Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Category: process

RKL Annotations – DEER EDITOR #1

The issue that launched thousands of dollars of crowd fundraising for Sami Kivelä and myself. For a dumb comic idea, stemmed from a poor joke about typos, and written on my phone, I feel like DEER EDITOR has taken on a life of its own. And in all the right ways.

This issue was my first foray into crowdfunding and Kickstarter in a solo way, and it felt like another step up in my comic making career. I only had a few credits to my name so far, I was still quite green, and this was my first time dabbling in tablet pages – and I wish I could pinpoint the reason why I went for them here. I can’t remember why, the book has seemingly only ever existed in my head in tablet pages, but I’m crazy glad I did.

Then you bring in Sami and the whole things comes together like crisp morning Lego snapping into place.

I love DEER EDITOR. I love Bucky, and the world he is in, and collaborating with Sami, and I hope one of all of those things never ends. But for now, I want to celebrate what we’ve done and do something new – I’m going to write annotations over 2 years after the issue came out, and over 3 years since I wrote the script.

Let’s see how much I can come to hate myself over the coming pages, shall we?

For those playing at home, I’m going to number tablet pages, and I’m going to read from the Broadsheet PDF [which contained a tonne of extras and fun stuff] – so, drop the needle on them antler noir tunes.

DE_cover01_small

COVER

It’s probably stupid to say it, but this cover feels iconic to me now. The amount of times I’ve sold the red cover at shows, the amount of time I spent looking at it, and the quality with which Sami nails it.

I asked him to do something Saul Bass inspired, and this is what came back and I fell in love. That silhouette is killer.

You’ll also notice that Kivelä features after Lindsay on the cover. I asked him repeatedly to put himself first but he just wouldn’t, and the guy who controls the design controls those things. I vowed to get him back for this, and our two follow up series have had his name first, sucker.

But in total, the cover sells crime, death, urgent red, and a hint of an anthropomorphic beast.

CHAPTER ONE

I can’t remember whose idea it was, but we went with these chapter breaks in the digital version basically because why not? They look gorgeous – Nic J Shaw designed it simple and elegant – and it’s a PDF, you can go as long as you want, really, within reason.

I feel like the quote sets things up, build intrigue, but doesn’t give anything away.

PAGE ONE

I’ve come to love establishing shots, but not always of buildings and the usual fare. I want to know about a character, usually, so something about them gets a quiet moment to intro.

As such, Bucky is a journalist/editor, so we open on his desk. I scripted a lot of this, but Sami made it his own. I remember getting this page through and really thinking we were onto something.

I also wanted to denote the snowy Xmas vibe [because Shane Black is my jam – no, honestly, that’s why this issue is snowing] and I wanted to use the lyrics to SILVER BELLS, but I soon realised I couldn’t do that without incurring some hired goons on my doorstep, so I did the next best thing – I ripped the lyrics off and made them my own. Swapping the word time for crime is a personal career highlight.

I also really wanted a subtle double entendre in that opening caption where Bucky says he gets one phone call and suddenly ends up in the morgue because he then goes to the morgue to chase a story, but also because he’s going to ‘die’ in the end of this issue.

I know, Spoiler Klaxon, please, but most of you have probably already noticed that there are more issues in this series. Because Bucky is alive. But this comic initially started life as a one-shot, and I think the OG plan was for Bucky to die. So, had we never gone back to the well – and I assumed Sami would get busy elsewhere, and/or our Kickstarter campaign would do average at best – then I played it like this as all we’d get.

But the campaign did well. And Sami turned away some other work just to keep Bucky alive, so he makes it out of issue #1, but I still liked the foreshadowing of this opening caption, so I like that it remains.

As for the items on the morgue table, I wish I had added some other weird stuff on there, like a can of Spam or a torn out page of MOBY DICK, but I didn’t and now I never can. Oh well, I guess you’ll just have to imagine what movie John Doe saw before he kicked the bucket.

PAGE TWO

Anyone who pledged for the Radio Drama knows the coroner speaks with a thick Maine accent. Kinda.

I look at this page now and wonder why I didn’t start with the John Doe on the street, and then the Pinto clipping him, and his head getting bashed in. But instead we get another guy talking about all the action. Because I love to start comics hella engaging :[

The biggest thing this page gets right is building the page turn/swipe reveal of Bucky. Otherwise, this guy might as well be named Coroner James Remar [I hope some of you get that reference].

PAGE THREE

Bucky stands, proud, defiant, aloof. This first panel sets up a whole lot of who he is.

I introduce the sniffing aspect of his character early so we can use it later.

Bucky line of “Goddamn useless corrupt asshats.” still rings tinny in my ears, it’s a mouthful. I think your mistakes do haunt you on the page forevermore.

PAGE FOUR

And so our opening four page scene ends. The casual relationship between Bucky and the coroner is set up, so we can use it again effectively later, but it isn’t the kind of thing that’s a series opener, to be honest. But we live and learn.

This is all good, standard stuff, it works, but it doesn’t elevate. I’d completely restructure these pages now, if I had my druthers. But, for now, they set up Bucky, and they set him on the course.

PAGE FIVE

This page is about introducing the location of Walter’s Bar, but it’s also about introducing some voice for the book. This is a pulp book, I want it to have that prose voice over feel, like you just dug it out of an underground secondhand book store. It’s similar to what I was going for in CHUM, but maybe dialled back one or two.

I think I was still finding my voice with Bucky here, I didn’t have him quite so nailed down as I did by the time I got to scripting #3. I had my ideas about him, but it’s really only after having them go through a few things that you see how they react and how they truly are.

PAGE SIX

It’s during this scene that we hopefully get the idea that no one cares there’s a walking/talking deer just shooting the breeze.

I also dig the interplay with Walter and Bucky, they work well and he’s a blast to write. And looking back, I can see this issue was about bouncing Bucky through certain pulp levels to get him to gather the info he needs to proceed – like a lot of quality pulp does, and often needs.

PAGE SEVEN

I don’t consider myself a funny guy – on the page, in person, on social media – but Walter griping that he’s not a hidden mic and so didn’t record the conversation of two randos in his bar tickles me every time.

But then I come back down to Earth with a thud every time Bucky manhandles that ashtray. Gah, nasty shit makes my skin scrawl.

I’m also noticing, on this page and seven pages in, that each page doesn’t completely have as much to talk about and dissect as other annotations purely because each page is really half a page, and I didn’t want to jam pack every page because that would be rubbish for Sami, and it’s really not how tablet pages work. The norm seems to be 2 panel pages, with 3 the max, and yet I average 3-4 generally, so here I’m trying to keep it simple, give the page room for text, and make sure I build to some kind of reason to turn the page.

PAGE EIGHT

I wonder how many readers still have no idea who/what Jo Malone is? I probably could have worded that whole second panel better.

But the matchsticks led here, so then the credit card has to lead to her.

I also haven’t nailed down why Rachel was in Walter’s. We never explain it, though I know how to make it a few different things depending on what we might need it for down the track.

PAGE NINE

I really wish this page wasn’t killing a woman. That’s a big change I’d make to the issue, this could most definitely be a dude.

Bucky mentions his smell, again, and then he references John Doe’s key which was there all the way back in Page One.

I love Nic J Shaw’s white balloon against the silhouette.

PAGE TEN

Sami did great work on this page, considering the density built into it. There are so many little elements – and some of them are like her presence in Walter’s, we can use, or tweak then, as we see fit anywhere in the future if need be. Some of these things are locked in stone, but many of them were me just throwing things against the wall to see what stuck.

Of course, in a room with a dead woman Bucky decides to case the joint. Until the foot creak on the threshold, and this takes place on a real paper page turn, too, so it’s a properly set up deal, as well as for tablet.

PAGE ELEVEN

Adrian Brody flees the scene, and I love Sami’s designs on ‘other’ characters.

This page is just planting another seed to capitalise on later. Plotting this stuff out was hard work, I remember, ensuring so many things get set up, and connect in ways that might only ever matter to me.

And here the journalism puns begin, with Bucky talking about chasing down a story and having to literally chase this story on foot. It’s not high art, but there are a tonne of newspaper quotes and words in the world, and I slowly wanted to work them all in.

PAGE TWELVE

This page is pivotal for me because it shows the parameters of Bucky’s ‘powers.’ He can run super fast, but only in short bursts. Because he’s kind of unfit, the running wears him out. His antlers are pretty bloody strong, but he’s not a superhuman/deer.

PAGE THIRTEEN

I love the way Sami drew the newsroom, the cube farm aspect of it all. The depth and world-building Sami goes to always impresses me.

Here we meet Dan, completely modelled [in pretty much every aspect] on actual editor for this book, and great mate of mine, Dan Hill. Yet again, this scene provides Bucky with someone else to bounce off, but this relationship very obviously feels different to me than Bucky with the coroner or with Walter. There’s actual respect at play here, subtle, but there.

I’ll also make no bones about the fact Dan calls the killer the ‘actor’ and I stole that term from Richard Price who I first saw use it in FREEDOMLAND [a great book, though not his best, that’s still THE WANDERERS].

PAGE FOURTEEN

I dig that Sami went for tall panels on this one, it shows his range when using the tablet page. He’s so good at fitting everything in there and never really feeling crowded.

This two page scene with Dan shows me how much stuff I was burning through in this issue. All overall scenes were mapped out as 4 pages, so two print pages, and this interaction with Dan moves the needle a little and it’s only 2 tablet pages. I tried to get into scenes and bounce out. Partially because the genre demands it, but also because I figured if this was to be a one-shot then I could not dilly-dally, I needed to get things on the page and then move them off. Shit had to be done, so you rocket through scenes, you strip back, and you make shit happen.

This inset panel around the phone was possibly the first inset panel I ever scripted. It’s a device I love to use, I think I first consciously recorded it into my brain from Aja on his IMMORTAL IRON FIST run. Having the phone vibration in the panel gutter is just sublime.

PAGE FIFTEEN

I mean, look at this page, there’s no waddling about, it gets in, gives the info it needs, in a nice and interesting way, and it moves on. I know I didn’t script #2 as tightly, mostly because I knew it’d stand on its own but also form the middle of the triptych I knew I could build. I mean, and this is a long bow to draw, but consider THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, there’s no need for it to completely pack in and tie up as much as A NEW HOPE did because it comfortably knew it was the middle of the trilogy and it could lob up balls that wouldn’t be swung at until 3 years later in RETURN OF THE JEDI.

I’d love it if all 3 issues were this tightly plotted and delivered, but the 4 tablet pages per scene/sequence rule set up here was actually very hard to do because I was constantly trimming panels and refining dialogue and getting it just right. The next two issues I got to let the characters have moments, to take breath, and that in itself was another kind of challenge as well as favour.

I just scripted something about ‘white noise’ in Bucky’s caption, but wasn’t thinking it’d be actual final dialogue, but then Nic grabbed the idea and put that tv white noise screen into a kind of thought balloon and I fell in love.

PAGE SIXTEEN

Those envelopes are there purely to set up his escape in the third act of this issue. I wanted to seed this idea that people hated Bucky, like a kind of subtle racism going on, and that’s why he got shitty letters and eventually an assassination attempt via the cake. I don’t know who sent the cake specifically, but I know I’ll continue to use this idea in future tales [if we get that chance] because in today’s global climate, well, of course there’d be people who believe Bucky is an abomination.

The cereal test is a phrase used in newsrooms to gauge whether news is fit to print in the newspaper, or on the front page specifically, because if someone can’t stomach it over their morning cereal then maybe it’s a little too far. It was a term I dredged up and filed away in the very early stages and it definitely stuck so I’m glad I got to use it here.

When I started in on this book, I googled around for information about deer and journalism. I like to believe that’s what BKV does before he starts anything, too, so he can drop factoids into his work and look smart. I look smart, right?

CHAPTER TWO

Boxing references will always win out. Chess a close second, but boxing is just the greatest metaphor to strip. Plus, I find boxing fascinating. The idea it’s this gentleman’s game when it’s the most brutal form of competition you can imagine, and yet it does hold this rarified air, which fascinates me in its duality. I like duality. The way things are and aren’t at the same time is an endless source of inspection for me.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

I love Randy, he’s just one of those scenery chewing characters everyone loves to write because anything goes as soon as they open their mouths. I think I scripted the shirt but that hair is all Sami.

I scripted this grotto scene, because of course Randy rolls like this, but forgot this was set in a deep Shane Black winter. So Sami drew in those column heaters around the place and it’s such a glorious save and solution from him, but it also says a million more words about this guy and his place, and everyone else there, that I never would have known how to string together. Those heaters are one of those pure blinding collaborative moments that you wish for every time you hook up with an artist.

I’ve also realised that Randy is introduced with that thick black background behind him and above and I’m realising Sami also introduces another character in the third issue in the exact same way. I will have to keep an eye out for this trick now, because I love it, and want to be able to script it so Sami knows I pay attention and I care.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

Bucky being annoyed by the ‘horny’ comment and correcting to antlers was something that came into the first draft instantly as Randy’s introduction and it never swayed. I love it when a moment comes to you fully formed and survives all the edits and drafts and you still love it two years later.

So we’ve just met Randy and we’ve set up that he obviously knows Bucky, and now we push into Bucky getting to what he needs, and then we build to the page turn.

PAGE NINETEEN

The absinthe comment I like, but something about it, like 5% of it, just doesn’t quite click into place for me. I can’t even put my finger on it, and I dig 95% of it, but that niggle remains. I wish I knew what it was.

Bucky pretends to be drunk enough to just wander on by and the driver from earlier pulls a Lando reveal so we know he’s there. I love the Lando reveal.

PAGE TWENTY

The simplicity of this page, the way Bucky has played the angles, and pulled an audible when the guards where there and he knew they’d know him. I like writing Bucky as the smartest guy in the room. Sometimes.

I’m also astounded at how much Sami put into this page. From memory, I edited this page heavily down from 5, or maybe even 6, panels. Now, the door kicks and we cut straight to them looking out the window – I trust you’re smart enough to imagine them crossing the room in those gutters.

Then Bucky leaps off the roof and my heart swoons. This panel was one of those perfect collaborator moments where I realised I was in love. The body language, the silhouette, that snow, it’s all perfect – it’s also got that DARK KNIGHT RETURNS vibe rolling on and who doesn’t dig on that?

PAGE TWENTY ONE

This establishing shot is yet another one of those moments in my writing career where I worked out that artists work way harder than writers. This panel is ace, and no small feat, and it’s also beautiful. All Sami.

Whereas the second panel is a true marriage, my idea, but it totally relies on execution to work, and Sami’s character designs, even for the background, are always so varied and intriguing that I knew this would work. And it totally does, playing the scene out, giving us what we need, and other things.

This panel/page is an exemplary reason of why I like comics, and why comics can do things that only work so well in this medium.

PAGE TWENTY TWO

The mechanics of making this page work are all on Sami. Fitting the gun in the hand in shot, showing how the gun is hidden, using that middle gutter to split Bucky but not move him. That’s all Sami problem solving the page of script I gave him.

I also love how Bucky cuts through the shit. He’s straight up, and I think that’s a reflection of how I decided to script the book. If scenes are short, there’s no time for ball tickling. Bucky has to move things forward, constantly.

PAGE TWENTY THREE

Now, this gutter divide I did script, so the reader wouldn’t instantly look down, they’d be locked on the guy with the gun in Bucky’s neck, and not glance out of that panel. Then we follow down and realise he’s not in as much danger as you might have been feeling.

Again, notice this guy entered scene only last page, and now he’s gone, having played his part, and the next part of the sequence is about to hit Bucky.

That breaking a story/story breaks you line is another one of those things you jot down early on in the research phase and you know you’ll find a place for it. This one I’m 100% happy with.

Though, strange fact, I initially gave the guy grawlix as he ran off in that line, then I realised all the other shit that goes down in this issue and can’t remember why I thought I’d need grawlix, so you’ve ended up with the full F swear. I hope you’re happy.

PAGE TWENTY FOUR

I love the black panels, the pause for the words to soak in. It’s a cinematic device to me, the voice over on the black screen before the fade in [or after the smash cut out – or both in this case] but it’s also something that plays different in comics because we aren’t used to having panels devoid of illustrations. So white strips, black space, other colours, I’m having a play with all of them over time.

I seed in the girl’s jasmine scent here so I can speed up her next scene.

PAGE TWENTY FIVE

The first panel here is set up to capitalise on the hate mail Bucky gets and deliver the coup de grace – the poison cake for later. But look at how Dan delivers it, he knows it’s from Bucky’s hater and yet he’s still all smiles about it, and Bucky is not. In this panel, I’m squeezing in Chekhov’s cake as well as showing the difference between these two men – one optimistic, one pragmatic.

Having Dan hack into someone’s email and then discover someone else is also hacked in there and deleting stuff at the same time is actually a thing I’m quite proud of. Him taking screenshots and getting what he can before it all disappears seems like good journalism to me. I usually don’t feel inventive or even smart enough to come up with cool stuff like this, but this one time I feel like I nailed it.

No, I don’t know how Bucky uses an iPad with those nails.

PAGE TWENTY SIX

We have both Bucky and Dan off to chase the next lead, Dan exits, and then the next piece walks in.

This close up of Bucky with the nose bandage, blood showing through it, is my clearest nod to CHINATOWN. We are forever in debt.

The scent moment pays off, and we get one of those good panel/caption ellipsis hold overs. Even better on a page turn, but in this comic it’s all about compression.

PAGE TWENTY SEVEN

I never have Bucky hit her back, he never lays a hand on her. It’s all restraint.

This moment is one of those reversals they say you should do in your stories. Give the character something good, and then take it away from them by making it into a negative. It’s supposed to keep the audience on their toes, they say.

But I’ll be honest, as much as this helps the plot because ‘Jasmine’ here has clearly been affected by something/someone, it’s all just set up for the next page.

PAGE TWENTY EIGHT

Bucky flipping Jasmine over and then pinning her to the wall with his antlers was another one of those things I wanted to see the character do from early on. Antlers would have to be a great restraint, despite the fact Jasmine could be kicking Jesus out of him with her legs, surely.

I also like that Bucky stops her without hitting her, and also flips her completely over his head, somewhat hinting at his levels of strength.

A lot happens in the gutter between these two panels, and initially I scripted it with way more beats so the reader didn’t get lost, but here I think anyone can draw the connection easily and surmise what took place in the gutter for this transition to make sense.

PAGE TWENTY NINE

I think this is the only full half page split vertically and silent. There’s no ‘huge’ reason why I left this panel silent, I just didn’t think any caption/V.O. was needed when his body language sells it all so truly.

Then we catch up by having a talky panel next, the cop and Bucky, sparring, and Bucky getting in his great last line. Bucky, to me, truly is a man from an older time.

PAGE THIRTY

And yet, despite Bucky’s reticence, and his shot back, the cop is fine with him. I’m hinting at larger world connections where Bucky clearly gets on well with the cops – until he stops being helpful – and they’re gonna treat him relatively straight.

Bucky writes on the notepad and I’ll cop to me doing this to ensure everyone followed me along for the next two pages. I wish we had Bucky write more on that notepad. Oh, well, live and learn.

PAGE THIRTY ONE

This whole locker thing is a personal riff on the locker used in GET SHORTY. How I don’t have Dennis Farina in this comic, as a cameo, just baffles me now.

It took me forever to work out a way to script the fact that Bucky already had a copy of the key made. I must’ve scripted it as like 5 panels and I slowly pared it down and now I’m really happy with how it’s all landed.

PAGE THIRTY TWO

The call in by the flunky is a textbook move, so I coupled it with the enigmatic darkened figure in their study plotting danger. I love his gramophone in there.

I fill this page with text but don’t actually show what’s in the bag. I think that’s a rookie mistake. A little touch of what’s there, a hint, something would have felt a little more complete. Though I do like the slab of captions juxtaposed against his one word.

And you can see here that these chapters really end on little breaks, a chance to get up and stretch the legs.

CHAPTER THREE

This quote has become the back cover quote for all the print versions and I kind of dig that. I think going through your issue and highlighting the lines you think are top shelf, the ones that sing, that sum up the theme or tone of the piece is a fun exercise. Especially if you can’t find one, because I think that says a lot.

It would probably be a good exercise to go through the comics of others and try to find that one line. I liked how Hickman’s FF run had those quotes on the front cover for the first little while.

PAGE THIRTY THREE

I love the building of The Truth. Sami doesn’t really know it, but the building he drew looks like it came straight out of my childhood, it feels like something I know, and that pleases me so very greatly.

A nice silent page, captions aside, that ends with a click. I’m trying to build tone here, I’m hoping you are a little worried. I’m also hoping you dig my whole tree metaphor. Sometimes I feel like I nail a line and that final line here just wraps up so much of what I want to mean about it all.

PAGE THIRTY FOUR

I hate the word “ain’t” – I always teach my classes that ain’t clearly isn’t contracting two forms of anything and as such it needs to die in a fire. But. I will put the word in the mouth of a character because I think it says a lot about someone if they use it, and also when/where/how they use it.

Again, the ominous tone on the page, the way the thug just walks in and sits down so confidently. It’s the way he carries himself that matters, not what he says. Which is why he says so little, and it’s not a threat. This is just matter of fact business for him, and that’s the biggest problem/sign.

PAGE THIRTY FIVE

I’m not one for writing a lot of tough guy dialogue, but I clearly hear this guy in my head and it mostly rings true. I can see/hear him going through these motions. I also had to work hard so it felt organic enough that Bucky would be able to introduce the cake into the scene.

Why did Bucky keep poison cake on his desk? Well, y’know, just in case.

PAGE THIRTY SIX

He’s saying no to the cake as he accepts a piece of it. That right there says a whole lot about this guy. Then the way he shrugs off his doctor. I like that he has a doctor, that he’s got problems. After writing this page, I felt I knew him a lot better.

Oh, look, Sami dropped another one of those half ink backgrounds.

PAGE THIRTY SEVEN

Did you know deer process toxins differently than us. They do it better. So I figured with Bucky being the weird hybrid he is he can have all kinds of special ‘powers’ and one of them is the ability to really shrugs off toxins.

The caption about them finding his body in the car was a scripting gaffe I tried to fix and failed. It’s meant to imply that Bucky is going to drag the guy down to his car and it was put in there after the art came in and I realised that him leaving the poisoned body on the press room floor might not be good for business. But the art had already come in. I tried to script around it, but nothing fit. Not even what I ended up going with. One of my biggest failures in comics, though it doesn’t kick in the guts as much as I thought it might. Huh, maybe time does work.

Wait, why is the Leaving City sign visible as you drive into the city? Man, I scripted that, this page is not my friend at all.

PAGE THIRTY EIGHT

Randy is so deplorable, it’s fun to write. Though it makes me look like kind of a hack, I’ll admit. Or, I’ll admit to worrying about.

I like that Bucky ignores his surroundings, he’s literally just there to hide out and do his job.

This set up to the page turn says a lot about who I think Bucky is…

PAGE THIRTY NINE

Y’see, Bucky’s an arrogant. Fool. He just rushes in, thinking he’s got the info so he’s untouchable. It’s a fool’s play, but it’s the kind of thing people do a lot before thinking all the pieces on the board through. And while I think Bucky is a great journalist, this story is also about him being overly sure and missing the story. It’s about his fallibility, and how he has to fix it.

PAGE FORTY

There are a lot of throwaway lines in the captions that explain away the need for extra scenes, or pages, or even panels. I don’t want to show Bucky threatening the mayor with his story leaking upon his death to establish that Bucky isn’t going to die here. I throw in mention of a ‘standard journalist/scumbag deal’ and it tells us all we need to know. Most of us have seen crime fiction where someone’s information will leak, to the police, or the public if they die or don’t check in by a certain time or use a specific code.

Mayor Jackson also not being worried about Bucky should be his first sign he’s stepped into the brown and smelly. But Bucky doesn’t read that stuff, sadly for him.

PAGE FORTY ONE

Nothing says cocky like ‘telling your villain how it is while munching an hor’s douvres’ cocky. Though Mayor Jackson’s ‘laughing in the face of this shit’ cockiness comes close.

PAGE FORTY TWO

Having Bucky walk his stupid ass right into the trap was a big moment for this book. I think like the pulps of old, I wanted this fallible hero, this fool, who mostly just stumbles into the right things while being beat up for the wrong things, and this page/moment was perfect for that. He never should have gone back, but here he is and here’s how they treat him.

And you’ll notice the crowd doesn’t care. No one ever questions anyone in power, they let all sorts of shit fly.

PAGE FORTY THREE

And with that, the Mayor spits on Bucky [metaphorically] and has won. Because it’s always darkest right before the dawn, right?

That placement of the “I’m an idiot.” caption is just genius from Nic J. Shaw because it’s almost hidden, and a lazy reader will skip it, which they can and the book will still work, but as an aside beat this works perfectly.

PAGE FORTY FOUR

Huh, I just realised Bucky goes to sit on his car and stare at the horizon to centre himself exactly like Standard does in CHUM #2. That’s subconsciously weird – though I do like to sit at the surf and just look out, so I guess it’s me projecting my own safe/calm place. Who knew that happened?

Bucky drives a convertible because of course he does.

This page is Bucky gathering himself and then firing himself into the final launch, but it really doesn’t read as too stirring. Nope, not at all. When you are supposed to be asking yourself what does each scene/page do, why does it exist, I may have failed on that one. I mean, it allows for the transition to get him to the house, but I think it does it poorly. There should have been something else that sets him in that direction. Lazy.

PAGE FORTY FIVE

In the first script, Bucky drives up the street, he screeches his breaks, he reverses towards the woman, and then he gets out. It was just too much. Having him screech his tyres here – subtle as it is – is more than enough. Eliminating that ABCD storytelling and just dropping crisp single letters is the most important aspect of editing/rewriting. Well, it definitely was for a younger Ryan still wobbly on his green legs.

This page has much better build, it goes a new place, builds a new tension. Much better, more effective for the reader.

PAGE FORTY SIX

A big conversation – that took a long time to edit just right – and another build to a tense moment. This final scene at least hits a decent stride.

The idea he can smell and hear the tiniest things that hint at truth, lies, etc means Bucky is my antlered Matt Murdock, and I’ll never shy away from admitting he totally is. I mean, they are actually two very different men, but that idea of the truth at their core, and many of the abilities, is totally swapping over and that’s no accident.

We end on a boxing term, because of course we do. I’ll run out of them eventually. Or I’ll just study harder to find more obscure ones.

PAGE FORTY SEVEN

I have Bucky react to what he’s figured out, but I consciously chose for him to not tell us. I didn’t want to completely spell these things out. He mentions it about ‘family’ in the second panel and I’m hoping people make the connection, especially if they’ve worked out how much of an influence CHINATOWN is on all of this.

The tiny ‘PFT’ sfx pepper the page, the blood blooms on her coat, and, again, the reader is expected to keep up.I really went back and forth on whether to be so obtuse, but in the end that’s the kind of thing I like to read, so it’s mostly what I’ll always write. There’s nothing wrong with a reader having to do a little work.

PAGE FORTY EIGHT

We end on a splash, and this moment was always the point of the issue. Bucky is so certain, and he finds the connective tissue he wants, so he takes it at face value and assumes he’s nailed it. But that’s just not how it works, so he’s overly confident and it gets him shot.

Then we end on that red bar, mostly because this was a digital only Kickstarter campaign, and you can do whatever the hell you want with a PDF so putting that red panel isn’t going to alter print prices or specificities so we went ahead and did it.

And that’s the end.

BACK MATTER

THE TRUTH by Ryan K Lindsay – an essay

I often bang on about how I wrote this comic on my phone while walking the summer streets of my neighbourhood at night with my baby daughter strapped to my chest.

I mention it a lot because it was my moment where I realised I would not accept excuses from myself. It was when I realised I was a writer, and always would be. It was a nice feeling to just power on, despite the world seemingly telling me I couldn’t at that very moment. The world’s a dick, what would it know?

You find yourself in weird places, you have weird places you find within yourself, and if you wanna make those two things connect and make art – then you can.

DEER EDITOR is one of my favourite things to have created, partly because of what it is, partly because of how I did it, and partly because of when it came about for me. But mostly because it started Sami Kivelä off on a relationship that’s lasted a very very long time, and only gets better with age.

I hope these thoughts have been of some help.

RKL Annotations – CHUM #3

So quickly begun, is so quickly done.

And so here lies the end of CHUM

We hope you dug it. Making this comic was a long time – planning it out, working up pitch pages with Sami, getting the greenlight, having Sami score another paying gig so we waited, and then finally making the beast, working with Mark Dale for colours, Nic J. Shaw for letters, wrapping it all up, and then announcing, and soliciting, and now releasing. It’s been a section of my life, but only 3 months on the shelves – no doubt less with the delay of #1.

It’s strange because for the years of hard work and patience, sometimes all that matters is that final scattershot of release because a narrative massaged and held and planned is not complete until it connects with an audience. A story is a social contract that requires someone on the other end from the creators to catch it.

And CHUM has been well caught so far. Reviews and readers have been loud, and we behind the curtain have been proud. So, thank you, and we hope you accept this loquacious gift of process thoughts and oversharing wherein I deconstruct the last issue as something for you to enjoy after you thought you were done. This post is written to enjoy as well as somewhat instruct. We hope you get one good thing out of it, but ymmv.

Let’s go, roll the #surfnoir tunes one last time, pally!

CHUM_Cover_03

COVER

I know that Sami’s cover for #1 was instantly recognisable, and it sold the book perfectly in one hot take, but this cover is my favourite from him. There’s something ballsy about going greyscale with a single colour shape over it. It shouldn’t work, it shouldn’t grab the eye, and yet I cannot ever take my eyes off this piece whenever I scope it.

There’s a lot to dig into on this one, oh, the portents. The world is grey, it’s fading, and Summer sits on a board and watches. Is she accepting a noir ending? And she’s kind of in the stomach of the shark, so is that about her death? Or is it a rebirth through blood, using the sharks to enact a transition to the new world [this grey expanse, as opposed to the brighter colours inside the book]?

Sami brought his cover game to town on this one, and all of his 3 CHUM covers, and I’d gladly put them on my wall and forever point at them whenever someone enquires about my #surfnoir neck tattoo.

CHUM_Cover_03B

VARIANT COVER

Justin Greenwood, ladies and gentlemen. Making it look simple, and crushing the game as always. This cover also uses that single red, and it puts us right into it, into the mouth of the beast. That sense of being eaten, being in your final moments, is palpable in this cover. Moving the logo/credits into the mouth is just a stroke of genius.

PAGE ONE

Another splash for Standard tiled with captions. The guy has his own motif now.

But I really put this page up front because I wanted to instantly show Standard is alive, and I wanted to hide his body so you didn’t see his hand just yet.

PAGE TWO

But then we cut away to Hannah, because I have not forgotten about her, I promise.

And this whole page shows the ineptitude of the Island. Hannah calls the cop to help her with the criminal and he’s at her house, because of course he is. He’s also still being a pain in the ass to her, despite his current situation. That’s commitment to getting your hate on.

PAGE THREE

A page balancing that line between exposition of where Summer is and the general issue start sitrep as well as giving you something to chew on and enjoy. The ‘stabbed you in the back’ offer and flip was always the mark to build up to before the reveal of how Summer could be gone if she was just handcuffed to Standard.

And if you’re wondering why Summer didn’t just unlock the cuffs, well, there are multiple explanations that fit. She didn’t care and wanted to done as quickly as possible. She looked for the keys and couldn’t find them either because Standard didn’t have them because he’s that much of a shit cop, or they weren’t readily apparent and so after a cursory glance she elects to speed things up a little because, remember, she is fleeing the island after having just snapped and attacked hannah.

PAGE FOUR

Hannah chases the story and Standard just wants to chase the person. These two characters always want different things.

This page got rewritten a tonne, just to get the beats and character out while still moving the story towards what happens next.

It also makes me laugh that Standard can’t find his hand – in my mind, Summer cut it off, felt terrible, and absently took it outside with her. It;s in someone’s yard now.

PAGE FIVE

“This island, man, fuck it.” – this is the explanation of Standard and what he does next. It’s personal, and convoluted, and weird, and stupid, but it’s also completely who he is.

I worked on this script for too long trying to ensure I had Standard’s motivations down right for going to track Summer instantly at that moment. But then I realised, this is the tipping point for him, the explosion of activity. He refuses to stand still, to call it in, to do anything rational. He knows he’s probably actually going to die, and so he’s just got to keep moving. People do dumb shit, especially guys with hurt pride.

Then we set up the singing like a bird segue into there being a whistle from somewhere/someone else. This transition was in an early draft and just remained because I couldn’t let it go. It strikes me as one of those early BKV things that’s a kaiju suit baring all of its seams and seals for you to see.

PAGE SIX

We cut back maybe an hour, maybe less, but I don’t tell you that. I let you figure that out by how this scene plays out at the end. I figure, if the timestamp will become obvious eventually then you can wait and earn it, and maybe even go back and reread just to soak it up all the more deliciously.

I mean, this is Summer, after cutting of her [ex]husband’s hand, calling her casual ‘friend’ to do whatever needs to be done with Standard’s body. It’s pretty cold on her end, especially as I like to believe she knew Standard wasn’t done and this would be the end of Penny.

See the comic he’s reading – CURRICULUM. Yeah, coming soon :]

Oh, also, he drives past a kangaraoo. That’s pretty awesome.

Penny sets up his own page turn, but…

PAGE SEVEN

…it doesn’t land like he wants it to.

Standard walks out, you can feel Penny’s head dropping the needle, starting to back peddle. That face he makes is amazing, and even his “She said she needed something planted.” line sounds dirty in my head as he says it, and makes no sense for that time of night.

Standard replies and I think I overwrote it. Nuts.

PAGE EIGHT

I always knew Standard hated Penny, and I knew it was just inherent. So while part of me always wondered if I should seed it in through a scene, the other part of me likes that we never showed the reason, but always showed the hate, and in the end Penny dies seeing the hate and never himself knowing the reason. It wouldn’t be fair if we knew and he didn’t. So Standard just confirms he won’t be telling Penny, and then…

PAGE NINE

…we get the outcome of the tense situation…within the same page spread. Because somewhere along the line I assume rewrites forced this moment off a page turn and I never found a way to get it back, I guess.

It’s a chump move from me, and a reminder that proofreading your script is about theme, and dialogue, and clarity for the artist, and all that, but it’s also page turns and a little counting.

I do love that SFX killshot, though.

Standard goes full pulp on this page, the pain meds are kicking in.

PAGE TEN

Hannah’s getting pretty mouthy at a guy who just killed someone. Yup, that’s who she is, she tenacious – and she knows Standard isn’t going to shoot her.

And we get confirmation Standard knows he’s dying, as well as that small beat where Hannah still offers to save him. Which is sweet, and I dig it, but Standard is unsalvageable at this stage.

PAGE ELEVEN

Hannah gets a moment of clarity and I hope I wrote that first panel with truth in it.

I also dig the caption response, like even the narrator is backing Standard.

When Hannah yells out her big reveal, that she found out Summer was pregnant, I consciously didn’t want to have this seeded throughout the comic. I wanted Summer to just be a femme, to be cold, but then the seed behind the plan moving forward NOW would finally trickle out. But it’s just the spark, the flame was something building from years of kindling.

You can read Standard’s responses a few ways. I take it in that stoic male way. Her words change nothing, and he wants her to know this. As it says, actions speak louder than words.

PAGE TWELVE

I take for granted how gorgeous Sami and Mark make everything – look at that night sky. This is why collaboration is amazing, because it’s take me half a page of words to get something that fantastic.

I love a silent panel, a moment of character contemplation, but I struggle to place them into pages where I feel they ‘fit.’ I always consider the weighting of the page, the balance, the symmetry. I can’t just have random panel 6 of an 8 panel grid be silent, I don’t like it, it doesn’t feel right. But here, Summer silent on the pier, Sami nails that idea of a sharp line down that’s silent, and then stacked to the side is words – that balances for me.

That idea that fed sharks won’t worry about someone in the water, or that they sleep at all, was something I wasn’t certain about. So I was going to research it, to keep authenticity, but then I realised this was Summer’s assumptions I was writing. If I could be unsure, so could she. It felt right that she wouldn’t quite know it all, or be wrong. So I googled nothing. It felt good. Your characters are allowed to be wrong.

The page ends with little flashback panels, and Mark nails the idea with the colour wash of those moments. I also wanted to have the present and those past shots loosely intertwine through a word or idea. Considering it would take her all night to paddle away on her board, and old Summer didn’t want to sleep was subtle, but it met my requirements for a linked scene change.

I’m just spoiling any fun to be had at all by this point, aren’t I?

PAGE THIRTEEN

And then the flashback dovetails neatly back into the present. Old Standard telling her she’s not alone, right as Present Standard arrives behind her is somewhere between unnerving and creepy. I hope.

By this stage of the comic, I’ll admit, I’m dragging things out. I knew plotting it, that Issue #3 had room to breathe, so I’m letting this whole water interplay take however long it takes. And considering how much ground we covered in the first two issues, it was nice to let something breathe.

Standard is shooting at her, and in flashback telling her it’s okay and they’ll work it out.

PAGE FOURTEEN

I like that Standard can swim so well with his stump hand, and the other holding a gun. I like that his gun fires in the water. But most of all, I like that he went swimming with that damn hat on.

It’s almost like a civil argument, but with bullets. In other words, it’s completely messed up, and it’s a look at how relationships go wrong, and toxic, and I know this part feels leaden but I like where it goes.

The flashback reveals Summer finally pregnant and it’s to Penny and that’s a kick to everyone involved.

PAGE FIFTEEN

Standard jumping out of the water here was a complete reference to the end of FRIDAY THE 13th.

And just the fact Standard isn’t shooting here, he isn’t even really trying to kill her, shows how much his actions were impotent rage [no pun intended]. It’s him totally unable to access, nor deal with, his emotions. It’s sad, as much as it is lame. But it’s all real, just through the hyper lens of a pulp crime tale.

Because Standard’s line to her shows this is all personal. This isn’t about the law anymore, this is a tantrum, the dying throes of a relationship gone supernova, and Standard has no idea what to do.

PAGE SIXTEEN

Summer screams “FUCK YOU!” and it’s the personification of her whole story. All this shit from Standard because of her actions and his perceptions of them. Damn, she’s no response to a man, she’s no other side of the coin. She has her own path to run, and she’s got her own desires. That he thinks he can control the situation and discussion is nothing but frustrating to her. As it should be.

Standard hits the board and it breaks open full of money and drugs. ‘This’ was the plan, load it all into a hollow board. ‘This’ was one of the first things I knew would feature in the story. The bag of drugs and cash gets taken, through force, and then gets hidden inside a board. To hell with what the physics of the situation might say, this was their plan. Now it’s ruined.

I probably didn’t make that completely clear. Maybe. I don’t know, show don’t tell, y’know?

PAGE SEVENTEEN

A moment for Summer to compose herself, a moment for Standard to go through whatever is happening below the water, and a moment for the reader to consider all of this cash in the water.

Remember, breathe.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

Standard reemerges, the shark dealt with, and he gets a final moment with Summer. All this bullshit and they get this moment, it’s perhaps overly lucid, but it builds to my favourite exchange in the book. Summer tells him she lost the baby – which says even more about her motivation to get moving now, doesn’t it? – and Standard’s dulled reaction is priceless. It’s dawning on him that there’s so much going on that he doesn’t get, he can’t continue to be that selfish, that myopic, he should have looked broader, been empathic, felt others. A great lesson, if perhaps too late for him.

PAGE NINETEEN

Standard hates on the Island, a personification of what they dislike about their own actions there, a Wicker Man into which they pour their mental bees.

The sharks fly in, Standard’s back is to them but he knows it, and both remain calm because this business right here is about them. Come what may, will come, but this is them connecting for the first time in a long time, and definitely for the last time.

It’s hard not to see Standard as sacrificing himself for her safety, which says a lot if that’s what he’s doing. Or maybe he’s just giving up, the Island wins, the Island and its shark enforcers.

But down Standard goes, down into the dark, true noir.

PAGE TWENTY

Standard maybe deserved this, or it was the best he could ever hope for. It’s certainly all he had energy left for. Poor bastard, poor witless bastard. And thus ends our tale. A tale of a man stitching himself up into his emotions so tightly that he’s basically embalming himself before death. A tale of a woman who needs to get away, and does it all to make it happen, and how is now so very close. A tale of darkness and terrible choices and the folly of man.

PAGE TWENTY ONE

Coda. Hannah at her desk, and she’s got all the stories – because from her perspective, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?

I’ll be honest [refreshing after all the lies above?], I rewrote these final two pages many, many times. I had othertakes, followed other characters, watched other deaths. I had one with Summer in another place, another time. I watched Summer also die. I watched Hannah sit there, never writing anything, because she’ll never know. I took so many looks but I couldn’t figure it, which shit me to tears. I nearly always set out on a narrative with the coastline of the destination in the map. And I had the end of the final act, but not the coda, and this was where the meaning finds its resting place.

Every time I rewrote these pages, I hated myself a little more, and I kept leaving these pages on my ‘to do’ list.

Then, in deconstructing the story, and realising it’s very much Summer’s story, I came to some realisations. She shouldn’t die. She’s the femme, she has to win somehow, on some level. So I wanted her to live, but I didn’t want to tell you that, so I had to show you. Then the line about the sharks washing up dawned on me and it all made sense.

If sharks are washing up, they’re dead, so who killed them?

And who is inside them?

Hannah should get most of what she needs for her story, and we get to end on a splash of Summer in the water, unbeatable odds, and we get to nod and smile and know she manages it somehow. Because Summer Stanwyck can do anything, and more importantly, she will do anything.

Once I finally wrote ‘this’ sequence, I finally knew I had it stitched up. This made me happy.

PAGE TWENTY TWO

Which leaves us with the final page. I love an open ending. I love the ambiguity, especially when it dials up what the reader ‘hopes’ happened. If they project one way because of feelings, then that’s the complete victory for the tale and the team.

Again, this page took a long time to get to, through the redrafts, and the reworking of the previous page, but once we got it – we had it.

And that’s the complete tale. Whatever Summer gets up to next is her business, and we should respect her enough to leave her alone.

I’m thankful for everyone who stuck it out for 3 months on this title, or ordered the tpb landing this week [yep, this annotation is wicked late], thank you. Writing a comic is no joke, and making a comic is no joke, and having people read your comic is no joke. But having people dig the comic you make is better than any punchline in the world [not like when people hate your comic and you are the punchline].

Thank you, and good night.

RKL Annotations – CHUM #2

CHUM #2 lands with a sickening thud as we scrape our characters through the middle of the story, taking all their promise, their possible glory, and ruining it by issue’s end so there’s nowhere left to go but down, further.

This little #surfnoir that could has gained some great attention, and I’m floored by the amazing readers and retailers and reviewers all getting some sand between their toes and enjoying the ride. I’ve also enjoyed watching the sunset love that is Mark Dale colours over Sami Kivela inks, with a soupcon of Nic J. Shaw letters, bringing this all to life. This issue is a haunting poem to the shit we do for desire.

For those new to the game, these annotations are a little look into what I was trying to do when I wrote this comic, and it’s also a place for me to praise my collaborators. In the end, I hope you get a little something out of it to make you smile, or give you thought for your own writing.

Also, if you haven’t sampled CHUM yet, here’s a free Digital Ashcan with covers, preview pages, and other art process stuff for you [LINK]

Okay, let’s talk #surfnoir!

COVER

Sami’s cover game is crazy. This white cover, putting Summer under the waves, the ever churning waves, is gorgeous, and heartbreaking, and everything I know I want to see on the stands. That blood trail, aw, yeah. Just a designed delight.

Sami has a long career ahead of him doing covers, and I hope they continue to be on my comics.

CHUM_Cover_02

VARIANT COVER

I mean, everyone already loves Joe Mulvey, surely, but this cover will make you L O V E him. Hardcore. His inks on this are so crisp, the idea and composition are so eye-catching, and then he brought in Jules Rivera on colours and she took this to a whole new level. That red/orange [I don’t know other colour names, sorry] sky is so inviting, and the water pops, and it all plays with the logo, and this is just one of my favourite pieces of art to look at. The colours make me think this’ll be a fun one, but then you see what’s going on – with that subtle splash of Summer’s hair down the bottom dragging it all together, and it’s beautiful. Truly beautiful.

CHUM_Cover_02B

PAGE ONE

Bobby Level got his name because of Brian Level – RKL: stealin’ names from Twitter since about 2014.

Though look at that first panel. Soak it up. Now imagine you are tasked with hiding that behind your stupid words. Getting the lettering draft ready for this script was arduous because I was staring down Kivela/Dale glory and just trying to hide.

And this story Summer tells is something an old girlfriend once told to me that a friend of hers did. She told me that in 2001 and here it is on the page. Because time is a flat circle, and all conversations are narrative fuel for writers.

I really went back and forth about whether to have Summer’s sister’s dialogue come out of the phone, but in the end I didn’t want to clutter, and I assume the reader can keep up, so this is how it plays out.

But the point of this page is, who is Summer? Issue #1 was a whirlwind, so I wanted to slow down and just unpack Summer for a second. It’s not much, but it’s also a whole hell of a lot. She explicitly states it: “I am what I am, never what they think I am.”

I’m glad to have started the story putting Summer front and centre, and we don’t know what she’s doing, right before …

PAGE TWO

I love the way Sami takes my script and interprets it structurally. Those tiled panels are not called for by my but he throws it in there, leading the eye across, down, and right, so we then bounce back down-left to pass through Summer and into the sharks. That’s the kind of thing I’d never script visually myself, but it works so well.

Though that sunset against Summer’s line of “Where am I going?” is so very specific for me. The sunset the horizon, is the endless possibility of the world. It’s this little panel that says the world is about to completely open up for Summer, but first she’s gotta take care of some shit – like taking the chopped up body of Swampy and disposing of it.

I also have to take a second to point out just how amazing Mark Dale’s colours are – that rusty water is just an insane choice and is so glorious. It emotes oppression, it represents the place Summer needs to leave. I love it.

PAGE THREE

Look at that bird right up front in that top panel, look at it. What a choice – and I feel like your eye runs across the bird’s wingspan in a straight line to the right, and then you duck down to the bottom left by following the diagonal line of its undercarriage. Sami, killing it as always.

I also really dig the way Sami tiled the panels to show the pieces of Swampy washing up on the beach.

Did anyone pick up on the fact John Marsh is called Swampy when he’s undercover? Marsh —> Swampy. Anyone? Bueller?

The bottom half of the page is a great moment between Standard and Hannah. She’s stuck straight into him, and he just walks off silently. I had something scripted for him to say, but when the art rolled in I just cut his line, the walk off is perfect to continue to show how these two operate.

PAGE FOUR

This page exists because I wanted Gus to come back and instantly know he’d fucked up, he’d hitched his wagon to the wrong horse. So Summer and Gus get down to it, and I rewrote the shit out of this page. I wanted it clear Summer has the power in this scene, she has complete agency and control, and I wanted it to give us a look into Summer a little bit. Every page needs to earn its keep, and every page needs to do something, so I rewrote this page until it was more than just set up for the next page. Summer lays herself a little more bare for us, and we also see Penny for the broken man he is. I didn’t want him to be a guy in control of himself, he has to know that’s he’s mentally problematic due to the drugs, and so we seed this here in a real moment that Summer just completely shrugs off.

PAGE FIVE

This is a slow page, three panels don’t happen a lot for me, but I wanted this whole lead up to Gus to really mean something. I wanted to give the emotion the space on the page I felt it deserved. If I respected Gus’ feelings then perhaps you’d feel and understand them, too.

I like the lines here, because you might think that it’s her and Penny ending so her and Gus can begin, and that’s certainly how he sees it, but this is really her not caring that Gus was obviously planning to come back and she didn’t respect that, or him, and so she needed that relationship to end now. Gus had served his purpose, he was barely a piece on her board anymore. There’s dual purpose to the page, and anytime you can do that with meaning, I say run to daylight, Barry.

I also ran this page past three females I know – some writers, some readers – and asked their thoughts because I didn’t want to write her sexuality as hollow, or salacious, or anything else that I possibly wouldn’t see but a female reader would.

PAGE SIX

Here, Summer flat out lies to Penny, tells him what he wants to hear and it’s the polar opposite of what she thinks/feels. And it shows a little in her face.

Then we get to the bottom and Gus echoes the line – because I can’t help myself. It’s a trick I attribute to BKV in my head, not because he invented it, but because he’s done it so much in front of me that he’s the first connection I make to it, and it’s a call back where the same thing is used again but with a different meaning. I know, I’m being obvious in explaining this, and derivative in using it, but…yeah :]

Also, I’d totally cut her “GAH!” line if I had my time over again.

PAGE SEVEN

First of all, I love how Nic’s caption tips just behind Gus’ back, that’s awesome. I love the way Nic layers the page sometimes.

Okay, so this page – it’s a woman being attacked, and it’s tense for a few panels, and that’s the point, because we don’t hold the tension, we release on that final panel as we take in Summer’s reaction. This isn’t an exact part of the plan, but she’s powerful enough to roll with it and work it. She’s certainly not worried. I could only write this scene knowing she was like that and could and would handle herself.

PAGE EIGHT

That moment where Summer hears the footsteps and instantly steers the scene into a different place where she can own it is a pure summation of Summer in my mind. She is born from Linda Fiorentino in John Dahl’s THE LAST SEDUCTION. She is malleable, but she is never what you think she is.

The black balloons as she just slices into Gus, and then the four panels for the one line and how Sami changes Gus’ face across them. That’s all comic synergy from the entire team.

PAGE NINE

I gave Standard this full page, a build up page, because he’s the hero of the story and we need to see inside his head, and marvel at his reaction time, and also ensure he sees the slap, so when we turn the page…

PAGE TEN

Summer has already taken care of things. In fact, she timed it perfectly so Standard would see the slap but she could take care of business before he got in the room.

And yet Standard has the temerity to say he’ll be the one taking care of it. Yeah, that look on Summer’s face is her way of saying “Bitch, please!” right behind his back.

PAGE ELEVEN

Here, we give Hannah a page because she’s not been unpacked a great deal yet. We’ve only gotten to know her through how she relates and reacts to others on the island, so I did want to delve into her – especially because of how she plays out in #3 :]

This isn’t the most EXCITING page, but it’s a brief moment and it builds to the page turn. It was a pain in the ass to write, and it’s not perfect, but I like that everyone on the island is getting something for their time.

PAGE TWELVE

That look on Summer’s face, even in such a small panel, is perfect/

The way the bottom panels thread together, each being part of a larger image of the woman on her side, was something I scripted and Sami just smashed out of the park. I wasn’t even sure I was making sense, but he thumbed it out perfectly, and it plays well here because it’s subtle but it’s definitely there. Especially with Summer’s head breaking through and over Hannah’s panel, giving that sense of layering.

I also put in a line where Hannah acknowledges all of the Gus stuff so we can then timestamp this scene because I didn’t use any non-diegetic captions to explain how much time skipped after the whole scene before this.

And everything in between was just housekeeping, the hospital for Gus, the paperwork for Summer and Standard, all that, who cares? I zoomed on, because the genre demands it.

PAGE THIRTEEN

This scene was about pushing Summer into that corner again, but this time she knows she’s leaving the island, so she’s reacting more openly. I mean, this is a stupid move. It’s a move that has to be part of an endgame.

The panel in the reflection of the sunglasses, yeah, you know I’m not smart enough to concoct that level of game myself. Nor, seriously, would I probably ask an artist to do that. It’s so specific and something I wouldn’t want to force on someone else.

PAGE FOURTEEN

I love the tilt on this panel, the way the horizon doesn’t match the car. Then you put Mark’s colours into that sky and it’s just the best, completely moody.

The whole “They would leave when they were expecting // But all they could expect was heartbreak,” was probably the closest I came to breaking the purple prose in half. It’s so close to being on the nose, but it’s also exactly what is true for the scene.

PAGE FIFTEEN

I love a good splash with a novel written on it. There’s something about that juxtaposition that relays feelings and thoughts well – the time on the page stands still, but the minds are whirring.

Then, and I bang on about this, you get that Kivela/Dale marriage on the page and it’s just jaw-dropping. And it plays perfectly into the duality between Summer and Standard. She got a small horizon, a quest of infinite possibilities laying out in front of her. He gets this wide horizon, an endless ocean, and it looks like everything, but it’s just all the things he won’t have. This is him looking, trapped, and knowing he’s being encased in amber.

Shout out to Ryan Ferrier’s caption placement on here, building to that small last one.

PAGE SIXTEEN

This back and forth between them is frosty. She’s trying to big out – drugs and money in tow – and not get caught with Hannah assaulted elsewhere. He’s drunk and just assuming she’s being her usual cranky self towards him.

This page is continued interaction and character interplay for them, but it’s also cranked up a bit so when she turns, trying another tactic, it stands out.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

Then Standard has this big conversation with himself, all the stuff rattling in his head since he got drunk in front of the horizon he’ll never touch, and he wants to vent it on someone. So he lets it out, and Summer lets him. She gets out of the way, she’s obviously used to dealing with this bullshit from him. I find her reaction here – to be silent and absent – says so much about them both and their relationship.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

We cut to a 3 panel page, something I don’t usually do, because it’s a three pronged turn.

Panel One – Standard gives up.

Panel Two – Standard sees the board, and the narrative shifts into the final reel.

Panel Three – Summer isn’t going to get off as easy as she hoped. So, what’s she going to do about it?

And look at Summer’s face, and that burnt orange background, this is the moment Standard fucks himself over. Poor bastard.

PAGE NINETEEN

In the first panel, Summer is so unemotional, she’s detached from the story she’s remembering. But in the second panel she sells it with sexuality. She can run diversion on a drunk guy long enough, you’d assume.

Then Standard gets his own burnt orange moment to stare, and it’s with final clarity. He’s no fool and he knows this isn’t about anything she’s saying it’s about.

PAGE TWENTY

I love the cross panel handcuff reveal. I actually did script that – a rarity for a visual moment.

Then Standard starts babbling, like a rat scurrying after the scent of cheese. He’s knows he’s supposed to want it, and he used to be able to get it quite simply. But now he’s old, and drunk, and confused half the time. He rarely even gets a whiff and yet here he is doused in the fumes. He needs a moment to consider what it all means.

PAGE TWENTY ONE

A moment of truth from Summer. That’s the moment you should be scared.

It’s a diversion tactic that works better than sex.

And as for the words on the page – I like the “My apology isn’t for what I’ve done…” set up, but it feels a little played. Whereas the “You let a girl like Summer too close…and she’ll break your heart.” page turn is something I feel I can have more ownership over. It’s a little bit sad, even though you know people in these stories are built up to sustain damage at every turn.

PAGE TWENTY TWO

This moment feels like a good issue break. You don’t know who lives or die, and you have Summer handcuffed to her victim, and you know it’s all got one issue to resolve itself. I hope this leaves you really stewing on what happens Page 1, Issue #3, because this is exactly the point. I know every issue should propel you to the next issue, that’s Obvious 101, but this time I think I did it well.

BACK MATTER

I wrote about my Peach Pit noir fic, “90210h, God, He’s Dead!” and I’ll never write anything as good again.

Then I point you towards THE LAST SEDUCTION. Man, that movie did weird things to Teen Ryan’s dna.

Then turn up the surf noir jams as peeps sub in for 6 words at a time. Glorious. And this is a good bunch. But I think I’ll single out Shaun Manning for my hatred because his is so good: “Tendrils of seaweed and of leviathans.”

I love that. So emotive, uses two great words, and chunks it up using ‘of’ twice, but totally to effect. Totally how it should be done.

Two issues in and two thirds of the story down. We hope it’s been a rocket ride and you are ready for the crash landing.

If you got this issue, thanks, if you dug it, aw shucks, and if you wanna stick around for the end then we’d be mighty happy to have you..

Sami produced a cover for #3 that’s been my phone lock screen for a while now:

CHUM_Cover_03

And the Justin Greenwood variant is gruesome and so fantastic.

CHUM_Cover_03B

We shall catch you all for our final spiral down in 30, until then, feel free to spread the word. Indie titles rely on word of mouth, and one red hot tweet don’t cost nothing but a smile.

Thanks for taking a dip, see you again some time.

RKL Annotations – CHUM #1

 

It’s been a long time churning in the waves, but now CHUM #1 hits shelves on May the 4th and I guarantee it’ll be the best surf noir book you pick up this week [maybe even this year].

Sami Kivela on art is always one of my favourite things, and Mark Dale brings his beach colours to life. All that’s left is for Nic J. Shaw to wrassle my script into submission for letters and we’ve got ourselves a comic. So, let’s have a look at it.

For those new to the game, these annotations are a little look into what I was trying to do when I wrote this comic, and it’s also a place for me to praise my collaborators. In the end, I hope you get a little something out of it to make you smile, or give you thought for your own writing.

Also, if you haven’t sampled the book yet, here’s a free Digital Ashcan with covers, preview pages, and other art process stuff for you [LINK]

Okay, let’s talk #surfnoir!

COVER

We originally pitched with a different cover, with Marissa Louise on colours, and here it is.

coloured cover

I thought we should go with a style like old surf music vinyl covers and this was the glory Sami cooked up. It’s great. But Tyler James [the turtle who carries ComixTribe on his back] thought differently. He knew the elements needed on the cover and Sami took it in and this came out.

CHUM_Cover_01

Gorgeous.

The composition, the style, and that red. This came in and I suddenly knew what a sellable cover really was. I love this cover and it’s launched us well.

It even looks ace in white.aCHUM_AshcanCover_01Web

Having Sami rep us on the shelves, and in Previews, and in every piece of press we’ve done in such a manner has been huge for us.

Oh, and the logo – all Sami. And I love it. Took a few goes to get there but man does it match the art perfectly.

VARIANT COVER

ComixTribe kick in a variant cover for most issues and so I got to sit back and consider who I would want and could ask. That Vic Malhotra stepped up and dropped more red beauty on us was superfantastic. I love this dark shot, surf in action, and a focus on Gus who isn’t the centrepiece of the book so I’m glad he gets love here.

CHUM_Cover_01B

PAGE ONE

I remember inks coming through on this first page, and just looking at the first panel.

You very quickly realise how much more artists work on these funny books than us writers. And Sami is a beast for it, dropping little things everywhere just because he can. So much of this panel sets up the entire tone of the book for me. Beach/sand, lazy cars and surfers, and a brooding storm just slowly rolling in.

For a page with no narrative movement, I’m happy with how we introduce the three main characters of this story. I tried the linked captions [s/he was…] and went a little purple with it. I want to clearly indicate right off the bat that this book is pulp noir. And it’s an omniscient third person narrator, something I hadn’t done before, and it was as much fun as it was a challenge to nail it here.

We then slice a small panel to build for the page turn…

PAGE TWO

And then we drop Gus, as well as a small inciting incident.

Look at the way Sami tiles and builds these three panels. All Sami, and it’s genius.

That surfer joke was something I think I stumbled across online and the page wrote itself from there. Because it’s a dumb joke, but, for me, it feels totally right on the page, and it becomes way more intense when you get what he’s saying. Double entendre for the win, I guess.

PAGE THREE

Two interactions for Summer in the one page and I was sweating on the blocking and angles on this one forever. Then I remembered that time in the gutters can mean anything so I assume we can all believe she went from the outdoor balcony to the doorway and inside in a short amount of time.

Plus, that shadow of Standard in the bg of Panel 2, glorious. Gives the setting density.

With this page, I tried to set all three characters up more. Penny is an asshole. Standard is an asshole, and probs a drunk. And Summer manages to put up with these dickweeds being around her.

PAGE FOUR

This is about doubling down on the Summer/Standard connection, tying it to the island, making Penny the outsider – but then tying him in thick between these two.

It amuses me that Standard is calling her blind and stupid while she looks at him, like, “Damn, fool, dramatic irony much.”

PAGE FIVE

This was the last page of our pitch, you can feel how neatly it all wraps up into this sequence. All characters laid out, all lines drawn, all connections formed, all violence and feuds and lust hinted at.

Sami took this page and staggered the panels down, drawing us to a close. That panel of the flunky with his head underwater is amazing [those rain drops, his ‘lead singer of Crazy Town singing in despair’ face], and Mark Dale coloured the heck out of it.

PAGE SIX

There’s method to the madness on the page, I swear.

Gus starts isolated, a man in his own thoughts, so a man in his own white panel.

Then we draw the world in around him, he’s anchored to space and time once more. Sami and I are drawn into the right of this second panel. Awesome.

Then we put Gus into this hollow bar, again, he’s in the middle of a party, which is for him, and yet he’s alone.

Then Summer advances into his white world. She can break through to him, this is important, it holds much of the key for why Gus acts the way he does moving forward.

She is his sole focus, this is why he commits to so much of his stupidity moving forward.

PAGE SEVEN

Summer goes from setting Gus up, to playing him, to handling him all in one page. I don’t know if I’ve ‘nailed’ it, but this feels good. It’s a clear showing of how fast we want the narrative to move.

And that last black scratched panel is so indicative of a hangover that I can pretty much feel it already.

PAGE EIGHT

I feel like I dropped the ball on this page, he wakes, comes downstairs, and gets the note all in one fell swoop.

Either I need more room, or I needed to use this room more wisely. I don’t know, but I know this isn’t my Favourite Page of CHUM #1.

Hrmm.

PAGE NINE

Just to be clear, Summer doesn’t write this note quickly that morning. NO, she scribed this probably the night before. This is where her plan kicks in. The plan started the night before where she saw how useful Gus could be to her.

The way Sami draws Swampy looking and then not looking is so damn good. And we should have made his newspaper THE TRUTH.

That red bar across the page gets across so much info/feeling for me. How Gus is feeling, what he’s seeing, and what’s about to happen. I love a good page of tension mounting before we unleash…

PAGE TEN

…and, oh man, do we unleash.

I scripted this with a few action beats but then laid it out for Sami that if he wanted to go crazy on this page then he could. Sami’s level of design skill and ability to innovate is just intensely delightful and wonderful.

This page delivers on all fronts, it’s a bruiser. I love when comics does something fun/different, AND it pushes the narrative forward.

PAGE ELEVEN

This page is your first signpost to see that the character of Summer is not what you were thinking. And it’s a guide for how to handle her moving forward.

In the words of a better writer; this is her design.

And in true femme fashion, Gus had done all the work, his hands are literally dirty, and all she did was stand there, and yet she’s totally in control. She always will be.

Also, look at Mark Dale’s work on that first panel, man, I love the way he brings gritty emotion to the page.

PAGE TWELVE

Poor Gus, he’s the only character I feel sorry for in this whole book. He’s so earnest, and he just ‘wants’ so much. He finds this cash and feels like fortune is finally smiling down on him. Like Summer didn’t know about it all along.

He even tells her he’ll take care of her. Poor Gus, the fool.

PAGE THIRTEEN

And this is the moment the story escalates. A body, chopped up, two people wrapped into the betrayal. Sadly, only really one plan will be affected.

How Gus doesn’t see/feel it is testament to how blind a guy can get sometimes.

PAGE FOURTEEN

The jump in time is basically me skipping the boring parts. I don’t care how Summer cleaned her booth, I don’t care where people think Swampy has been. She’s got a few cans of Mr Clean, he’s a lowlife who no one cares about. I also wanted to skip over a few pieces of the Gus/Summer plan so they can be revealed later. Trickery or storytelling? You decide.

I like the interplay between Hannah and Standard. It was always fun to write. Maybe because there’s no sexual tension, and they both equally hate each other and kinda have reason to. Fun.

PAGE FIFTEEN

Penny finally looks and acts like a druglord. Albeit, a dumb reactive one. Emotional, probably paranoid, he’s to be feared because he’s bad at his job, not because he’s so effective.

I was constantly thinking about CARLITO’S WAY when I wrote this page.

This page is also one I’ve often shared because it’s such a visual shorthand for the #surfnoir sound we are trying to capture.

PAGE SIXTEEN

The transition of the flunky getting capped into the surf as chum and the boiling tomato sauce here on this page is a very tv sort of transition, in my mind. I actually wonder if most people will notice it. If you are reading on ComiXology with Guided View then I’m sure it pops, otherwise the panels aren’t near each other so I bet it doesn’t quite work like I want it to.

And Penny is back to being a tool and it’s almost, almost sad. It’s also interesting that he doesn’t realise what Summer is, either. Yet another blind guy around her.

That final caption still makes me laugh.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

The negative space in the knife panel is a great focus point, thanks, Sami.

Man, that Penny is going to go make her a sandwich shows exactly how much she’s got him on lock down. I can only imagine what all the other nights they’ve spent together have been like.

PAGE EIGHTEEN

I wonder how many people will connect the clothes and mobile phone here to later. I didn’t want to have Swampy all chopped up and displayed here like some EC comic because that would be crazy obvious.

Ah, subtlety, it always scares me.

This scene is all about showing how kinda messed up Standard is. The guy is unhinged, he’s no hero cop. Not at all.

PAGE NINETEEN

I specifically had Penny put down the knife here to show that he had it in his hands the whole time, and he didn’t use it, he never would have dared. Which interests me greatly, especially in this kind of story.

That look on Summer’s face as Standard drops the divorce papers off is heartbreaking. It’s not a huge moment, and we see this all play out in the coming narrative how she wants it to play out, but in this moment you can see it’s hitting her. This one little moment is getting through her barrier.

Enter, a new character for the page turn.

PAGE TWENTY

Standard, a dick AND manspreading all over this conversation. Again, he’s not our hero lead.

And right here I want people building to the finale. I hope it’s building.

PAGE TWENTY ONE

This opening panel and everyone’s taking a silent moment, everyone is recalibrating course whether they realise it or not.

I kept trying to get rid of that “Yep, go fuck yourself.” but Standard just kept saying it. It was his only response to her, no matter how many times I edited this page.

I like that Summer makes a quick-thinking power play to piss Hannah off and ditch her.

And everyone leaves the page in a very different way to the manner in which they started it.

PAGE TWENTY TWO

I’m still quietly fond of the ‘broken shards’ captions across the two pages. So sue me for being a fan of my own work :]

Man, this ending fucked with me for ages. It’s such a quiet beat, it bodes such ill, it’s heavy, lead lined, but it’s this very quiet moment and it was bugging me. Until I realised what I was doing.

Look at the page again, now, right as the phone starts ringing, just image that soft music they used at the end of every episode of THE WIRE playing us out to black. That’s what I want. I’m not certain I’ve nailed it, or if it works as well in comics [obvs, we don’t actually have the music], but this is the tone of the page. It’s playing us out with a gut punch. I hope someone out there is now pausing with no breath.

BACK MATTER

Man, once I came up with our back matter title, there was no turning back.

The Six Word Surf Noir Stories was an idea that came to me late in the game. I initially thought of getting some pin ups from art mates that were just of the beach. No characters, just the beach, but I was already chatting to mates about DEER EDITOR pin ups, so I didn’t want to wear any friendships dry. So I tried to think outside the box and then this appeared. And I couldn’t be happier.

Reaching out and getting six word surf noir stories from the likes of Christopher Sebela, Ed Brisson, and Duane [!!!] Swierczynski was a dream come true. They nailed it, and I loved doing it, and it was crazy fun. That we pushed it out to include many of the readers was pure icing.

And this brings to a close a story I started writing about 3 years ago and am just finally seeing in print. We’ve come a long, long way together, and it’s totally worth it to get this beast out into the world.

If you got it, thanks, if you dug it, aw shucks, and if you wanna stick around, well, #2 is right around the corner.

Sami pulled out all the stops for the #2 cover:

CHUM_Cover_02

And the Joe Mulvey variant with Jules Rivera colours is one of my favourite things ever.

CHUM_Cover_02B

We hope to see you back in the surf in a month’s time. Until then, feel free to spread the word. Indie titles rely on word of mouth, and one red hot tweet don’t cost nothing but a smile.

Thanks for taking a dip, see you in 30.

RKL Annotations – NEGATIVE SPACE #4

With #4 hitting the stands, NEGATIVE SPACE comes to a close and this is an amazing and emotional place to stand. This story means the world to us all here at Kindred HQ, it marks the second full creator-owned miniseries I have completed, and it is a work I am crazy proud of in all ways.

It’s been a rocky ride, it’s taken us a while, but in the end we stand by every single page, every single word, and we’ve created a story we think means something. And we hope it means something to all of you.

I hope you read this issue twice, I hope you’ve picked it apart, because now it’s my turn and we’ll leave no stone unturned. This post is all about how we made a book about unrelenting emotion and kept ourselves from falling into the void. We hope it helps you in some respect.

negative space 4COVER

On more than one occasion I’ve seen someone online recoil from this image. It is pretty visceral, I’ll admit, and that reflects the inside of the comic quite perfectly, really. This was yet another cover image that was easy to select out of the thumbnail options. The roundtable of emails very quickly sounded off that this was the one to go for.

For me, it’s the little fact of all those little Evorah in his braingoop that gets me, plus the circular arc of the blow out zone. And the END on his chest. I had considered, very originally, having a different slogan on his white T every time you saw him but that got tossed out at some stage, sadly.

PAGE 1

I didn’t script that Owen should use the original Cover #1 Evorah for this splash but he totally did and it’s totally rad. As are the little Evorahlings clinging to its back.

That line, “Everything goes back in the box,” was something I stole from a podcast, or a TED talk, and it just stuck with me right before it was time to write this issue and it held so true for this issue, and so many stories, and life.

PAGE 2

Having a stolen line from a podcast suddenly morph into this opening monologue was fun to have happen. This idea, this mantra, that everything’s okay because in the end, win or lose, it’s going to just go back the same, and to flip it into this depressive and scary mantra was fun to explore. Because sometimes it’s the words you use to help that hurt the most. Parenting taught me that shit real quick.

Having this page show us the real outcome from Guy’s emotional outburst last issue was a cold hard open I wanted to do. It also meant we didn’t have to show it all go down, because the output is nasty enough on its own. I’d actually wager some people shouldn’t linger too long, I know panel 2 kicks me but it’s actually the consideration of panel 3 that really gets to me.

Writing another vertical panel for Owen because he nails that shit hard every time, and sneaking in a ‘stop’ bridge from caption to dialogue like it’s smooth though I’m actually no doubt transition sandpaper.

PAGE 3

Guy starts this page so gung ho, so full of certainty, he’s really engaged and active, so of course I’m going to flip it by page bottom and seed doubt which we will capitalise on in this sequence. And Rick slips into snake oil salesman mode far too easily.

PAGE 4

This is Rick’s page. Because he’s a massive douche bag, a complete asshole, but he’s also 100% right. This is his moment and we finally peer through the bravado curtain and see the man pulling the strings when he says, “If I didn’t laugh, I’d cry.”

It’s the coping mechanism of the damned because it’s the person who’s either given up or been shown there’s no hope.

PAGE 5

This is kind of me taking a shot at armchair extremists, if you think about it. Even though I am one half the time. But it’s that idea that you can’t go off half-cocked about an idea you only know a quarter of the information about. You see people do it all the time, they take some nuggets of info out of context, they blow up about it, and then they wonder why nothing has changed because in reality they were trying to move an ocean liner by throwing a pebble in the water and hoping the ripple would carry them onto a new course. In short, they’re fools.

And here we see Rick isn’t really the answer, but neither was Guy. Not like we wanted him to be.

PAGE 6

Basically, this is just Owen cutting loose. He’s having fun destroying the world and I got out of his way.

My favourite little moment here is in the bottom right we have an Evorah throwing a person up into the mouth of the crazy-ass thing in the water. It’s like they have a system for doing this.

PAGE 7

In which Guy tries to cling to these new beliefs and has them shot down by more information coming to light – in flashback mode. How good are Owen’s flashback colours?

Also, I wanted to cut into the flashback here, in this page, so the transition wasn’t split between pages, and also so we get that establishing shot here, now, and can launch into the business in the next page.

PAGE 8

This sequence took me ages to write. I knew the idea I had to get across but I also didn’t want to spend a big amount of pages in this final issue looking back. But it was important info to obfuscate so far because we didn’t want Guy, or you intrepid reader, to know about this side of Kindred yet.

And, yes, this sequence is totally just JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING with an Evorah on a boat.

PAGE 9

There were initially a lot more captions here, spelling things out, but I got the page in and realised I was overselling and overexplaining things. You got the idea and the feeling and that is all you need.

And I think that final panel was a splash page at some stage in the edits. And it would have been glorious, but it got shuffled as we did right by some of the last pages of the book, from memory.

PAGE 10

And so we enter the emotional echo chamber and it’s all winding into the final act from this page on.

That final panel of Guy’s eyes all black, oof, man, that’s Owen just putting on yet another clinic.

PAGE 11

This page is simple, Guy doesn’t move, it’s a slow down if you read it right. It’s realisation sinking in, it’s the end of the line, and it would have been easy to overwrite but instead I found the one word I needed to bring Guy’s thoughts all together.

Giving that much space, and negative space [hai-yooooo], for the final image here of two guys and one word and all those emotions was a nice beat to reach. I could have done this page in a 25 grid, paused every movement, every breath, but I’m happy with how this comes out. We never let panels have this much space in this book so I think readers will take it for the open and empty air it is due to the rarity of such a layout.

PAGES 12

Keep rereading this page, start on Guy’s face repeatedly, come back to it, feel its emotion, then read the page, then go back to his face, read the emotion now knowing that he knows what he’s about to do, now read the page, now go back, and feel that emotion again, because you know he’d be living it a million times over before it happened.

That Rick’s face is right below Guy’s is amazing. The juxtaposition of emotions, the mirror between the two, this was not in my script at all. Damn, look at all that white in Rick’s eyes. And just consider, we know Rick now, we know he doesn’t deserve it, but by this stage if you were Guy would you feel any need for clemency?

That’s what I thought.

PAGE 13

Guy asking for help and Briggs jumping straight to his aid, yeah, I’m messing with you. She’s been quiet the whole time, waiting, and she just seems so lovely, right? So I give her this final moment with Guy, this beautifully easy exchange, because she knows she’s won, Guy will go in the echo chamber, and she’s not like Rick, she handles this totally differently. She plays it smart.

Then the moment between Guy and Beta. Man, that took a while to write. I had to sit back, and consider what someone like Guy could and would say in this moment. I kept it short, because of course he does, and I gave him complete honesty. He’s wishing for Beta something he doesn’t understand and really doesn’t even believe in. What words would not ring hollow? Well, the truth; he honestly does wish the best for Beta.

PAGE 14

Guy disappears to wallow in his doubts and fears and right outside his room they come true – the world is a piece of spherical shit.

When you control a story, and you get to decide what happens, well, I could have given Beta a getaway, I could have allowed her a nice ending.

But, honestly, where’s the truth in that?

PAGE 15

“I begin to weep.” was a line that came in the final draft, maybe even after letters. It works because it’s not belaboured, it’s short, and it speaks to the heart of the matter. No amount of purple prose about Guy’s feelings and depression were going to be more effective here to showcase the fact he’s a weapon now, and a damn fine one.

But we want to leave you, dear reader, hanging for one final moment, because you can’t be certain it’ll all work. Kindred are assholes, they could be gaming something, so we hook you along with a family man in a car because if you’ve seen the movie of THE MIST then you know this is shorthand for ghastly feels, and…

PAGE 16

…the day is saved. Or, one slice of it, because it’s the new world, same as it ever was, and the queen is dead, long live the queen.

You might have a good day, but I guarantee twenty others don’t, and the scales probably tip away from you daily, except on the days where you tip with the scales.

We see victory, Guy knows it’s the beginning of a long defeat.

PAGE 17

And when all you feel is defeat, but you can’t give up because you already did, which is why you are defeated. Guy is trapped in a purgatory of depression and can you imagine anything worse?

PAGE 18

One year later and it’s all sparkly roses and you know you can’t believe that shit. Hell, the interview is even on Fox, man, do not believe this shit.

We start our ending on a TV interview because that’s always great exposition fuel.

PAGE 19

As you consider this page, I do want you to think about that ‘one year later’ caption and truly consider living in your own emotional filth for a full year, no distractions. Now look at Briggs and how beautiful and happy she is.

This page wants you to know you are alone in your problem.

PAGE 20

And this page wants you to know what it feels like to be alone with that problem.

Guy treats his body like shit, he orders Pay Days which he loves and yet then doesn’t eat them, because that’s even harder on his mind. He endures, because it’s not living, and it’s not giving up, and it’s not easy. It’s such a loaded word. Loaded with the pain of cutting himself, of reading only the most depressing fiction, of listening to the music that guts him [really, music that guts ME because it’s so tied to my history], and then finally writing a thousand suicide notes. And knowing they will go nowhere.

Though, and I didn’t realise this until this week, but one of those notes just says “Run away with me” 3 times. Guy is in there reliving his last moment of attempting to be happy. The moment with Woody he never took – and, yes, you’ll notice Woody doesn’t turn up here. In the end, I wanted to leave him off the table for us as well as Guy because now Guy has no idea what happened to Woody, and he never will, and that’s going to eat him up inside.

PAGE 21

And now Guy is part of the machine, a big depressed cog, and he’s treated as such. It’s the worst.

Briggs puts on her glasses, like some kind of ‘deal with it’ meme, and she gets to live in a world where this sunrise touches her face, and it means something to her, and she’s the new Rick, always was. She serves a purpose and doubles down to believe in it because that’s what you do.

That what we all do, every day.

PAGE 22

Firstly, lemme say “And the man who wants to end his life suddenly feels immortal” is the pull quote for this book that you can’t use because of the spoilers it brings, but it summates this conclusion perfectly for me. THIS is suicide noir, this is the worst thing I could imagine doing to a suicidally depressed person, putting them in emotional stasis to dwell on it.

Guy is defeated, he’s done, there’s nothing he or anyone can do. Except for the tone with which you read his final lines. Are they sad, are they acquiescing to the darkness in him, or are they challenging? Is he staging one last power surge to break the cycle?

And if he is, then why’d you close the book trapping him inside that darkness forever more? Why are you complicit in boxing him away, why does that black page, the endless sea, face him eternally now?

I pushed hard for this extra page – the black page is Page 23 – but I wanted it for just this reason – it adds a layer to the narrative. Poor Guy, I hope you all think of him often, and consider him forevermore.

And that’s a wrap. Man, I don’t wanna go. But all good stories have an ending, and I am telling you this tale is done. There’s no resurgence for a sequel, there’s nothing more to be said. The world goes on, but Guy doesn’t, and he forever won’t.

I can’t thank Owen Gieni enough for bringing this gonzo emotional claptrap to life, and so beautifully and haunting. This book is Owen’s calling car for what he can do, and boy can he do it well.

I really want to thank Ryan Ferrier for making every page look gorgeous, every SFX feel considered, and really bringing this book together. And then there’s Daniel Chabon who took this story, this idea, and whipped it into the insanity you just finished here. I can’t stress the importance he had on shaping this story with me, on guiding me, and on making this as good as it is. This team was an amazing heist crew and I think we got away with it all.

But in the end, thanks to you, fearless readers, for stepping out, telling your friends, linking reviews, and making this book a huge emotional success for me. It’s been a wild ride and I hate to step off but I’m sure we’ll all meet again sometime soon. I hope.

If you haven’t convinced a friend yet, give them one hard push for the NEGATIVE SPACE tpb in stores the 6th of July, or just start stocking up for Xmas if you want to really bring the tone down on that sad ass meat coma Boxing Day. Ask your Local Comic Shop for details on making sure they get you one.

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

ymmv .17 – Exhaustion

I’ve been seeing some pics getting around the internet about exhaustion and how we need to all chill and take care of ourselves and I’m totally down for that, but I also need to be getting things done. Safe balances must be found so I delve into why sometimes, well, exhaustion is just going to happen as you follow your dream.

ymmv .17 – Exhaustion – Live on Loser City right now – LINK

Also, forgot to post up about ymmv .16 but it was about writing things outside of comics to lift your over words and stuff game. It be good post bout words. N-joi.

ymmv .16 – Don’t Only Write Comics – Live on Loser City from like 2 weeks ago – LINK

DEER EDITOR: FEARLESS – Last Surge

Hi all,

I wanted to take a moment and discuss the AUDIO COMMENTARY pledge level because it’s the one I love the most – hit the campaign here to scope it out [LINK]

DE2_Media2_bY’see, I love process [those who know me already know this, and Paul Allor just eyerolled so hard his peepers are still spinning] but it’s true, I dig the world of and around writing as much as I love writing. I listen to writing podcasts all the time, I read interviews from creators I dig/trust, and I love getting my hands on back matter and extra material in comics, especially when it pertains to how the book was made – logistically as well as a peep inside the creative mind.

I grew up reading a lot of non-fiction about entertainment, books about slasher flicks, books about 70s cinema, Stan’s Soapbox [ha]. If you find the right stuff, and if you dig deep, you’ll learn and level up every single time. I read movie scripts, I love Stephen King’s Author’s Notes because they are all fascinating insights into great ideas and minds, and Ed Brubaker is my back matter northern light.

Then for me, I get specific with the process content I can find and will really inform me on a deep level. If Matt Fraction writes something on his tumblr, man, you best believe I’m all over that. This trend of writer’s writing Commentary on their works is great because it gets under the skin of the best – and it’s also why I choose to do it: it’s fun, hopefully someone learns something, and I usually get a new understanding on my own work/process, too [LINK]

Now, I’m not saying I’m a Fraction/Gillen in this world [Allor’s eyes just stopped rolling because he started nodding in agreement with me]. I will never be as good as them, and that’s fine, but I wish more people who were as good as them were as open with their process. I wish people shared scripts and notes and deconstructions and ways to do things. And I figure if I do it, then maybe someone else will get the idea to also do it. And then we have a culture of analytical sharing.

It’s why both of my Kickstarter campaigns so far have had thick script pdfs offered, and why Stretch Goals often unlock pitch material or other analytical works. I put out what I wish to see more of in the world.

And this is why I’m so excited about the Audio Commentary. It’s all this stuff I’d write but then also not afraid to go into crazy tangents, because it’s spoken and I can rattle this stuff off with only a thought. To type it all would be insanity. But to ramble into the mic, well, that’s just going to be fun. And hopefully informative.

I know if Fraction dropped an Audio Commentary for $20 I would be all over that business. But, again [yes, Paul, yes, I know] I’m not Fraction. And I’m aware of this. Which is why, for that $20, you will actually be buying:

  • DEER EDITOR #1
  • DEER EDITOR: FEARLESS [with full back matter activated]
  • RKL Script PDF #2
  • Down Under PDF – a short from Owen Gieni and I
  • CHUM Preview Ashcan – the up-coming surf noir series from Sami and I from ComixTribe
  • Blind Dates and Broken Hearts ebook – about Daredevil’s lovelife
  • The Secret History of Paul Keating PDF – a comic short from Matt Lesniewski and I
  • Noirvember ebook – 30 essays about noir
  • HEADSPACE pitch doc – for the process junkies to see how Eric Zawadzki and I got that book off the ground
  • STUCK IN THE GUTTERS #1 magazine pdf – made by Leo Johnson, feat. many comics and essays, incl. one from Dan Hill and I about FURY MAX: MY WAR GONE BY
  • Audio Commentary files [hour/s of fun]

That’s 11 different things to download which works out to less than $2 per thing, not to mention that’s using the Monopoly money currency of Australia which converts into ~$15US. I gotta say, that’s some pretty wild value.

Photo 28-02-2016 10 15 36 pmNot to mention, do us a solid and get us to this $3k zone and if you’ve backed $3+ then you get to submit a 6 word antler noir story and it’ll end up in the back matter [discretion allowed if you decide to be offensive of Allor-inflammatory].

OR, bump us to the $3500 stretch goal and I’ll also unlock a PDF download of the #1 issue of a new series from Sami Kivelä and I [and many friends] called CURRICULUM and it’s an absolute ripper.

I know the Audio Commentary sounds high end, and it is, but it’s going to be some serious back matter truth bomb strafing for your ears, and it comes with this absolute slate of other downloads from more comics to ebooks, magazines, pitches, and the chance to worm your own bad self into the comic.

I hope you see the value and the fun of it and consider this pledge level because at the end of the day, the lion’s share of this campaign’s funds will go to Sami and he deserves every single damn penny for the amazing job he’s done on this book.

OH, and there is now going to be an Antler Noir prose piece in that thick PDF for FEARLESS and it opens like this:

A Refined Palette for Murder

Written by Ryan K Lindsay, Illustrations by Sami Kivelä

Someone once asked me if I could smell human emotions. Like I’m some sort of freak. Or god.

I politely told them I couldn’t smell them, deer can only smell certain poisons and delicious meals, but I told him I could read them. I’d know if you were nervous from fifty yards. You couldn’t hide your seething frustration from me if I was driving 180 miles an hour past you.

I’m a journalist, I get to the truth every time, but I don’t use Super Olfactory Mojo to get there. I just sit down and watch and think.

It shocks me how many people don’t think anymore.

Take this party I went to last weekend, for instance.

DE 2_coverI’m looking forward to bringing this campaign to a close, I can’t thank you enough for believing in our insanity, and we all here at The Truth HQ wish you an ace end to your day and week.

Believe in antler noir – [LINK]

ymmv .15 – Writing the Love of your Life

The latest ymmv is up and it’s an ode to DEER EDITOR and why sometimes you should just write what you love. Because that passion will shine through, and maybe even rub off, and you’ll feel happier for it all.

I mean, c’mon, who knew a story about a deer journalist fighting mayoral corruption and then facing vampires would be a Kickstarter success twice? It’s only through force of will that anyone cares about this dumb idea, I’m sure, and I’d like to think my passion behind it, my crazy love, makes people believe it’ll live up. It also keeps me working really hard on it, in weird ways, to keep it afloat and support it and make it a reality.

READ ymmv .15 – Writing the Love of your Life – LINK

I honestly believe that writing something you are dying in love with is important and also so damn good.

And if you believe in this as much as you will believe in antler noir then hit the latest DEER EDITOR Kickstarter [LINK] – for just $1 got the 48 tablet page comic, or level up to get the previous issue also for a buck, or an audio commentary, or some OG Sami Kivelä art.

ymmv .13 – I Haven’t Written a Goddamn Thing

One month down and I haven’t written a damn thing.

Well, that’s what it feels like anyway. I didn’t actually script a full page of comics in January, which makes me feel icky and lazy and stupid and crazy. But I have been writing.

ymmv .13 – I Haven’t Written a Goddamn Thing [LINK]

This column is the sort of thing I didn’t think I’d be writing. It’s a peek into perceived failures, and also what the role of a writer really is. It’s not even something I like to think about because I love scripting and all the rest can feel like work sometimes.

I guess writing is a job and not some creative job where I ride a unicorn to my rainbow office in the sky.

RKL Annotations – NEGATIVE SPACE #3

NEGATIVE SPACE #3 is late. There’s no two ways about it. It’s a new year and a whole month in and you are only just getting your mitts on this beast. We are all crazy proud of this issue so we thank you for holding on and dipping back into the waters with us.

negative space 3Owen Gieni continues to drop serious A-levels of game and heat in this book so it’s an eyeball feast, and Ryan Ferrier is the letter we need AND the one we deserve.

This is a process post where I try to open up how we broke the eggs for this omelette but it usually devolves into my just gushing about Owen’s work. I hope my weepy collaborator love helps you somehow, let’s dive in.

COVER

Love the fact this is so crucial to the issue/story and yet doesn’t really exactly spoil what’s going on.

Also love the crazy violence peppered throughout the whole thing. We went from one very central image for #1, to a smattering of subtle word things for #2, and now this is just a visual buffet the more you dive into it.

PAGE 1

There’s a joke on this page, you see it, right?

It’s not even that good a joke but I really just wanted to keep it because it’s beyond absurd and so it’s a hint to the whole tone of this thing. Even when it’s serious, and bad, there is time for this moment to occur.

It’s also totally a SAGA style opening splash, no bones about it. Complete swipe.

PAGE 2

Beta makes with some serious James Remar info-dumping to open the issue. Womp.

Poor Guy, so sad, so committed to talking out loud to himself to keep us all on track.

PAGE 3

The way Owen handles Guy’s expression completely sells this whole ‘using a tentacle on a mask to mimic putting a hand up to someone’s mouth to shut them up’ moment.

Pretty much just every way Owen handles this weird landscape and the Evorah in it proves he’s worth more to this book than I ever was or could be. He’s playing with a lot of pieces and he’s making it all work like crazy.

PAGE 4

I’m worried this sequence is plodding but I’m realising it’s just metered tone when taken as part of the whole story. This is my ebb before we get to some serious flow right into the finale of this issue.

All of this is set up for what happens ahead and so I’m glad I took my time here.

Also, look at Beta turn nasty and almost burnt in her blackness in that middle panel. That’s some colour as storytelling stuff going on right there.

PAGE 5

You should get a sense of just how pig-headed and stupid and doomed Guy is from this page and how he handles himself here.

The way this random Evorah shuffles into the room but then doesn’t quite see Guy yet is so superbly well placed and handled by Owen. This sequence was hard to write, and I thought I might’ve blown it, but he really brings it all home. That transition between the final two panels really sells the split second moment Guy has before he’s completely screwed.

Also, that child’s skeleton on the table is totally all Owen. Blame. Him.

PAGE 6

Pretty certain that first panel of Guy wrapped up by some tentacles is completely all Owen and it’s so damn effective. Makes it look like he’s been stitched up, but then you see it’s a showdown…and he’s being saved by Beta. The way she holds him down and leans right over the table is just pure perfect Gieni body language. This is masterful in every sense of the term.

Also, take in them Ryan Ferrier scribble balloons. So ace.

PAGE 7

Beta is so confident, so forward, and she’s literally dragging Guy into it all. And there’s no small metaphor that he’s being taken into and down an unknown black whole.

And that bottom panel of Guy swimming forward to this unknown is one of my favourite panels of this book. If ever there was a Depressionaut, this is he.

PAGE 8

Guy is lost, Beta is too quick, and we all quickly see just where this is all taking place and that the unknown is a scary and ridiculous place.

It’s also so cool to know that when you ask Owen for bioluminescent bubbles then it is exactly what you are going to get. This is an example of writing right into the strength of the artist.

PAGE 9

This is the false beat before the real BOOM.

Wish I could’ve tweaked the dialogue some more on this page, it just doesn’t pop as much as the others.

PAGE 10

This, man, THIS is just far too much fun. Owen obviously throws himself headlong into every square inch of this book and this is wild proof right here. Look at this thing? I had an idea, linked to a YouTube clip, I gave some suggestions, but this right here is beyond my brain. Look into those eyes and despair. Owen Gieni just drained your soul.

PAGE 11

This turning point for Guy was one of those sad gags I had to throw at him. The fact he’s about to die and instead one of these giants is going to just suck on him like an emotional everlasting gobstopper and could you imagine anything worse in your life? This is why my characters would gang up and mutilate me if they ever gained independent sentience, I’m no good for them at all.

Owen took that Evorah hugging panel and just gave it everything, didn’t he? This one panel is just pure high art right in the middle of the page. And if you look closer, you’ll see Beta struggling to open it up and her body language is again on point.

PAGES 12 + 13

Double page spread klaxoooon.

An emotional vista, and I wasn’t sure it’d work, but then Owen just comes along and slays it like it ain’t no thing. It’s almost like a picture book for just a moment, a dark, haunting, terrible book for kids about why life sucks. From top left to the promise of life to the bottom right and the ‘real’ promise of life, the only promise it can offer, that it ends, and this page actually gets to me a little.

Though I didn’t realise how well this spread would go down. The reviews loved the shit out of this and I thank them for it.

There’s even this weird little colour scheme thing going on that makes me think/feel INSIDE OUT a little and that’s just too damn fine.

I’m also quietly proud of the device at the bottom where we see the happiness bomb charge and it’s exposition but silent. You still have to piece all of this together, keep thinking, keep up.

PAGE 14

The layout on this page is nuts, the colours, the way we move through the motions. Guy smiling is weird enough but this cropped image of him makes it even more ghastly, a rictus of depression.

I love Guy’s body language as he tears into this beast, he’s so victorious. And the colour draining from the Evorah as they change emotion is something Owen just completely nails.

As for the echo of lines in this page from the last, where I flip the meaning, yeah, you know I’m quietly proud of that – though not silent, I’m still gonna tell you.

PAGE 15

This is a page of complex human emotions. I want you to still hold them, feel them, and yet still not fully understand. Because who actually understands human emotions, we are insane, erratic, flippant. That’s what makes us so beautiful sometimes, and it’s really something I want to try and write.

PAGE 16

“This is how angels must feel.” is one of those lines I wasn’t sure would get through but I knew I’d fight for it, though this was completely unnecessary. It stayed through every draft, never questioned, and I’m still really glad with how simply it sums up Guy’s feelings as he essentially annihilates a bunch of creatures.

And how good does that annihilation look against that green? Bloody ripper.

PAGE 17

War is hell and we all lose. Guy’s boot hitting that dead Evorah shell kinda says it all for me. And that Ferrier SFX in there is perfect to make you feel the split second moment.

Beta’s dialogue is so much fun to write, but even more fun against the droll sensibility of Guy. He never reacts or gives anything away and tone doesn’t play on the page against a back and forth so you need to bring a lot to it but if you do, and you get it right, then these two are so fun against each other. Beta never seems to pic up on Guy’s feelings, which is hilarious for an emotionally charged species. I guess happiness drowns and blinds you – which is completely true, btw.

PAGE 18

Owen’s layout on this coda page for the battle just makes me smile. It’s all a pause, a breath, and it leads into that final beat of the issue. These pages are important because you get interplay, you get set up, and you get to slingshot into what comes next.

PAGE 19

Because of course Rick is a mansplainer. And these two are just as much fun to write as the Beta/Guy pairing and that’s been really fun in this book, figuring out how to pair characters up to bring out the best in them all.

This page is filler, kinda, but it’s insight, and it’s also a pause, but it works because we gave Guy/Beta the pause so now Rick/Briggs get one too right before the end. I like getting these pages when I can, to let the characters play and shine. You can’t always show them within the action so you find the beats.

It was Owen who brought the sight gag of Briggs trying to pry Rick off the tablet, which I think plays well to show how absurd this all is. It’s weighted, it’s dark, it all means something, but it’s also batguano absurd, which you have to be fine with.

PAGE 20

It was important for me to have Guy stand up to Rick, and Kindred, verbally first. This isn’t a sneak attack, this is him really stepping up and doing what he is doing. Cutting Rick off came as a happy accident because I couldn’t think of a good Bond villain entrance for him but then realised Guy wouldn’t stand for it anyway, he’s got to do what’s coming.

PAGE 21

And here comes the realisation for us all, the reason Guy survived down there was because the thought of dying just filled him with such goddamn happiness. There was glee in the thought he was so close to the end. It kinda backfired when it killed the creature that would kill him and so then he’s actually not going to die, but it’s what awakens in him the knowledge of how all this emotional malarkey works, and he’s going to go out with a bang, and that kind of agency is important in a suicidal person. It certainly is in Guy.

It was always really important to me that even at this stage of the tale we have Guy still be suicidal. He’s not cured, this isn’t him fixed. And then we have him use this weird happiness over his own death emotional whirlpool to attack Kindred. This is where his arc is going.

PAGE 22

This is just a page to behold. I was initially going to hold it over until the next issue but Chabon convinced me to have it here and he’s so right, it’s a killer ending. Because – and I cough out some clickbait – you won’t believe what happens next. We still have one full issue to make all of this count, and count it all certainly does.

But, again, look at this page. Just…thank you Messers Gieni+Ferrier.

And this is where the final chickens come home to roost for everyone. One. Issue. To. Go.

Thank you for getting down on this issue. I hope you dug it. Though if you’re reading this I doubt you’re the kind to go this far into hate-reading a comic. I guess.

Indie comics live and die on readers caring, so thank you for taking the time. It means the world to all of us at NEGATIVE SPACE HQ. Stick around, see what drops next month to wrap all of these shenanigans up, which I guarantee you is a worthy and gut-kicking finale to the whole mess.

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

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