Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Top 10 of the Decade 2010-2019 – Comics

It’s been an awesome decade in many respects, so I wanted to look back and see some of the stuff I’ve really enjoyed the most. As such, here’s a post of my thoughts and lists of some top times I had imbibing some content that gave me inspiration and joy.

May it find you the same, or remind me of that which you already got.

The following is very much in absolutely no order, I just couldn’t :]

Comics:

It’s been a high quality decade for reading comics, and quite the comic reading journey for myself, so here are the highlights – may they provide you with something new to add to your wish list.

In 2010, I was reading a lot of comics for two reasons. I was writing for The Weekly Crisis, and later for CBR, and about to write a book about Daredevil for Sequart, so I was reading with an eye for extrapolating analysis. Around this time, I was also writing a whole mess of scripts that were going nowhere, and I was reading comics with an eye to imbibe, digest, and internalise in a way that would make me a better writer.

It’s a decade later, and I’m still reading comics to better understand them and as such myself and the place I occupy in making them, but just last month I wrote two critical/analytical essays about comics, so I guess not a lot has changed.

I’m thankful to have had a decade where I’ve published my own comics [no, none appear on this list, that’s gauche] and I’m thankful to have been around to see so many amazing comics spring to life. My reading appears to have steered away from cape comics and into the indie, and I’ve no idea where I’ll venture as time rolls on, but I heavily vouch for every comic on this list.

So, in no particular order, and with a write up of whatever thoughts I blasted out when I thought it was pertinent, here…we…go…

HAWKEYE

I didn’t even plan to buy this comic when it launched. I have no specific reason for that decision at the time, I think I was just a little burnt out on Marvel books in general, and I just really don’t dig Clint Barton. At all. I still don’t, but that didn’t stop me loving this run for every single issue as it came out.

The level of craft and sheer awesome in this book still blows me away. If this was about Matt Murdock I’d probably hail it as one of the greatest comics of all time, as it is, about Barton, I rate it as one of the finest entries into the craft from this decade.

DEADLY CLASS

I loved this comic from the very first issue. I dig Rick Remender’s work, and I wanted this comic long before it launched. How exciting to then note how good it was, and continues to be. Though fair play, much of this is on Wes Craig’s shoulders as he brought the thunder with his art layout skills on each page.

A wild and violent ride, this comic is always an emotional truth bomb and that’s what I love the most about it.

KILL OR BE KILLED

I mean, maybe my #1 of this decade. Maybe the comic most personally designed just for my brain. Maybe the comic I’ll remember the most after another decade has gone.

This comic is also everything I want to make myself, so maybe there’s that. It’s 20 issues, a killer size, it’s experimental in some page layouts, but it’s also just crystal clear storytelling. It’s a weird violent crime comic with strange devil shenanigans. It’s beautiful and dark and so so damn good.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT

CRIMINAL might be the best overall collection of stories and pages from this decade, and I’ll choose THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT as the one present here because it’s just so dark and fantastic. This twist on Archie as if he’s living out a noir story is so much more than the high concept it might present as. This is an emotional journey, a haunting tale, and one that just makes you feel a whole mess of thoughts after the final page kicks you.

Okay, I’ll also add in BAD NIGHT just because I love this storyline, too. It’s the one that’s probably my favourite, even though TLOTI is most likely the one I’d identify as “The Best.”

THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS

Hoo boy, bleak. This comic is such a dark affair, and it’s so intricately put together. Stunning is another word, but jaw dropping is all I can really offer. The concept of this comic is that money is power, and power can be manifest. The people in this comic are horrible, all of them, and watching them stumble and stab in the dark is quite the tragedy.

ODY-C

I love the reach of this comic. The sheer audacity to take THE ODYSSEY and toss it into space, with a gender-flipped cast, and Christian Ward’s insane artwork. Everything about this comic hits me in the inspirational space where I want comics to do new things and be amazing.

UNCANNY X-FORCE

You might think this is another X-book, but it’s not, no, not at its heart. This is a heartbreaking tale of toxic relationships, and second chances, and mental health. This is a cape book that steps above every combat trope and delivers true character exploration and growth. It’s a comic that got me to care about Deadpool, and Wolverine, and that’s not often a thing that occurs.

Raina Telgemeier – SISTERS

Raina Telgemeier basically took over comics this decade, but I had to pick just one of her masterpieces for my list and I went with my instant reaction – SISTERS. This cross-country road trip about family and a changing future is beautiful, and it uses the comic form well, and it’s the one that’s stuck with me the longest.

But, honestly, go buy every single one of her books, and just enjoy yourself and the future of comics.

PARKER books

Darwyn Cooke did something special with these books. Adapting Richard Stark’s pulp paperbacks into small graphic novels that were gorgeous and still packed their punch. These 4 hardcovers will always be something I want to return to.

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK

I often think about this comic. An insanely talented level up from nascent Matthew Rosenberg and a wild intro to Tyler Boss, this comic looks like it oozes style, but really it’s craft. This crime comic about some kids and a bank is such a love letter to the things you can do in comics and I wish more books were this smart, I wish more books aimed this high, and I wish more books played with the form like this one.

Rosenberg and Boss have become instant Must Buy creators and I eagerly await their next collaboration at Image Comics.

SINK

This indie sensation from mates Alex Cormack and John Lees makes me smile with every issue I read. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the content is horrific, but the fact a comic this good is being made by two mates who are blowing up, at ComixTribe, a publisher I love, fills me with hope for the medium and all our places in it.

SINK is a horror comic, and it doesn’t skimp on the horrific, and it’s also a great structural lesson as they make it a series of one-shots, with a two-parter played to maximum effect, and I’m constantly in awe. If you haven’t sampled this comic, you really need to get onto it.

PAPER GIRLS

Enjoyed this from first issue to the last. I trade waited this, and mostly wish I hadn’t. The characters were all so well written I’d have preferred to spend time with them monthly instead of having huge gaps away from them.

GREEN WAKE

I really dug this weird downbeat horror comic from Riley Rossmo and Kurtis J. Wiebe. It was grim and ugly in the most beautiful ways, and I got excited before it was released and got even more excited when it was as good as I wanted it to be. Exactly the kind of comic that felt like it was created specifically for me and my tastes.

Also doesn’t hurt that it formed and built a lifelong friendship between me and Kurtis.

ELEKTRA

This particular Volume, from Mike del Mundo and W. Haden Blackman is a perfect encapsulation of what I want from an Elektra comic, and what I dig about 12 issue maxiseries. Here, Elektra is unpacked and used in a really character driven way, through some insane plot, and by the end of it all she’s been more fully fleshed out.

This book had the very best covers, and is an instant modern Big Two classic from me.

HILDA books

I can’t remember how I got onto these, but I’m so glad I did. I devoured the first 3, and then the Netflix show got announced, and I got excited for that, too. This comic is pure kids’ comic energy! It’s fun and short and well illustrated. This should be a perennial gift to any child in your life whenever you get invited to a friend’s kid’s party.

THE UNDERWATER WELDER

This comic is wild and emotional and like a real piece of literature, if you can believe it, COMICS: BIFF, POW, CHIN STROKE, HRMMMM.

This is like The Twilight Zone in all the right ways and it cemented Jeff Lemire as a writer in my mind I wanted to study and think deeply about and learn how to appreciate.

THOR

Jason Aaron’s epic multi-year run, with many artists, has been a truly monumental achievement. I’ve kept up in trades, and haven’t finished it all yet, but just from what I know he’s managed so far, this is an evergreen example of a superhero comic/story done right.

MONSTRO MECHANICA

This Da Vinci centred comic featuring a killer female partner in Isabel, and a really cool robot, is just the right balance of history, and action, and character work I love. Chris Evenhuis’ art is perfect, and Paul Allor knows exactly how to plot and pace things to bring out the best on the page.

LOCKE & KEY

Not only a genuinely scary horror comic, also a masterclass of form. Between Gabriel Rodriguez’ steam cleaned art to Joe Hill’s beautiful characterisation, this comic is the kind of thing you can recommend to anyone new to comics and who digs a bit of genre malarkey.

SCALPED

Crime comic on the Indian Reservation. So well done, so much heart, so much breaking of that heart, near about perfection, and a fine example of what Vertigo Comics always did right.

CLUE

This superb take on the old property from Nelson Daniel and Paul Allor was exactly what I wanted and never realised. It’s so well structured, deliciously carving out space for every character, and the whole conclusion has stuck with me ever since.

CASANOVA

I just love this comic. It’s 100% my jam. Uberweird spy-fu stuff, constantly trying to utilise the comic form and page, and make readers think.

THE CAPE

Holy hell this miniseries hit me like if someone dropped a bear on me. Read the comic and you’ll understand the concept. Based on a short story by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella took it further, and made better, and I’ll forever want to push this into the hands of others.

TIGER LAWYER

I still think about Ryan Ferrier’s anthropomorphic crime comic he made with Matt McCray, Vic Malhotra, and Adam Metcalfe. It’s all I ever wanted, and pushed me to making my own Deer Editor. In a perfect world, both comics went for very long runs, crossed over, and spawned more anthropomorphic working class heroes.

THE SECRET HISTORY OF D.B. COOPER

An alternative history comic from Brian Churilla that’s still pinging around in my head years later. It’s fun, and gorgeous, and completely and totally insane. Everything certain good comics should be.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS

Come for the American Football backdrop, stay for the crime and nasties, and fill your guts with the Southern BBQ recipes.

STUMPTOWN

This one billed itself as The Rockford Files, but now, and a woman, and a comic. It is, indeed, all of those things, and it is those things perfectly.

THE VISION

Taking a C-List character from the bench and putting them into a funky genre choice – suburban horror, of a kind – and dialing it up to 11. The result was an astounding success.

CEMETERY BEACH

An 8 issue chase/action comic. It really shouldn’t work, but every issue pulled me in further.

HEATHEN

Really stunning self-described Lesbian Viking comic, and it’s so well illustrated, and paced, and it has me thoroughly intrigued and engaged.

SAGA

Some see this as the #1 thing, some see it as the cliche choice that’s okay but not amazing, and some hate it. YMMV, but personally, overall, I think this comic is an absolute bruiser. It hits, and it hits you harder than nearly anything else out there. When BKV comes gunning for my tear ducts, he comes with buckets. After all of the highest highs, I will follow this comic anywhere until it wraps its run.

BLACK MIRROR

Scott Snyder has done some great work with Batman, but my heart always comes back to his debut. This story in Detective Comics, with Jock and Francesco Francavilla, was very much a detective story, with some huge fantastical elements, and it hit that right tone of street level and nasty which I usually dig a little more. Dick Grayson as Batman was superb, and the storyline with Jim Gordon was so well executed. This was a promising debut from someone who just kept smashing it out at DC for the next decade.

Top 10 of the Decade 2010-2019 – TV

It’s been an awesome decade in many respects, so I wanted to look back and see some of the stuff I’ve really enjoyed the most. As such, here’s a post of my thoughts and lists of some top times I had imbibing some content that gave me inspiration and joy.

May it find you the same, or remind me of that which you already got.

TV:

At first thought, I’d not have labelled this decade anything special in the realm of TV, but maybe that’s just because I had 2 kids and wasn’t glued to my glowing screen, and maybe also having kids makes you forget things on the surface level, because when I look down this list I see some belters that absolutely stand out as some of my favourite television of all time.


ATLANTA

This show went from strength to strength and that’s largely on the rising star of Donald Glover’s brain – both in front of and behind the camera. HIs presence is amazing, but his scripts on this show are phenomenal. The first season has the invisible car joke, an absolute fav, but the second season brought some thunder with episodes centred around social media and racism that completely blew my mind.

HANNIBAL

How nice of people to gather their collective abilities and resources to make 3 seasons of a show that were just purely aimed at me. Especially when you consider I heard about this show and instantly thought, “Oof, we do not need more Hannibal Lecter things in this world.” And then I avoided it, or just forgot it existed. Imagine my surprise, late late one night when I’m up with a baby who won’t sleep and I stumble across this and my life is forever changed. I was glued for all 3 seasons after watching this one episode and I’ll forever be thankful something like this even got the chance to exist. It’s horrific and heartfelt and I cannot wait to rewatch it in another decade.

THE LEFTOVERS

I wanted to watch this because of Damon Lindelof. But I couldn’t find a way to watch it legally for free anywhere, so I bought the book, and devoured it, and really loved it, so I finally bought all 3 DVD sets with some present money. Then I smashed those 3 seasons and was left feeling like I’d witnessed something truly amazing, and personal, and spectacular. The concept intrigues, but the delivery, exploration, and extrapolation went places I never could have hoped for, and this whole affair got me right in the Emotion Place.

The fact it adapts the novel in S1 so well, but then goes further for 2 more years is so interesting. The themes Lindelof wants to explore constantly get my attention, whether he succeeds or not. He always seems to be reaching. And that scene of Theroux on the bed, with the plastic wrap, is something I thought was such a perfect character moment done in such a bold way.

THE GOOD PLACE

Another show I didn’t know about, and was happy to avoid on Netflix, until my wife popped the first ep on and then called me into the room 5 minutes into it. From that moment on, I fell in love [yes, with the show, but with my wife a little more, too]. The balls on this show, the ideas and scope, and the tip top cast from leads to background made this one of my favourite experiences of this decade.

BREAKING BAD

Utter genius masterpiece on every level. Once the wheels got turning, every piece of this noir clockwork was finely tuned. Watching Walter White break bad, while Jesse Pinkman proved himself unbreakable was a morbid delight.

FARGO

Every season plays so different, new cast, new tone, and yet each one is a masterpiece in its own design. The ability to do that is wild, and I love every single season so much for that warped Coen Brothers sensibility that feels informs but not beholden.

TERRIERS

Just one season. The world wasn’t ready for this pure bliss and genius. Slacker beach PI shows, may we be blessed with more in the future.

JUSTIFIED

Really loved this show, it’s a fun time to watch, and Timothy Olyphant is a great lead, all around an Elmore Leonard inspired story/approach. I dig it on every level I have, and then I never finished it because the guy who plays the boss cop [sheriff? whatever] came out super-hard on twitter as a troll/bigot and it just made me sad and I couldn’t return. A shame this show gets that mental shade from me just because of one bad actor, but here we are.

THE AMERICANS

I’ve still only seen one season, but that’s mostly because it isn’t on Netflix and I’m lazy and cheap and don’t have the DVDs. I should find somebody with the DVDs.

Anyway, this show is awesome, I love the tone and scripts and characters, and I look forward to the day I come around and finish it.

These are my shows, as always, know that I missed whatever masterpiece you’re thinking of because it’s not aimed at toddlers and I just didn’t have the time last decade. Cool.

Top 10 of the Decade 2010-2019 – Flicks

It’s been an awesome decade in many respects, so I wanted to look back and see some of the stuff I’ve really enjoyed the most. As such, here’s a post of my thoughts and lists of some top times I had imbibing some content that gave me inspiration and joy.

May it find you the same, or remind me of that which you already got.

Films

Presented in a form that matches my brain tonight, at least, here are the flicks from the past decade that really really stuck with me. These are my favourites!

INSIDE OUT

My absolute #1 flick of the decade. Guaranteed to make me cry, a heartstopper of emotional truths for the entire family, and funny as hell on the side. I’ll be watching this one until the day I die because it’s so truly exceptional. The big story, a girl and her emotions, is a great idea, but it’s handled with such deft care and precision. The fact the film is hilarious and also breath-takingly sad shows that it can do what it pushes.

It also has the mind-kicking of the kid’s brain being run by happiness, but the father’s brain being run by anger, and the mother’s brain being run by sadness. And it doesn’t push those points, they’re just there.

INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

Well, okay, unless this is my #1 flick. I mean, it’s a spectacular feat of storytelling, inspiration, and ingenuity. Taking the broader range of Spider-characters and telling the origin story of Miles Morales, alongside Spider-Gwen, with an amazing soundtrack, and wild cartoon style, leaning heavily into the comics in all the right ways. I get the feeling I’ll watch this flick another 50 times over the next decade as I’ve already watched it half a dozen times just this year.

The key to this one is the script: see how so much gets called back in all the right ways.

THE WINTER SOLDIER

I’m always amazed that Captain America isn’t a character I tend towards loving in the comics but Chris Evans made me absolutely dive into the character in the big screen. So take that actor/character, put them in a more intrigue/espionage story, add some Robert Redford, and I am absolutely all in on this flick. The action is great, the tone and visuals are superb, it’s easily my favourite live action superhero flick and I think it’ll be difficult to top because of how well it matches so many of my personal likes.

Protip: watch it in greyscale, it’s a hell of an old school trip. That elevator scene just gets better.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

It took me years to eventually check this out, and I have no specific reason why, but boy am I glad I did. This is the Coen Brothers content that resonates with me, it’s quirky, it’s heartfelt, it’s “small,” and it’s got Oscar Isaac absolutely crushing it. This shot up my ranks to be one of my favourite Coen flicks of all time because it’s all heart, emotion above plot, and plot pushing emotion before it does any kind of logic. I often think I saw Barton Fink too young to truly get it, but this came at exactly the right time in my life to stick right in my brain.

BLACK SWAN

It’s a dance horror flick, and not the only one on this list. Darren Aronofsky retells the classic ballet Swan Lake and makes it creepy and sexy and brutal and I absolutely fell in love with this flick. 100%, this was a special piece of art that makes me want to create better stories myself on a visual and a visceral level. It’s a piece that uses colour and music and tone to make you fall in and feel, and that’s so hard to do at this level, and I want to learn how.

HELL OR HIGH WATER

I also missed this one at first and can’t remember what made me watch it, but I caught it on my flight to Seattle for ECCC and I swear I talked about this flick all damn weekend with all sorts of creators. The script is airtight, the performances are pitch perfect, and the whole flick just reminds you how damn sad male toxicity is, and how it doesn’t stop and will consume you eventually if that’s what you commit to. It also inspires me in that the plot itself isn’t too intricate, but the way the characters honestly and openly navigate it all is what makes this sing.

LOOPER

This is a weird inclusion, because I recognise it isn’t perfect, but it’s something I just personally dig so so much. The decision to put JGL into the Bruce Willis face is jarring and isn’t something I love, but I love the commitment to trying it out. The concept and the script and the performances are all wins for me.

INCEPTION

Another one where I won’t say this is Pure Cinema™ but I will say it’s something I dig so much because it sits right at the intersection of things I always enjoy wholeheartedly on a variety of levels. The cast is quality, the concept is hugely my jam, and I dug the layers of the script [whether they always made sense or not]. It’s fun AND leaves you thinking and spinning, what else can you ask for?

KNIVES OUT

Only saw this the other week, and yet still, I know this belongs on the list. It’s just so damn well constructed and executed. I know counteless mystery writers no doubt fill shelves with business this good every year, and it’s nothing new, but it felt so fresh on the screen. It’s not a franchise flick, it’s a genre you don’t see all that often, and it’s so damn enjoyable the whole way through. There are dozens of classic little moments that are going to stick with me a long long time, and that’s often what I love most about cinema. I saw this with my wife and then went to lunch and we spent most of it just talking about this flick.

This is another script I’d love to map out and deconstruct. The way things are revealed, and obscured, and hinted at, the balance is near on perfect.

CAPTAIN MARVEL

I absolutely fell in love with Captain Marvel on every level. The flick, the tone, the character, and the actress. Yet another notch in the Crazy Enjoyable Marvel Movie column, I don’t think it’s perfect, or a piece of high art, but it is something important. Hot on the heels of Wonder Woman, it showed a huge appetite for female-led cape movies because you could see the eighth quippy smirking white guy with abs in another costume, or you could see this, and people overwhelmingly showed they wanted to see this. And not because it’s legacy, Captain Marvel was once a dude no one knew about, and now it’s Carol Danvers, who realistically no one knew about, so you’d think she’d perform less than a founding Avenger [Ant-Man, let’s say], but she didn’t.

Brie Larson was key to this as she stone cold nailed this role, able to carry the action and the desert dry humour, and I will happily watch her lead the MCU into the next decade.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

By the time this came out, I was well burnt out on Tarantino. Django Unchained did little for me, and while I can see Inglorious Basterds is quality, it just wasn’t my jam. Hence why I didn’t catch this until stuck on a plane years after its release, and even then it took an entire trans-Atlantic flight to get through this while pausing constantly to walk my kids around, but by the end I knew this one was going to stick with me. Maybe it’s Kurt Russell. Let’s be honest, it probably is. But it’s also the script, something a little more back to basics in his approach, characters in a locked box conversing, and Tarantino made every character shine in their own sick way.

THE IDES OF MARCH

Gosling, Clooney, old school politics. I knew this one was for me from the shot with the title card. Just a good political thriller to stand up there with some of the best, and this script is really engaging. The kind of thing that’s just words and faces and it doesn’t need theatrics and helicopters and pyrotechnics, it just needs quality acting.

SUSPIRIA

This was some nasty business. Saw this with my two brothers, all three of us veterans of video nasties, and we all walked away quietly contemplative. It’s not just the gore, but it’s the overall tone. This is some dark business, and I never thought I’d want to see Argento updated, but this worked on so many levels, from camera angles, to colour, to pacing.

Plus, that score on vinyl.

THE NICE GUYS

If this had come out earlier in my life, I would have seen it 20 times. Cracking script, great buddy leads, the plot is great but it’s the airtight structure that gets to me. The kind of movie that should come with a six pack to enjoy it all the more.

SPOTLIGHT

Right in my wheelhouse of great journalist stories, this is exceptionally well made, but also treats the plot and subject matter with the tone it deserves. Everyone fired on this, it felt like the kind of thing to stand up there with Zodiac and JFK.

SNOWPIERCER

Brutal stuff, a great adaptation. Chris Evans reminds us he has range, and the grime oozes off the screen. It’s not always an “enjoyable” flick, but the themes will cut close to home, and you’ll wake the next day still thinking about it, and, yes, you absolutely should hunt down the original comics, utterly grand stuff.

WONDER WOMAN

Still remember walking out and my wife declaring, “Well, that was better than The Avengers.” I think time’s going to stand with her on that one. Gal Godot joins the few of this earth who will now forevermore embody the superhero they brought to the screen. Even with a janky third act, this flick is so enjoyable elsewhere that it gets a pass.

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Matches the original in so many ways: music, tone, moments. Maybe not overall as good, but certainly a worthy addition and something I’m excited to revisit. And, yes, everyone says it, but it’s true, the colours are insane eye candy.

ZOOTOPIA

The best crime flick masquerading as a kids’ cartoon…ever? Another script where I want to map it out and study it, for its brilliance, for its simplicity, for its smart joy. Animals and wonderful character arcs and real world commentary: yes, please.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Yeah, not the top of my list. Not even close. But this flick is so good I understand why people declare it #1 – it’s a masterpiece, but it’s down here because it’s not something that completely resonated all the way through me. I mean, the bass did, but there’s something about this flick that has made me hesitant to revisit it. I will, because it’s stupidly great, but it’s not like the things above it.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Oh, man, did this flick ever surprise me. I mean, I haven’t even seen Cloverfield yet, but this was so damn tight I had to give it a go, and I’m very very glad I did. I was completely caught on the edge of my seat, never really knowing, and I’ll forever love the script for that. Tension + characters + wild premise + John Goodman + that final scene = all my love.

That’s the list, hope you dig it – either by agreeing, or wanting to chase some down. If I missed something you dug, know that I probably just didn’t see it, or that I hated it and we should battle, as per the Rules of the Internet. Be seeing you.

Sharing Scripts

I still remember when I started writing comics, it wasn’t even that long ago, not like I started in the 80s or anything, but I remember trying to find examples of what they looked like and could not for the luife of me find many quality examples.

The best one I found showed me the structure, and also happened to be from my favourite writers run on my favourite character:

I printed that page out and had it over my desk since last decade. It helped me find my flow with structuring the page. at first, and you should always be looking for ways to improve your scripting. I know I’ve worked with two comic publishers who had specific formatting rules with scripts, and I stole ideas/layouts from them.

I also remember reading a script Greg Rucka graciously posted on his blog that helped me add the “NO COPY” tag into panels where there was no dialogue so you could consciously see it was my choice to have a silent panel and there wasn’t anything missing – kind of like the comic script equivalent of the “This page has been left blank intentionally.”

I’d hunt down scripts wherever I could find them, because they were showing me what I, a writer, should be putting into my scripts. Over time, I’ve amassed a decent library of scripts, and I share with a crew of mates when we find good ones, and so it’s a natural fit that I also want to share my own scripts.

Why not? Come see how bad I used to do it, and how my words still ended up as gorgeous panels. Come see, come learn.

As such, on my Patreon, where I share my writing and nerdery I recently posted the pdf of my script for FATHERHOOD.

This was my very first published comic; illustrated by Daniel Schneider, coloured by paulina Ganucheau, lettered by Brandon DeStefano, it was my debut onto the scene.

I still dig this comic, I feel like it holds up. It’s not perfect, it never was, nor have I ever been, but it’s a good one-shot. So I’ve shared the script with people on my Patreon in the hopes maybe it’ll help someone on there who is also writing their own stuff.

As an added incentive, I’ve also posted the entire pdf of the comic, so for $3 this month you’re getting a one-shot comic, the script for it, plus the other stuff: two flash fic pieces, one D&D random character history, and I wrote a little something about LAURA DEAN KEEPS BREAKING UP WITH ME, and I also have my best of the decade lists going up over the coming weeks.

I want people who step into my Patreon to feel like they’re getting enough, and I think this month is a banner month to dip a toe. All money from the Patreon helps me fund a lot of comic pitches with colours and letters and such. It also helps me allow myself guilt-free time to be creative, which I absolutely love and appreciate so much.

So, if you’ve ever been curious about this comic, smoething that’s been out of print from me on the con circuit for the last few years, here’s your chance.

JOIN ME AT MY PATREON AND SUPPORT MY CREATIVE WRITING LIFE

I thank you dearly for it!

The RKL List of #1 Issues

I was recently asked to pick my Top 10 Comics Issues with a #1 on them. It proved a difficult and very interesting task. It told me a lot about myself. [NOTE: between the time I initially wrote this and this publication date, I changed one element, s one comic came in, and one went out. Such is the fickle nature of lists.]

You can read a complete rundown of the overall vote/list I contributed to over at Shelfdust!

I had to really stew on this and consider a lot, so here is some of my thought process, followed by my Top 10, with a little commentary!

Daredevil/Matt Murdock is my favourite character, but I couldn’t find a #1 I cared about to go into this list. I own his first appearance, it’s signed by Stan Lee, it’s awesome, but it’s not exactly an amazing comic. It’s also nowhere near the first Daredevil I ever read, nor the reason I fell in love with him. But I couldn’t pick either Frank Miller runs on the main title because neither start with a #1. Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada relaunched well, but it wasn’t in my top 10. If the Lark/Brubaker issue was a #1 it would have been HIGH on this list, but it’s not.

Then I thought about old comics I loved, and while my childhood was spent in Spider-Man territory, and on to Venom, with some X-books amidst it all, it was rarely a #1 that led me there, Venom was in the Spidey titles, and whatever numbers they were up to, and Venom: Lethal Protector might have gotten a #1, but that’s not gonna make the list [though I would be interested to reread that mini, I still have all the issues here in my office]. Same with the X-books, they were floating in whatever numbers they were at – though did AGE OF APOCALYPSE have a #1 issue? Was it an Alpha? Does that count? Either way, close, but most likely just off the list.

I will say, BARTMAN #1 nearly made the list based on how many times I read and reread that issue [and mini] in my youth, but it just got squeezed off. As did THE WALKING DEAD #1, because it might have been instrumental in getting me back into comics as a young professional – shout out to my brother for buying me that trade for my birthday – it was the first trade and the end it landed on that made me a huge fan, not just the first issue.

So, without further ado, here’s my actual list, each served with a little reason why. Enjoy.

10. VAULT OF HORROR #1

This one was a reprint. It collects a variety of stories from other issues. But this was one of the very first comics bought for me, and it started a long-standing tradition of loving everything EC had once put out.

The stories themselves aren’t the absolute pinnacle of what EC could offer, but this issue is one I’ll remember forever because I remember where I was when it was bought, I still remember its cover, I remember reading it over and over throughout the years, and I know it was the first building block of my own comic collection and the place where I forged my own path as a lifelong comic reader.

10. VAULT OF HORROR #1

This one was a reprint. It collects a variety of stories from other issues. But this was one of the very first comics bought for me, and it started a long-standing tradition of loving everything EC had once put out.

The stories themselves aren’t the absolute pinnacle of what EC could offer, but this issue is one I’ll remember forever because I remember where I was when it was bought, I still remember its cover, I remember reading it over and over throughout the years, and I know it was the first building block of my own comic collection and the place where I forged my own path as a lifelong comic reader.

9. LOCKE & KEY #1

The effective hooks of a first issue are many: deliver characters we can connect with, make the premise simple and enticing, have knock out art, have 1-2 moments that grab our collars and shake, do it all with economical use of pages/scenes with no fat. Yep, it’s gotta be all thriller, no filler.

Gabriel Rodriguez & Joe Hill effortlessly bring us into this world they build through really strong character interactions and a hook that’ll catch you for days. It almost seems simple how well they did it, but don’t be fooled, this is arcane alchemy. And it was so good I bought the #1 issue again when IDW offered it with a full script in it. Absolute brain fuel.

8. THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1

This is the book that brought me all in on Danny Rand. I previously dug him for the loose Daredevil connection, and the killer yellow threads, but this run from David Aja and Ed Brubaker/Matt Fraction locked me in for life, and the foundation is all laid here in this issue.

Danny Rand is a kung fu master, and there are few better equipped to show that than David Aja. The early double page splash of Iron Fist fly kicking some HYDRA goons in the rain is just stunning [and mirrors the same trick Brubaker pulled over in Daredevil with Michael Lark, and both times they are just as effective].

The whole mythos then gets a little tweak with the introduction of Orson Randall, and the stakes go up, and the tone is set. It’s part superhero story, part gritty 70s action flick, and all billionaire kung fu.

7. CASANOVA #1

I’ve come back to this issue a whole bunch of times, usually when I’m writing my own #1 issue. Maybe it’s because I love Matt Fraction’s writing, maybe it’s because Gabriel Ba builds a whole world in one go, or maybe it’s because this issue covers so much ground and uses so many comic skills that I find it inspiration fuel every time.

I do appreciate the cyclical nature of this issue, and the fourth wall breaking captions, and by the end I know Casanova Quinn, and his job, and his problem. And I know I will read this comic for the rest of my life, no matter what schedule it comes out on.

6. THE IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN #1

This is a book no one was asking for. Phil Hester and Robert Kirkman go about building a new super, which is hard enough yakka, but then they make him not very super, and very barely heroic. In fact, he’s a scumbag and by the end of this first issue you want to keep reading because you really want to see Eric O’Grady’s house of cards fall down around him.

And yet I still kind of love him, and have enjoyed reading him elsewhere, but that’s due to the way his character grows over time. In this debut, he’s absolute pond froth. But you just can’t look away at this seedy underside of what goes on behind the Marvel superheroics.

5. SLEEPER #1

Okay, now the list hits the real tour de forces. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips here start something truly special, and I think it’s their second collaboration, and it’s one of the first comics I bought when getting back into comics and it was the one that completely solidified my fall back into things.

This is a phenomenal debut: it gives us a character we can’t look away from, it surrounded them with other people who are interesting and will help/hinder him along the way, and it slowly unpacks why we should care for our character through the main complication of the text.

A spy comic by way of some superpowers, this is hard hitting action and a slew of characters you’ll follow to the grave and beyond. I’ve read this entire series more than once and it only gets better.

4. ELEKTRA #1

I love Elektra. Frank Miller introduced her, he told the best story with her, and he buried her. That really could have been her entire catalogue in story, but I’m glad it’s not because Mike del Mundo and W. Haden Blackmen did something special with her in this maxiseries, and it all starts in this character focused debut.

Elektra has history, so it’s unpacked here in gorgeous detail, and this builds context, which they then quickly move away from. This isn’t yet another story of Elektra circling her boyfriend Matt Murdock. This is her story they want to tell, and she will be the centre of it, so she thinks about the past right before moving forward and taking a bounty hunter style job to find someone. It’s all fairly simple in summary, but the way it’s told is so exceptionally fluid, and it’s juxtaposed against Bloody Lips, a new villain invested here who is truly fascinating.

And then we get the final splash of Elektra descending into Monster Island.

Yes, Elektra, our leading lady/ninja/bounty hunter jumps out of a plane and descends towards Monster Island in her wingsuit. Comics! When they’re this good, they’re better than anything else out there.

3. UNCANNY X-FORCE #1

I’ve not been an X-mark since the cartoon when I was in primary school, so I initially slept on this book. I don’t really follow Wolverine or Deadpool, I knew little of Fantomex, Archangel didn’t feel like anything that had been interesting in a while, and I dig Psylocke but not enough to buy into this comic. But then I started hearing things, so I dug back and got the first issue and didn’t stop pulling it monthly until the run ended.

This issue not only makes me care about an X-team, but it invested me in characters I had little connection with, and made me have to come back to see how it would all unfold over time. The wild adventure style storyline is certainly something a little different, and Jerome Opena elevates it beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. There are funny moments, but also some gore, and the cast selection shows itself to be genius for what is being set up. This run is an absolute titanic force of how good it can get when someone plays with the toys, and it all began in this debut issue I roundly ignored until I realised I had it wrong, and I’m so glad I realised my error.

2. KILL OR BE KILLED #1

Okay, maybe my favourite comic from the past decade, and something so incredibly my specific jam, and the pinnacle of what I’ve enjoyed about what happens when Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker collaborate.

This debut issue is a masterclass.

Brubaker carries us through this all with a resonating first person caption voice that’s captivating. We see Dylan try to kill himself, and then we rewind to build context, and then we shift again to showcase other pertinent information. It’s all dripped out at a delicious pace, but one that constantly gives us something else to add to the pile to astound us.

Phillips uses gutters to isolate characters, and guide the eye, and make us feel the emotional scope of this character and the world around him he feels so constantly attacked by. I’d love to map out how this issue gives up information, and how it does it. Putting something like this together, giving us so many character interactions alongside our leading man’s state of mind and motivation moving forward is a masterclass in how to give an audience everything they need without them ever seeing it coming or having a moment to feel bored.

Every comic writer should read this issue to see why we should never rest on our laurels. We can always do better.

1. Y: THE LAST MAN #1

This is the cliche choice, the one people are told to read, to seek out, to study. And there’s reason for that.

Yes, this issue is that good. You might not dig the story [I guess, I don’t know how, but that’s cool], but there’s little denying this issue does everything it should and does it with the most simplistic style. If you step back, this issue looks so easy, and doesn’t do much, but it really just pushes information into your brain through conversation and dialogue and that’s not easy to do without making anyone feel like a James Remar Exposition Machine.

Every character for the series gets time here, they all get moments that shine, and by the end of this issue you know them all and have cast your lot in with the right or the wrong ones. The hook in this issue isn’t that all the men on Earth die, that’s just doing what it says on the tin, the masterful magic here is in how much you love the characters and need to know what will become of them all.

In a world where most comics end their #1 issue by revealing the hook that’s already been in all of the solicit/prepress material, this comic goes another route. Knowing that Yorick wanted to propose to his girlfriend at the worst moment and got interrupted is the key to this series. Brian K Vaughan never sells this book as a post-apocalyptic tale of every man on Earth dying, bar one. He sells it as the story of the last boy on Earth becoming the last man on Earth. A great reminder than your story isn’t your hook, your hook is there to make people give your story their eyes. Then your job is to make them care.

Reread this issue, see how BKV does it, especially with the world’s finest work from Pia Guerra, and marvel at how he does it. One tip: he has 40 pages, so he’s got that working for him. Good luck to you!

What Is Best In Life? – 2019 Edition 

The final year of the decade, and we’ve gone out with some high quality parts, so it’s nice to sit back and reflect on all the good things, and only the good things, just for one moment.

Comic

Every year, I manage to read a lot of good comics, and this year was no exception. I’m always thankful to find new things, and see amazing things continue to be phenomenal, and to see mates making excellent stuff, as such, here are some comics you should scope out.

November by Elsa Charettier and Matt Fraction is a brilliant OGN with a killer structure and some absolutely brutal pages of character and design. Crone from Justin Greenwood and Dennis Culver only just started but it’s already one of my absolute favourites of the year as it depicts a Red Sonja type adventurer who has grown old and now sees the world and herself very differently. John Lees continues to impress with Mountainhead with Ryan Lee and Sink with Alex Cormack, both showing skill, craft, and care. 

But my comic of the year, yet again, is a Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker jam: CRIMINAL

Absolutely stunning, beautifully put together, intricately woven, and just damn fine crime comics. An absolute MVP on the market.

Novel

I don’t give myself enough time to read novels, but this year I finally sampled Fletch by Bregory MacDonald and did enjoy it, despite the eponymous hero being a fairly decent asshole. Killing Gravity by Corey J. White absolutely won me over and I need to catch up with him to get my hands on the next 2 in the trilogy. But my favourite reading experience of the year was: CANARY

Duane Swierczynski always makes his books feel like arrows flying directly at you, and you can either duck, dodge, or take the hit. This one is very much in that school of his shelf.

TV

There are a lot of good shows out there, but I’m trying to spend my time on the truly great stuff. This year I really enjoyed The Kominsky method as it does something a little different with the sitcom format and allows Michael Douglas to seemingly both stroke his ego while completely deflating it. The return of Veronica Mars was really fun because it truly did posit the concept of what this character would be like travelling into adulthood. Life is hard for her, and that’s about right. How interesting then that my favourite show features the same lead actress: THE GOOD PLACE

It doesn’t seem right that this show can continue to be this good. It’s funny as hell, and deep enough to keep you thinking, and structurally sound like a glass snowflake. Every character continues to shine, the plot goes insane, and the heart of it all never leaves view.

Movie

It’s always exciting to find new things in film. Captain Marvel continued the trend Wonder Woman began last year of strong superhero films featuring women in the lead, and this flick really amplified the presence. This flick was funny and full of awesome and Brie Larson can easily carry the MCU for another decade, if she so wishes to. However, my heart belongs to something that’s not a franchise flick because this year I was completely bowled over by: KNIVES OUT

A murder mystery, in the style of old mansion novels, and Rian Johnson nails it all. The tone, the style, the characters, everything. I’m still thinking about the structure of this beast as the audience is given information at different times, and sometimes we don’t even know it yet, and there is so much to learn from this one.

Podcast

Every commute, every time I mow the lawn, I’m listening to someone talk info into my brain. I’ve enjoyed learning more about D&D through their official podcast, Dragon Talk, and it helps the two hosts are great fun. I’ve continued to expand my teaching brain with the Google Teacher Tribe, and my comics brain with Off Panel and Word Balloon, but this year my ears belonged to: SMASH BOOM BEST

This podcast about two people debating two topics through separate rounds got my brain firing with all kinds of rad ideas and desires for the classroom.

And that’s been the best of my 2019, let’s keep the run going into 2020 and the next decade to come.

I Won Xmas 2019

I mean, ’nuff said right here.

I could list the killer paisley shirt, or the beard oil with gold flecks in it, or the EBERRON D&D source book, or the dragon/d20 short. All winners, but ultimately it came down to this pair of socks my sister-in-law got me.

Complete winners.

And now I want to put this character into a D&D adventure. Definitely has washed up barbarian written all over him,

The 2019 Holiday Bag Breakdown

Going away for a break is fun, sure, seeing family, hitting the pool/beach, relaxing.

But organising to pack your bag to go away is the real jewel of the adventure. As such, here’s a quick breakdown of my Go Bag for this end of year family quest.

I’d be cool and tell you what kind of bag it is, like Warren Ellis, but I honestly have no idea. A tag has CYBER on it, and I know it has zips and I think was labelled as a ‘laptop bag.’

My laptop is a Chromebook, because everything I do is online and I don’t game, so it’s being worked on tonight and in the morning will go inside the bag with its charging cord. Never forget charging cords.

On the table, I have my Bullet Journals. One for the first half of 2019, one for the second half of 2019, and one I’ll set up for the first half of 2020. I like starting the year with some clear goals and plans and lists to check off, so I aim to do that by night after days of craft beer, D&D, banter, and kicking the ball with my brother and our kids. These Bullet Journals are A5 Marvel notebooks I got from Target, in 3 packs for maybe $5, perfect size to just scrap lists into, and then tuck away with little fanfare or bulk.

Inside the bag, this is where the real prep goes, but first let’s talk about what’s not in there:

I have no novel or comics for this trip. My plan is to read my brother’s new novel, THE ELDER TRIALS by Marc and James Lindsay, so I’ll take that into possession as soon as I arrive, and then it shall be absorbed into this paper monstrosity. And there are no comics because I’m all digital on holidays, so the iPad has been loaded up with some of Jason Aaron’s THOR, and some more trades of THE IMMORTAL HULK.

Also not pictures are the two D&D books, the PLAYER’S HANDBOOK and XANATHAR’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING which I’ve subbed into the suitcase as those are crazy quality paperstock of a few hundred KGs each, and I won’t need them in transit, just while we are there.

So, actually in the bag, top to bottom:

My D&D journal, a notebook I bought in Nantes, FRance in their mechanical animal festival. It catalogues the D&D adventures I’m writing.

A BAFFLING MYSTERIES notebook, part of a set of 3 notebooks with old EC-style covers on them, this one specifically has been chosen for its grid paper, perfect for drawing D&D dungeons. A quality mindfulness pasttime if ever there was one.

A composition notebook, cheap in bulk from Target, and this one’s for notes for [THE LONG ROAD PROJECT], which is currently unannounced, and I will be writing the script for issue #2 while away.

A notebook with a tiger’s head on the front, a gift from my sister-in-law she got from the National Zoo. It’s being used to track the insane changes I make in each D&D adventure as I take my kids through the ESSENTIALS KIT adventure book, DRAGON OF ICESPIRE PEAK, which is also found below.

D&D paper miscellania: character sheets [for my kids, and spares in case my brother or nephews want to play], a DM screen [the one in the Essential Kit is really light and thin], the map from the Kit, and some plain A4 white paper.

A plain pink notebook my wife found…somewhere, and it has my pitch and story for [THE MIDNIGHT MARS PROJECT], which I’m pitching, but think I might start scripting in 2020, so I want to break it down in more specificity so I’m ready to roll.

And then a ziplock bag with 5 copies of my latest comic, SKYSCRAPER, in it for family.

Not pictures, in the front pocket, is my pencil case with pencils, erasers, and D&D dice. Also a 7 pen felt tip set I got as a Xmas gift from a parent in my class last year which I use for the dungeon inking.

Chargers [iPads/iPhones, etc] go in the front pocket, maybe some Butter Menthols, and I’ll throw in a water bottle. It’s not too heavy, and I’m rarely walking with it full for long.

Once I pack the bag, I commit to what I’m allowing my brain to look at and focus on for the duration of the trip. I’ve marked what files I need as available for offline, and I know I want to focus, not crazy multitask, so this is the bag to see me through maximum relaxation, and minimum work flow as I glie into 2020.

The Last Comic of the Decade

As 2019 closes, so to does the decade.

It’s been a wild ride, and I like to commemorate events with comics. I can remember the night before my wedding I read THE ESCAPISTS by Brian K Vaughan, Jason Shawn Alexander, Steve Rolston, Philip Bond, and Eduardo Barreto. I’d bought it a few months before and saved it, and thankfully I loved this comic, but it also now always reminds me of my wedding day.

There are other comics that remind me of locations: GREEN WAKE #2 is walking from my hotel in Sydney to go find coffee to survive being in another town with my first child as a baby; Jason Aaron’s THOR run has only ever been read in trade, and seemingly only when on holidays; THE WALKING DEAD Vol. 1 takes me back to a house I shared with a mate when I first started teaching and my brother bought me that trade and got me back into comics; SLEEPER Vol. 1 is on a holiday to Brisbane, and Vols. 2-4 are back home to the first house I almost bought and reading them all on my bed in the sun.

As such, I like to plan ahead, and I’m wondering what comic i want to read as this decade closes, and as the new one opens.

Makes sense I should reread something to close out the decade, and then open the new decade with something new, something vibrant, something that’s a risk. Though, it also makes sense to do the opposite…

I’m thinking of rereading KILL OR BE KILLED #1 to close the decade because I *love* that comic, so it would be a fitting send off.

And to open 2020…I don’t know. Maybe I’ll get something for Xmas? I definitely feel like it should not be a Big Two book, it should be something more personal, something more specifically tailored to my tastes, perhaps.

RANDOM THOUGHT: if someone reads one of my comics to close/open a decade, well, that would be amazing.

Reading Piles

I should really be taking season photos of my reading piles.

Different from the reading shelf, where many things with pages go to sit and politely wait and watch everything else get read before them, the reading pile is for stuff being somewhat actively engaged with at the particular moment the photo is taken.

The reading pile is something special.

I recently had my end of 2017 reading pile turn up in my feed and t was interesting to see what I had been reading, and that all of that did indeed get read. Here it is:

This made me consider my current reading pile. Right now, it is:

Fascinating to stack up all of the things you’ve got going into your head at any one time.

I see I’m prepping a D&D adventure, I’m into a novel, I have two comics on the go, I printed off the PanelXPanel with my essay in it about NOVEMBER, and I’m chipping away at the PKD book.

A good pile reflects a good life, I believe.

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