Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Month: July, 2017

RKL Annotations – BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #2

Beautiful Canvas is a comic from Sami Kivela, Triona Farrell, Ryan Ferrier, Dan Hill, and myself through Black Mask Studios.

Issue the number #2 is live in the world, and we are all exceptionally proud of our work. I actually think it’s one of my better second issues, and I know if you’ve already scoped that final page that you know we’re leaving things with a big ol’ boom, so we hope you’re hooked by now.

Below are my annotations. An inside look into my brain as I reflect on our making of this issue, and a chance for me to unpack what I’m seeing in the work now, and how I feel it connects on a broader spectrum. I hope you dig, and find something that’ll help your mind think/make comics in the future.

THE COVER – SAMI KIVELA

I think this is my favourite cover for the series.

Maybe.

Man, I never can tell with Sami. His cover game is so airtight, I had this problem with CHUM, too. I could never pick a favourite cover.

I loved #1, but this one is just truly beautiful. The layout/design is spectacular. And yet it’s so seemingly simple. I think it’s this striking balance that draws me in every single time. Lon is front and centre, and Sami has her covered in pencil shadings. Like she doesn’t belong to the pop funk world around her. She’s looking down, she’s thinking, she’s all brain.

But the ground is electric with colour, and with hidden danger. That puddle of a dragon is subtle enough, but still enough to be emblematic. And I love pink as the colour to tie it together. Between the Evorah in NEGATIVE SPACE and this book now, pink has become a colour I am loving for my projects.

That pink logo also pops like crazy, it’s my favourite colour variation of it so far.

PAGE ONE

Maybe just put the comic down right now and raise both hands in a little round of applause for Sami and Tree here, right? This dream sequence is just all kinds of brutal, and the ink wash approach was completely right, and Tree just makes it feel haunted.

From memory, I initially scripted this brain dalliance as just a smash cut from the end of last issue, but somewhere along the way [and let’s be honest, it was probably at the suggestion of Dan Hill] we put Lon into the first panel, dead in the water, because I think it would connect things better, as well as raise the stakes if the audience thought she was dead.

Alex sinks into the water and Sami drew those tears in as he drops and it’s just…brilliant. He’s dropping away, but then looks up one last time. And the way Sami layers all of these panels, everything overlaps, juts into, maybe hides behind. It’s got this fractured quality to it, like still images that appear around and after one another and not quite a linear flow of storytelling. It’s a dreamlike quality.

I love that Sami drew Alex’s mum with a ‘#1 MOM’ logo on it, makes this callback to her work way more effectively.

We get the two hands about to touch through the surface of the water, a little touch of creation to foreshadow a touch of destruction.

Sami draws a nasty looking evil mother turning into a dragon, doesn’t he? That final panel makes one hell of a page turn, and I’m actually proud of the phrase that splits the page. It’s this weird dichotomy so many characters feel in this book, and here it’s finally given words.

PAGE TWO

I sent Sami the script and the next day woke to an email of him cursing me out. Because of this page :]

But I told him I knew he’d slaughter it [and he knows if not, then he’s got complete carte blanche to change the page up, because I trust him], and he told me he also knew he’d kill it – but it was gonna be crazy work. And I’m sure it was, but tell me this page wasn’t worth it.

That dragon is so intense, Sami really brings each line into play, and the hand/claw pushing Alex down deep into the darkness across those panels is just gorgeous. The faces surrounding that central strip are haunting. Everything on this page builds tone, including Ferrier’s letters for the disembodied voice. This page is a design beast in regards to placing the reader into the world.

And then we end with Alex on the shores of a distant land – so far, they are the antipodes of where he was. The page being upside down was a way to really reorient the reader, show they how drastic this move for Alex is. He’s getting away from that old life.

PAGE THREE

I’d assume by this page, away from the dragon, away from the funk, when the reader sees we are still in this muted landscape they will assume something is amiss. This isn’t real.

I love that dragon silhouette in the sky beyond the building, like Alex’s subconscious up there, never far away, never forgetting, always dangerous, but something you can hide from.

I considered making it Room 237, or something, but went against the urge.

This here is our real introduction to Asia Benchley. As she walks through Alex’s mind. The apartment full of water should be the dead giveaway. It’s an idea I’ve used more than once in my head and on certain pieces of paper. It intrigues me, and I don’t even truly know why.

The final line from Asia brings so many truths home. Truths about Lon, as well as Alex. No one wants to kill anyone here, but if they felt they needed to, well…what would happen?

PAGE FOUR

The transition to Lon’s line here is meant to show that Alex is somewhat hearing what’s being said. He might be passed out on the couch, but it’s all sinking in. As happens with all little kids.

It’s also me trying to play Lon’s transition into this new scenario with as much honesty as possible. I didn’t want her certain she’s made the right choice. This kid just took out a kill squad, he’s clearly pretty messed up. This shouldn’t be an easy decision, this was something she rashly did, and now she’s honestly dealing with the feedback it’s giving.

Because when I write impossible worlds, that feature pyrokinesis, I want to be as honest as possible :]

Then we just drop a tonne of exposition through Asia. Though I still try to make it sound like honest conversation. So Asia talks about knowing what’s in Alex’s mind, but she doesn’t outright say she was walking around in there. I think it’s clear enough on the page, but I couldn’t stand to have her explaining something to her girlfriend that Lon would so clearly know.

With enough of that out of the way, we then cut to the character meat of the page. Lon is not only prepared to kill Alex if she needs to, but she’s open enough with Asia to admit such a thing. That should be two bombs dropped in the one line.

And after such a line, Asia gives her a kiss on the head. If you can’t figure out their relationship from this page then you really aren’t reading.

PAGE FIVE

The line here where Lon tells Asia to step into her head, yeah, *this* is the expositional line explaining what Asia can do. This is where I work it in, and how. I don’t think it’s clunky, it’s pretty clear, and it informs an actual new element of the scene, not just sitting there to explain itself.

And Asia’s reply [“I told you I’d never do that, because you told me I’d never have to.”] is a line also serving dual purpose. It really doubles down on how much these two love/trust each other, but it also allows me to build a gap between them. A divide where Asia won’t just have her all figured out. Or won’t go in there and tweak until she’s fixed things.

I love the way Sami weighted the page. The top half giving us the build up, and the bottom half giving us the payoff. And what a bottom panel – I think this harkens back to the structures Sami and I played with in DEER EDITOR. The top half being one page, the bottom half another. So the top here works on its own, and kind of page turns into that half-page splash. I mean, a better writer would have had that kiss on a full splash, but honestly, who has that real estate lying around?

So we cut the page and give the emotional beat space in the bottom half and Sami just lays it out perfectly. Lon and Asia kiss and it isn’t salacious, or full of lust, this is just two people in love looking after each other. The space around them is so well weighted, and then the image of the girl in the window brings it all together for us. Lon’s head still isn’t on straight, there are still problems floating along. This just isn’t going to be a fun ride for her.

PAGE SIX

Establishing shot of a new location, a tailless balloon with no character in sight, and that person using a sarcastic nickname. Yeahhh…it’s like I’m daring the reader to keep up as I try to confuse them.

A caption here would make things so so clear, but I just couldn’t do it.

I was never sure about this set up, I feel like it’s a big swerve to get Moore to figure out where Lon took Alex, but I fell in love with the idea of the toothpaste delivery of this weird city-ambience connectivity drug. THAT part I just had to do.

I must have scripted that interaction he has with the guy on the toilet a dozen times. I never felt like I was making anything clear through their chat, I really stressed it, but I think we kinda got there in the end.

Hopefully the bottom half of the page gets us there anyway because Tree’s funky red background for the toothpaste is so wild, and then she and Sami just jam so well on that mirror turning into this weird circuit board in his mind as he freaks the fuck out.

PAGE SEVEN

FLAKK is one hell of a SFX for toothpaste spitting. Enjoying hearing it for the rest of your life now.

That second panel with Moore post-freaking out, that background, those eyes, hell, that skin tone. C’mon, like Tree isn’t your colouring idol now. She brings so so much to this book, she’s a phenomenal storyteller.

Moore comes out of his buzz the exact same way I come out of unlocking a major piece of any story – swearing and tapping furiously into my phone.

And so now we have a great way for Milla to know where Lon and Alex are, but they also get connective tissue on another plot element…

PAGE EIGHT

So now we know Eric Robinson is connected to this in deeper ways. And he’s back into the narrative stream, loitering around the building where Lon and Asia are.

Man, I’m still digging so hard on this rad jacket Sami gave to Milla. It’s just one of those beautiful things that happens on the page and you gotta smile. Then there’s her crude response to her snivelling assistant. Again, she is so much fun to write.

I had to choose my lines from her here carefully – because I had a lot of options to choose from. How she spoke about Eric mattered, what analogies she used would show how precise I would or wouldn’t be. Dan flagged the double negative of “When you unlock a secret level, you don’t not enter.” And I looked at that line a lot, and I totally know what he means, but I hope it glides into your brain smoothly anyway.

I hope – because hope is all you have when you ignore your editors note :]

That bottom panel is so cinematic. It also gives the page this weird sweeping camera motion, like we start above the building, and each panel brings us lower, until we are looking up at the chopper as it takes off. It’s a really well laid out page.

As for the movie title – KILL YOUR DARLINGS, AND WRITE IN THEIR CHALK OUTLINES was a tweet I wrote like 3-4 years ago. I loved it then, I love it now, and I completely love how it works with this moment. It completely matches that idea that Milla is building a story here, she’s participating in art, and she’s totally down to ‘kill her darlings.’

I want to use this line again for my memoirs. #copyright [<—that’s legally binding, right?]

PAGE NINE

This page is all about setting up Milla’s mindset and methodology – I think maybe I give more time to that than just watching Milla chew up the scenery. It’s because Milla’s whole schtick is so large. She’s set all of this up just to watch it unfold, and when it goes awry, that’s okay, because the narrative swerve is merely to be absorbed and appreciated.

The whole narrative of the book hinges on the fact Milla sets this up, and then rolls with the punches. This story is her beautiful canvas. So I hit the point, and her point, more than once because it’s important to everything. This is who she is, and we have to believe it.

She would literally shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

But then, at page’s end, she kinda reverses it by telling her assistant to just shut up and enjoy the ride and not overthink it. Which is also my head, too.

PAGE TEN

This concept – the room tabula rasa, with the very first thing for their baby – there’s something poignant about this room. I’m sure it’ll be skipped over by half the readers, but hopefully a white room amidst this funk pop story stands out, and people look into it for a moment.

Lon is in here, with only the future around her, and yet she’s brought one thing in – the girl, the past, her problems. This is exactly what’s wrong with Lon at this point in time.

I think Asia mentioning the timeframe here is the first indication we get of when that very first scene took place, where Lon killed the girl and got the phone call from Asia, and where it related to the now. There was a week between, enough time to think, enough time not talking to be a problem.

Lon still doesn’t talk. Think how much time passes between Asia holding the ice creams, and then them being open and eaten. Lon is at such a loss.

I called for the centred panel with the floating text because I wanted it uncertain whether these things are spoken or just body language assumed. That relationship shorthand of silence is so powerful, and capturing it in a different way on the page intrigued me.

Oh, and I totally chose Cornetto’s because of Edgar Wright, don’t @ me.

Oh, shit, and notice how Tree uses those orange backgrounds to show love and connection, and the red/pink for danger. I just noticed that orange now. Damn, she’s so good.

PAGE ELEVEN

There’s a lot of info truncated here, basically for real estate. The idea is that Asia’s landlord is some kind of building overlord [I kept thinking like in THE RAID in my head] and he’s got his goons conducting a sweep of the building…ostensibly looking for something, most likely looking for Alex.

I rewrote these panels a bunch of times to jenga in what I NEEDED the reader to know, amidst what got it across smoothly.

Lon mentions a Betamax because it’s as ubiquitous in this world as Ello is. Just another perk of playing in your own reality.

The differing opinions/options given by these two parents-to-be is fascinating. Lon is over-protective, trying to prove herself, and Asia is pragmatic. Resourceful.

I love that red hand of violence.

PAGE TWELVE

The image of Lon suiting up, that this normal apartment had this funky sci fi suit in the cupboard, is just another attempt at subtle gonzo pulp integration.

Lon and Asia arguing across those tall panels just feels like great Sami storytelling. The relationship argument while getting changed taken to the next level. With a little dose of extra exposition about Alex and his powers.

The goons interacting through the door and its voice accessibility is yet more set-dressing for this future. But it also allows this moment where the script flips and the goons hear the door announce it’ll open. A great way to transition the page with that inset panel, it has this cinematic feel – you can see that moment occurring in a silent beat on the screen right before the noise starts, right?

However, the greatest moment here is that Dutch angle on Lon standing ready to fuck shit up. I love this panel, it’s an example [again] of Sami taking something simple written and just elevating it visually. Pure genius.

PAGE THIRTEEN

Fight. Page.

This right here is where you get out of Sami’s way.

You can draw the zigzag down the page repeatedly to follow the links between panels, the flow of weapons and blows and arms. It’s a masterclass. Then match it with those yellows from Tree, and you’ve got a wordless page that I find endlessly readable.

PAGE FOURTEEN

Lon is representing outside and Asia holds the party line with her, now protecting Alex.

These trancer goons just came out so damn well from Sami. Love those yellow visors. I wish I got to play with their joint speech a little more.

Asia reflected in his visor looks killer. But I hope I didn’t script for that. I doubt I did, I’m rarely that clever.

That inset panel of him grabbing Asia’s shirt is just a great segue to the quick mindscape panel of her going “full bane” on him and snapping his neck. But only doing it in his mind ,not actually in person. Which is something I hope people get.

PAGE FIFTEEN

This page came out so damn well. I did script this idea, but it was so damn easy to script, but then seeing how Sami and Tree pull it off, well, that’s just alchemy.

Lon is carving up that room, and is most likely punching that last trancer square in the dick [which I didn’t script, but really wish I had].

Asia is looking, but also very obviously missing Alex – great staging by Sami, and the helmet flying in is pure genius [def didn’t script that one].

Then Alex hiding and sneaking away is so well handled, and having the feet at the door wasn’t in the script, but it adds so much more to this page turn, as does the inset panel of Alex looking up with that face.

I also remember getting the page back and thinking Tree was a genius for the colour changes across tiers, and then checking the script and seeing that I called for it. One of the very very rare times I’ve been ahead of the curve with a colouring note.

PAGE SIXTEEN

I’m hoping this dick-punching action swerving into a talking heads page messes with the flow with enough of a jarring impact that we all kind of feel like Alex in this moment.

Tree made that drink pop green and I love such a bold choice.

This was yet another page where a tonne of redrafting finally got me there. That balance – what do I need to express, what’s going to feel natural, what’s just enough. Eric has to drop some knowledge, he confesses that he’s got something similar to Alex – which is a tease into his abilities. He talks about how shit it feels, and this all teases his past, also.

I also had to pick the right examples for what it felt like. Just the right levels of dirty.

And then we kick in the Junkie XL jams as we drop that final panel. Sami draws faces so damn well. It’s one of the main things I try to script for him, because he nails it every single time. Totally on point emotional, slightly overplayed so to be heightened, but never comical.

And then that red eye.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

The entire sequence of Lon smashing the window, grabbing Eric, dragging him in, and punching him was one I just couldn’t see. Mapping that out wasn’t something I had in my head – in fact, I so rarely see locations in my mind first, especially when it comes to buildings/rooms. I’m lousy for it. So scripting this was kind of a Hail Mary, and you hope Sami can land it.

I mean, of course he can, so it’s maybe a Hail Mary from 30 yards out, but it’s still this blind zone for me.

For me, this page isn’t as exciting as the others, it’s a scripted moment to transition us from one place to another. These are the pages I want to refine. I think Lon punching him in the face is fine, and their banter is fine, but this is what I need to tighten up.

Though Sami’s inset panel of Alex is dynamite, and a great springboard into that final callback line that pushes us across to the next page…

PAGE EIGHTEEN

I love the way Sami draws fire. I didn’t realise it so much until we got stuck into this book, but now it feels written for him because that fire is so good.

Asia running in to help Alex, too cool his mind, is something I wish we could have given more real estate.

I do dig the idea that Eric can’t speak because Lon has lifted him up, and so we use the caption, but I wonder if it’s…necessary.

Eh.

I think the bigger problem is Eric’s reaction to all of this. He’s subdued because the story needs him to be. This is my weakest moment.

PAGE NINETEEN

The pose of Lon, and that inset panel, are my two favourite things on this page. That Sami also got the helicopter into the background is the third.

I gave Asia that line to make it sound like she’s mentally helping with his pain, but I don’t think I nailed it with clarity. It’s a band aid solution to my hack writing, and it’s not sticking.

Milla reading this whole thing like she’s reading a comic cracks me up.

This moment that finally ties Lon into this connection between Eric and Milla.

Though those two eyeball reactions to Eric’s line are for very different reasons, because each person hears the truth they know.

PAGE TWENTY

I’m hoping by this page, with Eric being so chill about his arm, that you think something extra is going on. Then Eric unpacks his story in as few words as possible, basically because. Who wants his whole life story? Hell no.

Milla is incredulous, and Eric is in charge again. He knows he’s in on this one, hook, line, and sinker.

Then we get Alex turning, with those eyes, which is totally just a metaphor. The dragon within him is alarmed. I wonder how many will take it literally, or hate that it’s not really. I wrote it as a lead in to what happens next. These eyes are the windows to his soul.

PAGE TWENTY ONE

The layered balloons was a gamble that I’m hoping pays off. It’s Alex hearing whatever the hell he’s going to hear, because in this current state he’s going to be pretty damn emotional, and also because it helps us justify what happens next. It’s all set up.

I think I scripted maybe 5, or 6, panels for this page. Sami truncated things and improved the flow so much. That second panel of Alex just looking out sells it all. You know what he’s thinking, so then your mind can fill in all the closure it needs between panels because you know the location and the character motivation, so you can participate and place the characters around the room a little.

PAGE TWENTY TWO

This page was an idea I had scripted, and I saw it taking place in complete profile, using the time of panels to show Alex falling. But then Sami did it from above…and it’s so much better, right?

But I think it’s the inset panels of everyone’s reactions that I love the most. Great idea from Sami.

Then there’s the colouring getting darker as the page descends, and Alex falls into darkness. I love it.

And I wonder if anyone noticed that the shards of glass coming out into the air kinda resemble a set of dragon wings. Because the dragon within is the beast to control.

I wanted to end this issue strong, make people definitely feel a whole lot about coming back for more, and so we planned this out quite early on. Alex jumping to his death, us watching him go down, it’s brutal. You have to come back next month to know more, right?

BACK MATTER

Truth, Beauty, Erudition – choose one

Fun, as always.

JAM SESSIONS

Damn, look at that LOOPER piece. Utterly stunning, Sami continues to crush it on these.

I liked doing this Jam Session with Dan Hill because I genuinely unlocked a few new things through the course of it. I also firmly had this flick’s aesthetic in mind when coming up with this world, the aesthetic, the genre mash up rules, the time period. Even had the score on a lot while scripting it.

THE TRUTH

Another fun page to put together. I can only hope some people dig these.

And that’s us for another month. Join us on the final Wednesday of August as #3 lands, you’ll see it on the stands because it looks like this:

Advertisements

RKL Annotations – BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #1

Beautiful Canvas is a comic from Sami Kivela, Triona Farrell, Ryan Ferrier, Dan Hill, and myself through Black Mask Studios.

 

We launched on Wednesday the 28th of June to some great reviews and responses.

Below are my annotations. An inside look into my brain as I reflect on our making of this issue, and a chance for me to unpack what I’m seeing in the work now, and how I feel it connects on a broader spectrum. I hope you dig, and find something that’ll help your mind think/make comics in the future.

If you want – you can also listen to these views on SoundCloud on The Crystal Plumage, my podcast about this comic :]

THE COVER – SAMI KIVELA

I love Sami’s covers. The guy is always on fire, every book feels different, and even every cover has a very specific flavour. I could look at Sami’s covers forever. But when we talk specifically about this one, you have to think about how it launches the book. It presents the isolated character, which is so very important to this story. She’s alone. And she’s holding that gun, but not in any power pose. She’s a woman with violence in her world, and she hasn’t let go of it, but she’s feeling a little defeated, a little reflective.

Juxtapose that with the white pregnant silhouette, surrounded by a city aflame, which wraps up a lot of Lon’s fears. She’s bringing a child into a world on fire, and it’s in turmoil because of her actions at times. She fears for her child because it might grow up to run across someone just like her.

It takes that parental doubt and mixes it with self-loathing all at first glance. I know you won’t get all of those things, but they’re there, they’re waiting for you.

And let’s give it up for Ryan Ferrier’s logo. The boxing ropes building that angle for the words to read on. The fact there are two types of canvas onto which you can create your beautiful images. There’s paint on the easel in your workshop, and there’s blood on the mat in the boxing ring. Both are beautiful, in their own way, and that concept of brutal beauty runs through this book. Ferrier nailed it on this one, especially with such a bold logo that can read with any colour, against any background. Something we do take advantage of.

THE COVER – CHRISTIAN WARD

I mean, what do you say?

Christian Ward did a variant cover for our comic. And it’s bloody gorgeous. I first saw it on my phone, I was between teaching classes, and I just stopped. I mean, how do you process something like this? Dude is a beast, and this cover is sublime.

Cut forward then a month or more and I find out on twitter, while chatting with Christian and someone else, that the blue skin he’s done is actually a sonogram. I mean, I’m an idiot for not noticing, but watch my head explode on hearing this. The cover is so simple, and elegant, and I’m still in utter love with it months later.

I also LOVE her eyes and the blood splatter on her.

PAGE ONE

I’ve already written a lot about this page, our opening contract.

Read about Page One here

I love this page, it’s a beautiful melding of character and tone and story and I think it’s the best opening page I’ve ever been a part of. I actually think it’s sold the book just as well as our covers have.

PAGE TWO

And we instantly change the scenery, where we find a very different Lon. Kicking back, relaxed. Or maybe just switched off. Maybe this is her with her shields up, not like the first page which is very much shields down.

You’ll also notice there is no caption to guide you through space/time. I want you to pay attention, this is important. Don’t assume anything, don’t be lazy. It’s on you to keep up.

This page drops all the exposition the first doesn’t. It sets up Lon through how Milla sees her. It sets up Milla through her actions, and her words, and her tone. And it sets up their interaction, their job roles, and what Milla wants Lon to do.

I had a blast writing this dialogue. Milla’s voice came quickly and easily to me, and was a blast to bash out every single time she’s on the page.

Then I pull a Remender and start the dialogue here…

PAGE THREE

…and end the line here.

I know, I know, Remender didn’t make this up, it’s just a trick I learnt consciously from his work, UNCANNY X-FORCE was doing it and I dug it.

So here we have Lon on the job, this is the main problem she’s been thrust into that propels the narrative forward. On Page Three. Because I didn’t wanna mess around, there’s little point waiting, let’s get this party started.

Milla wants someone in this house dead and so we show you the house with the most deplorable person yammering away. I want you to think she’s the target. Her house is a mess, she’s a mess, and you know there’s a kid there, so I want your protective gears turning.

Then we just ratchet it up with the coke on the carrot – which is something a mate of mine gave me a note on [that no one would snort coke off a carrot], but it was just too fine a visual to pass up. Plus, it keeps the carrot in her hand for the next page.

PAGE FOUR

This page!

I could write an ode about this page. This here is pure distillation of what collaboration over years becomes.

When Sami and I started working together, on the pitch for what would become CHUM, I guess it was pretty straight forward. The pages were standard, not too many panels, and with room for Sami to stretch.

Then, before we made CHUM, he and I made DEER EDITOR, and it was through creating 144 tablet pages together that I came to truly understand the beast Sami is. I knew what he was good at, I knew where I could push him. I knew where I could tease him, and leave him open, and he’d create mayhem and beauty. There’s a page deeper into the first issue of CHUM where Sami took a fight scene and created a mural of violence. It’s gorgeous.

So, by the time we’re making BEAUTIFUL CANVAS, I like to think we’ve become a great and complementary machine. The fact this page came out in the pitch pages proves that to me [because, boy, do we go even further as the book progresses]. I set this page up as a page of fury and calm, a page of stupidity and precision. It’s Sami and I together completely.

The slow intro, the mum snorting and then looking up, it gives way to a crescendo of humanity across three panels. And Sami imbues those three panels with amazing timing and body language. Lon stands, ready, a coiled spring – she shoots, precise, one shot, all energy coming out her hand and gun, nowhere else – and then she holsters, not even looking anymore, she’s not lascivious, there is no doubt. This is a hit.

Playing that against the mother, coked to the gills, throwing a carrot like it’s her weapon, when the knife is clearly there, and having her huddled, and then full body aggressive, and then thrown straight back. It’s some glorious motion.

But it’s Sami that makes it flow, like a river of blood through a diagram of humanity. He put these inset panels in, he decided to draw focus, and slow us down even further, so we’d feel the hit, and so we’d have to see Lon. It’s a beautiful page and I managed to not need to overwrite it at all.

I am growing.

PAGE FIVE

The first page we see Alex Ellroy, and I’m completely selling you on where he is at the very start of this narrative. He’s small, quiet, withdrawn, 2 pages back we could see he plays board games with his dolls. He’s just this little kid, and then we see his reaction to his dead mother – because Sami draws faces better than anyone – and we get that hug as he says “Thank you.” and we can only imagine his origin story.

Poor little bastard.

Which is why I don’t waste time on the moment. Get in late, and definitely leave early. Cut to the car, show Lon’s decision in action, not even her making the decision, just show the reasons for the decision, build to that moment, then let the reader know it’s been made.

This is what we call a ‘lock in’ for the protagonist. They are making a choice to veer off, they are funking up their own story. It’s always the best way for things to go the shape of a pear, rather than just shoving providence into their face and giving them no agency.

PAGE SIX

It’s one thing to write a dead girl. It’s another to have Sami and Tree bring it to life. Jeeeez, it’s heartbreaking.

This sequence was the lynch pin for me and the mission statement of this book. Lon might be locked in, but it’s uncertain, it’s all reaction, she’s flying by the seat of her pants. So we have the boy press her on it and she just doesn’t know. She’s in a crisis of faith, and so when in doubt she doesn’t – but just not killing the boy does not tell her what comes next.

It’s also all kinda seed for Alex’s journey. He’s in for a wild ride, and he needs to discover this truth as well.

Intercutting this with the flashback, and never telling you what’s when and where, was my way of hoping the audience is really with us. This page is the test. It’s layered, tough to read, and I hope that slows you down. Soak in that dialogue from the flashback, think about what Lon is going through.

PAGE SEVEN

Lon doesn’t know. This is where she’s lead herself. She doesn’t know if she’s good. She doesn’t know if things with Asia are good. She just flat out doesn’t know.

And yet she drives on.

I love how Sami draws Lon’s face up close. She’s a beautiful character, and yet you should be so sucked into her emotion that you don’t quite register it. The story should elevate her beyond eye candy completely.

Then that last panel – now you can really tell we were ending our pitch pages, can’t you? I wanted the pitch pages to be this whole opening scene, and here we close it. Lon drives off with Alex, towards the city, and the colours are sublime.

I dropped that ‘movie title’ in here because the book doesn’t have captions, and I mostly dig that, but sometimes I use my words as punctuation, so this really threw me not having those beats to end scenes on. So I invented a work around. I didn’t want to just write captions when I *really* felt like it, so I didn’t get that lazy, instead I invented these movie titles to drop into the story at strategic moments to unpack the characters, and maybe a little of their lives or world around them. I chose THE HITWOMAN WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE because it’s a beautiful phrase, and it’s also a shout out to Dario Argento. This was my way of sending up a flair to my people, and those who dig Argento should now know we are connected through this story. We’re going to be on the same page, and I hope you’ll sit down a while and listen to the story with me. I hope we get some time to enjoy this together.

PAGE EIGHT

I love the bold scene-opening panel of this sequence. A huge vertical panel, all Sami, which is interesting because there’s also a lot of talking on this page, but he still spends all this real estate on setting the scene. I dig it hugely, because Tree coloured the ever-loving hell out of it, and because Sami drew in that clown head up in the foreground and it’s creepy and awesome and speaks volume to the tone of the scene.

We then meet Eric and Agent Keely. The gist of things is that Eric screwed up his life and ended up sentenced to this weird purgatory gaol of an abandoned fair on a boardwalk somewhere.

Why? Well, like Keely says, it’s to do with Milla Albuquerque. From there, I don’t spell too much out. I’m not interested in having these two characters, who clearly know each other deeply, conveniently lay out their cards on the table as if the other person doesn’t know. I want oblique references, I want the bare minimum. I know that might not be great for all readers, but it gives this scene what I wanted – familiarity between the two men. I want the reader to finish this page and know how these guys interact, and what their overall beef is. Eric screwed up, he’s his own problem, and Keely has to come check up on him.

I also gave them takeaway coffees for two reasons. One, it keeps them busy. They can sip, or brood over the steam, or spill their coffee, or throw it away over the side. This is action through which we can continue to tell the story. When Kelly spills his coffee making a point in Eric’s face, you feel it.

And, two, these coffees mean Keely stopped on his way there to get 2 coffees. That’s a stand up move, and deserves a little respect.

PAGE NINE

Here we drop that bomb that Eric’s isolated here for some kind of protection, and protection FOR others. It’s a bizarro witness protection program. I think I had recently read Darwyn Cooke’s SLAYGROUND adaptation from the Richard Stark novel and the fairground as crime scene idea was juicing in my brain.

I think I would have scripted this two page interaction about two dozen times. Never able to make the Jenga fit into place, never quite happy with it. But where we got it to, I am happy with it. This was given a final script after the colours came in. I was tweaking this whole sequence right down to the wire. Because you always know when it’s second best [or for a while, it was maybe fifth best], and in indie comics there is no excuse to not take the time, get it right, and then happily move on.

The moment of Eric working out how to break free is also obliquely set up and explained. Eric has this little ball, like a geotag, where they were tracking him. He’s found it, removed it [with a knife, I guess], and now he’s unfettered, and with a mission. Which I want you all to connect/assume involves Milla :]

Then we cut to the final 3 panels and Sami absolutely nails these. The ease with which he shows flow. The inset panel of Keely dead, and that gorgeous sky from Tree. This is a 2 page talking heads scene, and yet Tree and Sami make it feel like so much more.

But do you know the science of what’s going on – how’s that tag work, what happened to Keely specifically? Well, maybe wait and see…

PAGE TEN

This page, and sequence, slowly came around to become something I dearly love. Lon laying her heart out on the line, a truthful and honest moment. She’s on an old ass phone because anachronisms please me. And she’s eating noodles because that’s what Rick Deckard would do. Truly.

This is just Lon talking, but hopefully you’re also gleaning some information – the time frame, Lon’s feelings. I dig the pacing of the flashback, and that final panel with the restaurant finally established is my way of finally pulling back from Lon. We’ve been up close [and personal] with Lon, so it was time to see the world around her a little bit again.

And I only use the L word when I mean it, and I write Lon like she’s the same.

PAGE ELEVEN

That loaded pause leads to one of my favourite bits of this comic. I can remember coming up with the idea that Lon was rehearsing on an empty phone line. I was stoked to have a little more business on the phone that wasn’t just Lon and Asia actually talking. It gave it more of a cycle.

Lon’s views of love are her own and in no way represent the company to which she is contracted.

I was glad I built all that white space in the middle, a gap in which our two leads find a quiet space to talk. So I built that gap in the middle into things. And then I kept redrafting as I went along, always refining. I find I constantly was refining and redrafting dialogue in this book to give enough information away, but never at the expense of character. Who they are, and why they are, matters more to me than actually what they do. So you sub one for the other whenever you can – or both at the same time if you are good enough, and I so rarely am.

PAGE TWELVE

I couldn’t figure out how to cut to after their conversation – I wanted to give them privacy. Sometimes, you get more power from not hearing the specifics, I think. The caption came to me and it feels helpful in an odd way – because a 5 minute and 8 second conversation is a long one in my books. Certainly long enough for Lon. And I like how it reads on the page.

Then we get this layered scene that is my meagre attempt at what I like to call “JAWS scripting.” It’s where conversations occur in the foreground and background and you don’t need to hear all of both of them, you just need the general idea of both. So we get this lovely back and forth between Lon and Alex, because they’re bonding, and I want them to become tight. This means whatever I do to them later on will hold some gravity.

And against this, we have the waitress, who seemed so damn nice, reporting back to…someone.

Vague, or annoying – you decide.

PAGE THIRTEEN

Yes, truly meet Milla Albuquerque.

That pot plant with the ‘Believe’ written on it is totally stolen from my office. I have the exact same thing. But Tree coloured this one green, so it looks better than what I’ve got.

Then we cut to Milla and I dig the stance Sami gave her, and the triangle framing, but mostly I just love that skyline. That’s Sami and Tree just being electric gods together. And I think it’s enough to maybe distract from the blood on that watering can, maybe.

This page is quite simply a thesis on how Milla operates, and how she views the world, and what Lon is working against. Milla lumps gardening in with revenge and love and every emotion and action is just an ingredient for her – just a colour on her palette. If you marry this mindset against Milla hiring Lon to kill Alex, and most likely having hired her to kill plenty of other people, then you get a fairly decent insight into Milla. I don’t connect all those dots here for you, but I guess some readers will, and I thank them for it. I also hope they enjoyed the work, and the results they get.

Then we get that hand in the pot. That was a visual that came to me instantly when wanting to really reveal and introduce Milla. I may have been missing HANNIBAL from our screens. You know, that show about beautiful mayhem and blood? Yeah, it’s informed Milla in quirky little ways.

PAGE FOURTEEN

Panel Two is the stronghold here. Milla divulges exactly what Lon was sent to kill Alex for. It was a test.

A test for what, you ask?

Well, maybe by the end of #1, and certainly by the start of #2, you’ll have enough to piece together what was supposed to happen.

And as for Moore, he gets hinted at, and then Milla pretty straight up explains his connection into this story. Because I can’t always hide everything from view.

The final panel of Milla saying “People just want to die for their craft” is my best attempt at a BKV page ender, albeit incredibly subtly. Y’see, she’s talking about Moore’s tenacity, but she’s also hinting at the fact the guy hung up in front of her has voluntarily put himself into this position. He’s down with being a part of Milla’s beautiful canvas.

See, I told you it was subtle.

PAGE FIFTEEN

I absolutely love all of these weird fuckers.

Why are they here? Well, because I want this world to be weird. Not by having every single element and thing weird, but by showing that weird resides in it. They also exist as a subtle hint to the fact this world has started experimenting on people. There are ways to make people more than human. This opens up the story for the final page of this issue, and the crux of the problem at the heart of the story, and we make this a lot more concrete in the back matter page of The Truth.

You can also blame this scene on PREDATOR. I love that intro scene of the ensemble, so I did my best to poorly ape it here. Writing these freaks was a lot of fun, and a chance to try out a few voices I would never use to headline a comic, but that intrigue me nonetheless. The bird guy’s sqwarks are my favourite, by far.

Plus, that bottom panel with the moon and the cloud and the kick ass car. A hell of a thing to behold.

PAGE SIXTEEN

I love ELO. I think Dan Hill secretly loves Ello. Blame him for the joke, it was his idea [at which I LOL’ed and put it straight into the script]. It’s also yet another nod to this reality being different. Ello became the titan in this story.

I love Sami’s design for this car, and you see how it works in action here and it’s just glorious. Then I cut this moment with a panel of Asia talking to Lon on the phone in the past because I want you to feel the stakes of this moment for Lon. I want to ensure we are all on the same page – perhaps this is one of my few times of overtly handing across information in this book. Even though I’m still not giving much away.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

Poor Lon. Getting her ass kicked like a good pulp lead. These freaks giving her a good ol’ tenderising, and I need them to be good at it because I need her knocked out.

That panel at the bottom where she’s landing on her head/neck, man, that body language from Sami is dynamite. Those legs are all over the place.

Also note the fine as silk SFX from Ryan Ferrier.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

Meet Moore.

This guy sucks.

Which is why I intro him in such a predatory manner. The guy’s just filth. As he talks to himself, you should get a feel for who he is.

I dig the little moment of the assistant handing the phone across to Milla and she’s over it, and over Moore. Her flippant line sets up their relationship in totality. She kinda hates him, totally needs him, will be vitriolic towards him, but she’ll keep him around, and obviously for a reason. He’s good at his job.

PAGE NINETEEN

Oh, also, the 6 panel grid on these pages. I love the 6 panel grid, but have never really written for it. Sami nails it for this sequence, proving once again he’s smarter and more useful than me.

This is the needle scratch moment for Milla. She was assuming Moore would check in with footage of Lon attacked by Alex after the hit occurred. Or, maybe as a test to see if Lon could still do it. Instead, she’s told neither option occurred, and the plot has swerved away from her. This scene serves a purpose, to make everything clear to Milla, but it also allows us this character interaction, which in itself unpacks these characters more.

Then you see that elephant chair and you realise Dan Hill is really one hell of an editor for suggesting it. Whereas the business with Moore and the pizza is all me. Because he’s just that callous – eating her old food, and stepping over her dead body. Like I said, he’s pure filth. But even filth is art if presented right, right?

PAGE TWENTY

Look at Off-Brand Killer Croc with his Liefeld pouches going to use housing his mobile phone.

Lon gets a little GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS on the phone, and we don’t know to whom she is speaking. That’s on purpose, because maybe you just can’t trust anyone moving forward. Maybe it’s Milla doing a funny voice, maybe it’s her flunky, maybe it’s Asia, maybe it’s Alex…?

You’ll have to wait and see.

Sami with the inset panels of character deaths. Absolutely dynamite. And man did I have to work hard to figure out how each one died, and if one could maybe be alive for later as an Act IV come back. But, no, they are all dead here.

PAGE TWENTY ONE AND TWENTY TWO

And again we fracture the structure and take you back to that first scene, that fateful phone call Lon had with Asia. I hope readers are keeping up by this stage. Because that opening page, now, it should hold even more weight. It’s the moment Lon finds out she’s going to be a parent and she’s just killed this other kid and she’s just mentally crumbling, and so this moment has ghosted over the entire issue. This is her dilemma, this is her fear.

That concept of just breaking a shitty burner phone in half will always take me back to Mike in BREAKING BAD. Such a boss move.

So Lon runs off to find Alex, and when she does, he’s this dangerous little creature. He’s got them iron fists glowing, there’s something wrong with him, and there’s something wrong with Lon. It’s a dangerous moment to pause on.

I want you guessing about what comes next. I want you interested, and worried, and intrigued. I want you invested in what happens in the next moments. Because from what you know of Lon, she’s unhinged, and dangerous, but she’s also clinical and rocked by enough death this week.

Can I also say, that image of Alex with the flame hands, and the red mist beyond the trees, man, it’s killed me to not share that image online because I’m so in love with it. Also kinda proud of that Movie Title panel I dropped in there.

And that’s the first issue. I hope it sells the next 3, right?

BACK MATTER

Truth, Beauty, Erudition – choose one

Coming up with Back matter Essay titles is hard to do, but damn if it isn’t fun. HEADSPACE had ‘Brain Waves’ and CHUM had ‘Get In the Fucking Sea’ [which always made me smile]. And this has the above, which I am still happy with – which is the main test to pass.

These pages will just be me being truthful, unpacking my head a little, and connecting with you personally [I hope]. This one was fun to write.

JAM SESSIONS

But then you get to turn the page and see Sami Kivela draw Philip K Dick and you know all is right in the world. This pin up is so gorgeous, I’d already preordered it from Sami before he even drew it. It’s my favourite author, and my favourite artist, jamming together, in a book that’s my best thing so far. I needed this in my life, and it’s already proudly on my office wall. I’d told him about the essay series we were thinking of doing, and hit him up to do a spot illo for it, Sean Phillips style, and he just dominated it.

The fact it’s followed by a Jam Session between me and longtime top mate Dan Hill is just pure candy in my pocket. I love chatting to Dan about stuff, he always makes me smarter, and I love doing these, so the whole back matter selection just fills me with gleeful joy.

THE TRUTH

Then there’s THE TRUTH page, which was a dumb idea I had, that Sami didn’t have time to execute – and then we did it anyway :]

I’ve made this page completely non-essential to the narrative, but gee it slips a lot of little hints in there you might like to further enjoy this world we’ve built. These newspapers are ‘in world’ items showcased here for us all to look at and enjoy, but also to study. Each story is picked for a specific reason, and they’ve been crazy fun to write.

And that’s the comic. If you picked it up, thank you. If you enjoyed it, well, thank you muchly. If you’ve told your mates, shared the good word, lent it out to a mate – that’s the good work from on high you deliver, praise be.

This comic is a work of passion, and it exists because the creative team is committed to making comics. We love that you wanna read comics, and read about comics, too. Thanks, and we’ll see you in 4 weeks for #2 – the opening pages are just dynamite.

%d bloggers like this: