Talking ‘Dark Spaces: Wildfire’ With Artist, Hayden Sherman

The ladies of Crew 513 may be used to fighting fires, but they’ve never tried to get rich during one before. In writer, Scott Snyder, and artist, Hayden Sherman’s, series, Dark Spaces: Wildfire, that’s about to change, though whether their plan will work is another story… With colors by Ronda Pattison and letters by AndWorld Design, Sherman shares some of his tricks for maintaining the tension and telling the characters apart in the following interview:

Rachel Bellwoar: The use of inset panels in this series is extremely clever, especially when it comes to making sure readers never lose sight of the fire and what crew 513 are up against. What was your biggest goal with the layouts for this series?

Hayden Sherman: The big thing for me was keeping things organic and flexible from beginning to end. I wanted the layouts to serve each scene as much as they possibly could, with enough added variety in panelling to keep the tension wound tightly for the reader. Especially in a thriller like Wildfire, that means never losing sight of the source of the character’s anxiety. Bringing insets into a page to keep the danger in focus, or adding insets of characters into a page that largely focuses on the danger itself, allows that balance and tension to flourish.

Bellwoar: How the panels are shaped is so telling, too, from the contrast of the circular panels when the characters are talking about the future to the present-day panels, which tend to be square, or the monotony of a routine depicted as vertical strips. How much were those choices conscious?

Sherman: Is “consciously-subconscious” a valid response? I never set up a rule system for how this book would change to handle past/present/future. But, as I laid out each issue I always wanted  moments of hope and fantasy to stand apart and feel somehow out of reach. The real world to these characters is one contained by hard lines that rarely disappear, the world they hope for is something else entirely. Something more interpretive. But even then, occasionally in the real world these characters will break outside of their panel borders and assert themselves over the page. It all depends on what each scene is meant to communicate. In a way, my lack of a distinct rule system is probably telling of my own hope that these characters will find a way out and live the lives they dream of.

Bellwoar: My favorite moment is in issue four when the characters are imagining what they would do with the money, only to be brought back to reality by the sight of zip tied hands. Those hands take on a very different meaning, though, and I was wondering how you got the idea to focus on them?

Sherman: Oh, I love that moment too. In the script, Scott had this wonderful description of this cast all lying on the ground, tied up, and sharing their hopes and plans. We of course wanted to visualize their dreams, so the bulk of those pages is dedicated to their fantasizing, but by placing a shot of the zip tied hands at the bottom of each page it allows for a rhythm that leads us through the scene and keeps us grounded in their reality. Until that rhythm climaxes and takes us into the next bit of action. Otherwise, what follows would have felt much more abrupt, and potentially unearned. Which is definitely not what we want! So those shots end up serving a number of important purposes.

Bellwoar: Given that they’re uniforms are almost identical, it could’ve been very difficult to tell the members of crew 513 apart. Did you have any strategies for avoiding that problem?

Sherman: That was definitely a concern. The main solution we went for, that still kept the characters in accurate dress, was to give them slight differences in gear. Different scarves, different goggles, different backpacks. And different face shapes/hair styles that could help them stay separate. Honestly, when they’re small enough in a shot I imagine they’re still difficult to tell apart. But that ends up working to the story’s advantage, as I see it. When it’s less clear who’s who, they can be more understood as a single unit. Which helps visualize the bond that they share.

Bellwoar: As narrator, Ma might be able to control what’s said but it’s through your art that we start to learn more about her unspoken past. What was it like getting to play against Ma’s reliability as a narrator, in terms of being forthcoming or aware of the power dynamic between her and the other girls as c.o.?

Sherman: This is where the process between Scott and I got extra fun. Scott’s initial scripts broke down the things we were seeing, and how each character felt about them, but then (especially in the case of Ma’s narration) Scott would redraft everything after the inks were finished. So we had Scott’s version of events, which I interpreted into the pages, and then Scott’s new narration directly playing on those pages. So he could focus and refocus depending on what I decided to show or not show. Which is how so much of this book worked for us, both reacting to what the other makes, in hopes of building something new. To some degree, I never knew how reliable/unreliable Ma might be, but the visual keys were consistent. So we could play from there.

Bellwoar: Ronda Pattison’s infrared colors complement your artwork so well. What was your first reaction to seeing the final pages?

Sherman: Oh man, the further we went the more impressive Ronda’s colors got. And I was floored to start with! She just ran and ran with that style. My first reaction could probably best be described as “hell yeah.”

Bellwoar: In the end, what has been your favorite part about working on this series?

Sherman: Without doubt, getting to know the entire crew of people that I got to make the book alongside of. Everyone’s coming from a place of so much experience, and has a fire to make new creator owned books. To be working on books like this, with people like that, it’s the dream.

Bellwoar: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Hayden!

Dark Spaces: Wildfire Volume 1 goes on sale May 10th from IDW.

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