Matt Kindt is about to have a very busy year. Between the release of 3 STORY: SECRET FILES OF THE GIANT MAN this week, and MIND MGMT #1 in May, we’ll be getting more from the writer/artist this year than probably any other year of his career. And that’s not even taking into account his upcoming run on DC Comics FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E., which also kicks off in a few months time. We chatted with Kindt over e-mail to find out more about these titles, as well whether he, himself, is in fact a spy:
MTV Geek: I know this one-shot is a collection of stories published a little while ago, so you might be a little removed from it, but what was it like to revisit 3-Story? It almost seems like these shorts are you looking back on the main story of the book a bit? Or maybe I’m reading too much into it…
Matt Kindt: Yeah — it was interesting because I worked on the novel in a vacuum so these stories were all written after I’d gotten a ton of review and feedback and read everyone’s interpretation of the novel and what the giant represented, etc. So in a way I was coming at the story from a different perspective. But it was fun. I tried to be careful not to refute interpretations of the book in any way. I know there were a few takes on the book where I was like ’uhh…not what I had in mind…’ but I like those takes as much as what my real intention was. So I didn’t want to cancel those out in any way.
I think when I was done with the book I had these ideas for all of these secret missions that this giant man went on, but if I’d gotten into them it would have changed the book. I was pretty strict on myself with the point of view in the book — I never wanted to have the giant man’s POV. I wanted it to be a distinct portrait of him by the three women in his life so adding these side stories would have wrecked that I think. But outside of the book, I think they’re safe to exist.
MK: I think that was pretty close to the same time period so there wasn’t too big of a jump there. I think I’d just finished Revolver though which I used a little more detailed and raw style on so I did dial it down a bit so it would be a little softer and fit with the look of the novel. I’m in a much different place now so I’m not sure if I could pull that off again…
Geek: This may have been well covered back when 3-Story came out, but I’m curious whether there was some monument, or vista or something that influenced how you approach these tales… I ask because it almost seems like the themes are how the world around us influences our lives in subtle – and not so subtle ways.
MK: That’s an interesting question. And I’m not sure I even know the answer. But location is always fundamental to me when telling a story. Sometimes a story will appear and I find a location that fits it, and other times I’m in love with a location and I find a story that fits it, if that makes sense. And with the giant man, I feel like he’s kind of a location unto himself, so it’s interesting to see what impact he brings to a place…and in the Egyptian story, show what impact the location has on him. Without getting to into my motives, it does become a kind of clash of cultures. Or at least contrast of cultures.
Geek: Do you think there’s more stories to tell with, er, 3-Story? Or are you done with that world for now?
MK: I wouldn’t be opposed to doing a few more stories but I do feel like it’s pretty much done. Everything I’ve done to date (with the exception of the upcoming MIND MGMT) I’ve always designed to work as a sort of clock-work kind of book. I don’t like putting extras at the back or sketchbook stuff — I think that takes you out of the story — and to me the cover and back cover and everything in that book is part of the experience so when I do something like that it doesn’t even really occur to me to do something more. But there was a little itch I didn’t get to scratch in 3 Story — because I’d constrained myself to the three distinct POVs in the book — and part of me really wanted to see the giant man in action (of sorts). So I felt like doing these short stories, safely sequestered outside of the graphic novel was okay to do.
Geek: Briefly, where’s the film at right now? Any progress? And will we finally get to see that big budget Craig Pressgang vs. invading alien armies scenes we all want as fans?
MK: Ha! Oh man, no way. Lance Black is finishing up the next draft of the screenplay for WB and it’s really great. I loved the first draft. I think he really nailed what the book was about and stayed really faithful to it. There’s hardly any dialogue in the book though, so it’s hard to have a movie without it — and so that was his biggest contribution I think — he really brought the characters to life in a way that makes the movie worth doing. Lance was so reverent to the book and myself. I ended up sharing a bunch of background material on the characters and insights that aren’t necessarily in the book to give him some more perspective and things to work with — backstory and things that no one ever sees. And he just knocked it out of the park. So once the screenplay is approved, casting begins…
MK: I’m building this world around the premise that a secret organization of super spies with mind powers has existed since World War I and now we’re in present day and the organization has disbanded under mysterious circumstances. We follow a writer as she tries to track down one of the agents and uncovers the history of MIND MGMT and sees a lot of really crazy things. Disappearing cities, typing dolphins, assassins that can’t be killed, and a lot of mind-bending twists. The conceit is similar to what I’d done on Super Spy — what’s it like to be a spy in World War II — but I’ve taken that process and applied it to “what’s it like to be a spy with mind powers” — and what’s it like to be a regular person in that world as well.
Geek: What’s it been like to tackle and plan out an ongoing series, versus a graphic novel or short story?
MK: It’s completely different in so many ways. The main mental hurdle for me was “why do a monthly book?” Most people I feel tend to wait for trades now so why am I bothering with a monthly comic? So my answer to that was, make it a comic that’s designed to be read monthly. I think a lot of modern comics tend to be consume so quickly – reading 20 pages in 10 minutes doesn’t really seem like cost-effective entertainment to me. So I’m making sure that each issue is pretty dense. You should be able to get a good stand-alone reading experience and I’ve lace every issue with enough hidden information and side-stories on the inside covers/back covers that ideally you’d have to read it a couple times to get it all. And I’m not ignoring the form either. I grew up reading monthly comics via subscription – when they came creased and folded in the mail. And I want to get back to that. There’s going to be a letters page and they back ad on each issue is actually hiding secret stuff — and each one is a piece of a bigger puzzle that you’ll literally have to put together.
I’m really having fun with the format. There’s so much you can get away with in a monthly book that you can’t pull off in a graphic novel.
Geek: With Mind MGMT, you return to a shady world of double-dealing and spies… Are you secretly a spy?
MK: Ha! No. Seriously, I would be the WORST spy ever. I’m oblivious to everything around me…mostly because I’m daydreaming about stories I’m working on. That’d be a good cover story though…
Geek: Seriously though, what’s the fascination for you with the genre?
MK: I don’t know! Seriously, I don’t. All I can think of is my sort of fascination with the idea of living a lifestyle that is outside of normal daily constraints. The idea of “acting” normal but secretly you’re doing something that has a larger purpose to it. Without getting too deep…I feel like we all do that a little bit. Do a little bit of drudgery during our day knowing that we’re doing it for another reason that no one knows about.
It’s kind of a writer’s life in a way too. The idea that I’m sitting next to you at a coffee shop checking my facebook or twittering or something…but that’s not what I’m really doing! What I’m really doing is living (writing) in a world of mind-bending super agents that are plotting to take over the world!
Geek: You, of course, have been very involved in the design of a lot of books, both your own, and others… How much do you think overall package designs plays into both the feeling of the book for the reader, and for the people creating the book?
MK: I think the design of the book is easily as important as anything on the inside. The cover is in reality the first page of that book. The story starts as soon as the reader sees the cover…and the story isn’t over until the back cover. I think that’s what makes covers difficult though too — because it has to service the story but it also has to get someone to pick it up off the shelf. It’s easily the toughest part of creating a book.
Geek: Tying the last two together, I just wanted to mention that years ago I got a cigar box sent to me from Top Shelf full of Super Spy material, and odds and ends – it’s still my favorite press pack I’ve ever gotten. I don’t know that I have a question about this, other than, “That’s pretty cool, right?”
MK: Ha! Yeah — who doesn’t love getting that kind of weird stuff in the mail? I love getting packages! I don’t send out much anymore because I literally have no free time — but you should come by my table at a convention sometime — I try to simulate that experience by having a lot of nutty stuff on my table…
Geek: You’re taking over DC’s Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. with issue ten… What’s it been like jumping into an ongoing series like that? And what’s your approach to the characters, versus what Jeff Lemire is doing?
MK: It’s actually a lot of fun. I think I had gotten this sort of reputation as an indie guy that’s too cool for mainstream stuff — but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve got color copies made of the first check I ever got from Marvel and DC. I’ve wanted to do work for them since I was 10 years old! I grew up on those characters. What happened is that I broke into the industry in a way, in hindsight, was the best way possible. I broke in by doing my own books and telling the stories I wanted to tell in exactly the way I wanted to tell them. So now, as I get older and I’ve been around for a bit, and have a library of books behind me — I’m actually getting work that the kid in me always wanted, but I’m getting asked to do things based on the strength of my own personal work and the editors I’ve worked with have all asked me to do what I do — and not just fill a roster spot.
And so…the byproduct of that is that the work I’m doing for DC is extremely satisfying. I’d brainstormed character and plot stuff with Jeff last year when he started, just for fun and so there’s a few things we came up with together that he didn’t get a chance to get to, that I’m going to touch on (Mummy origin!) and other things. I think what I’m going to bring to it is a slightly different style of how the story is told — but when you work with these company owned characters you’re part of a larger tapestry – a collaboration with every creator that’s come before you so it’s fun to keep all that has happened before in your mind while trying to add a new piece. And at the end of the day my goal is just to tell a really good story. These stories just happen to star Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.!
Geek: To wrap up, you’ve gone from working on graphic novels long-term, to two ongoing series, shorts, and more. What’s the adjustment period been like, and will we see even MORE from you in the future? Or is this enough for right now?
MK: You’ll definitely be seeing more. I finished a 280 page graphic novel for First Second called Strange Crimes that will be out next year. I just finished that before starting MIND MGMT and Frankenstein so that will hit in 2013 and I don’t have to lift a finger — it’s already done! And I’m penciling the sequel to Super Spy, called Super Natural that should be done by the end of the year. So yeah — hopefully you don’t get sick of seeing me the next few years!
3 STORY: SECRET FILES OF THE GIANT MAN hits comic book stands on April 18th; MIND MGMT #1 on May 23rd, both from Dark Horse Comics!