Scott Chitwood talks Riptide…

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I’ve not read much disaster fiction but the great art and the premise of the Riptide series- a meteor will cause a gravitational force so strong it will cause unprecedented tide piqued my interest.

I’m lucky enough to interview the writer of Riptide to find out more about the comic series.

Interview by David Jenkins

MM: Thanks for agreeing to an interview, Scott

Scott: Thanks for showing interest in it!

MM: What disaster fiction inspired this comic series?

Scott:The Poseidon Adventure was a big inspiration for Riptide as you could probably tell from the cover to the first issue! It really laid the blueprint for the story. We have a major disaster at sea, help is not coming soon, and you have a diverse group of characters all thrown in a fight for survival together. But I really looked at disaster movies in general and tried to use the usual tropes as well as avoid them.

There are familiar elements in many disaster stories like a divorced couple reconciling, a parent and child reconciling, or something else like that. I tried to avoid those kinds of things, but then leaned into the fun stuff like spectacular destruction, a gauntlet of deadly hazards that must be faced, and of course the characters that you love to see die horribly along the way.

MM: The NASA scenes in this disaster brought home the realism for me. How much scientific research did you do?

Scott: In my day job I work in the offshore oil industry, so a lot of this was inspired by what I’ve seen in the Gulf of Mexico. My company actually found a Nazi submarine while doing surveys for pipelines. I’ve seen massive hammerhead sharks from oil rigs. I’ve had friends crash in helicopters offshore. So I didn’t have to look too far for inspiration.

But when I did research for asteroids, I was surprised by how many news alerts I found where NASA would say some massive asteroid would pass by at a precise time at a price distance…but other than that they knew nothing about it. That certainly made it easy to create a situation where we could have our unprecedented low tide.

MM: When I read the plot of the series and saw some of the covers particularly to Volume Two, I expected more animals in Volume One. The series was still tense with the discovery of the Nazi submarine and especially the oil rig. But what was the reasoning behind only including some sharks and stingrays?

Scott: I had done earlier drafts where there were other animals and other situations with dangerous undersea creatures, but I ran into a couple of challenges. The first was I was trying to keep it at four issues, so there were limited pages to do other scenes. It needed to be a tight script with the core story. The other issue was with a dry seafloor, there was only so much you could do with fish out of water.

Fortunately, I was able to create a few realistic situations where, even with almost no water, there are deadly hazards the characters had to face. But you’ll be happy to know that Riptide has been optioned for a movie and in the script I have read there are new scenes with new creatures that are pretty cool. It expands on the comic a lot while still being true to the original story.

MM: Hannah is a well-developed character with people normally judging her on her looks rather than her brains, her disdain for superficial people and fear of heights. How did you decide on her character traits? Was it more a case of making a character to interact with certain plot points you had planned?

Scott: At the time I was coming up with this story, my daughter was considering becoming an engineer. She had top grades in math and science, but frequently the boys in her class would treat her like an idiot simply because of her looks. This was despite the fact that she was smarter than most of them. That started as the inspiration for Hannah – she had the knowledge to save the day. She just needed the confidence to stand her ground and convince everyone else to follow her lead.

I found that made for an interesting heroine and was a great theme about finding your voice. As far as her fear of heights, I was constantly looking for ways to put the characters in a tough situation…and make it even worse for them. I knew I wanted Hannah to climb an oil rig at some point, so making her afraid of heights but having to climb it anyway seemed like a good conflict to put her through. But I think such a climb would be terrifying for anyone – fear of heights or not!

MM: As with any disaster-based fiction the characters and their interactions are key. Each character was fleshed out in this series but from the third comic onwards the group dynamic is set. Did you consider having more group conflict?

Scott: At work we learned about the five stages of team development – forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. The first issue sets the stage for the disaster and shows the band of survivors forming. The second issue shows them storming as they battle over who is in charge, what they should do, etc. By the third issue they’re in the norming stage as they start actually working together. By the fourth issue they are performing and actually on their way to surviving the disaster. So I think that’s why it shook out as it did. And I’m not sure people would want to see four full issues of people fighting. That’s what social media is for.

MM: How does Riptide Volume Two– Kraken follow on from the first volume?

Scott: Riptide: Kraken picks up several years after the events of Riptide. Alex is off working in the oil industry and Hannah has become a ocean documentary host. But the story departs from the disaster genre and moves into an sea-based monster movie more along the lines of Jaws, Lake Placid, or even Tremors. It’s a change I don’t think readers will expect but I hope they like. Our characters discover the Loch Ness Monster is real, alive, and wreaking havoc on the North Sea oil industry. It sets up a conflict between industry, environmentalists, and science that I hope would make Michael Crichton proud.

MM: What comics have you got in the pipeline?

Scott: I’ve re-teamed with Riptide artist Danny Luckert on a title called Dowload. It’s an action-adventure in the spirit of The Goonies, Explorers, My Science Project, and other teen science fiction adventures. In this comic a kid looks up at a bright light in the sky and is suddenly blasted by beam of unknown origin. When he awakes, he finds hundreds up designs for strange devices floating in his brain. He does the only thing he can – he builds them. However, he’s missing one key bit of information – what do they do? The only way to find out is to activate them. As the young man and his friends activate one after another, they discover they do spectacular things. But who sent the blast of information? And for what purpose? And as the kids soon find out, he’s not the first person on Earth hit by the Download.

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