Ryan Lindsay Gets Into Your “Headspace” [Interview]

By | March 5th, 2014
Posted in Interviews | % Comments

If you’ve been a regular reader at Multiversity, chances are you’re familiar with the name Ryan Lindsay. Perhaps its from his independently-released “Fatherhood” one-shot, his “My Little Pony” one-shot that appealed to more than Bronies, his both PG and R-rated free comic “Captain Human the Robot” with Jin Chan Yum Wai or even his Daredevil essay book from Sequart. I share these links not just to get you to check out old content, but because I want to show: Ryan Lindsay is an up-and-coming writer who is working ever so hard to share his work in the comic medium with you.

And today, we have good news: he has a brand new creator-owned book that goes live on Comixology today that we think you’d be interested in. It’s called “Headspace” with art by Eric Zawadzki, and it all takes place inside the mind of a serial killer. Interested?

Read on as we talk to Lindsay about his first year working in comics, his new series “Headspace” and the his thoughts on the future of digital comics.

So, Ryan, before we get talking about your new book, I’d like to start with your last year. Having worked on comics pretty consistently throughout 2013, how do you feel about your output for your first major year producing in comics?

Ryan Lindsay: I feel very happy with 2013. I did some work of which I’m extremely proud. I put out 5 full issues, across a range of genres, and also dabbled in some other shorter stuff. I had a whole mess of fun and forged friendships in collaboration that will pop up again in 2014. I certainly reached a new and larger audience, and for that I’m immensely thankful. Overall, I consider 2013 a dear friend and I’m certain we’ll stay in touch.

What in particular do you think it is you learned about the making comics game throughout your experiences?

Ryan Lindsay: I learned that you need to enjoy it for what it is, not what it might lead to. I like getting lost in the writing and collaborating. You need to do this for yourself because that’s what makes it fulfilling, and because a lot of the world won’t care initially.

I also learned how to ask favours really nicely in order to get some insanely talented people to put their faith and time in me.

And I learned to make some tight buddies in a similar position to me who I can talk to and bounce ideas off and vent at and they get it. A support group of those who understand is crucial as you wade these murky waters.

So lets talk about your new book, “Headspace.” I remember that you had a copy of this book with you at Emerald City that you were shopping around. How long have you been working on this particular series?

Ryan Lindsay: I started kicking it around with artist Eric Zawadzki late 2012. We spent some serious time breaking the story and then had the pitch package of 5 completed pages, synopsis, and bios ready for ECCC in 2013.

I’ll admit — having actually read the book, I don’t think I can even pitch it myself. It’s pretty tough to describe. I didn’t really “get it” by the end of my first read. For those unaware of what this book is, how would you describe it?

Ryan Lindsay: Shane Garretty is the sheriff of a strange seaside town which is actually a construct inside the mind of a killer set up by the government to mine memories and information. We follow Shane’s discovery of this situation and his journey to get back to his real life.

We place a lot of seeds in this first issue that bear fruit in later issues. I am relying on readers to pay attention.

So you’re in this for the long haul, then? When I was reading it I thought of things like Twin Peaks or Green Wake, in that its set in a mysterious town that you’re trying to figure out why we’re all here. But something like that plays the long con and requires a lot of faith in the readership. With this as your first big ongoing with a bigger publisher, are you nervous at all about the reception of such a lofty mystery book?

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Ryan Lindsay: Yeah, the inhabitants of Carpenter Cove feel like they’re stuck in purgatory, they don’t really know how or why they ended up there. It’s a weird existence we find them in initially but very quickly an occurrence in the real world changes this landscape. I can see why you’d mention Green Wake – a series I love – but I can promise Headspace is fiercely it’s own concept and story.

I know there’s a lot of mystery but it’s all answered, some in issue #2, some in issue #6. I hope readers stick with us, obviously, but I also promise to reward their time and money. Everything means something, right down to the actions on the very first page.

But am I nervous, honestly, no. I’m intensely proud of what we’ve crafted in this first issue and I think there’s more than enough to make people want to come back for more. I know as a reader, I love works that require my attention and the chance to piece things together.

Do you feel that a digital comic is any more conducive to doing a comic like this? Because historically, even with ostensibly good mystery books, some don’t survive just because the readership is hard to maintain.

Ryan Lindsay: I think 99c an issue will work in our favour. Also most of the mystery is all revealed in issue #2 and from there it becomes a quest story. Though that doesn’t mean we don’t have a few aces up our sleeves.

As for survival, this book has a finite end as it’s only a mini, and we won’t be cancelled because the team is committed to delivering the entire tale no matter what and we are lucky enough to know Monkeybrain stand behind that idea completely.

Ah, well that’s certainly fair. Since it is a mini, then, does that make it easier to keep focus on all the moving parts? What do you do to keep focus on everything when the tiniest of seeds can end up bearing the most important of fruit 5-10 issues later?

Ryan Lindsay: Eric and I spent a lot of time breaking this story. We wanted to ensure everything made sense and paid off. Eric is a phenomenal story guy so I’d get emails asking for reasons behind certain actions or occurrences. We kept each other honest.

I also brought in Dan Hill, a mate of mine with a wicked smart mind for story and structure, to act as editor. I want this series to be completely satisfying on every level for the audience.

So this was an incredibly collaborative process? I know you’ve worked on quite a bit, but from what I’m more familiar with you it always seemed like you took lead — as is kind of the stereotypical relationship in comics, I guess. Does Headspace represent a different type of output from you stylistically?

Ryan Lindsay: This all began very much between Eric and I. I then wrote full scripts but I’m always down to have artists reinterpret pages as necessary. In the past, Ghost Town with Daniel J Logan was a very collaborative story break. IDW is more of a WFH script situation but I was blessed with Tony Fleecs elevating my script. I like to write full script but that doesn’t mean I don’t go to the artist for assistance a lot in breaking the story.

I’m proud that Headspace is very much a collective beast.

Can you give an example or two from the book of things in which Eric pushed you as a collaborator? I’d be interested to know.

Ryan Lindsay: One major aspect is Shane’s stance against killing. Eric wanted to make sure we have a really good reason for this defining character trait. And we do.

Anything else would have spoilers.

Ahhh, fine! So can you tell me how you got together with Monkeybrain, and what it is about Monkeybrain that you feel is right for this book?

Ryan Lindsay: I came into the Monkeybrain fold because gentleman imaginaut Christopher Sebela introduced me to Chris Roberson in Seattle. We kept in contact and he and Allison Baker were amazing enough to accept Headspace into their publishing line up.

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Monkeybrain is one of the very top choices I would chose as a home for a few reasons. They’re a strong brand and all their titles add something grand to the larger market. To stand alongside High Crimes, Masks & Mobsters, Strange Nation, D4VE, Knuckleheads and more is an esteemed honour. Monkeybrain have that same brand stamp of quality as you would associate with Vertigo, readers know a Monkeybrain book brings something to the party.

Another great thing is being a digital comic first. I love my iPad and the digital comics on there. I’ve long been an avid fan of ComiXology. I believe the 99c price point is perfect for all pop culture consumers. I love that we’ll never go out of print on ComiXology. I love how easily people can find us later and catch up with a quick and cheap binge of purchases. I am enamoured with the Monkeybrain model.

Then there’s the freedom Chris and Allison afford us to tell our stories. It’s a trust hugely appreciated.

Finally, we are able to size our issues however we want so our first issue is 22 pages for 99c and the rest of the issues are 12 pages each – all with quality back matter material. Having these shorter issues allows us to craft different structured beasts. I think #4 is our masterpiece, although Eric showed me some work from #5 and it really hit me emotionally which makes me think it might be even better than #4.

The pattern of longer first issues and then half-sized follow-up issues is something I’ve noticed kind of exclusive to Monkeybrain digital comics. With a lot of comic readers on the fence with digital comics, why do you suppose this is a trend, or even something that helps the story structure? Isn’t “more bang for your buck” the stereotypical idiom?

Ryan Lindsay: Because we’re allowed to decide our own page count, this is something we thought about a lot. Headspace is 22 pages to start with which then becomes 12 pages from there on. The intent is, our first issue is oversized – something I think most introductory issues benefit from being so the entire board can be set up – and I hope readers feel that rather than feeling like things are half sized after that.

12 pages felt like a sweet spot because you can fit a decent amount of story into those pages but it’s also feasible to create that on a decently publishing schedule considering we are all making this book after hours with day jobs filling our days. I also think 12 pages is good value for only 99c. That equates to 36-48 Marvel pages at their price points. I hope people understand why 20-24 pages an issue for 99c isn’t going to happen, and I never wanted to price above 99c for a digital comic.

As for story structure, we worked hard to ensure each issue is satisfying on its own as a piece of the larger puzzle.

Ok, so we’re looking at 12 as the standard for digital instead of 22 in print. I’ve never actually heard it explained like that, so that’s an interesting bit of information.

So, based on your comments here and as someone who has done his fair share of print comics, do you feel like this form of digital is the way to go now?

Ryan Lindsay: I honestly do, yeah. People like a cheap price when it comes to something they don’t concretely own. But in a world of streaming and cloud based ownership, I think 99c a pop is still manageable in our minds. Buying collections for $4.99 might be a bargain but it’ll never feel like as much of a bargain.

I know I love buying digital comics for 99c each, and I remember reading Mark Waid discussing that most readers have an optimal amount of digital pages they want to swipe through. It’s surprisingly short. So I think this slice of the medium will work to accommodate that in ways.

So with Headspace in place, what else do you have lined up for 2014?

Ryan Lindsay: I said I was very happy with 2013 and so I’m hoping to double down and make 2014 even bigger and better. Headspace is all squared up and ready to tell across most of the year. I have another miniseries picked up by another cool publisher which should launch toward the end of the year. It’s a beach noir tale with a brilliant art team of Sami Kivela and Marissa Louise.

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I also have two DIY one-shots on the table. One is with Sami Kivela which is a crime tale which I could only describe as being like a Polanski flick but if an anthropomorphic lead was the hero. The other one-shot is with local Aussie legend Louie Joyce and it’s a kung fu revenge tale which is going to look gorgeous. Louie and I worked on ‘The Many Harold Holts of Space and Time’ in the Home Brew Vampire Bullets anthology. I love Louie’s art and he’s going to destroy these many fight sequences. Both one-shots will no doubt surface on ComiXology eventually – their Submit program is very helpful considering it’s hard to financially support comics going worldwide on any large scale from my lovely country down under.

I’m looking at 2014 and I feel my writing continues to improve and this variety of books will excite readers and have them following me into new and exciting projects as the months pass.

“Headspace” is on sale now on Comixology.

Matthew Meylikhov

Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."