"I’m Always Joking About Something" – An Interview with Writer/Artist MATT KINDT
Matt Kindt has had a storied career in comics. Adept at being a one-man show with series like MIND MGMT to writing the superhero universes of Marvel and Valiant Entertainment, there isn't much he hasn't done. Despite this, Kindt has still found ways to keep things interesting, announcing his own imprint at Dark Horse Comics, Flux House, pursuing bold, new stories, and revisiting some fan favorites.
Comic Book Yeti contributor Luke W. Henderson sat down with Matt to discuss his new books and the inspiration behind creating comics that double as "art objects."
COMIC BOOK YETI: This year, you’ve got 4 books coming out (Spy Superb, MIND MGMT: Bootleg, Mr. Mammoth & Hairball), and your series with Keanu Reeves, BRZRKR, is wrapping up. How do you manage your time between all of these different series, especially since one of them you also draw?
MATT KINDT: It’s all I do. But I have to be pretty protective of my time. I try to lump all my phone calls and Zooms into one day. And all my email answering into another day. That leaves 3-5 days free to write and draw and take out the trash. I try to keep each day focused on just one thing. One comic or one project or activity. It helps to keep things compartmentalized that way. Doesn’t always work out that way but that’s the weekly goal.
CBY: Your previous work has largely focused on emotional dramatic thrillers with big ideas attached to them. Spy Superb and the more horror-driven Hairball seem to have more of a comedy bent to them, even the new Mind MGMT: Bootleg series feels more lighthearted. While your works haven’t been absent of jokes, what draws you to write more humorous stories now?
MK: I’m always trying to find new ways to challenge myself as a writer. I think part of that challenge is tackling genres that I haven’t worked in before. I don’t think I’d ever want to just do a straight-up humor book. But I think it’s been a pretty dark few years and I don’t want to be putting more darkness into the world. It’s the same reason I tend to not create superhero books. We have enough of them. So I think we have enough dark end-of-the-world kind of books right now. I wanted to do something new. Humor is a great tool to use when telling a story. And in real life, I’m always joking about something. Literally always. So I just decided to let a little more of that leak into the stories I was already telling. None of these books are “comedies.” But I think they’re definitely a bit more irreverent by design.
With Spy Superb and Hairball I definitely pushed myself into some new genre territory (humor and horror). And MIND MGMT has always been absurdist at heart so I think I just leaned into that again and had fun playing even more with different formats and structures. For example – the “missing” script pages in Bootleg that I wrote in a way that would be literally impossible to draw. It’s funny in concept but actually adds a depth and backstory that you couldn’t get any other way.
CBY: A common character utilized in your stories is a highly-skilled, ambitious man who neglects their loved ones to pursue their grand visions. I’m thinking of characters like Boone Dias from Ether or Mia’s father in Dept. H. In your new books, you play with these character types in new ways. Spy Superb’s Jay Bartholomew is highly ambitious, but has little skill and tries to hawk a 1000-page novel with one chapter. Mr. Mammoth’s titular character is highly skilled but has low ambition, not accepting lavish payments for his work and refusing to commit violence despite his hulking frame. What compels you to write these types of characters and how do you plan on further tinkering with them?
MK: The drama for me comes from that tension between ambition and personal relationships. We have goals we’re pursuing but what kind of damage does that do – what cost does it extract from our personal relationships? I think that’s something we all struggle with in one way or another.
Repeating character types is the thing I probably hate most. I hate reading those types in stories and so the base of each of my books starts with taking a character like that – a stock type – and figuring out how to make them more real. To not be a type. But be real. I end up basing a lot of it on real people I know – exaggerated aspects of them – and myself in some cases. With Spy Superb it was fun to contrast a guy – Jay – who has all the drive in the world but literally none of the talent to back it up. What happens to someone like that? And for Mr. Mammoth – we have the other extreme – a guy with this amazing talent to solve crimes but a complete unwillingness to profit from it.
CBY: The last time you worked with your wife, Sharlene, was in 2018 when Dept. H ended. Now, you’ve returned to working together with Spy Superb. What’s it like to work with your spouse on a book? How is the process different than working with someone else?
MK: There’s a level of trust and understanding that we share – that I will never have with anyone else. We’ve been together for more years than we haven’t. We know each other better than any other person on earth. So taking all of that into a project makes it something unique. Unreplicatable. We push and challenge each other. She makes me redraw bad drawings – and think about story in a different way…which seems simple – but is invaluable to get honest feedback that’s coming from a place of love. It means everything.
CBY: Similar to the last question, you are a writer and an artist and seem at ease being the sole creator or working with a team. How does your writing process differ when you are the writer & penciller, in a book like Spy Superb, vs. when you are only the writer, like in Mr. Mammoth, which sees Jean-Denis Pendanx take the reins on art? Do your scripts differ greatly from a typical comics script due to your art experience?
MK: With a book like Spy Superb where I’m writing and drawing – the process is very hands-on. I’m able to visualize the entire story as I’m writing it, which means I can make changes on the fly and fine-tune the pacing and layout with each page and each issue. I have full and total control over the final product. If it needs an extra 8 pages each issue (it did)…then I add it. No questions asked. No problems. Just…a few more late nights at the studio.
But when I’m working on a project like Mr. Mammoth where I’m only the writer, things are a bit different. I have to rely on Jean-Denis Pendanx (a real legend) to bring the story to life. I can picture it all I want – but if I don’t convey that properly via words – and he doesn’t execute – it could really just fall apart. We had a lot of discussions on visuals and setting. I keep an open mind – the beauty of collaboration is that you’re working with another mind that has its own amazing ideas – so I always keep my mind open. The goal is to get the best possible book at the end. Egos are left at the door.
CBY: Many of these new books have been or are going to be published by your new Dark Horse imprint, Flux House. One of your goals with this was to make comics that are also “art objects”. What inspired you to do this? Is it an argument against the common view of comics as cheap, disposable media?
MK: The idea of creating comics as art objects is one that I’ve always been thinking about…and sometimes executing. I did a MIND MGMT book and record that I think qualifies. The MIND MGMT board game is another contender. It’s story and it’s functional. The art object is a physical manifestation of the artist’s idea – of the story. And comics – in its unique form, gives itself over to a perfect opportunity to merge art and story into this third thing – the physical object. That can be functional and beautiful at the same time.
CBY: Thanks, Matt!