Skies of Fire, the brainchild of Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou, is a colorful and mesmerizing comic that takes readers into the Aquilan Empire, a world where airship travel has become the main means of transportation, commerce and war. Moreover, the book is a entrepreneurial success story. Launched in 2014 by Mythopoeia, the publishing company founded by Vince and Ray, Skies of Fire has set the standard for how to run a crowdfunding campaign. The creators not only released their first book through their Kickstarter efforts, but also were able to make a big splash at the New York Comic-Con 2014. They sold out of their first print run of issue #1 and were named one of the best graphic novels of 2014 by The Village Voice.
Unable to rest on their laurels, Vince and Ray are back with issue #2. The world they have created is both stylish, breathtaking and inventive. Comics Beat sat down to chat with the two creators about their debut series from Mythopoeia.
Seth Ferranti: How did you come up with the concept for Skies of Fire?
Vincenzo Ferriero: Skies of Fire was an idea I dabbled with all the way back in 2008 at New York University. I have always been a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s work, and his adventures and amazing flying machines really drove me to develop some of my own. I spent months in our university library, reading and scanning thousands of pages of airship books and material. Through the research, I got taste of the airship era. From Umberto Nobile, who was the first to reach the North Pole by airship, to John Pomeroy who invented incendiary rounds during WWI to down the Zeppelins of London. From there, I worked on a couple of scripts. One was a biopic on Mr. Nobile. Another was a historical drama about the German airship crew of LZ45. The final was Skies of Fire where I wanted to tell a story in my own universe. A lot happened between then and 2012, but long story short, the first draft of Skies of Fire was completed in June of 2012. I showed the draft to Ray, and his first instinct was “It’s awesome man! Can I tackle this one scene?” And that’s how we began our collaboration. Over the ensuing months of collaboration, the story was refined and became what it is today.
Seth Ferranti: How would you describe the world and the story you’re telling?
Ray Chou: Skies of Fire takes place in Aquila, a continent roughly analogous to Imperial Britain in its later years. The geography of the land means that airship travel has become the dominant means of transportation, commerce, and war. The story centers on an endless storm called the Expanse, which for several decades has become a haven for raiders (pirates). Issue One begins with the destruction of a key trading city called Port Prince. The rest of the series follows Captain Helen Pierce as she plans an expedition into the Expanse to end the raider threat once and for all.
Seth Ferranti: Who are the artists you are working with?
Vincenzo Ferriero: We work with a talented group of people who come from all over the world. That is one of our strengths, and something Ray and I are proud of. Skies of Fire is truly a global effort, and the cultures and ideas that each member brings to the table definitely enriches our work. I live in the UK, while Ray lives in US. Our beautiful pencils/inks are done by Pablo Peppino from Argentina, which is then masterfully colored by Bryan Valenza from Indonesia. Letters are crafted by Nic J. Shaw from Australia, and much of the graphical work and the exquisite map are done by Josephe Vandel from Germany. We love to bring on new people with fresh ideas, and as the world grows, we’ve continually done so. We brought on Rodolfo Reyes from Mexico to do a variant cover for Issue #1, and Minobu Sato from America to do one for Issue #2. Another artist we found is Alexandru Bucur from Romania who did some airship designs for the world. Each has been a thrill to work with, and a jigsaw in the Skies of Fire puzzle.
Seth Ferranti: How did the Kickstarter go?
Ray Chou: Really great! We’re actually planning a three-part Kickstarter post-mortem on our website blog where we go into the planning and business side of things. Check it out!
Seth Ferranti: What was it like promoting the book at the cons?
Vincenzo Ferriero: Tiring, but an amazing experience! It’s great to go to conventions and get a chance to talk about the stories and the world’s we build. You meet some awesome people who really get into the whole thing and want to be part of it. We’ve had people buy our comic on the first day of the con, and then return the next day to talk about it! It’s something Ray, myself, and the other artists really appreciate. A story is hollow until a reader engages it, and just seeing people embrace it is very satisfying. On a recent trip to MCM Ireland, I got a chance to meet one of our backers. He told me how he’d use Skies of Fire for his RPG games with his friends! That’s pretty cool.
Seth Ferranti: Where do you see the story going?
Ray Chou: Well, we have the story pretty well planned out. It’s probably going to take eight issues total to get through everything. We’re wrapping up three right now and hoping to start right away on four. Three is where most of the secondary characters are introduced, and four is when things start getting epic.
Seth Ferranti: What other work have you two done together?
Vincenzo Ferriero: Before jumping onto Skies of Fire and entering the comic book world, Ray and I worked on a pitch package together for a reality show called The Warrior Within. We wanted to create a show where we pitted everyday people against a crack SEAL team in a paintball competition. That was quite fun, and we hope to make the project happen one day. Since Skies of Fire, we’ve been developing two projects that we wish to release as comic books as well. More details to come soon.
Seth Ferranti: Why should someone read skies of fire?
Ray Chou: We originally envisioned Skies as a great summer blockbuster with an ensemble cast and fantastic setting. Thematically, the story is about loyalty and ambition, though that plays out quite heavily in the later issues. If any of that sounds good to you, you should check us out.
Seth Ferranti writes for VICE, The Fix, Don Diva and other media outlets. He runs www.gorillaconvict.com, www.thegr1nd.com and has 8 true crime books out, one of which, The Supreme Team, is now being adapted into a graphic novel with Stache Publishing.