Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

#fourcomics – Prominent Childhood Comics

The #fourcomics hashtag burst into life – thanks Jim Zub – and it’s the sort of thing I love seeing, and love doing. So, I chose 4 comics I can remember that were prominent in my childhood. I’d love to do plenty of other #fourcomics pieces but time only permits one, and nostalgia is king.

Now, doing this was hard – I cannot remember a time when there weren’t comics around. There is no remembering the very first comic I ever read because by the time memory was forming, everything around the house already felt old hat. But there are comics that meant a lot to me as a kid for various reasons, so let’s get into them.

G.I. JOE #60

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One of my earliest memories in life was being dinked on my eldest brother’s handlebars [sounds dirty – totes isn’t] into town and he had this part time job and he’d saved some of the money and he was taking me to the toy store [because back then you didn’t have mega-retailers selling everything, you had to go to dedicated and ludicrously overpriced toy stores] and he was going to buy me one G.I. Joe action figure. I was pretty stoked. G.I. Joe was totally my jam. I cannot remember which one I bought. But I remember thinking my brother was the bee’s knees and having the time of my life. I also remember my mother being in town with me another time and saying she’d buy me one and I think I chose Muskrat. My childhood was pretty ace and filled with amazing family.

Anyway, so onto the comics, so my earliest memory of the Joe comics was with the family on some sort of road trip – could have been around the corner, or interstate, to me all instances of road travel in our speeding automobile were akin to sorcery. So there we are in some road side stop – it felt long, like a split level, and near some stairs was a spinner rack. Now me and the middle brother are looking over all the mostly Marvel titles and I think Mum said we could get one, so we got a G.I. Joe comic. Now I wanna say it was this one but unlike the rest of the world my memory isn’t great. I don’t remember those covers and numbers and stuff others do [NOTE: I always assume they’re lying to sound cool] but I know we got that Joe book and it begat a cavalcade of Joe books in our world.

Quick side note – how bad ass is this cover – it’s totally just how we’d play with those toys, and I love that the art just makes everyone and every vehicle look like the toys. Also, neither of these guys is firing anywhere near the other, seriously, look at those trajectories. Whatevs…

I can remember reading all about Zoltan, or Zartan, or were they both twins [can’t I just research my own damn thinkpiece – NO! TimE!], and they were dragging people down halls to be brainwashed. I remember all the ninja shenanigans and realising that Snake Eyes was cool but I thought Shadow Storm was just a touch cooler – or maybe I had to think that because my middle brother – who read all these books with me and played all the action figure games with me – always got to be the ‘coolest’ characters, so he was default Snake Eyes and Han Solo and I was always left with the squares or the 2iC’s of cool. I remember reading all those crazy storylines and just loving them.

G.I. Joe comics were a staple of my childhood, and a bunch of artifacts I remember clearly and dearly. I also think they shaped me immensely.

Oh, and a side-story – I can remember playing with the figures with my middle bro – we had them laid out on our massive pool table, Cobra V Joe, epic battle. And a Cobra spy, or maybe the Commander hisself, infiltrated the Joe camp, and my bro was holding the Commander. So he takes a Joe hostage to give himself time to villain-splain to the Joes. While that’s happening, I take a Joe and start sneaking around one of the vehicles hoping to pop a cap and end this ridiculous posturing straight up. My bro makes the Commander tell me/the Joe to quit it. I keep moving. They tell us to quit it for real. I don’t. Cobra Commander whacks this hostage Joe right in the head and everyone freezes. Commander tells the Joes he is serious and not to be trifled with, and then makes his exit. My bro puts the CC away and looks at me and says that Joe is dead now because of me and that we can’t just take it back or resurrect him, he’s out, for realsies. I remember this as being a huge lesson to me in the importance of keeping your villains real, and that dead is dead, there are no easy ways out.

Props to my bro for making a fun game with toys a masterclass in mortality and war.

What If…the X-Men Had Stayed in Asgard? #12

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I cannot be certain I ever actually read this issue but I know I spent a whole mess of time looking at the cover. It intrigued me in ways I could not explain. The pink background the fact I knew enough to know this story wasn’t ‘real,’ the giant frog wielding a hammer. This cover is just always something that speaks to me, and I think it’s forever telling me that comics need to be eye-catchingly rad. And I am down with this lesson.

It is also the truth behind What If…? books being the raddest.

Vault of Horror #1 [a reprint]

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I was in a newsagent with my eldest brother when I saw this. I instantly knew I needed to have it. I was about 12, I considered myself a horror aficionado, and this ‘new’ horror comic had to come home with me. So my bro ponied up the cash and bought it for me [again, rad fam, right?]. I read this issue cover to cover an insane amount of times. And some of the stories aren’t even that great but I loved everything about this book from the hosts, to the tone, to the art, to the fact it led me down the spiralling rabbit hole of tracking down as many EC comics as I could find.

As luck would have it, I was right at the start of the reprint era of all the EC books and I spent the next few years gobbling up as many as I could [Tales from the CRypt, Haunt of Fear, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Crime SuspenStories, ALL OF THEM!]. And many I did get. I got them in newsagents, I got them in back issue bins in out of town comic shops, I got them by looking hard and long. I got so many, and I treasure them to this day.

Though I remember getting a mammoth oversized issue of Tales from the Crypt – it was like WEDNESDAY COMICS large, but with a harder cover – and I loved it so. Now…I have no idea where that issue is. Still bums me out. The closest I came to making up for this was buying the JACK DAVIS EC STORIES ARTIST’S EDITION a while back. Book is a bruiser and sits behind me in my office making me smile daily.

Spider-Man: Carnage

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This is one of the first comics I bought with my own hard-earned Empire Credits. It was at Minotaur Comics [then the largest comic shop in the Southern Hemisphere and regular train-ride-away comic haunt for me and the bros] and I had recently been sucked into the Spidey vortex of Venom and Maximum Carnage. I insanely loved both [I still have nearly all the issues of MC and so so many issues of those Venom minis they kept pumping out – I doubt I could ever find the heart to part with them] and Carnage was a character I just thought was super interesting. So I snapped up this weird little trade collection – of which there weren’t many at the time – and I read these issues a lot. Looking back, it’s just OTT 90s gorno in spandex but at the time it marked this transition from the Uncle Scrooge stuff I had been reading. It showed I was ‘maturing’ into an ‘adult’ reader, ha, wink.

Anyway, I still love Carnage [come at me, brah] and this book has not been cracked open in a long time but I know when I do, I’m going to love it with all my nostalgia feels.

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So, those are my #fourcomics – they certainly aren’t perfect but they speak miles to me as a young person, and me as a progressive reader, and me as a comics reader and where my foundations lay.

In writing this, I can’t help but wonder which comics I should/would/could have included. Presented because I care [and am certain you do, too] here’s some alternate suggestions.

Uncle Scrooge – I’d have no idea the number, but these comics [and I wanna say some Goofy ones] got me through Year 2 in a big way when I was dealing with my father’s death, had moved towns, and came down with this harsh asthma that was probably more psychosomatic than real but it dropped the ass out of my year either way – but these comics were there to keep me focused.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #4 – before we’d even seen the show, this comic came into my life because my middle bro moonwalked into a plate glass door. Relax, he was fine, just a few stitches – but he was in hospital and I remember overhearing the call that he was in hospital, and my Mum raced off to see him [said moonwalking took place at a mate’s place] and as she left I just burst into tears. I thought he was gonna die – I obvs didn’t get the idea of a cut leg – but I was calmed when I found out we were gonna deliver some reading material to him the next day. Mum randomly picked out some comics and #4 here got us tracking down more, and then the show dropped, and we never looked back. I dug the show just fine but these comics were gold dust, and only just behind the Joe books for us.

Mad Magazine – again, I’d have no idea the issue # but my middle bro and I inherited the eldest bro’s collection when he went off to join the Army. So we got sucked in, and then one summer we spent countless hours riding from town to town looking in all newsagents for any different Mad mags we didn’t yet have. They were glorious and inform so much of my stupid humour now.

Bartman #1 – I read this issue, and the subsequent 3 that make up the mini, soooo many times. I really wanna read them again to see if they hold up is some sort of way because man was Young Ryan hard into these guys.

And I wanna do more, SuperPro #1 [which I speed reread this week and it is not good], and Daredevil #201 [I think it is, him with the broken arm], and some of the covers to the X-Men Classic issues, but I’m realising with the comics loitering in my childhood peripheral I could rage rage against the night forever.

I will close by saying, I hope you peeps have #fourcomics that shaped your youth in a rad way, and I hope you’ve shared them with the world.

Your Writing Process Will Murder You Dead – BKV Edition

I wish every writer took the time to write about their process, or drop hints, or just describe the shitstorm that is the inside of their cranium because I find all of that stuff so helpful and important and powerful and true.
Even when everyone does it different and feels it different and produces it all different.
No writer is the same, but be damned if we aren’t all a face on some weird dodecahedronical 4th dimensional beast spewing self-absorbed tweets and wondering if we are the only one.

BKV
Anyway, enough about me, I wanted to showcase this great Brian K Vaughan piece you can read online and is from the mega-huge superfantastic SAGA HC containing the first 18 issues of the title I love so dearly.
He drops plenty of bombs for your process id to chew over breakfast, I wouldn’t be quoting so much as lifting the piece so instead I’ll link to it here:

BKV TALKS WRITING, from the Saga HC

But I will highlight one line because it’s the sort of thing I find useful to remind myself, and the sort of thing we should all know/remember/practise and here it is:

I try to force myself to use no more than six panels a page, and no more than twelve balloons of dialogue per page, with no balloon exceeding two typewritten lines of text

Think about the myriad reasons to do this. Think of the letterer, allow that person to do their job sanely. Think of the artist, allow that person to have room to do their job creatively/awesomely. Think of the reader, allow them to not be overwhelmed by the page/words/text-slabs/density. Think of your characters, your pacing, your beats, everything. Paring back is good, assuming the intelligence of your readership is fun, and a good editor once told me that whenever you feel you are finished the whole thing could probably lose 10% easy and not suffer at all. And he was pretty well exactly dead on the money with that call.

I’d been thinking about this all this week because an editor asked me to start numbering all the dialogue/captions on the page [nope, I’d never formatted that way before] and I started freaking out because all my pages were running up into double digits. This made me feel a lot better.

As for panels per page, well, man, this is something I’ve loooong stewed over. I noticed way back when that BKV/Pia Guerra’s Y: THE LAST MAN possibly never ran over 6 panels, and always seemed to average around 4, with some 5, a few 3, and that consistency really got to me. Then I read EX MACHINA by BKV/Tony Harris and that book’s like clockwork for 4 panel pages. And then SAGA is 5 panels most of the time.

From there, I started looking at how other comics rolled – obvs WATCHMEN is the 9 panel grid, Frank Miller would rock the 16 panel grid, I noticed the widescreen layout of Hitch on ULTIMATES and Parlov on FURY MAX and soon I can’t read something without counting the panels with the hand behind my back.

But what does this for me? Knowing all this is no good unless it informs you, maybe even elevates you. So for me, I started looking at what my go-to was for panel count on a page. I seem to sit ~5-6 for most pages, on default. But in editing I’m always looking to drop a panel if/when/where I can. I’m doing this tablet view book and I noticed I definitely love 3 panels per tablet page, so 6 per art page. Whereas I’ll skew to 5 if I’m scripting just a plain full page.

Suddenly, you start looking at the splash pages you do – should you do a Brian Wood and pack the pages with density so you can afford that double splash of Conan sitting down [still one of my favourite double splashes of all time, because it’s about emotion] or do you eschew the splashes entirely, like Phillips/Brubaker on CRIMINAL who only ever dropped 1, and it was a guy looking up at a star filled sky.

Panel count is so important because it’s the control you exert over the reader, over time, and over the way the story reads and feels. If you aren’t thinking about it then what the hell are you doing this in comics for?

Anyway, sometimes rules like this are great because they give you a guide, a starting point, and something to keep you on the straight and narrow and not making the crazy noob mistakes [some of my early early scripts called for some insane 11 panel pages, and worse – and you can go way higher than that, but not with the amount of dialogue and people I also wanted in those panels :(].
Then, as always, remember it’s just a suggestion and if you wanna go crazy with a 25 panel page, or a silent page, or silent issue, or splash with no art, or whatever, then at least you’re probably one step closer to doing it with meaning. Because the old saw of not breaking the rules until you know them and show you can use them is so so very true.
Anyway, also read the post because thinking about BKV stressing over his words and hating on himself makes me fell better about myself in all sorts of nasty mental ways.

What is Best in Life? – 2014 Style

It’s been a good year, let’s steep in the high octane feels.

Best Comic
HAWKEYE

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This book is just an insane process bonanza near on every single issue. I enjoy this book, but also feel I’m learning from it. That’s exactly how I want to spend my time right now. And I bought in mainly for Aja’s art so it says a lot that Annie Wu’s issues are just as pleasing for me on every single level. This book is a true bruiser, you need it in your life.

Best TV
HANNIBAL

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Love everything about this show. The chaacter performances/arcs, the writing, the slowburn pacing, the way it does not ever pander, and even the messed up horror. This show always makes me want to go out and create.

Best Movie
CAPTAIN AMERICA – THE WINTER SOLDIER

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Didn’t see this on a lot of Top 10 lists and was floored by the absence. This flick rocked me so hard I actually saw it a second time. In a year where I only really watched like a dozen flicks, I watched this twice. And did it in black and white the second time and it was superb.

Best Book
WORDS FOR PICTURES by Brian Michael Bendis

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Not so much levelled at actual craft but moreso at all the other parts of the game that fall in between the cracks. Dealing with editors, writing for artists, etc. Book is supremely readable and just flat out great. I’d put this in my #makecomics 101 basket every time.

Best App

ZITE

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This news aggregation app really helped me keep in contact with the world at times (for the little things and thoughtpieces twitter failed me on) and it broadened my scope a little. When I go to bed, I get my zite and my tumblr on. It’s good stuff.

Ha, just realised, with all the swiping on articles and such zite is pretty much the tinder of articles.

Best Music
CAPTAIN AMERICA – THE WINTER SOLDIER OST

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A lot of my 2014 writing output was scored to this soundtrack. The Lemurian Star track just tells me to SUMC (shut up and make comics)

Best Decision

A Career…Deviation

For years, I’ve been in and out of teaching at an executive level (as an assistant principal). I have decided, for 2015, to step away from that level of work. It’s a step away from money – but one project lined up will cover a little of that missing moolah, thankfully – but mostly it’s just a step away from having a cluttered brain. Being a classroom teacher AND having to organise other school ventures and things is a lot of work, plus wanting to be an engaging husband, and have two kids, and y’know, the whole writing dealie.

So, for 2015, I’m stepping back to just being a classroom teacher – a gig I can do standing on my ear – and the rest of my mind can focus on the writing a little more. Which, again, is starting off well with an announcement of a sweet book coming at some stage which I think you’ll all dig, and see why I wanted to give it as much grey matter as I possibly could.

As for going writing full time – a-hahahahahahaha – yeah, that might take a little while longer. Maybe if I lived with my mother, leeching her wifi, and had no lady options, then I could afford such fancy things. For now, writing is not coming close to teaching money so we’ll just keep the kids in new shoes, okay?

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I hope your 2014 was full of many ‘best’ things. Here’s to all the best things – huzzah. And roll on 2015 – believe.

Tweet Your Own Adventure

There is a choose your own adventure game you can play on twitter – click on this account and then follow the links in the tweets: @wnd_go

I ended up at:
“The night is bitterly cold. In the morning, they find your frozen body.
They snap your fingers off for fun.”

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I love this because it’s proof that great ideas are out there. In every advancement, every avenue people label as dumb, whatever, there are ways you can bring superb art into this world. And there are people out there thinking about this stuff. They say there’s only 7 stories you can tell, they say every chord imaginable has been played, but they don’t know the human need to innovate. And not always for profit but rather just to prove we can. We invented Rubic’s Cubes just so we could test ourselves. And I dig that people view life as a Rubic’s Cube sometimes and they twist and turn until they find something strange/unique/beautiful/fun/whatever.

Whenever I create, I try to image I’m about to do something that’s never been done before. And sometimes I fail, but I then try to edit it into something new. And if you wanna get real deep on it, you can perceive that the act of trying, and the way I go about it might be the first time it’s been done like that in the universe. Or maybe it’s the only way that moment will ever exist in this universe because there is no other life around and won’t be until we mechasupernova, blink back to nothing, and hope some new atoms rub into a different and maybe less violent and racist and problematic Big Bang. Who knows, but it’s fun to imagine, and play with, and twist, and create.

You can think about all that, or you can just go to this twitter account and read the entire RESERVOIR DOGS screenplay as a series of tweets. For realies.

Twitter, I love you. That’s what this post was about, right? Twitter? My love of twitter?

I’m off to go tweet, where’s the Publish butto–

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A Writer as a Sack of Self-Involved Guano

I’m reading the back matter in the new CASANOVA Vol 2: GULA HC and it contains reprints of all the back matter from the original issues, as well as current annotations of that back matter – like someone doing a ten years later audio commentary over their audio commentary – it sounds insanely meta-navel but is kinda exactly the stuff I wanna read, hence me skipping straight to it and reading.

Therein, I find this perfect little bit, I had to share.

Back then, Fraction writes:

“Summer: lost in Robert Schneider’s pop symphonies, walking the dogs in blast furnace heat, thinking about baseball and CASANOVA. When I figured out the Big Secret in 14, the apples were on. It was Friday; me and Kel went out for sushi. I was distracted.”

Annotating Fraction now writes below:

“I RUINED A DINNER because I wouldn’t push pause on the idea. That was the end of my belief in the writer’s saw about the work just taking over. Bullshit. You’re being rude, antisocial, obnoxious, or receding from social obligations. Don’t talk about writing like your ideas are malevolent spirits. You just don’t want to do shit and like being alone, jackass.”

——-

I love this, because writing so often breeds an air of sensitivity, dare I say it — pretention. And everyone loves to be that writer – that lexicographical mystic who can’t even. And most people let that person get away with their shit because no one who is not a writer understands how we do this stuff. It’s alliterative algebra alchemy, and I think they know if they upset the routine, or the precious time, that the writer is no doubt petty and sore and goddamn unbearable. I know I can be. Fraction identifies and exemplifies that stereotype I think many even want to be, buuuut–

I love this, moreso, because then Fraction calls himself out on this bullshit. He speaks the truth of it. It is fun to write, it is fun to be in solitude playing with your mental toys. It’s the bee’s knees, and we’ll find any way to choose it we can.

But we should never let the apples burn.

Wife/kids > family > writing.

Don’t be a poser, don’t die for the deadline, don’t be ridiculous, manage your time, manage your mind, be realistic, be real, have fun, and allow others around you to share it with you.

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A Few Review Links

I love reviews. Good, bad, helpful, snarky, whatever. A review gives me something to work with, and that something is external feedback, an extra set of eyes. A review is always fascinating to me.

And, yes, I do read the reviews. I want people to read my work, it’ll do me well to know if I’m serving them well in my role.

So I have some reviews to link to below, and one of them I didn’t see for weeks. You’d be surprised how much I do not google myself. As such, if you review my work, drop me a tweet @ for it, or something. I wanna know your thoughts, and am happy to share them.

Without further ado – the links.

DEER EDITOR #1 gets a glowing review from Zander Riggs over at Destroy the Cyborg

He says, “But this is the kind of story I wait for.  This is the kind of story that I search desperately through the release lists for. This is the type of comic I wish would get more attention. This is Deer Editor.

Consider me stoked.

HEADSPACE #5 gets a 9/10 review from Ed Garrett over at TMStash

He says, “Issue #5 takes the story into territory that is both heartbreaking and horrifying.

Yup.

To say I’m flattered by great reviews undersells it. I’m flattered when someone remembers my name. I’m floored when someone digs my stuff.

So, these have both found their way to me in 2015 and made me happy and excited for make more comics. Which I’ll go do now.

Cold Brewed Writing Fuel

I finally succumbed to the jittery devil of caffeine. So if I’m doing it, I’m doing it in style.

I’d managed to teach a decade without really ever having coffee. But I guess being an Assistant Principal, father of two, husband to one, tweeter of lots, and writer of things all at the same time finally stormed my defences and made me realise what true tiredness felt like. I was brought low, and then handed the solution.

Coffee helps me focus. It tastes great. It’s fun — what, I can stop any time I want…!

Anyway, Judgey McJudgerson, so I love me some coffee. But in the Australian summer, I can’t go gargling something that’s liable to make my body temp spike and cause me to burst into flames. Those flames would only attract flame eating drop bears who would slay my family and steal whatever coffee reserves I have left. Aw, hell no.

So I did what any respecting addict would do – I adapted.

ICED COFFEE

^^^That up there is the solution. I’ll get my writing Gaul potion to match the environment, but how?

I considered just making coffee and letting it cool, but I’ve consumed the cold dregs from the mug before and they did not satisfy.

Then I thought about making iced coffee, but after some googling (and finding out people are out there making salted caramel iced coffee in their homes – which, as good as it sounds, is probably the equivalent of being able to lick yourself like a dog, you’ll just never leave the house and fall into twitter irrelevance) – I finally did what seemed most obvious, I went to a coffee guy and asked.

Luckily for me, great mate and Aussie comic writer Ben Rosenthal makes coffee his living so I dropped him a line and he gave up all his secrets. So, below, presented for the first time, is my modified recipe for home brew iced coffee RKLstyle. Enjoy.

ICED COFFEE – HOME BRUGES

Geddit, because it sounds like ‘brew’ but also makes the beverage sound a little European and fancy schmancy.

Anyway.

INGREDIENTS

Coffee – really, whatever floats your boat, I’m currently in a tin of AVALANCHE, ymmv

Cold water – I use what’s been boiled before and cooled in the kettle because I assume it’s the cleanest water in the house, again, ymmv

Sugar – I rock a Low GI Raw Sugar that I find is kindest on my system – too much refined and processed sugar is my mortal enemy

Caramel syrup – I use Bickford’s, but am currently rocking some homemade from my sis-in-law – you may not even want caramel, whatever, make your own recipe, jeeeeeez

Milk – I will not prescribe, I’m using whatever is available in this house – which on any given day can be dairy (nice), oat (nice), rice (relatively nice, surprisingly depends on the brand), almond (blech), and I’ve even spied soy and just lactose free (have yet to use)

MATERIALS

Cup – I use a 500ml tupperware sealable soup mug

Spoon – I use a cafe spoon because I’m super fancy like that

Kettle – see above

METHOD

Sounds fancier than ‘Steps,’ right? See, I told you — ‘fancy’

I put the coffee into the mug – I use like 4 spoonfuls for this mug, it’s going to make two large drinks

I put the sugar into the mug – whatever level of sweetness you like – coffee is just an intricate sugar delivery system for me, so I won’t embarrass myself by saying how much I use

Add the water to the mug, seal, and put in the fridge

Do all this at night for tomorrow’s drinks

The next day (I drink mine at night to fuels the words, so mine gets ~20 hours to soak/steep but you can do less, it’s fine), pour the coffee into a drinking receptacle – I use a glass stein, pictured below, and I pour enough coffee in for half the stein, which is half the mug gone, cioncidence? – and you can use a filter to really get the party started, either a real filter, a piece of paper towel, or maybe just your ironic xmas sweater t-shirt

Add milk to taste

Stir in caramel syrup

Consume cold – you could probably add ice, I’m too lazy and the drink never lasts long enough to need it

OUTCOME

I have found this iced coffee to be insanely quick and easy to make, delicious, and it’s doing the job – these words were typed in about 80 seconds, I counted.

I hope you dig. Feel free to change it up, add that salted caramel to your world, but I wanted to post this here so someone out there might be emboldened to try their own and not feel the fear I was consumed by, drinking my steaming coffee in desert conditions, and ruining countless keyboards with the sweat dripping out of my beard.

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Cue the ‘real home baristas gang,’ with their filter/bandannas slung low, telling me I’m doing it wrong in 3…2…..1….

Best Comics of 2014

I like to read comics, I like to share what I’ve read. I like to, where and when possible, expose people to new books. I hope this post does this in spades because 2014 was a bloody ripper of a year for comics.

Disclaimer: I have not read all books from the past 12 months. In fact, my reading has been sparse, though I’ve been hitting at least one floppy per day, just because I like to show the kids how you can set a goal that’s achievable, thank you New Year’s Resolution. Anyway, as I was typing, I haven’t read them all. I need to catch up on plenty, and I surely will. One day. So there is no EAST OF WEST because I have to get back in, etc.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS
The following books are ace. Get into them. I am safely vouching for them.

HIGH CRIMES – Mt Everest action in 99c chunks from Moustafa/Sebela
BATMAN – just flat out fun cape comics, top shelf high concepts from Snyder, superb Capullo art, lots to love
ELEKTRA – really dig the vibe/tone of this book, and the art is pretty top notch most of the time, plus those covers
STRANGE NATION – quirky and smart conspiracies from Romera/Allor
DAREDEVIL – always good, has shied away from great for me, lately, but is always so close, or gets there on occasion (I sound like I’m complaining, it’s a good book, ‘kay, Ryan, jeeeeez)
BLACK SCIENCE – very good, just missing out, I’m always enjoying the structure and pacing from Scalera/Remender
COPPERHEAD – came out of nowhere, has made me intrigued instantly
SOUTHERN BASTARDS – very good low level crime stuff from the Jasons (Latour/Aaron) – EDIT: on NYE I caught up on issue #4 and am now wondering if this should have been in the Top 10, it probably should/would/could have, but I’m lazy with my edit fu
THE FUSE – digging this low key high space procedural from Greenwood/Johnston
NAILBITER – enjoying the smooth flow of this serial killer jam from Henderson/Williamson
DEAD LETTERS – really intricate and insane stuff from Visions/Sebela
THE PRIVATE EYE – digital-only book from Martin/Vaughan is consistently well crafted, paced, structured, and fun
LAST BORN – weird and frenetic jam by Zawadzki/Meaney
AMBIENT YEAST – dysfunctional apocalyptic funtimes from Pat Grant
ORIGINAL SIN – I really dug the first two-thirds of this Marvel event from Deodato Jr/Aaron – the structure of the end was different – nature of the beast – but there’s a lot of fun stuff to dig on here, I think I was mostly just impressed that the Orb got to headline an event, man, what a world in which we currently reside
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE – a book I’d not have said would be in my wheelhouse but this McKelvie/Gillen jam is just bloody well told
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA – this was way more fun than I’d expected, thoroughly digging delving into the Churilla/Powell pages every issue
SOLAR: MAN OF THE ATOM – a really slick take on an old propety from Bennett/Barbiere
PRIME 8s – I wish there’d been more of this Latino/Moreci insanity

DIY SPOTLIGHTS
I love great creator owned DIY comics. Below are some books that have been made because their owners screamed at the world and demanded to be heard. They’ll be hard to find, but they’re ace.

DUNGEON FUN – Slorence/Bell really pack in the fun and cool in this all ages fantasy romp
EXIT GENERATION – great interstellar hijinks and 80s action from Oliveira/Read
FROM ABOVE – an intriguing Aussie superhero dystopia from Craig Bryun that I think shows us a great creator on the scene down here
THE BROTHERS JAMES – the best grindhouse fast car revenge comic you’ll find anywhere in the world, Level/Ferrier are suh-laying it on this one
PROPELLOR – a superhero concept played low key and for the character beats, the pacing from Mo is on fire, and the art from Muriel is captivating

Aaaaaaaaand, now for the big show.

The Top 10 Comics of 2014

10 – SHELTERED
by Johnnie Christmas + Ed Brisson

Yes, I write essays in the back of this book, no, it’s not bias showing through. SHELTERED is just damn good comics. The pacing is great, the voices are clear, and Christmas with Shari Chankhamma colours is just all sorts of beautiful. This story of a prepping community gone wrong is pretty spectacular and wild, and with the recent events as we wind into the final reel, I truly cannot wait to see what happens next. And that’s the perfect sign of a damn good book.

9 – FIVE GHOSTS
by Chris Mooneyham + Frank J Barbiere

I come away from every issue of this book wanting to go back, read it again, and take my time. Because Mooneyham and Barbiere make each issue look easy, they make it seem simple. But the structure is key. The way stories are broken, the way pages are assigned, this book is a process nightmare for me because it does all the things well that I believe I can’t do. The dialogue is sparse. The iconic visual moments are plenty. And yet the story still hangs. I always worry I cannot do these things but FIVE GHOSTS gives me hope.

8 – SAGA
by Fiona Staples + Brian K Vaughan

I know this isn’t the best book on the stands. I know this, and so sometimes I worry I steer away from it just to prove this to myself every month. It gets adored like everyone knows it’s made with magic pixie dust and I don’t see it that way so I almost tell myself maybe it’s not that good. Like some sort of four colour hipster. And I do this because I am a BKV a acolyte and I want to make sure the book is this good.

And it is. It is this good. Because when this book is on fire, nothing can stop it. It succeeds, and this’ll come up a lot for me, because it’s a genre dirty bomb, taking in lots of things, heating them, and throwing them in your face. And the fact, at its core, this book is about parenting just double makes me smile.

7 – RAT QUEENS
by Roc Upchurch + Kurtis J Wiebe

I never would have said I needed some sword and sorcery comic in my world. I never played D&D as a youth, though did dig the cartoon and played my fair share of GAUNTLET. But this isn’t a genre itch I ever needed scratched and yet Wiebe lured me in and then I realised what this book is. It’s about the characters, these women, and their relationships, and their connection to their world, and their ability to kick ass and be funny.

I never thought I needed this book but now I’m so incredibly happy the whole world gets to enjoy it.

6 – THE MASSIVE
by Garry Brown + Brian Wood

This book has that density of world building I loved in DMZ, and it has strong characters like all his work, and it has Garry Brown on art with Jordie Bellaire colours and that’s always a treat for the peepers.

The idea of a post-post-apocalyptic book was intriguing, that it also then became something more is pretty damn cool. This is a character deconstruction of what we can become with a clean slate ahead of us but only the same old skills available at our hands. And from there the book goes to places I did not see coming. It is nice to be surprised.

5 – SEX CRIMINALS
by Chip Zdarsky + Matt Fraction

Another book I was pretty certain I didn’t need. And then it landed and completely defied my expectations. A time stopping sex comedy sounds like fun but instead what was delivered was this beautiful and haunting deconstruction of the minutiae that makes up our relationships, our sex lives, and the ways in which we see and categorise ourselves. Instead of some His Girl Friday with time stopping spunk we got a love story. A real love story. With problems. And laughs. And all the inappropriate stuff you shouldn’t mention. And it’s funny.

It probably goes without saying for all my top books but this book has some seriously fun and inventive craft on display. The way Zdarsky and Fraction use a page, or where words come from, or how to frame a joke is something worthy of being studied. You will be a better wholistic person for having read SEX CRIMINALS.

4 – FATALE
by Sean Phillips + Ed Brubaker

This weird fiction horror noir came to a close this year and I’m sad to see it go, though I’m also happy to see a series run a decent course without needing or go to 60 issues. The messed up story of Josephine though the years was a true noir pulp classic and it will be sorely missed, though THE FADE OUT is already filling that Phillips/Brubaker sized hole I keep in my heart.

3 – D4VE
by Valentin Ramon + Ryan Ferrier

At least now you’ll know why I hate Ryan Ferrier. He is this good. D4VE is another book skirting between a score of genres, and in the end defining itself as its own island in the seas of narrative conventions.

This is easily one of the funniest comics I read this year, while also having some kick ass action moments, and it was all strung together by dense, fun, and well acted art from Ramon. The story of D4VE’s midlife crisis amidst an alien invasion is so perfectly done. For $4 all up on ComiXology, I defy you to find better value.

Also, this book has been picked up by IDW for issue distribution before a trade collection in 2015. Get on that.

2 – DEADLY CLASS
by Wes Craig + Rick Remender

This book came out of nowhere and sledgehammered me in the face. But that’s not fair, it didn’t come out of nowhere, I saw it coming the whole time. BLACK SCIENCE was the Remender jam I was looking for – I’m a child of EC comics and I super dug his FEAR AGENT. And I am enjoying that sci fi romp over there but here, in the tumultuous school for assassins where Remender dumps all his youthful truths, I am at play with the synapse fireworks of a god.

And if the delightfully truthful teen yarns cranked up to eleven in the stakes don’t do it for you, then bloody well sit down and let me introduce you to Wes Craig. His art in this book is another process cache where we see scenes play out in different ways, pages used in the most experimental ways. I love everything about this book. That’s the gods honest truth.

1 – HAWKEYE
by David Aja, Annie Wu, + Matt Fraction

A weird yet sublime crime comic mashing up other genres…yeah, ‘You rannngggggggg?’ — this is exactly where my wheelhouse lays its foundations.

But seriously, this book is a process wonderland. And it’s funny. And it handles action perfectly. And it made me care about two leads I could not have cared less about for all the last three decades of my life. HAWKEYE is the book here I’m most looking forward to dusting off my old floppies of and revisiting in a few years’ time. This is a four colour storm in a teacup and we all need to be glad it’s been captured, and then learn the subtle lessons on display.

And so, these are my choices for books I dug this year. I hope you have a tidy list of 10 at hand. Tell a friend, they’ll thank you for it.

2015 NYE Resolutions

I love resolutions, they’re the sure fire way to level up (ymmv). I dig ‘em, and found 2014 to be a good time to add another arrow to my quiver. The big add on for 2014 was my goal to:

READ ONE COMIC EVERY DAY

In 2013, I found there would be days where I was working late, stressing about writing, writing for too long, and so never reading at all, and it just wasn’t a great idea. In fact, it was no doubt a fast track to burning out. Plus, I like to read, and I was missing it because reading is rad and fun and shouldn’t be seen as this devil taking me away from writing. So I set this goal so I would allow myself that spare 5-10 minutes to just pick up a comic, read it guilt free, and enjoy it. As such, I read well over 365 comics for the year, which is a lot of trades, and floppies, and digital copies, so I kept up on good stuff, and caught up on old rad stuff.

I know feel like I’ll make this part of my daily routine. It’s a lifechanger, and that’s part of a resolution, it shouldn’t just be for the 365, it should be for life. And I believe this is. Like in 2013, I dropped chocolate completely, and then in 2014 I ate chocolate maybe a dozen times, if that. I’m happy to have the very odd piece, but it was nice to eliminate it and feel that echo out beyond 2013.

And with such success, here we go for another round.

Continue to read, at least, one comic a day.

I crushed this in 2014 and want to consciously keep it rolling. Good things should not fall by the wayside, this kept me up on a few books, and made me feel it was okay to set aside this time.
I am thinking about making this part of the night’s warm up, but I also know I like having a little four colour reward waiting for me when I get to it – the problem lies in when I feel like I never get to it.

Read 10 novel pages a day

My novel reading is zero, let’s be honest. I have some rad novels sitting around, waiting, hoping – hell, my brother just wrote one, and I need to read that business – it’s time to crack into them. It’ll keep my brain sharp. It’ll broaden my horizons. I’m looking forward to allowing myself time to do this again. I was also gonna add on ‘read one article a day’ but think maybe that can wait…maybe until I’m full time (hahahahaha, so never :|).

Start the night with an hour of Internet free writing
Sub goal, this will require a list before those 60 minutes start so no time is wasted at all.

This one feels like it could be key. At night, I make my coffee, I sit down, and now I want to write. No email yet, no Facebook scrolls, no alt-tab to Twitter, none of that. Just time to bash out what’s been waiting all day to happen. I gotta stop writing until 1am and thinking I can teach the next day with a straight brain/face/soul. I need to be more effective, and early. This is my aim.

Surprise your wife – hopefully once a fortnight
Date nights, sleep ins, small gifts, sneaky messages – putting it here to remind myself, and show I’m not some remorseless process machine.

She deserves it, and I get wrapped up. Let’s change this.

Think of my kids – always
Get them gifts, call them up, leave them sneaky messages in their room and on Facebook for their mother to show them.

This I’m excited for, just to ensure I see the world differently – I see a range of opportunities to please them. Because that is my job.

Aaaaand, this is enough. You never want to go overboard on these ones. I’m keeping one that’s working, making it a lifelong thing. I’m adding a warm up of the 10 novel pages, and I’m hoping this hour right into the writing comes around.

Beyond that, just be a better person/man/husband/father. I should be doing these already, but we can all always do better. Make it happen, however you can.

Have a rad 2015, peeps, let’s tear a hole in the sun *fly kicks the air*

Recap of 2014 as a Year of Writing

This has been an amazing year. I’ll flat out call it, it’s exceeded my expectations. The writing has gone well and it has been fun.
In March, I launched HEADSPACE at Monkeybrain Comics, with Eric Zawadzki cocreating and on main art duties, Chris Peterson drew addition pages, with Marissa Louise on his colours. Dan Hill edits the whole beast, and Chris Kosek designs our back matter – which consists of me prattling on about myself and my work. Then from issue #3, Sebastian Piriz flew in and has taken over from Peterson on extra art.
The book is about Shane, the sheriff of Carpenter Cove who comes to discover he’s actually inside the mind of a killer. So he has to figure out how he got there, why he’s there, and how he can survive to get out when the killer’s mind discovers the town and wants to purge it with manifested fears and memories. It’s sci fi/PKD pulp/thriller fun for all.
I actually spent most of 2013 writing HEADSPACE so it was nice to see it finally land. The 22 page/99c download debut from ComiXology was well received with reviewers loving it, readers digging it, and me not entirely loathing myself in its wake. There are currently 5 issues available, with the last 3 coming thick and fast in early 2015, and another piece of good news to follow. Without a doubt, HEADSPACE is the biggest book of my career, so far, and it’s possibly the one I’m currently most proud of.

DEER EDITOR was an issue I cooked up with Sami Kivela over a long period of time, and in between his other art responsibilities. Once finally completed, I decided to throw my piss into the wind and Kickstart the comic. I was staunch on needing this Kickstarter to have minimal-to-no postage. This was a digital experience, hence why I set my goal so low ($1000) – because I legit didn’t ‘know’ I’d make it.
However, we did make it, we made it at ~230% of funding and got the book into a lot of people’s hands. It was a scary and humbling and awesome experience. I’d definitely do it again.
This book has been a special project for me, something a little different with the black and white aspect of the art, and I’ve been humbled by the feedback it has received.

I think the GHOST TOWN tpb landed early in the year. I did that with Daniel J Logan, and Brian V Dyck on colours, at Action Lab Entertainment’s Danger Zone imprint. The trade has the issue #1 in it with art from Justin Greenwood and words by Dave Dwonch. It’s got some beats I’m proud of. If you can find it, hook in. But good luck, it’s nowhere — except on ComiXology for $7.

At the very beginning of the new year, I was invited to pitch for the Vertigo Quarterly series and was steered towards the Magenta issue. I was stunned and honoured to get the look in and was also determined to not lose it, so I set aside everything else (it was right at the start of the new year, at a new school, in a new role, I felt mentally swamped, so I managed to wade through the first rejection to land with the second). The resulting story was GLOVES, a story I did with Tommy Lee Edwards on art and John Workman on letters, and edited by the fantastic Sara Miller. I am exceptionally happy with this story, if I was going to debut in the big leagues with one short I’m glad it was this one. It’s a boxing noir tale, so it shows more of my wheelhouse than less, and it’s got a twist that I think works, and it’s a character deconstruction as well. If you picked up the Magenta issue of the CMYK anthology then I thank you, and hope you dug it.

After the stirring success that was the OXYMORON HC on Kickstarter last year, I was keen to get into the world of Joe Mulvey’s SCAM. THREE CAR MONTE is my story in the Ultimate Scam Collection HC with Adam Masterman on art. It’s a tale about a scam with three possible leads to take. The pages were broken down to chase all three leads at once, and in different narrative ways. This was a nice short to experiment with and try new things.

I continued to write back up material by way of essays. I wrote in a fair few issues of SHELTERED where I wrapped up my investigations on the way the world will end and I started a series of interviews with preppers. These interviews were each written in fury storms of words and thoughts and feelings and I’m actually really bloody proud of how they came out. Alongside this, I also has my back up essays about cryptozoology and weird stuff as featured in modern fiction/media run to the end of the first arc of STRANGE NATION in issue #8. Those were also wicked fun.

Just the other week, a package arrived from IDW and I had no idea what for and I found inside MLP: ADVENTURES IN FRIENDSHIP, an MLP collection of 3 one-shot issues put into this little HC picture book-style book and my issue runs first, with gorgeous art from Tony Fleecs. Pretty cool. The issue is technically from last year, March last year, but this presentation was too cool to ignore.

And then, to be honest, with all that stated above, the year suddenly doesn’t look that impressive. I’ve got HEADSPACE, and DEER EDITOR. Then some shorts. Or that’s how my brain sells it. I mean, hell, I even look slack. But here’s the dirty little secret:
Most of these things from 2014 were written in 2013. And a lot of 2014’s writing has been in prep for 2015. I hope.
At present, I am:
-polishing the second issue script of a mini with a beyond rad publisher that’s not yet been announced (I’ve also looked at prelim colours for the cover, and thumbnails for #1, and I am very happy)
-art continues to roll in for HEADSPACE, it’s going to end strong.
-polishing a script for a spy short with an artist I’ve wanted to work with for years – at present, it’ll just be self-pubbed
-waiting for art on three one-shots that have been placed with artists
-have a script for a one-shot unattached to an artist – it needs the exact right one
-another one-shot script just waiting for the attached artist to come back and be available again
-another half-issue script where I’m just waiting for that artist to come back and be available again
-waiting for word on a pitch an editor at an insane publisher asked for – and which I’m very aware will get knocked back, and I’m cool pessimistically saying this because if you knew the publisher, you’d know I’m actually just being pragmatic – and I’m also just honoured to have been asked to pitch and that they dug it enough that they wanted to see more, that’s the big win in this situation, trust me
-waiting on art for another short to be self-pubbed/uploaded
-waiting on art for another short already with a cool anthology
-discussing with an artist which of two projects we have lined up we might want to kick into high gear in the new year
-there’s this gargantuan writers room/multi-artist book that’s been ticking over for about 18 months now that I’m hoping and thinking might just hit in 2015…maaaaaaaaybe
-talking with two publishers who both want non-fic books about comics from me – which I’ll do, if I ever get the time
-and there’s also talk (mostly in my house, but there’s talk) of more prose work seeing daylight in 2015

So, yeah, if even half this stuff makes it to the page it’ll make 2015 look rad even though it was 2014’s hard work.
Writing is funny like that. We are two days shy of the year and I’ve already written and attached artists to more pages than I completed in total for 2014. You just gotta sit tight and wait and hope it all plays out, and also know it ALL can’t and won’t play out. Which is cool.

And as for goals for the new year. Well, I generally keep those close to my chest. My goals for 2014 were these two:

1 – get some more short work out the door…and I did.

2 – set up the next mini beyond HEADSPACE…and I did. Oh, boy, did I.

So for 2015, yeah, I have just one goal. Beyond finishing all of the above, natch, I have one goal. But that’s just for me for now.
Anyway, I hope your 2014 was busy and productive. I’m off to go ensure my 2015 looks like it should.

Write, drink coffee, and be merry.

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