Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Goodreads – Pros and Cons and Musings

I dig Goodreads. It’s a social network all about books and reading. What’s not to love?

Well, it’s owned by Amazon. Who I fairly openly hate/distrust. I often wonder, if I hate Amazon this much, as well as many other monocorps, then shouldn’t I hate Google? I mean…I probably should, and yet I don’t. Maybe it’s Bezos. Maybe seeing one guy get insanely rich and just seem so dug in on not being community minded really lays me low. It’s probably that. Anyway, TL;DR Amazon can jump, buy from your local independent book seller. And yet, Goodreads….

I use Goodreads. I’m not an active member of the community, but I track my reading there. I don’t really know what other people are doing there, but I do my thing on there as a reader. I also don’t mind it as an author, I’m not behiolden to the review scores, but it’s another place I can try to gauge interest, I suppose.

You can see my reading and writing on Goodreads here!

As a reader, this year I set myself the goal of reading 52 things. I track novels, comics, and even picture books with my class/kids, so it’s not impossible to make the list. And the site is a great place to assemble the list, and if people are watching and get a good reading recommendation, all the more power to them.

However, I think I can also track this stuff on my own site, and I probably should. You should never have all your content held on another platform you can’t control. Take it from someone who remembers reading comics on MySpace and wrote for the site The Weekly Crisis. You want your own copies, and you want to do your best to own how/where you share them.

I use WordPress, and even with that I worry at times that maybe they get bought out and my site gets junked. Who knows?

I’m considering doing more to keep my reading pile tracked on my site, I just need to work out the perfect format for it.

As a writer, I recently just looked into getting my latest comics put on there, SKYSCRAPER and SHE. I found they’d already been added, but I needed one added to my author profile, and with both of them there, I was able to edit the entries with covers and such.

All this activity [and there’s always peripheral writerly duties that take up our time], got me thinking – is this helpful to me? Will any new readers find my work through Goodreads? Will I get a proper gauge on what people think based on reviews/stars there? Is it a good catalogue of what I’ve written?

I already keep a Writing Catalogue of everything I’ve written on my site because I think that’s important to maintain on your own. But the thought of someone finding my work on Goodreads intrigues me. I don’t “find” much there, but I will admit if I look for something on there and find it has a great star rating then I am definitely more inclined to be intrigued by the book and want to buy/read it.

This then got me wondering, do many other people use Goodreads to track, shelve, rate, review books they’ve read?

I know I will continue to do it, I don’t seem annoyed enough yet to dump Goodreads in the same way I have Facebook [and have been all the better for it]. But I will also try to keep the data I put there also on my own site, so I have my own source of what I’ve written, and what I’m reading.

If you’ve read my work and are Goodreads-inclined, then by all means mark them off as read.

SKYSCRAPER is now on there

SHE Vol. 1 is also up

Or you can just use your fine tip caligrapher’s pen to put it into your bespoke leather journal, or open a window and scream it into your neighbourhood.

The Walking Reread Vol. 4

Alright, four columns into the reread at this stage. Still enjoying it, still remembering fond memories as this volume was read a few times back in the day, and so now a decade later I have new thoughts as I trundle through it all.
We open on Michonne. A character who certainly grows into a favourite of mine, so it’s interesting to look at her silent Yojimbo introduction. They’re definitely looking to set a mood as she strolls casually amongst the zombies, with her own two armless captives chained to her, and easily slices another zombie’s head off. For an openly overly-talkative comic, this is something new, something different.
We then cut back to the main event: Dexter was telling everyone to get out. Luckily, a zombie horde stumbles into the scene, setting off chaos, and the people all band together to survive. Rick even shoots a zombie to save Dexter’s life, and he stupidly responds by telling Rick it was not a smart move and it doesn’t change anything. It’s an explicit way to both telegraph and excuse what comes next, and while it helps with clarity, I think it might have been stronger to leave Rick in doubt as to what Dexter would have done next before taking his brutal choice of survival for this volume.
Rick shoots Dexter in the head during the heated battle, playing it off like a stray bullet, despite Tyreese having seen it go down.
Would it have made Rick seem even more deranged, or evil, or something if he just took the advantage without Dexter blatantly telling him he should have…yeah…but Rick isn’t the hero of this story. He’s the protagonist, and there’s a difference.
But I get why it’s handled the way it is.
The fight subsides, things go back to normal, the group lets Michonne in, and it all gets to take a breath. Rick shows some remorse, and realises he’s a hypocrite, but that doesn’t mean anything’s necessarily going to change.
The next issue opens with a 5 page sequence of zombie disposal at the fenceline, and it’s interesting enough, but way more interesting to note that’s nearly a quarter of that month’s issue put to task on housekeeping. It also speaks to Glenn’s character, which helps, but it started me realising that Glenn doesn’t really do much anymore. He was integral at the start, he was the runner, the guy on the frontlines, Lately, he’s just moseying around, and coseying around with Maggie, and it’s an indication of the book in general: it’s less high stakes lives, and more regular stakes lives in a high stakes world. I think this is partly what set it apart from other zombie fiction, it settled in for the long haul, it slowed down, and went where the characters would emotionally go for a time, before ramping up the external threats again.
It makes me think of THE STAND and the section on body removal in Boulder, Colorado. All stuff to consider when at the end of the world.
Coming at this book a decade and a half after I originally started it means I’m coming at it with a stronger feminist lens. I’m interested to see if I notice growth, because so far I’ve lamented the relegated positions of the women in this comic, and seeing Andrea here sewing new clothes out of prison garb just continues the trend. Following it up instantly with Lori being pregnant and emotional, and then Patricia sitting in emotional despair and being chewed out by Otis isn’t helping it all.
Now, granted, Otis is being a massive dick, so that’s not a great portrayal either, and it plays into its own stereotype of toxic masculinity at play – and last issue we dropped a C-bomb, this one drops the N-word, and I didn’t remember either being in the books vernacular. So Kirkman doesn’t mind making all kinds of people, and genders, look weaker, but it just seems to stand out more that every woman in the crew is fairly similar, and played out in a similar way. Michonne is the one to break that mold.
The next scene is Tyreese getting cosy with Carol before being interrupted by Michonne, and a loose love triangle forms as Tyreese instantly kind of falls for Michonne’s charms because she knew of his sports career – flattery is a set of blinkers for the male ego. So, again, here Tyreese isn’t exactly a male role model either, but he is positioned between Michonne and Carol who seem cast in the Madonna-Whore roles around him. It’s good drama, but lazy gender roles.
Around this point you start to see the embedded nature of this book as one big soap opera. We jump to Maggie and Glenn reaffirming their relationship, and Dale and Andrea deciding to stick around a while longer. It’s all little life decisions, set amidst a zombie apocalypse.
Contrast this to 18 straight pages of dudes being dudes in the Z-days as we see farming banter before a bunch of fellas decide to set off with weapons to clear out some zombies. Most of this sequence is Allen as the A-plot as he’s finally surfacing from his funk and wanting to help, but being decidedly unhelpful as he completely fucks the clearance up, spooks himself, and then gets himself bit. Rick is the B-plot as he charges into action to save Allen’s life by amputating his leg, in a sequence that’s fairly brutal and grounded.
18 pages, whereas the montage of women before it usually got one page each – Patricia, Lori, Andrea, Maggie, and Carol and Michonne. All 1 page scenes, and then nearly a full issue just to watch Allen kick an own goal, and I gotta be honest, I don’t really care about Allen at all. I feel bad saying that, the dude’s in a bad way, but I just don’t care. Rick charges to action, Herschel shows off his brains, and elsewhere for a single page Lori and Carol talk about needlework, scrapbooking, and quilting, and that’s no joke or hyperbole. I’d rather explore Lori and what it’s like to be a mother to one, and pregnant with another, in the zombie days, but she gets barely any panels, and Allen basically gets his own issue in which to die. It’s a touch topsy turvy.
Rick goes to Lori, and he seems a little shaken by it, but he’s there to ask Lori to check in on Allen. Rick is fine to be the point man when it comes to lopping a brother’s leg off with an axe – and don’t even get me started on the sterility/hygiene issues of killing zombies with an axe and then busting your mate’s leg off with it moments later – but when it comes to some emotional support he throws his pregnant wife at the problem. And when we cut to Allen, there are some men standing around, but it’s Andrea down holding his hands.
I’m assuming in the coming zombie apocalypse that 2020 is no doubt waiting to roll out as a fitting finale, men won’t be allowed to express emotions then either. I don’t want to sound like a hater on this comic – I think the premise, the execution, the art, the pacing, it’s all top shelf. I enjoy reading this book, and will continue to, but seeing the male/female engagement with this whole Allen thing just bums me out a little, I won’t lie.
Time to cut to Tyreese in the gym with Michonne. Oh, cool, she’s blowing him with little build up or fanfare, and then Carol witnesses it and doesn’t do a thing. The love triangle gets sharp and dangerous, and the one guy is just a witless fool stuck between the silent seductress and the even more silent “housewife” he’s completely destroying. He’s got no agency in this, apparently [though many will tell you, deciding to not make a choice, is you making a choice], and it could be an interesting power interplay between Michonne and Tyreese, were it not for me already seeing so many lazy female characters on display and this then compounding on it.
Thank goodness we cut to Maggie and Glenn, as they’ve snuck off to have young sex all day. At least their relationship feels equal, and maybe Maggie has more power than Glenn. He’s fairly stable and genuine, and she’s a little more emotionally mobile and yet has most of the deciding power in their movement forward. This is the best written relationship of the book, and that’s probably why it resonated with readers.
There’s an unnerving sequence of Michonne talking to herself, or someone else who isn’t there, and when called out on it completely lies about it. Or worse, maybe isn’t aware of what she’s doing. This is followed by Carol and Tyreese in bed in a truly heart-wrenching scene where you can see Carol going through the motions of trying to resolve her feelings after what she saw, wishing she didn’t have those feelings, and then steering into the skid of those feelings, all in 2 pages. It’s a really great scene, packed full of emotion and the kind of fragility that feels real. It feels like proof Kirkman can handle this stuff sometimes.
The comic wanders through some small set pieces – farming, babysitting, medical visits – and it sounds silly and pointless, but it’s all really good “small world building.” And it serves to slow us down as a reader, to invest into the new lives of the people, so we can understand, maybe build context and connections, before it’ll be torn apart again soon [we can assume].
There’s a fantastic conversation between Lori and Michonne where Lori realises those old conversation starters from the past – You work? How many kids? Where you from? – don’t work anymore, and in fact they usually just drag up bitter memories. It’s a visceral reminder that these characters are stuck in the present, which is why they’re so invested in the relationships they build here, it’s all they have, and all they can stomach.
Carol gets a bit of a bum steer in character development as she commits suicide. And does it in front of her daughter, no less, which is a horrifying thing for the kid to see, but a truly terrifying thing to consider a mother doing. It paints a new pit for Carol to exist in as it’s a much stronger action for her to have taken. I’m reluctant to label mental health issues as weakness, and the male cast get their share of them over time, but Carol hasn’t been given much else to do except be a cliche housewife lost in the apocalypse, be someone’s girlfriend, and someone’s ex, and someone’s mother. She isn’t a fighter, or a protector, or a leader. So dumping the emotional baggage on her, without any of the extra loaded responsibility tells us a bit more than we want to hear. It takes all of this leadership and problems and decisions for Rick to snap, but all Carol needs is to be present, and to feel knocked back by a man, and she’s ready to end it all.
The suicide attempt is even worse on reflection as I can see it’s merely a spark to set off a 23 page powderkeg of a sequence between Rick and Tyreese. They don’t check on Carol, I assume Rick’s left a woman to deal with such things, and instead they get into an argument that develops into a fist fight that develops into the airing of many bottled grievances. The fight is worthy of ‘The Quiet Man’ in how it drags out and moves around, and the resulting pouring forth of vitriol and previous secrets is great for the drama playing out alongside this bloodshed. It’s a big moment for the group, and in showing that it proves how little of a moment Carol and her problems [and solutions] are to everyone/everything. Which is a shame.
Rick is badly damaged from the fight, and he blacks out, but thankfully he can wake up to the exceptionally wide eyes of Carol, still alive, and now throwing herself at Rick. It’s a sad swerve for her character, in a series of decisions that make her look like a car scrambling not to fall off the cliff at every single moment.
Rick is informed he’s no longer the leader, they’re going to share that role between many dudes instead. In story, they address why no women are included – they even mention it twice, but just saying that no women wanted to step up doesn’t excuse why the writer didn’t want any women to step up. It’s clear he didn’t write many women that were built to be able to, many of them timid, happy to do the washing up, and the few who should were either pregnant [Lori] or so new to the group they weren’t in the right place to offer [Michonne].
I’ll say it again, I’m not setting out to harp on this book, but it’s fascinating how much you see the issues when you have your mindset open to seeing them.
Rick then gets about half an issue to talk to the group, clearing his head out loud, and then declaring that they are the walking dead. It’s a good moment, I still remember having read it the first time. It’s a good beat to end the trade on, and I believe it also ends the second HC, and the first omnibus.
This volume is good, it’s all little fights, no big bads, no major zombie outbreaks. The humans are finally slow and steady enough to reveal that they’re their own worst enemy nearly all of the time. I’m certainly keen to keep reading, and I’m very interested to note all of this gender work here just to be able to track if/when things improve in later volumes. Will the book grow? Only time will tell.
This post originally appeared on my Patreon – enjoy.

So Reckless With Their Lives

I recently read PRINCE OF CATS by Ronald Wimberley. I got the latest oversized Image Comics release, it’s a beautiful beast of a tome, and I dug so much of the book. It’s a telling of Romeo & Juliet that gives us Tybald as the lead, it puts it in the Bronx, and plays with structure, and the ways in which comics can show action and emotion. It’s also written in iambic pentameter. It is a very good piece of work.

In the back matter, there was a line that completely captivated my brain for a week after reading it.


“…I asked myself why it had never before seemed strange to me that the children of Shakespeare’s Verona were so reckless with their lives.”

This concept of really thinking through the characters and their actions and motviations after you’ve read it is a powerful piece of brain fuel. Taking those thoughts into action by building new context for the story and thus commenting on modern concepts is beautiful. There are cliches and tropes, and there are archetypes, and classics, and often we take aspects of them for granted. But to consider what they told us, and why they might be doing it, and laying it like a sheet of vellum over modern times, and looking for where lines balance, and where they maybe tangent to create something new…that’s art.

When we write, we have to consider why our characters would do something. Are their actions real, are they earned. It helps to consider that of the characters we read, and what we’re really seeing in each thing that seems like it’s part of the landscape and we should consider what it is telling us about the landscape.

Every component in a story is a strategic choice, even the subliminal stuff. When we write, what we say, what we leave out, what we put into bold, it’s all building the whole. Then we interact with those things as the reader, and if we’re lucky, we use it to influence the inflection of our own creations down the line.

PRINCE OF CATS is going to work its magic in my brainpan for a long time to come.

Short stories are awesome. Always have been.

I love short stories. There’s something so special about the kind of idea a writer gets that only needs a small amount of space/character/world to tell. It’s not a novel, not a tv series, not a huge reverberating narrative engine – it’s just a thing that desperately needs to be told.

The ultimate short story collection that springs to mind for me is NIGHT SHIFT by Stephen King. Mostly because I read it so young it became formative, but also because it’s so damn good. I feel like every damn story in it is amazing, they’re all certainly memorable, and looking over the track list…nine are still absolute bangers that I stand by. A few others are good, but fall just short of great. But the collection is evergreen in my mind for what I dig about short stories.

I got thinking about them recently because I saw Hard Case Crime are releasing a collection of Ray Bradbury’s crime short stories:

That cover is so exceptionally haunting and beautiful. Where compositon and colour just flat out open my wallet. I really really want this book in my life if I can ever track it down.

I’d love to write a short story collection. One day. I’ve gone on to devour and enjoy so many more shorts from King – I know it’s technically a novella, but HEARTS IN ATLANTIS remains one of the most beautiful and magical pieces of writing I’ve ever read. Just thinking about it again now puts a little butterfly in my stomach.

His son, Joe Hill, also writes some exceptional short fiction. His collection, 20th CENTURY GHOSTS, felt like his Night Shift, and it had some stand out pieces, none more so than THE CAPE, later adapted into a comic that’s one of the best comcis of the past 20 years.

Being a horror nerd, I loved THE BOOKS OF BLOOD by Clive Barker. I will stop anyone in conversation and tell them about the madness of IN THE HILLS, THE CITIES – a tale where neighbouring villages get their entire populations to physically link together and form writhing human Voltron forms that then fight. Every time I describe it, peoples’ eyes just widen. That’s the sign of a great short.

Ethan Coen wrote GATES OF EDEN, which is a weird set of vignettes that feel like they fell out of scripts he would have tried, and they certainly captivate. Naturally, the shorts of Philip K. Dick mean a lot to me. There’s THE DAYS OF PERKY PAT, which is so strange and haunting, and there’s one whose name escapes me but I know Alan Moore completely ripped it off for one of his Future Shock strips. Who would forget the TALES OF THE MOS EISLEY CANTINA, followed by other collections set in Jabba’s Palace, and I think one about just the bounty hunters…right?

A great slice of short fiction offers an earworm of an idea. A 20 page sample of something that opens the door, fires the gun into your chest, and leaves you gasping, sucking in blood, and feeling yourself die. Short fiction is where smart writers sometimes play their best ideas and themes that haven’t found a full story, and it’s like they don’t leave a morsel on their plate – every quality piece of brain fuel powers their engine forward. I’m in awe.

I have one idea I want to tell as a series of short stories, and I’ve written…a handful of them, but I’ve shelved it for time, at this stage. I’m also writing very short pieces on my Patreon, twice a month, and they’re just a blast to get out of my head. From weird romance to ghastly serial killers, and all the strangeness in between, I’m just flipping up balls and taking a swing. It’s only 300 words, usually more, but it lets me play with voice, to experiment with style, and I have about 17k of them so far. There’s a part of me that wonders if I could stitch together 20-something-thousand and put them into a book. Some of them rate as my very best writing, which is a weird place to leave my best work, but sometimes you never know just what’s going to come out. Some are maybe…not as good…or as we say, they can’t all be winners in a collection. But we try.

I don’t know what will come of them, but for now I’ll continue having fun writing them, perhaps you’d like to follow my Patreon, which you can do for free, and sometimes I put the 300 Flash Fic out as a free post. You might dig what you find.

Oh: also, this doesn’t even take into account comic shorts, of which I’ve done a few, and I love dearly. You can read some of my short comics on my site for free, and on my Patreon this week I’ll be posting some and their scripts for you to enjoy!

Follow along on my Patreon now for all the writing goodness!

CREEPER Magazine 002, Feat. RKL

I loved the first issue of CREEPER, a very strange and awesome magazine about very strange and weird and awesome and esoteric content. Need to know more? Course you do, click here!

Well, it pleases me to announce that I’ll have a piece in their 002 issue, coming soon. here’s the cover:


I can’t say more, but I’ll confirm it is comics related.

For now, go buy 001, and follow them on twitter, and scope their affiliated newsletter.

The Walking Reread Vol. 3

Another scattered erratic feedbin of brain thoughts while reading another volume in everyone’s long-form zombie drama comic.

This volume sees everyone settling into the prison, and it’s the volume where the book really finds its “new life as we know it” vibe. The group has ambled about, they’d struggled through locations, and now they hunker down.

The first issue of the volume is very much just the group going through the motions. They’re logistically dividing the prison up, working out how to clear the dead. It’s a civil planning meeting set to zombies, with a little interpersonal drama sprinkled on the side. I’ll be honest, the issue feels a little…not boring, just simple and solid, right up until the final splash reveal – there are 4 prisoners surviving in the cafeteria hall.

It’s a pretty great twist to things, and the flow of the mundane life-chores leading up to it seems like a genius pacing plan in retrospect.

Rick asking if the people are guards is an honest laugh out loud moment. They certainly don’t look like guards, but he’s still seeing things with his old lenses on.

It’s sad to see Lori really only getting to play the role of emotional pregnant woman. She still continually goes up against Rick as the face of alarmed reason while he assumes his divine right to be the leader. As the volume wears on, he doesn’t do right by her on many occasions. I’m sad to see Lori sidelined on the whole, but I will step for the portrayal of Rick as a deeply flawed person. He’s making huge mistakes all over this volume, and his character arc and deconstruction as the analysis of the over-confident middle aged white guy, and the damage even that brings to himself, is definitely worth delving deeper into.

Rick takes the role of leader, because people look to him with his square jaw and his police jacket and hat of authority as the person best equipped to walk them through this hell. And he does have a lot of good qualities, but I think it shows he needs to be tempered with others. No one person should shoulder the weight of the apocalypse, not for any number of people. Rick could see Tyreese as a partner in this, but it feels like he treats him as a highly competent 2iC. It should be Lori that Rick shares this with, his active queen in the royal court, but he’s too busy telling her to stay out of his affairs and just let him fly by the seat of his pants unrestricted.

Glenn and Maggie continue their relationship, which is a mostly zombie-free affair. They sneak off, they cut their hair, and then Maggie begins her breakdown [which I just this second remembered where it was heading, which makes me sad]. Nothing pure in this world can last, but at least they get some time.

Tyreese sees his daughter killed by her partner who thought they could double-suicide out after losing their virginities. It’s hard to see her death as anything other than motivation for drama for her father. We’re not left to mourn her so much as fear the psychosis it puts Tyreese into. It builds to a great set up where Tyreese is left inside the gymnasium, surrounded by zombies, and you know he’s gonna die, to then later him being retrieved out of there and we see he survived. Thanks to the death of his daughter [whose name still escapes me], he can crush the skulls of a basketball court’s worth of zombies and keep on smiling.

I was almost thinking, “To be fair, no one was left mourning the death of Tyresse’s daughter’s creepy boyfriend,” but then I realised, no, we’re left to absolutely loathe him. He gets an emotional response, she does not.

Herschel finding his girls decapitated is a strong reveal, though chalk them up as yet another in the list of female victims I barely know, but whose deaths greatly affect the men they’ve left behind. We, the readers, are left to wonder who the killer is, even though the killer has been presented in the most creepy of fashions previously.

Flipping through this, the drama comes thick and fast while the zombies barely rate a mention. Those that appear are crushed by Tyreese, or easily navigated on bike by Shane as he checks on Shane’s corpse, so we’re left with Hershell mourning, his daughters’ head reanimating and needing to be shot – a no doubt doubly crushing blow for Hershell who previously looked after each zombie in case a cure could bring them back. We get Axel perving on two of the ladies in the shower block. The group locks up their best suspect in the decapitations, and then Carol kisses Lori. It’s a weird moment to cap a series of little moments.

But, I’ll be honest, I think it’s a cool choice for the narrative. Kirkman does do a good job, sometimes, of showing how characters/people react under incredible pressure and stress. People are erratic, they’re wild, and strange things go down. The kiss does just that, it builds more interpersonal drama through small but strange interactions. The next page is Andrea expressing her commitment to Dale while they lie in bed. These are all good little moments that lie underneath the larger plot, but for the moment there is little by the way of large plot.

They’re in a prison; someone just took off the heads of two little girls. That’s the plot, the rest is all just real life, but in that new set up.

Rick unlocking Dexter’s cell door, Dexter fronting up to Rick, and Rick not backing down is a big character moment for Rick, but also for Dexter. We see so much of Dexter in how he steps down from it, and holds himself high. He’s an interesting guy. It’s like he sees these people for the batshit characters we know them as on the page.

Old mate serial killer does kind of come out of nowhere, he’s more force of modern nature than actually fleshed out character, but he certainly serves to shake things up. He’s the big plot item, and as a cause for change and alarm he works really well.

Some of the B-Roll characters trying to sort out the problem of zombies overcrowding at the fences is a fascinating look into the new minutiae your life would consist of in this world. You’d be wondering how to stab them into the head and retain your blade at all times. It’s not big plot stuff, but it makes the world, and those characters who get this spotlight, feel about 1000x more real.

The serial killer seems mostly like a plot point for us to see Rick really clench his fist as he declares, “You kill? You die!” Which is interesting because his son just killed someone two volumes prior. Rick steps up a lot, he’s firm a lot, but already here we see his hypocrisy settling in, and there’s plenty more to come.

They manage to milk a decent closing issue out of the serial killer as he’s sentenced to death, which makes a lot of people feel things, culminating in his making one last dash for killing someone before getting blasted by Maggie, which leaves more people with more feelings, and then once it’s all calm and settled Dexter steps forward with a new cache of weaponry and he’s telling everyone to get out of his house.

The Levitz Paradigm is definitely in play here because Dexter seeded this coup a while back. It’s great to see plot wind up into big moments, all flanked by group emotions, and just in time for the next big moment to wind up and create new rifts and emotions and such.

This volume is all about getting the group to settle down, and when they do we see the drama follows them anyway. They’re the magnet, and they are the catalyst. The soap opera elements are low key and absolutely face-smashing and it’s fascinating to see how far each interaction will go as it develops. By the end of this trade, I’m still totally all in on the story, and the characters are certainly getting more chances to shine and stand out.

This column originally appeared on my Patreon – the post is up for free, you can follow for free, too, or drop a coin in the well for me.

SKYSCRAPER – have a flip through.

SKYSCRAPER is a comic I wrote with Mitchell Collins on art, Simon Robins on colours and letters, and we funded a newspaper sized print run on Kickstarter through my imprint Four Colour Ray Gun.
I’m incredibly proud of this comic. It’s unlike anything I’d ever done before, and I think it turned out absolutely beautiful, and exactly how we imagined. It’s a strange one-shot comic we printed at newspaper size, on newsprint paper stock. Every page is the same structural frame, a front view of a building, broken into 5 tiers. We then set about solving a murder mystery, of sorts, as each tier treks through time to show the history of the building, the truth behind the recent death, and the future we never saw coming. It’s part crime story, part warped sci fi tale, and part experiment with time, panels, and story in the comic form.
This video flips through the comic, at double speed, so you can see how everything flows. Note how fine Mitchell Collins’ artwork is, and marvel at the colour schemes of Simon Robins as he plays with time cna character through the palette of each tier. An absolute gods level team up from these two, and I was blessed to write for them.
I love when a comic plays with this kind of structure, hence why I wanted to add something to the pantheon myself. I recently read HEDRA from Jesse Lonergan and it did some super awesome things with panels and layouts. ACTION TANK by Mike Barry is a great example of explosive and dynamic layout use. Whether it’s repetition for effect, or mucking around with time, I’m totally down for those types of comics. Scott McCloud frequently talked about comics and time as going hand-in-hand in the most interesting ways, and I think the best creators playing with that concept do the most stunning things with storytelling and art.
I hope the people who buy SKYSCRAPER get a few good reads out of it because I wanted to craft something that’s engaging, intriguing, and finally informing on some level.
You can buy a copy here: bit.ly/skyscrapercomic

The Walking Reread Vol. 2

In which I tackle the second volume, where the scope of the story really opens up and the interpersonal drama dials it up to 11. My thoughts are usually scattershot, jotted down as I write, they don’t pretend to be fleshed out essays, or necessarily all that insightful, it’s just the stuff I saw and thought about as I worked through this volume, ymmv.

I’m not intending this to be a reread with a feminist slant, but the more you know in this life and the more you notice, I guess. This volume opens up with the history of Lori cheating on Rick. She’s not painted as horrible, so I guess there’s that. It’s a wild situation to survive a zombie apocalypse, so there’s some context to it all. But you can see the concept of “betrayal” is at the heart of Lori’s character, and I think a wife/mother just trying to hold things together might have more to her than just cheater and fun buster.

Then Dale tells Rick the group could use a new strong man to look up to in the role of leader/protector, “especially the women.” It’s a throwaway quote that doesn’t age well. Not very well at all.

Tyreese turns up and in his first issue gets more characterisation than any of the other women did in 6 issues, *and* we get the corker that his back story contains his emotional turmoil over his daughter nearly being raped by another survivor. None of these things so far are Red Flags enough to stop the book or the reread, but they’re things I know I wouldn’t write now. I’m not here to harpoon Kirkman, but rather to spotlight this now to see if it improves. I know Andrea gets a much more prominent role moving forward, but I’ll have to track how Lori goes because I can’t remember from memory.

The first issue here ends with her revealing she’s pregnant, which is a shame for her [given the state of medical care available], but fantastic for the zombie/drama element of this comic.

Charlie Adlard comes in on this volume and he’s instantly awesome. There are shades of Phil Hester to his work sometimes, but otherwise he’s setting up the look of the characters in his own style.

The discovery of the Wiltshire Estate is a good narrative progression. Zombie stories are often categorised by the location they take, Romero’s trilogy making that firm in my mind, and the fact if I got stuck in the zombie apocalypse [or wrote a story in one] then the location would be the first puzzle piece to secure. There’s even part of me that appreciates how inept the group is at doing their due diligence – Rick opens a door straight into 2 zombies, they miss the snow covered sign, but I can’t help feeling like Donna standing there and letting one get the drop on her so it can bite her eyeball is a bit lazy.

Donna gets complacent and finally happy so of course she doesn’t notice a zombie until it’s biting her in the eyeball. Feels a little convenient on the writing side of things, and makes me want to keep a kill chart to see how stupid people are, and what the gender mix of deaths is. But I won’t, because this reread just isn’t that organised, sorry.

The estate goes belly up as quickly as it appears, but then we get an invite to the farm. Now, a farm is a fine place to hole up through the whole mess of the zombie days. This means the cast explodes by over a half dozen people, and that kind of ensemble is wild, and yet it fills out the wallpaper of this group nicely. Kirkman is clearly setting up characters for A-B-C plots. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Levitz Paradigm worked well over how things shuffle and organise through all of this story. Just ongoing rolling thunder.

Plus introducing new characters means having more fodder available to kill when the stakes need to go up and you don’t want to lose 3 of the primary characters. You get someone else who’s been given maybe 1-2 scenes of quality exposition/interaction and then you kill them with the feeling of it being ongoing high tension, though I’ll give credit to Kirkman that he does indeed kill off a lot of big name characters, which I always did appreciate.

Ooh, Allan drops the C-bomb, and I forgot about that. It sells his emotional state in that moment, he’s just lost his wife, but it still jars. It’s a real line in the sand between course language and absolutely NSFW.

By this stage, I really see how the zombie attacks are few and far between, and they’re usually there to offer a new interpersonal dynamic for certain characters. There’s also the danger and death aspect, especially as Kirkman always says no one is safe, so you never know who’s going to die, which does make each zombie skirmish feel more tense.

The growing relationship between Carl and Sophie is an interest mix; she’s forward, he’s gross and weird about it. I can’t remember where they’re building this up to, so I’m interested to go along with it.

The Glenn and Maggie relationship starts on a strange page – basically, Maggie says she’s DTF with Glenn, and it’s some solid female agency of sexuality and not presented in a shameful way because the rest of the times we see the two of them, usually sneaking around in the B plot on any page, it genuinely seems fun and happy. These two crazy kids get to focus on something else for a minute and that’s a very cool thing to find in this world. The proclamations of love towards the end of the volume don’t quite ring as true, but any reasoning based on lust and realistic visions of the future certainly add up.

Also, remembering what I know, this relationship certainly gets time to fly in the future, and it’s really strong at times, so seeing its simple booty call origins is pretty much just fun.

The other young love of Tyreese’s daughter and her boyfriend, both names escape me and that says a lot about their characters and how they are portrayed, is the opposite end of the scale. It’s subtle, but that sinister angle shows through here, but that might also be me projecting because I know what’s coming [or, at least, I’m pretty sure I remember it clearly].

What a thought that Kirkman sold this book as a zombie apocalypse masquerading as an alien invasion story and really it’s just a Z-apoc story excuse to get down with some O.C. relationships in middle America. And this is no complaint from me. But this volume makes it clear it’s all about pairing people off so they can feel bad when something happens to the other, or there is other drama. Which is classic human behaviour, we invest because of emotion, and we assign emotion best to other people, and Kirkman weaves it all together pretty well here.

Ah, mention of the barn. Woof, the show botched this one, but let’s focus on the comic. The mention here looks like it comes on the end of an issue, and if so that’s a great needle drop. The concept of Hershell viewing the whole situation as different is fascinating, he’s got a thoughtful approach, though not one built out of sound reasoning. Him also being upset about the Thompson’s house being in the background of the gun firing range is well-meaning, but absolutely ridiculous. I love the fact Kirkman could consider that these views would pile up around the country, in different ways, and we have the space and scope to showcase them. It’s the kind of thing your leading characters in a zombie flick would never do, but this is well put in.

Once that barn is opened, Herschel realises he’s a fool for such sentimentality in the face of the end of the world. The five page sequence of the barn zombies causing havoc is manic and tense and it leaves Hershell feeling bad, and everyone else not quite knowing how to handle it. It’s a brilliant use of a zombie attack.

The final issue of the volume has couples going through morning sickness, and getting caught in bed, and dealing with the past. It’s all very simple, really, but effective in making us care. Then Hershell kicks the crew out and we see life on the road in the cold is a bust. It feels very bleak until we get one of the best reveals of the comic, and something that sets up the book for the coming years [I think it lasted for years]…

The Prison.

I don’t think I’ve seen a zombie flick in a prison, and it’s a great idea. There’s a feeling when it’s revealed, and I remember it from way back when, where you just quietly hold your breath and realise this is going to be interesting and fun.

I also dig that this reveal comes at the end of an issue, and the end of a volume, and the end of a hardcover which would cover 12 issues. Great planning on that from Kirkman and the team.

Overall, the first volume is the ballad of Rick and his return, and the second volume is about how all these people interact, try to move forward, and sometimes drag each other back and down. This volume is all about settling in for the long haul, the fact this isn’t a siege, it’s a long drama, as long as life itself, and still just as difficult to survive.

This post originally appeared on my Patreon – it is free to view there, but your support of a follow or a dollar is greatly appreciated!

Small Connection, Deep Connection

When you write a comic, it doesn’t feel real until it’s in the hands of some readers.

The most real of this – usually, though maybe erroneously – is when the comic is available in comic shops across the world because a publisher picked it up and distributed it. This, for me, has always been when a comic really feels like it made it, it’s the highest form of success I can describe.

But it’s a hard one to attain. There are only so many comic publishers, so many successful pitches, and even then sometimes a comic tanks. The times I’ve had comics out with a publisher, I’ve gotten 4-figure sales, but never have I crossed into 5-figure territory [except when I wrote that My Little Pony one-shot, and I hit something ludicrous like 32k copies sold, but that isn’t really *my* success to speak of, is it?]. So going with publishers is good, the numbers of readers/buyers goes up, and while that’s difficult to attain, I’ve managed it a few times.

COVID. Now there’s this word, and what it’s meant to comics. The central comic distributor closed down for a minute, comic shops felt the heat, and while things are “back on track” at present, many places are still doing their best to advocate for social distancing or staying home unless necessary and I can’t help but feel that might impact comic sales and outreach a little. I know I’m going to get my pull list sent to me by my local, Impact Comics, but some people might just be missing out and numbers might be affected, though I hope not.

On my end, I’ve been lucky to have some writing gigs that I’ve been able to continue on with through COVID, and we’ll see what they look like and yield on the other side of this mess [if there is another side to it all]. Alongside this, or maybe beneath or all around it, I’ve had the smaller scale of comic creation.

Usually, selling at comic conventions is the small scale stuff, you physically place your comic into someone’s hand, you chat with them, it’s a personal transaction. I’ve never sold 4-figures worth of a comic at a convention, but I’ve had just as much of a high from the success just by selling 50. Putting a comic up on Kickstarter might not get me 6,000 backers, but it gives me 500 people I can hold as an engaged audience through updates and extra stuff I can deliver to them. Recently, I’ve had strong sales through my online shop front at ownaindi, and that’s been a great way to send stories and pages out into the world.

When a publisher handles the sales of your book, you don’t tape a single box, you don’t shelve any of the book, so the numbers are up but it’s impersonal. Through Kickstarter, cons, or an online store, the numbers are way down but you get a name to every sale. You can see follow up when they read it, or they catch your personalised message. It’s a deeper connection, and there’s something to be said for that, even if it is much harder work.

This past week I boxed up scores of copies of SHE Vol. 1 to send around Australia, and all the while I was selling copies of SKYSCRAPER online and sending them out, too. It was a great feeling, it made me feel invigorated to make comics some more, and that’s the energy you need to go into your office late at night and peck away at these strange stories.

While I’ve always yearned for the validation and success of a big audience, COVID has shown me the bright side of a smaller audience with a deeper connection. If you’ve been a backer or a buyer in one of those more intimate settings, thank you. Each package I send out gives me the strength to keep making more. I hope to send you the next one in the mail.

Books. Forever books.

The following diatribe appeared in my weekly newsletter THE TWO FISTED HOMEOPAPE – a place wherein I collect my weekly progress update, mental health, thoughts about writing, links to cool reads or Kickstarters, and general thoughts about writing/teaching/parenting/living through 2020. Sub if you’re keen on more.
Apparently e-waste is on the rise, just junk and gadgets throw into the landfill that time forgot, and I have no idea where this shit will land us in another decade. If you ever imagine a future where Mad Max style cars are built out of five thousand little Anko gyros from K Mart, then I guess we’re well on our way.
The solution, buy less of this shit. And what you buy, use it.
Am I guilty of doing this wrong? Yep, probably, sure, almost certainly. Am I trying…every day. Having kids means you open yourself up to a tonne of fads, and bullshit, and plastic, and gyros, and it could be never ending. Those little LOL Dolls…they’ll be waiting for us all “downstairs” with pitchforks as we burn for eternity. My kids go through these fads, and I try my best to mitigate them. I’ll admit, buying those Ooshies is awesome when it’s obscure Marvel characters, but otherwise they’re just $3 junk that gets lost in the garden, I mean, the garden if you’re lucky. They’re semi-solidified petroleum junk. But I own plenty.
I’m lucky my kids love Lego, the toy that lasts forever, and we use every single week. It’s brain food, it’s awesome, and while it’s expensive, we’ve never sent any of it to landfill for nearly a decade. I can’t say the same for…pretty much every else we’ve bought our kids except for the best balance to Lego…BOOKS! Even when we’re done with books, we swap/gift ’em with other families, we donate to charity, I take them into my classroom, something. No book is ever wasted, and while that’s a lot of paper, it’s also a whole lot of literacy skills, and empathy, and imagination, and experience, and I will buy books for people until the day I die. They’re always be the perfect present because even if they aren’t wanted, burn ’em to keep warm, you can’t do that with a small reindeer that poops jelly beans [hilarious as it is].
Lego and books. Usually the latter, and this year they’ve been a massive help. I’ve read more books, a whole mess of comics, and they keep my brain sane, my heart full, and my ability to go on buoyed. I’ve noticed the same with my kids, we’ve read WOLF GIRL, and ARTEMIS FOWL, and 5 trades of USAGI YOJIMBO, with AMULET as a chaser. Copious D&D manuals have been devoured, stats memorised, characters created, stories pondered. In fact, after having finally gone back to school for 5 weeks, we are in the midst of a 2 week break, and the whole house is reading more than usual and I think it’s to help us cope with what’s going on. The world is in a weird place, the kids know it, everyone with a phone or social media account knows it all too well, and switching off from the world and into a book is a great solution [I think, don’t quote me, I’m not the counsellor in the family].
I know when I was young, after my father died, I dove so far down into books that I probably smelt like the binding most days. I read/played the FIGHTING FANTASY books so many damn times, and I devoured every Roald Dahl book i could find, and I read comics at every turn, and it helped me hide, and helped me process, and helped me grow like a branch that’s been cut, badly, but still has more to offer. So I advocate for books for mental health, and books for presents, and books for the home, and books to stop e-waste landfill.
I know, a writer pushing books, who would think it? But I’m genuinely pushing books as a person of the world, first, and a teacher, and a father, and a mate. Order online – from local booksellers, because F Amazon and their shitty practices [and they own Book Depository, so F them, too] – or from an independent creator if they have stuff online, and if you’re in a position where you can travel outside, visit a book seller, or a secondhand book store, I did the other day, or even hit up the library. On the last day of school, I walked outta there with a shopping bag of books for me and the kids because 2 weeks is a long time, and books are medicine, and…thanks for coming to my TED talk, I guess. Here’s the pic of my secondhand haul the other day as I got to sneak out for some mental health retail therapy!
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