No One Has Ever Accused My Stories of Being Straightforward – An Interview with RYAN K LINDSAY

The best part of being the Interview Content Editor for Comic Book Yeti is getting the chance to chat with creators I admire and whose work I cherish. It will become clear in this interview that Ryan K. Lindsay is one of those writers. It was a pleasure to discuss his recent comics Everfrost and Speed Republic, but also to discuss his connection to his readers and his often deeply personal newsletter. So head on over to the local milk bar and grab yourself a snack. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Ryan, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave, which is an appropriate setting considering one of the things I want to discuss with you today is Everfrost, your recent comic from Black Mask Studios with Sami Kivela, Lauren Affe, and Jim Campbell. How have you been doing?


Everfrost, Black Mask, issue #1, cover, Lindsay/Kivela/Affe/Campbell

RYAN K. LINDSAY: I’m fantastic, mate, thanks. Doing the work to make 2022 a really positive year, and it’s been working out all right so far.


CBY: That's great! I want to start by talking about your newsletter though: TWO FISTED HOMEOPAPE. If anyone doesn’t recognize the Philip K. Dick influence in your work, the name of your newsletter is a pretty big giveaway. It’s also my favorite newsletter of the more than several I subscribe to. What do you think makes a successful newsletter, and what do you hope your readers get out of it?


RKL: I’m really humbled you’d say that, thanks so much. I honestly have no idea what makes a successful…anything. If I knew, I’d be better at replicating it, but I know the ones I dig always have an honesty and connection about them that inspires me. The good stuff in this world [newsletters, stories, people] always get me creatively fired up. For my own newsletter, I hope readers get that feeling in any way. I hope they get a stir within them, to go do their own thing, whatever that may be. I also hope my readers get a sense of understanding about me and connection with me, that’s the goal. I appreciate anyone giving up a slice of their inbox, or their hard-earned money on my stories, so I want them to feel like they are all in on this wild ride from soup to nuts. And I am plenty nuts.


CBY: I appreciate that you talk about what you’re working on and your process. You give a glimpse into your life and interests, and you talk about the things that you’re reading or watching or playing that influence and/or entertain you. The past few newsletters, you’ve talked about Ted Lasso, Salem’s Lot, Mitchells vs. the Machines, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, and The Leak. You have a family, you work full-time as a teacher, last year saw the publication of Everfrost and Black Beacon. With how busy you are, is it still important for you to carve out time to watch and read for fun?


Everfrost, Black Mask, issue #2, cover, Lindsay/Kivela/Affe/Campbell

RKL: It’s really important to me. I’ve loved diving into stories since as far back as I can remember. Treasured memories were always about books I got, or films I watched with others. Stories, their meaning and their timing to me, have always mattered when it comes to my downtime, my creative refueling, and my lens on the world. I try to continue to make time for all of these things, though it’s not always easy. There never seem to be enough minutes in the day for everything, but I do my best to push myself to find/make time to feed the brain.


I will also say: having kids eventually becomes great for this as they can finally watch some really interesting stuff and then you have an excuse to just sit down with them and also watch it. Nothing better than a relaxing rainy afternoon on the couch with something like Into The Spider-Verse.


CBY: You get fairly deep/introspective in your newsletter about your work output, your worries and concerns. I find it hugely inspirational and motivational. Other than for marketing/promotional purposes, what, if anything, do you get from writing your newsletter?


RKL: Writing my newsletter is a weekly therapy check-in. Putting all of this down on paper (the screen) gets it out of my head. It lines it up, contextualizes it, makes me put words and thoughts to the arcane hollow feelings that fill me. I find that weekly round-up genuinely helpful for me to sit back and collect the week’s thoughts and put them into the sunlight to see what dies off easily.


"I don’t think I ever once considered how I wanted readers to perceive Van, or how they would. I merely created her and set her loose. She’s probably a manifestation of my own frustrations at aspects of the world today. She’s a dark character, full of terrible feelings, and those spill out at times. Though I also don’t see her as an anti-hero type, she’s just a broken individual inside, someone not quite dealing with the grief of their life."

Being honest about struggles, failures, and fears is something I didn’t grow up knowing how to do. It’s come through practice, through hard work, and it’s something I’m glad I’m able to do now. I’ve tried to push fortnightly, or have skip weeks, and I find my brain does not enjoy that gap in scheduled consolidations. If I ever stop the newsletter, I’ll have to just start up a personal journal to get it all out and see it free from the constraints of my mental flagellations.


CBY: The Everfrost trade has been held up a bit due to the global supply chain issues, but it should be available soon. After you’ve written a book like this, once the scripts are done, the artwork is complete, and lettering finished, do you ever revisit it, pick up an issue and read it, or are you on to the next thing by that point?


RKL: I rarely reread old work as in: sit down, open to page one, and start devouring. Once it’s finished, it’s on the shelf. I’ll dust it off if I’m going to speak about it, just to refresh my memory as well as the old intoxicating chemicals of love for it, but I don’t reread as yet.


I do think there’s a time, in another decade or more, when I’ll gladly sit with my own work and see what pops, but for now, I’m usually onto the next thing.


CBY: It’s a ton of story packed into 4 issues and, I think, as much as I love single issues, will benefit from being collected in trade. How have you felt about the response to the series thus far and are there any additions to the trade? I saw Lonnie Nadler has written the foreword!


Everfrost, Black Mask, issue #3, cover, Lindsay/Kivela/Affe/Campbell

RKL: I’m always humbled by any response our stories get. It’s all screaming into the void, so whenever anyone hears you, or makes a sound back from out in the darkness, it’s a relief just to know you aren’t mad. I’ve been blessed with readers who are willing to take the risk with me. They allow me to ask questions and play with structure and they have faith [hope] that I’ll stick the landing.


Many readers/reviewers were very kind with their intelligent thoughts about Everfrost and whenever someone picks up on something small in any of my books it just makes me happy.


The trade has a beautiful forward by one of the smartest humans I know, Lonnie Nadler, but it doesn’t have some of the back matter we put into the issues, so people would have to track those down for such chicanery.


CBY: I’ve read, probably in a newsletter, that you write an outline and a page-by-page breakdown before scripting. Was that the case for Everfrost? Did you have all 4 issues outlined before you started scripting so that you knew the ending when you started writing, or did you find the ending along the way? Were there any changes or surprises in the story as you began scripting from your outline?


RKL: I always have a full synopsis before I pitch a comic. I need to know that I have an ending I’m happy with and is worth the journey for everyone: me, the artist, the publisher, the reader. So my first job is to take my idea, my spark, and draw it out over a narrative. Then I chop that narrative up into issue chunks so I know what length I need.


I pitch with that much planned, so the story is pretty laid-out. But I haven’t yet done page-by-page plans, which is what I do before I script. But I’ll only do that once I’ve gotten the pitch approved and I know I’m planning this next step with publishing purpose. During that phase, I’m open to finding scenes that don’t work, or characters making choices. Happy accidents happen along the way, so sometimes my endings might bend a little, they detour, or they’ll land in completely different territory.


"Raising kids is definitely one thing to make you want to hope. You have to because the other way lies madness. All of my stories are me dealing with some kind of big thought or worry, so it makes sense that I’d be grappling with these themes until I can kind of find a handle on them that allows me some kind of hope. Though I do still love a good bleak ending."

When I worked with Daniel Chabon on Negative Space at Dark Horse, our ending was completely different from the ending I pitched. Whereas the ending for Everfrost was locked in fairly early and everything kept tying back there. The journey to that ending for Van Louise, well, that changed quite a bit. Whole sections went to different locations as I worked through my planning/scripting/drafting. It’s always fun to see if there are more epic ways to get to the next stage of your character.


CBY: Thinking of the themes of Everfrost, as I re-read it for the 3rd or 4th time, I was struck by the titles of each issue, in order: “Exit Punctuation,” “Bootleg Fidelity,” “Cold Reason,” and “This is a Story,” taken from dialogue in the issues. They are exceedingly well-chosen, especially because each issue essentially has its own setting and theme. Narratively, do you prefer that type of structure to a story that is more, I don’t want to say spoon-feeds the reader, but straightforward?


Everfrost, Black Mask, issue #4, cover, Lindsay/Kivela/Affe/Campbell

RKL: No one has ever accused my stories of being straightforward. Yeah, I dig a narrative you need to think about. I want to write little puzzle boxes because to me, comics work best when each story, each issue, each page, each panel, has more you can look into. The way this medium works, it’s so open to interpretation as the reader engages with the timing and intonation and meaning. I like to bounce around a little in stories, show the reader my characters, not tell you about them. Let you wonder about some of their decisions through their dialogue, actions, and interactions.


And I’m not saying one is “better” than the other. I can only speak to what I prefer, and we should always aim to tell the stories and make the art that would be the thing we want to find on the shelves.


CBY: Let’s talk about Van. Certainly one of the more dynamic and interesting characters I’ve read recently. I’m not sure if I “like” her, but I feel like the story is telling me I should. She is analytical but fueled by rage. She’s committed to her path. Without hesitation, she kills clones of her son, without provocation at times. She is carving a violent path through this World as a way of working out her trauma. You say in the back of issue #3: “…looking at it with the right squint in your eye, you can see how *I* think her way of doing things is a *quality* way.” What did you mean by that? Have you thought about how you’d like Van to be perceived by readers or, once you tell the story you’ve set out to tell, is that not something you think about?


RKL: I don’t think I ever once considered how I wanted readers to perceive Van, or how they would. I merely created her and set her loose. She’s probably a manifestation of my own frustrations at aspects of the world today. She’s a dark character, full of terrible feelings, and those spill out at times. Though I also don’t see her as an anti-hero type, she’s just a broken individual inside, someone not quite dealing with the grief of their life.


A lot of this story came from that thought of waking up after 100 years and finding the world we have today. How jarring and upsetting that would be. Van already had a troubled life, but then she goes out onto the ice and somehow loses time, and upon her return just sees the world has sunk even further. This is personally manifested in the fact the ruling elite are using her son’s DNA as their plaything and so she’s upset and reacting in a manner we see today: people lash out.


"...I want them to feel like they are all in on this wild ride from soup to nuts. And I am plenty nuts."

CBY: I found Everfrost to ultimately be a hopeful story. You’ve said before that you typically write bleak endings and there are certainly plenty of bleak elements about the world of Everfrost, but what do you think this says about you as a storyteller? Insert joke about going soft in your “old age.” Personally, I found my kids have made me a more hopeful person, but is it a function of you being more hopeful or is it that those are the stories you want to put out into the world?


RKL: Raising kids is definitely one thing to make you want to hope. You have to because the other way lies madness. All of my stories are me dealing with some kind of big thought or worry, so it makes sense that I’d be grappling with these themes until I can kind of find a handle on them that allows me some kind of hope.


Though I do still love a good bleak ending.


CBY: Let’s turn to Black Beacon, published in Heavy Metal Magazine, another science fiction story, heavy on world-building, this time collaborating with Sebastian Piriz. Where do things stand with Black Beacon, and is this going to be collected in a trade?


Black Beacon, Heavy Metal, issue #1, cover, Lindsay/Piriz/Jame

RKL: We’ve finished making this story, it’s all wrapped up. It’ll appear in the magazine, and then the single issues, and a trade collection is indeed the plan at this stage. I don’t have a projected date, but I look forward to it. It’s been such a blast to create such a big idea and sci fi landscape with Seb [Sebastian Piriz].


CBY: Your newest series is Speed Republic from Mad Cave Studios. The reference points you’ve used to describe it are Running Man, Speed Racer, Mad Max, and Cannonball Run. I don’t know what more you need to say at that point to entice someone to add the series to their pull list (like I did). What’s the elevator pitch?


RKL: A bleak future European landscape features an annual race where one winner can change their life entirely, so naturally the racers make this epic journey as dangerous as possible.


Alongside the car race shenanigans, we tell a story about what it's like to be a listless character in that kind of world, and what hope might be found out there in the wild. Working with artist Emmanuele Parascandolo on this has been so much fun, his art has such energy whether it’s two car clashing or someone just reacting to a line of dialogue. I’ve loved working with him on this.


CBY: At first blush, it seems like quite a departure as a follow-up to Everfrost and Black Beacon. Do you think there’s a through line that connects these works?


RKL: Each of them features a fairly bleak landscape. It’s characters surrounded by elements and people who do not hold any best intentions for others. They’re landscapes where you need to survive, and if you can manage that then you’ll maybe have time to look around and find a step in the direction of a better tomorrow.


Speed Republic, Mad Cave Studios, issue #1, cover, Lindsay/Parascandolo/Monte/Gil

I didn’t realize it, but these three stories all definitely stem from just existing in the world over this past decade. The next story I’m writing isn’t quite like that. The world isn’t an exhausting affair around the lead character. Maybe I’m entering a new phase?


CBY: For Speed Republic you are collaborating with Emanuele Parascandolo, as you mentioned. How did the two of you come together for this story and what do you look for in collaborators? This is your first series with Mad Cave, I believe, why were they the right publisher for this story and how has working with them been?


RKL: I was blessed to have Mad Cave align us together on this project, and I’m so glad they did. Emanuele is such a good bloke, and class act artist, and he’s been so passionate about this story. I think all of those things are attributes I look for in a collaborator because you know you’ll get the best story on the page and have the most fun doing it.


This has been my Mad Cave debut. Honestly, they’ve been awesome to work with. From my editors, the Chrises Fernandez and Sanchez, to the PR team, and everyone in between who has helped this book come alive, the communication and love of the game are all top shelf. Their support behind some of my ideas for this story has meant the world to me.


Speed Republic, Mad Cave Studios, issue #1, interior, Lindsay/Parascandolo/Monte/Gil

CBY: Talk to me about “Welcome to Faraday” and some of your influences, which I read on the itch.io page. I’ve downloaded it, but haven’t had a chance to really get into it yet. It definitely checks a lot of boxes for things I like and I’m excited to dig in and have some fun with it. Is this something you will use in your classroom and will there be more of these? Also, I’m assuming this is uniquely Australian, but what exactly is a “milk bar”?


RKL: Ah, my newest passion. Yes, Welcome To Faraday is a one-page solo writing roleplaying game where the set up is: you’re a kid in a quiet suburb caught up investigating 3 mysteries in the town, in which there is some kind of horrifying underlying element. The player chooses their brand of horror: vampires, government agencies, creepy grandpa cult, etc. They then roll a d20 on my prompt table to tour the town, engage with eerie and awesome elements, and slowly write a story of what happens to you and the small town of Faraday.


I primarily wrote this because I needed a specific tool in my classroom later this year, and that tool didn’t exactly exist, so I made it. There’s a structure called the Second Guess System that lays out how to make these one-page RPGs, and so I used that open source knowledge to make this one and I loved putting it together. I’ve already made two more - The Seven Islands of Qoy is already available and it’s a mystical kung fu tournament that’s crazy fun, and I’ve finished [and will release soon] The Lighthouse at Kindred Rocks, which is another small town mystery, but this time in a strange coastal town where new mysteries unfold.


Speed Republic, Mad Cave Studios, issue #1, interior, Lindsay/Parascandolo/Monte/Gil

I definitely want to write more because they’re just openly expressive brain fuel. I also really like the solo writing RPG corner of this creative world where making them is just as much fun as playing them. I am having a blast with these so there will definitely be more from me over on itch.io throughout the year.


Oh, and a milk bar is like a corner store. In Australia, they’re called milk bars because they’d always sell milk, as well as other groceries, and would be open every day when the supermarkets weren’t. Most milk bars are, sadly, out of business across a lot of the country. I can also confirm that New Zealand still has many in operation, but over there they call them “dairies” as in “Just gonna go down to the dairy and get the paper and some milk!” So cool, and, the more you know!


CBY: Thank you! Hopefully, everyone reading this will subscribe to your newsletter, but in case they haven’t yet, what’s next for you?


Speed Republic, Mad Cave Studios, issue #1, interior, Lindsay/Parascandolo/Monte/Gil

RKL: Yes, let’s open the doors and welcome everyone to my insane weekly brain space. Enjoy.


Up next, I actually am just in the throes of having my next comic greenlit. It’s a crime story, with a strange vein of Australian history coursing through it, and it’s going to be my big writing project for 2022. I also have a kung-fu revenge graphic novella [with dragons] I created with Louie Joyce coming out through ComixTribe later this year. I am crazy excited for this one!


CBY: That sounds awesome. If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 issues would you want to make absolutely sure are included in your comics museum?


RKL: Ooh, good question…Daredevil #1 springs to mind as something that’s just so important to me personally as I love Matt Murdock as a literary figure so much. The silent issue of G.I. Joe is such a beauty, and I think led a generation of young readers to instantly see the form of comics as something else, so that’s pretty special. Then I think I’d put in Casanova #1 as it’s the big swerve into creator owned comics that to me represents a new era, it tries something a little different with structure and form, and I just endlessly love it. Though I think anyone has the right to put any damn creator owned comic in they personally love, there’s no one right or best one, but I’m just proud I didn’t put one of my own comics in there [no matter how much I think Deer Editor #1 deserves a pedestal in the hallowed halls].


CBY: Thank you, Ryan, for taking the time to chat with me in the Yeti Cave. I really appreciate it.


Check out Ryan's website here: https://ryanklindsay.com/

Subscribe to Ryan's newsletter here: https://ryanklindsay.substack.com/



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