Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT, Dept H) could be comics biggest paradox. A man who in person has the grizzled beard of someone who would enjoy cutting down Redwoods for a living yet has the loveable demeanor of a panda bear. He’s easy going yet attacks story like a mathematician would complex calculus problems. That same approach will see him dive into a thus far (for him) unexplored genre of fantasy and magic in Dark Horse Comics new comic Ether. Alongside, artist David Rubin; the duo have crafted an incredibly imaginative world.
I got a chance to talk with Matt about Ether and what he will NOT draw himself.
COMICS BEAT: Before we get into Ether, how was your Halloween? What was the couples costume with Sharlene this year?
MATT KINDT: Ha ha! First year in a long while that we haven’t dressed up. Spent all our time helping our daughter build her Proton Back Pack for her Ghostbusters costume…which cracks me up. Never in a million years would I have guessed she’d dress as a Ghostbuster – but she got together with a few of her friends and they ended up with the entire team. It was great. I knew all the words to the theme song and was singing along and she just stared at me in confusion – wondering how I knew them all. That said, in hindsight – I would have worn a stay-puff marshmallow suit if I’d had more time to prepare!
CB: They make those inflatable ones now. If you guys ever need someone to be Slimer give me a call, but let’s jump into comics. What was your pitch to Dark Horse for this book?
MK: Sherlock Holmes solve[s] super natural crimes in a fantasy world. OR…a man of science sets out to prove that the super natural doesn’t exist…as he travels through a fantasy world to do so. Something like that. It was much longer than that, and had character designs and three years of plots attached to it, but that was the basic premise. I really wanted to write a character that applies Holmes’ ideas of rational thought to a magical realm and see if he could somehow kill all of the magic by explaining it. He’s a little bit of a jerk…and absolutely no fun at parties.
CB: Not too many comic book characters would be fun at parties if you really think about it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Matt Kindt style, it’s that when you write for other artists you put in lots of things you don’t like to draw. So with Ether, what’s in this book that you loathe illustrating?
MK: Ha! That is true usually! But you will find very few horses or cars in this story…because this is one of the few pitches/stories that I’d really planned on drawing myself. So I packed it full of stuff I was excited to draw – big rusty golems, and faeries, and swords and sorcery. All kinds of things I’ve been wanting to draw that I haven’t had a chance to yet…
But then David [Rubin] came along – and he was available to work on a project – and I LOVE David’s art. He’s literally one of maybe three artists on the planet that I’d rather see draw this than me…so I gave it up. And he didn’t disappoint. He turned in so much preliminary art and character designs – really fire up my imagination. One of those magic moments in comics where the sum is really greater than the parts.
That said, I did get to water color the back cover illustrations that he did – so I got my hand into it a little bit!
CB: See that’s what got me about this book when I read the first issue. So much of what’s on the pages are things suited to your surreal style of painting, that I really had to dig for things you didn’t like to draw. David Rubin’s work on the book is stellar and makes a story set in a genre easy to lose focus, simple to navigate.
Why explore a genre you, admittedly, are not comfortable in through murder mystery?
MK: I love pulp genre stuff, so murders and mystery are always the best staples. So I’m generally combining a genre I really love, with one I don’t care for – I think it’s that personal friction for me that powers the main character and makes me want to write him. There’s something really fun about writing a character like him and getting into his completely rational POV and then stepping out of him to show the cracks in his thinking and the flaws in his way of life. Like the genre mix, I both identify and disagree with the main character and these nutty genres.
CB: So many writers only stick to what they know. Personally, I enjoy when creators explore the things they don’t know. Probably the last great example for me was Steve Niles doing Breath of Bones.
Ether explores the dichotomy of its lead character. In the world of magic, he’s suave, respected, and seen as an authority of sorts. Then in the real world, he’s something we haven’t seen much of in comics. What made you give this character these two poles?
MK: It’s kind of a classic trope in comics – the secret identity or the alter ego. So it definitely comes from a classic love of the comic medium and that dual-identity concept. What’s interesting to me, is that he literally doesn’t believe in the magical “Ether” where he’s a sort of cult hero/investigator – he’s absolutely at odds with that world, but is outwardly successful. But in the “real world” on Earth – he’s respected scientist and looked on with admiration and his thinking and ideas are generally agreed with – but he’s a mess and ultimately a failure. At the end of the day, his story is kind of a cautionary one as well. He’s good and obsessed at what he does but he pursues this obsession to the detriment of nearly everything else in his life. It’s an idea I really relate to and struggle with as a creator. I absolutely love doing the work I do, and it’s a dream come true. But without balance – family and outside life, it can be a crazy place to live. I used to have a home studio and when I got a studio space outside of the house – literally everyone I talked to about it had the same reaction. Something like “oh, that must be great, so you can really focus and get more work done.” That caught me off guard…and is actually the opposite. I love having an off-site studio so that I can stop working. I have trouble NOT working – it’s the downtime that’s tricky.
CB: We learn just a little bit about his circumstances in the normal world while most the first issue focuses on his life in the Ether. Will we learn more about his story as far as why he ended up in his current state?
MK: Yeah – we’ll get to see most of the story by the end of the first arc. It’s all sort of intertwined – his success in the Ether being mirrored in reverse with his life on Earth. There’s a few twists at the end that I won’t spoil…but it’s pretty heartbreaking. Sorry, can’t help it! All the magic and fantastical storylines and talking purple apes and singing birds that can make your ears bleed are fun – but unless it’s grounded in real characters and has some humanity to anchor it all…I find it to be a pretty empty experience.
CB: Something I learned in college was that every story about people i this state is pretty heartbreaking in some way and I’m glad to hear you won’t shy away from it.
You continue to build your longevity in comics, which as we’ve seen isn’t always the friendliest place for creators. After so many years, what is it about the medium that continues to bring you back for more?
MK: It’s been pretty friendly to me (so far)! It was tough early but if you can just keep producing work it gets more and more rewarding. Comics is definitely a test of endurance. If you can weather the early years and keep producing your best work, eventually it pays off. I honestly am living my dream, doing the thing I love most. It’s the only field where you can write and draw your own stories with no interference and get your vision out there. Creatively, you couldn’t ask for more!
Also, it’s still a medium that’s fresh and untapped as far as creative fields go. There’s so much that hasn’t been done yet so I’m having fun charting new territory.
CB: I’m glad the best medium in storytelling still has the best people working in it. Speaking of best, one of the best comics you can dive into this week is Ether. Grab it Wednesday and dive into a fantastic story that combines the wonder of Hogwarts with the drama of True Detective…season 1.