Writer Notes: The Wicked + the Divine 25

Spoilers, obv.

Let’s just dive in, eh?

Jamie’s Cover
One of the interesting things about comics is the solicitation process. As such, a sub-section of the fandom will be aware of a cover before it comes out (or the month before it comes out if it’s a comic which puts a NEXT MONTH cover in the back). So for the hardcore readers, this will actually be the first image they see of Minerva’s new look.

So yeah, good debut, Mini.

This arc we’re clearly not doing quite what we did on previous ones – the link from the cover star to the interior one is much more tangential than the first two years. Let’s not make it too easy.

Emi Lenox’s Cover
Emi is one of our favourite people in the whole world, let alone comics. Her co-written with Jeff Lemire (and drawn by her) of Plutona was one of our favourite minis of last year too. I believe Emi wanted to do another god, and then read the latest issues and I WANT TO DO PERSEPHONE!

Which has been a running theme this arc, actually. We’ve had to encourage other gods for the B-sides later on. Persephone, you’re more than a superstar, but you’re not our only coverstyle.

Very much a continuation of our Wide Variety Of Styles On Cover theme. This is about art.

Page 1
Compared to many of the issues this arc, this is a less demanding one for the artist than usual. I don’t do it unless I have to, and I knew there’s horrible stuff ahead. That said, the world fell apart during the production of this issue, and we lost a week. So it was hard anyway. Comics!

Anyway – we start slow. Three panels. Establish location, establish situation, establish key character. This is aimed towards being reserved, clear and efficient.

First swearing of Cass in the issue. And not the last.

The cliffhanger last time is an unusual one for us, as I believe I said (I totally don’t re-read these notes after writing them. When we come to edit them for the hardback, it’s always a thrill. Hey C! Sorry about all the typos.) It’s a mid-action cliff-hanger. Normally we’re in a “reveal of important new information” or “completion of surprising action” place when we cliffhanger, and half the time we don’t even do that. This is a “half way through action” cliffhanger. As such, it’s about “How does this action complete?”

Structurally speaking, I tend to think that these tend to risk creating false drama. If you don’t go through with an action in any meaningful way, that’s what it is – a raising of expectations and a quashing of them, which – to use the technical writing term – is total bullshit. If you do go through with it… well, why didn’t you do it to end the previous issue? Then you have a “completion of surprising action” cliffhanger, which is much more honest.

So the main way to resolve them, for me, is that what DOES happen has to be at least as interesting as what didn’t happen.

So that’s where we try to go, as Persephone is totally going to torture Woden.

(In my original synopsis the previous episode ended with Woden’s reveal, with Persephone raising her fingers at the start of this. I made this call when writing both issues.)

That was a lot of words.

In other notes: I would really like Persephone’s trousers here.

Page 2
Anyway – this whole sequence is about Jamie again. The push and pull of Persephone’s reactions here is key.
Obviously the most important expression closes the page – we lose the skull eyes and have a push and pull of responses which caused me to pretty much instantly tear up. There’s lots of ways to read this, and none of them good.

Page 3
Cassandra, voice of reason once more. “Go on a bender” makes me smile too.
Steady angle on the hands puts an unusual pressure on things – steady shots, in profile are something which tend to be most used in comedy. But it’s all about the hands and the emotion. Also compare and contrast to the one over the page…

Page 4
Oh no, Persephone!
And this is very much about the scene as comedy. Breaking a scene into individual moments – decompressing, to use a much maligned and mis-used term – is all about increasing the effect. It is paramount in comedy.
Page 5
From the Hobbit. Bilbo and Smeagol. You can probably guess who’s Smeagol in this metaphor, except not.
Page 6-7
The first page was written in a standard format – once more, using the very basic structure of establish/scene/character beat set up of the first page – and then moved into Marvel Method for the rest of the sequence. It’s the first “real” performance sequence since issue 20s, so has been a while.
This sequence brought to mind the movie adaptation of UNDER THE SKIN when I was writing it, and that’s not an inaccurate comparison, I suspect.
What’s to look at here is Matt’s purples, which are just lovely.
And black.
All that black.
Page 8-11
EVEN MORE BLACK! Doing try printing scans of our pages at home, as your printer will hate us.
Obviously reminiscent of issue 3’s performance sequence, and I love what they did with the tumbling sequence. Persephone’s voice, caption-box less, dropped on the backdrop too.
At script, there was originally a couple of lines on the second spread. It was questioned by C, in terms of “He’s a long way away – I don’t think we can hear two beats like that” which is right, but also got me thinking about time operating in comics. The second you add dialogue to a page, it becomes a period of time. When you remove all dialogue, it gets a timeless quality. As in, you have no idea how long it’s been like this. Seconds? Hours? Years? We don’t know.
And that certainly adds to the effect of the sequence.
Page 12
Heh. I’m reading this as we put issue 26 to bed, having just passed Jamie the script for 27 earlier today. They are… somewhat denser. It’s going to be a while until we have a three panel sequence like this.
Page 13-16
Oh, hello again, eight-panel grid structure, old friend. We’ll be seeing you again soon.
The dumbest “I should have realised this in the script” mistake was that Cass didn’t have a line in the first panel of this. That adds time to the sequence, and a repsonse to the appearance of Cass.
I remember the thinking on this for me. Okay, Persephone has dragged Woden away. What does Cass do? Try and free the Valkyries. Like, obviously.
Anyway – what we get instead of Woden being killed is this. Giving up the Valkyries. Dragged to be essentially Cass’ helper. Working the level of reluctance and ego back and forth is key.
The Harry Potter line was probably the most closely debated line in the issue. C and I basically had a bunch of conversations trying to unpack the meaning, what Woden was trying to say about it exactly, what Woden thought he was saying, etc.
Whole sequence clearly important as it’s stating a selection of the various mysteries in the book, signalling to the reader than them not knowing answers is not accidental, and making the characte’s direction clear. “Direction” is tricky in Imperial Phase, which is kind of the point. Showing that we do have an idea what we’re doing is probably a necessary tell.
The steady angle on the last two panels – once more, for comedy – makes me smile. The “Enigmatic Wankery” made think of a friend. I asked C who she thought would most likely actually say “Enigmatic Wankery.” She answered the same friend. So let’s conclusively say “Enigmatic Wankery” is the line most likely to be said by author and punmeister supreme, Si Spurrier.
Page 15 – which, without saying it, where Cass implicitly agrees to working with Woden – is where I realised how good Woden and Cass are to have in the same room, in terms of pushing information around.
(Perhaps too much – Persephone is definitely an observer in these four pages)
Page 17
Text conversations are fun, just as how much you can get into it, as a piece of character work. That Cass hasn’t updated her phone to change Laura’s name ever since meeting her is certainly one thing, but also says a lot about various other bits and pieces.
Three golden expressions on the page., You can trust Jamie McKelvie to deliver on such thing – the specific annoyance and the somewhat enigmatic sadness of Persephone. And the… peevishly frustrated nature of Cass.
Also, easy panels! See, I’m not just a monster.
(Says the man who’s just sent Jamie a script with a whole middle section sub-titled “ FUCKING HORRIBLE BEYOND ALL HUMAN BELIEF”)
Page 18
The quote’s from Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Page 19
Ananke’s speech from issue 5 of WicDiv, being broadcast. Fun juxtaposition. And god, that’s a hard mask to draw.
And honestly, this page – which you should recognise in its structure – so upset me when I thought of it, I knew it had to go in. The more I think about it, the worse it gets.
The copy of Pantheon monthly on the table especially makes me grin. I think that was Jamie’s idea. Or maybe Katie?
Page 20-21
Persephone and Baal have been going out for three issues now. This sequence is the first time we’ve seen them in the same panel. Plus first time to see Baal in his guardian role. As such, wanting to live with them, albeit briefly, felt necessary. For a book that’s often about death, we have to show life.
(The lightning-to-make-toast is the apex of that. The Mundane + The Divine may be an alternate title for WicDiv, or at least our aesthetic and interests.)
Also, let Minerva – ahem – continue to stretch her wings. Last time we got the human intelligence side of it. Now we get a more analytical mind.
And yes, Baal self-correcting himself is cute. You’re trying, Baal.
Everyone’s hair game is on point here. Minerva’s fringe (aka Bangs, but we’re in the UK, guys) is wonderful, but the winner is Persephone’s braids.
On a really minor craft note? It’s standard to say you end the page on a cliffhanger – an unanswered question, an reason to turn the page. The “Was Ananke right?” is a pretty good example of that, I think. Even mentioning Ananke changes the tone. The question is pointed, both in story and not. And, most of all, who’s saying it?
Page 22
Oh, it’s Amaterasu. Hi, Amaterasu.
This is very much catching balls we threw into the air, earlier. In terms of Amaterasu’s actions, this is how the cast see it. Or at least, this part of the cast.
The third panel of this page makes me optimistic we’re going to get away with an issue down the line. That’s a lot of wonderful acting inside a tiny panel from Jamie.
I wasn’t sure if “Li’l flower” was too much, but decided, no, it was the right amount of much.
Page 23-24
Yeah, this is a swing back to action-mode comics earlier than I suspect people were expecting it.
Kept really basic, leaving room for Jamie and Matt to do their thing. The tendrils whirling around, use of space, etc. Also, let’s nod towards Matt’s hot pink in the last panel.
Page 25
And hello what we can only presume is the Darkness, Great, which I probably better not say more about until next month. It was certainly a design conversation, but probably best to work in there. Clearly we wanted something interesting.
Yeah, that’s enough for now, I think. We’ll talk the nature of Cliffhangers again next time.
Page 26
I had a string of names for this one, before ending up here. I liked most of them enough to make me suspect they’ll end up being used elsewhere.
Right – issue has just headed off to Image, so we’ll see you in a month.
Thanks for reading.