“This was our first book without limitations, our first REAL comic” Dan Watters and Casper Wijingaard on the weird world of Limbo
Amnesiac detectives, music-chanelling mediums and seductive nightclub singers make up the citizens of Dedande City the neon-soaked setting for Dan Watters and Casper Wijingaard’s supernatural sleuth series Limbo. Keen to do our own private investigations into this 80s infused pulp noir we have a meet-up with Watters and Wjingaard to find out more about this surreal new series and share a couple of lizards on sticks.
Tell us a bit about the back story and inspiration for Limbo’s amnesiac detective Clay and the city of Dedande?
DW: Well Caspar had an initial high concept and some sketches for a somewhat ‘out there’ detective story, and I had the nucleus of a script about Voodoo and supernatural oddities, so when we started discussing ideas for a new book we very quickly merged the two and went from there. Caspar already had a really strong idea about what he wanted the city to look like, and started to shoot across a bunch of reference images that we worked with to get a coherent feel to the town.
Clay as a character grew quite organically once we knew we had an amnesiac detective. Clay’s someone who’s found himself without an identity, and because he’s searching for one, he’s sort of replaced it with this detective archetype… almost like a placeholder. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s actually any good as a detective…
CW: Like Dan mentioned I had an idea for a detective story which set the backbone for Limbo, and Dan had been compiling Ideas for a voodoo script he was writing. We had worked together on a comic before and spent a lot of time shooting ideas for future projects back and forth. We found a way to work the ideas together and Dedande was born. Its always been a dream of mine to create a city like Dedande for comic. In my 5 years working in the industry, I have only ever drawn stories in real world settings, which involves a lot of research and referencing and after a time it because very laborious. I wanted to strip the boundaries and create a world from the ground up where I was the architect, taking influence and cues from things that inspire and influence me as a person and artist.
The book has a really diverse mix of styles and influences from the ornate Mexican festival of the dead, to the neon glow of the 80s was that something which shaped the story as you created the world Limbo?
DW: The colour palate is something that’s so very uniquely Caspar, and something that I find always happening when working with Caspar is the plot starts morphing to do justice to the visuals. Sometimes he’ll work up a single panel or poster, and then we’ll know that we need to extrapolate it, as so much can be said in a single visual. Dedande itself definitely shaped the story. Saying that ‘the city is a character’ is very cliche at this point, but in Dedande it rings pretty true. Dedande is nasty little bastard of a character, and really has it in for Clay.
CW: This was our first book without limitation, our first REAL comic. previously I had one ever worked to script and had very little input on story elements. I had all these ideas I had to get out on paper, I felt if I didn’t make this book I would never be satisfied. When I got into comics it was never my intention to make other people’s books. In the case of Limbo I was able to visualise and create a book that is 100% me, and Dan was able to do the same with his writing. There are no editors involved, we’re making the book we always set out to make, there is a huge amount of passion put into making this book and Image saw that.
This isn’t the first time you have worked together so what do you think makes this pairing work so well?
DW: Everything about how we work is really collaborative; there is a script, but it’s always malleable, and we spend a lot of time either on the phone or in person sketching things out and coming up with new ideas. If it’s something we both really like, odds are it’ll end up in the book. There’s no editor on Limbo, so a lot of it comes down to trust. Caspar trusts me to tell the story, but I also trust him to call me on my shit if I start going off the rails with it.
CW: We’re totally in sync with our vision, there is no BS or conflict of ideas. We noticed that early when working together previously. Now that could be a bad thing, but thankfully people really dig the book. It was never our intention to make a logical book that rewarded your intellect or played it safe and held your hand. We wanted to tell our story and invite people along for the ride. We’re extremely happy people are still with us.
You introduce the super creepy Teleshaman in issue 2, tell us a bit about his creation, where did the idea come from and how did he evolve?
DW: Yeah, we’ve got a few villains we’re quite proud of coming up in Limbo. They’re always the most fun characters to write. I think that the nucleus of the Teleshaman came from the fact that the random movement of TV static is (at least partly) influenced by left over radiation from the big-bang. I was really interested in the whole free will vs causality debate when I started working on the book, and the idea of such a strong influence still being held by the creation of the universe; the idea that it’s still directly being felt in the most menial aspects of daily life really seemed to resonate. From there it was a hop and a skip to shamanism and spirituality through the concepts of cleromancy and the idea of riding smoke to the spirit world. Why couldn’t static function in the same way?
CW: Yeah….. what he said. No, he’s a great character and Dan did a fascinating job creating him, he’s the driving narrative in issue 2 so I had to let Dan just run with it whilst I visualised him in a way that helped tie him into the word of Dedande and the televerse. He was great fun. Hopefully, thats not the last we’ve seen of him…
The book starts as a PI story and then evolves into a supernatural horror, which genre do you prefer writing and how did the mix of genres begin to evolve?
DW: You know we keep hearing ‘supernatural horror’, and I think it always comes as a bit of a surprise to us, as we didn’t realise that’s what we were creating! We definitely knew that we were starting out with a Raymond-Chandler-esque template and building from there, but really our goal was just to make the most ‘comic-booky’ comic book that we possibly could; we wanted to do all the things that wouldn’t work in other formats, as well as throw back to the logic-bending comics that we loved that came out in the 80s; things like Doom Patrol and Rogan Gosh are massive influences on me in particular. I guess for me the PI story morphing into a horror is something a little more existential; I always think there’s something a bit bizarre about someone like Philip Marlowe, just repeating the same kind of cases over and over without ever really achieving very much. There’s a certain madness to it.
CW: Yeah, I think Dan nailed it on the head there. We’ve actually had to cut it back a fair amount. We have 5 volumes of Limbo planned and originally had elements that would carry over to future volumes. Each volume would take on a slightly different genre and incorporate its tropes to the existing world. Depending on how well the book is received hopefully we’ll be able to explore some more genres.
There are a lot of 80s influences from the visuals to the Poltergeist-esque TV scene, is Limbo meant to be a period piece or do you just like that era?
DW: Well we’ve purposefully not pinned Dedande down, for a bunch of reasons we can’t really go into until the book’s done and dusted. On the other hand, yeah we’ve drawn from a lot of really 80s influences, b-movies, comics and technology. I’ll let Caspar field this more, as it’s definitely something that developed aesthetically before becoming thematic.
CW: It’s something I really enjoy, I’m a big fan of nostagia. I grew up behind a VHS rental store, myself and my brothers grew up watching a lot tacky 80’s movies. I find something very charming in it, Sandy emulates myself as a child growing up and my love for music as a young adult. Clay, is me now. Cynical and always making bad decisions and he’s completely out of time in that respect. He’s past his sell by date.
How long will the series be running and what else are you working on?
DW: We’re doing the first book now and seeing how that goes. We’ve plenty more plans for LIMBO, but the nice thing about working in the detective genre is that its structure lends itself to ‘cases’. So this first volume is one case. If you want to see more… buy the book!
CW: We have plenty of stories to tell, ideas and pilots for volume 2 or case 2 have been in the works for over a year. The support from the readers will help make this a reality.
And finally, what’s with all the mentions of lizards on sticks?! A favorite snack of yours?!
DW: Personally I prefer a good tarantula shuffle.
CW: Yeah, make mine a snake egg salad, please.
You can purchase Limbo #1-3 from ComiXology for £1.99 per issue or from the Image Comics Digital Store