Jason Rodriguez here, editor of "Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened," a graphic anthology coming June 26th from Villard Books featuring 16 stories of revenge, suffering, denial, and hope inspired by used postcards.
For those of you just coming into this series, we've already spoken with three of the contributors to this anthology. Last Thursday we checked in with Rick Spears & Rob G who told us about their contribution, "Operation Torch." Friday, Ande Parks spoke with us about "Taken on Faith." And yesterday, Robert Tinnell stopped by to discuss his piece, "The Midnight Caller: Holiday in Hades. Continuing our look at the contributors to "Postcards," we check in with Matt Kindt , the illustrator behind Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner's story, "The History of a Marriage." James W. Powell, my assistant editor extraordinaire, recommend Matt to me way back when this project first started. I went out and picked up the wonderful "2 Sisters" and "Pistolwhip" and quickly fell in love with his work. When Harvey and Joyce needed an artist, he was number one on my list, and I'm so glad it worked out. But, back to Matt in a minute…
Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner. Iconic. Masterful. Intimidating. Whenever I call them I have to drink a scotch or two first to calm my nerves a bit. I go over everything I need to talk about so I could go through each point like a robot and then hang-up. There's nothing about either of their personalities that commands this reaction from my nervous system – it's their legacy. I'm so green and they're legends. It would be like the young record producer working with Bob Dylan or the 29-year-old editor giving feedback to Thomas Pynchon. It's just not supposed to happen.
But it was great working with both of them. My friend Chris Stevens reached out to Joyce first and asked her if they'd be interested in doing a story for the book. He called me that night and said, "Guess who I just talked to?" Usually, I get annoyed when someone takes a step like that without telling me first but, honestly, Chris had more vision and courage than me and I owe him the world at this point for taking that first step.
After presenting Harvey and Joyce with a few potential illustrators, Joyce responded enthusiastically that Matt Kindt was the one. I recently talked a bit with the artist about what it was like working with such an iconic couple. Their story was a bit different from the rest, and made for a terrific ending to the anthology. Instead of making up a story about a used postcard, they told the story of their own marriage through postcards they've sent or received over the years. It does a perfect job of tying the book together and, honestly, it's incredibly sweet and moving.
Jason: I'm going to start with my favorite "Postcards" related anecdote, if you don't mind. Way back when I called you up to ask you if you wanted to work with Harvey and Joyce on "Postcards," you told me that, years ago, you wrote Harvey to tell him that you wanted to illustrate one of his stories someday. As it turns out, their story included a scene where he receives a postcard from a young illustrator saying that he'd love to illustrate one of his stories someday.
Matt: Yeah, that was really funny and weird for me. My head was just kind of spinning a little bit. First of all, just to be talking with Harvey on the phone about the script and ideas for visuals – just a dream come true for me and then we get to that page and he'd just scripted it as a "young illustrator" – and he was like "go ahead and put yourself in there if you want to." Well, I did! The most surreal moment so far in my comic book career. Took me 15 years to get to that panel, but it was worth the wait!
Jason: Harvey told me that he gets those letters quite often. Despite that, when you started working on that scene, it must have felt a little bit like your biography as well, I'd imagine.
Matt: Yeah, really strange and fun. I talked to Joyce on the phone as well and was telling her the story and she just kind of put it into perspective for me. I told her how I'd sent him a package of art samples and then a few weeks later got a hand-written letter from him – a really super-nice turn down letter, but it was just great. Great that he was so nice and encouraging about it. And just nice that he had taken the time since he really does get those all the time. Then Joyce tells me that he'd written that while he was in the hospital – it was during the Cancer Year (before the book, but during the actual events). And that just blew me away. Really put things in perspective for me. And it really just illustrated to me at a young age what I have loved and still do about the comic industry – nearly everyone that works in it is approachable. You think about the place Harvey has in the history of comics and he's pretty prominent. And yet, some no-name 16-year-old kid can write him a letter and get a hand-written response – while he's beating cancer no less.
Jason: That must have been the best part for you, now that I think about it. Their story is essentially a love-letter to each other and it spans their entire marriage. By working on this, it's as if you got to be a part of "American Splendor" history, hitting on the milestones of Harvey and Joyce's life together. When Joyce first told me what they wanted to do, and when Harvey first read the script to me over the phone – I realized that this was something special – something I didn't really think I'd have in the book, to be honest with you. Did you get that feeling, too?
Matt: Yeah, definitely. I kind of felt like I just stumbled onto the set of a movie – Harvey and Joyce are in the scene, doing their thing and making history – and then all of a sudden – hey! Who's that in the background? Me! – How'd he get in there? Just kind of funny to me. Something I won't forget and truthfully I hope I can continue in the future. Harvey had said he'd keep me in mind and I just said, say the word, you know? He's just one of those legendary figures that you just drop whatever you're doing for the opportunity to work with him. Definitely the highlight of my career so far.
Jason: When Joyce first told me the idea for the story, I knew it had to be the last story in the book. I kind of believe that an anthology should have an implied narrative; the reader should be taking a journey with the artists that lead to a fulfilling ending. It made sense, to me, to end the book with a true story told through postcards, to show that what the artists are doing on their stories may not be as far-fetched as the reader may believe. In order to get that feeling of building to this one story, besides writing the introduction and all of the chapter breaks, I had you design the book and do the cover image. Do you have any thoughts or comments on the overall feel you tried to put into the book? What was your design process?
Matt: Well, after talking with you about the concept and what the book should look like -- I don't know. I feel like we were really on the same page from day one. Truthfully the whole concept for the book – it's just something I wish I'd thought of to tell you the truth. I've been collecting old postcards for years and just loving the ones with writing and notes on the backs especially. And I've seen a lot of old-postcard themed books – one with just super-boring postcards from around the US – which is fun and kind of funny, but ultimately no depth to it. So I always collected these cards thinking one day I'd do something with them and then just not having any ideas click. So I ended up just writing personal messages in between the lines of older messages on these used cards and sending them to friends, etc. So your book came along and it just seemed so right.
As for the look of the book, well, it just seemed natural to give it a sort of scrapbook feel to it. Just because a lot of the cards I'd find at estate sales would just be in a giant scrapbook full of cards and photos with little notes next to them or on the back. So the idea of finding a book that looked like that – but in Borders – was just exciting to me.
As for the process – I just literally took old pages from old scrapbooks that I'd bought in the past and scanned them in and used them as the backdrop for the pages in the book – so it's actually pretty true to the source material. I love to use photoshop, but I really love to use it in a way that is transparent so that when you look at a design or an image you don't think "must be photoshop" but (hopefully) you think "that really looks like an old beat-up worn out piece of paper with something interesting printed on it." Ultimately I think about how I can make a book something more than the sum of it's parts – make it into an artifact that you want to own and hold and put on the shelf after you're done reading it. Something that justifies the purchase of the "hard copy" instead of just reading it as a PDF on-line or something.
It's been great working with Matt and I can't wait to do it again. Seriously. And Harvey and Joyce. Very few people in comics are lucky enough to work with a team like this and I'm grateful for the experience.
Late today, Tom Beland! The cartoonist behind multiple Eisner-nominee "True Story, Swear to God!" A book that makes you need to celebrate life and love and all of their ups and downs. He's going to talk in detail about his story, "Time," and we will show you the complete story! Your first look at "Postcards," folks, so come by and love it.
Until then – stop by the Postcards website and send someone you love an e-Postcard. Let them know you're thinking about them. Or, you know, tell them about Spider-Man or something. Whatever.
PS – Please pick up my mail while I'm out!
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