Eric Palicki, Sina Grace, and Vinnie Rico Talk Creating a Fake Empire

Fake Empire TPB Vol 1 Cover PrelimWho killed the Tooth Fairy? Fairies have always existed in secret, living side-by-side with humankind.  But, when one of his daughters is murdered, King Oberon tasks his remaining offspring — a newly-minted NYPD detective (Charli) and a wingless, feral “black sheep” (Lucy) — with finding her killer by any means necessary. As Charli and Lucy are sucked deeper into the mystery, and certain danger, they begin to uncover the extraordinary measures their Kingdom has taken to keep their society “safe” in an increasingly violent world. For Charli and Lucy, discovering the truth will mean confronting their own blood-drenched legacy.

Fake Empire is a new series launching April 20 from Darby Pop Publishing from writer Eric Palicki, artist Vinnie Rico and cover artist Sina Grace. I got a chance to speak to the two of them about what we might expect and the concepts behind the series.

Graphic Policy: Eric, so where did the idea for Fake Empire come from?

Eric Palicki: I started with the image on page 2, of Jill — the Tooth Fairy — lying dead in an alley, which I quickly realized could be a potent metaphor for the death of innocence. Once I had my theme and inciting incident, I was able to piece together a whodunit and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, and then the rest is history.  I had an easy time getting exciting about this project. “Who killed the Tooth Fairy?” is a hell of hook and a question I wanted to answer.

Fake Empire TPB artworkGP: Eric, what made you decide to set the story in modern day New York City as opposed to keeping it in a fantasy world?

EP: One of the key themes I’m playing with here is the cost of keeping secrets in a world which is very nearly post-privacy. How far would you go if you believed your life depended upon staying hidden, while at the same time nearly every single human carried a camera in her pocket along with instant access to seven kinds of social media? For the story to work, it almost had to be set in this world, in the world of Twitter and Instagram and Facebook.

GP: Sina, how’d you come on to the project?

Sina Grace: Darby Pop’s Managing Editor Renae Geerlings and I have a wonderful history together, going all the way back to 15 years ago when I was interning under her at Top Cow. She knows that it’s been a dream of mine to work under her as an artist, and I believe Eric was already a fan of mine.  The rest is kind of the happiest story; I dug the story and vibe, and we collaborated to make a cover that captured the book’s coolness in one image. I hope I didn’t fail!

GP: Sina, you’ve tackled a lot of different styles of art in your various series. How’d you settle on this look? 

SG: All collaboration. We went through almost a dozen different sketches- me doing super-pulpy noir, or me going really simple and iconic – and ultimately ended where I feel strongest: close on the characters reacting to some malevolence the viewer cannot see. Regardless of genre, the book is hinged on the sisters’ relationship, so we focused the art on making them look real, iconic, and cool as ****.

fake-empire-#5 cover temp - ricoGP: Vinnie, For the story, there’s a balance of setting it in the real world, while also having this fantasy element, how’d that shape the art especially the fantasy elements?

Vinnie Rico: I guess, it’s all thanks to Eric.  He’s got some great ideas about fantasy elements within the real world.  The sense of justice and good in one of the lead characters (Charli), while the other one is more chaotic (Lucy), is thanks to Eric.  He understands and develops these concepts.

GP: Vinnie, Did you actually research real New York locations for the art?

VR: Totally, especially the buildings like the Police Department. I’ve never been outside my own country of Mexico, so I try to research as much as I can.  And I can say that when you see New York City under these conditions, you end up with a totally different view of it, and it makes Fake Empire a lot deeper to me because all the contrasts of the city make me think of the characters — both have secrets and highlights.

GP: Eric, you’d released a few comic series at this point, what lessons have you learned over them that you applied here?

EP: My two previous books were Kickstarter-funded and subsequently self-published. Having been through the crucible of doing it all on my own, it’s nice to be part of a team, and Darby Pop has been an absolute joy to work with. At the same time, those earlier books — Orphans and Red Angel Dragnet — taught me quite a bit about the importance of self-reliance. No one, not even your publisher, as great as they are, wants my book to succeed as much as I want it to succeed (except maybe for my Mom).

fakeempirecvrink03_csmGP: When creating a series like this, how much do you shape out the world as a whole in how it looks? Do you know the fairy society’s ins and outs?

EP: I’ve mapped out the rules of living in Oberon’s kingdom with nearly clockwork precision. There’s a half-story-bible/half-treatise-on-fairy-politics saved on my computer, but the .doc file mostly exists for reference to ensure my story remains internally consistent. In the book itself, I only wanted to establish the bare bones of the premise: fairies don’t have a kingdom of their own, but instead live in secret, side-by-side with ordinary humanity. In contrast to, say, wizards in the Potter-verse, fairies don’t seem to have any magical abilities aside from their wings and an extraordinarily- long lifespan. There are other details peppered throughout the book, but I didn’t want to bog readers down with Phantom Menace levels of minutiae.

Something implied in the first chapter that I hope people catch is that fairies were once spread out across the planet.  And while New York City remains the seat of Oberon’s kingdom, that’s not to say fairies don’t still live in Europe or Asia or elsewhere in North America.

GP: Have you thought about more stories set in this world?

EP: I have! The first volume ends on a bittersweet note, but leaves open the possibility of a return to Fake Empire, either in New York or one of the other fairy enclaves, or possibly a prequel set in another period between A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the present day.

GP: What other projects do you two have on tap?

EP: I have a short story appearing in Marvel’s Guardians of Infinity #6 in May, which will be my first work for Marvel. I also have shorter pieces slated to appear in two indie anthologies, as well as a few other projects in development I can’t talk about, yet.