Friday, March 7, 2014

Fireside Chat with Ryan K. Lindsay
Pull up a chair, dear reader, for we have something special on tap for today's Fireside Chat.  This time around, we're speaking with our very own Ryan K. Lindsay about Headspace, his brand new series from Monkeybrain Comics on Comixolgy.  Having dropped this week (and available online now), Headspace is a mindbender of a comic and Ryan was kind enough to talk us through some of the more enigmatic portions of the story, as well as talking about his talented collaborators, his love affair with comics, and much more.  So grab your favourite comfy chair, curl up, and let's dive in.

Ryan K. Lindsay should be an intimately familiar name to Weekly Crisis readers.  Before moving towards active comic book writing, he of course was a major fixture here on the site, plying his gonzo ways in all manner of features (including our interviews before I came into it).  Last year, he dropped all kinds of goodness on the world, including his Fatherhood one-shot, a stupidly excellent Rainbow Dash My Little Pony issue, a miniseries called Ghost Town for Action Lab's Danger Zone, and back matter essays in both Sheltered and Strange Nation.  He's a man with a plan, and a good portion of said plan is dropping excellent comic matter on the world.

Grant McLaughlin: Usually I start these conversations by asking how one would describe their book with a focus for new readers, but having gone through the first issue, I'm not sure that I could entirely answer the question.  So for everyone's benefit, how do you describe Headspace, full stop?  What's this book and what makes it tick?

Ryan K. Lindsay: Headspace is about Carpenter Cove. A town where the inhabitants don't seem to know how or why they are there, and so they drudge through a purgatory without aim. The story is also about Shane, the sheriff of Carpenter Cove, who comes to realise that all is not right with his town. He discovers they are within the mind of a killer and so the race to get back out into the real world begins, though a strange connection to this killer will make Shane rethink what he thought he knew.

The beating heart of this book lies within Shane. His journey is not going to be easy, at any stage, and as we follow him we'll discover what makes a man and what breaks a man. 
GM: Following that (and perhaps not unrelated), how did the whole thing come about? Where within your head space did this comic emerge from (I'm going to go out on a limb and assume it didn't split off fully formed like one of Zeus' offspring)?

Lindsay: Oh, no, it did not come fully formed. The concept of a jail inside the mind of another person was the first inkling. Then, over months of emails with Eric Zawadzki, we pulled out this tale of human loss and bizarre pseudo-science that's pulp-tainment of the highest order. It was a real process of back and forth between Eric and I as we broke this story and tested it to ensure it would be the best we could ever manage. 

GM: I'm all sorts of curious as to the conceptualization of the project. When did you know that it would be an online comic? How did that impact your approach, if at all?

Lindsay: The book was initially pitched as a standard print comic. When we got the green light at Monkeybrain I realised this meant we could have as many issues as we wanted, and the issues could be whatever size we wanted them to be.

In order to take into account the time it takes for comics to be illustrated, and the fact all of us on the creative team have day jobs, we thought a schedule or shorter issues would be most realistic to complete. With that decided, I then went about rebreaking the story completely. It's not a matter of taking 22 page issues and breaking it in half with maybe an added splash page. Our book starts with 22 pages in the first issue and then goes to a 12 page count per month. What I wanted to do with those 12 pages was tell what would feel like an entire issue's worth of story. I wanted each issue to feel worthy of purchase and to have it stand alone. This meant things got shuffled, new beats came about, the story changed, and I believe what we came out with was a stronger overall story. And one longer than we initially conceived, which was fun. The ability to go a little longer was nice so certain aspects of the story could have room to breathe.
GM: I presume you have an end point in mind for the series, so does that mean you also have a specific final issue number already picked out or is there still some room for improvising and riffing if something grabs you in ways you weren't expecting?

Lindsay: Alas, we can't tell this story forever. I'd love to, and there are many mine shafts in Headspace we allude to but cannot fall down because in the end Eric Zawadzki and Chris Peterson and Marissa Louise (our artists and colourist) will get other gigs and need to move on so I can't hog them for the rest of my life.

Headspace certainly does have an end point and I cannot wait until we get there. It's something we conceived early, we spent a lot of time ensuring we earned, and I feel is one of the strongest moments in the book. 
Our intrepid creative team
GM: Speaking of, could you tell us more about the team working on Headspace? We've touched on Eric Zawadzki a bit, but how did Chris Peterson, Marissa Louissa, and editor Dan Hill come into it? And what does everyone bring to the book?

Lindsay: Eric was the spark. He came to me - which is something that doesn't happen enough to writers.

Rarely do artists approach us to work, and even more rarely are they of Eric's calibre. So we came together well but after we got the greenlight Eric became swamped with some other things coming up and so we thought about bringing in a separate art team to do some of the book. The narrative is split between Carpenter Cove and then following Max in real life so we thought having another art team on the IRL sequences wouldn't be narratively jarring at all, they might even help.

I'd known Chris Peterson on twitter for a while and been digging his work across ULTRANOVA with Ryan Ferrier, his BEE VIXENS FROM MARS at Dark Horse, and PULP with Jeremy Holt. Chris is an immense talent - with his own recently launched Monkeybrain book with Shawn Aldridge, GoGetters - and he was rad enough to come aboard and do these pages for us each month. 

Bringing in Marissa Louise was a no brainer. She's an insane talent I met on twitter and her and I have been working on things behind the curtain for a while. The opportunity to let her shine on something that would finally be read was my pleasure. Plus, she makes one hell of a team with Chris while Eric colours his own pages.

As for Dan Hill, our intrepid editor, he's been a close mate for many years and I trust his knowledge and intuitive talent around story structure, pacing, dialogue, and everything comics to the point I've been sharing pretty much all my scripts with him for ages. I wanted to do it with this book also, so I decided to make the arrangement official rather than just have him, and his time, used as my silent critical friend. He's been great to bounce ideas and pages with, he's also an intimidating writer in his own right whose works will soon be hitting peepers worldwide.
GM: It looks like Carpenter's Cove is going to play a not insignificant role in this series. What's the deal with this deceptively sleepy town? Are there hard and fast rules that it abides by or are things a little looser than that? How much will we be learning about it?

Lindsay: I love Carpenter Cove. Playing in this locale, with these crazy rules, has been so much fun. It's definitely one of the main characters of the book because you never know what it's going to do or throw in front of you. 

But are there hard and fast rules? Ha, well, yes and no. There are certain rules - I know how the town was made, I know how people can leave it, I know what happens to you when you die there. But unfortunately for the citizens of the Cove, the town is now kind of without rules because Max's mind is infiltrating the landscape and warping it with memories and fears and other brain pollution. Due to this, monsters can appear anywhere, the landscape can physically change, and you should come to expect the unexpected. Because, really, if you're playing in a mindscape run amok then you should be able to have some insane fun. And by the end, you'll know all of the rules that are important.
GM: I think it's fair to say that Carpenter Cove isn't the only engimatic aspect of Headspace. At points, it feels like most everyone is speaking in riddles, providing plenty of enticing bits and pieces, but rarely enough to put the whole puzzle together without some dot connecting and guesswork. Was it a conscious choice to leave some of the heavy lifting in the reader's hands or is that simply how the book has evolved? How do you think it impacts (or will impact) the overall story?

Lindsay: I definitely didn't want to spell every little thing out in the introduction. And there are reasons things are obscured or omitted in this first issue. As the story slowly plays out, you'll see some things come to light you would not have seen coming and I hope that's exciting. Some are things I could have easily shown at the beginning but that's not a fun reveal. I want to play with information, distort it, control it. And this came about partly because that's the kind of stuff I like to read, and partly because this narrative came with layers so I thought it would be fun to slowly peel them rather than just open with them all laid out. 
GM: There's a lot to like in this first issue, but for my money, one of the shining moments is the dog-headed bartender.  Easily an early contender for my character of the year list. And then you had to go and off him just as his cool factor was really hitting its stride. Is that truly the last we'll see of the dogtender? Could the rules of Carpenter Cove perhaps mean he'll be making a return appearance? I certainly hope so.

Lindsay: Ah, Gil, he's a good man...'s best friend. But I don't leave him in a good place, do I? As for what is and isn't allowed in the Cove, well, I guess we can only wait and see.

I'm not going to give a straight answer, no, but I will say more than one person already has called for a Gil spin off and I'd be lying if I didn't say I want this to happen with all of my heart. 
GM: Even beyond the Gil the dogtender, there's a lot of big questions that are left hanging from that first issue. What's the deal with Max? Who are They? What's up with that (not necessarily literal) bomb you drop on that last page? I know I'm itching to know the answer to some of these questions, so as the person who already holds the answers, how do you manage to keep all that under your hat?

Lindsay: There's a lot I don't tell people about HEADSPACE, and it is hard. So the best way to keep it all under wraps is to just not talk about it to anyone. I keep my lips sealed and so things don't slip out. Then I just need to remember what I have revealed or leaked, and so can talk about, and what I haven't and so need to shut up about. It's mental gymnastics but that can be fun. 
GM:  Moving more generally, what is it about comics that grabs you? Why is this the medium that you choose to spend so much time working away at?

Lindsay: It's been in my blood all my life. Reading them, wishing I could draw them, writing them. Comics is just an insanely good medium. Plus, I dig media slowly parcelled out. I like reading comics monthly, and watching TV weekly. I think that pause time in between, to reflect, and to discuss, is so much a part of the entire experience. I think back on the years I spent watching LOST and having wild chats in the wait each week as some of the best times of my life. I think about reading UNCANNY X-FORCE monthly and the wait killed me for each issue but it was worth it to slowly grind up to that glorious finish line. So that's one reason why comics.

Another reason is the structure. I dig the way pages are made to tell a story, it's literally like nothing else. Then there's getting to collaborate with artists. There is every reason to make comics in my mind.
GM: You are a big #makecomics ninja, but I know that working on these funny books isn't the only thing you have on the go. How do you make time to fit in comic book work? Where do you find the hours in the day to get everything in?

Lindsay: Ah, time. Yeah, I try to keep busy. Last year was the book of essays about Daredevil, this year it's back matter essays in SHELTERED and STRANGE NATION. There's also the day job, the wife, the kids. I find scheduling all that I want into a day is difficult. I also find lists keep me focused and on task and on track. Being realistic with what I can take on also helps. I try not to overextend. I've also been known to plot and script on my phone where need be. If you want something bad enough, you'll make it happen. 
GM: On a similar bent, what is your writing process like? Do you have a particular routine, things that you prefer to have in place, or is it more of a free for all?

Lindsay: My process is generally pretty strict but that's because living with two kids under 4 means my life is strict. I write every night, usually between the hours of 8pm and midnight. I go into my office, I sit at my desk, I sometimes take a drink, I crank a movie soundtrack, and then I make with the words. That's pretty much seven nights a week. And I just work on whatever is next. If I keep my list tight, I know what that is.
GM: As we work towards the end, do you have any other projects you'd want to draw reader's attention to?

Lindsay: The digital trade collection of GHOST TOWN, a book I wrote for Action Lab's Danger Zone imprint just went live on ComiXology and it features some sweet art from Daniel J Logan, Justin Greenwood, and colours from Brian V Dyck.

Anything else is only here say and I don't want to tell tales out of school. But there are about 4 things I am not talking about. :D
GM: And of course, we can't finish a Weekly Crisis interview without our Literary Rorschach Test.  I'd explain the process, but we both know that isn't necessary in this instance.

Danger - Ranger
Home - Girl
Past - Dark
Unknown - Coin
Reality - Fractured
Monsters - Ink
Hope - Never
Next - Month
Collaboration - Endless
The End - Fin

Lindsay: These were great. Thanks, so much.
GM: Thank you.

Headspace is published by Monkeybrain Comics and is available on Comixology as we speak.  At 99 cents for 22-pages of pulpy, mysterious, and dangerous comic book goodness, you should mosey on over to give it a gander.  It'll be well-worth your while.

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American Zombie (R. A. Wonsowski) said...

Congratulations on the new debut, RKL! And you can't ask for a better editor than Mr. Hill. Both of you are the cat's pajamas. Huzzah!!

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