Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou on 'Skies of Fire'

Large diesel-powered airships dueling in the sky. That basic concept caught my attention last week when I discovered the Kickstarter for Skies of Fire, a new comic created and written by Vincenzo (Vince) Ferriero and Ray Chou with art by Pablo Peppino.

To understand the full scale of the project's plans, particularly given that the Kickstarter has already well exceeded its goal, I conducted a quick email interview with Ferriero and Chou.

Tim O'Shea: How did the two of you become a writing team in the first place?

Vincenzo Ferriero: Ray and I met in NYU when we were both studying film in 2008. We became friends through working on each other’s projects and would constantly bounce ideas off each other. When we graduated, we both went our separate ways, but kept in touch by exchanging scripts.

Ray Chou: Vince originally wrote the first draft of Skies of Fire, and I asked if I could do a rewrite. He said yes, and we’ve been writing together ever since.

The story is set in an universe analogous to WWI era Britain. If you were establishing it in a fictional world, why was it important to you to set it in an analogous time period?

Ferriero: Personally, I love fictional worlds that draw on historical facts/realities. I feel that not only does this give the setting a more grounded feel, but it also makes the world more relatable to the audience. A story like Lord of the Rings draws a lot of influence from ancient myths and also the personal experiences of Tolkien during WWI, and as a result feels lived in. That’s what Ray and I are trying to do for Skies.

Chou: We knew that our story fell under steampunk/dieselpunk, but we didn’t want to go overboard with the tropes of the genre. We figured that anchoring the world to an analogous time period would force us to make things less fantastical and more realistic.

How did you two discover artist Pablo Peppino?

Chou: We looked online and posted wanted ads on several well-known artist sites. We got a ton of responses and eventually whittled it down to a top five. We gave each of these artists $25 and the first ten pages of the script and told them to give us what they thought was an appropriate amount of art.

Ferriero: Pablo was far and away the most enthusiastic and also “got” what we were going for immediately.

The description for the project includes "gigantic, diesel-powered airships and their duels on the high skies - think massive battles with howitzer broadsides, airplane dogfights, and close quarter boardings". How much research did you have to do in order to write these scenes convincingly (and give Peppino enough reference to know what he needed to draw)?

Ferriero: Lots! I’ve been an airship fanatic longer than I can remember. Actual research for the project started in 2008. I went to NYU’s library and collected all the books I could find on Airships. I wasn’t able to take them home, so I spent hours copying the material for later reference.

Chou: We’re talking about hundreds of pages here. He didn’t even have a scanner - he took pictures of everything!

Ferriero: Once I completed the outline for the story, I slowly started collecting photos and notes so that Pablo could visualize what we were going for. Eventually, as our style became more clear to us, we whittled it down to what fit our world.

Chou: Even then our reference/research folder still contains thousands of files.

In terms of the Kickstarter, you have already exceeded your goal. What do you plan to be able to do now that the Kickstarter has been so successful?

Chou: Originally we were planning to do another issue each successive $4,500 we raised, but after talking with other creators one of the things most often mentioned was that first-time Kickstarters tended to overreach. We don’t want to disappoint our backers with promises we can’t keep, so we recently decided to keep the scope of the Kickstarter to issues one and two (if we reach our last stretch goal).

Ferriero: Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have issue three in our sights. Our priority, however, is to get the first (and hopefully second) issue and rewards delivered on time and in a professional manner to our supporters. These are people who believe in what we’re doing and that means a lot to us. After that, all remaining funds will go straight to producing issue three.

What rewards are you pleased to be able to offer to investors?

Chou: I really like our $8: DIGITAL DELUXE tier. You get a digital copy of the comic plus a behind the scenes look at our entire process, from script to Kickstarter. I think it’ll be a really handy DIY guide to people trying to create their own comics, and it’s something I wish we had going into this whole crazy adventure.

Ferriero: My favorite is the variant cover. Rodolfo Reyes did a great job in capturing the style we were going for. It’s quite cinematic and has the art deco style I’ve always admired. Can’t wait to put a poster of it up on my wall!

Seeing you both have a background in film, any interest in this becoming a project for TV or film development?

Ferriero: It’s definitely been on the back of our minds. Ray and I both went to film school, so that’s kind of our first love. Hopefully one day it can get a chance to get into theaters. But right now, we’re really happy with how it’s shaping up as a comic book. The versatility of the page (not being locked to a rectangle) really opens the story in ways we wouldn’t have thought of if we made it as a film or TV show.

Chou: With a comic, the only thing we’re limited by is the size of our imaginations. The medium allows Vince and me to make Skies as big of a story as we envisioned without compromise.

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