Dark Horse’s Next Medical Comic: An Interview With The Creators Of ‘The Ward’
by Rachel Bellwoar
Given how successful medical dramas have been on TV, it’s a wonder that there haven’t been more medical comics. Luckily, writer, Cavan Scott, and artist, Andres Ponce, are about to change that with their new series, The Ward. Not only does The Ward take place at a hospital, but the patients are all supernatural creatures, but which ones were Scott and Ponce’s favorites? Having gotten to send Scott and Ponce some questions over email, that question and more are answered below.
Rachel Bellwoar: Some of the longest running shows on TV have been medical dramas. ER lasted fifteen seasons. Grey’s Anatomy is still ongoing. What made you want to design The Ward as a four-issue miniseries?
Cavan Scott: Well, hopefully these four issues are only the beginning of a long list of adventures for Nat and the Ward team…
Andres Ponce: Yes, its a start. lets see how the readership receive the concept. I hope there [will] be more.
RB: Place is also crucial in medical dramas. Thanks to ER, I’ll always associate Chicago’s elevated train with that series. How did you land on Kirton, Illinois as the setting for The Ward (and is it a real town or city)?
CS: Kirton is fictional, which in a way is my little tribute to the great Stephen King. Just as he had built his own fictional cities, I’m hoping to be able to explore Kirton and its history in future stories. Of course, from a practical point of view, basing any story in a fictional location gives you far more freedom, which is especially useful while telling a story like The Ward.
AP: I love fictional cities. It is a tradition in comic books and they give more freedom to create new stories.
RB: What can you tell us about the main character, Nat (and is she supernatural)?
CS: No, she’s definitely not supernatural, but her family has been involved with the supernatural for a long, long time. St. Lilith’s is a hospital that cares for supernatural and mythological creatures. While we haven’t dived too far into its history… yet… the idea has always been that it was set up by human benefactors as a community hospital, albeit for a community that most folk don’t even know exist. If there’s one thing we know about Kirton it’s that the city is built on secrets.
Nat’s dad in particular was a legendary figure at St. Lilith’s and Nat has spent much of her life living up to his name. But as we discover, her work in the hospital took a terrible toll on her in the past, which saw her leaving St. Lilith’s for her own wellbeing. The events of issue one drag her right back in.
RB: Natalie once describes St. Lilith’s as an “infernal infirmary” and “Lilith” is a name associated with demons. Did that play at all into your design for the hospital?
CS: The idea of having a hospital named after a saint who is more usually associated as a demon or witch really appealed to me. It’s another hint that we’re not in the ‘real’ world.
RB: If it weren’t for the patients and doctors, St Lilith’s could pass for a human hospital. Was that always the plan?
CS: Absolutely. The original idea came from sitting watching medical dramas with my wife, who’s a big fan of things like ER and Code Black. My mind being what it is, I immediately started to wonder: ‘what would happen if one of the patients an ambulance brought in was a troll or a minotaur?’ It grew from there. What if the entire hospital is set up to look after magical creatures? There was something very appealing about that idea. A very ordinary, under-resourced, under-staffed hospital dealing with extraordinary patients.
AP: Yes, that was Cavan’s idea to do everything “real” beside the creatures.
RB: Where did the idea to create a supernatural medical series come from, and how did you first become collaborators?
CS: No artist was attached to the project when I first took it to Dark Horse. Our editor, Dave Marshall, suggested Andres as an artists and we went from there. As soon as I saw Andres’s original character sketches, I knew he was the man for the job.
AP: Yes, I’ve worked on books edited by Dave, so when they approach me, I really liked the concept! I did the best sketches that I could to get in the book.
RB: One of the things that’s really cool about The Ward is you don’t always go for the mainstream supernatural creatures. There are some deep cuts in that first Issue. What was the deciding process like, for which monsters to include, and is it more fun to draw a creature that’s not as well-established?
CS: I’m a folklore nut and so have a large library of books filled with glorious monsters and creatures from myths and legends all around the globe. The Ward gives me a chance to really dig deep into those pages, pulling out many of the legends that I’ve highlighted over the years. Plus, being an urban fantasy book its also fun giving more traditional creatures a fresh twist.
AP: I’m not great with folklore or that kind of stuff, so my main inspiration was Hellboy 2, that scene with Hellboy in the supernatural market. There we see a lot of weird characters with no story or legend attached (I think). I imagine that the guys designing all the creatures just were having fun doing strange looking monsters. The patients on The Ward are similar on concept but they [wear] real, actual clothes, mostly.
RB: Issue #1 has a ton of background characters, and they all have backstories, too. Like, I loved that you could tell that some of the monsters were related or that some were visitors while others were there for an injury. Do either of you have a favorite monster in the first issue?
CS: It’s the minotaur for me! He’s just so angry!
AP: The minotaur was fun to do, yes. Kumasaka, the ghost doctor, too. Also I liked the rocky little guy that is a part of the cleaning staff. What or who is he? A Homunculus? Needs some money to pay rent? I don’t know!
RB: Another thing I found interesting is that there’s not a lot of time, usually, for readers to catch on to things before the characters do. When Natalie’s neighbor, Wilfred, realizes one of the characters has a tail, for example, it’s not like it was shown in an earlier panel and Wilfred didn’t see it. We spot it at the same time Wilfred does (or, actually, he spots it first). Do you think that helps keep readers in the moment, instead of trying to anticipate what’s going to happen next?
CS: I think so, yes. Wilf is definitely our way into the story in issue one and I wanted the reader to feel as if they are being thrown into the deep end along with him.
AP: Absolutely, yes.
RB: Will we ever find out what job Nat had just started, before she wound up at St. Lilith’s again?
CS: Time will tell!
AP: Let’s see!
RB: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Cavan and Andres!
The Ward #1 goes on sale June 8th from Dark Horse Comics.