RKL Annotations – Headspace #8

by ryankl

The final moments, did you really think we’d get a happy ending?
HEADSPACE #8 available on ComiXology now for 99pence.

Art by Eric Zawadzki + Sebastiàn Piriz, colours by Eric Zawadzki + Dee Cunniffe, letters by Eric Zawadzki, edits by Dan Hill, back matter design by Christopher Kosek, logo design by Ryan Ferrier, and written by me.

There are other worlds than these. There must be.

Creepy flat colours, blood, and I love the logo down the bottom. Because it’s digital, the logo can go anywhere, there’s no rack to slot the book into.

Two silent panels as Shane and the Id showdown. I can’t remember if I scripted it that way, it’s a slow open, and I dig that, because once things start, man, they rocket along.

Day Keene – again, if you haven’t, check him out.

Love the wardrobe of the Max Collective. So varied, so intricate. This is where Zawadzki makes his money, he puts that effort in.

Another quiet page, huh. Both sequences start off with a quiet page building to a moment that’s the ignition. I dare say I didn’t plan that at all, hashtag happy accidents.

That look on Max’s face, Seb and I discussed that further right before he drew it, and then he went and nailed it. Nailed. It. So creepy, and those two fingers hanging off the handle of his blade, that’s all Seb. I wanted it to look all as casual as possible. Max is about to slaughter two kids, in front of their mother, and it ain’t no thing to him. This is just part of the business. Chilling.

Such a talky page. Yakkity yak yak. But it just lays down that if Shane thinks there’s another way to change Max’s mind then he’s most certainly mistaken. That’s two dead ends for him. In two pages. Poor bastard returned to be the hero and it’s just not gonna happen. Here is where we steer away from the usual hero tropes, because if Shane could strap on a cape and become a superhero here, well, the usual measures would come up short. So what s left?

“All your other hippie bullshit love thoughts are half measures that suck.”
That’s me subtweeting the world through comics 😀

But seriously, getting that line just right so it’s not tooo mealy mouthed but so it gets across this frustration and annoyance was tricky but I’m happy with how it came out. I can say the line without it feeling ‘off.’

And look at the aggression on the Id’s face. Eric nails that emotional outburst and then the punch, with the jagged speed lines, is just superb. This moment here, we are done talking.

Zara Blackwell has only a few moments left. I can’t imagine being in her position.

Who is screaming? I think it’s actually her, as the zipline cuts her wrists, but I left it ambiguous on purpose. I think.

I love Seb’s inset panel of zooming panic on Zara’s face. Like Spielberg in JAWS showing the mounting terror.

Look at how thick the Id’s arms are, man. I hope people notice that and dig it. The idea these Maxs are all different and this guy is just a bruiser, and one ever growing, was something I really enjoyed cooking up but Eric nails it so hard.

Also, this page is brutal poetry. None of it scripted like this, Eric just knows how to make good pages. Helps that he letters too because that caption flow is dynamite.

That lightning handover panel, pretty sure that’s all Eric. I love the page/colour break it offers, and then we get the final interaction.

It was actually while scripting this page, as the Kid Max talks, that I realised who Shane had to kill. Initially I had Shane killing the Id, like always planned, and I had him doing it because he came back the master of the realm and could also lift his power, or something stupid, but then as the kid got all Chris Tucker in his face FRIDAY-style, it all became clear, and then things all tie together so much cleaner across the whole narrative. And it all wraps up in so much more of a brutal way, but let’s get to those pages now…

Sitting back, this page is a masterpiece. The composition, the white bars, the centred text, the empty spaces, the colour change, the way she looks in those panels. This is one of my favourite pages of the whole book. Ugh, that sunset, everything Shane loves, all he’s given up, all he’s giving up. I love that Eric letters his own stuff.

Annnnnnd we get another masterpiece page.

Funny thing is, I scripted this totally differently. Totally differently. I had a really specific idea, and one I still love, and I can still see it, and yet Eric did something else. And I love this, too. And that’s the thing about collaboration. Sometimes things change. For me, the artist is the peep working on this page and staring at it for a solid day [and change]. I want them to be invested in it, and I want them to bring not only their flavour but also their expertise. Because I might have rad ideas, but they have rad knowledge. So Eric took this page, kind of took my scripted page as a launching point and ended up somewhere else and it’s so good. The red face inset panels are superb and really track the time of this kill so brutally well. And then we get the staggered little panels down the bottom, with the Kid Max shifting in each, and then white space, no words, just emotion [I guess].

Like I said, another masterclass. I’m always excited when we do new things with our comics, but even more excited when it’s with purpose.

The final page of Max’s story. It’s such an ignominious send off, almost like he’s just a prop in Zara’s page, really. I like that. Max’s story was always strange, and was never ever going to end well. I love the blood droplets in the first panel but the light in the second panel is just glorious synergy between Seb and Dee Cunniffe.

But it’s that final panel. Max, dead, that’s done so craftily. Look at the white space between, like the family surviving is an island away and Max is alone with his death. Except we know he isn’t alone. We know him dying is bad news for Shane. My greatest hope is that people read this issue slowly. Take the time, think about each panel.

It was long after the issue was finished that I noticed the fractured cracking coming out from Kid Max in that first panel.

And then Shane falls in silence. Only to be picked up one final time. I guess the white space in this issue represents emotion. I love how Shane’s son smiles in that frozen moment. We could almost end there, buuuuuuuut…

It was late in the game that we changed this to a double page splash. I’ve not been big on writing them since reading more comics on my iPad but this scene kinda just called for it. Again, emotional space is needed [something I’m fighting for in a current script this very week].

I use a word twice on this page and that spells out the whole oblique ending for me. Shane repeats the word ‘hope’ and for me, I think we can have hope for Shane. Or maybe just hope for the world. Hope for his wife, may she find many great years to come. If you think Shane dies within Max here, you’re right. If you think Max’s death causes him to get shunted out, and into his body, and he manages to escape the Rand Intl building self-destructing and he tracks his wife down, you’re right. If you think something else, something that would enable a sequel, yep, that’s my thoughts too. You are right 😀

I love a good open ending on a story. Because we don’t know what happens next, but we know we feel like Shane did the right thing. We feel like he’s redeemed.

[Note: in the seconds before I post this, I will admit, I overwrote this final page. I wish I had the son say his lines and that’s it. Sigh.]

And that’s everything. I really hope you enjoyed this story. I hope it made you think and feel. Maybe anger, maybe awe, maybe a need to tell someone you love them. This work is so important to me, and from the heart, that I want it to sledgehammer people in the chest upon exit. And not with a big shock, but more with the thoughts you still have about it tomorrow night in the witching hour.

HEADSPACE is over, but our thoughts upon it will be our present to take with us forevermore.

All hail designer supreme, Chris Kosek. I am going to miss getting these parcels from him :[

I list some peeps I dig. Track them down, fave their stuff, buy their books, enjoy the four colour world.
I did this because as much as I love to prattle on about myself, it’s nice to share the love.

Ah, MODERN WAY by the Kaiser Chiefs. One of the first songs I attached to this book. I love that song. Love that entire album, actually.

I can’t believe we finished our tale. Monkeybrain, and ComiXology, were a hell of a home. For one long year we hustled and made this book the hard way, to low returns, and now as we cross the finish line I can finally see all the places we could have stumbled. Because I’ve seen plenty of stories not get finished there – making comics longform on the cheap is super hard, so I’ve gotta thank Zawadzki, Piriz, Louise, Cunniffe, Hill, and Kosek for rallying on this one. So good.

If you bought all 8 digital copies, seriously, excelsior. If you are a print junkie, then have a think about our trade collection from IDW bringing you the entire story at the end of April [LINK]. It’s probably too late to preorder but hit up your LCS anyways. Land yourself a copy [if you are in Canberra, do it at Impact Comics on the 9th of May and I’ll be there all morning signing them and smiling like a loon].

We are done. Such madness brings glee.

And to steal lines from my back matter for the finish:

As ol’ Gil would say – “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”
*salutes* “Be seeing you.”