EXCLUSIVE: Dan Abnett Taps Into Animal Nature in "Wild's End"

Thu, June 12th, 2014 at 8:58am PDT

Comic Books
TJ Dietsch, Staff Writer
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Have you ever wondered what would happen if the aliens from H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" found their way to the Hundred Acre Wood from A.A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh?" Writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard definitely did. Not content to simply imagine such a scenario, they ran with it for their upcoming 6-issue miniseries, "Wild's End," which debuts on September 10.

The creative team behind Vertigo's "The New Deadwardians" and Dark Horse's "Dark Ages" brought "Wild's End" to BOOM! Studios where they fully intend to explore what would happen if a particularly nasty brand of alien decided to invade an Earth filled with anthropomorphic talking animals.

The story, which takes place in a small 1930s British village focuses on locals, Clive (a dog), Peter (a mink), Fawkes (a fox) and Gilbert (a rabbit) as they do their best to survive the influx of mysterious malevolent forces from beyond the stars. CBR News talked to Abnett about his partnership with Culbard, the flavor of the series and why he hopes readers forget they're reading about animals as the series progresses.

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CBR New: You worked with Ian on "The New Deadwardians" and "Dark Ages" is currently in the works at Dark Horse. What is it about his style that made him the right artist for "Wild's End?"

Dan Abnett: Ian's a terrific artist and a great storyteller. We also get on very well, so the collaborative process is fluid and organic. After the fun -- and critical acclaim! -- we got on "The New Deadwardians," we were actively trying to develop concepts that we could work on together. "Wild's End" came out of those conversations -- we built it as a project for ourselves.

Dan Abnett reunites with "New Deadwardians" collaborator I.N.J. Culbard for "Wild's End," a new BOOM! Studios miniseries mixing alien invasions and anthropomorphic animals

When you talked about "Dark Ages" you mentioned that you and Ian work on a flavor for each project. What would you say that is for "Wild's End?"

On the one hand, it's the stark horror of early Sci-Fi, particularly H.G. Wells, but it's also the genteel, cozy world of classic children's books -- Kenneth Grahame, A.A. Milne, etc. We were struck by that contrast, the clash of classic genres, the comfortable world of bedtime stories "invaded" by cold, brutal otherness.

WC14: Abnett & Culbard Enter "Dark Ages" at Dark Horse

One of the most striking aspects of the book is that the characters are all anthropomorphic animals. Was that the plan from the beginning or did it develop as the two of you talked about the project?

Absolutely there from the start. It was kind of what made the idea really work for us. It gave us tone, approach, style, content. The moment we thought of it, the story came alive. This is a very distinct take on the alien invasion story.

How do the characters' animal-ness play into the story, if at all?

Well, apart from indirectly, it sort of doesn't. We play them as people. I actually hope that the readers start to forget they're animals and just go with it, captured by the characterization. Their "animal-ness" is about the tone, the era, the style we're trying to capture. Two worlds are meeting that should not meet -- but I hope it makes terrible sense when they do.

What can you tell us about Gilbert, Peter, Clive and Fawkes? What are they up to before the invasion hits and how do they react once it starts?

The setting is a small, sleepy village in the countryside. Gilbert is a local big wig, a lawyer, and Peter is his friend, a reporter on the local newspaper. They are intrigued by Clive, an ex-Navy man, who has retired to the village. He's a newcomer, and he keeps himself to himself. He's fought in wars, and he doesn't like to talk about it. Retirement, and country life, is his escape, the quiet he craves. Circumstances, in the space of one night, throw them together. Fawkes is the local ne'er-do-well, a poacher and a crook. He's the first one to raise the alarm, but he may be too much a maverick to be a good ally.

You've been able to design and play with many different aliens in various comics. How did that previous experience inform the creation of the invaders in "Wild's End?"

Actually, we went down a route far away form the sort of alien things I've done before. This is a very Victorian view of aliens, the stuff of Jules Verne and early pulp magazines. Ian's designs are amazing.

Abnett hopes readers will forget the characters they're reading about are animals, since the story presents them simply as characters
Variant cover by David Petersen

What is it about the time period of the 1930s and the location of rural England that appealed to you?

I think to me it represents a bygone era, a golden time, a lost ideal, certainly in the way it's celebrated in classic children's books. It's tranquil and safe, reassuring, nostalgic. That's the tone we're creating, and then subverting.

RELATED: Abnett Murders the Undead in "New Deadwardians"

What are the aliens' goals in this book? Is this a mission to conquer, get supplies, find a new home or something altogether different?

They're actually very mysterious. They're dangerous, certainly, and frightening, but they're also enigmatic. There is no communication. Whatever they're doing, they're not stopping to explain.

What made BOOM! Studios the right place to publish "Wild's End?"

A great publisher, and one which happily finds room for the quirky or unconventional, which this certainly is. The editorial support is also amazing -- our editors really "get" what we're trying to accomplish and are properly excited. The e-mails fly each time I deliver a script! It's great to work with a team that is inspired by, and completely into, what we're doing. Their suggestions, feedback and enthusiasm are tremendous, and they've been terrific in encouraging and realizing the back up material I'm creating for each issue.

Is it too early to talk about some of that extra material?

I've written "in Universe" prose material -- newspapers, diaries, etc., and we've produced maps to flesh out the world.

"Wild's End" #1 by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard invades comic shops on September 10 from BOOM! Studios.

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TAGS:  boom! studios, wild's end, dan abnett, inj culbard

 
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