Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Q&A with Jeremy Holt & Tim Daniel on Skinned Issue #1

Last week Skinned #1 was released on Monkeybrain Comics and after reading my copy, I of course had a few questions. Lucky me, writers Jeremy Holt and Tim Daniel had answers for me. Here's how our little Q&A about the comic went: 

The Frog Queen : How did you all come up with the ideas behind Skinned?

TD: The idea first started forming up in 2010 as something far more sinister and mainly influenced by Phillip K. Dick’s, Scanner Darkly, but didn’t really crystalize until Ernest Cline published his totally rad novel, Ready Player One. If readers are not familiar with his sci-fi gaming novel, then get right to it. In a nutshell, Ready Player One involves an immersive virtual reality technology that allows users to inhabit a world chock full of pop-culture touchstones mainly from the 1980’s – particularly early gaming console games of that era. Skinned takes that notion one step further and brings the virtual to reality.

I’m also inexplicably preoccupied with the constructs of Disney “Princess” films -- how the heroine is typically depicted and how science fiction has been virtually shunned in those stories…

JH: What Tim said. I was a late addition to the project. I will say that his original pitch to me was much more streamlined and I was immediately sold on the concept of the Occup-Eye/Iris system. He let me wrestle with the idea a bit, and I ended up pitching him the idea of Buoy as a computer hacker, which I thought complimented everything Tim had already established with the story.

The Frog Queen : How did you all meet and decide to collaborate?

TD: Jeremy and I met at Image Expo in 2011 and I loved his work on Southern Dog and Cobble Hill. We kept in touch trading our projects back and forth.

JH: I actually have Kurtis Wiebe to thank for the introduction. I was a big fan of Tim’s design work ever since I read Existence 2.0/3.0. I happen to have the cover art for Cobble Hill on my phone, and once I showed him that, the rest is history.

The Frog Queen: What’s the role of the royalty in this story & their involvement with Occupeye?

TD: Titles are great, especially when you bestow them upon yourself…let’s just say this – trust nothing and no one. We’ve taken careful measures to fully explore the well-worn axiom of “seeing is believing”.

Now, Aldair’s parents, Mallerie and Darek – especially Mallerie, are the top programmers for the Occupeye system and in a society that puts the highest value on one’s ability to conjure powerful illusions, they are in a sense royalty.

JH: I think this clear societal class system allows us to explore our characters from very specific perspectives. I personally love the idea of mixing old world beliefs with new age technology. It’s all very steampunk in a way, which I think elevates it from your atypical star-crossed lovers storyline.

The Frog Queen: Does Occupeye merely project the images of the individual wearer? So when Buoy changes the surrounding of the Bazaar, is he affecting everyone else's lenses? 

TD: The Occupeye lenses were originally intended to be character-POV based.  Aldair is a rebellious teen for instance, so through her lenses we see the world as she does – Road Warrior-like. When she’s heartbroken, we see her reacting in a Victorian Era period drama, with a lot of tears and anguish.

But fully articulating that proved to be a massive amount of work for series artist Joshua Gowdy and equally ambitious in terms of structuring the script. We both feel, whole-heartedly that Josh did an amazing job of executing the Occupeye effect strongly enough that the reader can easily follow the action and still experience the idea of the system.

Now, when Buoy hacks the system in the first issue, he’s re-skinning all of reality and later in issues 2-4 we’re going to see the ramifications of that hack. Subsequently, there are times when Iris is stepping in and providing a skin to match or mitigate the tone of a scene. She’s a super-Siri, designed to think on behalf of all users, gently guiding the appearance of their reality.

JH: I have to also give Josh a tremendous amount of credit to be able to take the high concept aspects of the script, and fully realize them through his art. He makes it look fairly effortless-what with all the quick all encompassing scene changes.

As for how Tim and I were going to execute this rather ambitious concept, again I support what he has said. I think we’ve done our very best to expose readers to this very new and maybe a little disorienting world, while also maintaining a level of clarity and intriguing characterization that maintains the reader’s attention. With subsequent issues everything will become more familiar regarding the skin-flipping. It’s certainly an adjustment. [smiles]


The Frog Queen: Do you see Skinned as a limitless world with many stories to tell? Do you think there will be more to come after the initial series is finished?

TD: Honestly, I don’t see anything more for Aldair and Buoy beyond the six issue series. I appreciate stories that know when to end.

JH: We discussed the ending very early on during development, and I share Tim’s penchant for self contained stories in a limited arc. We can tell the story exactly as we see it, beginning-middle-end.

The Frog Queen: Can you tell us how to can get our hands on a copy of Skinned?
Skinned can be purchased through Comixology as a digital download for a mere .99 cents:

Our facebook page is an excellent resource for teasers and sneaks: