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C2E2 2019: Interview with Writer Ryan Cady

On Sunday at C2E2, I had the opportunity to talk with writer Ryan Cady about his work on the Image/Top Cow sci-fi series Infinite Dark with artist Andrea Mutti as well as his upcoming Z2 graphic novel, Genesis 1 about Internet music star Poppy that he is co-writing with Poppy and Titanic Sinclair. Previously, Cady has done work for Marvel (Old Man Logan), DC (New Talent Showcase), Lion Forge (Rolled and Told), and Archie (Big Moose) as well as co-writing the Magdalena relaunch for Top Cow with Tini Howard.

Graphic Policy: You were a part of the DC Talent Development Workshop. How did that impact your work on Infinite Dark?

Ryan Cady: I developed Infinite Dark before the workshop and started scripting halfway through the workshop. When I started Infinite Dark, it was much more isolated story, and Scott Snyder, in the workshop, was good about getting us to examine higher stakes. From the beginning, Infinite Dark was going to be an end of the universe/last people on Earth story.

The initial pitch was more inward, character focused and weird Grant Morrison-y stuff. Not that’s a bad thing. I love that stuff and could do it well. After working with Scott and the DC projects in the class and focusing on the balance between character and action, I really decided to start ramping things up. And, obviously, something like [the workshop] makes you a better writer. It’s 10 weeks of doing scripts, getting them reviewed by not just Scott Snyder, but a bunch of really talented peers and examining your own work really critically. It forces you to think “What do I suck at? How do I need to get better?”

GP: From the first page of Infinite Dark, it’s all about staring into the abyss. How do you get into the zone to write about characters who gaze into literal nothingness?

RC: When I was really developing Infinite Dark in earnest, I was in the midst of a really bad depression. I kind of had the basic ideas there, but when I sat down to write the project, I was really miserable. At that point, it felt like a bleak work. (This was before the DC Workshop.)

When it came time to script, I focused a lot on staring into [nothingness] and overcoming it and survival as a virtue. In the script, I tried to tiptoe between those two. About how coming out of this I feel stronger and what it means to survive the worst year of your life versus diving back into those feelings a little bit if I wanna get grim. Sometimes, to write the darkest parts of the book, I have to dive back into those bad, weird feelings because it’s my first creator owned story.

GP: Infinite Dark has a big monster in the book called the Entity that I really enjoyed. What was your inspiration for them?

RC: In the very original pitch for the book, the Entity was something that claims to be God. I’m not an atheist, but I really thought the “No, fuck you, God” idea would be a cool take. God, in the original pitch, was like “I seem like a monster, but it’s because I need to create a new universe, and you guys are getting in the way.” [The protagonist] Deva was going to shoot God. That was the very Grant Morrison part of it. God was going to be like “I made you guys. You’re the best thing I ever made, but I’m making a new thing.” And Deva was gonna be like “No, you made us to survive.” and shoot God.

That was early days. It’s changed a lot since then. The initial idea was always the shadows. A thing you can’t understand, not even a Lovecraftian thing from beyond, but something that doesn’t interact with physics like we do.

GP: My favorite character in Infinite Dark was Smith, the A.I. I love him so much. In a lot of these kind of sci-fi stories, the A.I. is always evil. Why did you decide to make Smith more of a humanist and an ally to humanity?

RC: Thank you for that reading. I’m always antsy if it’s going to make it in or not. I play with [the humanism] a lot in the next volume without spoiling anything. Because that’s such a trope, I believe we as people are always like “The next thing is going to usurp us.” It’s tied into the whole killing God thing. This thing we made is going to hate us for a reason, maybe, because we think we’re putting our worst selves in it.

But my whole thing with Smith is that I don’t know if I believe in that trope. [Some] people (Granted a lot of people who work in tech and in Silicon Valley are awful and scary technocrats.) make stuff earnestly with the idea you would make a life with the idea of “This is designed to love all the good things about humanity.” Smith’s creators are like “We believe in all these things.” I wanted to emphasize that and double play on “The A.I. is so evil.”, but not at all.

My favorite thing that I’ve written for the whole series is Smith’s speech in issue 3. I’m glad people liked it, and it landed. When I wrote this, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “I never say this, but I’m really proud of what I wrote here.” This is great, but the rest of the issue sucks.

GP: Yeah, that speech is awesome. Lots of text, but it’s definitely one of things I’ll remember about Infinite Dark.

So, the antagonists of Infinite Dark are the technolinguists. How did you come up with this cool, sci-fi concept?

RC: The idea came up because I’m not good with computers. Also, it makes sense if you’re setting a story fifty years from now to extrapolate what we have. Infinite Dark takes place 10,000 years from now so computing is going to be something that’s so fundamentally different. There’s the idea of people who can interact with this future’s version of code on an informational language level. Linguistically, they interact with computers.

I made them bad guys because really early on, there was a notion that the Entity could interact with them because the techno-language they speak is similar to the fundamental building blocks of reality. You know that theory that the universe is just a VR simulation? In Infinite Dark, they have simulations they go into sometimes, and we wanted to play with that. If we end up having more issues then these eight, I might go into that even deeper.

GP: Yeah, I Googled “technolinguists”, and I guess they’re not a thing yet.

RC: They’re antagonists, but they might not be bad guys.

GP: Your book’s definitely in a moral grey area.

RC: I like to play with that when I can. Except Smith. He’s just good.

GP: Could you tease the upcoming arc of Infinite Dark?

RC: The next volume of four issues starts in April, and without spoiling anything if you haven’t read the first volume, weeks have passed in issue five. But it’s not gonna feel like “Bam, bam, things are happening again.” It’s a lot of aftermath and cleanup stuff. But, also, oops, an act of saving everybody doesn’t necessarily save everybody. There’s still so many things that can go horribly wrong.

It’s very character conflict focused. All these people have survived the end of the universe twice, and yet, that alone is not enough to have them cooperate and get along because we have such fundamentally different ideas about what it means to do the right thing. How do these people faced with impossible choices, who have survived so much, reconcile that? I talk a lot philosophically in the book about survival being a virtue, but this arc is about what the next “good is. If we survive, how do we move past that.

GP: Like the whole “survive and thrive” Pinterest board idea.

RC: Yeah, we’ve reached “survive” on our Pinterest board. How do we “thrive” without it becoming worse or inequality or dooming ourselves again?

GP: I had a couple questions about the Poppy graphic novel Genesis 1. With these musician graphic novel projects, I’m really curious about how much input Poppy had on the graphic novel and what that collaborative process was like. She has all those YouTube followers.

RC: I’ve never met Poppy because she’s a robot, probably. I’m sure she’s very nice and only has our best interests at heart. And her church is not a cult. I’ve been given absolute freedom, and I speak in total earnestness. This is 100% me and mine. I’m nobody’s mouthpiece. This is my version of her story, and I believe it 100% and am not part of a cult.

GP: A lot of Poppy’s ideas are about how she’s beyond humanity and is very post-human. Why is her origin story being told in an older medium like comics?

RC: Even though it’s an older medium, comics is still really dynamic. It’s not limited to what you can get across on one side in a YouTube video. It’s not limited by time. I talked to an editor who brilliantly said, “In comics more than any medium, you can do a good job of controlling the flow of time.”

Also, there’s a weird element of apocrypha to it. Is this Poppy’s origin story? It’s this comic, and we play on this in the story. If this is really Poppy’s gospel and her origin, why would it be in this graphic novel? Why would it be told in this way, and how would that be obtained? Is the story true? Is the story stolen? It’s about to get too religious in here. We’re playing a lot with a sense of time and futurism, and how that blends with the occult and weird hacker people.

Infinite Dark #5 is set to be released on April 10, 2019 from Image/Top Cow Comics. Genesis One will be released in summer 2019 from Z2 Comics.

Follow Ryan Cady on Twitter.

Preview: Infinite Dark #3

Infinite Dark #3

(W) Ryan Cady (A/CA) Andrea Mutti

With only backup power available to the Orpheus and panic setting in, Deva returns to the Dark Sector to stop a mad techno-linguist from destroying the last pocket of reality… and risks directly exposing herself to the Entity outside.

Preview: Infinite Dark #2

Infinite Dark #2

(W) Ryan Cady (A/CA) Andrea Mutti

Unrest on the Orpheus, an entity from beyond reality itself, and a therapy session gone horribly awry-Security Director Deva Karrell’s investigation turns up few clues but many fresh horrors.

Around the Tubes

It’s a new week and we’ve got lots on tap with interviews, reviews, and more! While you wait for things to kick off, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

The Comichron – September graphic novels power second consecutive growth quarter; Return of Wolverine, Saga lead charts – Are things turning around?

 

Reviews

Vancouver Sun – The Antifa Comic Book

Talking Comics – Dead Rabbit #1

Comics Bulletin – Infinite Dark #1

Comic Attack – Neon Future #1

Review: Infinite Dark #1

The universe ended, but onboard the void station Orpheus, a skeleton crew of humanity survived: the last two thousand souls, waiting for a second big bang that may never come. Now, two years into their voyage, Security Director Deva Karrell investigates the station’s first murder-and the otherworldly motives behind it.

Humanity surviving some calamity on a spaceship/station is a story that is a dime a dozen. There being a murder on a spaceship/station is a common story too. However, the location being a space station that has survived the end of the universe? That’s pretty unique.

Writer Ryan Cady delivers a first issue that builds up the tension to a point the story shifts. What begins as a sci-fi story becomes horror by the end. Much of the first issue focuses on the reality these survivors live in. They’re the last of humanity. They witnessed the rest die. And they witnessed the universe die. Now, they’re surrounded by nothing and internally are struggling with that reality. They are experiencing survivor’s guilt.

Now, a crime has been committed and that leads to that twist. While the comic could easily devolve into a person who has lost their mind and that spreading across the ship resulting in carnage and death, it would seem we’re getting something different. That last panel especially left me pondering where this is all going.

The art by Andrea Muti with color by K. Michael Russell and lettering by Troy Peteri is solid mixing in the two genres quite well. There’s an unease in the art that emphasizes the coldness of it all. That’s helped by the color which uses lots of cold blues and grays and only goes elsewhere for emphasis.

The issue is a fantastic debut that blends genres and delivers an ending that’s something that’s unexpected. It seems the comic is going in directions that’s unexpected and will explore some really interesting topics. With a unique setting, this is a start that’s a hell of a debut.

Story: Ryan Cady Art: Andrea Muti
Color: K. Michael Russell Letterer: Troy Peteri of A Larger World
Story Editor: Alex Lu
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

After Houdini (Insight Comics) – Harry Houdini is a top-secret operative for the US Government during World War I and the government needs his son to take his place! Sounds like fun to us!

Captain America #4 (Marvel) – Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Captain America has been amazing so far and we’re expecting no less from this issue. It’s a perfect blend of action and depth.

Infinite Dark #1 (Top Cow Productions/Image Comics) – The universe has ended and humanity exists on a ship whose occupants await the next Big Bang. But, there’s a murder that needs to be investigated. The concept sounds amazing and original and we’re totally in.

Infinity Wars #4 (Marvel) – The event has been much better than expected and with everything warped, we want to know what what happens next.

Last Space Race #1 (AfterShock Comics) – The pitch for the series which sounds a bit like the Right Stuff and X-Files has us intrigued to find out more about this.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies (Image Comics) – Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips with an original graphic novel. Nuff said.

Ruinworld #4 (BOOM! Studios) – Really fun fantasy for all-ages.

Spider-Geddon #1 (Marvel) – Marvel has been putting together a solid lead up to this even which again brings together various Spider-people from around the Multiverse.

Transformers: Unicron #5 (IDW Publishing) – Things are wrapping up and it looks like everyone is dying. This is definitely the dark before the light as IDW brings to a close an epic run of the Transformers that’s been years in the making.

The Wrong Earth #2 (AHOY Comics) – The first issue of this series was amazing which has two heroes switching places with their multiverse self. Image grim and gritty mixed with a happier version. Add in so much more material in the comic and you’ve got a hell of a package from a publisher that’s showing we should expect more from comics.

Preview: Infinite Dark #1

Infinite Dark #1

(W) Ryan Cady (A/CA) Andrea Mutti (C) K. Michael Russell (L) Troy Peteri

The universe ended, but onboard the void station Orpheus, a skeleton crew of humanity survived: the last two thousand souls, waiting for a second big bang that may never come. Now, two years into their voyage, Security Director Deva Karrell investigates the station’s first murder-and the otherworldly motives behind it.

Science Fiction and Horror Collide in Infinite Dark

Image Comics and Top Cow have announced an all-new, sinister ongoing science-fiction series—Infinite Dark—by Ryan Cady and Andrea Mutti with colorist K. Michael Russell that will hit stores this October.

In Infinite Dark, the universe has ended, but humanity has survived. For years, the passengers and crew of the vessel Orpheus found the endless void between realities to be a surprisingly peaceful home.

Then they found a body—bloodied, brutalized, and surrounded by inscrutable runes. As Security Director Deva Karrell investigates the Orpheus’ first murder, she’ll come face to face with a horror from beyond the confines of time itself…

Infinite Dark #1 will launch from Top Cow and Image Comics this October 2018.