CHUM is a surf/ noir mini-series where an unloved triangle on a small island leads to blood in the water.
It tells the story of Summer Stanwyck, a woman who feels trapped. She tends bar on the island she grew up on, the local cop is about to become her ex-husband, and she’s wasting time screwing the local reefer kingpin.
But when a bag full of cash and drugs falls into her lap, she sees a way out… and anyone who gets in her way is shark bait.
Black Ship Books had a chance to interview the creative team behind the mini-series and discuss this fresh take on the Neo-Noir genre.
1. CHUM is clearly inspired by pulp crime paperbacks as well as Neo-Noir works. Will certain character archetypes from these genres be appearing in the comic? And if so, what form will they take?
Ryan K Lindsay: I’ve definitely synthesised a lot of archetypes to populate this cast. Summer is a femme fatale, no doubt. And she’s the best kind that has full agency over her story. Every decision is pretty much hers.
Whereas with her soon-to-be ex, Standard, he’s filling some very downtrodden gumshoes. He’s that terrible sort of leading man who can’t actually run his own story straight.
We then have Penny who is a slimy drug dealer of the best variety, kind of like a cross between Floyd and Drexl in TRUE ROMANCE [for those that can dig it], and Gus is that weaponised fool who gets used because despite his hulking form, he is just a set of emotional blunders keeping him from any kind of happy ending.
2. The series is described as a “Surf Noir Series.” I was fascinated by this. Obviously, the description partly refers to the island setting. But I’ve also noticed surf and marine analogies used in the marketing campaign. How central is the setting and the ocean to the story?
Ryan K Lindsay: The ocean is definitely a large part of the tale. I find water fascinating because it’s ubiquitous and it’s dangerous and it can be the thing that carries you on your getaway as easily as it can be the darkness into which you expire.
The aspect of the water and what’s in it plays a massive part for the whole story from the opening panel to the final page, which is why we’ve steered into that skid and littered our images and word choices with oceanic connotations.
3. And what inspired you to set a crime comic on an island? It’s a novel idea and definitely sets it apart.
Ryan K Lindsay: Having the story on an island makes this narrative a crucible for our characters. It makes every relationship and decision feel insular. And it helps reinforce the struggle that plagues Summer – she wants to get off the island and there’s a very clear and deep thing stopping her in the surrounding water.
I also know that a good location can set a take apart. It becomes another character and here Kingsford Island definitely did that.
4. The promotional artwork for the comic features an interesting visual palette, somewhat subdued, with the occasional inclusion of brilliant reds. Will the comic itself be in full color, black and white or have the same palette?
Sami Kivelä: The red palette is something I wanted to use in the promotional material so that we could link it to the cover of issue #1, which is mainly blood red. I also chose that color as it’s associated with blood, violence, danger and strong emotions, which are central parts of the series.
The comic itself will be in full color and it’s brilliantly colored by Mark Dale.
Ryan K Lindsay: Yes! Mark Dale and it is breakout work from him. Sami sets up a lot of emotional pages, a lot of weight in the scenes, and Mark knocks them out of the park. You haven’t seen a sunrise on the water until you’ve read this comic.
5. Summer Stanwyck is described as someone stuck in a dead-end life and desperately seeking an escape. Most people can relate to this. Will she be the series’ protagonist?
Ryan K Lindsay: She is most definitely the lynchpin to everything that takes place in this story. When I was initially breaking this story I thought it was more of an ensemble piece but once I realised this was Summer’s story it made things click with greater resonance and it lead me toward a far stronger ending.
6. Neo-noir works are renowned for their moral ambiguity. Can any of the characters in the comic be classified as good guys or bad guys or do they all operate in the same moral gray area? I’m especially curious when it comes to Summer’s soon-to-be ex, the local lawman.
Ryan K Lindsay: I see them as good people who make very grey choices. Which for me reflects real life in a greater majority of cases than we care to admit.
No one here is categorically innocent, they are all certainly flawed, but you should feel for pretty well all of them. They all have clear struggles and they all are doing their very best. It’s the latest thing to recognise that great villains rarely see themselves as the villain, and I think the flip to this is that some of our finest heroes aren’t always doing these things with the intentions we’d hope for, or they are flawed at other times. I think that realistic aspect of human nature, the fact we are Legion when it comes to personalities and reactions, is great fuel for narrative drama.
7. Crime comics such as Sin City and 100 Bullets feature a fair amount of sex and violence. The synopsis of CHUM suggests it will remain true to the genre in this regard. What demograph are you aiming at?
Ryan K Lindsay: CHUM is aimed at any adult who digs a dirty tale, and probably also a few teenagers who were like me at that age and lapped this stuff up anyway.
I didn’t want to have to pull any punches, I wanted to go as brutal and raw as the masters of the form always used to in their pulp paperbacks.
8. What can you tell us about the narrative structure of CHUM? Will it be told in first person or from multiple viewpoints?
Ryan K Lindsay: I’ve actually chosen to emulate the form a little and go with third person narration. It’s been something new for me, and it meant I got to experiment with almost prose language at times, but it also meant we could roam around the island a little more.
9. What are some of the artistic influences when it comes to the visual look and feel of the series?
Ryan K Lindsay: One of the first things I turned to was surf music album covers and such. Then there’s the old crime paperback cover art. Beyond that it’s just a matter of getting out of Sami’s way because he’s an absolute raiser when it comes to aspects of thoughtful narrative design and emotive flow.
Sami Kivelä: The visual look and the feel of the series originate from several sources as I’m a big fan of crime and noir stories. But you could say that there’s a bit of a similar mood to Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil Born Again story arc. And of course our beach setting gives its own special touch to CHUM.
10. Crime yarns often deal with themes such as failed redemption, the consequences of poor choices and the price of greed. How does this translate into the world of CHUM and what are some of its other main themes?
Ryan K Lindsay: That’s funny because all of those themes have deep veins in CHUM. The idea of testing how far you would go for something, how bad decisions beget bad decisions in an incremental motion until you’re too far gone.
The theme of hopelessness is a fun one to play out because it makes characters erratic and you eventually have to shave down to what exactly it is that might give them hope.
The trajectory of each character is definitely tied to a very sad lesson.