For years, Matt Kindt was one of the best kept secrets in comics, quietly releasing wildly inventive, creator-owned graphic novels like “Pistolwhip,” “Super Spy” “3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man” and “Revolver.” Then, last year, Kindt exploded, launching his New York Times best-selling ongoing series “MIND MGMT” at Dark Horse Comics and landing a number of high-profile New 52 assignments from DC Comics, including “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” and “Justice League of America.”
Earlier this week, CBR broke the news that Kindt is writing “Infinity: The Hunt,” a tie-in to Marvel’s upcoming event crossover, just days after it was announced that he was tackling three one-shots as part of DC’s Villains Month in September, a special event in which all titles in the New 52 will be replaced by villain-centric books.
CBR News spoke with Kindt about all three of his tales of villainy — “Earth 2” #15.2: Solomon Grundy, “Detective Comics” #23.2: Harley Quinn and “Justice League of America” #7.1 “Deadshot” — and he shared insight into what drives those who are forever evil, how he went too dark with Solomon Grundy and why Harley Quinn is an incredibly misunderstood villain.
CBR News: I think I know your answer, but how important is the villain to any superhero story?
Matt Kindt: When I’m writing anything, there is always a good guy and a bad guy, and the bad guy is just as important as the good guy. The good guy gets 80 percent or 90 percent of the room in the comic or the story, but the bad guy needs to deliver in his or her 10 to 20 percent.
You don’t set the bad guy up just so the good guy can punch him in the face. He or she needs to serve as a true counterpoint to the good guy in every way. To me, the rationale is that the villain doesn’t know that they’re the bad guy. They think that they’re right and that they’re doing the right thing. Thinking that way gives villains a little more dimension — more than just a guy your hero needs to fight and beat.
If Harley Quinn is doing something crazy, you need to know she is doing something crazy for a reason. This is why. This is what’s driving her. These villain stories give these characters a little more backstory, a little more base to build from.
How are your Villains Month one-shots coming along? Are you still working on any of them, or are they done and off to the artists?
I’m currently writing “Justice League of America: Deadshot.” I’m going to write it this week so I don’t really know anything about it yet except that he’s awesome. I’ve loved him since the nineties.
Solomon Grundy seems like a character that you could really sink your teeth into. What was your introduction to the character?
That one really came from out of the blue. I remember Solomon Grundy from the cartoon. I was a big fan of “Super Friends.” I used to watch those all the time, and again, later in life, with my daughter. Beyond that, I did a bunch of research to figure it out.
Honestly, that story came out so dark. I felt really bad when I turned it in. It was really, really dark — almost miserable. It’s a really sad story. I like sad stories but man, it was dark even for me. I apologized to my editor. And he said, “No. No. I want you to write more of that dark stuff.” And I said, “I don’t know if I feel like it.”
It’s definitely a little bit of a downer of a story.
Last week, you tweeted a photo of your bookshelf and you could see what looked like the complete run of “Who’s Who.” Were you using those to research Grundy’s origin?
I have them up there, but not for Solomon Grundy. It’s for something else that I can’t announce yet. But yeah, I’ve had those since I was a kid.
Grundy — and my knowledge of the character, like yours, is heavily influenced by “Super Friends” –Grundy is often portrayed as a fairly one-dimensional character. My guess, based on what’s you’ve said about the story’s darkness, is that you’ve reimagined his origin to give the character some more depth.
That’s the beauty of the character; there isn’t much to go on. He is pretty one-dimensional, so I could go back and really develop who he was before and how got to be this thing. Again, it ended up being a really sad story. But I loved it because when my editor called me and I was like, “Yeah, I’ll do that,” because all I knew was: “Solomon Grundy; Born on a Monday.”
I did a bunch of reading and a bunch of research about everything that had been done and I love the idea. The “Born on a Monday” thing is kind of a joke, and I loved layering that on top of the story and giving it a double meaning. I think it provided an extra layer of awesomeness when you see the backstory behind it all.
The solicitation reveals that Grundy’s hatred of Green Lantern is central to the story, as well. Does Alan Scott figure heavily into the story’s events?
Well, Green Lantern left him on the moon last time we saw him so yeah, I think Grundy is kind of mad about that. [Laughs]
Now, James Robinson has announced that he’s left “Earth 2.” Is there any chance this assignment leads to you taking over “Earth 2” as the series writer?
No, they don’t have me doing that. I am sorry to see James go; I’m a huge fan of his, and he gave me some good feedback on my Solomon Grundy story. I don’t know what’s going on there.
In terms of characterization, the heated intensity of Harley Quinn is a quantum leap from the cold darkness of Solomon Grundy. How did you prepare for that story?
I loved the “Mad Love” story from years ago. For me, that’s the Harley Quinn story. In my mind, I was setting out to beat it. But I don’t think I did. I told my editor: “I’m happy to have second place.”[Laughs]
To be fair, they had more pages. [Laughs] I only had 20 pages. But in 20 pages, I tried to do something not similar to that, but I tried to bring more dimension to the character because I think she — like a lot of the villains, a lot of the characters in the DCU, that she’s really interesting. On the surface, she appears dumb and dizzy, but that’s all built on top of this layer where she’s super-smart from having been a psychologist.
Trying to figure out what makes her brain tick was a lot of fun to write. I wrote that issue to make me like that character again. I felt like we had kind of lost what she is about. I think this issue will help people feel for her, again.