Chatting with… Ryan Lindsay
Tell us about your work.
At the moment I am writing ‘Headspace’ for Monkey Brain Comics, through ComiXology. It’s $0.99 an issue. We’re trying to hit, roughly, a 5-6 week schedule. It’s coming along really well. The first issue was pretty fantastically received, which is very humbling. That’ll run for the rest of the year. I also have ‘Fatherhood’, a one-shot which I did through Challenger Comics, which has been selling very well. I’ve also just put out an ashcan of ‘The Many Harold Holts of Space and Time’, which is a short story I’ve done with Louie Joyce.
What are some of the works and/or creators that have inspired you?
All time? Phillip K. Dick is a huge one. His sort of work is infused very heavily into Headspace. I grew up reading Clive Barker and Stephen King, which should be mandated reading in primary school, I think. More recently, and particularly involving comics, Ed Brubaker is a guy whose style gels with me and I love the genres he touches. Brian K. Vaughan is one where I can’t write like him, or as well as him, but he’s inspirational. Also, recently, Hannibal and True Detective have set my mind alight, as far as ‘I’ve got to keep running to keep up’, which is really cool to have those things pop up.
You seem to have worked in a number of different mediums. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of writing a story versus a comic?
The advantages are that I’ve always got something to work on, which is kind of cool. I’ve written comic scripts and had them published. I’ve written prose short stories and had them published. I’ve also written comics criticism, which is ‘The Devil is in the Details’, published through Sequart and is all about Marvel’s Daredevil character. It’s a book of literary essays about that.
So, you wear different hats. Mostly I wear the comic writer hat, but I like to write and I certainly don’t like to pigeonhole myself.
As for disadvantages, I guess you have to spread yourself far and wide trying to find publishers for them. But, I’ve met a lot of cool people in different areas so that it’s not as much of a problem now. It’s like writing for anything; you’re going to struggle for a while to get that first breakthrough.
How important do you feel diversity is in terms of content and characters in your work?
Pretty huge, to be honest. The lead character in Headspace is an African American male. I did that purely because there is no reason for him to be a white male. I’m not telling it as an Australian story, so I’m not writing myself. So, I thought, let’s go diverse. Not as a calculated ploy, but it’s a small thing for me to do, but it could mean so much to others. I did say on a podcast recently that if you don’t like that I’ve written a black lead, please don’t buy my books. Basically, I don’t want that audience. If that turns those people off, I don’t have a problem with it.
I’m currently working on two one-shots upcoming with female leads, one of whom will be African American. I just think it is important to have that diversity. I’ve written a My Little Pony comic, and I’m not a pony, either, so you can write things that aren’t you. You’re going to sell to this crazy, wide audience. I like it when someone comes up and sees that maybe they’re represented. Because they’re not represented widely enough, that’s for sure. I can pick up any book and go, “Oh, there’s a white male.” I know I’m represented. So, it’s nice to see that some people are grabbing that idea, but I see how easy it is to default and go, “I’m going to do a white male lead.” And then you start to think to yourself… “Do I need to?”
I saw a friend post recently about the same thing, and he talked about how Quantum Leap needed a white male lead. I thought, “Really?” And he said that it was about a white man being in a black male, being in a woman, and it is about how you, as a white male, can go through that experience. I never would have got there, and it’s kind of a smart move. But everything else…Miles Morales is a fantastic character. A mate of mine, Chris Sebela has a book at Boom Studios called ‘Dead Letters’, with a black male lead. He openly just said, “It didn’t need to be white, so I’m going to instantly make it diverse.” I think that that is really cool.
Are you fairly new to the industry? Do you feel it has changed since you’ve been a part of it?
I definitely feel new to the industry, as a creator. As a reader I am decades entrenched. As a fairly new guy it is eye-opening at times and I’m still making ground. You’re dealing with finding collaborators and then working with them. It’s always a fun new experience finding publishers and establishing those sorts of relationships. I don’t think I’ve seen too much of a shift, except in the fact that over the last few years Create Your Own is really hitting a boom. And in seeing Image Books sell so well and seeing people take a chance on things that aren’t the Big Two is really cool.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the digital side of the industry? Comics in particular seem to really be taking off in the digital medium. Does that impact your work at all?
I love digital comics. I like print comics, but I like ComiXology. I’m an avid ComiXology reader. My Ipad is primarily for that as well as work on the go. I think the advantage is that I can have my one-shot ‘Fatherhood’ have world-wide distribution because I put it through ComiXology Submit, which is really cool. And it sold well, like about a decent convention run. Then it was parcelled up in a bundle of 100 Submit books, and it was very interesting that I noticed the reviews of my book on ComiXology tripled or quadrupled after it went out in that bundle. So, I know a lot of people read it.
I also had a really famous Australian author email me last night and say “I just pieced together you name with a book I downloaded!” And I was like, “I love you, and you’ve just contacted me!” So that’s awesome. So you never know where it is going to land. Because when I am at a table at a Con[vention], I know where it is going to land. And I don’t have diamond distribution for my stuff because it is all small-fry, and that’s fine. But digital really pushes it out there. And you can host on your own site. The second thing I ever had drawn and completed, I put it online for free for people to see. It’s a six-page short. And the amount of attention I got for that [was great], because people could just instantly access it. You don’t want to block yourself off. I said that in a panel yesterday to someone who asked how we make comics. I said, “make them short and free for everybody.” He gave me a look like ‘I don’t want to give my work away for free’, but then you’re only going to make about $3. The $3 is worth the exposure. I know [people say] don’t work for exposure, but you need to get that exposure somehow. Somehow you need to put yourself out there. Being in comics is a long con, and digital comic distribution has helped my immensely.
Something like Twitter, in regards to networking…nearly everything on this table I can draw you a line straight to Twitter of how I got that gig and how I found those collaborators. It’s an amazing forum and I love it. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that unfortunately I am a bit of a talkaholic on there. So, that digital strategy is great.
As for disadvantages, collectability is down. But I kind of enjoy that, because I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, you’re a comic collector?” But I’m not, I’m a comic reader. And there is a difference. I bought a book yesterday and he asked if I wanted it sleeved. But I said no and put it in my pocket, because I was just going to read it on the plane. It was going to get trashed. And that’s fine. I mean, I own an issue of Daredevil #1, which is from ’64. And I don’t stuff that in my back pocket. It means a lot to me because I love Daredevil, but otherwise I’m not too precious about it. So, I don’t mind that things can just be digital and people can just have it with them all the time.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Headspace at MonkeyBrain, absolutely. And watching it get these amazing reviews where people get it and they trust us. It’s a dense book and it raises more questions than answers in the first issue. Purposefully. That’s the sort of thing I like to read. I know some people will think, “Oh, this isn’t all wrapped up in a bow for me and I won’t have it.” But not everything is for everyone. However, there are a few people that say they want to work at piecing this puzzlebox together, and they’ll love it. I’d rather work on a five-star book for half the audience, than a three-star book for all the audience. So that book is absolutely a highlight.
Also, just a confluence of events of making the trip to Seattle and going to Emerald City Comic Con. Having Chris Sebela introduce me to the MonkeyBrain publishers, which he didn’t have to do. But he’s a nice guy. As well as watching the comics community be rad at every opportunity. And then to land the gig, which is always an ego boost. We came up with it in 2012 and finally publishing it in 2014 and realising that if you put in the effort it’ll get there. But you’ve got to be patient, and you’ve got to work hard and do it well. It’s not something we rushed into the world with a bunch of flaws. We really wanted to make it something that was really representative of what we do. And it is one of those books that I really feel that it represents me as an author really well.
Other than more Headspace, what do you hope to be working on in the future?
I have a mini-series that is greenlit with another small publisher. I really enjoy their work and ethos, so I am looking forward to finally delving into that. I’m also looking forward to doing more one-shot material. I just got some art in the inbox yesterday from an artist in Finland, and it’s gorgeous. So I can’t wait for us to finish that book and put it out. I also just signed a large contract for a short story with a very good publisher.
Head over to Ryan’s website for more info and to check out more of his work!