In anticipation of the official release of Dark Spaces: Wildfire, The Nerdy Basement had the gracious opportunity to speak with series artist Hayden Sherman (they/them). During our discussion with Hayden, we spoke to them about their collaboration with Scott Snyder, the research they had to do in order to bring this story to life, and what readers can expect when this new series launches on Wednesday, July 20th.
The Nerdy Basement: Hey Hayden, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us for a little. Dark Spaces: Wildfire is off to a great start. I thoroughly enjoyed being placed on the frontlines of this trap. Both from a storytelling perspective and the visual perspective that you are providing. Let’s begin with the idea and overall conception of the story and how you and Scott Snyder put this story together. What was that process like? How was it working with Scott Snyder?
Hayden: To answer the second question first: working with Scott is a blast. It’s a very fulfilling collaboration where each of us is responding to the other’s work as we go. Which is really how the whole process has been while creating this story. Scott had this whole idea for the series and how it could work, and from then on it’s been this evolving back-and-forth as we each bring new ideas to it.
The Nerdy Basement: Compared to other comic book scripts you have received in the past, how different is Dark Spaces in terms of transcribing things visually on each page and panel?
Hayden: In terms of the script, it’s much more like the process I’m used to from the books The Few and Thumbs. The issues of those series were written in this real open way, just a five or seven-page write-up of what happens. No panels or page numbers are described. Here on Dark Spaces there’s an idea of where page breaks could be in the script, but there’s no panel descriptions and ultimately it’s left to me to figure out. Which is one of my very favorite ways to work. Things stay loose and interpretable, if I see something in the script that I want to focus on or draw out then I’ve got the room to.
The Nerdy Basement: It’s interesting that you say that. I always found the process between transcribing words on a script into art and overall panel framework. There’s a lot of research that goes into storytelling as both a writer and an artist. Dark Spaces focuses on inmate firefighters battling a massive wildfire in California. What was that research process like? Did you speak to any firefighters to get an idea of what their day-to-day entails?
Hayden: The level of research needed here was definitely new to me. But thankfully also very fun. I’d mostly done pretty genre-heavy (especially sci-fi) stuff prior to this and that type of setting allows for a lot of invention. Dark Spaces doesn’t have that kind of cushion. So the bulk of my research was for things like: What gear does an inmate firefighter use? Are they allowed to personalize their equipment? How do I translate a wildfire into black and white? What style of home could exist here?
I also read Breathing Fire while concepting for this, which was a wonderful help as it focused my entire understanding of what inmate firefighters are and how they work. Otherwise, the bulk of my research went into giving this book (hopefully) a visual legitimacy and accuracy. Assembling a wide enough breadth of reference imagery so that everything in the story is being pulled from something real. As best I’m able. If firefighters of any sort read it, I hope they feel accurately represented!
The Nerdy Basement: That level of attention to detail is definitely shown in this first issue, which leads me to my next set of questions. There are quite a few panels that really stand out to me. More specifically a couple of splash pages towards the end of the issue, I’ll refrain from spoilers; one is really immersive and one is a great montage of Ma. Can we talk about the process of putting those two pages together?
Hayden: The montage was a lot of fun. Without saying too much, I wanted to get across a sense of unending routine. Which is something Ma becomes aware of at that fragile point she’s at. The process was as simple as adding one more panel into each subsequent column of panels as it goes until it recedes into nothing. And then building it back the same way, just removing a panel each time until we’re back to one. Thankfully I do my paneling digitally these days so I was able to math that all out pretty specifically and not have it take a week.
The Nerdy Basement: I really like how planned out that was. One of the standout moments of the issue for me without a doubt. As an artist, you tend to lean more towards the science fiction side of storytelling with the books that you help bring to life; something you mentioned previously. With Dark Spaces you move away from that and focus on a story that is more grounded in reality. What sparked your interest in this story specifically?
Hayden: Scott did! Which I mean in two ways. First, Scott had a passionate and compelling pitch for this very grounded character-driven story that felt so new. Hearing him talk about it and figure things out is a genuine joy. And second, Scott’s a writer whose work I’ve admired for years, the chance to build something new together was just incredible. No matter what we made, I knew with Scott at the helm it’d be amazing.
The Nerdy Basement: Scott is a long-time favorite writer of mine and someone whose work I’ve come to actively seek out in my years of reading comics. Creator-owned comics are becoming more of a mainstay in the comic book industry with many publishers now launching their creator-owned imprints and creator-owned originals like Dark Spaces. How do you as an artist feel that benefits the longevity of the industry?
Hayden: It’s wonderful! The more creator-owned comics the better! So long as the creators are all getting paid fairly and reliably, that is. Really, comics are capable of being absolutely anything. That there is an increasing number of companies willing to publish whole new ideas and stories is only a good thing for the medium. Will it all financially benefit the industry’s longevity? Time will tell. I sure hope so. But without doubt as an art form, as a mode of expression and creativity, an increased number of creator-owned comics is a boon.
The Nerdy Basement: Heavy on the comic creators being paid fairly and reliably. Love your perspective on the creator-owned side of comic book creation. Shifting the focus to the colors of this comic, Ronda Pattison is the colorist of Dark Spaces, how much involvement do you have in the coloring process of your artwork? Mainly asking because the color palette used for Dark Spaces, while often bright and colorful, also brings this feeling of gloom and entrapment, just wanted to see how of a say you as the of series have in that side of the creative spectrum.
Hayden: From the jump Mark Doyle and I had envisioned this book’s palette in a very vibrant/unrealistic way. We brought that idea of what we were looking for to Ronda and she came back with what we have today! Just knocked it out of the park, too. I may give a little thought on occasion, but sincerely, all credit to Ronda.
The Nerdy Basement: Major kudos to Ronda, she truly has knocked it out of the park. Anyone who has seen any of the previews posted online will definitely know what we are referring to. Other than faithfully depicting the battles and afflictions of these inmate firefighters and firefighters in general, what were some of the biggest hurdles that needed to be overcome?
Hayden: Fire! Turns out fire’s not easy to draw. I spent a lot of time just sketching fire. It’s rough because fire is just light. It’s pure, vibrant, liquid light. So you don’t want too much line-work going on in it, but also you need something to communicate its movement. Fire is one of the stars of this show so I really wanted to get that right. I still haven’t settled on one way to approach it. We’ll see if I feel like I’ve gotten it “right” by the final issue.
The Nerdy Basement: Silly of me to think that fire was probably one of the easiest things to illustrate haha! Although it is a heist story at its core, featuring female inmate firefighters as the cast that drives the narrative forward. What is something you would like readers to take away from this story?
Hayden: Aside from its themes, which I’ll avoid so I don’t inadvertently spoil anything, I hope that readers will take away just how hard real-life inmate firefighters work. The things they choose to endure, the risks they take, and the unfair deal that it ends up being for them.
The Nerdy Basement: I think readers will have a lot to take away from this story so we’ll let them dive into the story and see their reactions online when the issue releases. Do you have a favorite inmate in this story? Anyone you may have connected with the most?
Hayden: Uh oh, asking me to pick between my kids. Hmm, I probably connect with Sawyer most. Her looking after the other women kinda reminds me of myself looking after my little sisters while growing up.
The Nerdy Basement: Haha! Didn’t mean to put you in a tight spot there, it’s always hard picking a favorite child, right? There’s a huge revelation at the end of the issue, which I won’t reveal here. However, how many other bombshells like those can we expect through this series?
Hayden: Not gonna put a number on it, but there’s definitely more waiting for you!
The Nerdy Basement: I’ll be honest, I was already interested in the story before that reveal but the reveal completely sold me. I’ll be waiting for more bombshells like those! Looking ahead for a bit, are you able to provide any updates on some of your current ongoing titles or upcoming titles? We have Dark Spaces, Blink, Above Snakes, and even Batman, what’s next for the titles and
you as an artist?
Hayden: I’ve just about wrapped up Blink and Above Snakes, they’re on the final stretch. Really looking forward to those issues all releasing! Next up I’m working on a horror book with Zac Thompson that’s already very very fun. And yes, Batman! A dream come true in the truest sense. I’ve drawn a number of Bat stories already that’ll be coming out toward the end of the year and will be drawing more very soon!
The Nerdy Basement: We’ll keep an eye out for all of these great titles. Hayden, I want to thank you once again for taking the time out of your day to chat with me about Dark Spaces, I think this will be a great series for comic book readers to enjoy and I look forward to seeing more of your work here and your other titles. Have a wonderful weekend! Stay Nerdy!
During their sentence at a women’s prison, four fearless inmates have taken up the intense job of firefighting under their captain, Ruby. When opportunity strikes during an intense forest fire, this crew of badass women make a decision to seize it, together. Will this crew of daring female firefighters walk away with ruby-lined pockets or burn up in flames?
Dark Spaces: Wildfire is out this Wednesday, July 20th wherever comic books are sold.
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