Interview with Stain the Seas Scarlet’s Ryan K. Lindsay
No two comic creators break-in the same way. Some impress editors on Kickstarter. Others break out with a hit series. And some refine their craft in programs like the DC Writers Workshop. Ryan K. Lindsay–the co-creator of Headspace, Negative Space, the excellent Beautiful Canvas, and Stain the Seas Scarlet–covers all of his bases, though.
Lindsay, a member of the 2016 DC Writers Workshop class, has built himself up over the last few years, making a name for himself on Kickstarter and publishing books with Dark Horse, IDW, and Black Mask Studios. In Part 1 of this 2-part interview, I spoke with Lindsay his process and his currently running Kickstarter campaign for Stain the Seas Scarlet.
The RKL Process
Looking over your published work up until this point, it’s easy to see that no two of your projects are the same. Can you talk a little bit about why that is and how you choose your projects?
Ryan K Lindsay: There’s a little part of me that certainly doesn’t want to get pigeonholed, or stuck in a rut, so I try to branch out a little. Which I manage in some ways, and fail in others. But when it comes to breaking stories and choosing projects, I have no formula. In the end, it’s whatever I’ve managed to dig out of the marble that’s then dying to be displayed. That can be all ages, or super-emotion noir, or Viking violence.
I like a wide variety of comics, books, film, music. I’ve never set out only wanting to write one genre. I want to write mash-ups of most of them. So my central themes might remain similar, family, choice, acceptance, but the housing for those characters and stories changes wildly depending on what influences might be bubbling in my brain at that time.
After you’ve picked a project, what’s your process? How do you take it from idea to finished page?
RKL: Oh, man, I spend a long, long time laboriously kneading the story in notebooks and in Google Drive. I break and re-break the story until I’m really happy with it. I need to know the main narrative arc, and how the character changes over that arc, and then that’ll slowly unearth the theme, which helps me work out if everything else is working towards that goal, and on the same tracks. So things shift, transmutate, disappear, die, are reborn, and the whole time I’m writing and rewriting that story outline just to see if it works.
Sometimes I write the story outline without the previous draft in sight, just to see what I keep, what gets dropped off, and why that might be. Why did things not stick in my brain, and how did I try to fix those gaps on the fly. It’s a fun exercise.
With the story broken, I’ll map out the issues – and I’ve gotten better at seeing how many issues a story plan will be, roughly. So I set out however many rectangles I need for issues, and start randomly placing issue endings ,and beginnings, and key moments, and it all falls together that way.
But I’m certain I’m doing it wrong, half the time.
Kickstarting Stain the Seas Scarlet
You’ve got a Kickstarter campaign running right now for your book Stain the Seas Scarlet. Can you talk a little about that?
RKL: This book has been in me for ages, and I’m so excited for it to be coming out now. It started as a ‘Leone revenge story in spacesuits’ and evolved from there into a study of resistance, and what options we have left when we are at the end. The sci-fi aspect is large, and the leading lady Yelena is an alien, but the rest is very human, and sadly quite resonant for today’s political landscape.
The amazing Alex Cormack drew Stain the Seas Scarlet. What was it about Alex and his style that told you that he was the right artist for the job?
RKL: Alex brings this raw energy and emotion to his work that’s intrigued me for years now. He’s one of those artists that’s got it all – the ability to do quiet moments, big action, crazy genre, street humans. It’s a no-brainer to want to work with him, but I wanted him for this book specifically because it does do all those things, so I knew he could handle the whole thing.
What was the collaborative process on this book like? Did you approach Alex with the finished script, or had you both been working together on it from the start?
RKL: I had the script mostly locked down. This was at a time I was burning out on pitching minis into the ether, and wanted to manage my time into also writing things I could just get made off my own back. So I wrote maybe 6 one-shot scripts over half a year, maybe longer, and this was one of them. Each script I had a shortlist of people I’d want to take it to. From memory, Alex was the first person I asked and I was lucky he agreed to come on board. He said he really dug the script, and so I left it with him.
The only snag came when he’d illustrated the opening splash page and I thought we could use it as a cool teaser item, so he lettered the title on it, and I fell in love. Hard. So I couldn’t have this glorious image [which is still my Mac desktop image] being hidden away behind another cover. THIS was the image to launch, sell, and love our comic by – so I asked if we could make that opening splash the cover, and then I scripted the new opening page of yelena interrogating an enemy, and that page works great as an intro, so I’m happy with how it all worked out.
This is your sixth Kickstarter campaign, so clearly you’ve found some success on the platform. What is it about Kickstarter that keeps your coming back?
RKL: I love that whole aspect that’s just “let’s have a month-long party for this project/creators/s” – it’s invigorating. You get to value add to your project in ways you can’t when just releasing a digital comic on ComiXology. It’s different to releasing a book even in comic shops. Which is why I love one-shots on here, because it’s a one-time only event. You can make it something special!
The Stain the Seas Scarlet Kickstarter campaign runs until November 30. Why should our readers check out the project?
RKL: This project is exciting to me because it’s good ol’ fashioned sci-fi fisticuffs in space, around a planet far, far away – and in that spirit, it’s also deeply about what is happening in our world right now.
This is a book about resistance. It’s about fighting to the last moment. It’s about the fact we always have choices, and sadly sacrifices. It’s about my desire to go down kicking to do good in the world.
I hope people can relate to that.
Stain the Seas Scarlet has just under a week left on Kickstarter. You can check it out here.
Frank Gogol is a comic book writer who dabbles in reviewing as a way to learn his craft. His approach to reviewing comics is equal parts critique and analysis. For more from Frank, follow him @frankgogol on Twitter.