Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Category: comics

STAIN THE SEAS SCARLET – Meet and Greet

My next one-shot comic is a spacesuit noir revenge tale with Alex Cormack called STAIN THE SEAS SCARLET and it’s coming to Kickstarter next week, for the whole of November.

I’m in love with this book and I want you to fall in love, too, so here’s a little meet and greet for you to get to know everyone and everything about it:

ALEX CORMACK

Hot on the heels of his titanic launching of indie runaway success SINK with writer John Lees at ComixTribe, we steal Alex away for one issue and he brings everything to these pages. His inks were phenomenal, and then he coloured himself and made some insanely great choices. This book looks this good because he’s an artist worth knowing, following, and falling in love with.

Here’s a panel of our spacesuited lead using a gravity well around her fist to draw in nefarious nanoblobs to use them against her attackers.

HASSAN OTSMANE-ELHAOU

The brains behind the analytical masterpieces StripPanelNaked and PanelXPanel can also letter. The amount of intellect he’s brought to this comic is amazing and everything is 1000x better because of his inclusion in the book.

Here’s our opening panel.

YELENA

Our lead character, and she’s a bruiser. Her planet is being terraformed by invading android weirdo armies and she’s fought the good fight and now is making one last Hail Mary play.

I’ve loved writing Yelena and I think a lot of people are going to love her after they read this issue.

PLATH

Our story’s villain, or, the lead villain representing a villainous regime. It’s hard to pin down exactly what Plath is – robot, techno-organic 80s video nasty, fleshy intergalactic Cronenberg nightmare – so it’s better to judge Plath by actions, not words. And Plath is nasty, just soullessly nasty. The kind of soulless nasty we need to defeat in the world in 2017.

And that’s really all you need to know. I could tell you more about Yelena’s planet, but it’s pretty well fubar. I could explain how Yelena’s sister figures into this, but I’d rather that be a surprise. And I won’t recount what the robot army are like as a whole because if Plath is their leader then you know something’s rotting in Intergalactic Denmark.

Though it might be sensible to introduce myself, I suppose.

RYAN K LINDSAY

I’m a writer. This is my sixth Kickstarter campaign. I’ve written for Dark Horse, Black Mask, Vertigo, IDW, ComixTribe, and my own imprint which this comic will be on – Four Colour Ray Gun.

I hope you like all the ingredients that have gone into this book and we’ll see you next week when we launch, and launch strong.

Stay tuned!

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STAIN THE SEAS SCARLET – Coming Soon to Kickstarter

STAIN THE SEAS SCARLET is a spacesuit noir revenge one-shot from Alex Cormack and me that’s coming to Kickstarter in November.

This 22 page standalone one-shot comic is completely finished and we’ll be running a digital only campaign for it next month. It follows Yelena, a resistance warrior realising the terraforming robot army has won, but that’s no reason to give up.

You can get the comic, or some digital extras – in the usual style you’ll know well if you’ve backed any of my 5 previously successful campaigns – and then there’ll be great art opportunities, other fun stuff, and plenty of digital extras unlocked as we cruise past our funding goal and beyond.

We’re going to be hunting for $3000 so I’ll let you know particulars you should keep an eye out for in the lead up to this so we can launch with a strong day and no one misses out on the good stuff they wanted right away – there’s gonna be OG art, and a cover commission you will not want to miss if you’re putting together your own comic projects.

I’m excited to release this comic because Alex Cormack’s art in it is completely wild and you’re going to fall in love, this I promise.

RKL Annotations – BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #4

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

Issue #4 is on shelves right now and it’s our final issue. We started a tale, and now it’s done. Read the Murder Book rap sheet below.

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

You’d almost be fooled into thinking this cover was simple. There’s so much black, and white, and only 3 real elements, but it’s all about the composition of this one for me. Lon’s body language is, as always, perfect. The flame trail just represents so much, and we went through a few colour scheme to get this just right, and this is definitely just right. Then the skyline caps it off, the city she’s saving now something behind her. It’s saved, but she’s walking away.

And that skyline is gorgeous, got shades of Frank Miller in my heart, and I love it so.

This cover might just be my favourite; it’s up there with #2.

PAGE ONE

This opening panel was so easy for me to write, and I’m a bastard, but hot damn it’s worth it to see Sami draw his own version of a helicarrier. That design, Tree’s amazing colours on the vehicle as well as the sky, and then that one caption, and this panel stands alone as something I think we nailed 100%. It sets a tone I’m really happy with for the events of this issue.

We then cut to Milla in a moment where she seems like she’s breaking the fourth wall. She’s not, but I love that it seems that way. Because she’s right, we are indeed entering the final act of the main narrative.

The reveal of Milla in her ship with Asia and Alex was a time jump I know is a gamble. We left things with Lon shooting Alex and now we’re moving forward in time. We explain what happened, in rough terms, but this is my big fear that it’ll throw people off. But I like playing with time. Issues #2-3 actually went back a few seconds between the end of one, and the start of the next, the flashback notwithstanding. But this jumps hours ahead. I hope people don’t mind missing the “action” in between, because it was actually just boring stuff and as such i didn’t want to write it. Showing your pieces move across the board isn’t always as exciting as revealing the pieces in a dangerous situation.

These fluid filled tanks from Sami/Tree are gorgeous. Milla would absolutely have this weird stuff on standby.

PAGE TWO

I had to get across the idea that Asia is there keeping Alex alive by subduing his mind while the fire has just about consumed his body. I do this by having her monologue at a comatose Asia. I should have had someone else in the room with Milla. Another wolf soldier. Someone to ask pointed questions as to what they could do, so I didn’t need to have Milla stating things outright, which I really tried to not do here so I know it’ll be oblique to those not reading deeply.

I love Ferrier’s balloon tail in that second panel. Subtle, but amazing.

Panel three has Milla continue her monologue ,which I do enjoy, and she lays out her plan. This is everything she’s going to do. Simply because she’s nuts. Like some kind of Willy Wonka Bond Villain. Hence the “We will be the makers of music.” line.

PAGE THREE

I scripted new dialogue over this page a million times. Literally. I hit 999,999 times, and then did one more pass.

This was more fear that readers wouldn’t get what had happened with the time jump. This was in response to reviews saying the book was great, but wasn’t laying out answers with clarity. So I squeaked some info in here as to what’s happened since the last issue, and I wonder how it’ll land.

This page is Lon and Eric in the midst of it. Everything is jumping off and they need to launch into the final fray. Eric knows how to do this, which becomes really clear in the coming pages.

PAGE FOUR

Eric triggering some new marks is the big play on this page, but the underscore is Lon’s look at him, and the look on his own face. She doesn’t trust him right here, and he’s beyond caring. He’s enjoying the road as he feels like it’s maybe leading towards an end.

PAGE FIVE

I know there’s a lot of violence in this book, and maybe we’re desensitised to it, but Eric killing these two is a complete dick move. Lon’s reaction is my reaction, she’s the only person left in this story who’s still a normal functioning human, which is funny because she was a hitwoman not long before this.

Time changes you and your outlook on life. Sometimes you don’t even see the change sneaking up on you.

And Eric drops an open sentence for the page change two in a row…

PAGE SIX

The dropship coming down is an opportunity for narrative movement. Eric’s way of handling entrance to it is a character moment. The wolf soldiers coming out of the dropship is a gonzo moment.

I like that they loom at the bottom of the page, bringing such weird threat with them, and then we deal with them in one big moment next page.

PAGE SEVEN

Eric using his power here to throw the car isn’t an insight to us, but it is to Lon. We have to remember that. This is a moment where not having captions left me out in the cold a bit, haha.

This whole moment is Eric’s Raiders of the Lost Ark moment where Indy shoots the guy with the sword. Why drag shit out when you can be efficient and effective. The look on Eric’s face at the end sells it all. Good ol’ Sami and his facial expressions, always the best in show.

PAGE EIGHT

Okay, this page is a masterpiece. This is the sort of thing that comes from knowing your collaborator, and collaborating with Sami Kivela. This page gets me excited to read comics, no less make them.

Realistically, there was a lot to unpack here, and showing lots of intricacies was going to clag up the whole works. So I asked Sami if we could do something fun here and he’s always down to be the best creator on the page, so he ran with it.

The overall layout is a thing of beauty, but it’s the little things, the details that prove Sami is the GOAT on this one. The panel with Eric using his hand wave to twist a wolf’s head around is genius, and the panel of the wolf being shot back and we see the cockpit behind it is insanely good. Sami is always thinking. His geography is flawless.

Our two leads then step into the cockpit and Tree changes the lighting, and thus the mood. Spectacular. And here, finally, Lon decided there’s a moment for them to talk and work out where they are standing. She’s been put onto uneven ground and she needs to get stability back to her world.

PAGE NINE

It’s interesting to note that Eric starts off by telling the truth. That stuff is all real. Then he starts to swerve, obfuscate, and straight up lie. But we do learn that the hit troupe from #1 was orchestrated by Eric, so that’s one Q A’ed. Then Eric gets back into the truth, that Alex represents a beginning, he’s the fuse, and it’s all about to get big.

The final line is really the summation of Milla’s plan. People looking deeper won’t find anything, this is just her expressing herself. As humans want to do, and are usually allowed to.

PAGE TEN

I love the geometrical design of this page. It’s kind of an inverted triangle, but the point at the bottom is an explosion of Milla’s full form. And the top is actually not a straight line, it’s wiggly, it’s erratic. It all reflects Milla getting things sorted, getting her place in line, and then it all points to her. It’s all for her.

This page IS Milla Albuquerque.

By this stage of the story, I’ve truly doubled down on Milla’s propensity to monologue to herself. She thinks theatrically, she lives that way, despite the lack of an audience, because she is her own audience. This is all for her, no one else. So you can’t silence a voice that doesn’t need to be heard, and you can’t hide her away or muffle what’s coming out because that’s not the point. Milla is all about doing it and enjoying it, the expression means much more than the reception.

Which is actually a good way to create art. Being dependent on the reactions of others is a dire way to put things into the world, but being able to be satisfied yourself in what you’ve done is wildly liberating. It’s insane, and also misses the point of art on so many levels, but it would also be so so much easier.

As Lon and Eric fight closer to her, she waits and honestly looks forward to it all. She has no idea what’s going to happen, but she’s down for whatever.

PAGE ELEVEN

I packed so much into this page and Sami handled it all like a boss.

Milla is honest, she really does love what she’s created with these two.

Then she lets slip the big news moving forward – she can’t be allowed to die because it’ll awaken every pyrokinetic sleeper agent on her books. Which we know is a lot.

The escalation from entrance to the shot nearly hitting Lon’s head is too quick, I think, but it’s what we’ve got, and the rest of the pages all flow a lot better, so it gets us where we need to go and be.

PAGE TWELVE

And Eric finally reveals himself a little more. He’s not just here for the good times, he’s here to turn on Lon and kill Alex. Initially when he pinched off her suit he was going to crush her arm off and she’d be left with a bionic arm at the end of the story, but it didn’t work well for this scene to have her bleeding out insanely from the loss of a limb, so I scrapped it.

Then we end the page with the truth all tumbling out. Because Milla knows all about it…

PAGE THIRTEEN

Eric’s daughter is already dead. He’s lied about her. And if you paid attention to when Eric searched for his daughter, Eve Robinson, in the camera, you now know why he wanted to drop everything and watch that footage so much.

Was it worth discovering this now and then a reread will play that scene differently? Well, I hope so, ha.

Milla gets words and Panel Five is clearly too wordy, but I liked all the words, so bugger it – in they remained. So Milla explains it all to Lon in a page, and she also drops the fact that Eric’s daughter is also her daughter, and the way we do that means, yes, I want you paying attention. Read. Every. Word.

The final panel is all about Milla finally making a connection with Lon – she’s hinting that Lon’s daughter is a sleeper agent also. Again: I’m not gonna have her state it all in so many words. I just can’t bring myself to do that, but I hope people jump into this with me [my rally cry since issue #1 – I want people interrogating these pages].

Also, that negative space in the bottom is the best. Love how empty it is, and where Ferrier drops the caption.

PAGE FOURTEEN

Eric slings the bullet away and reveals his inner truth – he feels like they’re all damned. He feels this because Milla made him something else, and that caused the death of his daughter, and I was never ever gonna show you what happened, because the idea of it should be enough to give you chills. What a horrible turn of events, and I hope it sticks in your guts.

At this stage, Asia has awakened – presumably the shooting at Alex jolted him which caused reverb back into Asia, so she’s here, and she leaps at Eric’s back like Voorhees coming outta the lake in Part I and she floods Eric’s mind with Eve. This is what pauses the whole situation, which also allowed the pause off Alex. Unfortunately.

Lon screams for Asia to return to Alex, because she knows this will kill him, and she’s torn on that front, but Asia is resolute, and she’s making the bigger decision that Lon hasn’t been able to.

PAGE FIFTEEN

All points converge through Lon’s POV as she sees the three things before her, and must choose what will live and what will not.

Excuse me, the FOUR things before her.

Then Lon makes her decision, in as few words as possible. Again, trying to keep things clean and not overexplain. Let her actions speak more than anything else. So into the uncontrolled fire goes Eric. And so too does Lon, hoping she’ll survive.

The thick white section is time passing and that’s the kind of thing you can script all you want, but the whole team has to work to pull it off. Thankfully, Sami changes up the angles on the shot for the next panel, and Tree dominates with her colours, and the result is a very clear transition of time.

That movie caption came very late in the game. I wasn’t listening to the song though, I promise.

This final panel is so well laid out, so much space around the characters, so much world still out there hogging the frame. And their words are going to be true forever and for everything moving forward.

PAGE SIXTEEN

I scripted this page as a conversation. I had to get it all out. Then I edited it. Then I broke it across panels. Then Sami wanted to kill me. But then he came around on this stupid over-panelled idea. And then, once drawn, I edited the script again. Thinking about the truth of the moment, the stuff that was Capital N Needed, and also thinking of Ferrier on letters, ha. These are the beautiful moments of collaboration.

I also dig how that final panel runs full down into the bleed, as Lon looks back into the zephyr. That’s art storytelling well beyond my pay grade.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

This kind of summarises how to combat trolls, and how to fight against the world, and how to stay upright through the resistance. Tl;dr – fear is for fools, and fear is their tool.

Lon is completely resolute here in this sequence. My idea is that ever since she found out she’d be a mother, Lon has grappled with violence. She wanted to step away from it, she wanted to rise above it, be better than it. A parent protects.

But, the thing is, protection can be a violent game. Retribution can occur, and you can’t always remain passive. We hope and wish for such a thing, but it’s just not true. It sucks, but it’s not always an option. Lon finally understands that, she realises violence doesn’t mean you aren’t protecting, and parents aren’t a passive shield. So she steps up to make the world a better place, for her kid, but also just in general.

This page is the culmination of Lon’s growth.

The zig zag of the final tier of panels is glorious as it focuses on Lon, and the movement, and not the actual violence.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

And so Milla becomes the one with the metal plumage now. That whole throne, her death, everything was built to this moment of flipping the intro.

The rest of the page is Lon dealing with the cathartic pain of what she’s become, and the world in which she has to become in. And Sami handles it all perfectly. The absolute carnage of Alex and Eric, and her one delicate hand says it all. She’s accepting, but that’s still a painful internal transformation to undergo.

Beside Lon, always with her, is Asia. Accepting, supporting, they are a team. As good parents should be. While the world twirls around them, they must hold fast. Their one true goal is the same, and becoming violent, seeing the world vastly change with these sleepers awakened all around, this changes nothing for a parent.

A parent protects their child, that’s the job. Protect, teach, lead, love.

PAGE NINETEEN

The future is safe. It’s unsafe for man people, but the actual concept of the future, the time ahead, is safe now. Things can still be amazing.

That part is probably just wishful thinking from me. I’m happy to cop to that.

This final image is the close of the story, really. The zephyr floats above, the city burns below, and will only get worse, and our two ladies are allowed a moment. Because if you pull back enough, you’ll see the world is a melting pot of emotion and action, and yet we endure. We find a way to move forward and find a way. We have to, there is no other option.

You search it out, you carve your own space, and you make a little piece of the universe yours. This is what Lon learn and hopefully we do, too. Keep moving and defend yourself, your ideals, and your love forever. Because on the horizon, you’ll find your island.

PAGE TWENTY

Okay, Coda time.

I always love a good coda. And I came up with the brainchild that because it’s a coda, we could use a different storytelling method. So we were allowed to use captions. But not just any captions, we could go crazy, use big arcs of words like BWS did in WEAPON X. man, I loved writing these pages.

This coda is Lon applying her lesson, showing us she’s going to be alright, she hasn’t forgotten.

It also teases out what’s happened in the aftermath of this mess: people are hunting the names of the sleeper agents, because some have managed to go dormant, and that scares people. But should it?

Isn’t acceptance the key, much like Lon told Milla. Fear is the problem, so remove it’s teeth. So Lon wait, ready to act, if needed, but happy not to if she can avoid it.

Also, dig that bear design, obvs influenced by Weapon X as well.

PAGE TWENTY ONE

We get the time frame now because we see Asia’s belly. We can see months have floated by, and the world is still there. Lon and Asia are still there.

Asia gets to describe the flipside to Milla’s beautiful canvas, which makes the title of the story take on a new meaning now, I hope. Every person’s beautiful canvas is the life they create, that they foster, and respect, and love, and craft for the future.

As these two bicker, as lovers are wont to do, we see Alex as a spectre, but a rather content one. This is the personification of Lon’s state of mind. She’s able to come to grips with her past, all of it, and understand it all in a broader lifelong, worldwide context.

Which builds us to the final page…

PAGE TWENTY TWO

I love playing the end against the beginning, and I’m 100% happy with how we’ve done it here. This is a wheel turn, but the wheel has advanced, so it’s the same, but it’s different. This is life.

I also can’t overstate how much Tree’s colours bring this whole moment home. They are such a difference from the opening page of 31 – and that blue horizon behind them calms me and makes me smile every damn time.

The book on the table is another Argento jam. I’ll let you google it, but know it’s not chosen for specific reference to story moments here, but more as just a neat bookend, and important because Lon has put that book down. She’s moved onto something new, a little less violent and horrific. But the book is still there, ready to be picked up, if needed.

Ending with “This has been THE BEAUTIFUL CANVAS” was something I thought up and then couldn’t not do. It brought it all together for me.

And that’s the story. Many have asked if I will do a sequel, and you can see here that people survived, so I really could, but I don’t have anything to say as yet. Lon’s lesson is so important, and is so complete here that I’ve certainly closed the door on this. But I’d be interested in coming back to the characters a decade later, as the wheel has turned many times, and see how they are coping, how the world has transformed as it’s moved on, and what their daughter is like.

Hell, I’d give her a sibling, without this curse, and see what family drama that breeds.

Now that I think about it…hrmm…

BACK MATTER

Truth, Beauty, Erudition – choose one

Fun, as always. And always nice to gush about your amazing team when they so clearly deserve it.

JAM SESSIONS

Okay, this one was a beast. I don’t know what I expected when Dan Hill and I entered a room to talk about Matt Fraction. Maybe we should have limited ourselves to just 1-3 books. Maybe. But probably not.

Matt Fraction looms over most of my work, and not always in ways you might expect. I just dig his work ethic, his devotion, the fact he’s busy as hell and manages it, and his quality. I don’t specifically want to write books like him – I don’t think I could, nor should, nor would. I want to write RKL books, but I want to always strive for more, so he helps me think of what that ethereal more might look like.

There’s too much to cover, but this might be my favourite Jam Session we’ve done yet. Or maybe it’s the worst, I don’t know. But I enjoyed it, and I hope you dig it, and if it gets you to try out one Fraction book you hadn’t before, then it’ll have all been worth it.

Also: daaaamn, that Kivela illo. Love it, as always.

THE TRUTH

Fraction took all the space, so we scrapped this. But I have one written. Maybe we’ll put it in the tpb.

And that’s us done. How sad, how wonderful. If you came this far, especially with the annotations, you are wonderful. Thank you.

There will be a tpb collection of BEAUTIFUL CANVAS at some stage. I know when, but can’t confirm just yet – set phasers for 2018 and some present buying for your smart friends, though. I will tell you when I can, because you should buy 5 and give them out at birthdays and for Xmas and such because it’s probably a safe bet your friends didn’t get it already, and if they are your friends then they are probably smart enough to get it and good looking enough to love it. Just like you are.

But until then, thank you.

BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #4 – Out This Week!

And so our beautiful tale ends.

Lon Eisley has come a long long way, baby. This issue sees the end of our story, and I guarantee there’s a tonne to chew on in this issue, as well as one hell of a satisfying final page.

For those who have followed us on this journey this year, we thank you and hope you dig the book on NCBD.

Illustrated by Sami Kivela

Written by Ryan K Lindsay

Coloured by Triona Farrell

Lettered by Ryan Ferrier

Edited by Dan Hill

Published by Black Mask Comics

Enjoy.

RKL Annotations – BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #3

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

Issue #3 was shifted back a week, but distance [of time] makes the heart grow fonder, right?

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

Sami came up with a bunch of those little warning signs for the cover and eventually chose the best ones to use. I love that Sami’s brain is constantly cooking when you collaborate with him. He’s such a gentlemen, and a crazy genius to boot.

I love that the gorgeous exosuit Sami designed gets some play here.

PAGE ONE

This page didn’t exist for a few drafts. I cut straight to Lon launching out the window to open this issue, and I’m glad now I didn’t. This flashback isn’t much on narrative, but it sets a character tone, and we get to call back to it later, so it pleases me so.

That idea of having a wide white bar down the side and putting text into it is very obviously something I stole from Brubaker’s work on KILL OR BE KILLED. I won’t try and hide that influence. And I’m actually happy with the excerpt from the book Lon is reading – sometimes those words never come to me, and sometimes they work. These one work [for me].

Seeing the girl twice playing on this page, when you know she dies in a minute, gets more heartbreaking every time I read this page.

PAGE TWO

Dig that exosuit superheavy design by Sami, and Tree coloured the hell out of it. Writing this sort of stuff is the absolute best part of the job.

Also really love how Sami timed this page to match with the final page of #2 so it makes sense for it to have happened and worked out. Sami’s layouts are genius for this kind of thing. You can also see that ghost reflection in one of the shards of glass and realise that Sami is damn well capable of anything on a page.

PAGE THREE

Choreographing everyone on this page did my head in during the planning stage. Who was going to react, how, where, why, and what would it leave them doing and where?

In the end, I don’t think this is my strongest page. It gets Asia moving out of the scene. It gets Eric to see Milla in the chopper, but it doesn’t do much more. It’s a bit thin, really. I like the pacing of Eric’s lines, and the passage they take, but they aren’t doing much.

“I’ll do better next time” is all we can say, right?

PAGE FOUR

Whereas this page certainly does something. We reveal this idea of ‘sleeper agents’ that Milla has access to and can activate. This should answer certain questions the answer might have been holding onto. Does it grab their face and scream the answer into their retinas? No. I want you to piece it all together. But it’s all here, coming to light.

THEY BOTH YIELD is a prime example of the way I’m giving info out. That title clearly tells you what I think of both of these characters, but it won’t say it outright. I refuse, and I hope you don’t mind.

PAGE FIVE

This page reveals Alex has run away from Lon, but we don’t show you Lon on the car, coming to, without him until the next page. Again, just the way I like to roll things out. I’m sure it’ll throw too curvy a ball for 1 in 10, but I think the rest won’t mind.

That plant horse is just madness, right? I sometimes feel like I could throw anything at Sami and he’d nail it. Also love that pink background Tree dropped on the mayhem. Makes it pop in all kinds of funky ways for your mind.

PAGE SIX

This is an instance of a boring page – Lon wakes, she gets picked up by Asia, they move to where the action is going to be – and yet I’m completely happy with it, and here’s why.

I used the page to show a little more about Lon, and even Asia.

Lon stares down the ghost of the girl she killed, and she walks away mid-sentence. She’s trying her damnedest to move on.

And Asia has just stepped up to show herself as this rad sci fi bike riding lady of action who isn’t going to back down from the situation. She’s going to stand by her girl.

The way Sami paced out Asia picking up Lon is really well done, and that bike is just crazy gorgeous. I think flying bikes are my new trope.

PAGE SEVEN

Okay, we see that Alex is a super danger to everyone around him, we get Lon and Asia moving to the scene, and we start to connect Eric and Milla. This page does stuff, but I’m not crazy excited by how it does it. It’s perfunctory, it’s just doing what it has to do. I did struggle with this page in the script, because I had characters who needed to get into position, and I had to place them into position, and that’s kinda all I did.

The sfx of the helicopter being dragged down into the road was my idea – and I’m not certain I made the right call with it.

I didn’t notice Sami snuck a CHUM Easter Egg into Panel Three.

Also: don’t ask me the timeframe on Eric getting to the downed chopper just after Lon and Asia zoom away.

PAGE EIGHT

Sami draws the best faces. His angry Alex is a sight to behold. That he can go from humanity to wild sci fi destruction in half a page consistently excites me. He’s an illustrator who is limitless, and writing for that is as much fun as it is anxiety inducing. You never want to waste what you’ve got.

The way Triona handles the building corner falling, and the pink background building to an emotional retaliation is lovely. Every panel always has so much feeling in it.

PAGE NINE

That big mess of rubble and a map is why artists hate writers.

I’m sure colourists hate writer, too.

Basically, writers are dicks.

But this page looks so good, and gives us such information, and it’s funky in a way only comics can do so beautifully. We get our guy saving himself, and then a showdown with Alex, and then fire across the page. There’s tension and time and space on this page. Sami did a great job with the duelling fire across the bottom, and we crosscut with Eric’s conversation with Milla just to layer in a bit more, and draw both scenes together a little bit.

PAGE TEN

People have wanted answers, and this page is what it looks like to get answers from me. Milla is somewhat oblique about it all, but she’s also laying a lot out on the line here. What she’s doing is clear, and the scope to which she is doing it. The rest of the page isn’t very razzle-dazzle, but you need to focus on these words. I need you to understand what’s going on.

PAGE ELEVEN

Milla gets one last dig in at Eric, about spreading who he is, and then we introduce Moore to the scene. Because things have to finally move on – you can see I’d be horrible at writing a 5 page sequence of talking heads because I’d constantly worry I was losing the reader. All i ever do is worry about these pages – is it too boring, is it too confusing, is it too lame…reframe, repeat.

Eric’s action against Moore is harsh, maybe not well thought through, but he’s operating from emotion now. Milla got under his skin.

PAGE TWELVE

Hot damn Sami and Tree know how to create pain and scope for their firefights. Especially with those inset panels, they make you linger, they drag you into the smoke and hold you there.

Asia drops a little more exposition – because the facts are rolled out slowly, and she has a plan. We also know she’s gutsy enough to try it, too.

PAGE THIRTEEN

I love the colours on this page, the heat of the yellow. You feel it all.

Then we get that panel, and Asia Prof X’s into Alex’s head. For me, she’s looking in there here and seeing a representation of what he feels. It’s not literal, how many of our thoughts and feelings ever are? But it’s the monster he feels he’s become in this short amount of time, it’s this horrible dragon he feels affinity with – which is a problem because he saw his mother as the dragon, too. He’s blaming her for what he’s becoming, which is totally unfair and untrue.

So Asia gets knocked down and we get yet more inset panels of Lon just looking at everything. She’s weighing up her options, she’s looking at what needs to be done against what she hoped was all she’d have to do. I needed to make Lon’s choice in this sequence difficult, so we build up her tension with the moments/panels.

PAGE FOURTEEN

“Kicking back the tide” is such a great saying. And so many of my characters will do just that, endlessly.

Eric is here to mess up Milla’s cabbage patch, and he openly tells her so. This is one of those ‘down’ pages, where for pacing you are setting up for the next moment. I just wish it did more for Eric or Milla rather than just a decent line for each one.

Though I do like that Sami seems to be driving the extra car, and he goes up in flames. That must’ve been fun, ha.

PAGE FIFTEEN

Those smoke clouds from Sami/Tree are just gorgeous. There’s such beauty in them.

Eric throwing Moore into that car is the end of his story, and what a way to close out. I liked Moore, but this was his abrupt stop, he doesn’t get a full looping arc like the others.

I like the angle Sami uses for the final two panels as we split Eric from the camera, we give that pause of time, that shift of focus. Sami’s an expert at making the physics of those moments work so well on the page.

PAGE SIXTEEN

This page is all about Asia giving up and Lon realising she has to take a new angle on things. The plan she’s been running with since like Page 4 of issue #1 won’t hold anymore, sometimes you’re a killer and you have to kill. So Lon has to make a choice, and act upon it.

That gun barrel inset panel, and the pink, and the sfx, is what collaboration looks like. Every person in the squad worked to make that moment pop like that.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

Lon approaches the scene, she’s cold now, detached from things. Asia is reactive and hustling, and all Lon can offer the solution is more bullets. She’s broken by now, and on a slippery slope towards the end of this issue. All roads are leading to this final page, now.

The briefcase full of fish is something I now wish was just real and able to be bought in some local market.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

Eric is completely sucked in here. And he’s processing, pausing, and then realises he can search for his daughter.

I wish I’d build a buffer panel between the 1-2 here, just to give his thoughts a little more time, even just a white bar, something. Reading it, the moment feels quicker, and I wanted it to be him really pausing and then realising what he can do with this camera.

Milla sees what’s happening, and she wants it recorded – which should tell you so much about her, and what she does, and what she loves. And at the same time, Eric looks back at her and he’s just giving up. He’s got his daughter on screen, and he’s…well, it makes more sense next issue, but this reaction from him is totally in character here. For this moment, he’s beyond thinking about Milla.

PAGE NINETEEN

This is the tipping point for Lon, where she sees this whole mess fucking up her world. This is what makes her realign herself, yet again.

Sami and Tree did such an amazing job of showing Asia walking into Alex’s mind by walking into his panel – all an idea from an edit by Dan Hill. I swear, everything you love about this comic exclusively was not me, haha. Though I did purposefully make Alex’s repeated word mean two totally different things across those two panels. He’s telling Asia not to come in, but then he’s chasing it by telling her not to care.

Again, Sami’s inset panels electrify the pacing, the transition of things. They also make me subtly think about that cut back-and-forth you’d get in ALTERED BEAST when levelling up. I’m sure that’s not what Sami was drawing from, but it’s what I’m connecting to.

That goddamn dragon and all it symbolises.

Alex turns now, not pushing Asia away, but rather pulling her in. Holding her in close for the body blows.

PAGE TWENTY

Sami gives us Milla, and her movement, and the drones, and even a sign pointing to the Market Square 5 miles away. Damn, he knows how to get everything you need right in front of you.

The rest of this page is dedicated to Milla being a dick and just enjoying what she has created. She can hustle her ass somewhere AND take little moments to engage with the art of her city.

And the look on her face says it all, she’s enjoying all this far too much. Also: dig that green background in the final panel.

PAGE TWENTY ONE

I used the word beautiful in this comic at strategic places to show you what the ‘beautiful’ of the title is – and it’s anything but our standard definition of the word. It’s usually the opposite, and it’s ghastly, and yet it’s also completely what’s captivating on the page and in a narrative. We love seeing the shitshow in stories, and that’s just how Milla views the real world.

How far apart are we, truly?

Lon is alone now. Asia is trapped in the head, Alex is out, and then the ghost appears, making her feel more trapped inside herself.

It took me ages and ages to get the right rewrite to unlock what the girl said here. Man, it was like pulling teeth, but I really think we pulled it together.

When she whispers, you can zoom in and read it. I always hate that squiggly line that means you can’t know yet. It gets me every time, so I couldn’t do that to you.

And so Lon turns a corner. She is truly sorry, and she is honest when she says she didn’t know how to save ‘you’ – which could be Alex, could be the ghost, could be herself. In this moment, she doesn’t feel like a saviour, she feels like a killer, and she feels like she’s giving up. So she aims the gun, at the ghost, and on the other side, in the line of fire, we see Alex.

Will the shot at least save Asia, she doesn’t know, but dealing out death, yet again, is all she’s got.

PAGE TWENTY TWO

I’m interested to see what people think of this final page. It’s wild, and silent, and so beautifully illustrated. Sami shows that bullet getting closer and closer – yet another ending splash that plays with time. Triona nails the concept of the flames and the heat intensifying.

I did have a movie title caption on this page until the final lettering draft, where I realised we just didn’t need it.

This moment wasn’t the bombast, not really, it’s about being inside Lon’s head to feel this moment drag out slowly. This is her death, come what may.

BACK MATTER

Truth, Beauty, Erudition – choose one

Starting to get into a swing writing these.

JAM SESSIONS

Man, Sami continues to slaughter these illos for these pieces, right? This one right here is just glorious, really something of beauty and value. Just like the flick it discusses because THE RUNNING MAN will be curriculum viewing within the coming decade, you better believe it.

THE TRUTH

Weird, tangentially connected, a delight to write. I wonder if anyone is really reading these?

And that’s us for another month. Join us on the final Wednesday of August as #4 lands and concludes this wild wild ride, you’ll see it on the stands because it looks like this:

BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #3 Out This Week

Tipping into the 4th act, this issue brings some madness, and some answers [and more questions].

Illustrated by Sami Kivela

Coloured by Triona Farrell

Lettered by Ryan Ferrier

Edited by Dan Hill

Presented by Matt Pizzolo

Written by Ryan K Lindsay

and published by Black Mask

This issue is near and dear to us all. I think the opening page, and the character insight it brings, builds a tension to the melancholy that escalates in a horrific way into the final sequence. After this, we wrap it up, so you know we’re going to end with some bloody emotion on the page.

I’m also truly exceptionally proud of the back matter Jam Session Dan Hill and I roll into. I won’t spoil the topic yet, but it’s a favourite flick of mine that’s a part of me, and now I wanna make it a part of you. Plus: another spot illo from Sami Kivela that’s just gorgeous.

BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #3 out September 06 at all fine comic emporiums. Hook yourself up, and if you need #1-2 then I’m sure you can just ask.

 

OWNAINDI – Buy My Comics Online

You can go to OWNAINDI and buy a slew of great Aussie comic content and it’ll be posted straight to your door and I think this is amazing.

GO TO OWNAINDI TO BROWSE AND BUY SOME ACE AUSSIE INDIE COMICS

Of course, you can get my comics there. Well, some of them. Which is why the link is to MY page on there, but feel free to browse away to the many other talented creators you’ll find on there.

I’ve made a handful of indie DIY comics in my time and I’ve always been really lazy on two fronts: getting them onto an online store, and getting them into retailers hands. I make no apologies for this, I am a lazy man.

But I’ve had books through Diamond, and I push the hell out of them to get into stores around the world, but when it comes to my really indie stuff you either need to find me at a con, or you need to step into my office. Until now.

OWNAINDI is an online hub where you can browse and buy from a bunch of Aussie creators. I’ve put my stuff here because I believe in the site [and the great people behind it] and I dig the idea of an Aussie portal to get our books shipped to you because you haven’t caught me at a con yet, or you only just discovered me through BEAUTIFUL CANVAS and now you want more.

So I’m putting up what stuff I’ve got in stock. I’m also going to periodically put up new fun things like my Annotated Script Book Ashcans [which I love and wish more people would sell]. It’s also something I feel I could confidently say will NEVER be on a retailers shelf, so you have to get it here. I think that’s fun.

So here’s where you click the link and maybe make a purchase. Maybe you missed buying it at a con. Maybe you’re gonna buy it for a friend. Maybe you’re gonna grab a sample bag of good stuff on there and see what the Aussie scene is like.

Have a look, I truly think you’ll find something there you wanna buy.

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:

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.

BEAUTIFUL CANVAS Covers

BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #1 launches this week.

Months of prep since 2016 have led Sami and Triona and Ryan and Dan and me to this point. And we are so excited. We hope you’ve preordered, but feel free to drop into your LCS and hope they’ll have some shelf copies, too.

If you wanna get really pumped, just hit up our online preview now to see the madness about to unfold:

DOWNLOAD THE BEAUTIFUL CANVAS ASHCAN PREVIEW NOW

To celebrate the release, and because our final issue, #4, is up for preorder right now, I thought we’d look over the covers of the series.

We’ll start with the Christian Ward variant for #1, so then we can slide across all 4 of Sami’s covers without interruption.

Gorgeous, right? Hell of a way to launch a series, so we say thank you to Christian for being a supreme gentleman.

And just as good to have #1 drop Sami Kivela in as the A cover:

The fact we have two covers to launch a thousand boats says a lot to me. I love the meaning crammed into this cover.

But I also think maybe Sami’s cover for #2 might be better, or maybe it’s the colours that strike me more. I can never decide.

I know Sami then followed up with #3’s cover, and it’s dynamite.

Those symbol signs are just beyond awesome.

And then Sami actually followed this up with a cover to #4 that was amazing. But a week later he decided he had something better, and I think he was right. We tinkered with what colour to put where – blacks and greys and reds and orange – and we settle on the below cover for #4 and now I think maybe *this* cover might be my favourite.

Though, really, just look at all four covers and tell me Sami isn’t an absolute beast. This book is going to be a phenomenal presence on the stands, and that’s all on sami [and a little on Christian].

We are so proud of this book, and the next 4 months are going to be spectacular as they roll out.

We hope you’ll join us for it.

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