Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your comic book, The Naked Eye! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Jason Doring: The Naked Eye tells the story of an amoral, aimless paparazzo who is accidentally given unreliable invisibility powers - they only work at night and only his skin turns invisible, not his clothes. Our hero (I guess?), Benjamin “Bram” Brammel, is motivated to overcome his self-preservation instincts in order to save his close friends from a conspiracy that encompasses Hollywood, titans of industry, organized crime, and an ancient agent of “rebirth” manipulating everyone in the shadows.
I first developed this idea 12 years ago, but was driven to put out this story now, because it’s become more obvious than ever that our society’s most powerful people are totally insulated from consequences and accountability, and that massive coordinated, anonymous harassment campaigns can be easily carried out to oppress and inflict pain on vulnerable communities. The goal of The Naked Eye is to convey the idea that our protagonists can create a more just world by operating totally unseen and bringing everyone’s sins into the light.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working with artist Beniamino Delvecchio to bring this story to life, and what have been some of your creative influences?
JD: Beniamino and I first connected on a comic book artists’ Facebook group, and working with him was by far the best decision I have made in putting this series together. While he lives multiple time zones away from me in his native Italy, he is unbelievably responsive and punctual even when juggling multiple other sequential projects and commissions. I ultimately entrusted Beniamino to handle all of the interior production (pencils, inks, colors, lettering, and even the series logo), and I was immensely satisfied with the final results each time thanks to our ongoing robust dialogue and open-mindedness toward each other’s ideas.
I think Beniamino’s greatest talent is his versatility. When I was soliciting this project, I was envisioning art similar to Ramon Rosanas, Steve Lieber, and Tim Seeley. Beniamino’s natural style is more classically influenced (which you can see in his creator-owned book Tokae: Dark Omens, Diabolik, Dampyr, and many other European series) but he was able to effortlessly present exactly what I was seeking, which blew me away. He’s a pleasure to have as a creative partner and I’m thrilled I get to continue working with him on The Naked Eye.
I have a lot of influences that were deeply infused into The Naked Eye. I was a big fan of Seth Rogen’s late 2000s/early 2010s films, including Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, This is the End, and The Green Hornet. Bram bears a resemblance to Rogen for this reason, and the rapport he and his partner Rich Cliff have is similar to Rogen’s Hornet’s relationship with Stephen Chow’s Kato. I really wanted to capture the madcap, gonzo energy of those films in this series.
I also take a lot of influence from books, particularly Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar novels. I love that they always keep you guessing all the way to the end and the wit he infuses in his dialogue. One of my narrative goals with The Naked Eye is to have Rich and Bram mature into a duo like Myron and Windsor Horne Lockwood III. My sense of humor was cultivated by Dave Barry, whose books and newspaper columns I’ve read since I was a kid. He’s always confronted the absurdity of the news and his surroundings in a playfully juvenile tone I found comforting.
The comics that drew me into back into the medium were Darwyn Cooke’s revival of The Spirit and Mark Waid’s runs with Chris Samnee on Daredevil and The Rocketeer. I really admired their portrayal of flawed swashbuckling heroes who could face any situation and endure the bumps and bruises to do the right thing. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s The Fix was a book I discovered while refining The Naked Eye’s script, and that series gave me a quality landmark to strive for; while The Fix is far more cynical and nihilistic, it’s a biting and at times hilariously accurate portrayal of Southern California that has an unpredictable and compelling story.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work, and do you feel that there is a recommended age group(s) for the series?
JD: Ideally, once readers are done enjoying the ludicrous situations I create for these characters, they think about and speak up a bit more about the mundane abuses and intolerance they encounter. Don’t let racism or harassment go unchallenged, and if you see someone being bullied or treated unfairly, help them and let them know they’re not alone.
I also want readers to realize that The Naked Eye is about celebrating what makes you unique - it’s why during the Kickstarter campaign I had the incredibly talented Kerin Cunningham design a body positivity-themed pin with the book’s slogan, “Nothing to Hide.” Los Angeles, for all its (literal and metaphorical) faults, is a captivating melting pot of different cultures and orientations, and I wanted to capture that aspect of the city in this series.
As far as a recommended age group, it’s definitely not for young kids, and I would say it’s best read by readers aged 16 years and up. While there’s minimal cursing and the violence definitely doesn’t hit Evil Dead or Mortal Kombat territory, the “Naked” in the title is very appropriate - there’s both male and female nudity, softcore sex, and kink that wouldn’t feel out of place in a John Waters film.
BD: Do you have a certain number of issues planned for the series?
JD: The Naked Eye is a series that could theoretically go indefinitely if there is demand for it; there will always be a “ripped from the headlines” news story or social media upheaval that the characters could tackle. I do have a six-issue arc plotted that’s totally self-contained and could be a natural endpoint for the series, and four of those six issues have a draft complete.
BD: Given the series successful crowdfunding campaign, what was your experience in running a Kickstarter campaign, and why do you feel that it is such a valuable platform for independent creators?
JD: While preparing for the Kickstarter, I got some valuable help from Madeleine Holly-Rosing (creator of Source Point Press’ Boston Metaphysical Society, which originated as a crowdfunded project), and also read her book, Kickstarter for the Independent Creator. I received a ton of actionable advice about optimizing campaign presentation, budgeting appropriately, and strategies for fostering ongoing audience engagement.
I remember Madeleine warning in her book that a Kickstarter would be one of the most stressful experiences of a creative career, and it certainly wasn’t an exaggeration. I panicked when the numbers stalled out in the first two weeks, and I was constantly brainstorming new messaging and evaluating promotional channels in order to attract potential backers and expand word-of-mouth. Even when the campaign was a couple hundred dollars past the base goal as the end approached, I was worried that there would be last-minute pledge cancellations that would make it fail. Seeing that the project not only hit its goal, but also exceeded two stretch goals at the end was an enormous relief.
I think Kickstarter is the greatest gift independent comics have received, because it enables creators to dynamically pitch their projects to an enthusiastic audience, and like Patreon, provides a defined, centralized platform for creators to benefit from that enthusiasm. The competition for readership in independent comics is fierce, and you really can’t succeed with just your book and a website; you need an accessible, content-rich conduit like Kickstarter that prospective readers can intuitively navigate.
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your series into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
JD: The Naked Eye was actually originally written as a spec TV pilot back in 2007, when I was working as a production assistant for a variety of cable and network shows, including The Office and iCarly, and it was originally intended to be a more straightforward satire of some of the more ridiculous and less glamorous elements of the entertainment industry - the script deliveries and prop runs alone still give me nightmares to this day. While the core themes of the story have shifted since then, I still think a 1-hour dramedy on Showtime, Starz, or a streaming service would be a fantastic showcase for this setting and its characters.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JD: Beniamino and I have planned for The Naked Eye #2 to begin active art production in November. I’m currently polishing the latest draft and will be sending it to our script editor, Eburonson (who himself is a co-creator of the popular Kickstarter-funded series The 2nd Shift), in the next few weeks.
Beyond The Naked Eye, I’m going to be putting together a grant proposal for a historical fantasy series based on the Bar Kokhba rebellion against the Romans that took place in 2nd century Judea. I’m really excited about this project, because it’s an event that’s been under-represented in Western media, and was a pivotal moment in Middle Eastern history that the region is still feeling the fallout from nearly 2,000 years later. I am also looking forward to introducing readers to lesser-known facets of Jewish culture, particularly Merkabah mysticism, which I studied in college and will play a key role in the story.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Naked Eye?
JD: You can learn everything about the series from our website, nakedeyecomic.com, which includes character bios, a list of store locations where you can buy the book physically, a hub for all of the promotional media the book has received, and a link to buy the debut issue from me directly. Regular updates about the series can also be found on our Facebook and Twitter pages (both @NakedEyeComic).
Additionally, I recommend checking out nerdanatix.com, where you can also read the digital edition of the first issue. KJ Ivey-Rochon, who created and manages Nerdanatix, is dedicated to promoting emerging creators, and I’ve really admired his hustle in continually optimizing the site and provide a welcoming experience for both creators and audiences.
Finally, I recently got the good news that The Naked Eye #1 was approved for comiXology, and I’m expecting the purchase link to go live shortly.