Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

RKL Annotations – DEER EDITOR #1

The issue that launched thousands of dollars of crowd fundraising for Sami Kivelä and myself. For a dumb comic idea, stemmed from a poor joke about typos, and written on my phone, I feel like DEER EDITOR has taken on a life of its own. And in all the right ways.

This issue was my first foray into crowdfunding and Kickstarter in a solo way, and it felt like another step up in my comic making career. I only had a few credits to my name so far, I was still quite green, and this was my first time dabbling in tablet pages – and I wish I could pinpoint the reason why I went for them here. I can’t remember why, the book has seemingly only ever existed in my head in tablet pages, but I’m crazy glad I did.

Then you bring in Sami and the whole things comes together like crisp morning Lego snapping into place.

I love DEER EDITOR. I love Bucky, and the world he is in, and collaborating with Sami, and I hope one of all of those things never ends. But for now, I want to celebrate what we’ve done and do something new – I’m going to write annotations over 2 years after the issue came out, and over 3 years since I wrote the script.

Let’s see how much I can come to hate myself over the coming pages, shall we?

For those playing at home, I’m going to number tablet pages, and I’m going to read from the Broadsheet PDF [which contained a tonne of extras and fun stuff] – so, drop the needle on them antler noir tunes.

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COVER

It’s probably stupid to say it, but this cover feels iconic to me now. The amount of times I’ve sold the red cover at shows, the amount of time I spent looking at it, and the quality with which Sami nails it.

I asked him to do something Saul Bass inspired, and this is what came back and I fell in love. That silhouette is killer.

You’ll also notice that Kivelä features after Lindsay on the cover. I asked him repeatedly to put himself first but he just wouldn’t, and the guy who controls the design controls those things. I vowed to get him back for this, and our two follow up series have had his name first, sucker.

But in total, the cover sells crime, death, urgent red, and a hint of an anthropomorphic beast.

CHAPTER ONE

I can’t remember whose idea it was, but we went with these chapter breaks in the digital version basically because why not? They look gorgeous – Nic J Shaw designed it simple and elegant – and it’s a PDF, you can go as long as you want, really, within reason.

I feel like the quote sets things up, build intrigue, but doesn’t give anything away.

PAGE ONE

I’ve come to love establishing shots, but not always of buildings and the usual fare. I want to know about a character, usually, so something about them gets a quiet moment to intro.

As such, Bucky is a journalist/editor, so we open on his desk. I scripted a lot of this, but Sami made it his own. I remember getting this page through and really thinking we were onto something.

I also wanted to denote the snowy Xmas vibe [because Shane Black is my jam – no, honestly, that’s why this issue is snowing] and I wanted to use the lyrics to SILVER BELLS, but I soon realised I couldn’t do that without incurring some hired goons on my doorstep, so I did the next best thing – I ripped the lyrics off and made them my own. Swapping the word time for crime is a personal career highlight.

I also really wanted a subtle double entendre in that opening caption where Bucky says he gets one phone call and suddenly ends up in the morgue because he then goes to the morgue to chase a story, but also because he’s going to ‘die’ in the end of this issue.

I know, Spoiler Klaxon, please, but most of you have probably already noticed that there are more issues in this series. Because Bucky is alive. But this comic initially started life as a one-shot, and I think the OG plan was for Bucky to die. So, had we never gone back to the well – and I assumed Sami would get busy elsewhere, and/or our Kickstarter campaign would do average at best – then I played it like this as all we’d get.

But the campaign did well. And Sami turned away some other work just to keep Bucky alive, so he makes it out of issue #1, but I still liked the foreshadowing of this opening caption, so I like that it remains.

As for the items on the morgue table, I wish I had added some other weird stuff on there, like a can of Spam or a torn out page of MOBY DICK, but I didn’t and now I never can. Oh well, I guess you’ll just have to imagine what movie John Doe saw before he kicked the bucket.

PAGE TWO

Anyone who pledged for the Radio Drama knows the coroner speaks with a thick Maine accent. Kinda.

I look at this page now and wonder why I didn’t start with the John Doe on the street, and then the Pinto clipping him, and his head getting bashed in. But instead we get another guy talking about all the action. Because I love to start comics hella engaging :[

The biggest thing this page gets right is building the page turn/swipe reveal of Bucky. Otherwise, this guy might as well be named Coroner James Remar [I hope some of you get that reference].

PAGE THREE

Bucky stands, proud, defiant, aloof. This first panel sets up a whole lot of who he is.

I introduce the sniffing aspect of his character early so we can use it later.

Bucky line of “Goddamn useless corrupt asshats.” still rings tinny in my ears, it’s a mouthful. I think your mistakes do haunt you on the page forevermore.

PAGE FOUR

And so our opening four page scene ends. The casual relationship between Bucky and the coroner is set up, so we can use it again effectively later, but it isn’t the kind of thing that’s a series opener, to be honest. But we live and learn.

This is all good, standard stuff, it works, but it doesn’t elevate. I’d completely restructure these pages now, if I had my druthers. But, for now, they set up Bucky, and they set him on the course.

PAGE FIVE

This page is about introducing the location of Walter’s Bar, but it’s also about introducing some voice for the book. This is a pulp book, I want it to have that prose voice over feel, like you just dug it out of an underground secondhand book store. It’s similar to what I was going for in CHUM, but maybe dialled back one or two.

I think I was still finding my voice with Bucky here, I didn’t have him quite so nailed down as I did by the time I got to scripting #3. I had my ideas about him, but it’s really only after having them go through a few things that you see how they react and how they truly are.

PAGE SIX

It’s during this scene that we hopefully get the idea that no one cares there’s a walking/talking deer just shooting the breeze.

I also dig the interplay with Walter and Bucky, they work well and he’s a blast to write. And looking back, I can see this issue was about bouncing Bucky through certain pulp levels to get him to gather the info he needs to proceed – like a lot of quality pulp does, and often needs.

PAGE SEVEN

I don’t consider myself a funny guy – on the page, in person, on social media – but Walter griping that he’s not a hidden mic and so didn’t record the conversation of two randos in his bar tickles me every time.

But then I come back down to Earth with a thud every time Bucky manhandles that ashtray. Gah, nasty shit makes my skin scrawl.

I’m also noticing, on this page and seven pages in, that each page doesn’t completely have as much to talk about and dissect as other annotations purely because each page is really half a page, and I didn’t want to jam pack every page because that would be rubbish for Sami, and it’s really not how tablet pages work. The norm seems to be 2 panel pages, with 3 the max, and yet I average 3-4 generally, so here I’m trying to keep it simple, give the page room for text, and make sure I build to some kind of reason to turn the page.

PAGE EIGHT

I wonder how many readers still have no idea who/what Jo Malone is? I probably could have worded that whole second panel better.

But the matchsticks led here, so then the credit card has to lead to her.

I also haven’t nailed down why Rachel was in Walter’s. We never explain it, though I know how to make it a few different things depending on what we might need it for down the track.

PAGE NINE

I really wish this page wasn’t killing a woman. That’s a big change I’d make to the issue, this could most definitely be a dude.

Bucky mentions his smell, again, and then he references John Doe’s key which was there all the way back in Page One.

I love Nic J Shaw’s white balloon against the silhouette.

PAGE TEN

Sami did great work on this page, considering the density built into it. There are so many little elements – and some of them are like her presence in Walter’s, we can use, or tweak then, as we see fit anywhere in the future if need be. Some of these things are locked in stone, but many of them were me just throwing things against the wall to see what stuck.

Of course, in a room with a dead woman Bucky decides to case the joint. Until the foot creak on the threshold, and this takes place on a real paper page turn, too, so it’s a properly set up deal, as well as for tablet.

PAGE ELEVEN

Adrian Brody flees the scene, and I love Sami’s designs on ‘other’ characters.

This page is just planting another seed to capitalise on later. Plotting this stuff out was hard work, I remember, ensuring so many things get set up, and connect in ways that might only ever matter to me.

And here the journalism puns begin, with Bucky talking about chasing down a story and having to literally chase this story on foot. It’s not high art, but there are a tonne of newspaper quotes and words in the world, and I slowly wanted to work them all in.

PAGE TWELVE

This page is pivotal for me because it shows the parameters of Bucky’s ‘powers.’ He can run super fast, but only in short bursts. Because he’s kind of unfit, the running wears him out. His antlers are pretty bloody strong, but he’s not a superhuman/deer.

PAGE THIRTEEN

I love the way Sami drew the newsroom, the cube farm aspect of it all. The depth and world-building Sami goes to always impresses me.

Here we meet Dan, completely modelled [in pretty much every aspect] on actual editor for this book, and great mate of mine, Dan Hill. Yet again, this scene provides Bucky with someone else to bounce off, but this relationship very obviously feels different to me than Bucky with the coroner or with Walter. There’s actual respect at play here, subtle, but there.

I’ll also make no bones about the fact Dan calls the killer the ‘actor’ and I stole that term from Richard Price who I first saw use it in FREEDOMLAND [a great book, though not his best, that’s still THE WANDERERS].

PAGE FOURTEEN

I dig that Sami went for tall panels on this one, it shows his range when using the tablet page. He’s so good at fitting everything in there and never really feeling crowded.

This two page scene with Dan shows me how much stuff I was burning through in this issue. All overall scenes were mapped out as 4 pages, so two print pages, and this interaction with Dan moves the needle a little and it’s only 2 tablet pages. I tried to get into scenes and bounce out. Partially because the genre demands it, but also because I figured if this was to be a one-shot then I could not dilly-dally, I needed to get things on the page and then move them off. Shit had to be done, so you rocket through scenes, you strip back, and you make shit happen.

This inset panel around the phone was possibly the first inset panel I ever scripted. It’s a device I love to use, I think I first consciously recorded it into my brain from Aja on his IMMORTAL IRON FIST run. Having the phone vibration in the panel gutter is just sublime.

PAGE FIFTEEN

I mean, look at this page, there’s no waddling about, it gets in, gives the info it needs, in a nice and interesting way, and it moves on. I know I didn’t script #2 as tightly, mostly because I knew it’d stand on its own but also form the middle of the triptych I knew I could build. I mean, and this is a long bow to draw, but consider THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, there’s no need for it to completely pack in and tie up as much as A NEW HOPE did because it comfortably knew it was the middle of the trilogy and it could lob up balls that wouldn’t be swung at until 3 years later in RETURN OF THE JEDI.

I’d love it if all 3 issues were this tightly plotted and delivered, but the 4 tablet pages per scene/sequence rule set up here was actually very hard to do because I was constantly trimming panels and refining dialogue and getting it just right. The next two issues I got to let the characters have moments, to take breath, and that in itself was another kind of challenge as well as favour.

I just scripted something about ‘white noise’ in Bucky’s caption, but wasn’t thinking it’d be actual final dialogue, but then Nic grabbed the idea and put that tv white noise screen into a kind of thought balloon and I fell in love.

PAGE SIXTEEN

Those envelopes are there purely to set up his escape in the third act of this issue. I wanted to seed this idea that people hated Bucky, like a kind of subtle racism going on, and that’s why he got shitty letters and eventually an assassination attempt via the cake. I don’t know who sent the cake specifically, but I know I’ll continue to use this idea in future tales [if we get that chance] because in today’s global climate, well, of course there’d be people who believe Bucky is an abomination.

The cereal test is a phrase used in newsrooms to gauge whether news is fit to print in the newspaper, or on the front page specifically, because if someone can’t stomach it over their morning cereal then maybe it’s a little too far. It was a term I dredged up and filed away in the very early stages and it definitely stuck so I’m glad I got to use it here.

When I started in on this book, I googled around for information about deer and journalism. I like to believe that’s what BKV does before he starts anything, too, so he can drop factoids into his work and look smart. I look smart, right?

CHAPTER TWO

Boxing references will always win out. Chess a close second, but boxing is just the greatest metaphor to strip. Plus, I find boxing fascinating. The idea it’s this gentleman’s game when it’s the most brutal form of competition you can imagine, and yet it does hold this rarified air, which fascinates me in its duality. I like duality. The way things are and aren’t at the same time is an endless source of inspection for me.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

I love Randy, he’s just one of those scenery chewing characters everyone loves to write because anything goes as soon as they open their mouths. I think I scripted the shirt but that hair is all Sami.

I scripted this grotto scene, because of course Randy rolls like this, but forgot this was set in a deep Shane Black winter. So Sami drew in those column heaters around the place and it’s such a glorious save and solution from him, but it also says a million more words about this guy and his place, and everyone else there, that I never would have known how to string together. Those heaters are one of those pure blinding collaborative moments that you wish for every time you hook up with an artist.

I’ve also realised that Randy is introduced with that thick black background behind him and above and I’m realising Sami also introduces another character in the third issue in the exact same way. I will have to keep an eye out for this trick now, because I love it, and want to be able to script it so Sami knows I pay attention and I care.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

Bucky being annoyed by the ‘horny’ comment and correcting to antlers was something that came into the first draft instantly as Randy’s introduction and it never swayed. I love it when a moment comes to you fully formed and survives all the edits and drafts and you still love it two years later.

So we’ve just met Randy and we’ve set up that he obviously knows Bucky, and now we push into Bucky getting to what he needs, and then we build to the page turn.

PAGE NINETEEN

The absinthe comment I like, but something about it, like 5% of it, just doesn’t quite click into place for me. I can’t even put my finger on it, and I dig 95% of it, but that niggle remains. I wish I knew what it was.

Bucky pretends to be drunk enough to just wander on by and the driver from earlier pulls a Lando reveal so we know he’s there. I love the Lando reveal.

PAGE TWENTY

The simplicity of this page, the way Bucky has played the angles, and pulled an audible when the guards where there and he knew they’d know him. I like writing Bucky as the smartest guy in the room. Sometimes.

I’m also astounded at how much Sami put into this page. From memory, I edited this page heavily down from 5, or maybe even 6, panels. Now, the door kicks and we cut straight to them looking out the window – I trust you’re smart enough to imagine them crossing the room in those gutters.

Then Bucky leaps off the roof and my heart swoons. This panel was one of those perfect collaborator moments where I realised I was in love. The body language, the silhouette, that snow, it’s all perfect – it’s also got that DARK KNIGHT RETURNS vibe rolling on and who doesn’t dig on that?

PAGE TWENTY ONE

This establishing shot is yet another one of those moments in my writing career where I worked out that artists work way harder than writers. This panel is ace, and no small feat, and it’s also beautiful. All Sami.

Whereas the second panel is a true marriage, my idea, but it totally relies on execution to work, and Sami’s character designs, even for the background, are always so varied and intriguing that I knew this would work. And it totally does, playing the scene out, giving us what we need, and other things.

This panel/page is an exemplary reason of why I like comics, and why comics can do things that only work so well in this medium.

PAGE TWENTY TWO

The mechanics of making this page work are all on Sami. Fitting the gun in the hand in shot, showing how the gun is hidden, using that middle gutter to split Bucky but not move him. That’s all Sami problem solving the page of script I gave him.

I also love how Bucky cuts through the shit. He’s straight up, and I think that’s a reflection of how I decided to script the book. If scenes are short, there’s no time for ball tickling. Bucky has to move things forward, constantly.

PAGE TWENTY THREE

Now, this gutter divide I did script, so the reader wouldn’t instantly look down, they’d be locked on the guy with the gun in Bucky’s neck, and not glance out of that panel. Then we follow down and realise he’s not in as much danger as you might have been feeling.

Again, notice this guy entered scene only last page, and now he’s gone, having played his part, and the next part of the sequence is about to hit Bucky.

That breaking a story/story breaks you line is another one of those things you jot down early on in the research phase and you know you’ll find a place for it. This one I’m 100% happy with.

Though, strange fact, I initially gave the guy grawlix as he ran off in that line, then I realised all the other shit that goes down in this issue and can’t remember why I thought I’d need grawlix, so you’ve ended up with the full F swear. I hope you’re happy.

PAGE TWENTY FOUR

I love the black panels, the pause for the words to soak in. It’s a cinematic device to me, the voice over on the black screen before the fade in [or after the smash cut out – or both in this case] but it’s also something that plays different in comics because we aren’t used to having panels devoid of illustrations. So white strips, black space, other colours, I’m having a play with all of them over time.

I seed in the girl’s jasmine scent here so I can speed up her next scene.

PAGE TWENTY FIVE

The first panel here is set up to capitalise on the hate mail Bucky gets and deliver the coup de grace – the poison cake for later. But look at how Dan delivers it, he knows it’s from Bucky’s hater and yet he’s still all smiles about it, and Bucky is not. In this panel, I’m squeezing in Chekhov’s cake as well as showing the difference between these two men – one optimistic, one pragmatic.

Having Dan hack into someone’s email and then discover someone else is also hacked in there and deleting stuff at the same time is actually a thing I’m quite proud of. Him taking screenshots and getting what he can before it all disappears seems like good journalism to me. I usually don’t feel inventive or even smart enough to come up with cool stuff like this, but this one time I feel like I nailed it.

No, I don’t know how Bucky uses an iPad with those nails.

PAGE TWENTY SIX

We have both Bucky and Dan off to chase the next lead, Dan exits, and then the next piece walks in.

This close up of Bucky with the nose bandage, blood showing through it, is my clearest nod to CHINATOWN. We are forever in debt.

The scent moment pays off, and we get one of those good panel/caption ellipsis hold overs. Even better on a page turn, but in this comic it’s all about compression.

PAGE TWENTY SEVEN

I never have Bucky hit her back, he never lays a hand on her. It’s all restraint.

This moment is one of those reversals they say you should do in your stories. Give the character something good, and then take it away from them by making it into a negative. It’s supposed to keep the audience on their toes, they say.

But I’ll be honest, as much as this helps the plot because ‘Jasmine’ here has clearly been affected by something/someone, it’s all just set up for the next page.

PAGE TWENTY EIGHT

Bucky flipping Jasmine over and then pinning her to the wall with his antlers was another one of those things I wanted to see the character do from early on. Antlers would have to be a great restraint, despite the fact Jasmine could be kicking Jesus out of him with her legs, surely.

I also like that Bucky stops her without hitting her, and also flips her completely over his head, somewhat hinting at his levels of strength.

A lot happens in the gutter between these two panels, and initially I scripted it with way more beats so the reader didn’t get lost, but here I think anyone can draw the connection easily and surmise what took place in the gutter for this transition to make sense.

PAGE TWENTY NINE

I think this is the only full half page split vertically and silent. There’s no ‘huge’ reason why I left this panel silent, I just didn’t think any caption/V.O. was needed when his body language sells it all so truly.

Then we catch up by having a talky panel next, the cop and Bucky, sparring, and Bucky getting in his great last line. Bucky, to me, truly is a man from an older time.

PAGE THIRTY

And yet, despite Bucky’s reticence, and his shot back, the cop is fine with him. I’m hinting at larger world connections where Bucky clearly gets on well with the cops – until he stops being helpful – and they’re gonna treat him relatively straight.

Bucky writes on the notepad and I’ll cop to me doing this to ensure everyone followed me along for the next two pages. I wish we had Bucky write more on that notepad. Oh, well, live and learn.

PAGE THIRTY ONE

This whole locker thing is a personal riff on the locker used in GET SHORTY. How I don’t have Dennis Farina in this comic, as a cameo, just baffles me now.

It took me forever to work out a way to script the fact that Bucky already had a copy of the key made. I must’ve scripted it as like 5 panels and I slowly pared it down and now I’m really happy with how it’s all landed.

PAGE THIRTY TWO

The call in by the flunky is a textbook move, so I coupled it with the enigmatic darkened figure in their study plotting danger. I love his gramophone in there.

I fill this page with text but don’t actually show what’s in the bag. I think that’s a rookie mistake. A little touch of what’s there, a hint, something would have felt a little more complete. Though I do like the slab of captions juxtaposed against his one word.

And you can see here that these chapters really end on little breaks, a chance to get up and stretch the legs.

CHAPTER THREE

This quote has become the back cover quote for all the print versions and I kind of dig that. I think going through your issue and highlighting the lines you think are top shelf, the ones that sing, that sum up the theme or tone of the piece is a fun exercise. Especially if you can’t find one, because I think that says a lot.

It would probably be a good exercise to go through the comics of others and try to find that one line. I liked how Hickman’s FF run had those quotes on the front cover for the first little while.

PAGE THIRTY THREE

I love the building of The Truth. Sami doesn’t really know it, but the building he drew looks like it came straight out of my childhood, it feels like something I know, and that pleases me so very greatly.

A nice silent page, captions aside, that ends with a click. I’m trying to build tone here, I’m hoping you are a little worried. I’m also hoping you dig my whole tree metaphor. Sometimes I feel like I nail a line and that final line here just wraps up so much of what I want to mean about it all.

PAGE THIRTY FOUR

I hate the word “ain’t” – I always teach my classes that ain’t clearly isn’t contracting two forms of anything and as such it needs to die in a fire. But. I will put the word in the mouth of a character because I think it says a lot about someone if they use it, and also when/where/how they use it.

Again, the ominous tone on the page, the way the thug just walks in and sits down so confidently. It’s the way he carries himself that matters, not what he says. Which is why he says so little, and it’s not a threat. This is just matter of fact business for him, and that’s the biggest problem/sign.

PAGE THIRTY FIVE

I’m not one for writing a lot of tough guy dialogue, but I clearly hear this guy in my head and it mostly rings true. I can see/hear him going through these motions. I also had to work hard so it felt organic enough that Bucky would be able to introduce the cake into the scene.

Why did Bucky keep poison cake on his desk? Well, y’know, just in case.

PAGE THIRTY SIX

He’s saying no to the cake as he accepts a piece of it. That right there says a whole lot about this guy. Then the way he shrugs off his doctor. I like that he has a doctor, that he’s got problems. After writing this page, I felt I knew him a lot better.

Oh, look, Sami dropped another one of those half ink backgrounds.

PAGE THIRTY SEVEN

Did you know deer process toxins differently than us. They do it better. So I figured with Bucky being the weird hybrid he is he can have all kinds of special ‘powers’ and one of them is the ability to really shrugs off toxins.

The caption about them finding his body in the car was a scripting gaffe I tried to fix and failed. It’s meant to imply that Bucky is going to drag the guy down to his car and it was put in there after the art came in and I realised that him leaving the poisoned body on the press room floor might not be good for business. But the art had already come in. I tried to script around it, but nothing fit. Not even what I ended up going with. One of my biggest failures in comics, though it doesn’t kick in the guts as much as I thought it might. Huh, maybe time does work.

Wait, why is the Leaving City sign visible as you drive into the city? Man, I scripted that, this page is not my friend at all.

PAGE THIRTY EIGHT

Randy is so deplorable, it’s fun to write. Though it makes me look like kind of a hack, I’ll admit. Or, I’ll admit to worrying about.

I like that Bucky ignores his surroundings, he’s literally just there to hide out and do his job.

This set up to the page turn says a lot about who I think Bucky is…

PAGE THIRTY NINE

Y’see, Bucky’s an arrogant. Fool. He just rushes in, thinking he’s got the info so he’s untouchable. It’s a fool’s play, but it’s the kind of thing people do a lot before thinking all the pieces on the board through. And while I think Bucky is a great journalist, this story is also about him being overly sure and missing the story. It’s about his fallibility, and how he has to fix it.

PAGE FORTY

There are a lot of throwaway lines in the captions that explain away the need for extra scenes, or pages, or even panels. I don’t want to show Bucky threatening the mayor with his story leaking upon his death to establish that Bucky isn’t going to die here. I throw in mention of a ‘standard journalist/scumbag deal’ and it tells us all we need to know. Most of us have seen crime fiction where someone’s information will leak, to the police, or the public if they die or don’t check in by a certain time or use a specific code.

Mayor Jackson also not being worried about Bucky should be his first sign he’s stepped into the brown and smelly. But Bucky doesn’t read that stuff, sadly for him.

PAGE FORTY ONE

Nothing says cocky like ‘telling your villain how it is while munching an hor’s douvres’ cocky. Though Mayor Jackson’s ‘laughing in the face of this shit’ cockiness comes close.

PAGE FORTY TWO

Having Bucky walk his stupid ass right into the trap was a big moment for this book. I think like the pulps of old, I wanted this fallible hero, this fool, who mostly just stumbles into the right things while being beat up for the wrong things, and this page/moment was perfect for that. He never should have gone back, but here he is and here’s how they treat him.

And you’ll notice the crowd doesn’t care. No one ever questions anyone in power, they let all sorts of shit fly.

PAGE FORTY THREE

And with that, the Mayor spits on Bucky [metaphorically] and has won. Because it’s always darkest right before the dawn, right?

That placement of the “I’m an idiot.” caption is just genius from Nic J. Shaw because it’s almost hidden, and a lazy reader will skip it, which they can and the book will still work, but as an aside beat this works perfectly.

PAGE FORTY FOUR

Huh, I just realised Bucky goes to sit on his car and stare at the horizon to centre himself exactly like Standard does in CHUM #2. That’s subconsciously weird – though I do like to sit at the surf and just look out, so I guess it’s me projecting my own safe/calm place. Who knew that happened?

Bucky drives a convertible because of course he does.

This page is Bucky gathering himself and then firing himself into the final launch, but it really doesn’t read as too stirring. Nope, not at all. When you are supposed to be asking yourself what does each scene/page do, why does it exist, I may have failed on that one. I mean, it allows for the transition to get him to the house, but I think it does it poorly. There should have been something else that sets him in that direction. Lazy.

PAGE FORTY FIVE

In the first script, Bucky drives up the street, he screeches his breaks, he reverses towards the woman, and then he gets out. It was just too much. Having him screech his tyres here – subtle as it is – is more than enough. Eliminating that ABCD storytelling and just dropping crisp single letters is the most important aspect of editing/rewriting. Well, it definitely was for a younger Ryan still wobbly on his green legs.

This page has much better build, it goes a new place, builds a new tension. Much better, more effective for the reader.

PAGE FORTY SIX

A big conversation – that took a long time to edit just right – and another build to a tense moment. This final scene at least hits a decent stride.

The idea he can smell and hear the tiniest things that hint at truth, lies, etc means Bucky is my antlered Matt Murdock, and I’ll never shy away from admitting he totally is. I mean, they are actually two very different men, but that idea of the truth at their core, and many of the abilities, is totally swapping over and that’s no accident.

We end on a boxing term, because of course we do. I’ll run out of them eventually. Or I’ll just study harder to find more obscure ones.

PAGE FORTY SEVEN

I have Bucky react to what he’s figured out, but I consciously chose for him to not tell us. I didn’t want to completely spell these things out. He mentions it about ‘family’ in the second panel and I’m hoping people make the connection, especially if they’ve worked out how much of an influence CHINATOWN is on all of this.

The tiny ‘PFT’ sfx pepper the page, the blood blooms on her coat, and, again, the reader is expected to keep up.I really went back and forth on whether to be so obtuse, but in the end that’s the kind of thing I like to read, so it’s mostly what I’ll always write. There’s nothing wrong with a reader having to do a little work.

PAGE FORTY EIGHT

We end on a splash, and this moment was always the point of the issue. Bucky is so certain, and he finds the connective tissue he wants, so he takes it at face value and assumes he’s nailed it. But that’s just not how it works, so he’s overly confident and it gets him shot.

Then we end on that red bar, mostly because this was a digital only Kickstarter campaign, and you can do whatever the hell you want with a PDF so putting that red panel isn’t going to alter print prices or specificities so we went ahead and did it.

And that’s the end.

BACK MATTER

THE TRUTH by Ryan K Lindsay – an essay

I often bang on about how I wrote this comic on my phone while walking the summer streets of my neighbourhood at night with my baby daughter strapped to my chest.

I mention it a lot because it was my moment where I realised I would not accept excuses from myself. It was when I realised I was a writer, and always would be. It was a nice feeling to just power on, despite the world seemingly telling me I couldn’t at that very moment. The world’s a dick, what would it know?

You find yourself in weird places, you have weird places you find within yourself, and if you wanna make those two things connect and make art – then you can.

DEER EDITOR is one of my favourite things to have created, partly because of what it is, partly because of how I did it, and partly because of when it came about for me. But mostly because it started Sami Kivelä off on a relationship that’s lasted a very very long time, and only gets better with age.

I hope these thoughts have been of some help.

CHUM tpb in stores now

The surf noir miniseries from Sami Kivelä, Mark Dale, Nic J. Shaw, and me – published through ComixTribe – lands in stores globally this week.

chum-tpb

Be sure to hit up your LCS for this complete crime comic from the smash hit pairing of DEER EDITOR, and the forthcoming BEAUTIFUL CANVAS. The book is sleek, it’s cheap, it’s gorgeous, and it’s all of our hard work and love of pulp crime wrapped up in the one package.

If you’re a fan of the Phillips/Brubaker library, old Gold Medal crime paperbacks, or TERRIERS, this book will be your jam.

You can download a 24 page exclusive ashcan preview of the series here – LINK

You could drop us a rating/review on Goodreads – LINK

You can scope out our reviews, as we sit on an aggregated 8.5/10 – LINK

You can read my annotations for CHUM #1 – LINK

Let us know what you think of the final product, buy a few for Valentine’s Day, and have a good week.

CHUM_Cover_01

 

RKL Annotations – CHUM #3

So quickly begun, is so quickly done.

And so here lies the end of CHUM

We hope you dug it. Making this comic was a long time – planning it out, working up pitch pages with Sami, getting the greenlight, having Sami score another paying gig so we waited, and then finally making the beast, working with Mark Dale for colours, Nic J. Shaw for letters, wrapping it all up, and then announcing, and soliciting, and now releasing. It’s been a section of my life, but only 3 months on the shelves – no doubt less with the delay of #1.

It’s strange because for the years of hard work and patience, sometimes all that matters is that final scattershot of release because a narrative massaged and held and planned is not complete until it connects with an audience. A story is a social contract that requires someone on the other end from the creators to catch it.

And CHUM has been well caught so far. Reviews and readers have been loud, and we behind the curtain have been proud. So, thank you, and we hope you accept this loquacious gift of process thoughts and oversharing wherein I deconstruct the last issue as something for you to enjoy after you thought you were done. This post is written to enjoy as well as somewhat instruct. We hope you get one good thing out of it, but ymmv.

Let’s go, roll the #surfnoir tunes one last time, pally!

CHUM_Cover_03

COVER

I know that Sami’s cover for #1 was instantly recognisable, and it sold the book perfectly in one hot take, but this cover is my favourite from him. There’s something ballsy about going greyscale with a single colour shape over it. It shouldn’t work, it shouldn’t grab the eye, and yet I cannot ever take my eyes off this piece whenever I scope it.

There’s a lot to dig into on this one, oh, the portents. The world is grey, it’s fading, and Summer sits on a board and watches. Is she accepting a noir ending? And she’s kind of in the stomach of the shark, so is that about her death? Or is it a rebirth through blood, using the sharks to enact a transition to the new world [this grey expanse, as opposed to the brighter colours inside the book]?

Sami brought his cover game to town on this one, and all of his 3 CHUM covers, and I’d gladly put them on my wall and forever point at them whenever someone enquires about my #surfnoir neck tattoo.

CHUM_Cover_03B

VARIANT COVER

Justin Greenwood, ladies and gentlemen. Making it look simple, and crushing the game as always. This cover also uses that single red, and it puts us right into it, into the mouth of the beast. That sense of being eaten, being in your final moments, is palpable in this cover. Moving the logo/credits into the mouth is just a stroke of genius.

PAGE ONE

Another splash for Standard tiled with captions. The guy has his own motif now.

But I really put this page up front because I wanted to instantly show Standard is alive, and I wanted to hide his body so you didn’t see his hand just yet.

PAGE TWO

But then we cut away to Hannah, because I have not forgotten about her, I promise.

And this whole page shows the ineptitude of the Island. Hannah calls the cop to help her with the criminal and he’s at her house, because of course he is. He’s also still being a pain in the ass to her, despite his current situation. That’s commitment to getting your hate on.

PAGE THREE

A page balancing that line between exposition of where Summer is and the general issue start sitrep as well as giving you something to chew on and enjoy. The ‘stabbed you in the back’ offer and flip was always the mark to build up to before the reveal of how Summer could be gone if she was just handcuffed to Standard.

And if you’re wondering why Summer didn’t just unlock the cuffs, well, there are multiple explanations that fit. She didn’t care and wanted to done as quickly as possible. She looked for the keys and couldn’t find them either because Standard didn’t have them because he’s that much of a shit cop, or they weren’t readily apparent and so after a cursory glance she elects to speed things up a little because, remember, she is fleeing the island after having just snapped and attacked hannah.

PAGE FOUR

Hannah chases the story and Standard just wants to chase the person. These two characters always want different things.

This page got rewritten a tonne, just to get the beats and character out while still moving the story towards what happens next.

It also makes me laugh that Standard can’t find his hand – in my mind, Summer cut it off, felt terrible, and absently took it outside with her. It;s in someone’s yard now.

PAGE FIVE

“This island, man, fuck it.” – this is the explanation of Standard and what he does next. It’s personal, and convoluted, and weird, and stupid, but it’s also completely who he is.

I worked on this script for too long trying to ensure I had Standard’s motivations down right for going to track Summer instantly at that moment. But then I realised, this is the tipping point for him, the explosion of activity. He refuses to stand still, to call it in, to do anything rational. He knows he’s probably actually going to die, and so he’s just got to keep moving. People do dumb shit, especially guys with hurt pride.

Then we set up the singing like a bird segue into there being a whistle from somewhere/someone else. This transition was in an early draft and just remained because I couldn’t let it go. It strikes me as one of those early BKV things that’s a kaiju suit baring all of its seams and seals for you to see.

PAGE SIX

We cut back maybe an hour, maybe less, but I don’t tell you that. I let you figure that out by how this scene plays out at the end. I figure, if the timestamp will become obvious eventually then you can wait and earn it, and maybe even go back and reread just to soak it up all the more deliciously.

I mean, this is Summer, after cutting of her [ex]husband’s hand, calling her casual ‘friend’ to do whatever needs to be done with Standard’s body. It’s pretty cold on her end, especially as I like to believe she knew Standard wasn’t done and this would be the end of Penny.

See the comic he’s reading – CURRICULUM. Yeah, coming soon :]

Oh, also, he drives past a kangaraoo. That’s pretty awesome.

Penny sets up his own page turn, but…

PAGE SEVEN

…it doesn’t land like he wants it to.

Standard walks out, you can feel Penny’s head dropping the needle, starting to back peddle. That face he makes is amazing, and even his “She said she needed something planted.” line sounds dirty in my head as he says it, and makes no sense for that time of night.

Standard replies and I think I overwrote it. Nuts.

PAGE EIGHT

I always knew Standard hated Penny, and I knew it was just inherent. So while part of me always wondered if I should seed it in through a scene, the other part of me likes that we never showed the reason, but always showed the hate, and in the end Penny dies seeing the hate and never himself knowing the reason. It wouldn’t be fair if we knew and he didn’t. So Standard just confirms he won’t be telling Penny, and then…

PAGE NINE

…we get the outcome of the tense situation…within the same page spread. Because somewhere along the line I assume rewrites forced this moment off a page turn and I never found a way to get it back, I guess.

It’s a chump move from me, and a reminder that proofreading your script is about theme, and dialogue, and clarity for the artist, and all that, but it’s also page turns and a little counting.

I do love that SFX killshot, though.

Standard goes full pulp on this page, the pain meds are kicking in.

PAGE TEN

Hannah’s getting pretty mouthy at a guy who just killed someone. Yup, that’s who she is, she tenacious – and she knows Standard isn’t going to shoot her.

And we get confirmation Standard knows he’s dying, as well as that small beat where Hannah still offers to save him. Which is sweet, and I dig it, but Standard is unsalvageable at this stage.

PAGE ELEVEN

Hannah gets a moment of clarity and I hope I wrote that first panel with truth in it.

I also dig the caption response, like even the narrator is backing Standard.

When Hannah yells out her big reveal, that she found out Summer was pregnant, I consciously didn’t want to have this seeded throughout the comic. I wanted Summer to just be a femme, to be cold, but then the seed behind the plan moving forward NOW would finally trickle out. But it’s just the spark, the flame was something building from years of kindling.

You can read Standard’s responses a few ways. I take it in that stoic male way. Her words change nothing, and he wants her to know this. As it says, actions speak louder than words.

PAGE TWELVE

I take for granted how gorgeous Sami and Mark make everything – look at that night sky. This is why collaboration is amazing, because it’s take me half a page of words to get something that fantastic.

I love a silent panel, a moment of character contemplation, but I struggle to place them into pages where I feel they ‘fit.’ I always consider the weighting of the page, the balance, the symmetry. I can’t just have random panel 6 of an 8 panel grid be silent, I don’t like it, it doesn’t feel right. But here, Summer silent on the pier, Sami nails that idea of a sharp line down that’s silent, and then stacked to the side is words – that balances for me.

That idea that fed sharks won’t worry about someone in the water, or that they sleep at all, was something I wasn’t certain about. So I was going to research it, to keep authenticity, but then I realised this was Summer’s assumptions I was writing. If I could be unsure, so could she. It felt right that she wouldn’t quite know it all, or be wrong. So I googled nothing. It felt good. Your characters are allowed to be wrong.

The page ends with little flashback panels, and Mark nails the idea with the colour wash of those moments. I also wanted to have the present and those past shots loosely intertwine through a word or idea. Considering it would take her all night to paddle away on her board, and old Summer didn’t want to sleep was subtle, but it met my requirements for a linked scene change.

I’m just spoiling any fun to be had at all by this point, aren’t I?

PAGE THIRTEEN

And then the flashback dovetails neatly back into the present. Old Standard telling her she’s not alone, right as Present Standard arrives behind her is somewhere between unnerving and creepy. I hope.

By this stage of the comic, I’ll admit, I’m dragging things out. I knew plotting it, that Issue #3 had room to breathe, so I’m letting this whole water interplay take however long it takes. And considering how much ground we covered in the first two issues, it was nice to let something breathe.

Standard is shooting at her, and in flashback telling her it’s okay and they’ll work it out.

PAGE FOURTEEN

I like that Standard can swim so well with his stump hand, and the other holding a gun. I like that his gun fires in the water. But most of all, I like that he went swimming with that damn hat on.

It’s almost like a civil argument, but with bullets. In other words, it’s completely messed up, and it’s a look at how relationships go wrong, and toxic, and I know this part feels leaden but I like where it goes.

The flashback reveals Summer finally pregnant and it’s to Penny and that’s a kick to everyone involved.

PAGE FIFTEEN

Standard jumping out of the water here was a complete reference to the end of FRIDAY THE 13th.

And just the fact Standard isn’t shooting here, he isn’t even really trying to kill her, shows how much his actions were impotent rage [no pun intended]. It’s him totally unable to access, nor deal with, his emotions. It’s sad, as much as it is lame. But it’s all real, just through the hyper lens of a pulp crime tale.

Because Standard’s line to her shows this is all personal. This isn’t about the law anymore, this is a tantrum, the dying throes of a relationship gone supernova, and Standard has no idea what to do.

PAGE SIXTEEN

Summer screams “FUCK YOU!” and it’s the personification of her whole story. All this shit from Standard because of her actions and his perceptions of them. Damn, she’s no response to a man, she’s no other side of the coin. She has her own path to run, and she’s got her own desires. That he thinks he can control the situation and discussion is nothing but frustrating to her. As it should be.

Standard hits the board and it breaks open full of money and drugs. ‘This’ was the plan, load it all into a hollow board. ‘This’ was one of the first things I knew would feature in the story. The bag of drugs and cash gets taken, through force, and then gets hidden inside a board. To hell with what the physics of the situation might say, this was their plan. Now it’s ruined.

I probably didn’t make that completely clear. Maybe. I don’t know, show don’t tell, y’know?

PAGE SEVENTEEN

A moment for Summer to compose herself, a moment for Standard to go through whatever is happening below the water, and a moment for the reader to consider all of this cash in the water.

Remember, breathe.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

Standard reemerges, the shark dealt with, and he gets a final moment with Summer. All this bullshit and they get this moment, it’s perhaps overly lucid, but it builds to my favourite exchange in the book. Summer tells him she lost the baby – which says even more about her motivation to get moving now, doesn’t it? – and Standard’s dulled reaction is priceless. It’s dawning on him that there’s so much going on that he doesn’t get, he can’t continue to be that selfish, that myopic, he should have looked broader, been empathic, felt others. A great lesson, if perhaps too late for him.

PAGE NINETEEN

Standard hates on the Island, a personification of what they dislike about their own actions there, a Wicker Man into which they pour their mental bees.

The sharks fly in, Standard’s back is to them but he knows it, and both remain calm because this business right here is about them. Come what may, will come, but this is them connecting for the first time in a long time, and definitely for the last time.

It’s hard not to see Standard as sacrificing himself for her safety, which says a lot if that’s what he’s doing. Or maybe he’s just giving up, the Island wins, the Island and its shark enforcers.

But down Standard goes, down into the dark, true noir.

PAGE TWENTY

Standard maybe deserved this, or it was the best he could ever hope for. It’s certainly all he had energy left for. Poor bastard, poor witless bastard. And thus ends our tale. A tale of a man stitching himself up into his emotions so tightly that he’s basically embalming himself before death. A tale of a woman who needs to get away, and does it all to make it happen, and how is now so very close. A tale of darkness and terrible choices and the folly of man.

PAGE TWENTY ONE

Coda. Hannah at her desk, and she’s got all the stories – because from her perspective, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?

I’ll be honest [refreshing after all the lies above?], I rewrote these final two pages many, many times. I had othertakes, followed other characters, watched other deaths. I had one with Summer in another place, another time. I watched Summer also die. I watched Hannah sit there, never writing anything, because she’ll never know. I took so many looks but I couldn’t figure it, which shit me to tears. I nearly always set out on a narrative with the coastline of the destination in the map. And I had the end of the final act, but not the coda, and this was where the meaning finds its resting place.

Every time I rewrote these pages, I hated myself a little more, and I kept leaving these pages on my ‘to do’ list.

Then, in deconstructing the story, and realising it’s very much Summer’s story, I came to some realisations. She shouldn’t die. She’s the femme, she has to win somehow, on some level. So I wanted her to live, but I didn’t want to tell you that, so I had to show you. Then the line about the sharks washing up dawned on me and it all made sense.

If sharks are washing up, they’re dead, so who killed them?

And who is inside them?

Hannah should get most of what she needs for her story, and we get to end on a splash of Summer in the water, unbeatable odds, and we get to nod and smile and know she manages it somehow. Because Summer Stanwyck can do anything, and more importantly, she will do anything.

Once I finally wrote ‘this’ sequence, I finally knew I had it stitched up. This made me happy.

PAGE TWENTY TWO

Which leaves us with the final page. I love an open ending. I love the ambiguity, especially when it dials up what the reader ‘hopes’ happened. If they project one way because of feelings, then that’s the complete victory for the tale and the team.

Again, this page took a long time to get to, through the redrafts, and the reworking of the previous page, but once we got it – we had it.

And that’s the complete tale. Whatever Summer gets up to next is her business, and we should respect her enough to leave her alone.

I’m thankful for everyone who stuck it out for 3 months on this title, or ordered the tpb landing this week [yep, this annotation is wicked late], thank you. Writing a comic is no joke, and making a comic is no joke, and having people read your comic is no joke. But having people dig the comic you make is better than any punchline in the world [not like when people hate your comic and you are the punchline].

Thank you, and good night.

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0009

I guess the show must go on…

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Let’s try something involving elections and the downward spiral, and that’s fiction 😐 Roll on 0009

PROBLEMATIC

Jane Berry has proof her local elected official is a murderer. And yet she can’t get the world to listen. Reporters turn her away, the Party attempt to have her silenced, and her own family – who all voted for him – shun her completely.

The only person who cares is the politician’s daughter, who completely believes Jane. The only problem is, Jane once helped cover up one of the murders and she knows the world cares more about protecting a man, and blaming a woman for past actions – even committed under duress – than doing the complete right thing.

So Jane has a choice to make. If you’re going to die on your sword, should it first be coated in the blood of your enemy? Or do you use it to hack into the landscape and hope the scar becomes a beacon and a reminder.

As Jane walks quietly through the rain, she makes her decision, and heads straight to his house. Words will be spoken.

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0008

Over a week into the

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When will the madness end? Not tonight, tonight it is time for 0008:

INSIDE POCKET

Paul Daniels is killed in a stupid bar fight. He leaves behind two kids he never cared about, half a beer on the table, a lifetime of regrets, and the jacket he wore on the night of his demise – which was stolen seconds after his head hit the floor.

Lisa Porter stole it to keep warm, but she doesn’t realise it might just burn her whole world down. Because there’s a note in the inside breast pocket, and the police, the Yakuza, an ex-KGB agent, and Paul’s ex-wife all want the information scribbled on it.

There are many options available to Lisa, but she takes the dumb one – she reads the note. Now she’s on the run, through the darkness of midnight, trying to work out if Paul Daniels, the previous owner of her jacket, was right about the entire mess of humanity or not.

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0007

Let’s start the week with some fresh:

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Tonight we’ll stay overnight at the 0007 star lodgings at:

THE BLACK CAROUSEL

Amanda Yannick is staying at The Black Carousel for a week after her last PI gig went south. It’s supposed to be a place and time to regroup, but she’s thrust back into the shit when her elevator opens early and shows her the third floor, which is covered in dead bodies.

No violence, no sign of a crime, just dead bodies gently laid in most rooms, the hallway, and one on the fire escape.

As she walks through the cooling human litter, Amanda hears a song, one she hasn’t heard since she was a child. And that memory is of the first time she saw a dead body, in her kitchen…

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0006

Lazy Sunday:

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LEFT OF TARGET

Billie is still in the first year of running her own cafe. The first year is a dangerous time, many small businesses don’t make it out, and this small business owner might not make it out alive.

As she’s closing the cafe one lazy Sunday afternoon, a tall woman barrels through the door and dives onto the ground. The blood streak left behind her unconscious body on the linoleum floor is the first alarm bell.

But Billie was raised to help others when you can, so she tends to the mysterious woman’s wounds while waiting for paramedics to arrive. When they finally enter, Billie feels off about it, but she doesn’t say anything. Not until she sees the weapons they try to conceal from her view. Billie realises something is amiss and forces these apparent helpers back into their ambulance.

Upon waking, the bleeding woman helps Billie, and then shoots the van up. She tells Billie that she isn’t safe, and she knows this because she’s been hired to kill her.

Now Billie’s best chance of surviving a night on the run from thrill killing Hollywood elites is to trust the woman sent to kill her.

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0005

Making with the noir story title/idea/blurbs since:

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Here lies instalment 0005, gone too soon:

ACROSS THE STREET, YOU’LL FIND ME THERE

Hannah and Martha live across the street from each other. They have for over 50 years. And they have hated each other for about 47 of those years, with vitriol.

So when Hannah is given a few weeks to live, Martha steps up to do the right thing and protect Hannah’s classified files from invaders in the neighbourhood who would want to know what secrets a retired international spy dying of nuclear contamination poisoning might be hiding in her walls.

But the fools arriving on Rutherford Lane didn’t count Martha into their plans, and they’re going to find this job surprisingly difficult because she might have spent half a century hating her old partner, but she still feels a duty to protect the work they built together.

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0004

Another well cooked edition of:

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This is a worn paperback edition of the back cover of 0004:

FIDELITY

There’s a record in an old shop that’s got some seriously bad knowledge on the B side. A young woman bought it in a stack, and last night she got around to listening to it with a few quiet ciders. This morning, she’s as dead as disco.

It’s been six hours since her demise and the record has changed hands 5 times, leaving a path of over a dozen dead bodies – some identifiable, some…well, a little scratched up.

Melissa Daye is a deaf detective who’s been paid handsomely to locate an oil magnate’s daughter. But his daughter went shopping last weekend, and has a penchant for vinyl, and now Melissa is on the trail of the platter that matters the most in a case that’s going to leave Melissa with some very hard choices to make.

If you captured the devil’s voice, would you ever listen to it?

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0003

Okay, crack open the whiskey, it’s time for tonight’s:

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This time, add in some of those Millennium Falcon ice cubes, we’re getting intergalactic with our noir for 0003 in:

CORUSCANT MOON

A festival of death, ascension, and rebirth looms over Nula Pontoom, a small slum on Coruscant, home planet of the Empire, as the locals use it as an excuse to allow their abusive tendencies to escalate for two days.

Palanda Ormell returns, in shadow, to infiltrate the festival and extract the murderer of a high ranking Empire official. However, she is shocked to discover her father hiding in Nula’s back alleys because she’s assumed him dead for half her life.

Yet here he stands, ready to reconnect, because he’s been stabbed. By a lightsaber. Which he now has. And he knows the price on his head just trebled and he’s going to need his daughter’s help to get off Coruscant and away from the people who want that lightsaber back, because it’s the murder weapon in the case Nula is trying to solve.

The Festival of Sins has begun, Nula, may it not eat your soul before dawn.

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