Canadian Musician - January / February - Page 35

enigmatic, more heroic than reality. Then there’s the sci-fi imagery she’s been using since her outer-space themed first music video for 2008’s “Drive My Soul.” On her releases since, Lights has reined in some of that grandiosity. The songwriting was there and a sense of ad- venturous fun was never far from her mu- sic, but there was a sense she was holding something back, keeping her dorkier, more ambitious, more visual side from fully peek- ing through the façade. On Skin & Earth, that sheen of normal- cy is gone. Lights is finally ready to drop the subtlety and fully let her geek flag fly. herself. As we speak in early November 2017, she’s on the verge of putting the fin- ishing touches on the last of the books’ 175 pages, the culmination of several years of work. The relief in her voice is palpable. “Today, I’ve been working on the last issue. I literally have four pages left,” she marvels. “I’m so close to being done, it’s kind of surreal.” If turning synth-pop stardom into comic book heroism seems counter- intuitive, Lights has been dropping hints that this was coming for years. First, there’s that name. Like Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), Natasha Roma- noff (Black Widow), or Selena Kyle (Cat- woman), Lights realized early on the power of an alter-ego, an identity one can step into that’s more mysterious, more It started with a redheaded Riverdalien and a boy with an imaginary tiger friend. “It’s been a lifelong journey that’s evolved,” Lights says of her infatuation with the comic art form. “I started out reading Archie comics and Herman, Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes. I had stacks and stacks of those. I enjoyed the simplicity of how much you could tell with a few images and just a few lines.” From there, her tastes got more com- plex. In her current collection, there are the mainstream, household name super- heroes (in 2017, who doesn’t love Wonder Woman?) but there are also titles from the unusual suspects. She cites the Marjorie Liu-penned fantasy series Monstress as a prime example of the kind of female- created graphic novel that paved the way for Skin & Earth. “Unbelievable storyline. I think there’s a certain element to it that a woman would bring to it that a woman would identify with. Personally, I identify more with female characters, characters that are real and not necessarily superheroes. That’s the way comics are going as well.” Every pop star needs an escape. Lights could have left comics as a hobby, a dorky interest reserved for the small slice of pri- vate life we leave for the famous. Doing otherwise would have been silly; after all, outside of niche acts like prog-punk nerds Coheed & Cambria, who would dare take on something like a crossover concept re- cord/graphic novel? And yet, for a decade, the idea was there. “I’m a fan of both mediums so much. I think there’s a lot of crossover in both fan bases but I think it hasn’t crossed over enough,” she explains. “It was always a dream of mine to see a female artist make a concept comic tie in with the record.” When it came time to create her own book, Lights drew from what she knew. While not a biography, there are elements of her own life spread throughout the series. It’s not a coincidence that in recent photos and the videos for singles “Giants” and “Savage,” Lights has sported the same bright crimson hair as Enaia, the comic’s main character. “I didn’t really want a superhero comic, I wanted something more relatable,” she says. “My character ended up being a reflection of myself. Just totally a goofy, self-deprecating, lonely young woman who somehow, in a dismal world, still has this desire to look for help when everyone else has given up on it. It comes in an interest- ing way for her.” Through the journey, serious themes pop up; the story largely acts as a meta- phor for struggling with depression. “These are things I’ve experienced and I wanted to tell that story because I think it’s an important story to tell. If you have depression, it doesn’t mean you’re weak or illegitimate; it just means you know how to see the world from both sides. You learn how to confront it and live with it and, eventually, overcome it.” For all the ambitious concepts at play, eventually the story had to coalesce into an actual record. To that end, Lights describes a “symbiotic process” in which gaps in the comic’s plot inspired song ideas that, in turn, helped her work on the comic’s storyline. Busy with work on the com 2BvFG&6FrFBfW"FǗ&726RfV@W'6VbvfrW6R6G&WGFp&GV6W'2v&FRW62vR6Pf7W6VBG&6FrW"7&vƖrFRvR6RvVBFB6RwVF"fW"Ц6W2W&RBFW&RFRW666FR`Fw2v2&vVǒWBbW"G2f"f'7@FRW"6&VW"( Ğ( fRv2vFVB6G&b6rЧw&Fr6W762BvrW7FǐvBvFVBBF6VBƖR6WfW'ЧFrVFVBW6VFrBbFP6R( 6R622BR22( "3