No, don’t worry this isn’t a doomsday post, far from it.
Skies of Fire is a limited comic series created by Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou, with some incredibly unforgettable artwork provided by Pablo Peppino, Bryan Valenza, and Nic J Shaw. The series was launched on Kickstarter in 2014, where they have subsequently released each of their following issues.
I was delighted to meet Vincenzo [Vince] at last year’s MCM Comic Con in Glasgow, and after being introduced to the series I unsurprisingly fell in love with the first two issues.
We here at MisplacedPixels were lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with both Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou, regarding the series and their latest KickStarter project.
For existing fans of the series, it will no doubt be music to their ears to hear that the newest campaign for the series is well underway, and it looks as though Issue Three has hit the ground running!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series, Skies of Fire is an airship story about loyalty and revenge. The series follows the intrepid heroine, Captain Helen Pierce, as she hunts down the dread-raider Delmonte who is wreaking havoc in her kingdom. Vincenzo said: ‘If you are into huge ships dueling in the high skies, we believe Skies of Fire is a story for you.’
Skies of Fire was initially developed as a screenplay in 2008 when Vincenzo was still in film school. A huge fan of ‘lighter-than-air vehicles’ he wanted to make an ‘epic sky adventure story’.
Over the years, Vincenzo continued to work out the main story and in 2012, he finally finished the first draft. Vincenzo said that once Ray came on board, he ‘helped make it what it is today.’
After such a positive fan response, it will be a surprise to many that the decision to make Skies into a comic series was primarily a financial one. Vincenzo said that they ‘wanted to do justice’ and make the project as ‘beautiful and epic’ as they envisioned it.
The team didn’t have the finances to fund the idea solo and at the time weren’t sure how to shop their script to other companies, it was at this time they ‘decided to go the comic book route’. Vincenzo said: ‘In hindsight, it was a great decision, as it allows us to achieve our vision without any compromises and offers a level of control that ensures we are faithful to the story.’
The team considered using traditional publishers at first, but after doing research they realised that they might be able to execute the book themselves by utilising crowdfunding. Ray said: ‘We thought that perhaps that would be the best way to make a name for ourselves while also retaining creative control.’
The project has essentially been funded entirely by fans, Vincenzo said that seeing how many fans have ‘embraced the project’ and how they have been ‘so generous in making it a reality is a very humbling experience’. He added that because of the support, they have been able to push their ideas into ‘new territories, and continue to explore and discover the world’ that they have created. It’s this support that has allowed Vincenzo and Ray to hire new talent and keep pushing the story forward.
Vincenzo said: ’For that, Ray and I are eternally grateful. Shout out to all the fans. Thank you all for the support!’
With such a unique, fluid and in-depth series – complete with its own backstory and world – it’s no surprise that Skies of Fire took a long time to develop! This July it will be 9 years since Vincenzo first put pen to paper, and scribed the words ‘Skies of Fire’ in one of his old notebooks. However over the years, the story has changed and evolved, and the world that Vincenzo first created ‘just keeps on growing’. Ray and Vince wanted to immerse their readers in a ‘whole universe’, and something like that ‘takes time – at least to make it believable’. They have always considered the finer details when building their captivating world, and they hope that it translates to a ‘breathtaking adventure’.
The artwork in Skies of Fire is indescribably beautiful, and it’s something that makes the series stand alone from so many other comics. Ray described the time constraints of complete an issue, where it takes ‘between three to four days of drafting per page’, as well as some ‘initial concept time’ beforehand so that one of their artists Pablo Peppino can thumbnail out his shots.
From start to finish it takes about eight months to write, illustrate and produce a complete issue. Where the longest aspect is the production of the sequential art, which Ray says ‘takes about six months’ to complete. Ray said: ‘Writing is always an ongoing process, and there is quite a lot of work to get the files print-ready once we have everything in place.’
Despite their success, Vincenzo describes not going along the traditional publishing route as ‘quite scary’. He said that there were many ‘hold-your-breath moments’, as well as ‘many sighs of relief’.
Overall he described the process as ‘rewarding’, where he expressed that being able to see something ‘grow from just text on a page has been truly magical’.
Vincenzo said: ‘Lord of the Rings (both books and movies) has been a major inspiration to Skies of Fire.’ They have created a world that is similar to Middle Earth – ‘a sprawling landscape that is inhabited by multiple cultures and factions.’
They wanted to take a realistic approach when it came to ‘presenting fantastical ideas’, which was something Vince drew from the movie adaptations as well as the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.
Skies of fire has had ‘some wonderful feedback’ on the first two issues. Back in 2014, The Village Voice named them one of the best comics of that year.
As each issue takes ‘a lot of heart and effort’ to complete, Ray and Vince always holding their breaths when releasing a new issue. Vince said that overall, they’re ‘happy that both critics and fans are enjoying Skies of Fire for what it is’.
Even though Ray and Vincenzo are the front men of the project there are many people involved in the creation of the series. They have over ten artists on rotation from issue to issue. They are constantly trying to find new artists to collaborate with, Ray said: ‘Whether in the form of a variant cover or perhaps the codex documents towards the end.’
Despite all the action in the first two issues, Vincenzo’s favourite part of the series to date is a scene that is coming up in issue 3. Vince said: ‘We finally get to meet Lieutenant Miller, an Aquilan military pilot, and the scene is filled with nostalgic imagery.’
The team worked hard to capture this ‘distinct feeling – drawing inspiration from many old photographs from the First World War’.
So far the entire first story arc has been mapped out – The hunt for Delmonte – written as a script, they have also outlined a lot of the backstories of the characters you will meet.
Making sure to lay the foundations for possible sequels, the team has an entire world to work with [with over 2000 years of history], so ‘the sky’s the limit’ for this series.
With many ideas they want to implement down the road, fans better be sure to ‘be prepared!’
As far as non-comic related inspiration Ray reminds fans that ‘Creativity is just letting your brain output what has been inputted in new and interesting combinations. It’s important to have as much external stimuli as possible.’
For any readers who might be aspiring comic book creators, Ray said: ‘Creating stuff independently isn’t easy. You just have to keep going, even when it seems impossible.’
If you want to know more about the series, click here to show these talented creators some love!
Check back for a first look review of Issue 3