On Wednesday, Heavy Metal’s latest standalone title, Skip to the End, arrived in stores. (Use our Comic Shop Locator to find one near you.) It’s a story about time travel and rock ‘n roll, centered on a band that bears some resemblance to ’90s rock gods Nirvana. We’ve got a few preview pages for you here, as well as some insight from writer Jeremy Holt.
What’s Skip to the End about?
Skip to the End explores the concept that music is time travel—literally. I think we’ve all experienced the sensation when a particular song takes us back to a specific time and place in our lives, I know I have. At its core, Skip to the End explores music’s transportive properties. Using that as the foundation, I started searching for a band that had a significant enough influence that could lend its history to the story.
Let’s address the Nirvana question… What is the relationship between your book and the well known story of Kurt Cobain?
My mild obsession with the band’s bright, albeit brief, existence within the history of rock ‘n roll fueled my desire to create a revisionist history of the band. Kurt Cobain is perhaps one of the most iconic rockstars ever, and his tragic death has left a hole in the hearts of music fans. Skip to the End was an opportunity for me to take some creative license in an attempt to fill that void in my life. I structured it this way to appease to Nirvana fans (like myself), but to also engage readers not familiar with their music.
You’ve said that the guitar in this story serves the same purpose as the Delorean in Back to the Future. Can you explain how that works?
If I did that, I’d be spoiling the rest of the series! I will say that this book is more magical realism than it is hard sci-fi. I have developed “rules” for how the guitar works, but mostly to keep the plot in check. This story is more of an emotional and spiritual journey for the protagonist than it is an action-adventure through time and space.
It is interesting that STTE is published by Heavy Metal—few works have managed to combine rock music and comics as well as the 1981 film. What sort of awareness of the movie did you have?
Honestly, none. I’ve never seen the movie.
Kids love superheroes… In their teenage years, they can see their rock gods as superheroes. Is the theme of heroism—superheroes, antiheroes, the perils of heroism—present in STTE?
If there is, I wasn’t actively angling for it. Now that I think about it, there is definitely anti-heroism sentiments that run throughout the story. The major theme is about addiction and the various forms that it can come in. The protagonist Jonny certainly takes on heroic choices, as any good protagonist should, but with this particular band, all of them have rejected being idolized.
Can you talk about the setting—the ’90s would be vaguely familiar to a man of your age, not at all to Alex Diotto, your young artist. What sort of work did you have to do to get the ’90s right?
I’d like to claim that I’m a Gen X’er, and I feel in my heart that I am, but I believe I’m technically a millennial (born in ’82). So the short answer: the internet. I started developing this story two years ago, and have listened to Nirvana every day since then. I’ve collected hundreds of reference images, and links to YouTube videos that I’ve shared with Alex. I’ve also read and watched just about everything about the band. As for the addiction aspect, I attended AA meetings for research.
You’ve made it clear that this book is inspired by the Nirvana saga but is a work of fiction. What are your concerns as a writer as you move from a documented, factual setup into a story that could go anywhere? Ever feel the ghost of Kurt Cobain sitting on your shoulder?
That’s a good question. First and foremost, I wanted to respect Nirvana’s history and legacy, which is why I fictionalized the band, focused on the bassist instead of the lead singer, and had a friend write the lyrics to the band’s famous song. Using Nirvana’s history as a narrative touchstone simply helped guide me on where I wanted to deviate with my own story. If Kurt was to ever read it, I hope he’d like it, but I know he’d probably hate it.