Ryan Lindsay Puts The Devil in the Details [Interview]

By | January 28th, 2013
Posted in Interviews | % Comments

We’d previously told you about Sequart’s upcoming Daredevil book, which will hopefully be on sale at Emerald City Comic Con this year and will be full to the gills with essays on the Man without Fear. But what goes into putting together a book like that? And just what should you expect to find when you pick up your copy later this year?

Today we sit down with the book’s editor, Ryan Lindsay, to discuss just that.

So, Ryan, lets start off with the easiest question in the book: why comics? Why do these things matter?

Ryan Lindsay: I could just say these things matter to me and so that’s enough but I’m game to delve deeper, man. Why comics? Well, the way I see it, and this could just be me, but they bridge these divides so many other media cannot. They’re low and high art, art and literature, for the young and old, easy to read and completely dense, no budget or constraints and yet require staggering amounts of skill and dedication. I love the structure most of all, though. The comics have page turns – where you get to shock the reader with a turn of the page to reveal new content – and nothing else can match that moment for creator delivery and audience anticipation and shock. It’s controlled by both the creators and the audience, nothing else can do that. I look at the way people use comics, from cape books to the latest esoteric chart burner, and I’m constantly in awe of the levels of creativity. You don’t find it in novels, not enough in movies, and yet it’s there every Wednesday at your LCS.

That’s why comics. At least, y’know, for me.

I can definitely agree with you 100% on that. So where does Daredevil fit in to your comic world, with all that mind?

RL: Daredevil is the greatest tragic figure of modern literature. I know it’s cool to suddenly swerve away from his grim side and embrace the light but for me Matt Murdock will always be the guy who gets up every month and gets knocked down in some way. But he always gets up again the next month. Daredevil benefits from that monthly reading experience, his story needs to be dragged out.

You look at the Death Row of creators who have tackled the title and that’s what I always felt they did well, they used that delivery method to perfection to drag things out. You can come on and smash a great short run, no doubt, but my favourite runs are the slow burns. Being a Daredevil fan is about having longevity.

Lee Bermejo

Yes, entirely! All my favorite Daredevil stories are fueled by his ability to triumph against extreme adversity. So with that in mind, how did all this come about – an entire book of essays devoted to the Man without Fear?

RL: It’s a long and arduous journey down a dark and dusty road that leads us to this book at the end. But the short story is, I fell in with the lads who run Sequart because gentleman around town Tim Callahan told them about me. We got chatting, I put a few essays into some other soon to be published tomes of theirs, and then I realised I’d love to have a crack at putting my own book together with them. Around the same time, I was writing the epic Daredevil Dialogues with Tim Callahan over at CBR on his column. Daredevil is easily my favourite four colour character, I think he’s so amazingly crafted over all these decades, and my mind was already ticking over on the subject so it just seemed too easy to continue the love. There is so much about Daredevil, and Matt Murdock, to really sink your teeth into and break apart for educational and pleasurable purposes. I asked Sequart how one goes about pitching books and then sent me off to complete twelve labors for the task.

A few months later, I came back to Sequart with a complete proposal for the book, which included a score of essay suggestions written in depth, a list of writers I’d like to approach for the book, and about 20k of words already written on the topic and ready for the book. Somehow, I crossed the threshold and then we were off and away – we were going to make a book of essays studying, analysing, and discussing the world of Daredevil.

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I’ve looked over Sequart’s catalogue and their content is quite interesting. What I’m wondering, though, beyond what you’ve already offered in terms of you appreciation of the character, is what do you think a better understanding and greater dialogue of Daredevil can do? He’s always been one of those great characters who seemed largely unappreciated outside of a select group of people, at least compared to Batman or the X-Men; are you hoping to aise awareness on Daredevil himself, or is it something even greater than that?

RL: My base reason for this book is I’m selfish and I want to read it. That’s a major selling point because I get to read how all these great writers would tackle certain topics around Daredevil. It’s like putting together my own fantasy league of comic masterminds and making them run my own maze.

Beyond that, I’d love the book to raise a little awareness for the character, point a few people at the title and get them to try it. And then it just comes down to celebrating the character. I’m certain the Daredevil fans out there are going to go nuts for this book. They are absolutely going to love it and it’s nice to provide this for them. I’m a gigantic Daredevi fan and I worried if I didn’t do this book with my unique opportunity at hand maybe no one would and then we’d never have it. I couldn’t stand to see such a future.

In the end, I like analysing that which I love. And I believe Daredevi is as worthy of critical and literary analysis as any other great modern novel of the 20th century. There is such nuance to the character and layers to the history and I both wished to see it explored and then hoped it would be celebrated.

So what kind of work can people expect to find in the book?

RL: Aŵesome work, and lots of it.

But more specifically, our essays run the gamut of topics to address. We delve into the history of how Daredevil was created, we analyse his primary setting of Hell’s Kitchen, we look into the core concepts of his character, we contrast him to others like the Punisher and Spider-Man, and nearly every run is represented in some way.

I’m really happy with the scope of topics we’ve all covered in the book. Some essays are a little lighter in tone, Tim Callahan’s piece about Mike Murdock is just superb, and others are incredibly detailed like Forrest Helvie’s analysis of fatherhood in the world of Daredevil, and we even have a team of scientists analyse the realistic possibilities of the science of Daredevil. There’s lot of equations and science fact in that one, I had to get a scientific friend to help me proofread that one.

We’ve got short essays and my thesis about Matt Murdock’s love life is positively mammoth, as it really should be.

How did you go about assembling who you wanted to write about Matt for the book, like Tim and Forrest?

RL: It was exactly like the start of Ocean’s Eleven. But with way more email. This isn’t the first rodeo for Sequart so they’ve got a war chest of writers to call upon. Through them, the call was put out for anyone interested in this book. They were given the overall concept, the sample essay pitches I’d drummed up, as well as the option to pitch any other angle they wanted. With so many keen people to consider the project, the problem wasn’t getting the talent so much as it was narrowing down the field.

There were also a few people I know personally that I just knew had to be on the project. Christine Hanefalk runs a site called The Other Murdock Papers and not only is she very keen on Matt Murdock but she’s incredibly smart. I know her relatively well so I made sure she pitched and we were able to land her the essay that was right for her, which was a mammoth discussion of Foggy Nelson and who he really is.

I have to admit, it was hectic but exciting times trying to place everyone with the right essay and know all these little pieces were going to eventually make a book.

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Alex Maleev

And what role do you play in all this, as the editor of the book? How hands on are you with the final products of the essays, and what is your interaction with the various writers?

RL: My role is basically an overseer. I helped massage the pitches with the writers individually and then I just let them loose. These people were brought in because of their talent so I didn’t need to stand over them at all, I had completely faith. Once they submitted their first drafts, I went backwards and forwards with them a little bit about notes, some minor and some not so minor but none really major.

Most writers went through about 3-4 drafts with me. I would discuss with them mostly angles taken and thoughts presented, maybe point them at something else to read to give greater depth, and then just ensure things were structured to ensure the best presentation of their thesis. I really didn’t want to be the editor who made cosmetic changes for no reason, or tried to rewrite everything in my voice. I tried to be a sounding board, a guide, and sometimes just a guy who got out of their way and let them work their infinite magic.

Once it was all done, i made sure we all matched the house style guide and then I pushed all that text up the line into the publisher. I probably spent half a year really sinking into this role. It was fun.

As someone who has spent quite a few years working for websites, editing and having your work edited, how did you feel stepping into the editorial role for this book? I can’t imagine it wasn’t intimidating.

RL: Oh, man, it was ALL about the power, haha. It was absolutely this totally new position for me. It was crazy and kind of took me a while to get used to it. One thing that helped was the fact Sequart completely trusted me and so stayed out of my way. It helped, though it was scary, but what it meant was that I felt like the boss. I didn’t second guess myself, I didn’t fiddle around and ask others what to do, I just knuckled down to get the job done. I’ll admit, as brash as it might sound, that I pitched for and took on the position because I felt I could do it. Doesn’t mean I didn’t doubt myself at times, though.

One of the writers is also my publisher, Julian Darius, and editing his essay was tough. I really wanted to bring my A+ game. I red pixeled him a bit and hoped for the best. I then heard, through sneaky grapevine connections, that he thought I did a great job on his essay so that was a moment to stop and smile.

In the end, editing someone else’s work is hard work. You have to be able to justify every single change or amendment you want to make and if you’re sending someone back to the work chair, be it for a rewrite or an addition, it better be for a damn good reason. Having had my own work edited by others, I knew what kind of editor I like working with. I tried hard to be that person.

My one hot tip for editing is, when making notes on someone else’s work, write down all of the things you want to question/erase/fix/whatever and then go through and also note all the things you loved. I really appreciate getting feedback with positivity in it so I strive to provide it as much as possible to others.

So in looking at the final product, what would you say is your proudest moment on the project? Something the average person probably wouldn’t see or know about just from picking it up and reading it.

RL: Honestly, I think we poured it all into the book. There’s the words from Ralph Macchio, which I adore, there’s the fact we cover so many varied topics and ideas, and there’s the fact I love every single contribution to this book. I really dig some of the close friendships I’ve formed because of this book, people I still chat to all the time.

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One thing I wish we’d done was keep a tally on how many issues we each read in preparation, and how many times. That number would be four digits easily, and I think that’s the love that went into this book. We really left no stone unturned. I even tracked down a copy of the Daredevil/Black Widow Abattoir book which features art from one of the famous Chiodo Brothers. it’s a pretty crazy book.

Well it sounds like you’re pretty much chomping at the bit to have this come out and into reader’s hands. It seems like, with all the burgeoning websites out there, that there is a bigger demand, or at least an appreciation, of writers who take the time to analyze the medium and dissect it’s better parts rather than just casually review aspects with a thumbs up or thumbs down. Having now finished such a whopping endeavor and with 2013 already looking to be pretty big for comics appreciation outside of accomplishments for the Big Two, do you think the role of non-fiction books like this will have a bigger place in the comic medium in 2013? Should they?

RL: I think books like these have always lingered around the peripherals of comics. Some blow up – like Sean Howe’s amazing Marvel Comics: The Untold Story – and some never seem to go as widespread as I think they deserve but their quality is assured – see the output of Sequart or TwoMorrows. I think the print/web divide is a very interesting question. I see some brilliant websites out there doing fantastic things in the realms of investigative and analytical comics writing. I see other sites cranking out the weekly reviews for the Wednesday Warriors and I think both sites and writing styles have merit. I think, and this might just be me, but I think long form analysis benefits from a dedicated print book because then it’s all collected and easy to manage and access. To get a bunch of Daredevil essays like this online you’d either need a dedicated website, or a great system of tagging for searching, or just a simple post rounding up the articles for links (which actually isn’t that hard, ha).

My problem with any of that is accessibility. I’m finding the older I get, the more I don’t want to read online. If I’m at my computer, I’m either writing, getting zen with my inbox fu, or wasting time/humblebragging on Twitter. I don’t dig lounging at the work desk and reading massive articles anymore, I just don’t. But, there is an amazing app I just found for my iPad called Readability where you download the articles and they can be read later even when offline. I’m finding this is how I roll these days. This Daredevil book is that offline option I dig but with a killer cover and spine you can shelve. I also think making the statement of binding and publishing these words lends them authenticity. This is a statement that we stand behind these words, we vouch for them, and we think they’re worth your time, effort, and money. Anyone can put up a website, it takes something else to print the book. Not to say websites are easy, or lesser in any way, I think some of the best stuff is online right now, but making a book is a commitment I was keen to make for this project.

Plus, and let’s be honest about it, there’s the money factor. This project was really a year in the making from nuts to soup. You don’t attract the fat cash online, mostly, so people will go the book route in the hopes of getting said fat cash. Unfortunately, sorry guys, there is no fat cash.

As for these analytical books having a place in the future, I say absolutely. I’ve already got ideas for more collaborations with Sequart because I love working with them, because I’m passionate about getting these books out there, and because I feel these books serve a real purpose. These books are tempered and metered and something to stand the test of time. These are critical literature and I very much believe comics is worthy of such time and erudition. I hope more people want to dig into these books and characters further, and that they do so by writing and reading this sort of stuff.

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."