Talking Comics with Tim: Matt Kindt

I'm a great admirer of Matt Kindt's work. Honestly, I'm an even bigger admirer of Kindt's ingenious nature. Case in point, for his latest book, 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man (published by Dark Horse and released in late September), he has developed a Giant Man Mini Comic - Spy Capsule and Giant-Man 3-D Postcards. Before we get into our email interview about 3 Story, I have to reiterate what I said in last week's What Are You Reading that (in addition to checking out Kindt's latest work, of course) you should pick up Strange Tales 2 (featuring Kindt's Black Widow tale).  Here's a bit of Dark Horse's background on the tale (before stepping into the interview): "Craig Pressgang's life is well documented in his official CIA biography, Giant Man: Pillar of America, but the heroic picture it paints is only half the story. The continuous growth caused by Craig's strange medical condition brings a variety of problems as he becomes more isolated and unknowable. Told in three eras by three women with unique relationships with Craig, 3 Story follows his sad life from his birth to the present." Be sure to visit the Dark Horse site for a seven-page sample of the book. 

Tim O'Shea: A three-fold question of sorts (pun intended): Which came first, the idea to build your latest book as three stories in one, or the fact that the lead character was three stories tall in height or that you wanted to tell the story from the perspective of three women?

Matt Kindt: I wanted to tell the story from three different generations' perspective -- that was first. Then the idea for the title. I'm usually terrible with titles. It takes me forever to come up with something and then I usually go back to the working title anyway. Super Spy started out as my jokey working title and then it grew on me so I just left it. A friend accused me of naming it 3 Story so it would be filed on the bookshelf next to my other book 2 Sisters -- completely unintentional. But I'm thinking my next book might be called "4 Shadows". (kidding)

O'Shea: In a recent post right before SPX, you wrote: "sold out of 3 Story last weekend at Windy City Con but should have a whole new stack of books for SPX"--did you sell out there as well?

Kindt: No -- came close -- but I had a LOT more books for that show. But I think I sold even more at SPX which was a great show.

O'Shea: I love your penchant for diagrams in the midst of your storytelling, at one point in this book you diagram a bullet as it enters a man's eye and exits out his neck. What motivated you to make that storytelling choice? Later in the story you utilize architectural plans. Did you do those yourself--and if you did, did it require a great deal of research to get it just right?

Kindt: Someone asked me about the bullet diagram thing and if it was a reference to the JFK "magic bullet" which might be kind of true. In my storytelling I really like to just break down a moment sometimes -- and show every second of that key moment. So that was just one kind of way of doing it. Instead of showing him just slump over. Bullets do crazy things and bullets are terrifying to me -- it's such a careless and horrible thing to fire a bullet because they can bounce of and around and pass right through you and you don't even feel it or paralyze you. So by breaking that all down and showing the path of the bullet, to me it helps focus on this really horrible thing instead of just glazing over it.

With the architecture -- I did a little bit of research and then built some blueprints based on a bunch of reference I'd pulled -- I had an idea of the shape and size of the thing. I liked the idea of his home being a sort of extended upside-down ship in the middle of this field. I think the blueprints came from this idea I had of wanting to do a scene between them that was really just talking about their sex life but do it in a way that sort of protected the characters' privacy at the same time.

O'Shea: Can you explain your affinity for the Cold War era, given that it is seemingy the backbone of your story? I place the middle of this story around 1963 (feel free to correct me here) a full 10 years before you were born.

Kindt: Other than World War II, the Cold War was the other great time period for spies -- great gadgets, great cars and clothes. And a lot of history happening then. Civil rights, JFK, Vietnam starting. Lots of material and themes there to tap into.

O'Shea: You were very selective of when you stepped away from full color storytelling into small 8-page b&w snippets every 20 pages or so (it seems). How did you decide what parts warranted that unique treatment?

Kindt: Most of that I had built into the story as the threads that tie the action and sections together. I had a LOT of back story and things I wanted to get in to the main narrative and a lot of things that I ended up just pulling out of the book completely. So those sections serve that purpose but I also like the idea of making the book feel a little like a scrapbook or a secret file that you're picking up and trying to put together the pieces of this story.

O'Shea: In college, Craig's room-mate is Ray Cool, an African-American student. As far as I can tell, Ray is the only African-American in the story. Is this a subtle (or maybe just subtle to me) effort on your part to emphasize that the two are kindred spirits as outcasts of sorts, given the 1960s and the Civil Rights era?

Kindt: I'd accept that interpretation. That character is actually a sort of amalgamation of a few real people -- friends of my parents during the 60s so he can be that be he's also just very kind of real in my mind.

O'Shea: I love the nuances of pop culture you use in the story. For example, one WWII era letter to Craig's mom quotes the Andrew Sisters' Shoo-shoo Baby? How did you come up using that song in particular?

Kindt: I listen to a lot of music -- and jazz from that era is just really great. I had another 10 pages or so in the book that I took out that went into Craig's shoes and a lot of symbolism with these empty shoes and the feelings that his mother got from seeing his shoes and then his wife and daughter. So kind of a silly pun almost by using that song.

O'Shea: Any chance you would consider creating a sequel Secret Files of Giant Man (along the lines of this separate story)?

Kindt: I would love to. Usually with my books there is so much work put into it that I use everything and everything I did ends up in the book. With 3 Story, it was a little different. The ending and the different little moments were really delicately balanced and I had a lot of extra story pages and ideas that I just pulled out of the book so the story beats would be a little more "poetic" and have a unique rhythm to them. So there are whole subplots and other aspects to Craig's life that I would love to put together somehow.

O'Shea: Speaking of that short story, I loved the rare instance of him underappreciating the size of something in the Louvre, but what was the thinking in choosing that particular art piece?

Kindt: That was my reaction to that piece when I first saw it. Only in reverse. That had always been one of my favorite paintings but I'd only seen reproductions in textbooks, etc. and they were always 2 or 3 inches big. So when my wife and I tracked it down at the Louvre it was literally a shock -- that painting is huge in person. Large than life size. Just crazy big. So I thought it would be funny for him when he got there to not be as impressed.

O'Shea: You used 1960s magazine style ads as storytelling elements in a few pages, How did you come to decide to attempt that (it really worked with the one on page 88) experiment?

Kindt: Initially as I was writing it I knew he would have to make money somehow and product endorsements and advertising seemed like a simple easy fit. Then my next thought is that it would be fun to put ads inside the book so when you flip through it, it looks like there are real ads in the book. I did a ton of fake ads (again, didn't use even half of them) and as I was putting them into the story and writing the fake ad copy it seemed like a waste. If the ad copy is just cheesy 60s ad copy then it's kind of a waste to read it let alone write it. So I thought I'd slip some more subtle character dialogue and scenes in there so they ads wouldn't just be filler. They'd be integral.

O'Shea: Of the three women that tells Craig's story, who do you find that you feel you executed the most effectively in the book?

Kindt: I think the mother and the wife are probably the most fleshed out and real to me -- but only because the daughter is still trying to figure it all out. Trying to figure out who her father was and who she is. The narrative trick there I suppose is that her thoughts and dialogue at the end really end up becoming the Giant Man's. Most effectively then? I don't know -- they all kind of serve their purpose I suppose.

O'Shea: What do you care to tell folks about your other upcoming projects--Revolver (Vertigo); The Tooth, a fun 70s style comic with Cullen Bunn (Oni); and the Super Spy sequel, Super Natural?

Kindt: Those are the next three books I'm working on. Revolver will be out Summer 2010 and The Tooth is going to be starting up on-line first for free (in November) and then packaged in book form in 2010 as well. Super Natural -- still writing and re-writing it and whipping it into shape. It sort of sat on the shelf for a year or so as I finished up 3 Story so now I'm getting back into it and trying to make it a worthy follow up to Super Spy. We'll see!

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