Talking Comics with Tim | Matt Kindt

Matt Kindt is a writer/artist who is on the eve of being a monthly frequent occupant of retailers shelves after years of increasing recognition for his graphic novels. First up, on April 18, Dark Horse releases 3 Story: Secret Files of the Giant Man (Kindt's follow-up to his 2009 graphic novel, 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man)--a set of three stories collected in one book that originally appeared in MySpace Dark Horse Presents. That April 18 release also features a preview of his new monthly Dark Horse espionage ongoing, Mind MGMT, which officially launches on May 23. I was interested in email interviewing Kindt to find out how it feels to be meeting the monthly deadline (as opposed to his creative process when working on standalone graphic novels). And, of course, I took the opportunity to find out more about his other major ongoing project, assuming the writing reins from Jeff Lemire on DC's Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (his first issue on that high profile assignment goes on sale June 13 with the release of issue #10). My thanks to Kindt for his time and thoughts. I particularly appreciated his belief that the "art-form of a good monthly comic has sort of been lost"--and his resulting aim to regain some of what's been seemingly lost. Once you finish this interview, be sure to also read CBR's Jeffrey Renaud's late January 2012 interview with Kindt in which they detail the upcoming Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. work.

Tim O'Shea: How hard is it to decide to take on the monthly grind with Mind MGMT? Have you had to make adjustments to your creative process, or has the demand on you increased on you (as opposed as to when you were doing standalone graphic novels)?

Matt Kindt: It wasn't a hard decision at all really. I've always wanted to do a monthly book. That's the format I grew up reading and so it's always been kind of a dream of mine to eventually work in that format. I've been spoiled my whole career, starting out doing OGN's -- which is something I know a lot of monthly guys aspire to so I'm just coming at it from the other side. I still love the OGN and it's my favorite way to create but I think you get a different experience with a monthly book. When you read a monthly, you're growing and changing and aging along with the characters. And you're thinking about the story and the characters month after month instead of just reading 300 pages in one sitting and then moving on. I think you begin to actually care a little more about what's going on.

As far as work schedule -- I pretty much work at the same pace not matter what. Every graphic novel I've ever done I end up doing at pretty much a monthly pace -- at least 30 pages a month so this isn't really any different as far as work load. The only added work really is doing more covers. I'm used to finishing a book and then laboring over 1 cover for a month. Now I've got to do that every month - which is actually fun. I don't have to settle on one design since there's a new one every month.

O'Shea: April sees the release of a 24-page collection of 3 Giant Man short stories you originally did for their MySpace Dark Horse Presents Anthology. Did you tweak the stories at all for this new repackaging?

Kindt: I tweaked the lettering and the titles a slightly but not really anything significant. There's a new cover. But I'm not one of those creators that feels the urge to go back and "fix" things you know? I feel like the work I do is what it is. It's an artifact of the time and place I was when I made it, so changing it feels wrong to me. There is a new cover for it and some other design elements around the stories that I added. It's just nice to have those extra stories all in one place. It's a nice companion piece to the graphic novel I think. If the GN ends up bumming you out, then pick this up and read it last...it's got a little more light-hearted vibe to it I think. It's the Giant Man in the prime of his life having fun...or at least having an "okay" time.

O'Shea: Who is editing you on Mind MGMT--and how has their input helped tighten or improve the story?

Kindt: Diana Schutz helped me get it going and Brendan Wright is doing most of the month-to-month editing now and they've been invaluable. I kind of have this tunnel vision when I'm working on a project - and Mind MGMT is really the biggest thing I've ever taken on. It's going to be about 3 years worth of stories and they've really helped me keep it all organized. This book is really large in its scope so I kind of feel like I'm building this big literary rocket and they're helping me make sure I don't blow up on the launch pad...

O'Shea: Why talking dolphins, why no talking manatees or goldfish?

Kindt: Ha! I don't know that I'd rule those out! But technically the dolphins don't talk...they type on underwater keypads. C'mon now, it's not that crazy!

O'Shea: What was your initial reaction when you found out Gilbert Hernandez was doing an alternate cover for Mind MGMT?

Kindt: I was so excited! I kind of missed Love and Rockets as it was coming out but I finally got around to reading the big Palomar collection when it came out years ago and it just blew me away. I really think it's one of the top 10 graphic novels of all time. And actually one of the few books that really does earn the title of graphic "novel." It's an immense piece of work. I look at that as one of the finest achievements that comics is capable of. So yeah, when it came up, I was super excited. I'd love to seem my name in the same paragraph as Gilbert...! I'll take that any day!

O'Shea: While Gilbert provided a cover for you, you did one for Peter Bagge (as you discuss). You gave Peter three covers to choose from, did he pick the one you favored over the other two proposed ideas or were you equally committed to all of them?

Kindt: Yeah - that's an old design trick I learned when I used to be a graphic designer. You give one good idea and then two really bad ones to make that one idea look even better. But that said, it usually backfired because inevitably the client would end up picking the worst one. But I had faith in Peter...he's knows what he's doing.

O'Shea: Do you have the course of Mind MGMT all planned out for the life of the ongoing, or are you leaving yourself open to revise the larger story once you see what readers respond to the most?

Kindt: Yes - I've got a roadmap for the next 3 years -- so probably around 40 issues - not including extra prequel-style stories I'm working on. I'm doing 3 stories every week for free online leading up to the issue 1 release in May so I'm planning on doing those periodically. As for reader response, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to react to it. I know that when I was writing Robot Man for DC there was a guy on a message board or a review who just asked the question -- if the technology that allows Cliff to live in a robot body exists, why can't Barbara Gordon walk? I thought that was pretty funny, so I actually address that directly in an upcoming issue of Frankenstein to explain what that is. So little things like that I think are fun. But Characters in Mind MGMT are gonna die and there's nothing anyone will be able to do about it...!

O'Shea: You clearly love to research your projects, what's been the most challenging research aspect on Mind MGMT?

Kindt: I think trying to figure out what kind of real mind experimentation has gone on with the government and figuring out what really is possible, or what might be possible. So then my biggest creative concern becomes, where do I draw the line? I don't want agents flying around or anything -- I'm trying to keep the series grounded to a degree so everything is kind of in the realm of possibility or at least explainable. I think the most I push that is with these "immortal" characters that show up who have been trained since childhood to heal their bodies -- ultimate mind-over-body techniques so they're super hard to kill. And there's other weird twists like that but nobody is lifting battleships out of the water with their brain. It's a little more subtle than that (most of the time).

O'Shea: A recent tweet got me curious: "Not sure what's more fun. Writing Frankenstein action scenes or Frankenstein dialogue..." How hard was it to get the ear for dialogue on characters like Frank?

Kindt: Ha! It was pretty challenging. Mostly because he was the first character that I came to where he has an established history and I had to be true to that. To the way he talks and the things he does and I'm not just creating his world view from scratch. So I had to get in his head a little more (which is a pretty odd place) and work a little harder to get a handle on him.

O'Shea: Back in January you wrote: "Writing for an artist is really an interesting process. Kind of liberating in a way and it has a fire-works kind of feel to it, in that the script I write is like lighting a fuse and then you get to sit back and enjoy the show that the artist puts on. Kind of a unique feeling." Now that the project is public knowledge care to discuss the collaborative process more?

Kindt: Sure -- it's really a kind of three-way collaboration - between myself, my editor, and the artist [Alberto Ponticelli]. My editor (Joey Cavalieri) is really great. And I think that's really important when working on this kind of thing. Having a good relationship with your editor and building up some trust. And he really helps me frame it up. He gives me the parameters of what I'm allowed to do and then I try to go to town within that and push those parameters as far as I can. With Frankenstein I think he's sort of built up this great cult following with fans and an even bigger fanbase inside DC. It's just a fun oddball kind of book that actually gets to play with a slightly different set of rules than other books. They're letting the book get its freak on. And I've seen Alberto's pencils on my first issue (10) and it is crazy. I think these stories are really hitting him in a good place -- he's into 'em and you can tell. He's putting some images onto paper that I sort of imagined in my head but seeing those made into something real -- it's just crazy. I'm lucky to have him drawing this book because he really gets it. He gets the vibe and the weirdness and he's bringing a lot of love to it.

I've given Alberto a lot of photo reference for inspiration but with everything I've given him, I've just asked him to take it as a jumping off point and take it somewhere even crazier. And he has.

O'Shea: Anything you'd like to tell Robot 6 readers?

Kindt: Sure! Please buy the monthly books! With Mind MGMT I'm writing and drawing that book with the specific intent of it being read monthly. There's just something different to writing and reading a monthly book. You end up growing and aging along with the character month to month rather than picking up and reading a 300 page graphic novel in one sitting. I think you begin to get those characters under your skin and think about them a little more. I started waiting for trades on books years ago and now I think what that's done is make writers write their books for the trade and the art-form of a good monthly comic has sort of been lost. Each issue of Mind MGMT is going to be a good monthly read. It'll take you some time to get through. It's definitely not a 10 minute read. It's dense. I've hidden things in each issue that you'll have to go back and look for. I want these comics to make you feel like I did when I was 12 and reading and re-reading my issues, waiting for the next month's batch.

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