Six Questions With Ryan Cady About Infinite Dark From Top Cow

by Tony Thornley

Ryan Cady is one of those names in comics that you’re starting to hear more and more about. Whether it’s his work with Top Cow, or his name among the members of the DC Talent Workshop, he’s a rising star. Now, he is launching his first ever creator-owned series with Andrea Mutti, K. Michael Russell and Troy Peteri, Infinite Dark, at Top Cow/Image. With the series coming in October, we got to sit down with Ryan and discuss the series and how it came together.

Tony Thornley: Thanks for sitting down with me Ryan! What’s the elevator pitch for Infinite Dark?

Ryan Cady: Thanks for chatting, Tony! The quick pitch is this – “A couple thousand humans survived the end of the universe in a special vessel called The Orpheus, and now they’re waiting in nonexistence for a new big bang. But two years into this waiting, there are some grisly murders, and while investigating them, the station’s Security Director is forced to confront unimaginable, cosmic horrors that may prove her undoing…and humanity’s.”

The idea of the Heat Death of the Universe has terrified me for a long time, and I really wanted to distill that cosmic concept into something that could be  personally horrifying, to take this Newtonian nightmare, and make it feel real and threatening. Of course, the entropy outside and the murderer inside aren’t the only threats to these people, and that’ll be evident by the end of the first issue. If I did the thing right, it’s a sci-fi horror tale like the first Alien movie — a survival horror experience.

TT: Who are the characters we meet in the series?

RC: Our protagonist is Deva Karrell, the station’s security director. She’s a noble, fiercely protective person, but she’s carrying around a lot of survivor’s guilt, which sometimes puts her at odds with her fellow directors – Lynn Tenant, a kind of by-the-books manager type in charge of day-to-day operations, and Ike Chalos, a space hippie psychiatrist who’s in charge of personnel. There’s actually a fourth director to the station, a shlubby technology expert named Alvin Scheidt, but for reasons that will become obvious early on, he won’t be holding that position for long.

There’s also Deva’s right hand man named Sebastian, a stuffy British station AI designated “SM1TH,” and these dudes called “technolinguists,” who manage computers and stuff on board that’ll prove to be pretty important – one of them, Director Scheidt’s assistant, named Kirin Tal-shi, will show up quite a bit throughout the series. Then there are the two thousand or so other folks living on The Orpheus, staff that planned to be caring for a much larger population, trying their best to carry on in this massive station and stay hopeful surrounded by total oblivion.

All of these people are, unfortunately, having a really rough go of it.TT: How did the creative team come together?

RC: I’d been wanting to work with Andrea Mutti for a LOOOONG time, and after a few false starts on other projects, we started putting the pitch together last June. At this point, Top Cow had a few sci-fi things in the mix, so I wasn’t sure they’d be interested, but Matt Hawkins is usually the first person I pitch to – I love doing work with the Cow. Luckily, the horror angle kind of separated it from the rest of Top Cow’s line, so it ended up fitting into their slate quite nicely.

From there the team just came together – K. Michael Russell was one of my favorite colorists from my erstwhile days as an editorial assistant, and when Top Cow brought his name up, I knew he’d be perfect. Troy Peteri seemed like a no-brainer cause of his connection to the company, and his first pass at letters was a slam dunk.

And since this is my first real creator-owned, I really wanted a story editor I could trust and hash things out with, so I leaned on Alex Lu from our days hanging out in New York City together. The dude has proved invaluable – all of them have. I feel super blessed with this team.

TT: What is so evocative about the blend of science fiction and horror?

RC: My favorite horror stories have a strong supernatural element to them, but those sorts of tales are always easier to write off (at least, in the cold light of day) – ghosts aren’t real, vampires aren’t coming after your family, yadda yadda yadda. And slasher flicks aren’t usually too frightening to me because ultimately it’s just some dude – there’s always a way to beat them.

But with science fiction, you can get the best of both worlds – you can have something that we’d never see here on planet earth, but with this half-promise that it is real, it is possible. One day this could happen to you, if our lives progress down this path. Most scientists I know do believe in the Heat Death of the Universe – I’m taking a few liberties with timelines and entropy as a concept, but the setting for Infinite Dark isn’t outside the realm of possibility. It’s fun to lean on psychology, too – the way we study depression and anxiety and how those sciences and perspectives can help and hurt us.

And for a lot of readers, hopefully, that’ll remove the distance and the comfort zone…so once I really go full throttle with the horror, they’re already hooked into the immersion of it all.

TT: Why was now the right time to jump into a creator owned story?

RC: You know, I think most creators at my level have been pitching creator owned books for awhile – there was a brief window a few years ago where it seemed the career path was to put out a creator owned as a nobody and then suddenly you’d get for hire work and propel yourself into being a “name,” or whatever. Now it feels a bit more free-for-all.

I’ve actually had a couple creator owned stories greenlit, but because of weird publishing stuff, or a co-creator’s inability to do the project, they had to get delayed or even cancelled. That’s just the way it goes some times. But with Infinite Dark, from the beginning, everyone at Top Cow was really supportive and the whole team seemed jazzed – it felt real.

And more than that, the story felt more personal than others I’d pitched, like something I needed to put out. I was in a really rough place, mentally, for much of 2017, and so much of Infinite Dark is about surviving horror and guilt and depression, about human beings able to rise past their demons – cosmic and psychological. I hope that I can do those themes justice, and hopefully connect with readers who’ve gone through some shit.

TT: What are you most excited for us the readers to see?

RC: There are so many horror sequences that the art team just knocked out of the park, and there are some killer cliffhanger moments and “Gotcha!” panels that I can’t wait to talk about, even from the get-go.

In the series, there’s this VR system, that people on board The Orpheus use to play games or relax or, in the case of many of our characters, undergo therapy in calming environments, and using that conceit we’ve been able to do some CRAZY things, visually speaking. There’s this moment in issue #2 that Andrea drew perfectly, where one of those VR therapy sessions goes a little topsy turvy. I can’t wait for people to see those pages.

Also, the end of issue #3. If I played my cards right, that might end up being my favorite moment in the entire series, and Andrea and K. Michael will undoubtedly use it to blow readers’ minds.

TT: Thanks Ryan!

Infinite Dark is out in October from Image Comics/Top Cow!