Back in September, just a week before New York Comic Con, BOOM! Studios teased a new project from acclaimed creators Matt Kindt (“Mind MGMT”) and Tyler Jenkins (“Peter Panzerfaust”), debuting in March 2017.
Throughout this week, CBR has been debuting teasers for the creative team’s project. But despite the fact that the teasers have been accompanied with the phrase, “You Are Not Welcome Here,” you are indeed most welcome to read this, the very first interview with Kindt and Jenkins about “Grass Kings” — aka the pair’s new ongoing series from BOOM! Studios.
CBR: When I first learned about “Grass Kings” and read that the primary setting was a place known as Grass Kingdom, I imagined an almost magical place. But the Grass Kingdom is far from magical. At least, it reads like a place that you wouldn’t want to visit without a police escort. Matt, would you agree?
Matt Kindt: Ha! Yes – and no. I think there is a magic to the Grass Kingdom – it’s just not an obvious magic. There’s a reason this disparate group of people have banded together and staked out a claim on this piece of land. The Kingdom is an idea as much as it is anything else. A way to define freedom and a way of life. But it’s also not all that it seems. There are a lot of interesting characters that inhabit the Grass Kingdom not all of them benevolent. There are a lot of secrets and history lurking in the weeds – trying not to be discovered. The Grass Kingdom is a great place to call home if you live there but if you’re an outsider, you definitely want a police escort.
Tyler, can you please describe the aesthetics of Grass Kingdom. They were well described in the script for the first issue that I read but can you explain the visual world that you have created?
Tyler Jenkins: I moved out to the country about four years ago, and certainly, because I did not grow up rurally, it has allowed me to really see what I was looking at. The aesthetic and original inspiration for Grass Kings was 100 per cent due to me wanting to draw this world I live in now. The unbelievably beautiful, and certainly haunting, rural landscape is where the entire series grew from. It was and is extremely easy to imagine crazy things happening out here.
“Grass Kings” features a long-held feud between two rival clans that makes the Hatfields and the McCoys look like a disagreement over the remote control. What can you share about the rift – beyond the physical lake – that divides the people of Grass Kingdom and their neighbors, the citizens of Cargill?
Kindt: The Hatfields and McCoys kind of rift is very specific; I think what we’re trying to tackle with this series is a bigger rift, a kind of battle of ideas. I’ve always been fascinated with just the basic concept of ‘ownership,’ as that applies to art or objects and, in this particular case, the ownership of land. I think a lot of Indigenous peoples found that idea very foreign and that’s literally the starting point of the series. We’re really testing the idea of ownership being nine-tenths of the law. With land that becomes more interesting. How do you define ownership of a physical point in the universe? There’s a lot going on in the series and a lot of interesting characters but the location and the lake that is at the heart of all the conflict is also a major player and character, as well. We’re really tapping in to a lot of mankind’s deepest fears and the mythology that has sprung out of those fears.
Let’s talk about the lake. Matt, you called it a ‘big, dark foreboding’ character in the script. There’s obviously a long game here that will be explored in the series, but what can you tell us about the physical aspects of the lake and what it represents in the story?
Kindt: It’s going to represent something different to every character in the story, and I think the characters will end up defining it. To some, the lake is a hell – something that just takes away what you love most. To others, it’s an obstacle to a larger goal, and to some it’s a place to hide and a place to bury your secrets – sometimes literally. To me, it’s kind of a nightmare. I have a fear of water – not in general – but bodies of water where you can’t see the bottom. There’s something really unsettling about walking in a lake or swimming in a body of water where you can’t see the bottom. There’s a kind of helplessness, especially when you feel something brush your leg or you step on something and you have no idea what it is. That’s the most horrifying kind of mystery to me. And I think in a lot of ways, that’s what happening to the characters in this story. They’re walking through life like we all do and there’s some dark and mysterious things that they’re bumping into and stepping on and some of those things are very sinister.
I can’t spoil many of the plot points but early on you find out that one of the characters has lost a daughter. It will be the main ongoing mystery – learning her fate. It’s that loss and that mystery that is really the anchor of the series – an anchor that’s going to pull a lot of people down.
Tyler, did you research any specific lakes to get the look and feel you were after?
Jenkins: Not really. There are many, many lakes out here where I live and, generally speaking, like Matt, I personally find water a bit foreboding anyways.
Not sure that it matters, but I should ask that question: Where is the Grass Kingdom? I am assuming it’s fictional, but will where it’s located in America, assuming it’s America, be revealed?
Kindt: I think the actual location is incidental, even though Tyler insists it’s in Canada. Tyler and I talked about this a lot, and rather than set it in a real place. We wanted a location that is based on reality. Tyler is always sending me these amazing photos of where he lives with the fog and the hills and the animals. I imagine a place right on the border between America and Canada – a fuzzy line where this town exists. Tyler lives in a place like this and it really brought back a lot of my memories growing up. I lived in a small town of 5,000 people until I reached high school. We had woods right out our back door where I’d just take off and walk all day trying to get lost. There was something really great and calming about that isolation. There’s nothing like the sound of the woods when no one is around. It’s haunting.
Jenkins: Yeah. It’s not in America [Laughs] It’s based on fictional and certainly exaggerated rural prairie Canada. Cargill is based on any number of small towns I live by, and a lot of the Grass Kingdom is based on structures that I see every day. That being said, the themes and the setting are really pretty universal.
Okay, but could such a place actually exist? There are a lot of hints in the first script and the outline that Grass Kingdom is ‘off the grid,’ and the government more or less leaves it and its people well enough alone. Is that possible?
Kindt: Sure. I remember as a kid, flying over the States and realizing just how big and empty America is. There is so much land and I think, living here, you sort of get used to this idea that you can get in a car and drive for hours and hours, but when you fly over it all, you see these vast swaths of land with no one for miles and miles. I think if a small group of people kept their heads down and kept their profile low that you could create a little mini-nation within a nation. To do that, you’d definitely have to have the right attitude, though. You’d have to give up a lot of what we all take for granted. Things we think we ‘need.’ There was a world without Internet and email and Wi-Fi, at one point. You’d have to be willing to go back to that, I think. It’s possible. Once a year I make a habit of getting a cabin in the middle of nowhere and writing – no internet, no electronics and barely any phone service. It’s liberating. You can get so much done. You become truly aware of how little time you actually spend alone with your own thoughts without a lot of outside noise getting into your head and dominating the course of your thought process during the day.
Jenkins: I think it could to a degree, again speaking of Canada. A lot of this you could get away with. The Kingdom is not actually breaking many laws.
There is a large cast of characters in “Grass Kingdom,” which isn’t a problem for fans of “Game of Thrones” and “Walking Dead,” but there has to be a focus on a central figure or figures. What can you share about Robert, Bruce and Ashur?
Kindt: They’re brothers – Robert and Bruce are close in age and Ashur is the baby. Robert’s life has sort of fallen apart. He’s lost everything he held dear and is now sort of floating along – definitely adrift. Bruce is the ‘Sheriff’ of the Kingdom and is the de facto ‘adult’ in the relationship. He’s the one that’s got to hold the brothers and the town together. Ashur’s not old enough and Robert has really checked out of life. In a way they’re the three princes that the Kingdom is relying on – but like most royalty, they’re a complete mess.
And what about across the lake? Who are Humbert and Lo because the “Lolita” references make me think that they may not be the most reliable narrators/characters?
Kindt: Ha! Yes. Humbert is the Sheriff of the nearby town. His history with the Grass Kingdom is complicated and runs deep. Humbert is a ‘real’ Sheriff of the ‘real’ town – Cargill – that that is across the lake from the Grass Kingdom. Humbert is the natural antagonist of the brothers and the Kingdom. He sees them for what they are – squatters on land that doesn’t belong to them. He’s a malevolent force of nature but like all good villains, he’s not completely in the wrong. He has some justification for what he’s trying to do to the town and the brothers. No one is really innocent in this story. In a way, it’s going to be up to the readers to decide who’s in the right. In Humbert’s case however, he might be right, but he is definitely going about things in a very wrong way.
As for the “Lolita” references, I’m a huge fan of [Vladimir] Nabokov and he’s been a big influence on me for a long time. If this series shares anything with him, it’s more of a general play on the genre. “Lolita,” superficially, is a very pulpy crime story but that DNA is buried in a lot of other things. And I think “Grass Kings” is similar in that respect. You can file it under ‘crime fiction’ but there’s a lot more going on under the surface.
Tyler, is there a physical difference between how you draw Cargill and Grass Kingdom, including everything from the locales to the residents?
Jenkins: No, I don’t think so. I think Grass Kingdom is just how anyone might end up when faced without the rules and restrictions of town or city living. The fact that all homes in towns and cities look so similar has nothing, really, to do with the actual residents, but completely to do with the town planners and construction companies. The same applies to residents. I think there really is very little difference.
We’re early days so I don’t know how much you want to reveal but if you’d like, can you talk a little bit about the notion that a serial killer may be on the loose and how it may or may not relate to similar killings and kidnappings that have gone on around the lake for nearly 1,000 years?
Kindt: The heart of the series is Robert’s missing daughter. There are a lot of theories as to what happened to her. A creature in the lake, serial killers, political kidnapping, or simple parental neglect. That’s going to be the deep current that runs under the series. The history of this small patch of land also plays a major role and we’ll be seeing small glimpses of that – from the first tribes that lived along the lake and everyone from then until now. It’s kind of a cross-section of humanity and the violence it inflicts on itself over ideas, grudges and greed.
“Grass Kings” #1 by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins is coming March 2017.
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