Ryan K. Lindsay Talks the All-Ages Comic Ink Island

Ryan K. Lindsay is an Australian writer who has written the EIR all ages one-shot he Kickstarted with Alfie Gallagher, the critically acclaimed Negative Space miniseries at Dark Horse with Owen Gieni on art, the upcoming Beautiful Canvas from Black Mask with Sami Kivelä, the CHUM mini with Sami Kiveä, and he also made Headspace at Monkeybrain Comics/IDW with Eric Zawadzki + Sebastian Piriz/Marissa Louise/Dee Cunniffe on art. He wrote a short story for the Vertigo CMYK anthology and was blessed to see Tommy Lee Edwards illustrate it, his Fatherhood one-shot was once one of the top selling ComiXology Submit titles, and he once sold out to write a My Little Pony Rainbow Dash one-shot.

He has a brand new project, Ink Island, currently running on Kickstarter. I got a chance to talk to him about the all-ages comic.

Graphic Policy: Ink Island just went live on Kickstarter. Could you describe the project a bit?

Ryan K Lindsay: INK ISLAND is an all ages one shot comic that’s about two children – my own two children – who are the caretakers of a lighthouse whose function is to keep the monsters in the dark away. So when the globe breaks, they have to scramble to fix it, and in that moment, my daughter is kidnapped.

From there we have a story that’s about conquering fear, and gender roles, and sibling relationships. The book has some beautifully funny moments, mostly because my co-creator/artist Craig Bruyn brings an extremely expressive and cheeky art style to this book, but we also want to drop some real emotion in when we can.

Our campaign is allowing us to fund a print run of the book, and get Craig paid, and get a set of teaching resources into the hands of people who want to read and then analyse this comic.

GP: Craig Bruyn’s art is great! I know you’ve referenced Skottie Young when talking about the art, but it also reminds me of Justin Bleep, who has this really dynamic style. Besides gorgeous art, what does Craig bring to the story?

RKL: Craig brought a lot of heart to the story. The way he brings out the character moments, whether they be human or Inky, was such a delight to unfold. And then there’s his story capabilities, his knack for being able to take a page of story/information and tell it in a coherent and dynamic way. Craig knows from page layouts, and you can see he’s always working to get the right angle or showcase the best panel.

He’s also just the biggest gentleman to work with. He’s stupidly humble, he’s insanely reliable, and I love that the final beat of the issue was actually all his idea.

GP: In addition to the plot, what sets this story apart from other books aimed at a similar audience? In other words, are there things missing from the genre that you wanted to include?

RKL: I’d feel arrogant to say I’m crushing the all ages funk in a totally new way and better than others, but the things I wanted to focus on in this book were the ideas of overcoming fears, and what gender roles look like as presented to small children.

The main act change of the book revolves around Parker realising his sister, Elliot, has been kidnapped and then having to step up to mount a rescue mission. But we never see what Elliot is doing so we can’t confirm whether she really needs rescuing at all. It’s a big aspect of the comic I wanted to unpack in general, but also very specifically between my two children. My son is very thoughtful and empathetic whereas my daughter is a UFC-level weapon. But they both crossover in that they’d each help the other whenever they thought it was needed.

But I think, for me, it wasn’t about bringing something incredibly new to the genre because it was more about proving I can also play in this genre. Most of my other work is so dark and brutal, I wanted something my kids could read. Something my class could read.

GP: You’re also no stranger to Kickstarter–this is your fifth! For you, what is the draw of a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter?

RKL: I love Kickstarter. That ability to connect with your readership directly is amazing. I specifically love it because for one month you can offer a slew of special items that will only ever be available for that month. I’m doing an Audio Commentary for this comic, and have done so on previous comics, and those have never been available again.

You could sell the comic on your site forever and a day, but there’s no excitement, there’s no necessity. With Kickstarter, you create the excitement and immediacy through a well-run campaign, and readers respond fantastically well.

GP: How does your experience as someone who teaches comics influence how you create them?

RKL: It influenced me many years ago because I didn’t just try to write comics, I studied them first. I studied, I learned by doing through dozens of unpublished [and unpublishable] scripts, and then I started branching out from there.

Now that I’ve written a few things, I do try to write with an eye for the things I like to analyse in the works of others, but I try not to be too obvious about what I’m aiming for. You want it to feel natural, not forced. And I don’t want to be didactic in my narrative approach or explanations. My stories better not read as lessons, they should grab an emotion before they then slip up into your brain.

GP: That’s really fascinating–the balance between writing comics that can be used as a teaching tool and comics that are interesting and gripping, plot-wise. On the flip-side of this, why do you think comics make such a great teaching tool?

RKL: Comics are exceptionally great tools for teaching reading because there’s so much reader engagement required. It’s a great medium to have story/information presented – through text and images, and how they interact – but then there’s the subtle stuff that’s there, so it’s not blindly inferred, but it’s still up to the reader to analyse, such as colours or how much is skipped over in the gutters. There are so many elements to a comic that you can spend a long long time pulling the threads apart.

I also think there’s the aspect that comics don’t feel confrontational. They are inviting, they’re pretty, and people mistake that for meaning they are for struggling readers, and while you can see why they’d appeal to someone who doesn’t want to stare down a wall of text in a novel, that does not necessarily equate to comics having easy or simple stories.

GP: Do you have favorite comics to teach?

RKL: I teach young kids, so I love using books like HILDA, because man-oh-man do I love Hilda. That book is phenomenal, and so easy, and yet so textured and layered. I also dig BONE, and THE SMURFS and certain superhero books if they aren’t too violent.

If I’m teaching adults, you can’t go past BATMAN: YEAR ONE. I’d love to teach THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST, or PAPER GIRLS.

GP: I took a class in college where BATMAN: YEAR ONE was on the book list, but not required, and I always find it interesting to see which books people choose to teach because it varies so much. Are there certain things you think we can learn from superhero books versus creator-owned books?

RKL: I believe the only thing you learn from comics is how to makenglod comics, so cape or by shouldn’t matter – however, having just completed the DC Writers’ Workshop with Scott Snyder, there is one big difference.

Superhero books can play more operatic, the stakes can be elevated. There’s nothing like the literal fate of the world to make a comic sing, whereas sometimes you don’t need that and you just need a personal take.

Consider THE VISION against DAYTRIPPER. Themes crossover but one book gets to play against the might of every Marvel hero, whereas the other is real that it can better grind your heart up.

GP: What’s the biggest challenge of creating an all-ages comic?

RKL: Not killing a bunch of characters off at the end. I love noir, and my mind skews to warped endings, so that’s a big one. Then there’s the matter of making it engaging, having some big “Oh, cool!” moments, because I never feel like I do that part all that well.

I want to use rich language, and I’m happy if kids have to pause to ask a parent what a word means, but I don’t want the verbosity to drive anyone away. There’ a balance, and I’m sure I’ll find it one day.

GP: Ink Island is also a huge departure from many of your other comics. Do you have a preferred genre? Do these different genres allow you to experiment with different types of storytelling?

RKL: My preferred genre is a sci fi/crime blend. It allows me to play with broken noir characters, but in a world that incorporates the fantastic. I love shattered endings and I love creating my own tech that I can explain however I want without being tethered to actual real world limitations or research.

I try to experiment with my storytelling all the time. I’ve used first person narration captions, omniscient third person, and no captions. All are different muscles for me. I like fracturing timelines, or using unreliable narrators. It often truly depends on the lead character and the tone I want to set. Those are the two keystones to lock in that inform all choices beyond that.