Never Give up On Your Dreams. Interview with Ryan K. Lindsay Creator of Black Mask.
If Ryan K. Lindsay, of recent, much-lauded BEAUTIFUL CANVAS (Black Mask) fame has learned one thing, it’s that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams.
As cheesy as that sounds, the old adage put Lindsay right where he wants to be: writing comics.
But he also learned that the only way to chase down these dreams and put them in a sleeper hold is with a mighty work ethic. “I started writing comics in the last decade but self-published my first work in 2013 (FATHERHOOD). From there, I’ve written about every damn night,” he tells me. It’s this principled nature that has brought Lindsay to his current platform of success.
Outside of his work on the critically-acclaimed BEAUTIFUL CANVAS he’s also published several other series with various “bigger” indie publishers with other projects forthcoming soon. Lindsay, while steadily pacing his way to wide notoriety, is still young and hungry enough to remember what it’s like trying to turn stories into actual, physical product for all to marvel at on the stands of comic book stores everywhere.
1. What is your background and history in comics? What are your main comic project(s) that you are working or have worked on?
Ryan K Lindsay: I’ve put out a few miniseries– BEAUTIFUL CANVAS with Sami Kivela through Black Mask Studios, NEGATIVE SPACE with Owen Gieni through Dark Horse Comics, HEADSPACE with Eric Zawadzki and Sebastian Piriz through IDW, CHUM with Sami Kivela through ComixTribe, and DEER EDITOR with Sami Kivela through my own imprint, Four Colour Ray Gun, that was supported by 3 successful Kickstarter campaigns. I’ve also Kickstarted 3 other one-shots, written for some anthologies, and it’s all lead up to this year where I have ETERNAL with Eric Zawadzki coming out January 31st from Black Mask Studios, and they’ll release the trade paperback collection of BEAUTIFUL CANVAS in February. And beyond that, I’m working on a secret thing or two
2. How long from start to first produced comic? Can you give a rundown on the processes and steps that happened along the way?
RKL: Oh, man, I wrote my first comic script probably around ’05 or ’06. So between that time and 2013 I put together some pitches, but my writing sucked, so nothing ever happened. And then I met my wife, I travelled, I wrote 4 unpublished novels, I became an Assistant Principal at my school for a time, I wrote online reviews, I read a tonne, and then I finally had a good story to tell – and I smartly made it a one-shot, so we could actually make it and put it out into the world in completion. That comic was FATHERHOOD and it was done with Daniel Schneider, Paulina Ganucheau, and Brandon DeStefano.
3. Where did you assemble your team(s)?
RKL: I think I found most of them via Twitter, which was an ace banter/networking site at the turn of the decade, unlike the swamp it is now. As for the specifics of tricking them into working for me, I honestly have no idea.
4. How much or how long did you “shop” around your first publication and/or your subsequent ones? Any insights?
RKL: It was a one-shot, so I always knew it would just be self-published. I did actually put it in with CHALLENGER COMICS, an online hub of people and great stories run by Ryan Ferrier. But I didn’t take the book anywhere else because I knew that’s not what this was for. This wasn’t my foot into publishing, this was my calling card for editors.
5. What did/do you find to be the hardest aspect of getting your book published and into people’s hands?
RKL: All of it, is that an okay answer? Haha! I think getting it published is hard because you’ve got to make your story clear, a sellable commodity, and be tailored for the publisher you are submitting to. It’s like catching lightning in a bottle. You really just never know. But it can help if you are a known entity, hence me making shorter comics I could share in their entirety. Then getting it into people’s hands – the hook of the book has to be strong. Has to fit into a tweet, strong. Then you just have to make people care enough to seek it out. Care about the level of craft in the art, or care about the characters, or care about you. I still have no idea how to do that, especially the last one.
6. Tips/advice on any aspect of comic publishing for those looking to get their indie comics published? Any sure fire tactics? Anything ESPECIALLY to avoid doing?
RKL: Make short comics. One-shots are perfect, you can probably afford to put a team together for 22 pages, or you can Kickstart at a decent fee. An editor can read them in one sitting, and you can still sell them at conventions and to stores. It’s a really good sweet spot, and if you can tell a complete story in 22 pages, you can probably do it for longer, so editors will trust your chops. Don’t make a #1 issue and send that around because building a hint of a world, and a hook, is easier than showing you can stick the landing. Also: really take yourself to task. If the story isn’t good enough, don’t publish it. Rewrite it first, or write something else, something better. You’ll usually know when it’s not good enough.
7. What’s in the works for you now?
RKL: I have two new miniseries I am writing which have homes and should hopefully be blindingly spectacular works of narrative and comics. I also have the books from Black Mask in the next two months, which I hope people have preordered. Beyond that, I have irons in the fire, but you never ever know.
They say comics will break your heart, but they never tell you how long it’ll take.