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Chat Transcript: Matt Wagner

by  in Comic News Comment
Chat Transcript: Matt Wagner

Recently, Matt Wagner stopped by the CBR chat room to discuss his new DC project, “Batman and the Monster Men,” Grendel’s 25th anniversary, Matt’s thoughts on continuity and “All-Star Batman,” and a very cool news announcement at the end of chat. Check it out!

Brian Cronin: Welcome, folks, to the Matt Wagner chat!

MattWagner: Whoooo…made it.

Samaritan Hyde: WOOHOO!

Samaritan Hyde: *dances around*

MattWagner: Running around like a chicken with my damn head cut off…

Samaritan Hyde: That busy huh?

MattWagner: As RandyOni will attest.

RandyOni: Is that a voodoo thing?

MattWagner: Only if you’re not gonna eat the chicken…

Brian Cronin: Why, were you running around him, spurting blood all over the place? For shame!

Brandon Hanvey: Who do you say are your influences?

MattWagner: Really too many to list. I’m a voracious reader and consumer of culture and information.

MattWagner: One of the best bits of advice my mother ever gave me…

MattWagner: An artist needs to constantly absorb information if he’s gonna have anything to comment about the world around him and incorporate that into his art.

MattWagner: And she’s not the least bit artistic!

Cayman: What should we know about “Batman & The Monster Men?”

MattWagner: What should you know…? Hmmm…its reeeeally goddamn good?

MattWagner: That’s a thoroughly objective opinion of course!

Brian Cronin: Of course.

Samaritan Hyde: LOL

MattWagner: Seriously, its basically Year 1.5.

MattWagner: It’s the story of how Batman first goes from encountering only gangsters and such to first encountering what will be called super-villians.

RandyOni: Your new book looks great! Nice paper. Good heavy cover stock.

Brian Cronin: Yes, I was really impressed by the paper as well!

Brian Cronin: But isn’t “Journey Into Knight” Year 1.5? Isn’t that odd plannng on DC’s part?

MattWagner: “Journey in Knight” …what’s that?

Brian Cronin: It is a mini-series by Andy Helfer and Tan Huat about Batman in Year 1.5

Brian Cronin: #3 came out the same week as Monster Men #1

MattWagner: Oh…yeah. I agree. That was bad planning on their part. But I was never privy to its contents all during the production of my series and so I say that’s DC’s problem. I can only do the best I have with what I’ve got.

Brandon Hanvey: What would be your best advice for comic creators in order to get their work published?

MattWagner: Brandon…you a writer or an artist?

Brandon Hanvey: Both. I self-publish right now.

Brandon Hanvey: I just finished the art (109 pages) of my current book. In the lettering stage now.

MattWagner: If you’re going the self pub route…aye, yer a braver man than I, Gunga Din!

Brandon Hanvey: I self-publish because I want to get my comics out there. If a publisher would do it for me, all the better.

MattWagner: You just need to get around, shove your face and product in everyone else’s face. Don’t take no for an answer or get discouraged.

Samaritan Hyde: I stayed up till 2:15 AM for you, just to hear it from the source. Is there ever going to be a “Hero Denied?”

MattWagner: Mage will definitely have its final chapter, “The Hero Denied.”

Samaritan Hyde: Oh I feel like a fanboy,. Been a while.

MattWagner: The strange fact/problem about Mage is that I find I have very little control over it.

Samaritan Hyde: I can understand that.

MattWagner: Being so autobiographical and personal, I find that I can’t really decide when I’m going to work on “Mage.”

Samaritan Hyde: It’s tied to your person.

MattWagner: Suddenly I get an overwhelming urge to express myself thru Mage.

MattWagner: Last time, it resulted in my withdrawing from my long-running gig on “Sandman Mystery Theater.”

MattWagner: There was room for nothing else when “Mage” comes a’knockin’.

Samaritan Hyde: That’s why I’ve been reading “Mage.” I love personal stories

Samaritan Hyde: Just how I liked “Cerebus.” I dislike Dave Sim because of it, but I love the story.

Samaritan Hyde: Mage just suits me more/

MattWagner: That said, I do have to finish up both “Monster Men” and its sequel, “Batman & The Mad Monk,” first.

Cayman: Any chance you’ll tell more stories about Dr. Mid-Nite?

MattWagner: Not likely. Did what I wanted with that. On to the next gig…

Samaritan Hyde: Midnite was nice, but not your best, at least, for my taste.

Cayman: I enjoyed Mid-Nite’s supporting cast.

Stony: I loved Mid-Nite too, it was a great fun read.

canvas: Matt, your cover for “Batman” #636 brought my little bro into comics!

MattWagner: 636–was that the Red Hood unmasked one?

Brian Cronin: I think it was the first Red Hood one.

Brian Cronin: The one they are using for the cover of the TPB.

MattWagner: Oh…yeah. I dug that one, too.

MattWagner: Which is strange…the TPB, that is…

MattWagner: When I first turned in the sketch, they hadn’t told me there was a new RH, so I– of course– drew the old one. Funny that they’re using as the cover, therefore.

Brian Cronin: That is pretty funny

Brian Cronin: Especially since the one you mentioned, the “You?!” cover is a real striking cover.

canvas: Sorry Matt, I meant #626, the one with the bat flying towards the reader.

MattWagner: Oh…the scarecrow run.

canvas: Yeah, and I personally liked the one where Bruce Wayne is all beaten up.

Lex: Have you followed Dr. Mid-Nite’s use in DC books since you created him? If you have, how do you think other creators are handling him?

MattWagner: The main thing I can say about other writer’s handling of Dr. M is…they all get the fact that he’s a super-hero doctor. They all get it. We really wanted to stress that in the mini.

Brandon Hanvey: Is there one character that you have not written about that you would love to do?

MattWagner: Other DC characters…I’ll probably give Superman another stroll before too long.

Samaritan Hyde: Ahwell, I’m off to bed or I will get fired. Thanks for the info Matt. You got a faithfull fan in Holland!

MattWagner: Thanks for staying up, SH.

Jamal: Do you ever plan to revisit Grendel Prime or any of that time period and will you ever let other creaters do Grendel Tales type stories?

MattWagner: Look for a lot more Grendel stuff in 2007…the big G’s 25th Anniversary!!!

MattWagner: Including an “Art of..” book like the Sin City and Usagi ones…

Brian Cronin: Does it creep you out at all that Grendel has a 25th anniversary coming up? 🙂

MattWagner: The 25th…well, it’s certainly sobering.

canvas: You know what’s great? That your Batman projects are $2.99! In these days where special projects are $3.99, or $5.99 in the case of Paul Pope’s new Batman mini.

Justin Davis: Matt, what Superman story would you tell? One that fits in the past or a current story?

MattWagner: Superman…don’t know yet. Just starting to fiddle with some ideas.

Brandon Hanvey: What current books are you enjoying?

MattWagner: I tend to read less comics when I’m super wrapped in producing a long-running storyline of my own. I loved Chadwick’s latest “Concrete” mini…

Jamal: What, if any, new books are you reading?

Jamal: Non comic books I mean.

RandyOni: Knowing what a Spirit fan you are, would you like to take a crack at the new DC relaunch that Darwyn Cooke is working on?

MattWagner: The Spirit….maaaaaybe. DC’s got a few other irons in the fire– which, no, I can’t talk about– that are a bit more interesting to me. Darwyn should do a great job with the Spirit.

canvas: Any love for Marvel characters?

MattWagner: Marvel characters…I like to read, but just don’t feel I have a real grasp on them creatively. I’ve only ever drawn one for story for Marvel and that was one that Bendis wrote. Felt like I couldn’t have written it myself.

canvas: Personally, I think a series about the early days of the Fantastic Four would be great done by you. 🙂

MattWagner: Hey, hold on for two shakes everybody. Got a pot of Bolognese sauce on the stove I’ve gotta stir… Back in a sec..

Brandon Hanvey: When working with an artist, do you prefer full scripts or basic plots?

MattWagner: I’ve only ever written three “full-scripts” for comics. In 20 plus years…

MattWagner: I find full scripts to be arrogant on my part.

MattWagner: I’m an artist, too. If I want that level of full-on control…I should draw the damn thing myself.

MattWagner: The only reason for me to work with other artists is to collaborate. And I find plot and dialogue works best for that.

MacQuarrie: Does it bother you when know-it-all fans get up in your face and complain about stuff (like for instance the 1/4″ thick fletchings on the arrows sticking out of Solomon Grundy on the Green Arrow cover)?

Brandon Hanvey: Heheh Jim and his arrow fetish.

MacQuarrie: I just like accuracy.

MattWagner: And, no…know-it-all fans don’t bother me. I’ve got kids and know when to turn a deaf ear…

MacQuarrie: Cool.

MacQuarrie: Now about those fletchings….. (kidding)

Justin Davis: How do you feel about editors? Do you like them hands-on or hands-off? Given some comments by other creators and your own experience, do you feel that there’s been more or less interference of editors recently?

MattWagner: Depends on the project. I consider the editor to be the conduit between me and the publisher. Sometimes that calls for them to represent the publisher more strongly, sometimes me.

Jamal: Does working from a full script from another writer bother you?

MattWagner: No, I don’t mind working from a full script, conversely. If I’ve elected to work with another writer (another rarity in my career–only a handful of times) then I know I’m at the behest of their story ideation.

grungefreak: Matt, is there anyone in the comic industry that you would like to collaborate with and just not had the chance to?

MattWagner: Yeah, I’d love to work with Frank Quitely on something.

MattWagner: A lot of the others, I’ve managed to work with at one time or another.

Cayman: Quitely is amazing!

canvas: Matt, in your opinion, who are the top 5 artists to come out the last 5 years?

MattWagner: Top 5 artists…that’s impossible.

MattWagner: Do you guys realize what a rich and multi-varied, multi-talented bunch of artists are working in comics nowadays?

MattWagner: It fucking incredible!

Justin Davis: He’s right. There are a ton of great artists out there right now.

MattWagner: I mean…Grendel alone! On those “Black, White & Red” books, I worked with 40 different artists. Each stylistically different and wonderful in their own right…

Brandon Hanvey: You did a cooking comic for chicken parmigiana in Autobiographix. Have you ever thought of doing more cooking comics?

Justin Davis: Never knew about the cooking comics. That’s. . . . interesting.

MattWagner: My wife’s been after me for years to do a cook book and I never thought I had a decent “hook”…till I did that story for Autobiographix. Some day…

MattWagner: For those of you that don’t know…I’m an obsessive cook. If I hadn’t have learned to draw first, I’d have been a chef.

Brandon Hanvey: So do you watch Food Network at lot? If so, what are your favorite shows?

MattWagner: Food Network…hell, Yeah!

MattWagner: I used to love Emeril, but his shtick has worn thin…still, his recipes are usually good.

Brandon Hanvey: My wife loves Good Eats.

MattWagner: I love Alton Brown

MattWagner: A veritable fountain of information.

MattWagner: I also love watching Rachel Ray. Don’t always love her recipes but she’s cute as a fucking button.

Lex: Rachel Ray is the only reason I watch the Food Network. I love her $40 a Day show.

MacQuarrie: How much research/reference do you typically use? Or are you more like Berni Wrightson, in the “I make it all up out of my head” school?

MattWagner: Reference…not much. Only on environments and machinery and such…

MattWagner: I find the hyper-photo-realistic stuff too cold for my tastes.

MattWagner: I insist on drawing people out of my head.

Jamal: What do you think is the best way to get an artist motivated? I get a lot of ” Man that’s a great idea,” but find it hard to get them to draw even when it’s only a few words on a page.

MattWagner: Y’know, the ancient samurai artists used to say that every brush stroke should be like a sword stroke…deadly and precise.

Brian Cronin: Was it difficult writing the big three DC icons for “Trinity?”

MattWagner: The difficultly on writing the Big 3 was that I don’t consider myself a “team”guy. If you look at my stuff, it’s usually a lone hero…

Brian Cronin: Yeah

Cayman: Would you be interested in writing for JLA or JSA Confidential?

MattWagner: Writing Legion or JLA? Never in a million years…

MattWagner: Too much banter…too much constantcy of tone…I like a story to ebb and flow.

MattWagner: Many of you know that I’m a big fan of the late Joseph Campbell…

MattWagner: To me, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” doesn’t mean a thousand guys in costume who team up and fight crime.

MattWagner: It’s a metaphor for striving and achieving in life.

MattWagner: Hold the phone…gotta stir that sauce again!

Brandon Hanvey: Do you find it hard to write for DC in terms of continuity?

Brian Cronin: Well, I presume that’s why most of Matt’s DC work has been out of continuity (or rather, not tied directly in)

MattWagner: Okay. All good on the sauce front…

Brandon Hanvey: You are a big fan of Alex Toth, correct? If you had to recommend one of his books to someone, which would it be?

MattWagner: He was a massive talent that never really had a masterpiece.

MattWagner: I’d say check out any of his collected “sketchbooks.”

MattWagner: Anybody have any specific questions about “Monster Men?”

Lex: What super villains will you be using in “Monster Men?”

Brian Cronin: How much will it be tied to the next series?

Brian Cronin: Can you read “Monster Men” only, and get a full story?

MattWagner: Okay, all three of those are kind close…

MattWagner: The storyline for “Monster Men” is self-contained. But it has a sub-story that carries over to the next series as well– that being, Bruce’s relationship with his girlfriend.

MattWagner: Many or most of you know that I’m basically farming these stories from my fave pre-Robin golden age stories.

Cayman: Which characters from Batman’s supporting cast appear?

Brian Cronin: Julie Madison?

MattWagner: As such, I’ve incorporated Bruce’s golden age girl friend as well, Julie Madison.

MattWagner: My opinion of Bruce is that, at this stage in his nocturnal crusade, he thinks he’s winning.

MattWagner: I don’t picture him intending to be Batman for the rest of his days.

MattWagner: He’s trying to effect a very specific change.

MattWagner: Okay, he’s trying to clean up Gotham…

MattWagner: He’s not insane! He doesn’t think he can eradicate crime world-wide.

MattWagner: He strikes me as very driven but also practical and purposeful.

Brian Cronin: Right.

Brian Cronin: He also seemed less serious then.

Brian Cronin: In that he almost enjoys achieving his goals.

Brian Cronin: So his tactics in your story, closer to what? Golden Age Batman or Miller’s Batman?

MattWagner: I don’t quite get the question. What differences do you see? I think Frank’s depiction of Batman has been all over the map.

Brian Cronin: His depiction strictly in “Year One.” The way his Batman acted seems different from the way the Golden Age batman acted.

Brian Cronin: But it sounds like you’re more geared towards the GA Batman. Which is cool.

MattWagner: No, I’d say I’m striding both those versions.

Brian Cronin: Fair enough.

Cayman: Did you enjoy the depiction of Batman in “Batman Begins?”

MattWagner: Loved “Batman Begins.” Loved the closing exchange…Gordon: I never said ‘Thank you’. Bats: And you’ll never have to.

MattWagner: That is a fucking hero!

MattWagner: Anyway, at this point, he sees a possible end to the war in sight.

MattWagner: His disguise works almost better than he could have hoped…

MattWagner: He feels like he is, ultimately, going to bust the Roman.

MattWagner: And that will be the catalyst that changes the entire scenario in Gotham.

MattWagner: Trouble is…he starts encountering characters who aren’t necessarily part of the organized crime scene (although, in “Monster Men,” there is a bit of a connection) and who aren’t in the least scared of his costume and terrifying persona.

Brian Cronin: Do you address the notion that gets tossed around sometimes that Batman is the catalyst that brought about super villains?

MattWagner: Yeah, but only subtlety. I don’t want him to be the cause of Gotham’s greater problems. But, lest face it…sometimes the light does draw out the dark in challenge.

MattWagner: Witness…that fiasco in Iraq.

Brandon Hanvey: How do you react to reviews? Do you read them or ever respond to them?

MattWagner: Reviews…ha! Everyone reads their own reviews, but if I’d ever let them affect me, then I’m done.

MattWagner: In fact, my very first review (for “Mage”) claimed that I had no future, didn’t understand the comic book art form in the least and should just give up any efforts in that regards now and save myself a lot of heartache.

Lex: Matt, do you prefer telling stories that don’t strictly follow past continuity? Like “Trinity.” It was just a fun story and you didn’t need to care about where it fit in… just enjoy it.

MattWagner: And so far as continuity goes…I try to incorporate it but I also feel I’m addressing a more general audience than the hardcore comics crowd. I try to follow the continuity that the public at large seems to harbor, coupled with whatever specifics I like from the existing milieu.

MattWagner: I have no idea how anyone keeps every aspect of “current” continuity in order. Surely it’s rife with contradictions and such. Witness…that other Year 1.5 series DC has running right now. Readers decide which stories they like and that becomes their personal continuities of these Great American Myths. It’s almost like the various Christian sects…each has their own version of what’s important.

Brian Cronin: So, Matt, you’re saying you wouldn’t, say, spend two pages explaining how one would steals hubcaps from a comic 20 years earlier?

MattWagner: Hubcaps..?

MattWagner: But, yeah, I get your point.

MattWagner: There’s just tooooo many adventures, creators and viewpoints at this point to ever consider that one way is the “right” way.

Ronald Bryan: Judd Winick took two pages in a recent Batman explaining how Jason Todd got by the Batmobile security systems to steal the hubcaps from it.

MattWagner: I love Judd. But he is a massive fucking geek.

MattWagner: And anyone can tell him I said so!

MattWagner: My attitude is…”Be Your Own Personal Jesus.”

MattWagner: Y’know?

Brian Cronin: Was it your idea to turn Harry into a pillow and did you expect it to stick?

MattWagner: Yeah, it was my idea. No, didn’t know it would last this long…

MattWagner: Just thought it sounded really fucking medieval.

Lex: So Matt, will you be doing an issue of “Solo?”

Ronald Bryan: A “Solo” issue would be awesome.

Brian Cronin: And if you did one, what kind of stories would you like to explore? Sci-Fi, Romance, Horror?

MattWagner: No “Solo” on deck at this point, but Mark has asked me. I’m just awfully booked at this point.

MattWagner: Anyway, back to that continuity line of thought…

Brian Cronin: Sure

MattWagner: I’ve loved some of what Frank Miller has done with Batman, but not all of it.

Brian Cronin: Like Catwoman the hooker?

Cayman: Have you been following “All-Star Batman?”

MattWagner: I find his “All Star Batman” unrecognizeable.

Brian Cronin: Well, to be fair, I think his All Star Batman is supposed to be unrecognizable. Whether DC should have decided to do his book, that’s another matter.

MattWagner: No. Their purpose is to make money. They sold a lot of that…book.

MattWagner: And why would you want to make Batman unrecognizable? Why do a Batman book at all, then?

Brian Cronin: I think it might be a statement about how Marvel’s Ultimate characters are basically the same as the original characters. So here, he is going to do an “Ultimate” batman, and basically just do whatever he feels like.

Brian Cronin: Whether that’s a good idea or not, that’s the question

MattWagner: Just doesn’t make sense to me.

Joe Rice: I really, really, really hated the first issue of “All Star Batman.” The second, I kind of liked. It was like this weird little kid sitting in my room, saying things that I couldn’t tell if they were awesome or creepy.

Joe Rice: I’ll be honest, the art is a problem for me. I feel like Lee doesn’t “get the joke.”

Joe Rice: And I really, really, really don’t need three pages of women in underwear. I have the internet. If I need porn, I have access to droves of it.

Brian Cronin: I think that’s a fair description of Miller’s take. It’s basically a big “joke.” However, there are plenty of writers who want to work on Batman without joking about it

Joe Rice: On the other hand, writers for about forty years have been able to not joke about it. Equal time, eh?

Brian Cronin: Oh yeah, I’m with you there, just saying that I can see how it would reasonably irk people.

MattWagner: Hey, I’ve gotta wrap this up, guys. Gotta hungry family to feed…

MattWagner: I’ll take two more questions…make em good.

Lex: Aside from super-heroes, what type of story would you like to work on as an artist? Western? Sci-fi? Something like that?

MattWagner: I don’t feel bound by any genre. I entered this field through my own, creator-owned endeavors. I’ve always felt utterly free to do whatever I wanted. Whatever you’re reading by me– at any time– is cause that’s what I felt compelled to write and draw at that time.

Paploo the Ewok: Have you ever thought about Grendel Animation?

Paploo the Ewok: I feel it’s be the best format for adapation.

Brian Cronin: Fine last question, Pap

Joe Rice: Damn, are we competing for “questions Cronin likes best”? Shit.

MattWagner: Yeah, that is a good question…

MattWagner: Cause it let’s me announce that we’ve just finalized a Grendel movie deal with Warner Brothers.

Joe Rice: Congrats!

MattWagner: I’ve been down this road before, but feel pretty good about it this time…

Lex: Very cool. Live action or animated movie?

Paploo the Ewok: Oooh! Shiny! Which version of Grendel?

MattWagner: Christine.

Brian Cronin: That makes sense. It is more unique in the movie landscape.

MattWagner: Not only is she the most sympathetic version but, since Hunter’s presence runs so strongly throughout her tale, we get to introduce Grendel as both a character and a concept all in the same film.

Brian Cronin: True.

MattWagner: And, hey, vengeance driven action chick in a black leather outfit and mask…what’s not to love, right?

MattWagner: And on that note, fair lads…

MattWagner: I’ve got to bid a fond farewell.

MattWagner: Thanks to all for attending and interacting.

Lex: Thank you very much for chatting with us!

MattWagner: Fun, fun, fun til her daddy took the T-bird away!

MattWagner: Later, guys! Buy my fucking book!

Lex: Yes sir!

Ronald Bryan: You have a fucking book?

Lex: Gives new meaning to “Batman and the Monster Men”

MattWagner: OUCH!

Ronald Bryan: Ha!

MattWagner: Someday…been flirting with an erotic project for years now.

MattWagner: Gonna be a good one. Not just porn. But not some stupid “story-driven” sex-tale either.

Paploo the Ewok: YAY!

MattWagner: Now, I’ve really gotta go!

MattWagner: Bye, all!

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