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DF Interview: Kurtis Wiebe unleashes psychological tension in Pisces
By Byron Brewer
Coming in April from Image Comics, the new series Pisces follows former fighter pilot Dillon Carpenter as he recovers from his stint in the Vietnam War. The story travels to the cosmos and back as Carpenter becomes part of a top secret NASA mission to make first contact.
Writer Kurtis Wiebe and artist Johnnie Christmas combine elements of David Cronenberg-esque horror and psychological tension to weave an enthralling comic. To learn more, Dynamic Forces discussed the coming series with Wiebe.
Dynamic Forces: Kurtis, if memory serves, you have been away from the horror genre for awhile. What brings you back with Pisces?
Kurtis Wiebe: It’s always been my intention to come back to the genre. I’ve played with a few concepts but none of them stuck or had enough weight to bother fleshing out in detail. When I came up with the basic premise, it was literally in passing I mentioned it to Johnnie Christmas over a coffee. I wasn’t all that serious about it, but Johnnie couldn’t stop thinking about it and called me a few days later saying he wanted to pursue the idea.
That was two years ago and we’ve been building it ever since.
DF: What is it about Hitchcockian psychological tension you enjoy employing in this works?
Kurtis Wiebe: I find psychological horror the most terrifying. When I create a new horror concept, I always go inward; reflect on the ideas and truths of what scares me. From there, it’s a matter of building a theme out of those fears and infusing the main character with a lot of similar issues. I want to relate to my main character so when I place him in scary situations, I understand how that would feel.
DF: Tell us about your protagonist in this new Image book, Dillon Carpenter.
Kurtis Wiebe: Dillon is a retired fighter pilot who served in the Vietnam War. Well, he WILL be, our first issue follows his final mission before returning home. Of course, things don’t go very well at all and he’s forced to survive in the jungle while being pursued by the NVA. What happens to Dillon in that jungle colours the rest of his life, and that trauma is something that fundamentally changes the man.
This isn’t a war story, after the first issue Dillon returns home and Pisces will be about his acclimation to a country that resents him for his contribution to the war. Not only that, but he begins to have dark visions of the future, of isolation and, weirdly, of outer space.
DF: Any particular inspiration for wrapping the Carpenter character in a Vietnam vet story?
Kurtis Wiebe: It was an era that both Johnnie and I found particularly interesting, both the political climate but it was also the dying era of real excitement for space exploration. It was ripe with storytelling opportunities.
DF: Ditto the space travel aspect?
Kurtis Wiebe: The space element of Pisces is the crux of the mystery. It allows us to experiment with the fear of isolation, of being cut off from the rest of the world. How that is woven into Dillon’s journey will become evident as the series progresses.
DF: As the book begins, tell us a little about the world and storyline of Pisces.
Kurtis Wiebe: The series starts during the Vietnam War on Dillon’s final sortie across enemy lines, on a mission that had bad intel which has led him to being shot down and fighting for his life. It’s the first part of Dillon’s lifelong journey, the catalyst for every action he takes; from returning home and trying to find a normal life to later landing a very interesting job at NASA. Along the way, his past haunts him and worse, he has glimpses into a bizarre future.
DF: What was it like working for the first time with artist Johnnie Christmas? What did he bring to the table here?
Kurtis Wiebe: It’s been fantastic. It helps that we live in the same city and have been friends for years. And it’s not really about what Johnnie brings to the series, it is fully created by both of us. We’ve built the story together over the past two years and it’s gone through a very rigorous development cycle. We’ve rebuilt it a few times over, to make sure it’s the most focused story we can tell.
Since we created it together from day one, the visuals are going to be incredible. Johnnie inherently knows the tone, the story arc and most importantly, he can live in Dillon’s head as much as I can. That kind of connection will pay off in a big way for the readers.
DF: Kurtis, what else can we expect now or in the near future from your keyboard?
Kurtis Wiebe: Continuing to put out new issues of Rat Queens and Pisces while trying to get new projects together. I have three concepts in various stages of development and hopefully will be able to get them published by 2016. We’ll see!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Kurtis Wiebe for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Pisces #1 arrives from Image Comics April 29th!
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