Smash Pages Q&A | Che Grayson + Kelsey Ramsay on ‘Dark Spaces: Good Deeds’

The co-creators of the new title from Scott Snyder’s new imprint at IDW discuss how they came to comics, their approach to the story and more.

Last summer, after the release of Dark Spaces: Wildfire, IDW announced that writer Scott Snyder would curate a series of comics under the “Dark Spaces” label, written and drawn by different creators. They also announced the second title from the imprint, Dark Spaces: Good Deeds by writer Che Grayson and artist Kelsey Ramsay.

When the announcement was made, Snyder said his intent with the line was to “champion up-and-coming talent,” but “up-and-coming” may not apply to Grayson and Ramsay for long, based on what I’ve seen in the first issue. Together they’ve created a compelling “Southern Gothic” horror tale that draws as much from real-world fears as it does from the supernatural. I caught up with the writer and artist to talk about how it all came together, their approach to the story and more.

The first issue will arrive in stores on May 17.

Good Deeds #1 cover by Kelsey Ramsay

Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1 cover by Kelsey Ramsay

Thanks to both of you for your time in answering my questions. I thought I’d start with your secret origins — how did you first discover comics? And what made you want to create them?

Che Grayson: I discovered comics while in film school at NYU. I had just finished writing and directing my second film and I was really burnt out both creatively and financially. My good friend at NYU at the time was an artist and with no money to make another film I pitched working together to try our hand at comics and she was immediately on board. I had always been into genre and superhero films and television like The Walking Dead and X-Men but this was my first time going straight to the source. I went to my local comic shop, Forbidden Planet, and was recommended Sweet Tooth and Y The Last Man and haven’t looked back since.

As I devoured comic after comic my friend and I took the first step and Kickstarted our own comic project, Rigamo, which we did the first issue of and began going to local comic conventions and festivals to meet others in the industry and share our work. I’ve been fortunate enough that it led me to getting into writing comics professionally. As a filmmaker, writing comics has been one of the most gratifying decisions I’ve made because I feel like comics made me a better genre filmmaker and vice versa.

Ramsay: I was always drawn to long sequential projects like animation and comics as a young’en, and with my extensive love for books and stories, it just made sense. Also, my mum has always been a longtime fan of comics, and it took years for me to understand what she was on about, but eventually, I saw the light!

Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1 artwork by Kelsey Ramsay + colors by Ronda Pattison

And what brought the two of you together to work on Good Deeds?

Grayson: All thanks to our brilliant editor Maggie Howell. She sent me a list of possible artists when Good Deeds got greenlit with Kelsey being her number one pick. When I saw Kelsey’s work I was so awestruck; I knew she was the only collaborator who could bring this project to life in the way it deserved. So thankful she said yes to coming on board.

Ramsay: After having had a chat with some amazing people at IDW, I was later sent the pitch for Che’s Good Deeds and was instantly excited to get on board. My favorite stories have nuanced characters, twists and turns in the plot and it had all that and more, so it was so easy to want to be a part of this project. Also, Che is just awesome!

Good Deeds is the second title in the Dark Spaces line that Scott Snyder is curating. How did you become involved with the Dark Spaces line, and how has Scott been involved in the process?

Grayson: Scott is one of my closest friends in the industry and I’m so grateful for the support he’s given me as a writer and fellow horror lover. My idea for Good Deeds was in early stages when I pitched it to him, and we workshopped it together before I worked on a treatment which then got sent to Mark Doyle at IDW who fortunately loved it. Scott and I have similar sensibilities in terms of the kind of horror we love and the darker themes we like to explore in our work. It’s been so awesome working on Good Deeds in this Dark Spaces universe.

Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1 artwork by Kelsey Ramsay + colors by Ronda Pattison

One thing Good Deeds has in common with the previous Dark Spaces title, Wildfire, is colorist Ronda Pattison, who did phenomenal work on Wildfire and is bringing that same level here. Kelsey, how closely did you work with Ronda in terms of choosing the color palette to set the right mood for the story?

Grayson: Ronda is an absolute powerhouse. I knew from her work on Wildfire that she would bring the atmosphere and vibrancy that the story called for. We really gave her free reign to shape the kind of palette that makes Good Deeds feel like the kind of Southern Gothic, psychological slowburn that I was going for.

Ramsay: Unfortunately, I haven’t worked very closely with Ronda, but she is such a talented versatile colorist. I trusted she would match the mood and air to Good Deeds while still bringing the life and creativity she gave to Dark Spaces: Wildfire, and of course she absolutely delivered!

Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1 variant covers by Elizabeth Beals, Hayden Sherman, Martin Morazzo with colors by Chris O’Halloran

So I’m still trying to decide what I found more terrifying about the first issue — the opening sequence with Jean’s nightmare/vision or the parts set at Cheyenne’s high school. Can you talk about balancing the more supernatural aspects that are hinted at in this first issue with the real-world horrors the characters encounter?

Grayson: This is a great question. One of my favorite television shows in the last 10 years is The Haunting of Hill House. I love the way Mike Flanagan uses the characters’ real world trauma to heighten the supernatural horrors of the show. That’s what I’m trying to go for with Good Deeds. There’s nothing more terrifying than being a teenager and I really wanted to speak to Cheyenne’s reality in a way that makes the reader connect with her. Not many people have seen ghosts, but I’d bet most know what it’s like to feel unwanted or unworthy and low on the high school food chain. As for what’s haunting Jean, I think the “why” of why she’s being haunted is going to be the most terrifying part of all. You’ll just have to keep reading to find out what that is.

What can you tell us about the characters, particularly Jean and Cheyenne, and this quick bond they seem to form from both being new in town?

Grayson: I think the reason Jean and Cheyenne work really well is because they are outsiders, for whatever reason they’ve come to St. Augustine and are on the outside looking in which means they see the historic town in a way most of the born and bred residents don’t. Jean is trying to prove herself as a super-ambitious young woman who at one point “had it all” but has since fallen from grace. Cheyenne is a self-assured teenager who holds her cards close to the chest but when they come together they are allowed to be more vulnerable than the world often allows and that’s one of my favorite things about their dynamic.

Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1 artwork by Kelsey Ramsay + colors by Ronda Pattison

What can readers expect from the rest of the miniseries?

Grayson: They can expect a supernatural psychological slow burn and murder mystery wrapped up in Southern Gothic goodness. Each issue raises the stakes while our main characters Jean and Cheyenne race to uncover the truth with terrifying consequences. I also just really want to scare the pants off my readers and maybe walk away from this story thinking about the history of this country in a way they’ve never done before.

Besides Good Deeds, what else have you been working on?

Grayson: My full-time job outside of comics is as a TV writer in animation. I just finished working on a show and now in the midst of TV development work. But the thing I’m most excited about is the graphic novel I have coming out with Abrams called The Hollow, which is also horror. It’ll be a couple of years before that comes out, but I’m excited to continue in the horror space.

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