Kieron Gillen Q&A: In Which We Talk About The Wicked + The Divine
Hi, everybody. I’m David Harth and I get way too much joy out of introducing myself. Anyway, I’ve been reviewing The Wicked + The Divine for this website since I started writing for it and earlier this year, I was able to get the series writer Kieron Gillen to answer way too many questions about his work. He was a great sport.
This time around, I wanted to ask him a few questions about the end of Wic+Div and just some general questions about the series. These are those questions and answers. I hope you enjoy them and can overlook how woefully bad I am at this or my tendency to fangirl a bit.
DH: Do you think that you successfully told the story you set out to tell in WicDiv?
KG: This is the sort of time when I wish I picked ludicrous grandiosity for my mode in interviews in this period rather than over-explanatory transparency, because then I would have answered "Yes" and gone and had a cup of tea.
There's several ways of taking that.
One is the fairly prosaic one. We had a story with a beginning, middle and an end. We did the beginning and then we did the middle and then we did the end. So, yes, we successfully told it.
The opposite take is whether we succeeded with our artistic goals in telling the story. We don't really get to answer that with a Yes or No.
DH: If you had to pick one story arc, which would you say is your favorite? Which one do you think is endemic of the book as a whole?
KG: It's a hard question - it's like asking what my favourite gear is in an engine. The engine only works because all the gears are there. You can't really reduce it like that. I want to say "My favourite story arc of The Wicked + the Divine is the story arc of the whole thing." That's kind of where my head was in writing it. That WicDiv changed what it was fairly radically at the end of each trade makes choosing the one which is most definitively WicDiv almost impossible. WicDiv was a process of re-examining what story it was, throughout.
In short, PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB is my favourite arc.
DH: Did you always know how the book was going to end? Laura's big speech at the end is one of the most uplifting things I've read in a long time. Was that always part of the plan or was it you riffing? Is there anything you would have changed about the book in hindsight?
KG: Thank you. I'm glad you found it affirming.
Laura's speech and the formalist flourish was always going to be the end - I think it was the week of the first issue I actually told Chrissy what the last panels would be, over lunch in a local pub. I was playing with how to do it for the whole story, in terms of execution. There were lines for issue 45 being added to the bible from almost the start. There was certainly stuff towards the end which we discovered in the process of writing, but the final beat wasn't one of them.
There's lots of small things I'd have changed with hindsight - I always talk about issue 3 being a little messy, in a way which it basically took until the mid-teens to undo to my satisfaction. There's some material I wish I could have snipped. There's some material I wish I had in my heart to go at harder. There's some things which probably weren't worth the effort - intellectually or emotionally - they required. Some lines I'd have cut, or tweaked.
In reality, no, not in any huge way.
DH: If you had to had to go out drinking with one of the Pantheon, which one would it be? Conversely, whose concert do you think would be the most fun to go to?
KG: I'd like to say "I'd go drinking with Woden to throw a drink in his face" but that is totally me dodging the question.
Probably Ananke, really. Just from morbid curiosity.
Who would be the most fun? Not Ananke, that's for sure. Dio and Inanna are the sweethearts. They'd be good people to be friends with, for wholesome fun. I suspect I'd be most likely to be friends with Cass.
DH: You and Jamie McKelvie work so perfectly together. Do you think that the book would be the same book if you had worked with another artist?
KG: No. WicDiv was the big Jamie and Kieron project, conceived as such and constructed to be the epitome of everything we did in the medium. Even when we had other artists (which was relatively often - 11 of the 51 issues don't have art by Jamie) that is integrated into our conception of how art works in comics. Jamie was the frame and created the context for everything that was NOT Jamie. Dropping Stephanie Hans in for an issue when the main mode is his clockwork precision is a different aesthetic effect to how she works in DIE.
DH: One of WicDiv's biggest strengths has been its normalization of diversity. A lot of writers would have called attention to that sort of thing, tooting their own horn for being so "woke", but you just did it and didn't make that big a deal about it. If someone was trans, they were trans. If they were gay, they were gay. It was just who they are, not something that was a main character trait, where it came before who they are as people. How important do you think that approach was to the success of the comic? How much do you think that approach to diversity and character informed the story?
KG: This is a complicated and large issue. We tried hard to not actually make an explicit selling point of the book. It was just there, because it's set in London and we wanted the book to feel like the city we love. WicDiv is no more diverse than London. We get uncomfortable with people offering us the proverbial cookies for it, while simultaneously how important it is to people to see characters like that in fiction.
The philosophy was that while a character's identity impacts their processing of the world and how the world treated them, we tried hard to not write stories primarily about someone's identity per se. There's a few areas I think we did, but they were very small. While (for example) Cass' identity as a trans woman certainly impacted how she approached things like the changing identity of becoming a god (she keeps her "Cassandra" even when Urdr, as clearly she'd already done a lot of work on deciding her identity, etc) her stories were about everything else in her - the messy specifics which made Cass, Cass.
If the book is successful in its goals, I hope that this approach was part of it.
DH: Thank you so much. Month in and month out, WicDiv was, in my opinion, the best book coming out. Every month, you and the creative team knocked it out of the park, creating a story that will hopefully be placed in the pantheon of greats in this little four color medium. Cheers on the success of DIE and Once & Future.
KG: You are correct. We are the greatest. You will never see our like again.
Oh noes! It's the start of my ludicrous grandiosity period. Someone stop me.
Thank you. It's been a hell of a time.