It was Matt Kindt’s incredible sense of design and innovative storytelling which caught my attention in 2012, when I saw the cover for MIND MGMT #3 and eagerly devoured its contents. Since then I have been continually impressed and amazed as Matt wove his magic on further creator-owned titles such as MIND MGMT and PastAways and the characters of the Valiant Universe in many titles including Rai, the 4001 AD event, The Valiant, Divinity and Ninjak.
This month is a banner month for the creator, with no less than 6 comics being published with Matt Kindt listed in a creative capacity: X-O Manowar #1, Ninjak #25 and Divinity III: Stalinverse #4 (all written by Kindt for Valiant) as well as Ether #5 (with David Rubin, published by Dark Horse Comics), Grass Kings #1 (with Tyler Crook from BOOM!) and my personal favourite of them all Dept H #12 (all Matt Kindt, with colours by Sharelene Kindt. Also published by Dark Horse Comics).
Geek Syndicate was lucky enough to speak to Matt Kindt about his creator-owned comics and his creative process.
Geek Syndicate (GS): How would you pitch DEPT.H to a potential reader in one sentence?
Matt Kindt (MK): Locked-room murder mystery six miles deep in the ocean.
GS: A large part of the aesthetic of both MIND MGMT and DEPT.H are the incredible watercolours of your wife Sharlene. Will we see her doing color work for any other artists or companies? Or are you wisely keeping her amazing talents for yourself?
MK:I think I have her under an exclusive contract—I’ll have to check our marriage license! (laughing) Sharlene is amazing, of course—and what I love is that she is the perfect barometer of what is good. She didn’t grow up reading comics, so she’s not predisposed to like the stuff I like. She has an independent mind when it comes to art and story, and I find that I’m constantly trying to create comics that she will enjoy—to me she’s emblematic of all the readers in the world that haven’t read comics because there just aren’t enough comics for her. That’s my inspiration. I’m trying to make books that she’ll enjoy and pick up. Having her paint these stories is just amazing. She comes from a fine-art background, so I really feel like she’s bringing something new to the medium that I’ve loved all my life and I couldn’t be more excited about it. She’s gotten some interest outside of our work—but painting a monthly comic is a lot of work, so she’s pretty well set until we get done with Dept. H. I’m going to try to keep her busy forever!
GS: Over the last few years you have been both writing and drawing some creator-owned books (e.g., MIND MGMT, DEPT.H) and only writing others (e.g., Past Aways, Ether, the upcoming Grass Kings). How do you determine which books will receive the “full Kindt” and which you will write for another artist?
MK: Usually it depends on what I feel like drawing. Some things are more interesting for me to tackle artistically. And honestly, I try to pair projects with the artist—it’s a lot like casting an actor for a part. The art is really going to dictate the entire feel of the series. I knew David was going to make Ether look bonkers and amazing. And with Grass Kings, Tyler actually came to me with that idea and it became more of a collaboration from the ground up. So really, each project is different from the last. But a few things like MIND MGMT are just so hard to explain—there’s so much in it—that it’s honestly just easier for me to execute the entire thing.
GS: I enjoy the design elements you bring to the page which provide supplemental information, like the MGMT rules in the borders of MIND MGMT, or the rising “watermark” in DEPT.H. How do you decide which story requires this extra information?
MK: It’s all story driven. I have some general ideas sometimes. Burning a page out of a book when I’m signing it (Red Handed)—that is an idea I carried around for a long time before finding a narrative reason to do it. In that book, burning a corner reveals the art behind it that connects to the page in front in a new way—and also ties in to what the main characters are going through in that particular scene—and I can only do it in person at signings. It was a very specific extra. The MIND MGMT border treatments were the same way. It just kind of happened by accident the first time. I was scanning in art and saw the blueline guides with the type that warns of the trim and bleed and live area and the paranoiac in me thought it would be funny if every page said something different—but instead of instructions for the artist, they were instructions for the reader. Again, those things also spring from the story, and just thinking about how to tell a story nonstop all the time. It’s what I do—I’m compelled beyond all reason.
GS: One of my favourite things you have done is the cover to MIND MGMT #30, where a portrait of the Eraser character is done using eraser shavings. At what point in the process do the ideas for these types of design elements come to you ?
MK: Usually during the course of a series I’ll have a list of cover ideas in general. And I really just treat each cover on a month-by-month basis as a rule. When it’s due, I take a week to do cover sketches and concepts and approach each cover like a work of art. I honestly think the monthly covers are my favorite part of monthly comics. It’s so fun to come up with a design that is going to go head to head with every other comic out on the shelves that week. That’s really the goal: to have a wall of comics with my book on it, and have it be the cover that stands out. I see it as a competition. Every month, trying to beat every other cover out there. A lot of thought goes into them. I feel like comic covers all have a general sameness to them, so I’m constantly trying to break out of that—to rethink what a comic cover can be. I love design and particularly book design, so getting to design twenty or thirty covers for what is basically one book is a dream come true.
GS: I have noticed that most of your stories revolve around a mystery—Past Aways (who sabotaged the time ship?), MIND MGMT (just what did happen to the reporter on that fateful plane trip?), and both DEPT.H and Rai (murder mysteries), which are springboards for character studies. Why do you think a mystery works so well as a plot device?
MK: I think every story is a mystery at the heart of it. Sometimes it’s literal—the reveal of a murderer or culprit—but every story I’ve done also has a lot of mini reveals, which are just character moments. I think I’m addicted to the idea of the epiphany. You get them in real life sometimes, but they’re rare moments, so it’s fun to kind of manufacture those into a narrative. I’m addicted to that aha moment like some people are addicted to adrenaline. But I think tied to that is the goal of all art and writing: to get readers to feel something and to also look at something commonplace from a different perspective—to gain new insight by changing a point of view. So in that way, I don’t think I really like mysteries as a genre—I just kind of see everything as a series of mysteries with revelations that happen over and over again throughout life.
Geek Syndicate would like to thank Matt Kindt for providing his time and insight.
Find out more at: http://www.mattkindtshop.com/
Interviewer: Brett Harris