Matt Kindt Goes MonthlyA comics interview article by: Nick Boisson
Matt Kindt has been lending his vision to genre-comics for quite some time: crime and mystery in Pistolwhip and Revolver, spies and espionage in 2 Sisters and Super Spy plus monsters and horror in The Tooth. Now, Kindt has brought back one of his original characters to Dark Horse with 3 Story: Secret Files of the Giant Man as well as venturing into the monthly series with Mind MGMT (also at Dark Horse) and taking over writing duties on DC's Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. We talked to Kindt about his career up to this point, his take on webcomics and his upcoming journey into the territory of the monthly issue comic.
Nick Boisson for Comics Bulletin: All right, let's start from the beginning. How did you get your first start in comics?
Matt Kindt: Well, my first start came in 2000. I was out of school and was doing graphic design for a living, while just doing comics in my spare time after work. I did a bunch of mini-comics that I would just take around to local shops, and then I got to the point where maybe I had gotten good enough to try doing a book. So, I did Pistolwhip, my first graphic novel.
I did the whole book, put it all together, mocked it up, had Kinko's square-bind them, put a cover on it, got cover letters together, made little trading cards to go with it and had fake cigarettes that I put my website on. And I put this whole package together and I went to San Diego in 2000. I handed them out to different publishers that I thought might be interested. I had made about 20 of those, but I only handed out about 12 of them. I thought that this would be my one chance to get published. I figured that if I could do it, then I'll keep doing it.
A week later, I had gotten home and Top Shelf called. Chris Staros had left a message on my machine and said, "We love this book and we want to publish it just as it is." After that, I was just hopping up and down because I was so excited! All I was thinking was, "Wow! That was so easy!" Of course, it wasn't easy. Prior to that, I had done about 600 pages of mini-comics before making Pistolwhip. It took a lot of work, but I knew I wasn't ready to be published yet.
But after that, it was pretty easy. I'd established a good relationship with Top Shelf and made a sequel to Pistolwhip, then 2 Sisters and Super Spy and just kept going from there.
CB: One thing I had noticed with Super Spy, which was in the same universe as 2 Sisters, was the jump from black-and-white, pencils-and-inks artwork in 2 Sisters and Pistolwhip to watercolor art. How did that jump happen?
Kindt: After 2 Sisters, I knew I wanted to do more stuff with the spies and with that universe, and I was just laid off from my job either right after 2 Sisters came out or as I was starting to put Super Spy together. So, since I had a lot of extra time on my hands, I decided that I would do Super Spy as a free weekly online comic. I would put a new chapter out every week and try it out for a year. When you do it online, you could put it out in color, it doesn't cost extra and there's no publisher that will worry about printing costs. I don't even think I told Top Shelf about it until I'd already started. I was just gonna do it! So I made the shift to color.
I had never used color before, and I thought it was a good time to do it. So I did, and it was just great to be able to incorporate color as a way of helping tell the story. In that book, depending on what part of the world the story was in, the color shifted. Germany was in blues, Spain was in oranges and England in greens. I wanted to try and use color in a neat way.
CB: And I know that you've been using watercolors for your art ever since. Do you prefer that for your color work versus coloring in inks or even digitally?
Kindt: I definitely enjoy watercolor. Every book I do, I try to do as much of it on paper [as I can]. Not to say that I don't use a computer to do things afterward -- add texture, fix colors and different things -- but I do like to do as much as I can by hand on paper.
That said, I'm working on a sequel to Super Spy, and I was testing different methods. I did a test where I would just pencil the pages and then color the pages in Photoshop and a couple other methods while timing how long each one took. It was actually a half-hour faster to do everything on the computer, and I ended up liking the way it looked, as well. But, the more I thought about it, I realized that my original art was just pencils on paper and I didn't really like that. I liked seeing the original art and having it in color. If I did it in Photoshop, I wouldn't have that anymore.
So, to me, it wasn't worth it. I save half an hour doing it on the computer, but I'd rather just spend the time and have a really nice looking page when I'm done.
CB: Definitely worth it! While many nowadays start out doing webcomics, some creators -- like you -- are doing them after already being established in the medium as a way of doing what they want to do without working in the confines of the system. How much do you like that versus working for a publisher?
Kindt: I like it a lot! The big difference is that it doesn't pay. [Laughs] Publishers definitely pay a lot better right now. But it was one of those things I always kicked around. And I'm not opposed to maybe doing another webcomic now or something designed for the iPad or for e-reading. And I probably will do it again, but as long as I am able to find publishers willing to pay me and there's an audience there, I'm just going to keep doing it that way because it's fun and I like holding a book in my hand.
But, at the same time, I found that there are things that you can do with a digital comic that you can't do with a book. It has its advantages with just being able to control the readers' experience a bit better. When I did Super Spy, I was able to do panels as pages. So you would see a panel and click to the next and the next and the next. It was impossible for you to turn the page and see the whole page at once or see what happens next out of the corner of your eye. Being able to control what the reader sees and telling a story that way is very appealing to me, and I see it as a great advantage.
CB: Later, you put out a book with Dark Horse called 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man. And recently, you have been contributing stories from the life of main character Craig Pressgang to Dark Horse's anthology comic series, Dark Horse Presents, which are now being collected in a single volume (3 Story: Secret Files of the Giant Man). Where did the concept behind 3 Story come from?
Kindt: I went up to see family near Buffalo, where my dad's side of the family lives, and I had met one of my third cousins and he was just a really big guy. Not like a giant's size; about seven feet tall, I guess. Just a big guy. He was a really interesting guy. He was a detective, and I thought that was cool. But it wasn't until the 15-hour drive home that I got the idea.
His story is the same as in the book. He had a tumor near his pituitary gland and it was making him grow, and where you normally stop growing at a certain age, he kept growing. So, they found the tumor, took it out and now he's fine and perfectly normal. But then I was thinking, "What if they hadn't found that? What would he be like?" What would it be like to be huge, just impossibly tall? That's where it came from. Then I thought, "What would your life be like? Where would you get your clothes? What kind of job would you have? What would your relationships be like?" I started to build the whole thing on this car ride, and when I got home, I just took a bunch of notes and started working on it.
CB: Many of your stories -- 2 Sisters, Super Spy, Pistolwhip, 3 Story -- all take place primarily in the past. What is it about the past that speaks to you creatively?
Kindt: Part of it is that, artistically, it is more interesting to draw things from a different era. I stare at present day things all the time, so I'm a little bored of those. I'd rather draw a car from the '60s or the '50s and clothes from the '40s with hats. A lot of it is just an aesthetic choice that I've made.
But recently -- with Revolver especially -- I thought it didn't make sense having it in a different era and that it needed to be present day. And it wasn't difficult making the shift. It was the first book that I've done that takes place in the present day and it was fine. It wasn't as much fun to draw modern cars, but it was fine. [Laughs]
I'm just a big fan of history, too. I like embedding stories in a historical context. I think it makes them a little richer.
CB: Now, you have two ongoing series coming up. You are taking over Jeff Lemire's writing duties on Frankenstein: Agent of S.HA.D.E., and you have a new creator-owned series over at Dark Horse, Mind MGMT. Let's start with Mind MGMT. Please tell us what that series is all about.
Kindt: Mind MGMT is set in modern day and follows a writer who is working on a follow-up to her true crime book. She is investigating a mysterious event where a plane landed and everyone aboard lost their entire memory. So, she starts to chip away at that mystery and it leads her to another mystery in a village in Mexico [whose people] also lost their memories. She follows this trail and realizes that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it leads her to this secret organization known as Mind MGMT, which she learns bit and pieces about as she goes along.
Basically, it is a spy organization that trains people with different mind powers. So there are different agents floating around with the organization. Some of them have super mind-over-body abilities such that if you shoot them, it won't kill them because they believe they can't be killed. They're like the super assassins! [Laughs] There is another guy that can read the mind of any living thing within about 100 feet of himself and anticipate what's going to happen based on people's thoughts and intentions. I'm trying to come up with all these characters that have a little twist on different mind powers.
Then, there's the ultimate guy she is looking for and finds in an early issue and -- I won't give away too much -- he has the super-ability. [Laughs] But then you'll get the whole back story of Mind MGMT, and there's a lot going on. It takes place in present day, but the history of this organization goes back to World War I, so you'll get little bits and pieces of that, too.
It's the first monthly series that I've done. As I was doing it, I was thinking, "Why am I doing a monthly book? What can I do with this?" Just as I was doing when I was doing comics online, I was thinking of what I could do that is unique to this medium. And, to me, monthly books are unique. In my mind, they have to work as a stand-alone read, but also be a piece of something bigger. And since there are 30 days between each issue, I want to make sure that there is a lot of content in each one. That way, you're not just buying a four dollar book and spending ten minutes on it and then forgetting about it. I'm trying to make it a little denser. There is the main story, but there are also inside back cover mini-stories that give back history. There are hidden messages all throughout. There are no real ads in the book, so I put in fake ads. The first six issues have fake ads on the back cover for things like zit cream and chewing gum. But they're so that when you piece them together, they create a puzzle that give you a code number that leads you to something else that's online. It will be a puzzle box of a series, I hope.
CB: That sounds great. Most publishers and creators are usually creating their monthly comics for the trade paperback sales these days, but it seems like you are looking to make it more of a worthwhile monthly experience.
Kindt: Yeah. Part of it is that I grew up reading those [kinds of comics] as a kid and it was a different reading experience. They're coming out month-to-month, you buy a few of them and you're just reading them over and over again until the next one comes out. I wanted to re-create that rather than something that is a light read, a Chapter One to a trade paperback. I can do that. I've done that. I've already done graphic novels. The reason to do something like this is to give you something else, something different. I hope that people wouldn't wait for the trade, and I'm trying to write it so that it is better as a monthly book than as a trade, if that's possible. I'm actually putting in some things that won't be in the trade and only be available in the monthly book. The trade won't really be complete. The monthly issues will be the complete story.
We'll see how that works. [Laughs]
CB: How did you become the next writer on Frankenstein over at DC?
Kindt: Hmm... I pick my friends well. [Laughs] Jeff [Lemire] and I have been friends for a long time. We came up together in the industry. We hang out a lot. I go to TCAF every year and always crash at his place. Last year, when I was staying with him, he had just gotten the job. At the time, he was worried if he would have the time to write it. Then we were talking about it and brainstormed different ideas for the character back-stories. He had outlined most of it already, but we had so much fun throwing ideas back and forth. Then, when he finally didn't have enough time to do -- because they put him on Justice League Dark -- he recommended me and I was able to accept.
CB: So now you are working on two monthlies for two completely different publishers. How do you like working on both of those?
Kindt: Oh, it's fun! And with Frankenstein, I don't have to draw it, which is a great relief, and doing the writing only is kind of a nice break. I don't write full scripts for myself. I write an outline, thumbnail it and I have notes, but I don't have to type up a full script. But for Frankenstein, I just have to type and type. I can go into a coffee shop, put my headphones on and just work. And now that I'm jumping back and forth between the two, I don't get bored. [Laughs] And I used to be. I would spend weeks and weeks penciling, then weeks and weeks inking. And after one week of doing any of those, I'd get burned out. But this way, I'm not burned out at all because I have to jump from writing one thing to drawing another, then back to inking something, than spend the whole day scanning something else. It's keeping me on my toes, but it's also keeping me from being burned out, too.
CB: Now that you are writing scripts for this book, do you find that your experience as an artist is affecting how you craft your story? Do you find yourself writing as if you were going to draw it or are you writing Frankenstein for the artist, Alberto Ponticelli?
Kindt: Alberto is still doing the art and he's been on Frankenstein since the beginning. So part of me is thinking, "What do I want to see him draw?" His style is completely different from mine and, for me, it's fun to come up with some crazy stuff to see what he can do and see how it's going to look. My scripts are way harder for him than they are for me. You see, I'm lazy when I have to draw. [Laughs] So I'm putting a lot more in there for him to do. I think I'm kind of a jerk as a writer only.
But he's been great! He tends to do a certain kind of layout, having differently shaped panels, so I take that into consideration. I'm imagining him drawing it rather than me, and it does change the layouts and how many panels I have in a page. To me, that's the beauty of the collaboration. We're each bringing something different to it. When I'm writing and drawing something, I'm bringing all my own stuff. But when you introduce a different artist, you have this different brain working in a different way, but focusing on the same thing that gives you a neat result that isn't quite exactly how I imagined, and it ends up being something I like even more than what I had pictured.
CB: So, are you ever punishing him by giving Ponticelli some crazy monsters to draw?
Kindt: Totally, I am! The beauty of it is that he loves it. I am sending him notes that say, "Sorry about this one" or "Do what you can here" and he just says to me, "No, I love it!" He's putting so much into these pages. I have pretty good description [in my scripts], but he just loads it up with so much more. I can tell that he really is enjoying it.
And I hate drawing monsters, so I love watching him do it. There's a big, leviathan whale with a city living inside it that he has to go in. It was pretty crazy! He just drew it and it looks awesome!
CB: Sounds great! What comics are you reading right now?
Kindt: Truthfully, I probably read more prose novels than I do comics, right now. Working on them all the time, it becomes much harder to enjoy reading comics like I used to. Because I can't be sucked into the story the same way like before I did them. When I was a kid, I ended up thinking about everything: the process, the artist, what the writer is trying to do or the design of it. So, I don't get as sucked into the story as much.
But I do still read comics. Like, in vain -- just trying to be entertained the way I used to be. [Laughs] I'm reading all the New 52 books just to keep up on them and see what book I can take over next. [Laughs] My friend, Brian Hurtt, bought Prophet by Image. He gave me the first two issues of those and I thought they were so great! This is the same Prophet from the '90s with Rob Liefeld, but not really. I loved that story and the art on it is fantastic! And, of course, Animal Man and Swamp Thing. But those are [created by] my friends, so you have to take those recommendations for what they are. [Laughs] I think they're great books, anyway. Blue Estate has been good. I like the art on that book. That's all I can think of off-hand.
CB: Thanks a lot for talking with us! I am looking forward to both books and anything else you have coming out.
Kindt: Thanks for having me.
3 Story: Secret Files of the Giant Man will be out on April 18th from Dark Horse.
And don't forget to check out Matt's upcoming new monthly series: Mind MGMT debuting on May 23rd and the beginning of his first arc on Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. starting with #10 on June 13th!