“Technology has always been buggy! There’s an endless supply of glitches to exploit.” Mike Garley, Joshua Sherwell and Mike Stock talk digital dystopia in The Kill Screen
Cult UK indie sensation The Kill Screen topped our list of the best ComiXology Submit title of 2015, and earned itself a spot in our illustrious top digital comics of 2015 poll – coming a valiant 3rd. We catch up with the creators of this dystopian sic-fi horror, Mike Garley Joshua Sherwell and Mike Stock to find out which of them would be followers and which would be survivors!
Congratulations on being chosen as the Best ComiXology Submit book for 2015, do awards like that mean anything for you as creators?
Joshua Sherwell: There are so many fantastic comics out there, it’s great to be ranked among them. When you’re working on a comic, in a bubble looking at it all day, it’s hard to gauge how good it is. So hearing that people enjoyed it is always a pleasure and really makes it worthwhile.
For those who are new to the world of The Kill Screen, what’s the basic premise of the world you’ve created? And who are the main characters involved?
Mike Garley: Set two years after ‘The Kill Screen’ event, humanity is left on the brink of extinction leaving the remaining survivors caught in a deadly 8-Bit fight for survival. No one knows what caused computer errors and technological faults to infect our world, but with a wide range of different dangers, threatening the lives of the survivors on a daily basis, no one cares. Surviving is all that matters. We follow a small group of survivors (including Nine-Lives the cat) as they attempt to survive in the world post Kill Screen.
What inspired this idea of post-technology-meltdown world? Were you in a particularly anti-tech mood or did you work backwards from the idea of followers and death matches and it was the logical starting point?
MG: The idea stems from our obsession with technology. You can’t seem to go anywhere without people obsessively checking their phones. So the idea that one-day everything would just break kind of appeals to me. The idea grew from there.
Joshua Sherwell: Yeah, visual inspiration for the world was easy, technology has always been buggy! There’s an endless supply of glitches to exploit.
The story is packed full of little techie and internet easter eggs, from the followers, to the video game style death matches, was this something which was part of the idea from the outset or did the details evolve as the story came together?
MG: We originally had LOADS of references in there, especially in issue one, but we wanted to focus on telling our own story and not being reliant on what references people know. There’s still a lot of stuff in there, but we wanted the characters and the world to be peoples’ focus and not watching out for Easter eggs.
Mike Stock: It’s also a gift that keeps on giving. The pace at which technology evolves, and the regularity with which digital fads come and go, means we always have new material to consider should it be needed. That said, I always enjoyed Mike’s approach that the story takes precedence over the Easter eggs – you could read it without getting a single one of the references and it would take nothing away from the story.
JS: I’ll add references for stuff that I like in the backgrounds too.
How did the three of you come to work on The Kill Screen? Was the series a collaboration or did Mike pitch the idea full formed?
MS: I’ve worked with Mike on numerous projects, including VS Comics; which is when Josh popped onto his radar. Mike was a fan from the off so it was only a matter of time before they would collaborate on a project. When they asked me to come on board I was immediately sold by the subject matter, the tone of it, and world they were creating.
The Kill Screen feels very much like a world you can tell stories in, rather than just the adventures of one set of characters, is that part of the plan and will we be seeing other stories told in this world?
JS: Yes- we’ve already done a few short specials. Those will be in the hardcover. The second series will also be focusing on a wider range of characters and stories.
MG: There are limitless possibilities in where we can go, and now we’ve got a readership we feel we can take our time and tell more important stories without the concern of making them ‘flashy’ to attract new readers.
The extra digital flourishes you add to the pages, whether that is the pixellated artwork or the extra graphics like the cigarette depletion scale really help make the book unique. At what point in the development stage do you come up with those and do you ever regret coming up with these little ideas when they start taking you ages to recreate every time?!
MS: They can sometimes be annoying, not so much in the recreation but in the initial development. I like ideas to be fully formed before they are put into practice so with the cigarettes, for instance, I made it in a way that we were ready for it being full, any of the cigarettes to be used or be in use, and for it to be empty. It can take me longer initially but then once we are using it there less surprises.
JS: They were always there. Right from start we knew the book was going to have pixel stuff mixed in with the drawing. But some of the effects, like the red team’s glitches, came while we were working on the comic. It was one of those ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ moments as we developed the world.
Lots of bits came up ‘organically’ after we started telling the story, but stuff like the cigarettes were, as Mike said, there from the getgo as they’re an important story element. MG
If you were in the world of the Kill Screen, would you have survived the initial event or would you be one of the infected?
MS: I would either die in the first wave, or survive quite a long time, I think. No middle ground.
JS: I already killed myself off in issue 2!
MG: I’d probably be killed in the initial outbreak (as I’d most likely be on my computer working when it happens) or if not, I’ve got kids, and families don’t seem to do too well in post apocalyptic stories…
You can purchase The Kill Screen #1-3 from ComiXology or issues #1-4 via Mike’s Big Cartel Store.You can also pre-order the hardcover collecting issues #1-4 here