If graphic designer/comic writer Eric Skillman’s name isn’t immediately familiar to you, his work on the covers of some of high-end film restoration company the Criterion Collection’s titles might be. His design work has adorned the covers of film classics like Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well. But increasingly, the artist has been making more and more forays into writing, bringing his love of noir to his EGG: Hard-Boiled Stories anthology and in May he’ll be releasing his first OGN, Liar’s Kiss through Top Shelf.
Mr. Skillman was kind enough to talk to MTV Geek about his latest project, his graphic design work, and how to pick a good artist.
MTV Geek: Could you give our readers a rough sketch of the plot of Liar’s Kiss?
Eric Skillman: Without giving too much away—it is a whodunit after all—the book is about a private detective, Nick Archer, who spends his nights with the woman he's supposed to be surveilling on behalf of her jealous husband. But when the husband turns up murdered, his cheating wife is the prime suspect and it's up to Nick to clear her name… and even in those two sentences I've already lied to you at least once. Sorry, it's just that kind of book.
Geek: It seems like the story wears its noir inspirations proudly. Were there any particular stories that fed into Liar’s Kiss?
ES: I'm a big fan of all the classics, from Dashiell Hammett to Richard Stark to Sjöwall & Wahlöö, and all that's in there somewhere, I hope. But probably the most direct inspirations were, first, Allen Baron's fantastically bleak film Blast of Silence, the DVD release of which I was privileged to art-direct, with the great Sean Phillips providing cover art. As part of that package, we put together a little 4-page comic adaptation of the opening scenes of the film, which I broke down into comic script form for Sean to draw—just about the best first-comics-writing experience I can imagine, really. The process of putting that together was what first put the "noir comics" bug in my brain.
The second major inspiration was one of my favorite books, Richard Aleas's Songs of Innocence. "Aleas" (a pseudonym for Hard Case Crime founder Charles Ardai) manages to use genre conventions not just as stage dressing but as a way to play with your assumptions and expectations as a reader, in a way that really gives the book—the ending, in particular—a powerful emotional punch. If Jhomar and I have been able to achieve even a fraction of that, I'll be thrilled.
Geek: What caused you to make the leap into the full-length OGN format?
ES: Honestly it hardly occurred to me to do otherwise—it's really a pretty brisk jaunt from cover to cover, I imagine most people will wind up reading it through in one or two sittings. Even if practical considerations had forced us to serialize, it was always conceived of as one start-to-finish story, and I'm glad Top Shelf agreed that this was the best way to present it.
Geek: How did you end up bringing the project to Top Shelf?
ES: I've done a few design projects for the Top Shelf guys—Eddie Campbell's seminal ALEC omnibus, Eddie and Daren White's The Playwright, and the AX manga anthology—and really enjoyed working with them. Combine that with one of the best track records of any comics publisher and I guess it's obvious why Jhomar and I would want to work with them… I'm just thankful they were excited enough about the book to want to work with us!
Geek: Could you tell our readers a little about your background in graphic design?
ES: I've been designing packaging for DVDs, books, albums, posters, etc—you know, all that fun dead tree stuff that people used to buy before iPads—for about 10 years now, the majority of that time on staff at the Criterion Collection, where I've been privileged to work with and learn from some truly great designers and illustrators. Read More...