Nature’s Labyrinth Q&A with Zac Thompson & Bayleigh Underwood

Oct 26, 2022

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Mad Cave Studios

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After reading issue #1 of Nature’s Labyrinth, TheGWW got the opportunity to pose a few questions to Mad Cave Studios. The title’s writer, Zac Thompson, and artist, Bayleigh Underwood, took some time to untangle my web of words, offering readers a look at the story, their collaboration and what awaits inside Nature’s Labyrinth.

Urban jungle or actual jungle, which one do you find more terrifying?

Nature's Labyrinth Img
  • Zac: Actual jungle for sure. It’s funny to me because both have this quality of taking a wrong turn and maybe ending up in some kind of hell. But there’s this real sense of chaos in an actual jungle where you could lose your footing, fall off a path, tumble down the side of a cliff and break your leg. Where do you go and how do you survive? The possibilities for death or injury in a jungle are almost infinite.
  • Bayleigh: Even though I generally enjoy being alone in nature, I would probably say an actual Jungle. If I get lost in an Urban Jungle I can at least ask for directions.

Zac, was this the original take you had for Nature’s Labyrinth?

  • Zac: I’ve always wanted to do something in the battle-royale subgenre. I love the idea of a death game and I’ve always been fascinated with combining the story structure of man vs man, with the structure of man vs nature. It’s something that feels so ripe for exploration in my head. The chaotic nature of the wilderness environment just ups the ante for me and makes things incredibly unpredictable. It’s also in keeping with my personal love for the outdoors and dovetails with all the research I do in my spare time. I’m constantly reading about how to survive in the elements and doing backcountry camping trips in my spare time. So a lot of the stuff that made it into the series came from big trips out to the rainforests of BC where you’re completely alone and have to be ready for anything.

Bayleigh, when and how did you get involved in the creation of Nature’s Labyrinth?

  • Bayleigh: Mad Cave reached out while Zac was working through the scripts. I think he had just gotten through script 2 at that point. 

Speaking of scripted, Nature’s Labyrinth brings to mind television shows like Survivor and, to some degree, Naked and Afraid. If you found yourself in the situation, what’s one skill and one item do you bring to the competition?

  • Zac: Oh man, the one skill I’d bring is my ability to identify mushrooms. I’ve spent a lot of time foraging and identifying what ones are edible and which are poisonous. So that’s a great skill to bring with you in the wilderness. The one item I’d bring is a small knife. It’s so incredibly useful in so many situations. It’s key to identifying mushrooms but carving slivers of firewood, or sampling berries or whatever. You need to be able to cut stuff! And in the case of Nature’s Labyrinth you might need to cut people!

On one level, Nature’s Labyrinth is a challenge. However, unlike Survivor or even Squid Game, the competitors in this book could share the prize. Do you think anyone would pursue that as a realistic outcome or is that a tease?

  • Bayleigh: Yeah, I think that most people in this situation would at least try to share the prize. Most people prefer working together especially when times are tough.
  • Zac: Agreed with Bayleigh! I feel like most regular people would work together and try to share the prize at the end. With this story though, everyone involved is a felon. So they’re not exactly the best kind of person to work together. They have violent pasts and are in this situation because they don’t know how to trust others. That’s a big theme of the series, who can you trust and can someone be redeemed?

So then is Ahab really a villain, because much like the most dangerous game we are dealing with criminals?

  • Bayleigh: Oh yeah, he’s a real bastard. 
  • Zac: Absolutely. He’s probably the biggest villain in the series. If everyone in the game is bad, he’s somehow worse!

Bayleigh, one thing about horror-toture movies is the intricacies of the demise. Were there many challenges bringing the death traps Zac wrote to the page?

  • Bayleigh: Oh yeah for sure. There were a few scenes that were really hard to interpret and draw right. There are a lot of complex intricacies to the Labyrinth that I think will surprise people.
Nature's Labyrinth Img

Did the various ethnicities spring from the images you provided Bayleigh or Zac did you have them in mind from the start?

  • Zac: Yeah, it was really important for the entire cast to be international and come from different places from around the world. There are story reasons for this that will become clear as the narrative progresses but it was also a very practical concern as well. I didn’t want to throw a ton of characters that all look and sound the same into this situation. There’s inevitably more tension with a more diverse cast because each character doesn’t look at the world the same way. And a “criminal” in one part of the world may be a revolutionary in another. It’s key to the story we’re trying to tell. 

Zac, was there anything that ultimately did not work that you really wish would have made it into Nature’s Labyrinth?

  • Zac: Not really! I was pretty lucky in that the story structure is rather simple here. The stakes are clear and the characters in play are personalities I’ve always wanted to write. There were some biomes that I would’ve loved to include inside the Labyrinth had we had more issues to really explore the place. But that’s a more general thing just from the standpoint of throwing these characters into different environments. Like something covered in snow. That would be a lot of fun!

Finally, for both of you, can you maybe hint at anything or even an issue you can’t wait for readers to experience?

  • Bayleigh: There’s a lot of really great fights in the series! I can’t wait for people to check them out. 
  • Zac: Like Bayleigh said fights, fights, and more fights! That’s the big thing that people will really get to chew on in the series. We wanted issues to have prolonged action scenes that really breathe. But beyond that, lots of weird comedic beats that build in weirdness to the complexity of the Labyrinth. Issue #4 in particular is really gonna surprise folks!

Readers, stalk the shelves of your store for Nature’s Labyrinth beginning November 2, 2022. Or don’t wait and pray to prey — pre-order Nature’s Labyrinth over at Mad Cave Studios.

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