Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Tag: rkl annotations

RKL Annotations – BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #4

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

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

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

THE COVER – SAMI KIVELA

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

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

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

PAGE ONE

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

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

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

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

PAGE TWO

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

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

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

PAGE THREE

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

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

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

PAGE FOUR

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

PAGE FIVE

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

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

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

PAGE SIX

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

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

PAGE SEVEN

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

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

PAGE EIGHT

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

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

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

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

PAGE NINE

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

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

PAGE TEN

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

This page IS Milla Albuquerque.

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

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

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

PAGE ELEVEN

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

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

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

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

PAGE TWELVE

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

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

PAGE THIRTEEN

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE FOURTEEN

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

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

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

PAGE FIFTEEN

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

Excuse me, the FOUR things before her.

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

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

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

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

PAGE SIXTEEN

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

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

PAGE SEVENTEEN

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

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

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

This page is the culmination of Lon’s growth.

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

PAGE EIGHTEEN

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

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

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

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

PAGE NINETEEN

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

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

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

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

PAGE TWENTY

Okay, Coda time.

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE TWENTY ONE

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

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

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

Which builds us to the final page…

PAGE TWENTY TWO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that I think about it…hrmm…

BACK MATTER

Truth, Beauty, Erudition – choose one

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

JAM SESSIONS

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

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

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

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

THE TRUTH

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

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

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

But until then, thank you.

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RKL Annotations – BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #2

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

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

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

THE COVER – SAMI KIVELA

I think this is my favourite cover for the series.

Maybe.

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

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

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

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

PAGE ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE TWO

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

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

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

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

PAGE THREE

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE FOUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE FIVE

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

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

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

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

PAGE SIX

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE SEVEN

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

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

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

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

PAGE EIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE NINE

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

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

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

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

PAGE TEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE ELEVEN

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

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

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

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

I love that red hand of violence.

PAGE TWELVE

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

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

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

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

PAGE THIRTEEN

Fight. Page.

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

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

PAGE FOURTEEN

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

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

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

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

PAGE FIFTEEN

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE SIXTEEN

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

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

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

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

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

And then that red eye.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

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

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

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

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

PAGE EIGHTEEN

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

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

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

Eh.

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

PAGE NINETEEN

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

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

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

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

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

PAGE TWENTY

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

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

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

PAGE TWENTY ONE

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

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

PAGE TWENTY TWO

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

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

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

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

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

BACK MATTER

Truth, Beauty, Erudition – choose one

Fun, as always.

JAM SESSIONS

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

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

THE TRUTH

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

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

RKL Annotations – NEGATIVE SPACE #1

negative space 1 logoNEGATIVE SPACE has landed. With a wet depressed thud. Owen Gieni has slaughtered the game of gorgeous sequential pages with his own coloured magnificence. Ryan Ferrier is our letterer supreme. The story wouldn’t be anywhere without Daniel Chabon editing my brain into shape. And only Dark Horse Comics could take a chance on something this wild.

If you bought this book, dear dark lords, thank you. Creator owned books are hard, and I have no doubt reading this book was a little hard, or at least I hope it was, even if just for a panel.

Below, I present my thoughts on what I wrote, why, how, influence/inspiration, times Owen just nailed it, and any other mental fluttering verbiage I can pin down for you. As usual, I hope you dig the process peep.

COVER

Man, I said probably more than I need to say about this cover here at the [LINK]

I will reiterate, this cover is killer. So killer. Look at that design, and those colours. The. Best. And there are 3 more where that came from :] [LINK]

PAGE 1

negspacepage01colourOpening panels, they are important. This one here, the hand, the words failing, the rejected words chosen. I always say, pay close attention, don’t forget too quickly.

I also just love the way Owen drew Guy’s thumb, and his nails. This panel captivated me when it first came through. So good.

Then we cut to the splash and holy cats does Owen Gieni introduce the world to him, to us, to Guy, to everything we plan to do here in scope and depth and emotion. Look at everything in this panel and think of the life Guy must have had up to this point. I believe in one shot Owen delivers a lifetime. That’s skill and I still love looking into the corners of this panel.

We have one caption in this panel and then as you look down, waiting for more, there’s nothing. Guy is stuck, he’s pausing, he’s screwed.

Welcome to NEGATIVE SPACE.

PAGE 2

I gotta admit, coming up with substandard ways to start suicide notes was a weird task. What the hell would you put in yours?

[please don’t reply to me with your answer to that question…]

Guy wanders the town, because Owen really wanted our location to feel and breathe and then we drop what has long been my shortest high concept pitch of this book – “Who the hell gets writer’s block on their suicide note?”

Guy is so alone in his panels. This floating orb of unhappiness :[

PAGE 3

That opening line here is some dramatic irony breaking your heart. People need to check their words, for reals. Also, look at Ferrier buttonhooking that balloon tail into the truck. That’s today’s masterpiece theatre for sure.

Woody is Guy’s love interest, and is completely Owen’s design. And I love him so much. That haircut is aces. Hell, everything about him screams ‘barista in a coffee truck called ‘HEY MAN, NICE SHOT of caffeine’’ – totally my name, just sayin’.

I wanted this scene to pop because it’s going to produce some feels later on as we move forward in the issue. It’s rare I write relationships in books, especially nascent ones, or flirtatious ones, I usually just look back at the rubble, so to tease out this tendril of a human connection for Guy, but it’s not yet enough that it’s keeping him afloat, was something I wrote lots of times and hope we came up with something that’s a strong foundation to move us all forward on.

PAGE 4

Excuse me while I say I love this page. Writing Rick and Briggs is the release part of this book, their words just spew out of me, whereas getting Guy right is hard, probably how he chooses his own words, too.

This opening panel is insane. The tone on display is off the charts. In my head, I just wanted something that made me ‘feel’ like I was viewing the Tyrell Building for the first time. In a perfect world, this would be a splash. But it’s not, deal with it. Then look at the Kindred logo – Owen is my mainest of main men.

Now before I get into the words, look at the room and colours from Owen. I love how he built this building and brought it to life. Because of course the company making you sad would have a blue scheme rocking, ha.

I tried to introduce these two characters, tease what they are doing to a mild degree, set it up at least, and then end on Rick throwing us into the next page. Love the expression of exasperation Owen gave him.

And Rick is eating an apple.

PAGE 5

More exposition, more character in the way Rick addresses it, but otherwise a pause before a sequence that’s a little more hi-octane. This is something I still don’t know if I’m doing consciously or not [which in itself answers the question, right?] but in writing annotations for HEADSPACE I’d notice that I’d write a dense smaller scene right before things ramped up. Because apparently I’m still learning pacing, and landing ass backwards into its effectiveness from time to time.

I also love Rick’s nose in panel 3 and his build in panel 5. Owen’s created this block of dude that’s just never existed before and that kind of alchemy always fascinates me.

PAGE 6

I’m in love with coloured bars in my pages. It’s my go to hack move now. I’ve written black ones, red ones, and I have an orange one maybe coming up. I love them because they can mean plenty. Here, this grey means silence, but more on point it’s this weighted silence right before the storm breaks. Metaphorically speaking on the weather and the silence, obvs.

Is anyone else writing coloured bars? I bet they are, and doing it better than me :[

I actually just saw a big black bar from Level/Brisson in THE MANTLE. Bastards.

I honestly have no idea what ‘artisan ice cream’ is and don’t even wanna google it because what my mind fills in is way cooler than the truth could ever be.

8 panels of manipulation, we came up with all sorts of stuff for this. That I snuck in a slushie bathtime was either genius or will have people instantly burning their issue.

Owen was the craftsman to put that statue in the front of Guy’s apartment block in the first place so shrewd eyes would instantly get what was going on. And I got all the love for the way Guy flies out of frame. It’s almost this Looney Tunes moment of chaos and this makes me want to laugh which is the worst possible reaction to Guy :[

PAGE 7

We finally drop a splash and Owen fills it with this gorgeous fire. Perfect call.

And these captions were an 11th hour addition/change and I guess they are new enough that I’m still super in love with them. This is the moment Guy breaks, our narrative breaks open wide, and there’s no turning back. There is only some kind of metamorphosis.

PAGE 8

The actions of Blair on this page should start to sell you on the insanity of Kindred, and their people. It might be mildly confusing still, I guess, maybe, but the intent and tone behind it should be clear. These people are nutz and no good.

Pretty certain Briggs is sneakily smirking as she points out what Blair is doing.

And I didn’t notice the arm flying out of that car collision at first. All Owen.

PAGE 9

We left Guy in a certain state and now we just throw him into reaction mode. He’s acting before thinking, really. Because when you drive someone down, and then still need them active in the plot, I figured the only way is to give little moments, little reasons to be prompted to movement. The collision jars Guy into action, thoughtless action, and then the baby in the car prompts angry reaction. Guy is being thrown into these moments and we have one more emotional turn for him coming up to control his strings.

Ping – Louie CK cameo seeded for the film adaptation – Ping.

I really wanted to sell Rick’s frantic reaction and he’s the sort of guy to react with his mouth, so that’s always fun to script.

PAGE 10

The tone on this page is perfect. Owen Gieni strikes again. I swear, my office gets colder every time I turn to this page.

“Strange how being consumed by fear makes you fearless.” – this is only true in your very last moments alive, I dare say. And even then, it’s usually just making you stupid, ymmv.

PAGE 11

negtest3And here Guy finally sees his so called fearlessness for the stupidity it is.

And that crusty homeless face is #nightmarefuel

PAGE 12

When you finally see death, it’s never like you might think, or want or fear. It’s finally real and we so rarely see that. This moment is powerful for Guy, it’s him looking at the end of the lane he’s running down. It’s always going to make you pause.

PAGE 13

“It’s a nasty business living, but it’s a nastier time leaving.” should be my next neck tattoo. It should also rattle your bones no matter what you’re thinking or feeling right now.

Page turn build…

PAGE 14

…and we turn to find nothing. And that itself is the problem. If you paid attention to what Rick was saying when he lost Blair, you’ll know straight away what’s going on here. I wanna seed doubt, especially in Guy himself, but we all know. At least, I hope we do. I always like to assume you’re all paying attention, and if not, well, I lay traps to see if you are. I think that’s the teacher in me coming out.

I’ll admit, getting Guy to go from suicidal, to angry, to utterly confused, and then having him walk out of this page back towards Woody was something I put a lot of thought into. I want my lead to be making his own choices, to be doing things for himself, not just because I need them to happen for the plot. To me, in the state of mind he’s in, I can see why he’s doing this. I mean, his apartment blew up, he just saw a dead body, and his world is flipped, but all that happening to someone in his mental place was eventually just going to break him. So instead of going to the cops, like you or I might think about, he’s off to say a proper goodbye.

PAGE 15

Guy overthinks things as much as I do.

The first time we see Guy and Woody touch, they’re passing a coffee. Now there’s no pretense. We get this human moment…so of course I break it…

PAGE 16

…because Guy finds the words. And then these spooks find Woody.

Everything on this page from panel layout, facial expressions, that lack of background. Owen might come up with crazy designs and really world build in dense ways but here he shows insane emotional chops that I hope build to break your heart.

PAGE 17

Guy waits and Rick loves it. He’s a complete bunghole of a human being.

That final look Guy gives over his shoulder in panel 6, man, he’s just cruising his peepers around, poor bastard.

PAGE 18

I love the simplicity of this page, and that Owen broke it into more panels than I had scripted. So simple and that’s all it needed. I think I’ve finally learnt not to overwrite over rad art. I trust the reader to have their heart broken if they have any soul.

PAGE 19

Why this movie? Because it’s one of my favourite rom-coms of the past decade. Because it’s about futility as much as it is hope. And because Guy has a mad killer crush on JGL :]

Release.

I think this might be my favourite page in the book. It’s simple and does so much for me.

PAGE 20

Guy shatters his soul into small enough pieces he can toe down the drain and Rick just kicks back and eats cereal.

PAGE 21

Yes, Guy wanted to deliver his note to Woody. From there, well, it wasn’t going to be fun or pretty.

PAGE 22

But instead we get this. We finally make good on the cover, and we hopefully propel you into the next issue because Guy most certainly is not dead, or dying, or even knowing what to do next. I mean, look around this room, there’s little to really make Guy think this was his next stop for the night. Poor bastard.

And I didn’t realise how this page/idea would be taken by some people. I won’t spoil it by laying out exactly what’s happening here, Woody will do that for you at the start of #2 but needless to say, peeps took this page a different way than it’s intended and them getting it wrong suddenly makes the start of the next issue way cooler. I did not plan any of that at all. A happy accident.

negtest1Now I’ll close by saying this – we crafted this issue as something that built character and drew you deep in. We want you to care, we want you invested. I always strongly believed the best horror stories were the ones where you cared if people lived or died. If you didn’t care, where was the tension, the drama, the engagement?

This issue has been slowly getting drawn up that steep climb at the start of the rollercoaster. From here, we go to some insane places. The second issue drops some history, it sends us on a spiral, and by the end, man, you’ve fallen through that initial drop and are hitting the first bend on the coaster, wondering if maybe your bar isn’t on tight enough, wondering if maybe it’s possible you’ll slip out and say goodnight. Or maybe you do slip out, but not until the end of issue #3. Or by that stage, are you climbing out?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, thank you for getting down on this issue. I hope you dug it. Though if you’re reading this I doubt you’re the kind to go this far into hate-reading a comic. I guess.

Indie comics live and die on readers caring, so thank you for taking the time. It means the world to all of us at NEGATIVE SPACE HQ. Stick around, see what drops next month, and remember:

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

RKL Annotations – HEADSPACE #5

HEADSPACE #5 is a 99c goldmine of feels.

Poor bloody Shane. Things just tunnel deeper every issue like he’s strapped to a Technodrome 😦

headspace05_cvr

Here are some spot thoughts on a journey through the issue – won’t you join me?

COVER

I love this cover. The concept, the white, the orientation, everything. And I think it’s the little people in that brain/maze that make me smile the most. Lil’ Gil, I hope he makes it out, ha.

Actually, how interesting that this cover gives me kind of a smile, when nothing then in this issue is really geared to making you feel better or comfortable. Way to go for the sucker punch, Zawadzki.

PAGE 1

Hrmm, clearly how I think some cheating Valley girl type might sound on the phone with her cuckolded bf in the room. That central panel of her laughing is gorgeous and yet so cruel at the same time. And Eric slays on the 9 panel grid +1

PAGE 2

I don’t write many splash pages, but this moment just tickled me, and it relieves all the tension built up on that crowded Page 1. You gotta build, then release, that’s part of a good narrative. Plus, on Page 1, it all looks relatively normal, so this moment is to really throw you off guard, I want you to not quite know what’s going on. You need to be as on edge as the person watching this scene (as seen in the next page).

Also, I scripted this visual a few ways, mere ideas for Eric on possibilities, and then he just went and did this. Those birds are fantastic, but Max’s smile, and posture, in the background is the kicker.

PAGE 3

Then we take a page to breathe, set the scene, explain the first two pages, and build towards the next page. I worry about these type of pages. I worry enough isn’t happening, that they only exist as exposition (SOUND THE JAMES REMAR KLAXON) but in the end, and as I read this, I see them and how they serve as part of the whole structure, how this page pauses, allows the mind to settle, so we can do what’s next…

PAGE 4

Man, this page is one of my favourite things Eric has done, and is also a shining example of why I love comics. We get to do this, how rad is that? Very little else in this world – perhaps nothing – can replicate exactly what is on this page. I love that Eric could pull this off. I asked him to lay it out like a boardgame (I sent him a pic of the old Hero Quest board game top – olde school Hero Quest fans represent!) and then I asked for as many rooms as I could. Then Eric fit them all in.

This page totally raises more questions than it does answers, absolutely, but in all it tells us the one thing – Max’s mind is messed up, and is a scary place in which to be trapped. From fighting hobo dogs to crazy gf’s to whatever the hell is happening in that room full of water…this page is all tone, with a hint of scene setting/world building and I’m so thankful for having Eric around to pull this off.

PAGE 5

And now we finally have the main mission laid out for Shane.

Day Keene – fantastic man, superior smell.

PAGE 6

I’m really enjoying how the art here from Sebastian Piriz, with colours by Marissa Louise, juxtapose so well from Eric’s stuff that I don’t have to caption the change of location/reality at all. That’s the dream, less didactic/non-diagetic stuff if we can avoid it.

That panel of Lois blowing on her coffee is all Sebastian, and it’s beautiful.

PAGE 7

If I had to give information to some killer/hitman/spy/whomever, I’d totally put it on some burner smartphone – recon pics, files in Notes. Surely this is already happening in the world, right?

PAGE 8

That line Lios gives here “No, Max, this is surgery. You’re a blade not a bullet.” I was so damn proud of that line. Then, tonight, I was ready the Parlov/Ennis FURY MAX and there’s this line: “We were a stiletto in the heart, not a baseball bat the army kept swinging blindly at the head.”

Ennis 1 | Lindsay 0

😦

Love the panel border and muted colours when Max uses the duffel bag full of cash as a silencer of sorts. Just love it.

PAGE 9

Hrmm, another page of structure and important words. Shane has his plan, and he has his opposition, but then he gets distracted and while he wanders off, we wander into the next page…

PAGE 10

…and here we confirm a bomb – that Max isn’t a killer, he’s something more. I wasn’t initially going to obscure this fact, we were going to be upfront about his status as a USAgent, but then the ability to paint him as some killer came up and it felt too right. because here, even with what we know of Max and have seen, here we confirm he isn’t actually a ‘bad guy’ per se, and so that should muddy up all our thoughts moving forward.

Also, showing this memory set as a movie was an idea I enjoyed, and once again Eric nails it. I took the screening room aesthetic, with the projector light carving through the room, from the cover/preview for a 90s Robert De Niro flick – which after googling ‘De Niro commies’ I can confirm is GUILTY BY SUSPICION.

PAGE 11

This scene was a little hard to write. Ever since *SPOILERS* the kid in RESCUE ME was killed, the thought that it can happen anywhere/anytime/anyhow freaks me to my core. Then having to watch how that might happen, well, that’d break my heart.

The Librarian’s line here just shows that we really haven’t known who is good/bad/in-between at all this whole time. Except Shane, he’s staunch.

PAGE 12

This page was hard to write, and took me a few goes, but then Eric just slayed it with the art as usual. I got in the inks for this and choked up looking at them on my iPad. That’s the power of Zawadzki.

BACK MATTER

Listen to the CRIMINAL podcast.

Read THE BROTHERS JAMES.

Listen to Sarah Blasko.

All hail Design Fu Supreme Chris Kosek.

Don’t let your children die.

Fear Dan Hill’s understanding of the Nuremberg Code.

 

And that’s it for another issue. I hope you dug it, a lot of feedback that came my way said people thought this was our strongest issue yet. I like that kind of feedback. Though I can’t wait for you to see #6, because Eric and Sebastian both step up in two huge moments. You’ll see, and you’ll know instantly.

We at HEADSPACE HQ thank you for spreading the good word – RTs, water cooler chatter, WoW flaming – it’s all good and helpful and so insanely appreciated.

I also hope 2014 has been good to you, and you’ll meet us in 2015 ready to finish this tale. We know we are!

🙂

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