“It’s a great place to catch some waves and watch some bodies wash up on shore” Ryan K Lindsay talks surf noir in Chum #1
The chilled out world of surfing may not seem like the obvious setting for a gritty crime noir, but for Aussie writer Ryan K Lindsay and artist Sami Kivella they’re a perfect fit and so they have created a new sub genre – surfnoir – for new series Chum! We catch up with writer Ryan before he starts waxes his board for the next set to find out the mysterious secrets of surfnoir!
Chum is the first surf noir we have heard of, what inspired you to put those two worlds together and tell this story? Are you a big surfer?
RKL: To be honest, it all starts with a love of noir. I think a story that details the slow downward spiral of someone, or a bunch of people, can be fascinating. Taking a great person and destroying them, like in Breaking Bad, can be an amazing feat of narrative performance. Whereas, like what we do here, we take bad people and lead them to their obvious ends which might seem easier, but if along the way we give you reason to care for them then hopefully that’s going to break your heart.
So, yeah, noir is the lens through which I see much of the world, real and fictional.
To then match it to surf, well, I’m Australian. We are surrounded by surf. Yet I am not a surfer. At all. So, for me, the surf and the darkness of the ocean always portents danger and destruction and so these two topics married instantly well in my mind.
How did you and artist Sami Kivella come to work on this together? It’s listed as a collaboration rather than an artist/writer relationships so I take it this means you have more of a back and forth when creating the characters?
RKL: Oh, man, yeah, Sami and I go back a long ways now. We started putting this book together back in 2013. Since then, we’ve completed this, we’ve started another unannounced but still trucking along sci fi beast, we’ve twice successfully Kickstarted issues for Deer Editor, our anthropomorphic antler noir, and we are right now piecing together a new pitch. Counting up the years, and the pages, and the emails, at this stage Sami and I have a really loose flow together. I write full script but he knows it’s a blueprint for the chassis and he’s creating the tints and flames and whitewalls. By the time Chum was really being finalised, there’s no way this was anything other than a full and true collaboration.
Not to mention, throwing Mark Dale colours over Sami’s work just made us all happy. That really made the sun and the surf pop, as well as the yellow captions of Nic J. Shaw who lettered this pulp like crazy.
You have quite the motley roster of villains and characters in this piece, how important is it to create unique characters in the role of crime comics? And which are your favourites to write?
RKL: Yeah, we wanted some archetypes to play with – the drunk cop, the femme, the druglord, the sap – but then we also wanted to tweak them in various ways. You have to find ways to connect to them, and have your audience also connect. The interesting thing for me is to see how everyone relates to someone else. My biggest in was once I realised how little sexual tension there was in this book. There’s internal sexual frustration, there’s unrequited lust, there’ are characters who completely loathe each other, but it’s rare we get a moment where two people like each other and can explore that in genuine ways. Watching them tiptoe around their emotions in order to affect plans they were angling for becomes the really fun jigsaw puzzle of this noir.
Because writing how the cop and the journalist hate each other is flat out fun. And writing how the sap loves the femme and doesn’t see her using him is heartbreaking. Every relationship has its positives to explore.
You’ve cited Gold Medal paperbacks as a big influence. For those of us who don’t know what they are can you fill us in and tell us about their significance to you?
RKL: The Gold Medal paperback brand was a publishing imprint from the 1950s that put out short, dark, and fantastic tales of the darkside of humanity. Crime pulps, anything sensational, exploitative, they were there. If I’m shopping for old books and I see the gold medal on the cover, that sucker is going home with me because I know the prose is pulpy, the characters are nasty, and the next weekend will be a good time for me.
You also cite Brubaker and a Phillips as a big influence, what is your favourite book of theirs and why do you think it was such a big influence on you? (Last of the Innocent is still our fave!)
RKL: I love the way they collaborate, I love the way Brubaker turns a phrase. Everything about all of their books grabs me by the collar but at this stage, and probably most pertinently to this book, their Bad Night story in Criminal is my favourite work of theirs. It’s a complete and true noir, it’s so well crafted, and it really runs like an old Gold Medal engine, short, growly, and it burns out in the end.
Though I gotta mention their recent Criminal 10th Anniversary one-shot because that story was so bloody fantastic.
The series is only scheduled for three issues, is this to help focus your story telling? And will you return to the genre (if not the characters) if it does well?
RKL: This is partly because I like the idea of short and sharp arcs, fight the decompression, get in and out. It’s also because Sami and I are both relatively unknown so it means only asking people to commit for 3 months and 3 issues, not 6. But mostly, and this was always the most important, this was how long the story needed. As I broke the story, it neatly fell into this length and I was not going to fight that – and thankfully ComixTribe were cool with that.
As for a return to some surf noir in the future, man, if I ever get the chance, yeah, it’s a great place to catch some waves and watch some bodies wash up on shore. Though as for these characters, well, I guess we’ll have to see which ones survive before I announce their sequels, ha.
And finally you ask fellow pros to come up with 6 word surf noirs, which has been your favourite so far and can you sum up Chum in that short a space?
Oh, man, I LOVE six word stories. I teach them to kids in school all the time, and they are the narrative personification of necessity being the mother of invention. You really need to own your words.
It sounds like a trap to pick a favourite but I really have to shout out to Duane Swierczynski with “Buried Brian Wilson. God only knows.” I mean, that’s beautiful, right? That’s the best writing that will appear in all 3 issues!
I think you can sum up anything in 6 words, but you cannot expect it to be easy at all.