RKL Annotations – NEGATIVE SPACE #4
With #4 hitting the stands, NEGATIVE SPACE comes to a close and this is an amazing and emotional place to stand. This story means the world to us all here at Kindred HQ, it marks the second full creator-owned miniseries I have completed, and it is a work I am crazy proud of in all ways.
It’s been a rocky ride, it’s taken us a while, but in the end we stand by every single page, every single word, and we’ve created a story we think means something. And we hope it means something to all of you.
I hope you read this issue twice, I hope you’ve picked it apart, because now it’s my turn and we’ll leave no stone unturned. This post is all about how we made a book about unrelenting emotion and kept ourselves from falling into the void. We hope it helps you in some respect.
On more than one occasion I’ve seen someone online recoil from this image. It is pretty visceral, I’ll admit, and that reflects the inside of the comic quite perfectly, really. This was yet another cover image that was easy to select out of the thumbnail options. The roundtable of emails very quickly sounded off that this was the one to go for.
For me, it’s the little fact of all those little Evorah in his braingoop that gets me, plus the circular arc of the blow out zone. And the END on his chest. I had considered, very originally, having a different slogan on his white T every time you saw him but that got tossed out at some stage, sadly.
I didn’t script that Owen should use the original Cover #1 Evorah for this splash but he totally did and it’s totally rad. As are the little Evorahlings clinging to its back.
That line, “Everything goes back in the box,” was something I stole from a podcast, or a TED talk, and it just stuck with me right before it was time to write this issue and it held so true for this issue, and so many stories, and life.
Having a stolen line from a podcast suddenly morph into this opening monologue was fun to have happen. This idea, this mantra, that everything’s okay because in the end, win or lose, it’s going to just go back the same, and to flip it into this depressive and scary mantra was fun to explore. Because sometimes it’s the words you use to help that hurt the most. Parenting taught me that shit real quick.
Having this page show us the real outcome from Guy’s emotional outburst last issue was a cold hard open I wanted to do. It also meant we didn’t have to show it all go down, because the output is nasty enough on its own. I’d actually wager some people shouldn’t linger too long, I know panel 2 kicks me but it’s actually the consideration of panel 3 that really gets to me.
Writing another vertical panel for Owen because he nails that shit hard every time, and sneaking in a ‘stop’ bridge from caption to dialogue like it’s smooth though I’m actually no doubt transition sandpaper.
Guy starts this page so gung ho, so full of certainty, he’s really engaged and active, so of course I’m going to flip it by page bottom and seed doubt which we will capitalise on in this sequence. And Rick slips into snake oil salesman mode far too easily.
This is Rick’s page. Because he’s a massive douche bag, a complete asshole, but he’s also 100% right. This is his moment and we finally peer through the bravado curtain and see the man pulling the strings when he says, “If I didn’t laugh, I’d cry.”
It’s the coping mechanism of the damned because it’s the person who’s either given up or been shown there’s no hope.
This is kind of me taking a shot at armchair extremists, if you think about it. Even though I am one half the time. But it’s that idea that you can’t go off half-cocked about an idea you only know a quarter of the information about. You see people do it all the time, they take some nuggets of info out of context, they blow up about it, and then they wonder why nothing has changed because in reality they were trying to move an ocean liner by throwing a pebble in the water and hoping the ripple would carry them onto a new course. In short, they’re fools.
And here we see Rick isn’t really the answer, but neither was Guy. Not like we wanted him to be.
Basically, this is just Owen cutting loose. He’s having fun destroying the world and I got out of his way.
My favourite little moment here is in the bottom right we have an Evorah throwing a person up into the mouth of the crazy-ass thing in the water. It’s like they have a system for doing this.
In which Guy tries to cling to these new beliefs and has them shot down by more information coming to light – in flashback mode. How good are Owen’s flashback colours?
Also, I wanted to cut into the flashback here, in this page, so the transition wasn’t split between pages, and also so we get that establishing shot here, now, and can launch into the business in the next page.
This sequence took me ages to write. I knew the idea I had to get across but I also didn’t want to spend a big amount of pages in this final issue looking back. But it was important info to obfuscate so far because we didn’t want Guy, or you intrepid reader, to know about this side of Kindred yet.
And, yes, this sequence is totally just JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING with an Evorah on a boat.
There were initially a lot more captions here, spelling things out, but I got the page in and realised I was overselling and overexplaining things. You got the idea and the feeling and that is all you need.
And I think that final panel was a splash page at some stage in the edits. And it would have been glorious, but it got shuffled as we did right by some of the last pages of the book, from memory.
And so we enter the emotional echo chamber and it’s all winding into the final act from this page on.
That final panel of Guy’s eyes all black, oof, man, that’s Owen just putting on yet another clinic.
This page is simple, Guy doesn’t move, it’s a slow down if you read it right. It’s realisation sinking in, it’s the end of the line, and it would have been easy to overwrite but instead I found the one word I needed to bring Guy’s thoughts all together.
Giving that much space, and negative space [hai-yooooo], for the final image here of two guys and one word and all those emotions was a nice beat to reach. I could have done this page in a 25 grid, paused every movement, every breath, but I’m happy with how this comes out. We never let panels have this much space in this book so I think readers will take it for the open and empty air it is due to the rarity of such a layout.
Keep rereading this page, start on Guy’s face repeatedly, come back to it, feel its emotion, then read the page, then go back to his face, read the emotion now knowing that he knows what he’s about to do, now read the page, now go back, and feel that emotion again, because you know he’d be living it a million times over before it happened.
That Rick’s face is right below Guy’s is amazing. The juxtaposition of emotions, the mirror between the two, this was not in my script at all. Damn, look at all that white in Rick’s eyes. And just consider, we know Rick now, we know he doesn’t deserve it, but by this stage if you were Guy would you feel any need for clemency?
That’s what I thought.
Guy asking for help and Briggs jumping straight to his aid, yeah, I’m messing with you. She’s been quiet the whole time, waiting, and she just seems so lovely, right? So I give her this final moment with Guy, this beautifully easy exchange, because she knows she’s won, Guy will go in the echo chamber, and she’s not like Rick, she handles this totally differently. She plays it smart.
Then the moment between Guy and Beta. Man, that took a while to write. I had to sit back, and consider what someone like Guy could and would say in this moment. I kept it short, because of course he does, and I gave him complete honesty. He’s wishing for Beta something he doesn’t understand and really doesn’t even believe in. What words would not ring hollow? Well, the truth; he honestly does wish the best for Beta.
Guy disappears to wallow in his doubts and fears and right outside his room they come true – the world is a piece of spherical shit.
When you control a story, and you get to decide what happens, well, I could have given Beta a getaway, I could have allowed her a nice ending.
But, honestly, where’s the truth in that?
“I begin to weep.” was a line that came in the final draft, maybe even after letters. It works because it’s not belaboured, it’s short, and it speaks to the heart of the matter. No amount of purple prose about Guy’s feelings and depression were going to be more effective here to showcase the fact he’s a weapon now, and a damn fine one.
But we want to leave you, dear reader, hanging for one final moment, because you can’t be certain it’ll all work. Kindred are assholes, they could be gaming something, so we hook you along with a family man in a car because if you’ve seen the movie of THE MIST then you know this is shorthand for ghastly feels, and…
…the day is saved. Or, one slice of it, because it’s the new world, same as it ever was, and the queen is dead, long live the queen.
You might have a good day, but I guarantee twenty others don’t, and the scales probably tip away from you daily, except on the days where you tip with the scales.
We see victory, Guy knows it’s the beginning of a long defeat.
And when all you feel is defeat, but you can’t give up because you already did, which is why you are defeated. Guy is trapped in a purgatory of depression and can you imagine anything worse?
One year later and it’s all sparkly roses and you know you can’t believe that shit. Hell, the interview is even on Fox, man, do not believe this shit.
We start our ending on a TV interview because that’s always great exposition fuel.
As you consider this page, I do want you to think about that ‘one year later’ caption and truly consider living in your own emotional filth for a full year, no distractions. Now look at Briggs and how beautiful and happy she is.
This page wants you to know you are alone in your problem.
And this page wants you to know what it feels like to be alone with that problem.
Guy treats his body like shit, he orders Pay Days which he loves and yet then doesn’t eat them, because that’s even harder on his mind. He endures, because it’s not living, and it’s not giving up, and it’s not easy. It’s such a loaded word. Loaded with the pain of cutting himself, of reading only the most depressing fiction, of listening to the music that guts him [really, music that guts ME because it’s so tied to my history], and then finally writing a thousand suicide notes. And knowing they will go nowhere.
Though, and I didn’t realise this until this week, but one of those notes just says “Run away with me” 3 times. Guy is in there reliving his last moment of attempting to be happy. The moment with Woody he never took – and, yes, you’ll notice Woody doesn’t turn up here. In the end, I wanted to leave him off the table for us as well as Guy because now Guy has no idea what happened to Woody, and he never will, and that’s going to eat him up inside.
And now Guy is part of the machine, a big depressed cog, and he’s treated as such. It’s the worst.
Briggs puts on her glasses, like some kind of ‘deal with it’ meme, and she gets to live in a world where this sunrise touches her face, and it means something to her, and she’s the new Rick, always was. She serves a purpose and doubles down to believe in it because that’s what you do.
That what we all do, every day.
Firstly, lemme say “And the man who wants to end his life suddenly feels immortal” is the pull quote for this book that you can’t use because of the spoilers it brings, but it summates this conclusion perfectly for me. THIS is suicide noir, this is the worst thing I could imagine doing to a suicidally depressed person, putting them in emotional stasis to dwell on it.
Guy is defeated, he’s done, there’s nothing he or anyone can do. Except for the tone with which you read his final lines. Are they sad, are they acquiescing to the darkness in him, or are they challenging? Is he staging one last power surge to break the cycle?
And if he is, then why’d you close the book trapping him inside that darkness forever more? Why are you complicit in boxing him away, why does that black page, the endless sea, face him eternally now?
I pushed hard for this extra page – the black page is Page 23 – but I wanted it for just this reason – it adds a layer to the narrative. Poor Guy, I hope you all think of him often, and consider him forevermore.
And that’s a wrap. Man, I don’t wanna go. But all good stories have an ending, and I am telling you this tale is done. There’s no resurgence for a sequel, there’s nothing more to be said. The world goes on, but Guy doesn’t, and he forever won’t.
I can’t thank Owen Gieni enough for bringing this gonzo emotional claptrap to life, and so beautifully and haunting. This book is Owen’s calling car for what he can do, and boy can he do it well.
I really want to thank Ryan Ferrier for making every page look gorgeous, every SFX feel considered, and really bringing this book together. And then there’s Daniel Chabon who took this story, this idea, and whipped it into the insanity you just finished here. I can’t stress the importance he had on shaping this story with me, on guiding me, and on making this as good as it is. This team was an amazing heist crew and I think we got away with it all.
But in the end, thanks to you, fearless readers, for stepping out, telling your friends, linking reviews, and making this book a huge emotional success for me. It’s been a wild ride and I hate to step off but I’m sure we’ll all meet again sometime soon. I hope.
If you haven’t convinced a friend yet, give them one hard push for the NEGATIVE SPACE tpb in stores the 6th of July, or just start stocking up for Xmas if you want to really bring the tone down on that sad ass meat coma Boxing Day. Ask your Local Comic Shop for details on making sure they get you one.
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.