One night when living in Brazil a few years ago, Beto Skubs dreamt of two words, “painless suicide,” that would occupy his thoughts for months to come.
“The words were haunting me for the day,” said Skubs, a graduate student in screenwriting. “I got very interested in the idea of how a person would get to a point of wanting to commit suicide and what the consequences of this action would be.”
This dream that later developed into a screenplay was submitted as his work sample to the UCLA screenwriting program and helped propel him to a Fulbright scholarship to study at UCLA.
“Fade Out: Painless Suicide,” co-created by Skubs and two other Brazilian artists, was released digitally late January after being published in 2012 with the Programa de Ação Cultural grant, a Brazil state government grant targeted to provide financial support in cultural artistic production. The comic was also nominated for the Brazil’s HQ Mix Award as best independent graphic novel.
“When I read it, I was surprised,” said Mike Deodato, a penciler for Marvel Comics known for his work penciling for “The Avengers” and “X-Men” series. “It’s cinematic, like watching a movie, which is attractive to me as an artist to read and watch.“
“Fade Out” begins with a death scene of a young man named Kurt and follows the thought process leading him to his decision.The story explores the elements of death and mental issues as it follows Kurt’s attempts to deal with his difficulties in life and his approach to suicide.
Skubs originally created this story as a screenplay, never intending the story to become a graphic novel.
Skubs got in touch with a friend and comic artist Rafael de Latorre, who later became the penciler of “Fade Out.”
de Latorre said he got very interested in this story and the pair decided to collaborate and turn the screenplay into a comic book. de Latorre also introduced Skubs to Marcelo Maiolo, a colorist for DC comics.
What started off as a dream began to gain momentum through a friendly challenge.
“Maiolo’s work was regarded as one of the best in the industry,” said Skubs, “We showed him the comic and he liked it. He actually challenged us and said if (we) can draw this, (he) will do the colors.”
Skubs and de Latorre started to adapt this screenplay into a physical and visual piece of art and started to pencil panels and the characters, giving them color.
Skubs said in this modern era of depression and confusion, there is so much pressure for young people today to excel in every aspect of their lives, but people have accepted that this is how life is.
“I’ve heard that one single issue of newspaper today has more information than a person would get in their entire life in the 17th century,” he said. “People are overexposed to information and that cannot be healthy.”
de Latorre said he was very interested in the story when Skubs casually mentioned it to him one day. He decided to take it up right away.
“What I like about Beto’s work is the dialogue,” de Latorre said. “The characters are believable and you can get really close to (them).”
Steven Canals, a graduate student in screenwriting, comic book collector and Skubs’s roommate, has been reading comics for 23 years. He said he finds that Skub’s comic explores topics that are rather uncommon in traditional graphic novels.
“The themes that (Beto explores) in his comic are very adult (but) in a way that is comfortable for the audience,” Canals said. “He has really shown us that (one) can take big and heavy themes and still tackle them in this medium of comic.”
Although the graphic novel depicts a chaotic and tragic life of a young man, Skubs said he ultimately intended for a fun and thoughtful story.
“Fade Out” had successfully created a lot of buzz and hype in his hometown in Sao Paulo, Skubs said, but he is still working toward making this story a film. Throughout the process, he said he has learned different things about comics.
“Sometimes my friends feed me (comics) that they thought were great,” Skubs said. “But some of these stories you will never see on screen because they are so designed for the (comic) medium. It is a form of art, a form of story … it stands on its own.”