Thee Comic Column Special: Ryan Black Post-Tension Release Interview

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During the month of May this year Ryan Black ran a Kickstarter campaign to bring his debut comic Tension to life. I interviewed him about it during the campaign and watched from a distance as Tension took on a life of its own. Now the first issue of the book is out, almost sold out of its first printing in fact, and Black is a busy man, continuing to develop what he has so successfully become. I’d planned to hit him up for a follow-up interview as soon as the book was out and I’d read it, and now is the time. I read my copy of Tension about a week ago, then re-read it before I fired off a new salvo of questions to see how the post-kickstarter creator was handling the beginnings of what promises to be a very cool independent series.

Note: if you haven’t acquired your copy of Tension #1 yet go here now, or if you’re in Jacksonville the book is available at Black Hive Comics! Trust me!!!


SCB: So the first book is finished and out in the world, Kickstarter rewards are in your supporters’ hands and you’re almost finished with the second issue. Now that the dream is a tangible reality – a goal that you have worked through and beyond – talk to me about hindsight, i.e. is there anything you would have done differently?

Ryan Black: Heh.  I don’t think I would change anything, really. I learned a lot and some things came up that I could never have planned for, regardless of my newly gained wisdom.  Offering an original sketch at every single Kickstarter reward level was insane.  But that gave me an excuse to try out a lot of different things stylistically that I maybe wouldn’t have done otherwise.


SCB: I’d forgotten that the Kickstarter was to fund both the first and the second issues. You talk a bit about this in the Backmatter of issue #1. How soon until #2 is available?


Ryan Black: Well, I’d love to be able to give a definitive release date for the second issue but I am going to tentatively say November.  Could be December, though.  The Kickstarter took a lot of time to fulfill and the “Great Printing Debacle of 2013″ really ate up a lot of my time and funds.  Although my new printer did an amazing job and still managed to beat most everyone else in town price-wise it was still higher than my original estimate, on which the Kickstarter goal and reward system was based.  The pencils for issue two are halfway done but there are some pages I’m going to go back and draw again.  I had a couple of breakthroughs in my art around pages 14 and 15 so some of the earlier pages just don’t hold up now.  The whole thing will go a lot faster now that I know what I’m doing.  Kind of.


SCB: Curious: The way that Eric aka Witchhammer’s background in motocross and underground sports is referenced in passing during the issue one I have to ask if it will it play a bigger part in the story, at least insofar as us learning more about who he is and why he does what he does?


Ryan Black: Yeah.  Definitely.  His motocross career and his prior military experience are, in a round about way, what led him to “superhero-ing”.  I don’t want to give too much away, but he didn’t arrive at the decision to protect people because something awful happened to him or someone he loved.  It involves tragedy but not in what has become the cliched comic book tradition of Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker.  The motocross racing eventually put him into a situation that spiraled out of control and the military background allowed him the very specific skill set necessary to do what he does.


SCB: Do you have plans to go into the mission/history/structure of the ABSD (American Bureau for Special Defense)? I definitely feel like we’re really only seeing the very tip of the iceberg in number one.


Ryan Black: The A.B.S.D was started as an initiative to combat powers which emerged long before the nuclear arms race.  It was created in opposition to super-terrorists backing cruel dictators and the like.  They were given carte blanche and functioned above and behind the President of the US and it was fine for a long time.  At some point in the 80’s though, greed and malice began to rot the bureau from within and so there is a constant struggle among the top brass, some of whom are good honest men and women. But, yes, we will see more of the history there and it plays into the main conflict of the first ten issues or so.


SCB: Bear with me a moment while I set up a big stoner question. Witchammer’s power is to draw Dark Matter from the world around him. Dark Matter is a theoretical concept derived to help explain the overall structure of our universe. The idea – if I remember correctly because it’s been years since I was really into this stuff – the concept of Dark Matter arose to help explain why the Universe doesn’t collapse under its own gravitational force and the basic precepts of String Theory. I’m wondering if there are going to be any… universal ramifications for the continued use of his power. Displacing that kind of energy seems like it could eventually knock something somewhere out of whack. Granted, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t take it down this path because when you get into the whys and wherefores of Quantum Physics things get slippery. It just seemed a glaringly obvious question.


Ryan Black: That is a good question.  Its nice to see people who did their homework long before I ever thought about Witchhammer or Eric Evans.  Yes.  He absorbs theoretical matter and harnesses it into blasts and other forms of offensive and defensive attacks.  And somewhere, at some other end of the toilet-paper tube, it fucks shit up.  I’m trying to write a lot of this stuff as scientifically correct as I can but I am bending some rules as I go and developing some of my own theories on things.  Science fiction is fun like that.  The theoretical quality of dark matter allows for some creative license but there needs to be some adherence to “fact” for it to work above a 4th grade level.  If I was just writing the G.I. Joe cartoons we watched as kids in the 80’s I could bullshit this all the way to the bank.


SCB: What is the single best piece of feedback you’ve gotten for Tension #1?


Ryan Black: Again.  I say, “Heh”… The best piece of feedback is that I need to draw more.  Which I do.  There are some really shitty panels in issue #1 but it is what it is and I’m improving every day. Also, I’ve had some people question whether or not I know how much Chinese food costs because in issue one, Eric Evans eats like thirty-seven-dollars worth.  Apparently, people thought that was a little steep for one individual’s meal.  And It is.  And I’m glad people caught that because it will make sense later.  For now, though, they just think I’m stupid.


SCB: In the last interview you mentioned wanting to do some coloring work for the bigger companies. Now, obviously you’ve been busy as hell, and the book hasn’t really been out that long, but I’m curious if you’ve made any connections or inroads yet via Tension? (If you haven’t you will.)


Ryan Black: Well, I’ve made a few connections between the internet and meeting some creators at HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina over the Summer.  We will just have to see where that leads.  I’m just now getting around to sending things out to people in the industry.  Not expecting much but…You know; fingers crossed and whatnot.  So, yes, I am still an epic failure/nobody.


SCB: How long of a story do you see in this book and these characters? Is this the kind of thing that could be an Iron Man and have infinite storylines/eras/contributors or is this like a Preacher where you’ve got point A to B to C to D mapped out (or an idea of them) and after that it’s done?


Ryan Black: I think this book could go on for a very long time.  I have a couple of defined story arcs but I see this as an ongoing series. The characters are all so varied and so rich. There are so many different types of stories there.  Cop stories, military drama, traditional superhero stuff, interpersonal drama… I would like to see some other writers play with them for an issue or two.  It would have to be the right creator for me to trust my babies to them.  I’d definitely let Warren Ellis or Kelly Sue or Matt Fraction take a swing.  Justin Jordan would know what to do with them.  Needless to say, I would shit myself if that came to pass.


SCB: Okay, I’ve picked your brain enough for the time being. Once again a hearty congratulations on the continued success of Tension and we at Joup wish you nothing but the best!!!

Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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