an important beat in what we’re dealing with in “Phonogram 3”. Now I get quite emotional because that’s one of the more powerful scenes in the book, I think.

Please describe that scene in detail now.

KG: No, no, I’m not going in too deep, but I went through the entire script and though it’s not an unfinished draft, there’s some philosophical questions I phrased in a slightly different way. But structurally I think it woks quite well.

Matt, you color for approximately every comic book in the world.

MW: Plus one. I like to stay busy.

How’s it feel coloring such a visually distinct book like “The Wicked + The Divine” compared to your other projects?

MW: Every book I try to color differently to suit the art since they’re not drawn by the same person. So I stretch different muscles; stretch them and flex them — that’s probably the safest way to do it.

KG: Warm up.

Do an hour of yoga before coloring.

MW: I feel like even though they don’t give me specific coloring notes — well, sometimes they do — but the cohesive visual style already came to me based on they’d already done. They didn’t specify a particular color. I’ll ask “What would Laura be wearing?” and Jamie will send me links and he’s like “She would be shopping at this place.” so “WicDiv” has things like that I don’t do in many books. When the gods use their powers, that’s a big thing. In the first issue when Luci uses her powers, all the lights in the room start to blow out and then, for when she snaps, we discussed going into extremely gory detail but insteadwent really abstract because that is so unsettling to see. It would mirror how unsettling it would be to see that in real life.

Continued below

JM: My favorite coloring in the book is when Badb set the cop on fire. In the inks I didn’t think it worked that well. I thought I messed up there, I felt quite bad about myself and what you did was made it really uneasy and unsettling.

MW: In that there’s like three panels, I think, of him on fire and you assumed I was only going to do it on the first panel and the fire would just look normal after that. I did it on all three and it was so unsettling to see that moment kinda stick around and keep all the abstract pop-art looking coloring while the background was still kind of normal.

KG: It’s visualized magic. I saw this amazing video of someone playing the game Amnesia and I’m freaking out all the way through like “That isn’t normal fire!! That isn’t normal fire!”

MW: So far a lot of the violence has been directed towards mortals or humans but then the skin ghosts have a different look than the pop art and they’ve assumed these different coloring styles into the story.

JM: The way you did it, it’s like you can’t focus on the page. You can’t look at the ghosts and you can’t focus on them and it feels very weird with your eye.

MW: We’ve got some more magic stuff, maybe subtly different but certainly the intent was different in the next issue.

KG: It’s like the lights are being drawn from the miracles, like spotlights on; that’s a quite subtle effect. Because when the miracle happens it’s not the miracle glowing — it’s the room that starts glowing.

MW: Imagine being in the room when all this stuff started to heat up and your memory of it. You would probably remember it like the room lit up and all this shit started happening and it was crazy. So I figured, like, really pump up the lights.

That kind of stems from the covers. I colored a lot of covers before getting into the interiors. I did the first two with the light kind of bleeding, the exposure was a little long. And then on Amaterasu we had a bleeding effect and now it’s more like the sun goddess. So the light bleeding thing is cool, and we found a way to put it into their powers.

I don’t know anymore what your question was originally.

We’re close enough.

Like you all said, “WicDiv” is such a visually distinct and powerful book and I think one of things that has caught on is the outfits and the designs. It’s one of the most cosplayable comics this year.

JM: We’ve seen a ton, it’s been amazing.

What’s the design process for getting into everyone’s costumes?

JM: I’ve always felt the strongest costumes come from character, so you have to look at who the character is, what their background is, what their motivations are, and that translates into costume. And that translates into outfits. So for a long while before we started working on the book proper we had a style block that anytime we saw anything appropriate in the theme of that character we’d stick on this tumblr. That let me spend a lot of time in my head. I’m not the type of person who does lots and lots of sketches. A lot of it is is, I just let it sit in my head and then often a full costume comes out. It happened with Captain Marvel, it happened with Loki as well and a lot of “WicDiv” characters. I let it filter through and by the end I know how the character should look.

I think people always suspect Jamie to have all these sketches and they ask “Oh, do you have any design sketches?” No design sketches. All in Jamie’s noggin!

We’re nearing the end of first arc of WicDiv, ‘The Faust Act’.

KG: Haha! See what I did there!

We all saw what you did there. It may be a little unfair to ask what’s going into that issue since it’s the conclusion to a bunch of stuff, but what can we expect from the second arc, “Fandemonium”?

Continued below

KG: It’s weird because the first one takes place over a very short period of time. A week and a half, the whole thing? At that rate, two years is gonna be 500 issues.

So now we take a very different sort of beat. The major device is set around fan gatherings which I use very loosely. It could be gigs, it could be cons, it could be two fans meeting in a pub. All these different things. It’s kind of weird, I had a small realization it’s “The Singles Club” again, isn’t it? This idea of me taking time and space, introducing a different spiel for the second arc than the first arc.

So I’ll say that, it’s not really the intricate model [of “Singles Club”] and it also gives us closure in the moment between arcs. Oh, what’s happened in the month between? All the stuff we tell you.

Can we expect to see point-of-view characters who aren’t just Laura?

KG: I think Laura’s still the driving force but then there might be other point-of-view characters. We might get to see away from Laura because all we’ve seen until now is over her shoulder. There’s a “Sex Criminals” influence to it when it comes to how the storytelling works because this is slightly more low-key, maybe.

It’s also quite a bit about media. We do a lot of hard cuts to stuff that is happening or has happened. It’s denser I think, that’s the mood. Also the main thing is probably Ragnarock with a “ck”, which is like an enormous fan gathering.

JM: For the record, I am shaking my head.

I am also shaking my head.

KG: Oh come on, wouldn’t you rather give it a good name?

JM: Yeah, that’s true.

KG: I called it Ragnarock after the Wales Comic Con which is actually a rather small. And so the last con was before the gods came back and now imagine the type of people going to a con for something that’s true since obviously the gods are a real thing.

I think we’re really interested to see how the world reacts to the Pantheon, so I imagine we get to see how fans outside of Laura react.

KG: We get a lot of talking heads, people suddenly speaking to camera. There’s quite a lot of that in there. Lots of world building.

We initially said Jamie here is staying on the book after issue six. We decided against that because there was so much for the world that needed to be done before any other artist could take it on. If the first act is about the gods, the second is about setting up the rest of the world we don’t know yet and of course there’s characters to introduce.

In the lead-up to this arc do you have any idea which artist may replace Jamie?

KG: We have five different artists. It’s basically god spotlights. There’ll be a Sakhmet issue, a Woden issue. A Tara issue.

Fucking Tara.

KG: Fucking Tara! That’s my favorite running joke in the entire book. My wife finds it very funny, and she rarely finds what I do funny.

So each issue will have an appropriate artist that speaks to the character. One of those issues doesn’t have an artist and it’s a bit different. We’ll talk about that when the time comes. People have said “WicDiv” is quite conservative, it’s not quite this wild fire… Then we get to that. There’s some issues of ‘Fandeomnium’ that will be very much “What the fuck? That’s really kind of unusual?” and the same with some of this stuff here.

‘Fandemonium’ will probably be six issues, by the way.

Well, I think we’re almost done here, is there anything else any of you would like to add?

KG: I’d like to do an issue about Laura’s parents.

I’m really interested in all the parents whose kids are going off to concerts. “Oh, honey where are you going?” “Oh, to see the Egyptian god of love and fertility.”
Continued below

KG: Oh, have fuuuun.

Final deadly serious question: Does Kidz Bop do any covers of The Pantheon’s songs?

KG: They can’t. Only the gods can do what they do. They’re not even songs. It looks like music to us. It’s an art form all our art evolved from so when they do it you can’t record it.

It’s like what Cassandra said in the first issue. If you’re not susceptible to the gods all you see is a bunch of people freaking out to nothing. So when Cassandra sees Amaterasu singing, all she hears is some noise and everyone freaking out. It’s a metaphor for how people don’t… you know when you see a band a lot of people like but you can tell everyone who likes that band is lying? Cassandra is that.

So, no Kidz Bop covers?

KG: Probably not.

We leave this interview on a very mournful note.

KG: I like that you asked a joke question and got a criminally serious response. It’s the Team Phonogram way!

James Johnston

James Johnston is a grizzled post-millenial. Follow him on Twitter to challenge him to a fight.