With news breaking earlier this morning that Jeff Lemire was taking over writing duties on “Justice League Dark,” speculation began about whether he’d have time to work on “Dark” and his three other monthly DC titles. In favor of hellblazing trails across the New 52 with John Constantine and the rest of the Dark, Lemire is bolting from “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” DC Comics has now dropped its second shoe of the day — and since it’s Frankenstein, it’s actually a pretty big boot.
Eisner-nominated creator Matt Kindt (“Revolver,” “My Greatest Adventure”) will take over as writer for “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” beginning with #10 in June.
In addition to being one of outgoing “Frankenstein” writer’s closest friends in the industry, Kindt is also a regular collaborator of Lemire’s. Kindt recently illustrated a three-issue arc of “Sweet Tooth” for Vertigo and co-wrote April’s “Men of War” #8, which features Frankenstein during World War II and also doubles as the series finale.
“I’ll be honest. It was really hard to leave that book,” Lemire told CBR News about his decision to exit “Frankenstein.” “I really love Frankenstein. I really love that book and I had big plans for it, but at the end of the day, I had to make some choices and just couldn’t pass [‘Justice League Dark’] up. The good thing is, Matt was always there during my run on ‘Frankenstein.’ Right from the beginning, he sort of helped me out, brainstorming ideas, and then we wrote the ‘Men of War’ special together.
“It was almost like he was ready to take over. I know he’ll bring his own personality and his own ideas to it, but at the same time, I know the vision for the book and the tone of the book isn’t going to change dramatically,” Lemire continued. “It’s all going to feel like the same characters. It’s going to be fun to read ‘Frankenstein’ stories now as a fan, having been so close to it.”
Speaking with CBR News exclusively, Kindt revealed that he has no plans to bring sweeping changes to the series upon his arrival but he does expect to shine the light on some of the dark corners of S.H.A.D.E. that have yet to be explored. The same goes for the origins of some of the organization’s agents, specifically Khalis, the Mummy. Kindt also teased one of Frankenstein’s first missions under his stewardship will be investigating a double agent operating within S.H.A.D.E. in a story that he describes as “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” with monsters.
CBR News: Matt, first off, welcome to the New 52.
Matt Kindt: I’ve been bursting at the seams for the last couple of weeks because I wasn’t allowed to say anything.
I can imagine it’s been hard to keep this a secret. Jeff Lemire, who is leaving the title to take on “Justice League Dark,” was very pleased you were coming on board “Frankenstein,” saying that you replacing him made leaving the series a much easier pill to swallow. Are you planning to restart what he has established in Year 1 or will you be continuing on from where he left off?
You can’t change the characters. Jeff did a real good job of rebooting all of those characters. And I remember being with him when he was starting it all up. We had a couple of days when we just kicked around ideas for what would be fun with me not thinking I’d ever be touching it. I know a lot of things that he had planned and some of that stuff I am still going to carry forward. And I think the characters are still going to be the same. You’ll probably see a little more revealed, including some relationship things with Frankenstein. And if I do take it in a different direction, the only thing I would really change is that I want to show more of the S.H.A.D.E. organization.
In the first arc, Frank is going to visit all of these crazy branch field offices of S.H.A.D.E. all over the world and meet up with these agents — basically just all the weirdness within S.H.A.D.E.
Knowing you from your creator-owned work, examining the inner workings of S.H.A.D.E. would seem right up your alley for your first work within an established, ongoing universe like the DCU?
It’s definitely what attracted me to the material. A lot of my comics, like “Super Spy” is espionage or spy types of things, so this gives me a chance to do that type of thing but with tens of thousands of gadgets. And I don’t have to worry about doing research for historical gadgets that spies used in the 1950s. I’m getting to invent this whole sort of crazy, other-worldly, supernatural, espionage agency. And that’s incredibly fun for me to explore, like what kind of stuff do they use and what’s the difference between normal spies and crazy characters that live in this sort of science fiction world.
I really want to make S.H.A.D.E. into one of the characters in the book. I want to look at this organization as a character instead of just being a name. You’ll see how they work and inside their headquarters but there is more to it than that. There are these tendrils, which are these little branch offices, in different parts of the world. For me, it’s going to almost be like an armchair traveling companion for the DC Universe.
One of Frank’s first missions will be investigating a mole or a double agent within S.H.A.D.E. And rooting him out will take Frank through all the different levels of S.H.A.D.E. It’s almost like “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” with monsters.
Will these S.H.A.D.E. field agents be original characters or classic DCU characters revamped for the New 52?
There might be a few cameos. I will see what they let me get away this. I don’t want to give away too much but there will be some new characters and there will also be some echoes of other things. But I can’t really say too much right now.
What are your thoughts on Frankenstein as a leading man and how you will present him?
I think he’s very funny. And when I read it, as a fan of comics, I think he is hilarious. And I like how tough he is, so I am going to keep that. And I love that he has this crazy sense of justice. He’s also been around forever, he’s hundreds of years old, so to me there has to be an underlying sadness to him that has to come out. Because of that, he has a warped perspective of everything. He’s seen so much so nothing surprises him. So I am going to try and hit him with as much weird stuff as possible to see if I can’t somehow surprise him.
That said, you can expect a lot of really weird characters and really weird things he’s got to face and fight.
Will he continue to face and fight these weird characters with Velcoro, Griffith and the rest of his team?
Yes, these are his soldiers: the yes, sir/no, sir guys. The other thing I am excited to get into is these characters’ back stories. Like the Mummy, he’s this half-silent character the whole time. We’re going to start to see where he came from, what he’s about and how he relates to Frankenstein too. That’s really, really going to be fun.
It sounds like there will be some pages dedicated to quieter moments for Frankenstein and the other S.H.A.D.E. agents as well.
Yes, I think there will be. And to me, that’s part of the fun. In every issue, there as to be something crazy, something really fun and some weird thing that happens. But at the end of the day, every issue has to have a good story. If you’re not caring about Frankenstein, there is a problem. Hopefully, every issue is going to be this satisfying story that pieces together with this bigger story arc. And like all my favorite kinds of books — and I guess like all of my books — it’s going to be funny and a little bit sad.
Is telling stories within the larger DCU difficult for a creator like you who is used to working without restraints on creator-owned projects?
In a way, it’s easier. I don’t have to come up with new characters because I am working with existing characters. And I don’t have to come up with the universe. In a weird way, the more restraints put on me, the easier it is. And the more fun it is. It’s like, “Okay. I have these rules. I have these characters in this book. How do I make that fun or different? Or how do I push the rules in a way where they will allow me to do what I want to do?” I like that. Even when I was in school, I loved assignments where they put these limitations on you. To me, the fun part is trying to figure out how to circumvent those limitations by creating something that still fits between the rules, technically.
I think I was spoiled. When I broke into the industry, I started by doing my own graphic novels and doing my own thing. No one was telling me what to do and I was just coming up with whatever I wanted. I’ve been spoiled the last 10 years. And now getting to do this is a treat because I love the superheroes from Marvel and DC. It’s like I’ve been eating my regular meals and now I get to eat a bunch of candy.
Traditionally, you’ve pulled double duty as both writer and the artist on your projects. Will you be drawing “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.?”
No, [current series artist] Alberto Ponticelli is staying, and I enjoy that. That’s the other thing. I hardly ever collaborate, writing and drawing my own thing. Being a writer and seeing what an artist comes up with is also kind of the appeal to me. It’s been fun so far. When Jeff and I did “Men of War,” it was so exciting to get pages from the artist, [Tom Derenick]. You write a script and you have kind of an idea of what it’s going to look like and a lot of times, it’s better than what you imagined.
“Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” #10 by Matt Kindt and Alberto Ponticelli arrives in June.