Back when Emma Rios and Brandon Graham brought “Island” to Image Comics, revitalising the anthology magazine in current comics culture, Emma Rios’ story, “I.D”, was one that really caught my attention. It was the story that sold me on checking out “Island” #1 as I’m a huge fan of Emma Rios and was definitely interested in reading story that she wrote as well as illustrated.
Now, “I.D.” is being collected in a separate trade paperback by Image Comics to showcase Rios’ artistry all by itself. A sci-fi story that explores personal politics, the nature of identity and the questions surrounding real human connections, “I.D.” is a must-read comic in my opinion. That’s why it was so cool when I got the chance to talk Emma about the story prior to the collection’s release on June 22.
Check out the interview below and check out the collection of “I.D.” when it releases on June 22. You’re gonna want to read this if you haven’t already.
First of all, Emma, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. “I.D.” is a story that’s fascinated me since first reading it in “Island” and I’m really glad to get the chance to talk to you about it. Can you talk about where the inspiration for “I.D.” came from? I know this is a pretty cliche way to start things off, but I figure with “I.D.” being such a high concept story it’s at least a little justified.
Emma Rios: I approached ID about two and a half years ago already, and it came straight from my own insecurity; from a feeling of being misunderstood by my appearance and accent while working in a different language than my own. I’m obviously not the biggest extrovert, but having worked as an architect I have some training and I can manage perfectly when it comes to talk in public, but expressing myself in English makes me twice as self-conscious, and showing that part of me makes me feel rather pathetic sometimes.
I was also really tired of stories with the same kinds of characters — likeable people in their thirties — and even if now the diversity in ID can feel a bit under the nose, there was not such a big debate when I started working on it and it felt it was much needed.
One of the things that’s immediately noticeable about “I.D” is the use of colour, specifically the way the story is monochromatic – rendered in only red tones. Can you talk why you chose to colour the story this way?
ER: From the beginning I wanted to work with only two colors as a resemblance of those old shojo manga pages printed in weekly magazines in the seventies. Brandon and I were both super excited about giving Island a different look and we thought that publishing some of the stories in only two pantones, could be cool and cheaper… but apparently bitonal printing is much more expensive than the regular CMYK nowadays heh… Call it Zine fetishism.
Choosing the reds was basically because this kind of palette on one hand feels very delicate and on the other nastily fleshy. I wanted to work in an emotional level from within these characters but I also wanted to slice brains and make some images uncomfortable, so pink and red felt quite accurate of that. It worked rather well for having the story happening on Mars as well.
Something I loved about “I.D.” was the inclusion of a transgender character. Being trans myself, it was important to me to see that character in the story. What made that character the right fit for this story?
ER:ID talks about the perception others have of yourself, a subject that has been killing our society since it came to existence.
On one hand we’re continuously receiving messages about how you must make yourself part of the beauty model; on the other we are scolded for not accepting ourselves as we are. And I think both points trivialize quite a lot with the real struggle, which is that no one is going to be truly comfortable with anything, no matter how hard we try.Continued below
So, one of the things I had in mind while writing ID was the possibility of bringing this conflict to bigger serious problems than going on a summer diet, and draw them “parallel” to provoke an instant reflection.
Noa is the purest character playing here and the only one whose reason seems absolutely legit in comparison. Still, he’s scolded by the condescending masculinity of Mike and has to deal with stupid puns coming from Charlotte’s nihilism; none of them considering him more than a spoiled teenager until finding out about his problem.
While my intention was developing a choral story with three protagonists, clearly, in all the feedback I received from ID, Noa was considered the main and most likeable character. Couldn´t be happier about it.
With the concept of body switching presented here in a very scientific way, can you talk about the research that went into presenting the ideas within “I.D.”?
ER: It was rather crazy, eye opening and very fun. I worked with Miguel Alberte Woodward — a neurologist who was a close friend’s acquaintance — who surprisingly loved the idea of getting onboard and playing with all these speculations. I wrote the first email I sent him five times, trying to look cool and damn serious.
He is incredible and without him all this hard sci-fi feeling ID has thanks to the science involved would have been absolutely impossible. And I’m sure the whole story would have turned into something very different from what it came to be thanks to him.
My obsession was running away from duplication. Avoiding digital data and copies was necessary for protecting the identities of the characters and preventing each one from becoming someone else. The only solution had to be like transferring water from one glass to another without loosing a drop: an unattractive, dirty and fleshy literal transplantation far from uploads and downloads. Miguel made it possible. He helped me do research and provided me material to work with as well as very accurate comments on medical character definition.
The story of “I.D.” is mostly focused on the three central characters and their struggle with idea of switching bodies, but it’s framed by a societal conflict, riots and terrorist attacks. Can you talk a bit about the juxtaposition between the very personal conflict of the characters and the political conflict of the world of “I.D.”?
ER: On one hand I was looking for a distraction, and for a subject three people that had just met could talk about, casually… Like the news on a TV in a cafe. I also needed to create a bond between them, fast and raw, and I thought that having to help each other in order to survive an unexpected extreme situation could be helpful for that. When I was writing the first chapters there were actually riots literally crashing at doors in Spain, being inspired by that was rather easy.
Aside from this, in the 90s and early 2000s I was truly fond of cyberpunk and action genre movies, all this corporative bullshit came from my nostalgia, I guess, and from the old stuff I used to write and draw back then.