In an age when threats from nature and disease are a too-common challenge to human survival, what happens when the gods themselves turn against your family? "Night of 1,000 Wolves," the three-issue miniseries from writer Bobby Curnow and artist Dave Wachter, debuts in May from IDW Publishing and follows a family's struggle to survive against a seemingly supernatural coordinated attack from the lupine population in Dark Ages Scandinavia. Curnow, who is also an editor at IDW, spoke to Comic Book Resources about his first full-length project following his comics writing debut in "Godzilla Legends."
"'Night of 1000 Wolves' is a horror story about a family trying to survive a night of unnatural onslaught," said Curnow. "It focuses on the Benjyon family in Dark Ages Scandinavia -- father Harrick, mother Sophia and children Rary and Brinn. Also living with the family is Sophia's father, Tine. They lead a pretty solitary existence as sheepherders alone in the hills. They're a stoic people, but there's a strong love that anchors the family. Outside of some animosity between Harrick and Tine, it's a tranquil life.
"Unfortunately, the past was not always so tranquil," Curnow continied. "There's some dark secrets at the core of the Benjyon family that come back to haunt them."
There's a hint of folklore behind "Night of 1000 Wolves," though it's remote enough that readers are more likely to pick up a general sensibility of legend than to identify a particular myth. "Parts of the story take directly from tangential elements of Norse myth. But there's definitely a 'folk lore' vibe pervading everything," said Curnow. "I'd like to think it's a story that could be found in a dusty old book of myths."
Despite its mythological bent, "Night of 1000 Wolves" is a family survival drama, at its core, one informed both by the era and locale. "Family survival is such an overwhelming necessity. It's the basic building bock of much of society. One needs to protect and nurture one's family," said Curnow. "'The fate of the world' pales in comparison. The clarity of that danger is interesting to me and I wanted to explore some concepts that stem from it.
"The story takes place in a time and setting where Christianity is still relatively new. The conflict between this new upstart religion and the 'old ways' will be an important backdrop for the story," he added. "That larger conflict spills directly into the Benjyon family's life.
"Beyond that, things are just scarier when you are all alone, the populace is spread out and there are no guns or cars to help you get away!"
The grandfather, Tine, believes there's a supernatural force behind the local wolves' sudden aggression -- but it's not immediately clear that this fear is founded and "Night" begins as a real-world man vs. nature tale. "We don't have to worry about predators much these days. So transporting to a time where that might be a serious consideration is interesting to me. Add in the fact that long ago people didn't know how nature worked and believed gods lived in birds and who knows what -- that opens a lot of story possibilities," Curnow told CBR.
"It's a combination of two different types of fears -- the very real fear of being hunted and eaten by a pack of wolves, combined with the theoretical fear of not knowing if there was some vengeful god after you as well working its will through nature. It's all the same in the minds of the people of this time period. They never know exactly how much they should be afraid or what lies in the dark," he continued.
"Living in a time where all of that is very real to an individual is fascinating to me, and was fun to explore. There's no captions, no historical remove in the book. We'll see this story as the characters see it. Hopefully that makes it a bit more believable and hopefully, scary."
Although Curnow has long been involved at IDW as an editor, this is his first full miniseries as a writer, having also taken on writing duties for one issue of "Godzilla Legends." Asked how he decided this was the book to pitch to his colleagues and eventually present to readers, Curnow said, "I felt confident about the story, it felt 'ready' to go out into the world." That "readiness," though, took time and a concerted refinement that arose from both personal experience and professional consideration. "Most writers have images lodged in their brain that slowly grow over the years, waiting for the right time to jump out. Hundreds of wolves hunting at night was something I had in mind for a while. When I got engaged a couple years ago, I started to examine some new fears I found myself with. Would I be able to protect my future family? What if I couldn't? I found that the anxiety caused by these new questions fit in well thematically with the wolves that had been lurking in my brain for a while," said Curnow.
"Once I felt good about the story, I workshopped the scripts at Comics Experience. Comics Experience is an online community for established and aspiring comic creators to interact and improve their craft. I received great feedback from ['Avengers: Children's Crusade' writer] Allan Heinberg and other members there. That all helped me know things were (hopefully) in good shape."
Curnow is also generous in the praise of his artist, newcomer Dave Wachter, whose style brings out the folkloric aspects of the story. "I think the story is entertaining, but I attribute a lot of why the project works to Dave Wachter's incredible art. He elevates everything, and is making a truly unique book. This is his showcase more than anything," he said. "Dave brings so much to table. He's a workaholic, he's methodical and he does a ton of research. He comes to his page ready to rumble. That's the cut and dry stuff that any editor likes to see.
"Beyond that there's the 'pure talent' stuff that's harder to describe. He's captured this great, poetic atmosphere that is somehow beautiful, tragic, and terrifying all at once. It's classical and modern at the same time, if such a thing is possible," Curnow said, continuing praise for his artist.
"I may be guilty of over-hyping, like anyone talking about their project, but I just really love Dave's work on this book. I think it's something special."
Curnow left readers with a promise and an exhortation. "Wolves won't be the only threat," he said. "There may or may not be zombie werewolves! You know you want to see some zombie werewolf action! Something to keep in mind if you're considering pre-ordering! This is a new project, so every pre-order really helps get attention on the book. We greatly appreciate all the help we can get."
"Night of 1,000 Wolves" debuts in May from IDW.