Writer Mike Garley Loads Up ‘The Kill Screen’ [Back Pages]
The Kill Screen is a comic that shows a world where computers have run rampant --- not on society, as you might expect, but rather within society. As a virus. Created by Mike Garley, Josh Sherwell and letterer Mike Stock, the series sees computers literally infecting people and places into digitised oblivion, glitched and broken. It's sci-fi horror as social commentary, but it puts characters before anything else --- which is what has made it such a success on the UK comics scene over the last few years.
When the world goes to hell in the weirdest way imaginable, how would society try and move on? Having put out the entire story as single issues, the creative team has now come to Kickstarter to seek funding for the oversized hardcover collection of the story. As part of our ongoing spotlight series on Kickstarter projects worth your attention, ComicsAlliance spoke to writer Mike Garley about how the series came together, and what backers can expect from the completed comic.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of your story?
Mike Garley: The Kill Screen is sci-fi/horror/thriller that explores what would happen to our world if it were infected by computer and computer game viruses. How would we all survive?
CA: What was the genesis of the project? How long have you wanted to get this comic up and running?
MG: The Kill Screen is a culmination of several different concepts that explore our relationship with technology. I started to block it out as a book, but the more I developed it, the more it suited a more visual medium, and when I hooked up with Joshua Sherwell everything just clicked into place. I guess that was two-to-three years ago now…
CA: What was it about this story which made you want to tell it?
MG: The central concept is really relatable, whether you love or hate technology --- or like most of us, are a mixture of both --- there’ll be something that resonates.
The Kill Screen also provides an entire world that gives room and space to explore religious, social, and environmental elements, meaning that there’s room for lots of different types of stories.
I always like to have room to deal with real world components and see how different characters deal with them, and that’s what this story is really about, how we deal with an ever-changing world, and how that world changes us.
CA: Although there's the high concept at play, you say that this is driven by your characters first. Who are the main characters as the series beings? What's their place within the larger society?
MG: We have a (fairly) diverse group of ‘survivors’ who are meant to represent society. The main story in The Kill Screen explores how they deal with the world post-TKS and the choices and sacrifices they must make to live there. We’ve tried to be realistic/inclusive and have a mixture of different races, ages, sexualities, and genders (and a cat), but I still think we’re going to push the mix a bit further in the future.
For example; at one point we had a same-sex sex scene, and on the next page we introduced a physically challenged character, and I was worried it felt forced, and like I was just trying to shoehorn them in there. I wanted to make sure everyone’s actions and relationships felt organic, and all the characters came across as realistic, so I ‘cooled’ the relationship angle down.
Retrospectively, I wondered if it would have felt forced if it was an opposite sex relationship. Probably not, so although it might have felt a bit forced I probably should have found a way to make it work and done it anyway, because it would have been realistic, even if not everyone would have seen it that way.
But these are things you only really learn from doing them.
Where possible I’ll talk to as many people as possible to try and get a better understanding of their situation. I think that things like gender, sexuality, and physical capabilities have a massive bearing on how people see the world and how the world sees them, and these aren’t just in the ways that people expect. There’s countless types of interactions and situations that I --- being a middle class white guy --- just take for granted, which is why I think that talking to people (rather than just reading people discussing one subject) is really beneficial.
Realistic representation is vitally important and unless characters are fully fleshed/researched, then there’s a chance that all you’re doing is (unintentionally) reinforcing stereotypes, which can effectively diminish people’s best intentions down to tokenism.
CA: How did the creative team come together for the series?
MG: I edited a digital comic (with TV and film’s James Moran) called VS Comics, and Joshua submitted his (awesome) comic P.I. Charles, so I was aware of him/his work from that.
After I had the idea of The Kill Screen I was looking for someone to team up with, and one day he posted a picture on twitter and it just really suited what I had in mind for The Kill Screen.
CA: What's the collaborative process been like? What do you feel that Joshua's artwork brings to the story?
MG: It’s been really enjoyable --- Joshua is a great storyteller and really utilizes panel layouts to do some amazing things. His use of panels really helps to add a great pace to the story, and his style has an incredible quality to it that adds to the stark, and atmospheric world.
Our letterer Mike Stock also brings a lot to the table. We use a lot of typography and images that our synonymous with the Internet, and Mike puts a hell of lot of effort into bringing that to life.
CA: What made you decide to take the comic to Kickstarter?
MG: More than any financial reward we just wanted to get the comic out there. It does really well in the UK, but we really wanted to get more people picking it up. With over 130 pages extra (on top of the first four issues that it collects) we’re hoping that it’ll attract existing readers as well as enticing others in.
CA: This isn't your first Kickstarter. Has your approach to crowdfunding changed since you launched your first Kickstarter? Do you have any advice you'd give to anyone else looking to turn to crowdfunding?
MG: Kickstarters are really hard work, and I mean really hard work. People see Kickstarters doing well and think that it’s easy to replicate, but in reality there’s a hell of a lot of work/luck involved in most campaigns. I do feel that it’s a great way to reach a new audience and as long as you’re realistic and prepared then you’ll be in with a chance of hitting your target.
CA: If you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
MG: The Kickstarter is already funded! Yay! We’ve got a delivery date of January 2016, but we’d love to get it out before Christmas. The comic is just about finished so as long as we get all the information from our backers on time then it might be able to sit under a few people’s Christmas trees.
The Kill Screen will run on Kickstarter until 30 November 2015, and has already reached the target of £4,000. To find out more, check out the project here.