As you’ve probably already heard, Simon Frasier’s (rather awesome) comic scifi series Lilly Mackenzie & The Mines Of Charybdis from webcomics collective ACT-I-VATE is hitting MTV Geek today. To find out more about it, including how he came up with the character, what’s coming up next, and why Lilly’s nudity isn’t the sort you’ll find popping up on celeb sites, read on!
MTV Geek: Okay, talk about the genesis of Lilly Mackenzie – how’d you come up with the idea?
Simon Frasier: It actually started with Cosmo, who's a character I've been drawing since I was at college. He used to be much smaller , about 6", a kind of Jiminy Cricket who gave bad advise to the story's young male lead, who was quite capable of having his own bad ideas.
The story is actually derived from something that happened to me while I was living in Tanzania back in the 90s. Without glorifying my role too much I helped rescue a 12 year old boy , the son of our housekeeper , who had been taken to work in a Tanzanite mine in Mererani. It was one of the most shocking experiences of my life as I've never seen human beings so debased.
There were hundreds of men there, sleeping on the dirt and literally scrabbling for anything they could find with their hands. Most of them were starving and painfully emaciated. The children were being used to go down narrow shafts because of their size. Meanwhile there were gemstone dealers living near the mine and paying the miners very tiny amounts of money for stones that were worth thousands of dollars. At one point I was worried that we'd be attacked, but happily we managed to find and bring the boy home to his mother. The experience was terrifying!
Writing the story down has been a way of processing that experience. I didn't want to do an autobiographical story, as that always ends up fictionalised in some way and I don't want to position myself as some kind of heroic protagonist when I was merely a tourist. Making it a fictional story was a way for me to deal with the subject in a creative way and Science Fiction is the genre I am happiest working in.
Lilly was the last piece of the puzzle. I wanted to write and draw a female protagonist. I like drawing women a lot, so I know I could make her look good, but I wasn't sure if I could write one convincingly. I'm still not. That has been the most challenging part of the process.
Geek: One of the things I like about it is the relatively casual tone – at least at first. It’s scifi, but it feels like that’s the backdrop to tell the story, rather than the focus.
SF: I wanted to world-build with the first Lilly story, create a universe that has certain specific rules. One of those is that space travel is difficult. Getting up into space is a dangerous process and getting down can be too. I find a lot of problems with how conventional mainstream science fiction has removed all the challenges of space-travel, which are what I find interesting. The drama for me is in the characters overcoming these massive physical obstacles using their brains and basic technology, not the magical Star Trek kind. The story is slow paced initially to build up a sense of what is normal as I don't want to fall back on the old laser blaster, teleporter, warp drive cliches that have become synonymous with TV and movie Sci-fi.