RKL Annotations – NEGATIVE SPACE #1

by ryankl

negative space 1 logoNEGATIVE SPACE has landed. With a wet depressed thud. Owen Gieni has slaughtered the game of gorgeous sequential pages with his own coloured magnificence. Ryan Ferrier is our letterer supreme. The story wouldn’t be anywhere without Daniel Chabon editing my brain into shape. And only Dark Horse Comics could take a chance on something this wild.

If you bought this book, dear dark lords, thank you. Creator owned books are hard, and I have no doubt reading this book was a little hard, or at least I hope it was, even if just for a panel.

Below, I present my thoughts on what I wrote, why, how, influence/inspiration, times Owen just nailed it, and any other mental fluttering verbiage I can pin down for you. As usual, I hope you dig the process peep.


Man, I said probably more than I need to say about this cover here at the [LINK]

I will reiterate, this cover is killer. So killer. Look at that design, and those colours. The. Best. And there are 3 more where that came from :] [LINK]


negspacepage01colourOpening panels, they are important. This one here, the hand, the words failing, the rejected words chosen. I always say, pay close attention, don’t forget too quickly.

I also just love the way Owen drew Guy’s thumb, and his nails. This panel captivated me when it first came through. So good.

Then we cut to the splash and holy cats does Owen Gieni introduce the world to him, to us, to Guy, to everything we plan to do here in scope and depth and emotion. Look at everything in this panel and think of the life Guy must have had up to this point. I believe in one shot Owen delivers a lifetime. That’s skill and I still love looking into the corners of this panel.

We have one caption in this panel and then as you look down, waiting for more, there’s nothing. Guy is stuck, he’s pausing, he’s screwed.



I gotta admit, coming up with substandard ways to start suicide notes was a weird task. What the hell would you put in yours?

[please don’t reply to me with your answer to that question…]

Guy wanders the town, because Owen really wanted our location to feel and breathe and then we drop what has long been my shortest high concept pitch of this book – “Who the hell gets writer’s block on their suicide note?”

Guy is so alone in his panels. This floating orb of unhappiness :[


That opening line here is some dramatic irony breaking your heart. People need to check their words, for reals. Also, look at Ferrier buttonhooking that balloon tail into the truck. That’s today’s masterpiece theatre for sure.

Woody is Guy’s love interest, and is completely Owen’s design. And I love him so much. That haircut is aces. Hell, everything about him screams ‘barista in a coffee truck called ‘HEY MAN, NICE SHOT of caffeine’’ – totally my name, just sayin’.

I wanted this scene to pop because it’s going to produce some feels later on as we move forward in the issue. It’s rare I write relationships in books, especially nascent ones, or flirtatious ones, I usually just look back at the rubble, so to tease out this tendril of a human connection for Guy, but it’s not yet enough that it’s keeping him afloat, was something I wrote lots of times and hope we came up with something that’s a strong foundation to move us all forward on.


Excuse me while I say I love this page. Writing Rick and Briggs is the release part of this book, their words just spew out of me, whereas getting Guy right is hard, probably how he chooses his own words, too.

This opening panel is insane. The tone on display is off the charts. In my head, I just wanted something that made me ‘feel’ like I was viewing the Tyrell Building for the first time. In a perfect world, this would be a splash. But it’s not, deal with it. Then look at the Kindred logo – Owen is my mainest of main men.

Now before I get into the words, look at the room and colours from Owen. I love how he built this building and brought it to life. Because of course the company making you sad would have a blue scheme rocking, ha.

I tried to introduce these two characters, tease what they are doing to a mild degree, set it up at least, and then end on Rick throwing us into the next page. Love the expression of exasperation Owen gave him.

And Rick is eating an apple.


More exposition, more character in the way Rick addresses it, but otherwise a pause before a sequence that’s a little more hi-octane. This is something I still don’t know if I’m doing consciously or not [which in itself answers the question, right?] but in writing annotations for HEADSPACE I’d notice that I’d write a dense smaller scene right before things ramped up. Because apparently I’m still learning pacing, and landing ass backwards into its effectiveness from time to time.

I also love Rick’s nose in panel 3 and his build in panel 5. Owen’s created this block of dude that’s just never existed before and that kind of alchemy always fascinates me.


I’m in love with coloured bars in my pages. It’s my go to hack move now. I’ve written black ones, red ones, and I have an orange one maybe coming up. I love them because they can mean plenty. Here, this grey means silence, but more on point it’s this weighted silence right before the storm breaks. Metaphorically speaking on the weather and the silence, obvs.

Is anyone else writing coloured bars? I bet they are, and doing it better than me :[

I actually just saw a big black bar from Level/Brisson in THE MANTLE. Bastards.

I honestly have no idea what ‘artisan ice cream’ is and don’t even wanna google it because what my mind fills in is way cooler than the truth could ever be.

8 panels of manipulation, we came up with all sorts of stuff for this. That I snuck in a slushie bathtime was either genius or will have people instantly burning their issue.

Owen was the craftsman to put that statue in the front of Guy’s apartment block in the first place so shrewd eyes would instantly get what was going on. And I got all the love for the way Guy flies out of frame. It’s almost this Looney Tunes moment of chaos and this makes me want to laugh which is the worst possible reaction to Guy :[


We finally drop a splash and Owen fills it with this gorgeous fire. Perfect call.

And these captions were an 11th hour addition/change and I guess they are new enough that I’m still super in love with them. This is the moment Guy breaks, our narrative breaks open wide, and there’s no turning back. There is only some kind of metamorphosis.


The actions of Blair on this page should start to sell you on the insanity of Kindred, and their people. It might be mildly confusing still, I guess, maybe, but the intent and tone behind it should be clear. These people are nutz and no good.

Pretty certain Briggs is sneakily smirking as she points out what Blair is doing.

And I didn’t notice the arm flying out of that car collision at first. All Owen.


We left Guy in a certain state and now we just throw him into reaction mode. He’s acting before thinking, really. Because when you drive someone down, and then still need them active in the plot, I figured the only way is to give little moments, little reasons to be prompted to movement. The collision jars Guy into action, thoughtless action, and then the baby in the car prompts angry reaction. Guy is being thrown into these moments and we have one more emotional turn for him coming up to control his strings.

Ping – Louie CK cameo seeded for the film adaptation – Ping.

I really wanted to sell Rick’s frantic reaction and he’s the sort of guy to react with his mouth, so that’s always fun to script.


The tone on this page is perfect. Owen Gieni strikes again. I swear, my office gets colder every time I turn to this page.

“Strange how being consumed by fear makes you fearless.” – this is only true in your very last moments alive, I dare say. And even then, it’s usually just making you stupid, ymmv.


negtest3And here Guy finally sees his so called fearlessness for the stupidity it is.

And that crusty homeless face is #nightmarefuel


When you finally see death, it’s never like you might think, or want or fear. It’s finally real and we so rarely see that. This moment is powerful for Guy, it’s him looking at the end of the lane he’s running down. It’s always going to make you pause.


“It’s a nasty business living, but it’s a nastier time leaving.” should be my next neck tattoo. It should also rattle your bones no matter what you’re thinking or feeling right now.

Page turn build…


…and we turn to find nothing. And that itself is the problem. If you paid attention to what Rick was saying when he lost Blair, you’ll know straight away what’s going on here. I wanna seed doubt, especially in Guy himself, but we all know. At least, I hope we do. I always like to assume you’re all paying attention, and if not, well, I lay traps to see if you are. I think that’s the teacher in me coming out.

I’ll admit, getting Guy to go from suicidal, to angry, to utterly confused, and then having him walk out of this page back towards Woody was something I put a lot of thought into. I want my lead to be making his own choices, to be doing things for himself, not just because I need them to happen for the plot. To me, in the state of mind he’s in, I can see why he’s doing this. I mean, his apartment blew up, he just saw a dead body, and his world is flipped, but all that happening to someone in his mental place was eventually just going to break him. So instead of going to the cops, like you or I might think about, he’s off to say a proper goodbye.


Guy overthinks things as much as I do.

The first time we see Guy and Woody touch, they’re passing a coffee. Now there’s no pretense. We get this human moment…so of course I break it…


…because Guy finds the words. And then these spooks find Woody.

Everything on this page from panel layout, facial expressions, that lack of background. Owen might come up with crazy designs and really world build in dense ways but here he shows insane emotional chops that I hope build to break your heart.


Guy waits and Rick loves it. He’s a complete bunghole of a human being.

That final look Guy gives over his shoulder in panel 6, man, he’s just cruising his peepers around, poor bastard.


I love the simplicity of this page, and that Owen broke it into more panels than I had scripted. So simple and that’s all it needed. I think I’ve finally learnt not to overwrite over rad art. I trust the reader to have their heart broken if they have any soul.


Why this movie? Because it’s one of my favourite rom-coms of the past decade. Because it’s about futility as much as it is hope. And because Guy has a mad killer crush on JGL :]


I think this might be my favourite page in the book. It’s simple and does so much for me.


Guy shatters his soul into small enough pieces he can toe down the drain and Rick just kicks back and eats cereal.


Yes, Guy wanted to deliver his note to Woody. From there, well, it wasn’t going to be fun or pretty.


But instead we get this. We finally make good on the cover, and we hopefully propel you into the next issue because Guy most certainly is not dead, or dying, or even knowing what to do next. I mean, look around this room, there’s little to really make Guy think this was his next stop for the night. Poor bastard.

And I didn’t realise how this page/idea would be taken by some people. I won’t spoil it by laying out exactly what’s happening here, Woody will do that for you at the start of #2 but needless to say, peeps took this page a different way than it’s intended and them getting it wrong suddenly makes the start of the next issue way cooler. I did not plan any of that at all. A happy accident.

negtest1Now I’ll close by saying this – we crafted this issue as something that built character and drew you deep in. We want you to care, we want you invested. I always strongly believed the best horror stories were the ones where you cared if people lived or died. If you didn’t care, where was the tension, the drama, the engagement?

This issue has been slowly getting drawn up that steep climb at the start of the rollercoaster. From here, we go to some insane places. The second issue drops some history, it sends us on a spiral, and by the end, man, you’ve fallen through that initial drop and are hitting the first bend on the coaster, wondering if maybe your bar isn’t on tight enough, wondering if maybe it’s possible you’ll slip out and say goodnight. Or maybe you do slip out, but not until the end of issue #3. Or by that stage, are you climbing out?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, thank you for getting down on this issue. I hope you dug it. Though if you’re reading this I doubt you’re the kind to go this far into hate-reading a comic. I guess.

Indie comics live and die on readers caring, so thank you for taking the time. It means the world to all of us at NEGATIVE SPACE HQ. Stick around, see what drops next month, and remember:

If you are suffering from depression, please hit THIS LINK to see the access you have to support. No one has to suffer alone. We are here to help you.