Creators Ryan K. Lindsay and Sami Kivela (“Chum,” “Deer Editor”) teamed up again for the upcoming Black Mask series “Beautiful Canvas.” The series follows a hit-woman, Lon Eisley, who is hired to kill a small child just a few days after discovering her own girlfriend is pregnant. She makes the choice to save the boy and must set out on the road, while understanding her boss clearly wanted him dead for a reason. “Beautiful Canvas” marks the third team up for creators Ryan and Sami who are joined by Triona Farrell on colors, Ryan Ferrier on letters, and Dan Hill editing on their first Black Mask release.
To learn more about the series, we were able to talk to Lindsay and Kivela about the upcoming book. Below you will find a short interview with the guys about the series, working together again, and teaming up with Black Mask. In addition, we were lucky enough to get an exclusive look at a four page preview from the first issue of “Beautiful Canvas.” A big thanks to Ryan, Sami, and Black Mask for taking the time. You can find “Beautiful Canvas” in stores on June 28 and pre-order at your local shop up to April 27.
I have seen announcements describe the book as “a gonzo tale of personal discovery, animal/hybrid hit troupes, and reactive pyrokinesis.” First, that sounds awesome. Second, what the hell is “Beautiful Canvas?”
Ryan K Lindsay: It’s a lot of things. It’s a 4 issue miniseries about a hitwoman, Lon Eisley, going through a crisis of faith as she finds out her girlfriend is pregnant with their child, and then she’s also contracted to kill a small child. That’s the emotion base of the book, and from there, like Michael Keaton out of the cowl, we get nuts.
This book is a synthesis of me loving Philip K Dick novels and the unreality his characters are born into, and it’s me wanting to analyse how people can leave a mark on the world, but that the world will leave its marks on you. This is a personal book and it’s also a wild sci fi pulp ride. It’s the kind of comic you make like it’ll be your last, like you’ll be stuck in a loop until you’re able to get this thing out of you.
Sami Kivela: Ryan pretty much already summarized what Beautiful Canvas is about. It’s all those things, and it’s also something that you have to read and see to get the whole picture.
Black Mask has been a welcome addition to the comic market with new, thoughtful and truly unique books. How did this series make it’s way to Black Mask and what makes it a good place for you to explore this story?
RKL: Black Mask is truly a dream home for this story. I can’t imagine a better publisher for the messed up story Sami and I wanted to tell, and it’s all played out very true to this dream. Matt Pizzolo has been incredibly supportive of everything we’ve wanted to do with this story, and a big step was him being very cool with me bringing along Dan Hill, my editor who has made a large degree of my back catalogue better than it ever would have been without his assistance at the helm.
Black Mask want you to explore the human condition, they want you to get funky and do things only comics can do, and their readers want you to be as sharp and erudite as you can manage. Black Mask readers don’t want you to hold their hand, and they want to analyse the text and get things on a second reading. We love having this publisher to support us and these readers to accept this story in the weird way that we layer it.
What is the tone and style approach for the series? “Chum,” “Deer Editor,” and I know some of Ryan’s other work, have had a very grounded, noir style feel? Are you guys experimenting on this title?
SK: My personal goal is to make every project feel a bit different. I want to challenge myself and try new and interesting approaches, so in a way you could say that this is an experiment.Continued below
I wanted to offer readers something that they necessarily haven’t seen me doing before. For example, I’ve paced some of the pages with small insert panels, which I don’t normally do.
RKL: As you can see in the pages, I’m a smart collaborator when I just step out of Sami’s way. Or better yet, I take a knee and let him run up my back and hurl into the air for a 540 dunk.
As for my writing style on this book, the biggest thing I wanted to do was take all the knowledge I’ve amassed after working with Sami for the last 4 years across 2 other miniseries [DEER EDITOR, CHUM] and try to write for him in a way that plays to his strengths – dynamic actions, emotional character beats – as well as allows him to just cut loose and express himself on the page in ways the script could never bring out.
I’ve also written without any captions – internal narration or omniscient third person, both of which I’ve done with Sami before – so this storytelling style is definitely new for me, and it came from the way the story naturally needed to be told as it came out from me.
The book is called “Beautiful Canvas,” and as we can see from the preview pages, rightfully so in terms of the art. It looks fantastic. What is the process like for you as a creative team (with Triona and Ryan as well) in terms of scripts to page? There is some great action and beats in the preview pages we see.
SK: Thank you very much!
We work quite traditionally when it comes to making comics. I’m always hyped when Ryan sends me a new script, and I usually get tons of ideas while reading it, and then I transfer some of the ideas to paper. We are always open for each other’s suggestions, and do our best to make our comics as special as possible.
Every team member is an important piece of the puzzle. Beautiful Canvas wouldn’t be the same without Triona and Ryan Ferrier.
RKL: Once Sami has worked his magic, I run the script past his inks and ensure everything matches like we’re one mind. Invariably, this means I cut some of my dialogue because Sami’s nailed it in the expression, or I trim my lines, so we get a better flow of composition with his art.
I also take the time here just to ensure I’m absolutely happy with every little moment of my writing and that it all pops to move the story forward. With that done, we dial Tree in, and then Ryan, and both are great at elevating things, bringing cohesion to the page, and taking some notes on board when/where needed. Sami is an incredibly sharp eye and usually catches little things that I would never have seen.
I have read the series touches on the idea of a person as a both “creator/destroyer.” A hitwoman with a pregnant girlfriend who is asked to kill a kid for a contract sounds like it would definitely be in that ballpark. How has it been writing and exploring the headspace (Ryan reference) of Lon? In terms of art how did you approach the look, movement, duality and toughness for her?
RKL: I love exploring real human emotions, but with the highest possible degree you can take on them. Here we have someone struggling with that wave of emotion that comes with discovering you’ll soon be a parent, but we play it through this gonzo sci fi crime lens that just escalates everything. So we get an insane world, and the set pieces can be wild and include anything we want, but the human emotions, though elevated, are still real at their core.
As someone who’s had two children, I know what an emotional field of landmines that journey can be, and I know how fallible we all can be. Get parents together who trust each other and see the horrible thoughts and deeds they’ll admit to and, well, you’ll never look at suburbia the same way again. It’s amazing. So it was cathartic to write for Lon, but also really fun. I mean, writing is always therapy for me, but it’s also just me exploring the world in a way that still isn’t didactic and will grab the reader by the heart, bypassing their ribcage as it’s pulverised from the hit.Continued below
For those who pick up the first issue of “Beautiful Canvas,” what do you hope they get out of their experience and what can then expect going forward?
RKL: I hope readers close this first issue feeling connected to the characters. Above anything else, the animal/hybrid hit troupe, the nasty HANNIBAL-style depravity, all of that, I just want readers to feel the truth presented in these characters, and care about them and the mistakes they’re no doubt going to make.
I also hope they really appreciate the back matter we’ve loaded the book with, the extra stuff that shows we care, and that we want to honour the money and time people are giving us.
I also really hope people come away having fallen completely in love with how Sami and Triona work together on the page, because they’re a breakout pairing for 2017.
SK: No, I hope that they’ll fall in love with how all of us work together on the page. I hope they feel that we have enjoyed making this book and that we are passionate about making comics.
I really hope that people who read the first issue of Beautiful Canvas will hunger for more.
June cannot come soon enough!
Written by Ryan Lindsay
Illustrated by Sami Kivela
Colored by Triona Farrell
Lettered by Ryan Ferrier
Lon Eisley is a hitwoman hired to kill a small child a few days after discovering her girlfriend pregnant. In a bold declaration of uncertainty, she saves the boy and hits the road, despire the fact her boss clearly wanted him dead for a reason. This warped crime dystopia delves into the emotional dichotomy of creator/destroyer as Lon tries to connect the two very different worlds she now inhabits. From Sami Kivela (Chum) & Ryan K Lindsay (Negative Space, DC Writers Workshop) comes a gonzo tale of personal discovery, animal/hybrid hit troupes, and reactive pyrokinesis.