EXCLUSIVE: Matt Kindt Time Travels with "PastAways"

In March 2015, Matt Kindt and artist Scott Kolins are ready to have some fun with "PastAways," their upcoming creator-owned series from Dark Horse Comics. Centering around a team of future explorers who become stranded in our present, Kindt hopes to evoke a level of fun in "PastAways" that makes it more of a "vacation book" -- especially compared to Kindt's critically-acclaimed "Mind MGMT," which the creator says he feels like "make[s] people work" to read it.

In many aspects, "PastAways" is a throwback to the era of the 1920s, where intrepid explorers journeyed to far-off lands to discover lost civilizations -- the only difference is that explores from the future actually journey to the past. When the team gets stuck in our present, the laws of "PastAways" time travel state they cannot die -- something that might come in pretty handy when a big hole gets ripped into the fabric of reality and weird, time-shifted things start coming to the present.

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CBR News spoke with Kindt about his new creator-owned series, including the challenges the "PastAways" team faces, his own love of time travel as a science fiction subgenre, how some of the cast are actually analogues of his favorite science fiction authors and much more.

Matt, what's the basic idea behind "PastAways" and how does it differ from the other recent work you've done?

Matt Kindt: I'd say right off the bat that it's probably going to be more fun than anything I've done. [Laughs] Hopefully, my other books are fun, but I think they usually have a little more of a darker edge with some sadness to it. I'm trying to do something a little different with this one, trying to have fun and make it more adventure-based -- still with some heart to it. There are definitely some sad parts. My editor is constantly reminding me, "Don't forget this is supposed to be fun!" The first few issues I had to get my mind right, try to think of a fun way to do these things, and make it not so sad.

It's basically an adventure story about these four characters that are from the future, sent back to our present as adventurers. It was inspired by the adventures from the 1920s where they would go into the Amazon jungle and try to find lost civilizations. They would write telegrams and articles, and papers would print articles about what they discovered and where they're at. The whole world would follow their progress as they discovered uncharted areas of the world. The idea was that these four characters from the future get sent thousand of years back into the past to have that same kind of adventure and discovery. They send these messages back to the future describing what the world is like in our present day.

Then, everything goes wrong, and they get stranded here. A bunch of weird stuff starts happening, like a big hole gets ripped in reality and all this stuff starts pouring out of it. They have to deal with that. It's kind of a team book, it's an adventure -- I was thinking about it the other day, and it's kind of like "Fantastic Four" -- sort of a family, but a super dysfunctional, messed-up family.

Who are the core characters on the deep-time research mission and how do they react to being trapped in our present?

Well, that's part of it, too. There are four different characters. There's the science guy, there's a woman who's kind of the muscle -- she's big and strong, and super smart. She's always arguing about these philosophical ideas. In a way, I'm trying to interesting and important issue, but do it in a way that's funny and a little lighter -- at least, dress it up like that and have deeper issues underneath. We also have a character that may or may not be human. He's kind of an android.

The other twist is that the characters can't die as a result of being sent into the past, since they haven't been born yet. If they died, it would cause a conundrum with time travel -- so don't think about that too hard, because if you think too hard about time travel, nothing works. The idea is that they can't be killed, they're stuck in our time. After a while, some of them are tired of being here. They can't get back, and a couple of them actually have death wishes, but there's nothing they can do about it. There's some dark humor that will come out of that.

There will be some twists and turns, but with those four characters, one of my inspirations were my favorite science fiction authors. I used authors as a template for the personality of the characters. Philip K. Dick is one of them, Frank Herbert of "Dune" fame and there are a couple of other ones -- Ursula K. Le Guin. I tried to pattern their base personalities on my favorite science fiction authors and have them interact. It's fun to imagine what those real-life authors' personalities were and the friction that comes from them meeting. What kind of argument is Philip K. Dick going to have with Frank Herbert.

Time travel can be a pretty tricky concept. How does "PastAways" take the whole idea of time travel and use it in a different manner?

I think that's one of the twists the story is going to take. Time travel is one of my favorite subgenres in science fiction. If it's a book with time travel in it, I'll buy it and read it. I've got anthologies of books that are just time travel stories. I'm just in love with that idea and the different ways you can go about it. I think if you set up internal rules for how it works, it can work within your book. Any time you think about it outside the reality of that book, it always falls apart. One of the core concepts of the book is this idea that if you come back to a time before you were born, you can't die. That can't happen. The universe has a way of making it so that can't happen. The first couple of issues, you're going to see all the characters have this suicide pact where they're coming up with a contraption to kill themselves. Nothing works. It's almost like a reverse Butterfly Effect where you have a situation that it's impossible to make that happen. Even if you shoot a gun at them, a bird's going to fly in the way and catch it before it hits them.

There's a dark element there, but it's providing a lot of lighter moments, too, with the carelessness that comes with knowing you're not going to die, and how you go about your life and things you can do because you're not afraid. That's my one twist on the time travel thing that I thought was a little different and a little new.

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It seems like this project has a lot of potential for you to take on a lot of anachronistic concepts and throw them into a modern setting. What are some of the crazy time-displaced elements that readers can plan on seeing in the series?

I've structured the series in a way where they've ripped a hole in the fabric of time, so as the Earth moves through space, there's a hole that they left behind. When they came back, a ton of things are going to come from that. They pop up in different places depending on where the Earth is and where it's rotated. It allows me to tell stories in every part of Earth. Things pop through this hole in outer space, so there might be some outer space things, maybe something on the moon. I think the idea is that I'll have things from the past, but also from the future -- things following them through and them having to deal with these problematic future things.

Part of it was to come up with a story structure where I could tell any story and have these fun characters established, and let my imagination run wild. I'm a huge fan of Kirby's "Fourth World" stuff. You read that, and it's almost as if he's creating this world and these characters and these scenarios just because he had this great idea when he woke up in the morning. He's got this framework where he can just throw every crazy thing he thinks of into it. In a way, that's how I want to build the series -- you have no idea what's going to happen next.

The teams seems like they'll be doing a lot of heroic things. Do they see themselves as heroes?

No, I think they see themselves as explorers. They were sent on this mission to explore and communicate back to their time. It's almost like anthropologists studying us in our time period. The unintended consequences is they opened this hole and there are all these problems pouring out that they need to solve or fix, or try to prevent from happening. If anything, I don't think they want to be heroes, they want to keep the world from getting messed up and clean up their own mess. The bigger thing is contracting these future people to see present day through their eyes, and looking at ourselves from a different point of view.

It sounds super boring when I say it, but there are going to be giant monsters and robots!

[Laughs] Shifting to art, you're working with Scott Kolins on this project. What is it about Scott's work that makes him a good fit for "PastAways?"

I worked with Scott a couple years ago on "Robotman" for DC. I think we just clicked -- it's a nice, bare style but it has a lot of detail in it when it needs to. He's got a really good storytelling sense. I'm really picky about artists. It's got to be somebody who can keep a monthly schedule that's reliable, and can tell a story and add something to it rather than just execute it. It needs to be somebody who can push back and come up with something and that can be a springboard for me to get more ideas off of -- a true collaborator rather than someone just drawing it to get a paycheck. I want somebody to invest in it. I think our past together made me realize that Scott was the guy.

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It's up his alley, too. When I was starting the project, the first thing I always ask an artist is, "What do you like to draw? What do you want to do?" He gave me a list, and the list was, "Dinosaurs. Robots." The things that every artist likes to draw if they have the chance. So I tried to figure out a way to do that which hasn't been done before. My first script didn't have a dinosaur in it, but as soon as he said it, I found a funny way to incorporate a dinosaur with a twist. Something filtered through me that would make sense and be fun, but also scratch the itch he wanted at the same time. His stuff looks great.

As an accomplished artist yourself, will you be contributing at all to the artistic elements of the book?

Yeah, I want Scott to really have ownership of the characters and look of the actual story, but I'll probably do a cover here or there, do some cover design. There may be some ancillary stuff that may be illustrations or text pieces. I'll have a hand in everything that's not panel-to-panel storytelling. I may throw in pieces here or there depending on what the story requires. But I'll be involved.

Wrapping up, you've done quite a bit of exploration of the way comics storytelling works in "Mind MGMT." Will "PastAways" follow in those same footsteps or is it a much more traditionally told comics story?

I think it's going to be somewhere in between. Honestly, I feel like "Mind MGMT" is the book I do to make people work. [Laughs] "PastAways" is a book I would love people to pick up and feel like it's a vacation book -- something a little more fun, slightly lighter. There's something to it -- it's smart, but I'm trying not to make the reader work as hard with this one and have a little more fun.

"PastAways" #1 hits stores March 25, 2015

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