DF Interview: Dan Abnett returns us to an anthropomorphic England with a new cast of characters in ‘Wild’s End’
By Byron Brewer
Out at sea during the invasion, our intimate crew of unlucky voyagers returns to a world they once knew, their once-cozy seaside home now occupied by alien invaders.
Combining a rich cast of anthropomorphized characters in the tradition of Blacksad and aliens unlike any you've ever seen in the spirit of War of the Worlds meets Wind in the Willows! Wild's End is a world unlike any other... one you won't want to leave.
Journey to alien-occupied interwar England, courtesy of the award-winning creative team of Dan Abnett (Warhammer 40K, Immortal Red Sonja) and I.N.J. Culbard (Salamandre, Tales From The Umbrella Academy) in ‘Wild’s End, with Nik Abnett providing additional material!
I heard “Dan Abnett” and almost immediately was chatting up this latest book of one of my favorite scribes (Guardians of the Galaxy!!). Here’s what Dan told me.
Byron Brewer: Dan, let me start this interview with an unlikely question: I notice you many times refer to artist I.N.J. Culbard as your “partner-in-crime” because of the many collaborations you are known for: Brink, The New Deadwardians and, most to the point here, your first run of Wild’s End. I ask this question because one of my last surviving aunts just passed; she always referred to us together as “partners-in-crime” and I cannot let it go. Talk a little about your collaboration and chemistry with Ian.
Dan Abnett: I’d known and admired Ian’s work for a while, though I had never met him. When I landed New Deadwardians at Vertigo, I thought of him and reached out to see if he’d be interested in working on it with me. We quickly developed a great working relationship and realized we were very compatible when it came to ideas, to subject matter and to storytelling. As a result, we’ve happily gone on to work on many projects together, and I think Brink (for 2000AD) and Wild’s End would be real highlights. We talk a lot, brainstorm, and where those discussions take us in terms of ideas is always surprising and fascinating.
Byron: Back to ground zero: Why is it time, after a long time (2018, I believe?), to return to Wild’s End?
Dan Abnett: I think, simply, it felt like it was about time. We’d always loved the series, and it had been a favorite of the team at BOOM! so it seemed like a great idea to revisit and explore again.
Byron: For the uninitiated (you know who you are!), take us back five years and give readers a bit of a summary of the original series please.
Dan Abnett: Our ‘elevator pitch” is the War of the Worlds meets The Wind in the Willows. It’s a story set in a very cozy, bucolic time and place, not Great Britain, but a place redolent of those Kenneth Graham/Rupert the Bear kind of 1930’s childhood stories. To emphasize the ‘coziness’, all the characters are anthropomorphized animals. But into this coziness intrudes a very real and very nasty threat of alien invasion, like something out of H.G. Wells or John Wyndham. So it’s a deliberate clash of these old school “British” genres and flavors. It’s a story of survival, and it is entirely character-driven. It’s all about their (very human) personalities and interactions. We like to think that the fact that they are all talking animals weirdly makes their personalities and characters very much more immediate and identifiable. That, I think, is the key to its appeal (along with Ian’s wonderful art).
Byron: Tell us a little about what we’ll find when we return to Wild’s End in June. How has this “world” changed?
Dan Abnett: The first three volumes, previously published, told the story of one group of characters and followed their struggle for survival. It had a deliberate and satisfying ending and closure. So for this return to the same world, we’re switching to a new group of characters, somewhere else, and seeing how they cope through the same crisis. These new characters, though very different, are just as vivid, and their dynamics just as interesting.
Byron: Ahh! Can you introduce the new primary protagonists here please?
Dan Abnett: The setting is a coastal fishing town, and most of the main characters are the crew of a fishing boat that is away at sea when the invasion begins. They arrive home to find the world mysteriously deserted, and have to figure out what’s going on. We have the old Skipper (a literal old sea dog), the rascally bo’sun Roddy (a badger). Flo, the matriarchal first mate and the cheeky younger members of the crew, one of whom, Eddie, is a local tearaway and mischief-maker who is very much an outsider.
Byron: AND the antagonists?
Dan Abnett: The menacing and ominous aliens, who appear either in the form of lethal robot ‘spiders’, or as the sinister ‘walking lampposts’.
Byron: What can you tell readers about the additional materials Nik will be providing? Sounds exciting!
Dan Abnett: My wife Nik and I have great fun producing the back-matter for each issue - letters, diaries, newspaper articles, maps and so on. She ended up doing the lion’s share of this on the original volumes, and she’s taken the lead here brilliantly, creating articles from the local press, a walking guide to the region and so on. Each one is beautifully ‘in-universe’, capturing the right tone, and the back-matter really adds to the reading experience and the sense of a fully realized world.
Byron: Dan, what other projects, inside or outside comics, in which you are involved can you tell readers about?
Dan Abnett: I’m busy as ever, with Groot for Marvel, a Batman project at DC, Vampirella for Dynamite, and lots of stories for the UK’s 2000AD. I’m also still writing novels, especially for Warhammer, and my epic ‘magnum opus’, the finale of the Horus Heresy (a vast novel series sixteen years in the making) is being published in mammoth volumes right now – it’s called “the End and the Death” and it’s taken me two years to complete. It’s about as epic as Warhmmer 40K ever gets!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Dan Abnett for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Wild’s End #1 from BOOM! Studios is slated to be on sale June 21st!
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