Over its original 36 issue run at Dark Horse, Matt Kindt’s seminal work Mind MGMT was all the engagement of X-Files, Lost, and 24 kicked into some stellar comic book panels. Now, Kindt is coming back to his creation in order to do a Mind MGMT story no mere comic could solely contain, a record.
It’s experimental comic book storytelling at its most off-the-wall as Kindt is setting out to create the first ever read-along comic book and vinyl record for adults. Only, the series original publisher, Dark Horse Comics, doesn’t make records, so what’s a storyteller with an ambitious idea to do? Turn to us, avid comic book readers who want to push the medium by starting a crowdfunding campaign. Today sees the launch of the Mind MGMT Kickstarter to fund the physical production of the record and comic. Kindt has partnered with fellow comics creator and voice actor Clint McElroy (Green Hornet: Dark Tomorrow) who provides all the voice work for the fifteen-minute track.
If successful, backers at certain levels will get the combo comic book and record. As Matt Kindt will tell you, the new Mind MGMT read-along set brings more than just a reading of words to the table.
COMICS BEAT: On your Kickstarter, you talk about growing up with read-along stories and instead of coming up with a brand new property or something more in line with read-along’s conventional children audience, you’ve chosen to go back to the world of Mind MGMT. What is it about Mind MGMT that made it the right vehicle for this type of experience?
MATT KINDT: Maybe it was too much art school but I’ve always been attracted to a lot of the fringe arts and the flux artists. Performance art was something that I really didn’t get when I was younger – but now that I’m a little older I really see how performance art and the concepts involved in it can really inform all other art forms. The idea of involving the reader directly and having them engage with the material in a more intimate way is something I’ve really been working towards. It’s not just a comic you read and put in a bag or a book you put on a shelf. There’s a memory that you’ll link to it and have forever every time you look at that object.
MIND MGMT is really the culmination of everything I’ve ever learned and loved about comics and art – all put into one place. It’s a universe that’s allowed me to just run wild with unconventional ideas and formats. It’s the nature of the concept really which was intentional. I was inspired by Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. He created this kind of structure where he could tell any story he wanted to tell – spanning time and space. I really wanted to create something like that. A house that could hold any idea I had and still fit into a kind of cohesive world. MIND MGMT is at its core – spies with mind powers – but really it spans generations and the only limit is the outer reaches of what your mind can do. I really think that a lot of the craziest stuff in MIND MGMT is almost possible. It’s reality but just turned up 10%.
So…I had this slow realization for this story in particular as I was working on the art for the comic half of the book and record. This thing — it couldn’t be just like the records and comics I had as a kid. The audio was just a replica of the words in the comic. That’s fine for kids…but this needed to be something more. Not just a gimmick. There had to be a reason the story was in this format. This is really what inspired the actual story and I can’t go too much into the plot except to say that the audio and visual narrative is essential.
COMICS BEAT: Well I try to be a journalist at least three days a week so I do feel the need to ask about those details. Could you tell us a bit about the story in the book? Where in the timeline of Mind MGMT does it take place?
MATT KINDT: It takes place in the late 60s and early 70s…but it’s also a great stand-alone introduction to the idea of MIND MGMT. This, in a way is an ACTUAL recruitment record. In the fiction of the story it works that way and in reality – it is a recruitment device for the universe of MIND MGMT and the world of spies-with-mind-powers so it’s a great jumping on point and a super-crazy one-shot if you want to be one and done.
It’s working on a few levels…ha! MIND MGMT is a secret organization that has worked behind the scenes since the 1920s to both influence and change the course of history. Sometimes it’s a force for good and other times…maybe not. MIND MGMT spans the globe as well as time so the series really opens itself up to tell stories in any era and focus on individual characters and their relationship with MIND MGMT. It’s got spies with mind powers, subversive advertisements, lethal written-messages, and psychotropic children’s books.
That said, the story does focus around one of the original characters – “The First Immortal” who is a fun one. He’s trained his mind to completely control every aspect of his body so he can heal any sickness or wound. As a result he is REALLY old which has let me sprinkle him in various time periods. If you’re already a fan of the series this will fill in a little gap that we haven’t seen yet. And if you’re new to it – the story is specifically designed to literally make you a MIND MGMT recruit. You’re gonna be brain-washed for sure! That sounds like a joke – but I’m only 10% kidding.
COMICS BEAT: See that’s the best answer I could hope for!
Most creators are looking for a way to modernize storytelling in pure digital mediums, you’ve done a 180 on that trend with this Kickstarter. Why take on the risk of being labeled a hipster and do this story in such a retro fashion?
MATT KINDT: Ha ha! I’m not worried about labels. Seriously – I’m super fortunate to be at a point in my career that I can follow my instincts. I’ve wanted to do a comic and read-along record for maybe 15 years and now I’m finally in a position to make it happen. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Clint McElroy (super talented creator and voice-actor) who was a big fan of MIND MGMT so all the stars just lined up to make this happen at the perfect time. This is a passion project for me for sure. It’s the reason I’m doing it as a Kickstarter. I’m not going to ask a publisher to take this crazy risk. I’ll just assume it all and hope it finds an audience. There is zero pretention with this project. I love the format and I think it’s a format that’s been overlooked since the early 1980s and I’m willing to take the plunge and explore the potential it has. Audio stories with read-along comics…but not done in the old traditional way. The comic doesn’t work by itself and the audio won’t work alone either. They need to be consumed TOGETHER. It’s not like anything that’s come before – there’s the superficial nostalgia factor of the format and the vinyl. But this works just as well as a PDF and audio MP3 file. It’s unlike any other format of storytelling ever.
COMICS BEAT: After Grass Kings, you can do any story any way you want Matt. In fact, I’d like to see a read-along for Grass Kings with Troy Baker doing all the voices. You’ve certainly proved you can produce a quality audio track for these things.
The audio track is more than just a voice recording you and Clint McElroy have put some serious work into it with ambient noise and effects. Who did the sound design on the record?
MATT KINDT: I did everything on this project that isn’t Clint’s voice acting. All the editing and post-production as well as sound effects. I really was excited to learn something new. I’ve been doing comics for over 20 years so I was interested in doing something that stretched my capabilities and took me out of my comfort zone. This project did that, not only with the sound design but also re-thinking what the actual comic book would be. It couldn’t just be an illustration book for the audio story. It needed to both contrast and expand on what you’re hearing. Much like a caption over a panel in a comic (when it’s done correctly) doesn’t just describe what you’re seeing – the images and text in the comic work in a kind of 3-part harmony with what you’re hearing. It’s probably going to take at least three times through the comic and the recording to really pick up everything that’s going on. Which hopefully is a good thing. You’re going to get your money’s worth out of this project for sure.
I really started playing with the form. Using the audio story as one piece in a larger puzzle. You listen to the story and read along just like when I was a kid…but the images in the comic paint a different story – they subvert the audio…and then you have this crazy third layer of words and captions that are subverting both the audio and the image below it. It’s really working on three levels all at the same time.
COMICS BEAT: You’ve noted a special edition gold version of the record with a limited to 200 pressing but how many of the standard version will be pressed?
MATT KINDT: I knew that this comic book and read-along record was going to be a crazy format that we haven’t seen since the early 80s and might be a hard sell by traditional means. But I think Kickstarter patrons are looking for the cutting edge ideas and the concepts that are out of the box so I think it’s a perfect place for this project.
I back a LOT of stuff. And I really like it. I think it’s a great way to connect more closely with creators and actually get projects funded that might not otherwise ever be produced. From a practical point of view, I have absolutely no idea what demand there will be for this kind of crazy project so this was a safe way to produce it and gauge the interest. So the print run will be just a little bit above whatever the demand is. And this is a one-time deal. I’m not going back to press on this again. I want to keep this feeling of a rare kind of “art object.”
COMICS BEAT: You’ve said digital files will be available as part of the Kickstarter reward for those of us who aren’t vinyl inclined, but you’ve also said there will be subliminal extras in the record if, for example, it’s played backwards. Say, I don’t have a record player or fancy audio software that lets me hear things backward. Will there be downloads for backers of the extras?
MATT KINDT: This is all part of the game of the project. You can spin your records backwards and study the art in the comic to find the hidden stuff…or you might have to run your MP3 through some app to make it run backwards. I’m going to make you earn the bonus stuff. But at the very least it’s going to work straight-forward as well. You’ll get a great audio story that pairs with the comic and creates an experience that you haven’t seen before. If you want to dig a little deeper, there will be more – but it’s not necessary.
COMICS BEAT: Obviously producing a record is an undertaking not every creator is up for, but if the response is there, could we see more of this in the future? Maybe a cassette for those of us with a Sony Walkman? A return of comics in that big red ViewMaster visor?
MATT KINDT: It depends on the story. Honestly, I approach comic book and story-telling with story first. The story dictates the format…or in rare cases an idea for a format gives me an idea for a story (such is the case with this record.) So I won’t rule anything out. But I am planning on doing a series of MIND MGMT stand-alone stories over the next year that take very different forms. I did a small print-run mini-comic that was Riso printed (a silkscreen process) using fluorescent inks that was integral to the story. And I’m planning on doing a super crazy prose novel that’s going to be formatted like nothing else I’ve seen. And after that – a crowd-sourced comic book that will be open to the public with some investigation work…so I’m really just having fun telling stories with comics – but presenting them in a variety of ways – to keep myself energized – and to bring more interest the medium I’ve loved my entire life: comic book.
COMICS BEAT: Personally, I’m glad to hear we’ll get more Mind MGMT in the future. For now, my hipsters and non-hipsters alike should go over to the Mind MGMT Kickstarter to get themselves one of the keenest comic book ideas to come around in a long time. I may get two, one to read-along and one to scratch at the club.