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If you want to work in comics, apparently you need to get a job at Forbidden Planet. The famous Manhattan downtown comic book shop known for its toys, comics, and star-studded signings, lists several former employees who now work in and around the industry, including Matt Rosenberg (Uncanny X-Men, Kingpin), Vita Ayala (Age of X-Man: Prisoner X, Xena ), and Danny Lore (Queen of Bad Dreams).
When Ayala and Lore were stocking shelves back in 2009, they began coming up with the idea for Quarter Killer, the duo's new comic out through Comixology Originals this week. In between shifts, their favorite thing to do (besides geeking out over the new manga titles) was to come up with new storylines. Often, these stories followed a cyberpunk Robin Hood who works for quarters, because the currency is untraceable in a future New York where corporations control everything, and legal tender no longer has meaning.
Friends for life, Ayala and Lore hammered out the story for 10 years in the background while their respective careers took off, eventually adding artist Jamie Jones (Five Ghosts) to the project. And when Comixology came looking for new content? They were ready.
Quarter Killer follows Quentin Kidd, a queer ex-corporate computer hacker who offers their services to those willing to pay with legal tender... specifically, quarters. The action kicks off when Aya, a little girl whose father gets kidnapped, comes to Quentin for help with only a bot and the coins her Dad left her. In this edition of Indie Comics Spotlight, SYFY WIRE talked to the creative team behind Quarter Killer about their creative process, Quentin’s world, and why our money is no good there.
So, how did the story come about?
Vita Ayala: The core concept came from Danny and I riffing off each other. For years, we would add characters and make jokes and come up with specific stories to set in that universe. We couldn’t let it go. Then I talked to Jamie about it, and he was SUPER into it. That cemented it — we HAD to get this made.
Danny Lore: The very early ideas that formed Quarter Killer, really were a way for us to survive really busy shifts at work! We worked together at a comic shop for many years, and sometimes we’d be inspired by some book or merch we’d just processed. Some ideas were just jokes, and others, like Quarter Killer, ended up coalescing into really wild stories that we just had to get out in the world. The moment Jaime started drawing concept art we knew that this was going to be something special.
Who is the Quarter Killer?
Ayala: Quarter Killer, real name Quentin Kidd, is a former corporate IT security expert (a hacker for a big tech corporation), who hated the underhanded and harmful crap the company they worked for was doing, and so quit to go back home to the projects and help the people there. They are non-binary (neutral pronouns, y’all), and queer.
They are now living off the grid, which means they have to work in a currency that isn’t traceable — real money. They use it to help their partner Lo Tek upkeep the arcade and to call their mama on the only untraceable phone left — a payphone.
They have two rules — fight for the community, and no killing.
Quarter Killer’s styling is fantastic. How did you come up with that?
Jamie Jones: They have two humps for hair that you can always see. It’s my tip of the hat to Mickey Mouse and Astro Boy. They wear a long “shirt/kimono” shirt that features a bright red print and matching “chucks,” because that’s the best shoe (fight me, Kanye). I use a lot of cool colors in the background and I wanted a color that would pop, especially in the first issue.
What was the collaborative creative process like?
Ayala: For this project, we traded off taking first pass at the scripts. So I did all the odd number scripts (#1, #3, and #5) first, and Danny did the evens first. Then we traded and took a crack at the scripts/gave each other notes. I love it because this division of labor means that both of us are taking turns doing the heavy lifting, and also being the extra eyes. It’s fun!
Lore: Sometimes it’s heavy outlining together and then one of us writes, followed up by the other doing edits. Our initial plans may change as a script evolves and it turns out that it plays more to the other’s strengths.
Jones: I still only get one script so nothing mechanically really changes. But, it’s great having an extra person to spitball ideas with. It becomes much more of piling on of ideas that you can pick from with just one extra person. It’s great!
Who was your favorite character to write, Aya or Quarter Killer?
Ayala: Of those two, Aya, absolutely. She is a tiny genius and the reader’s in to the world. Overall, my favorite character to write has been Hi-Top. He is a TRIP, so much fun!
Lore: I’m gonna cheat and say Hi-Top! For real, though, his dialog and nonsense are some of the wildest stuff we get to do, as you’ll see in later issues.
Vita has a perfect sense of how to build a child’s voice, and it’s a delight to see how V integrates Aya into a scene. I prefer to write QK because I enjoy the way the character pushes me. It’s a different style of action than I’d typically play with, and so I learn a lot by how Jamie interprets (and changes and evolves) my scripting there. Plus I think that QK has a fun voice — very ‘constant chill’ while still having a real warmth that I don’t think you always get in leads.
Who or what inspired the artwork?
Jones: My biggest influence will always be Will Eisner. I can’t escape it. But for a lot of the clothing and feel of the world, we talked a lot about '80s hip-hop fashion and letting those styles have a resurgence in the not too distant future. But also, when we first started the Black Panther premiere happened and everyone was dressed in bright prints and tuxes, and I pulled a lot from what the actors wore on the red carpet for that event.
Can you describe the universe a bit? We are in the future. But how far?
Ayala: Not too far into the future, funny enough. Less than a decade!
One of the challenges in writing cyberpunk currently is that it’s actually more contemporary than imagining a far-flung future. All the tech in the book is based on tech that either exists or is still theoretical but could be produced soon. Finding a way to nudge the universe to a slightly future place is a puzzle, but a fun one.
Corporations have privatized pretty much everything, and a lot of the more high-end tech available today has found its way down to the larger populations (as tech does). Money is no longer recognized currency — all money is digital and linked to either a private bank, a government account, or a private company account (the exchange rates are killer).
Will this story continue?
Lore: Whether or not we get to see more adventures from QK and the crew is up to our readers! This is a complete story arc, for sure and the world of Quarter Killer was designed so that we could explore a range of real-world issues. As well as tell really fun, bombastic stories. We’d all love to keep this crew in as much trouble as possible, though!
Ayala: This arc is five issues long, and (hopefully) has a satisfying ending. BUT, if we are given a chance, we have enough stories to take us years and years. The plan is to write every arc to be its own story, but to have space for more if people want it!