Bright Lights on Dynamite's Skin & Earth

Concept albums are something comic book fans know all too well, because it is comic books that are the frequent companions for such far-reaching projects! You can trace the roots back to when Alice Cooper was recording Welcome To My Nightmare. Such creativity popped up later in the 21st century with comic/album projects like Within Temptation’s The Unforgiving and Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto.

Now a new chapter has been written for concept albums with the release of Lights’ Skin & Earth from Dynamite Entertainment, and in this exclusive interview we ask the musician why she embarked on such a magical mystery tour, and how such an endeavor may affect her future in the comics medium.

Skin & Earth is currently scheduled for an April 2018 release, and her latest album is directly tied to the graphic novel. 

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Vince Brusio: What was your first introduction to comics? What heroes or stories captured your heart and imagination?

Lights: My introduction to comics was Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, and Herman. I remember initially being so drawn to their expressions and how much you could convey, whether it was comedic, or raw emotion, with just a few lines. Those comics segued into Space Adventures and Magnus Robot Fighter as my sci-fi tastes grew, and old romance comics, which I collected purely based on the art (big Roy Lichtenstein fan). Eventually got into Wonder Woman, and she was probably the first character I really fell in love with for who she was. Now I read mostly indie comics, WicDiv (The Wicked + The Divine), Monstress, Saga, Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals, and Descender to name a few.

Vince Brusio: What inspired you to create a comic book companion to your new album Skin & Earth? Did you take inspiration from previous projects launched from bands like The Devil Wears Prada or Within Temptation? Or was this effort purely organic, and the result of you working in your own pocket universe?

Lights: I’ve always thought comics and music should crossover more, and though it happens in the alt community here and there, it rarely (if ever?) happens in the pop world. I thought I could really enjoy the challenge of creating two perfectly tied forms of media that encourages listeners to take a whole project in, for all of its pieces, rather than just a single on a playlist here and there. As a fan of the medium, it’s been a dream to make a comic as it is, and this was my moment to give it a shot.

Vince Brusio: What’s the basic premise for the story? How personal is it to you, and in what way?

Lights: Without giving too much away, the very base premise — the one that I took into every song writing session to create the music to go with it — is the story of a young woman living in the poor side of the last city on Earth, which is divided into two classes by a big wall, and controlled by a massive corporation which is running what’s left of humanity into the ground. Amid it all, she becomes entranced by a spirit, and is forced to turn inwards to overcome and emerge stronger for it. It is a subtle commentary on depression and discovering your self-worth, looking for hope in a world of hopelessness, all things I’ve (and many others I think) have experienced.

Vince Brusio: What are some of the characters we’ll meet in Skin & Earth? Do they share any of your characteristics? Are any of them based on personalities you know in real life? Who are the movers, the shakers, and the lowlifes?

Lights: The main character, named En, is definitely a reflection of myself, she even shares my aesthetic (this was purposeful as I knew I’d want to bring her to life in some capacity and wanted to be sure I could pull it off). She responds to things the way I do, so in a way readers will get to know me, my apocalypse version. There really are only three characters, En, Priest (who has a lot of secrets) and Tsu (the perfect woman, who also has a lot of secrets). We also get glimpses of En’s mother, who is a big part of her outlook. All other characters that exist in the book represent the bulk of the population, and though the two classes — the Pinks (the rich) and the Reds (the poor) — have very different environments and lifestyles, they all share the same sadness and hopelessness. Everyone knows the world is nearing its death, and how you numb yourself to that reality is according to your financial means.

Vince Brusio: What’s at the heart of this story? What’s the nucleus?

Lights: At the core, this story is about the extinction of hope, and what one woman goes through to get it back.

Vince Brusio: Do you see yourself trying your hand at comics again? What do you take away from this experience of creating your own comic series? What did you learn?

Lights: I most definitely hope I can do more work in comics in the future. One of the biggest things I took away from this experience is a whole new respect for comic artists. While writing is not without its challenges, it's the art that is really time consuming. I wrote the story in a few months, but the art for six issues has taken over a year and I’m still finishing! Next time you meet a comic book artist, give them a hug!

Vince Brusio: How will you be supporting this project on the road or online?

Lights: I plan to release a music video for each issue that brings the world and that part of the story to life in some capacity. As of now there are three videos out, Giants (the first single happened to be from issue five which isn’t out yet! That was tricky to bring the world to life without giving away a pivotal point in the story!), Skydiving (for issue one) and Savage (for issue two). I’m about to shoot New Fears for issue three. Outside of videos, I’ve been having fun finding new ways to connect the dots with the project. One has been popping into comic stores at random if they carry the comic and signing a few, then posting it. It’s awesome seeing how quickly fans clean them out! I also fully intend to do a very thematic tour based around the comic, when it’s all out. Eventually I will be releasing multi-lingual versions of the comic with translated versions of the single as well. When you’re proud of something you gotta share it with the world!

Vince Brusio: What would you like your parting words to be to your new found audience in the comic book community?

Lights: I’m honored to be part of the comic world now. There won’t be a day that I don’t tread humbly. I’ve been a fan of the medium for so long, my standard is very high. So, as a comic fan, mine pales in comparison to the books I love, but I will always strive to improve and challenge myself to be worthy of such a smart, incredible, and inclusive fan base.

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