Marketing, Writing, & Human Mattress – The Inside Scoop on MATT MCGRATH
COMIC BOOK YETI: Matt, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave to discuss ID-10T error, for which the campaign for issue 2 hits Kickstarter April 19th. How have you been doing?
MATT MCGRATH: Hey Jimmy! Thanks so much for inviting me to talk about the ID-10t error Kickstarter campaign. I’ve been great, but busy. Very busy.
Turns out that working a full-time job, raising an infant and a toddler, and prepping a Kickstarter campaign is a ton of work. Who knew!
CBY: For anyone not familiar, can you tell CBY readers what ID-10T error is all about?
MM: I’d love to. ID-10T error is a Black Mirror-esque revenge comedy about Bradley, a lonely, disgruntled man, who creates the world's most advanced artificially intelligent robot. Why? So he can torture and kill it.
But, when his AI gains consciousness for the first time, Bradley discovers there's a problem he didn't account for— that his creation will do anything to survive. Last year, we funded the first issue of ID-10t error on Kickstarter—but that was just a digital version of the comic. So for this Kickstarter, we’re raising funds to print Issue 1 for the first time, and to fund the production and printing of Issue 2.
In terms of what Issue 2 is all about (without getting too far into spoiler territory), it picks up moments after the events of the first issue. Bradley has failed. The AI has escaped. But the AI contains a secret within its coding that if it gets into the wrong hands, could destroy Bradley's life. Bradley must track it down—not just to enact his revenge, but also to ensure his own survival.
CBY: What is it you do when you aren’t writing Black Mirror-esque revenge comedies?
MM: Most of my time is spent raising my own little AI’s—our three-year-old son and four-month-old daughter. And don’t worry, they’re the ones torturing and beating me up all the time.
For the ol’ day job, I work as a Content Marketing Specialist in the marketing department of a major Canadian university. Which, by the way, having a marketing background has proven pretty handy when marketing for this Kickstarter.
I’m also working on another comic at the moment with artist Merissa Mayhew. It’s a mash-up of Lovecraftian horror and the films of silent filmmaker Georges Méliès. It’s basically a sequel to the classic silent film A Trip to the Moon, and it’s a story I’m really excited about. So stay tuned for more news about that on my socials!
CBY: Oh that sounds awesome. For issue #2 will it be the same creative team from issue #1 (artist Otavio Colino, colorist Kay Baird, and letterer Frank Cvetkovic)? The first issue had such a particular look, especially the color choices and Frank Cvetkovic’s astounding lettering. Can you talk about some of those particular choices and how the end result either lined up with your script or really took you by surprise?
MM: Yes! The gang is back, which I am incredibly stoked about. And if you look at the preview pages for Issue 2, you’ll see that this issue also has a very unique look and feel, pretty distinct from issue 1.
For instance, there is a scene set in Toronto’s Dundas Square at night (think Times Square, but, like, way less impressive) and when I received Kay’s colours for those pages, it blew my mind. I guess my greatest contribution to Otavio’s, Kay’s and Frank’s work on this series is how much I didn’t contribute. I let them have free reign and told them to take as many creative liberties as they wanted to, which was clearly the right choice.
For Kay’s colours on Issue 1, I sent her a poster of this 50´s sci-fi, horror film called I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (fun fact: this poster is also the inspiration for the cover) as an idea of the colour scheme I had in mind. And I think that poster was the creative spark that led to the beautiful palette of reds and blues we see throughout the majority of the book. For issue 2, I just told her “'90s buddy action-comedy” for the colour scheme and let her run with that idea. Kay also drew a print for this Kickstarter which we are offering as a reward to physical backers. It’s so so stunning!
"I think the creator I’m most influenced by is Mike Mignola. I have several comic ideas which are basically me trying to do my version of a Hellboy story. For ID-10t error, you can probably see the Mignola influence in the cut-away panels on several pages. Where Otavio inserts a small panel in the middle of the action to establish a creepy, foreboding mood. I also admire Mignola’s restraint when using dialogue."
I remember, when I received Frank’s lettering back for issue 1, I loved all of it, but I thought his block lettering for when Bradley or the AI are yelling especially ruled. So I told him how cool it was that he hand-lettered those block letters! And he was, like, nope, didn’t hand-letter it, it’s all digital with preset fonts. That’s how good he is!!! There are also a few sound effects that Otavio drew on the page intermixed with Frank’s SFX, and I bet you’d have a hard time telling which is which. That’s what I love about Frank’s work, how it blends in so seamlessly with the art and compliments it as well.
CBY: As I read issue #1 I tried to keep track of all the Easter eggs and nods to other things like the lighter from Preacher, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I’m pretty sure the Sopranos finale, is that more you or artist Otavio Colino and can we expect more in issue #2?
MM: Hey! So glad you spotted that Sopranos reference. But I have to admit--even I wasn’t aware of the MST 3000 reference. I guess that’s how many Easter eggs are in this book--not even the guy that wrote the thing is aware of all of them. There’s a Friends reference in there as well, so see if you can spot that on a reread.
Also, fun fact about the lighter: It was meant to play a pretty significant plot point in the third act of the book. But about a third of the way into production, I significantly rewrote the ending of the book, and that lighter no longer had a role to play. So it seems super important on that one page, but its big role ended up on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Sorry, lighter, maybe you’ll have better luck in the next issue.
But to answer your question—not too many pop-culture Easter eggs in issue 2, but there will be tons and tons of Toronto references. Toronto is the backdrop of this story (move aside Turning Red!) and readers will see many Toronto landmarks—both obscure and more recognizable (the CN Tower makes a guest appearance on the cover of issue 2.)
CBY: Burpo is just the greatest little weird robot mogwai, what inspired Burpo’s creation, and will we same day get a Burpo one-shot?
MM: I had never considered doing a Burpo one-shot until this very moment and now it’s all I want to do. So heck yeah! Maybe that will be an add-on we’ll do for the Issue 3 Kickstarter down the road,
The name “Burpo” itself has a bit of a weird genesis. I used to work at a bookstore in my 20s stocking shelves. In the religious section of the store, there was a book called Heaven is for Real written by Todd Burpo. It’s pretty famous, I guess? Anyways, I’ve got a pretty immature sense of humor, so I found the name “Burpo” very amusing and wanted to use it as a character name at some point. So when writing ID-10t error, and creating this creepy child’s toy come to life, Burpo seemed like the perfect name.
In terms of what inspired Burpo’s creation, that’s a little more boring. It was born out of a necessity for the plot. I didn’t really want to have any internal monologues for the AI, so I needed a character that they could interact with, getting across vital character info and bits of exposition. I also just thought it would be cool if Bradley used this childhood toy of his, this Furby-like thing, that he used as a Guinea Pig trail run for creating the AI, and that later became the Igor to his Frankenstein.
CBY: The thing that I was most impressed by with issue #1 was the pacing as well as the panel layouts, all the inset panels. Is that something that happened mostly with the script or with collaborating with Otavio Colino?
MM: Thanks! You know, as a green comic writer I don’t exactly have overwhelming confidence in my craft yet, but the one thing I am really proud of in this book is the pacing. So thanks for noticing!
I’d say it was definitely a collaboration between myself and Otavio. There were some pages where I had very specific instructions on how to layout the pages—the first three pages of the book being one example— but other scenes were a bit looser. For instance, the scene where the AI breaks through their restraints was mostly staged by Otavio. Those insert panels where we see the progression of the drop of water falling across the page was all Otavio’s idea and works so well.
Pages 10 and 11 were also 99% created by Otavio. When I’m writing, I usually leave the hardest scenes for last. I’ll put in a sentence or two as a placeholder to remind myself later the general gist of what I need to write. Which is what I did with those two pages, where we see Bradley in his room, just alone with himself. I think it’s the most sympathetic view we get of Bradley in the book. We get an idea of the lonely life this guy leads and how unhappy he is. He’s been living with this irrational and pointless hate for so long, and now that it seems like he is so close to exacting his revenge, he’s almost afraid of living without it. He's known it for so long and has grown comfortable with it. All of that is to say, I think I contributed two sentences of script to that scene, and the dialogue after the fact, but the rest? ‘Twas all Otavio.
CBY: Without giving away too much, what can we expect from issue #2?
MM: Issue one was very intimate in scope. The majority of the book takes place in two rooms and there are only three characters.
For issue 2, I wanted to go bigger with the scope and stakes. We’ll get a lot more backstory about Bradley’s past and a better idea of how he created this robot. Now that the AI has escaped the immediate threat of surviving Bradley’s imprisonment, they start to reckon with their identity. They question if they are really anything more than a pile of junk that thinks it’s real. Are they anything more than the product of a lunatic's incoherent rage? Do they deserve to be happy and whole? These are the questions the AI starts to ask themself. We’ll be introduced to more characters as well, like Bradley’s Uncle Oliver, who he treats like crap.
Overall, more action and more jokes. Bradley’s baffling rage unleashed across the city will be a sight to behold.
CBY: This will be your second Kickstarter after the successful campaign for issue #1, how would you summarize the experience of crowdfunding a comic, and what lessons did you learn from that first campaign that you're putting to good use for the campaign for issue #2?
MM: Hmm, I mean, I think I still have a lot to learn. The first Kickstarter had an itsy bitsy goal of $1,200 CAD. It was a digital-only release too, which meant I didn’t have to worry about printing and shipping the book in the middle of a pandemic.
This time I’m printing both issue 1 and 2 and raising $7,500CAD. Jimmy, feel free to check my math on this, but I *think* that’s a million percent more than the goal of the original Kickstarter. So in a lot of ways, it feels like I’m doing this for the first time!
That all said, the biggest lesson I learned was to diversify my marketing channels as much as possible. I received a lot of backers from Twitter last time. But I am also at the mercy of a merciless algorithm, and organic tweets are so hit or miss. It’s like shouting out your window and marketing to the people who are walking by.
So I’m doing as much PR as I can for this campaign—going onto podcasts and YouTube shows, sending out a press release to comic blogs and news sites, doing interviews like this one. Anything to get in front of more people and the right audience.
CBY: Are there any comic creators working today whose work inspires/influences you?
MM: There are a ton of writers working today whose work I absolutely adore. Scott Snyder, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky, etc. But I don’t think my writing is really influenced by them.
"For issue 2, I wanted to go bigger with the scope and stakes. We’ll get a lot more backstory about Bradley’s past and a better idea of how he created this robot. Now that the AI has escaped the immediate threat of surviving Bradley’s imprisonment, they start to reckon with their identity. They question if they are really anything more than a pile of junk that thinks it’s real. Are they anything more than the product of a lunatic's incoherent rage? Do they deserve to be happy and whole?"
I think the creator I’m most influenced by is Mike Mignola. I have several comic ideas which are basically me trying to do my version of a Hellboy story. For ID-10t error, you can probably see the Mignola influence in the cut-away panels on several pages. Where Otavio inserts a small panel in the middle of the action to establish a creepy, foreboding mood. I also admire Mignola’s restraint when using dialogue. His dialogue is air tight and he lets the visuals do the heavy lifting of telling the story, which makes sense after all, since he’s an illustrator first. I tried my darnedest to do the same in ID-10t error and in some scenes, I think I pull it off. But, you know, in other more exposition-heavy scenes, um, yeah, not so much (sorry, Frank). But, it’s something I’m still working on and always striving for in my scripts.
CBY: What comics/books/tv shows/movies are you currently enjoying?
MM: We had our daughter in late December. And try as we might, this kid does not want to sleep in her crib. So my third gig after marketing and comic writing is being a human mattress to an infant, which gives me a toooooon of time to watch TV. At the moment I’m just finishing up Better Call Saul Season 5. I also recently finished Our Flag Means Death, which was amazing. I love it when new shows drop out of seemingly nowhere and just blow you away. Also binged all of Succession, What We Do In The Shadows and Titans (which is very trashy, but I’m just so flabbergasted and mesmerized by a Teen Titans show where they drop more f-bombs than a Tarantino movie!)
In terms of comics, well, you know how people have to-read piles? I’ve got to-read boxes full of floppies and graphic novels. That said, I just read the new issues of Saga, and I’m SO happy that book is back. I’m also really enjoying Arkham City. Dan Watters' script is great and Dani's art is absolutely freaking phenomenal! Also, anything by Chip Zdarsky goes to the top of my read pile.
CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
MM: Huh. Man, I really don’t know. I think I’m just going to have to be extremely basic and pick the three most obvious ones:
Action Comics #1
Captain America #1 (who doesn’t love to see Hitler punched in the face.)
Amazing Fantasy #15
Alright, there, you’ve got me! I don’t have any deep-cut comic knowledge!
CBY: Any other projects CBY readers should check out?
MM: Well, Issue 2 is part 1 of the next chapter in this story. It ends on a cliffhanger and the story will be concluded in Issue 3. If all goes according to plan, we’ll kickstart Issue 3 *hopefully* in spring 2023 (which reminds me…I should probably get started on that script, eh?).
Other than that, just the comic I mentioned before. Merissa and I have been very slowly working on it for a year. The script is pretty near complete and Merissa started thumbnailing the pages last week (and already they look amazing). The comic is called A Journey Into the Abyss and will very likely be the next comic I crowdfund. I’m hoping to get that off the ground by the end of this year, so look out for that!
CBY: Where can you be found online?
MM: You can find me on Twitter @stoopid_matt. I’ve got a private Instagram account too, which is matt_is_dumb (hmm…I’m sensing I might have some self-esteem issues, huh? Note to self: discuss with therapist next session). My insta is almost exclusively photos of my pets and family, so if that’s your thing then give me a follow!
CBY: Thank you so much for joining me, Matt, and good luck with the campaign.
MM: Thanks, Jimmy! And thanks for inviting me into the cave for a chat!
Now how do I get out of here?