The mind of a killer is a dangerous thing. It’s even more dangerous when you find yourself trapped inside it. Such is the predicament of Shane, sheriff of Carpenter Cove and a prisoner within the mind of a killer named Max. It’s all part of a plan to mine information, but when Max goes against his programming, things in both Carpenter Cove and the real world start to get even more dangerous.
The series, from writer Ryan K. Lindsay and artists Eric Zawadski, Sebastian Piriz, and Chris Peterson, makes it way to print via IDW after running digitally with Monkeybrain. With the series heading to print, writer Ryan K. Lindsay took us into the world of “Headspace” to discuss the leap to print, battling personal demons, print vs digital, and more. The “Headspace” trade is still available to pre-order with the code FEB150469, for those that didn’t read it in digital form.
“Headspace” is going to be the latest of the Monkeybrain books to make the leap to print, landing at IDW like several before it. What’s it all about for those who haven’t been keeping up with it during its digital phase?
Ryan K. Lindsay: “Headspace” is about Shane, the sheriff of Carpenter Cove, a strange little seaside town, who comes to realize his whole reality takes place inside the mind of a killer, and the killer’s mind is trying to wipe them out with manifestations of its memories and fears.
Shane must try to work out how he got in there, why he’s there, and how to get out. But not everything is as it seems, and throughout the journey, Shane keeps discovering new shadows that hold new demons.
Before we dig into the meat of “Headspace”, what’s the process like going from digital with Monkeybrain to print with IDW? I know Monkeybrain has an agreement of sorts with them, but did you have to go through a proper pitch process with IDW or was it something a little different?
RKL: Our personal process of landing at IDW was I have been in contact with them for some time and so I inquired about the right channels to pursue, I submitted the book for consideration, and we got approval.
But, I mean, that all comes before the goat skulls full of candles and [REDACTED]
When “Headspace” began, it was you on writing duties with Chris Peterson and Eric Zawadski sharing art duties. Chris would be replaced by Sebastian Piriz as the series moved forward. How was it working with three great artists on one book? And what was it like finding the right replacement for Chris after he left?
RKL: It’s been an embarrassment of four colour riches on this book. It started as Eric and I doing this book together – and Eric colours and letters so I was really just letting him handle the heavy lifting. As a partnership, we are like the big silent powerful dog plodding along with an annoying as batguano yappy dog next to him. And I think we all know who is whom in that image, right?
But, as we got approval, Eric also had another project launch at Black Mask with writer Patrick Meaney called “Last Born”. Eric’s an art monster but he knew he couldn’t do both books at once with any speed or guaranteed quality. So because the narrative is split anyway, we brought in Christopher Peterson to handle the pages that take place in the real world. And he was nailing them but he soon landed his own side gigs [possibly too numerous to mention, but here goes: “Go-Getters”, “Sex”, and now, “Mayday”].
With the departure of Peterson, I looked hard and high for the right replacement. Sebastian Piriz came to me via Nic J Shaw, Australian writer/letterer, and it was a great match. And even more great has been seeing Sebastian, who came to us having to catch up on the fly and really learn by doing, really sink into this project and make it completely his own. His pages get better and better every issue, it’s superb.
In the end, I’m stunned I’ve been allowed to collaborate with such fantastic artists.Continued below
As you’ve said, Shane is the sheriff of Carpenter Cove and the hero of “Headspace”. Much of the series is him battling against the horrors of a killer’s mind. What does it take to fight not just a killer, but his mental demons, especially when you’re fighting demons of your own?
RKL: Fortitude. This is the moral compass of Shane for me. He has a due north and the perseverance and grit to stay true to that course. We open with Shane not killing and then much later, towards the end of issue #6, we give Shane an emotional low, and a perfect reason and opportunity to kill, and he doesn’t.
I write Shane as very much being a better man than me. He’s not petty, he’s not small. I think being swept away to Carpenter Cove – where for a time he didn’t remember his previous life and didn’t really know much of himself – and then having all this knowledge of who he was suddenly flood his brain has given him context. The major problems of his life before suddenly pale as he tastes the wonder of freedom and love again like a new taste. It’s like an emotional rebirth and everything gets to be fresh, and so Shane has everything to fight for.
If only we could all be so lucky to realise how blessed we are everyday and to be willing to fight for it.
“Headspace”, like many of your other works, touches on the theme of fatherhood. As a father yourself, it’s understandable as to why you’ve touched on it before, but what makes you keep coming back to it?
RKL: I thought comics were born on daddy issues, I was just falling in line, haha.
But seriously, I keep returning because it terrifies me, and because I still don’t feel like I completely understand nor have mastered it. But ultimately, I feel I have something to say about it. And I feel it’s insanely important for guys to talk about their feelings, even if only through the power of narrative. There’s a huge cultural block when it comes to guys getting down with their feelings, it’s just sort of not done and socially ignored, and that’s gotta impact the fact men have higher suicide rates, I believe. If you’ve read the back matter on my issues, you’ll know I really love getting into the fears and concerns and insanity of being a father – one of the most emotional jobs you’ll ever see. I want to treat it honestly.
There’s a sequence at the start of issue #2 where Shane talks about why his son died. It was so hard to right that scene but it speaks, to some degree, to a truth so many men hold but would never want to admit. I want to get the ball rolling on those conversations.
I also have to add, “Wytches” from Jock and Scott Snyder is a great example of this kind of writing as therapy. I find myself reading that book and nodding my head and knowing I’ve shared some parenting thoughts/feelings with Scott that we’d both hate to admit, but they are there, waiting in the shadows, slowly scraping through your spinal cord from the inside.
In the backmatter of each issue you often talk about shows/movies/book/etc that you’ve been reading and watching, something you call “Grist for the Mill”. As a creator, why do you think it’s important to constantly be consuming other media? Not just other comics, but movies, art, books, music, everything?
RKL: Stephen KIng says ‘If you don’t have the time to read then you don’t have the time (or tolls) to write.’ I take that to heart though I feel like I don’t always believe it. But then a little google fu brings me to some strange news nugget that enhances my story, or delving into a PKD novel makes me think of different scene entry/exit strategies, or watching New Girl and chilling with my wife lets my brain switch off, recharge, and suddenly my subconscious is grinding gears away from the spotlight and works out the story beat I’ve been looking for.Continued below
It’s only by casting a wide net that we are exposed to new things – words, ideas, themes, structures – and it’s only after consuming as much as we can that we begin to Leatherface stitch together the eclectic style we are going to form for ourselves. And sometimes you consume something that inspires – Phillips/Brubaker always get my motor running – but sometimes it’s just seeing what not to do. Analysing why something didn’t work can be just as powerful. And for me, I might appear pretty low key when watching a movie, the wife has grounds to accuse me of flat out being asleep because signs might point there, but inside I’m grabbing every narrative and working it like a Rubic’s cube to see how it work, how it could be different, how I can break it and then reconstruct it. Sometimes it’s annoying, I just want to switch off, but usually if I’m consuming, I’m studying. I can’t read a comic page without counting panels, or balloons, or looking at variety of ‘shots’ used.
In essence, and I think I’ve ventured deep into the swamps of tl;dr on this answer, sorry [not sorry], I always feel like before you can craft stuff that matters you’ve gotta live. You gotta travel, have your heart broken, get a promotion, all those things. The more the better. And amidst that, the more you consume, from a variety of sources, the better rounded you’ll be. You’ll know what you like and dislike, what you can and can’t do, and who you are and who you aren’t.
As “Headspace” transitions from digital to print, do you see any new challenges for it that maybe digital didn’t have? Conversely, any upsides to print?
RKL: Nothing too major, to be honest. We didn’t go too nuts with out pages. There are some sequences where I knew they’d read really slick in Guided View, but mostly we went for standard page styles and layouts. Nothing 8 grid that would be ace on a tablet, nothing too J.H. Williams III that needs the paper. There’s only one double page splash, so that’ll be good to see printed.
Oh, actually, the one major challenge: page limitations. You can only have so many pages printed up for a reasonable costs. With each digital issue, we could [and did] go nuts with extras. I had back matter, our editor Dan Hill wrote these superb essays about the horrors of the world around us. We threw in pin ups. I actually wish we’d done more per issue because there’s pretty much no limitation on it, which is so cool.
The major upside to print is it’ll be in stores globally and print sales are generally higher than digital. So fingers crossed we don’t break that rule.
On a different note, I think it was this time last year, or near enough, that “Headspace” #1 was coming out. Now you’ve been included in Vertigo’s “CMYK” anthology series, have “Headspace” heading to print, and a whole lot more that you surely can’t talk about. What have you learned in this past year and how are you going to apply it going forward?
RKL: Time management. It gets better every year. I’ve got two kids under 5, one of which goes to my school half the week, I teach full time, I’ve got a wife I’d like to stay married to, so now I try to laser focus on my time usage. I make specific actionable lists and then blast through them. I’m cutting down on social media time. I’m focusing more on the ‘big’ gigs, but that’s a luxury that only comes with being able to land anything you might consider ‘big.’ “Headspace” finishing and landing at IDW was a huge undertaking – coordinating the entire creative team of artists, colourists, designers, everything. Trying to tackle press for each issue, and now the trade, contact retailers, get the good word out, it all happens.
I am a firm believer of ‘people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan’ – I use that in my class with the kids all the time. You have to see and know the steps to take. So I’m getting close to meticulous on that front, seeing what’s worth my time, what I can’t fit in, and being realistic about that. I even have on my list every day to read 10 novel pages and one comic issue just so that doesn’t fall away. You gotta plan it all out.Continued below
Also, coffee. The past 12 months has seen my coffee intake go from occasional to necessary. I put the family to sleep and hit a brew around 9pm and then write into the am 7 nights a week. Then it’s sleep, then get up and teach all day. Wash rinse, repeat and don’t be too much of a zombie.
But that’s all the business end, on the party front, I think the last 12 months really showcased to me who I am as a writer, and how I can make that work. “Headspace”, “Gloves” [my story in the CMYK Magenta issue with Tommy Lee Edwards, and “Deer Editor” [a comic I kickstarted] all dropped in the past 12 months and they all share common veins. They’re dark, weird, brutal, have slight elements of awkward tension breaking humour. And all three were critically successful, have done well in sales, and were a dream to write and bring to the page. That idea of writing what you love and making it work for you is finally coming about, now that I’ve honed my narrative blade down to a scalpel and know what I’m attempting to create.
And I like to stretch myself [“Hi, I wrote an issue of “My Little Pony”, haha”] but I also know I have a wheelhouse, and it involves crime, often mashed up with sci fi, with an emotional core, usually around family and/or depression, and I want to kick as many of you in the guts as I can. Metaphorically speaking.
I think it was Gail Simone who said a few years back that if you’re breaking into comics then you have to know what you’re bringing that no one else has already delivered and I think I’m 12 months closer to understanding what that is. I look at the hi-octane insanity/action that Ryan Ferrier brings, or the stripped back raw human nerves Paul Allor tickles, and I see what they bring and I know I need more of it. Having peeps like that coming up inspires me and makes me hold myself accountable, something I do more and more every day.