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Co-Writers and Artist of Salem: Queen Of Thorn
Published by: Boom Studios

Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur - (Posted: 2/23/2008)


Chris Morgan, Kevin Walsh & Wilfredo Torres

Richard: How did you start your comic book writing career?

Chris Morgan: I donít know if you can call it a career yet (since Kevin and I are only on the third issue of Salem so far), but our start came out of a passion for story, and a passion for comic books in particular. The fact of the matter is that we published the original zero issue of SALEM ourselves. Wrote it, hired an artist, got a booth at the San Diego Con Ė all because we had this intense drive to see the adventures of Elias Hooke come to life on the illustrated page. Afterwards, Boom! saw the original book and offered us the chance to continue the dream, and itís been great ever since, but Iíd have to say our true start start were those quiet hours of writing the book strictly out of love for the medium.

Richard: What is the basic storyline of "Salem: Queen Of Thorns"?

Chris: SALEM: QUEEN OF THORNS is our first five-issue arc following protagonist Elias Hooke as he struggles against the machinations of one of the major forces of evil in the world Ė a True Witch. Now witches, in the world of Salem, are not misunderstood healers or maligned pagan practitioners, but monstrous, fourteen-foot tall creatures of elemental evil Ė utterly inhuman and bent on world destruction.

Basically think Clint Eastwoodís Man with No Name running guns blazing into The Exorcist.

Richard: Who is Elias Hooke?

Chris: Hooke is a response to world shattered by betrayal and regret. A true believer who has had everything heís known stolen from him Ė morals, ideals, love, humanity. Whatís left is a cold, man-shaped engine of destruction whose every action is a calculated step closer to justice. And revenge.

Richard: Do you personally relate to any of the characters in this comic?

Chris: I relate to them all on different levels. Hannah for her compassion and her desire to see the bigger picture in things. Wood for his initial attempt to disregard the world changing around him. More than anything, though, I relate to Hookeís desire to see justice done. Iíd like to say Iíd be even half as dedicated were I in his shoes, but heís one determined m.f.íer.

Richard: What is the main drawing point of "Salem: Queen Of Thorns"?

Chris: I think itís the struggle of a single man against titanic evil. Oh yeah, and Spider Demons.

Richard: Would you like to see "Salem: Queen Of Thorns" made into a movie?

Chris: Itís not the goal of the book, but were we able to shepherd a faithful version of the comic to the screen, Iíd go for it.

Richard: Youíre the screenwriter on "Wanted" how is that going?

Chris: One of the screenwriters, along with Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (who wrote 3:10 to Yuma). The movieís wrapped (did you see the Super Bowl spots!!) and coming out June 27th, 2008, so Iím pretty excited. The cast is awesome, and Timur (the director) is visionary. Itís gonna be a hell of a ride!

Richard: How is a screenwriter different than a comic book writer?

Chris: Itís the difference of an artist being able to use bigger canvas and more colors. I love writing screenplays, but comics allow the freedom of exploring storylines and set pieces without regard to budget or running time. When writing on SALEM I feel like Iím letting my creative muscles stretch out and go "ahh".

Richard: Do you prefer writing films based on comics to other ones?

Chris: Depends on the comic, the character and the journey. Iíd drop everything to work on Conan.

Richard: What makes a good writer?

Chris: Thick skin. Unholy caffeine tolerance. OCD.

Richard: If you could write any comic book besides ones you already have which one would it be and why?

Richard: Kevin and I have some different action/sci-fi/horror ideas weíre thinking about exploring down the road.

As for titles that already exist, Iíd love to write something for Conan. Iím also a huge fan of the Hulk.

Richard: What comics did you read as a child and do you read now?

Chris: As a kid, I was kind of at the mercy of my brotherís comic collection, so I read what he had. I read a bunch of Thor, X-Men, Spider Man.

Now Iím reading The Hedge Knight (since Iím totally obsessed with George R.R. Martinís books) and Drafted, which has blown me away.

Richard: How can someone contact you?

Chris: Other than telepathy, itís easiest to send thoughts or feedback via Salemís myspace page at: .

Or post a message on the forums at Boom!ís website: .

Richard: Any last words of advice?

Chris: Pick up a copy of SALEM: QUEEN OF THORNS. Itís got some killer twists coming up!

Richard: Where did the "Queen Of Thorns" name come from?

Kevin Walsh: From Chris. When he first brought up the idea of SALEM and Hooke there was already this arboreal "bog monster" witch at the heart of it. I loved the name and it sparked some origin ideas for me, which I then pitched to Chris. And that was the genesis of our particular witch mythology, which we start to explore more fully in Issue #1.

Richard: Who is Hannah Foster?

Kevin: The simple answer is that Hannah is a woman unjustly accused of black magic. She's an herbalist and a healer. A midwife and all-around problem solver. A "cunning woman" in the parlance of the day, whose skills could easily be interpreted as magic by credulous neighbors. The sort of person whose ambiguous "powers" would make her the first person the townsfolk would turn to during times of trouble -- first for aid, and later for blame.

But she's not some wide-eyed damsel waiting around to be rescued. We wanted her to have a harder edge. With no surviving family and no husband, she's an anomaly in her era. And her strong, independent nature puts her out of step with the times and makes her even more of a target for suspicion.

And there's also anger and guilt behind her strength and a part of her that almost welcomes her execution. So there are a few more layers to Hannah and her motives which we'll be exploring as the story unfolds.

Richard: What will attract comic fans to this comic?

Kevin: It's a great blend of fun elements from different genres. Hooke evokes a cool Spaghetti Western vibe and it's fun to see people plugging into that. And there's a ton of supernatural action and horror, which Wilfredo is doing a great job of bringing to life. Just as a comic fan, I love the dynamic look he's brought to the material.

Richard: What exactly is a Pagan?

Kevin: I think ten different people can give ten different valid definitions there. "Pagan" can mean anyone who doesn't follow one of the three classic monotheistic faiths of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. In which case Buddhists are pagans. As were the ancient Greeks and Romans. But that's usually when the label is applied from someone on the outside -- "You/they are pagans."

In my understanding, people who self-identify as Pagans incorporate beliefs that include some blend of nature worship, occultism, herbalism, druidic/shamanistic practices, and the goddess/Gaea idea. In that sense, Wicca could be considered a subset of Paganism (taken as a capital "P" religion). But as neither a Pagan nor a Wiccan, I'd have to point you towards practicing members of those groups for better definitions. I think we've got a few letters around here somewhere...

Richard: Why was the controversy about this comic book?

Kevin: Some people read the original solicitation from BOOM! and thought our book was going to celebrate "noble" witch-hunters and paint the innocents condemned by the Salem trials as stereotypical wicked witches. As a result, we received some letters from self-described Pagans accusing us of being bigoted and exploitative.

But in fact, our story is in many ways the antithesis of those assumptions. In our book, the people running the witch trials are not good people. Those being condemned are in fact innocent and, in the case of Hannah, even heroic. And much of Hooke's motivation stems from his guilt over his own role in the atrocities. Later in the story, we also touch on the idea that magic isn't evil per se and explore the question of what makes magic good or evil -- its source, who uses it or how it is used.

So ironically, we came under fire for the belief that we were promoting intolerance when one of our core themes is actually tolerance. Now that the book is out, I hope the story will be able to speak for itself.

Richard: How did you and Chris Morgan get together to do this comic?

Kevin: Chris and I have known each other for many years. We started out developing ideas for computer games with another friend and then segued into features, putting together pitches and co-writing several drafts of a project for Warner Bros. When Chris came up with the comic idea, he came to me because he knew I was a lifelong comic fan. Then we just tinkered with the plot, mythology, and even the medium, before arriving at the current story we're doing through BOOM!

Richard: What was your first published work?

Kevin: That would be SALEM: QUEEN OF THORNS #0.

Richard: Do you have an interest in the supernatural?

Kevin: Absolutely. I believe that there are a lot of unresolved questions about how the world works. But I also tend to be pretty skeptical about the answers people offer up. I'm a logic junkie. I want it all to fit together. So I'm fascinated by ideas like explaining a phenomenon like ghosts as, say, energy strings that happen to vibrate in higher dimensions. Basically, I've got Mulder curiosity and hope, but I still want Scully answers.

Richard: Where does your inspiration come from?

Kevin: Seriously? Everywhere. All the Marvel and DC books I grew up with. Later stories from Miller, Gaiman, Moore, Ellis, Millar, Ennis, and so on. Scores of sci-fi and fantasy novels. World mythologies. Young adult mysteries and adventures. Films of all genres. Oddball news stories and scientific factoids. Heck, National Geographic. Seriously, does anyone have just one answer for this question?

Richard: Have you done any writing outside of comics, if so for what?

Kevin: There's that feature with Chris over at Warner Bros (currently in so-called "development hell"). I've also done a lot of comedy writing for National Lampoon and Mondo Media online, and live sketch material at tons of LA venues. Which is why SALEM ultimately evolves into a wacky sitcom. Brace yourselves for Issue #1, in which Hooke acquires a mischievous monkey sidekick.

Richard: What in your opinion is the best story idea you have ever come up with?

Kevin: The more I talk about an idea, the less I actually work on it, so I've got to beg off this question. Sorry. If I'm really lucky, you can check the comic shelves somewhere down the line for my answer. That being said, I do love the mythology for SALEM. Hooke and the Queen are just components in a larger story.

Richard: What do you like to do with any spare time you have?

Kevin: Write. Rewrite. Read books and comics. Wait for George Martin to finish the SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. Follow English soccer. Study martial arts. Worship at the altar of TiVo. Get lost in my XBox.

Richard: How can some one contact you?

Kevin: The best bet is through . I tend to check and tweak it almost every day.

Richard: Any final words of wisdom?

Kevin: If you've got a story you love, stick with it. Work it. Hone it. Defend and improve what's important. Recognize and remove what isn't. And realize that sometimes you need an outside perspective to make that distinction.

That's what's great about a good collaboration. Almost every time there's an argument about a story point, you end up at a place that's entirely different and better than where either of you started. Plus, you've got someone to play the bass parts in Guitar Hero.

It's also handy to have someone around to tell you when the work is finished. Even with the thrill of SALEM coming out, a big part of me can only see the bits that I still want to improve. I always feel like the writing is never done, only due.

Richard: Where were you born and raised and can you tell us something about your family?

Wilfredo Torres: I was born in NYC and grew up across the Hudson in picturesque, Morristown NJÖ somehow I ended up in Georgia with my Wife and 2 Kids.

Richard: When did you first decide you wanted to be an artist?

Wilfredo: Pretty much from the first time I opened up a comic book, I just kind of knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of.

Richard: How did you get onboard for this comic?

Wilfredo: Iíve been wondering that myself... Joe Abraham (Hero Squared) was kind enough to show my work to Mark Waid, who mustíve confused me for one of the Make-A-Wish kids and offered me the gig. Woo Hoo!

Richard: Who is the main character and what characteristics does your art bring out in him?

Wilfredo: The lead is a grim gentleman by the name of Elias Hooke. Chris and Kevin made the mistake of invoking the Man With No Name in the description and I pretty much took that to heart...a dark stranger, who sort of begrudgingly ends up doing the right thing Ė his motives (for the time being) shrouded in mystery... Oooooohhhhhhh!

Richard: How do you bring across the look of the main supernatural creature of the story?

Wilfredo: Most of the credit on that one needs to go to Mike Hawthorne, I pretty much inherited this project from him and he did a really kick ass design for the Queen so I tried to color in the lines on that oneÖ I may have gone over here and there.

Richard: What characteristics will your art show Pagans to have?

Wilfredo: Heh Ė Yeah, Iím not walking into that oneÖ

Richard: Have you worked on any other comics?

Wilfredo: Iíve done a couple of short anthology stories with Terminus Media ( a local Atlanta publisher and Iíve been working on another book thatís set for release within the next few months but Salem is really my first professional credit.

Richard: Do you have an interest in the paranormal?

Wilfredo: On paper, TV or the movie screen, absolutely. Outside of that you can keep it, Iím still trying to get used to the creaking noises in my house.

Richard: Do you have any favorite type of scenes you like drawing?

Wilfredo: I like any scene that really allows the character to "act". The scenes that let us know who this person is or what theyíre going through, to me those have the most meat.

Richard: How do you improve your art style?

Wilfredo: Itís that old clichť, yíknow? Practice. Itís the absolute truth though, nothing prepares you to do something better than doing it. Also, I think that thereís a wealth of knowledge out there and you just need to tap into it as best as you can. Guys like Brian Stefreeze, Walt Simonson, Howard Chaykin Ė theyíre not just brilliant artists but theyíre also scholars when it comes to the craft. Itís more than just being able to draw pretty pictures, itís about having a real understanding of story telling and composition, thatís what I aspire to achieve.

Richard: Which other artists do you admire?

Wilfredo: Honestly, thereís just way too many to name but after having to put together a 22 page book you develop a real appreciation for people like John Byrne, Mark Bagley and Pia Guerra.

Richard: Which comic books did you read as a kid and do you read now?

Wilfredo: As a kid I pretty much read anything with Superman or Batman on the cover but the first book I Ďcollectedí was The New Teen Titans during the Wolfman / Perez run. I was hooked from that point on.

Richard: How can someone contact you?

Wilfredo: I have a blog that I update pretty regularly Ė .

Richard: Any last words of wisdom?

Wilfredo: I donít know that I have any wisdom to share but maybe a little encouragement Ė all that time standing in line waiting to speak to an Editor, or waiting for a portfolio review, the unanswered submissions and the long hours at the drawing table, sometimes it feels like it may never lead to anything. Thereís only one thing for certain, if you give never will.

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