By Olly MacNamee
Having followed the writer, Dan Watters and artist, Caspar Wijngaard, with some interest over at T Pub, I was interested to see that the collaborative couple are about to launch their creator-owned new series, Limbo, in November form Image. I caught up the pair to grab an exclusive interview with them both.
Olly MacNamee: Your new comic collaboration from Image, Limbo, is described as a ‘surreal neon-noir’. Is it fair to say that this is somewhat of a departure for you two from previous collaborations?
Caspar Wijngaard: I would consider Limbo ‘my’ first book. Previous titles Dan and I worked on were already established concepts before we came on board; it was more of a contribution, working with an existing property.
With Limbo we were able to build it from the ground up together and create a comic from our passion of all things bizarre and have no limit to what we could get away with.
Dan Watters: Yeah Limbo is the kind of book I’ve always wanted to do, and I think that everything in it pretty directly reflects us as creators and what we’re all about. Doing it at Image means that we get the chance to do the book exactly how we want to– this is raw comic book… for better or for worse!
OM: How does your nameless hero even cope in such an environment given he doesn’t even remember who he is? What are his greatest challenges?
CW: His lack of memory means he’s not a skeptic. Dedande city, the stage in which Limbo is set, is a smorgasbord of weirdness and he’s experiencing it all for the first time with an open mind.
DW: Yeah as Caspar says, a lot of the absurdity of situation goes straight over his head; he doesn’t have an awareness of how weird it actually is as he has nothing ‘normal’ to compare it to. This kind of lets him get on with things instead of just standing around gaping at everything he encounters… Well, to be fair he does do a little bit of gaping.
I kind of wanted to be able to write our detective- nicknamed Clay in the book- kind of like a Kafka character. If he wakes up turned into a giant beetle, his first thought isn’t going to be “Oh my God I’m a beetle,” it’s going to be, “shit, this is going to make me late for work.”
On the other hand his lack of identity is also his biggest challenge, as he feels a real disconnect from the world around him. He feels that he’s struggling to become a real person again.
CW: I wanted to create book dripping in neon and static, each panel to feel unique and brimming high contrast colours and pop culture. MTV music videos and VHS movie trailers condensed into the page.
DW: It’s an aesthetic, but also a big part of the story. We have a couple of characters in Limbo who work old kinds of magical traditions in a more modern world, and they’ve adapted their methods of magic and worship to fit into Dedande City, especially with regard to technology, so cassettes, VCRs and answering machines are all utilized in different ways that hopefully you haven’t seen before.
OM: And, given your previous work, can we expect some horror along the way? I mean, there certainly seems to be more than a hint of this in the preview?
CW: Of course, however the horror is handled in less conventional way, think Big Trouble in Little China meets Videodrome. It’s quirky and unsettling, but never offensive.
DW: There’s a definite Lovecraftian shadow looming over the whole affair. Non-existence and nothingness are major themes, so that death imagery is going to keep cropping up, but don’t expect blood and guts on every page. We’d rather dig a little deeper and keep you unnerved than try and gross you out. One thing that influenced where the story goes is I was watching Chinatown on TV and got to the ending– THAT ending– and just thought, “Wow, this isn’t a mystery, this is an existential horror.” It all becomes about the meaninglessness of trying to make sense of a universe that doesn’t care; we like our detective stories to tie up neatly, but the world doesn’t work that way. Limbo is an attempt to kind of take that idea and push it even further into the absurd.
CW: Issue 2 really dives deep in to the bizarre and surreal and it only resurfaces on a number of times over the future issues to catch a breath. But in a nutshell, flesh eating TVs, snake-puking and tentacles to name a few.
DW: Yeah, in issue 1, we’re really only us dipping our toe in the water, and letting Clay play the detective that he really wants to be, but with issue 2 we’re jumping headfirst into a pool of piranhas. He sees himself in the Philip Marlowe role of the story, but unfortunately Dedande City isn’t playing along. Every time he tries to get his footing we’re going to keep pulling it out from under him. Which is a lot of fun for us, not so much for him.
OM: Where did you even get this crazy idea? I mean you put lot into one pot, what with the obvious crime, horror and pop culture conventions thrown into the mix? How does this differ from your average mystery?
CW: I had an initial idea for a crime/sci-fi series almost a decade ago but it lacked focus and direction. I approached Dan with the concept only a year ago whist drinking in the pub and he just ran with the foundation and began adding this rich lore to it.
The concept became its own beast and we just snowballed ideas into it, we both grew up reading/watching/playing/listening to similar things and this book came from a love of all those mediums.
Comics can be far too apologetic these days, relying too much on logic, playing into and holding the readers hands. We wanted to create something fun and subjective and also have fun ourselves weaving it all together.
It’s a pulp detective novel at its core but it’s been up all night watching all the bad TV your parents warned you about.
DW: It’s going to be very different from your average mystery, as you’ve probably already gleamed. It’s a character trying to stick to detective conventions but existing in a world where logic is collapsing around him and reality is fracturing… Which is kind of what gives us free license to go ahead and use any and all of our influences to tell this story. We have access to any tool in our toolbox.
Limbo is out from Image comics on November 11th and is currently listed in Previews World with item code: SEP150538
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn’t know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at email@example.com. Or don’t.