Valiant’s relaunch has been an incredible success, but what’s been most interesting is that the company have been able to balance commercial success with creative success. If you look at reviews for any of their titles, you’ll find that the reaction to every single one has been positive. And that goes for their newest launch, Unity, from Matt Kindt, Doug Braithwaite, and Brian Reber.
The floorspace for Artists Valley at Denver Comic Con was expansive, and positioned between the vendor and publisher areas in the front and the celebrity signing booths and food court at the back. It was almost arranged like a centrepiece, and to judge from the ethos of the con, that was intentional. A wide range of artists were invited and the “valley” was persistently busy, right up through Sunday when I finally managed to spend some time there. I wouldn’t say that my exploration was wide-ranging, but the folks I did speak to had a very affirmative attitude about the con and were busy, busy, busy making sales and doing commissions. They were pleasantly surprised by the way the con had boomed in only its second year, and found the atmosphere and fans celebratory and encouraging.
Dark Horse appears to be increasing their list of titles at a gradual but steady pace, with some laudable caution but what seems to be a specific agenda to build on their successes rather than simply allowing those successes to maintain their reputation over time. Many readers have been following the publisher’s works since their inception in 1986, and know they’ve had their rocky patches, like any other publisher, but there seems to be increasing momentum in the past couple of years that is carrying Dark Horse to a new level of productivity and reader appeal. How have they accomplished this? In part, the financial success they’ve managed to achieve over time giving them more flexibility for introducing new titles now must be due to the diversity of their output.
Interviewing Matt Kindt at WonderCon brought with it some unusual circumstances. Just prior to speaking to Kindt, I had the opportunity to hear him talk about his career history in a mammoth 90 minute panel interview, which I later covered for The Beat. This posed a serious question: what could I possibly ask him about that he had not already covered during the panel? Fortunately, hearing about Kindt’s life and work in such detail was a good springboard for posing some strange queries and I tried to get off the beaten path a little in the subjects we discussed. Not only was Kindt engaging, despite talking about himself at length for such long periods that day, but he allowed extra time for our chat, which was more than gracious of him.
Last week the first collected edition of his phenomenal series MIND MGMT (about the dark aftermath of a psychic spy organization) was released from Dark Horse, and this week, another new issue hits the stands. It’s an opportunity for new readers to jump on board and find out what all the clamor is about, but it’s also a season in the sun for fans who have been following Kindt’s long and unwavering career bringing his personal visions to light as both a writer and an artist. The more you hear from Kindt about his life and work, the more compelling his journey becomes for fans, and it’s easy to see why he inspires readers to stay with him for the long haul to the heights of comics stardom. For some, he’s a rising star, but the inside story behind the success is that he’s been shining brightly all along via a methodical commitment to his craft.
Hannah Means-Shannon: We’re starting off with a big question! Why do you think people need stories? Are they just entertainment, or is there something more than that to it?
Matt Kindt: I don’t know. There are so many answers to that question. People read to escape and people read for whatever reason. Like the reasons I read are for ideas. And it’s because I guess I just like pure ideas. So one of my favorite authors is Phillip K. Dick, and it’s not because his writing is so good. It’s not like it’s so great, frankly, the novels aren’t that fantastically written, but he puts so many ideas and different concepts in those books that that’s what I like. So, while I don’t recommend that everybody read his books, I think that he’s got more ideas per page than anybody, so that’s why I read. And again, it’s not so much about the story as it is about pure ideas. So that’s why I read, and honestly, that’s kind of why I watch movies, and that’s why I take in any sort of entertainment. Because I’m just on the hunt for a unique way of looking at something or a different perspective. I don’t know if a lot of people read what I do, but I’m glad they do. Is that vague enough for you?
You’d be forgiven if you think of Matt Kindt as a breakaway success, since the “slow and steady” approach that’s defined his career so far looks like a sprint to the finish line with the explosive success of MIND MGMT from Dark Horse. Educator and author Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology) sat down with Kindt in a marathon 90 minute interview panel with the enigmatic creator on March 30th as part of the Comic Arts Conference at WonderCon. This “Focus” series event revealed just how long a road it has been for Kindt to reach his current level of exposure and fandom with MIND MGMT, a comic series about the dark legacy of a government spy agency staffed by agents with psychic abilities.
Kindt, who says he’s probably been best know for his graphic novel SUPERSPY prior to MIND MGMT, had an unusual experience with comics at the age of 7 or 8 years old that left a big impression on him and still continues to influence his work. Reading Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL, he ploughed through an entire issue where Daredevil visits Bullseye in the hospital, now paralyzed (following his murder of Elektra) and repeatedly pulls the trigger on his gun at the murderer. The issue itself consists of Daredevil speaking to the comatose Bullseye with almost no action at all, and as a kid Kindt thought “What kind of crazy superhero stuff is this?”. The heavy, odd dialogue and the “threat” of the unloaded gun, Kindt said, “made me love comics”. After a period in the 90’s when superhero books weren’t “capturing” Kindt’s attention anymore, he had another epiphany after discovering Daniel Clowes’ series EIGHTBALL at a con. He immediately felt, upon reading the issues, “This is the kind of comics I want to do” and an indie sensibility was born. Enter the years of hard work and learning just how to produce comics with his own particular voice.