Next week sees the debut of Matt Kindt‘s latest project with Dark Horse Comics. Written by Kindt and illustrated by his Grass Kings and Black Badge collaborators Tyler Jenkins & Hilary Jenkins, Fear Case follows a pair of government investigators as they track a mysterious case with links to a series of horrific events. The series, described initially as “True Detective meets The Ring,” deftly blends procedural elements with psychological horror for a compelling story that will definitely keep readers on edge in the best way possible.
Fear Case is the most recent Dark Horse book from Kindt, the writer of titles like Ether, Mind MGMT, and Bang!, whose other current title from the publisher, the Matt Lesniewski-illustrated Crimson Flower, debuted last week. The Beat spoke with Kindt about Fear Case, what he’s learned during his first straight-on foray into horror comics, and what he personally enjoys out of the genre. Check out our interview, along with a preview of the first issue of the series, below.
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Joe Grunenwald: Fear Case is your first horror comic. What kind of horror stories do you like? Did any of your favorites influence your writing on this book?
Matt Kindt: Well, I talk about this with my buddy Brian Hurtt all the time. He’s got an embarrassingly long list of things I hate. The horror genre USED to be on it. And then he reminds me that I love Alien and The Shining. And I realize that I don’t dislike horror…I think I just don’t respond to the supernatural. There’s a disconnect for me there. I can’t make that leap – that suspension of disbelief for some reason. But horror isn’t always supernatural. It’s really just a psychological state of being.
I think I’ve had elements of horror in some of my previous work. I did a run at Valiant on Ninjak in the Deadside that was flirting with horror. Ether with Dark Horse and David Rubín has some of those elements. So with Fear Case – I wanted to tackle it straight on. But I also wanted it to not ask to suspend your disbelief too much. In fact…the case – the entire story is based on a person’s willingness to BELIEVE. Fear doesn’t have any power if you don’t feel it. And that’s really what this series explores.
Grunenwald: Has anything surprised you about writing a horror comic? How has it been different from other comics you’ve worked on?
Kindt: I think it’s a lot harder to create suspense…or that sense of dread in comics. The reader sets the pace to a certain degree. I get the page turns to reveal things – but that’s about it. Tyler and Hilary’s art does an amazing job of making the grisly bits beautiful and the sheer amount of black space and open areas on the page – it give it a really desolate and lonely feel. So the answer is to really lean on the artists. Ha ha!
And really – the horror of this book is the ideas in it. It’s not going to scare you…not right away. It’s a slow creep and a kind of brain worm that will work its way into your subconscious. And really – it’s asking a very difficult moral question. Would you curse the person you hate the most? Do you hate someone…do you hate them that much? And if you don’t – would you curse them to save the person you love the most? It’s a pretty fun moral quandary.
Grunenwald: There’s a procedural element to Fear Case as well, as readers follow a pair of Secret Service agents hunting for this case. How would you describe Winters and Mitchum, the two agents at the heart of the series?
Kindt: I really wanted to show a close relationship – the kind of relationship you have only when you’ve spent years together. That kind of relationship that you don’t even think about – it’s just always there and then one day you realize…this person is the most important thing in my life. There’s something great about that feeling – and also something terrifying – to care about someone that much – that you’d rather die than have something bad happen to them. It really puts you in a vulnerable state. But it’s also a beautiful thing.
Grunenwald: Why did you choose to have the Secret Service investigating the “Fear Case,” as opposed to the FBI or another agency?
Kindt: Early on – while I was working on this – the Secret Service came up – and it was pointed out to me that they were the oldest investigative agency in the US. I didn’t believe it. What? No way. They protect the president and that’s it. Well. I did a bit of digging and yeah – they do a lot more. So I really just liked the novelty of using an agency that we don’t see a lot of in this context. We see the FBI and the CIA all the time. It just seemed more interesting – and with the long history of the Fear Case – it made sense to have our oldest agency investigating it still.
Grunenwald: Is there more to the notion that investigating the “Fear Case” is something only new Secret Service agents are assigned to? Is there a reason older agents aren’t given that case?
Kindt: Well, supposedly the Fear Case feeds on fear. So any agent that works on it longer than a year starts to get obsessed…they end up dying or going nuts. So eventually the Service limited agents to one year on the case then they have to drop it. Of course – there’s a conspiracy theory going around that the government is trying to “charge up” the case with fear – they don’t want to find it – they want it to get more powerful so they can weaponize it….but that…that’s crazy. (nervous laughter)
Grunenwald: We get a hint of a connection between Fear Case and your larger body of work in the first issue. How large a role will that connection play as the series progresses? Are there any of your other books specifically (aside from “all of them”) you would suggest readers check out if they want to get the most out of Fear Case?
Kindt: There’s a direct link to Bang!, and from there I’d go back and re-visit Mind MGMT. Those are really my two “core” books where all this other mythology grows out of.
Grunenwald: You’re working for a third time with artists Tyler and Hilary Jenkins. There’s some very striking and horrific imagery in the first issue of Fear Case. What do you enjoy most about what they bring to your collaborations?
Kindt: They’re always pushing the envelope and the art form of comics forward…trying new things. Every book we’ve done together – they’ve worked in a different way – a different process. It was ink and water color for Grass Kings – then ink over gauche for Black Badge – and now it’s charcoal and paint…I’m always a little scared when they start out – and always absolutely amazed when they finish. Every book has a different style and flavor…and the dark fields of charcoal and paint in this one…really gives it a haunted look.
Grunenwald: What can people expect if they decide to pick up Fear Case?
Kindt: It’s a great book to read by flashlight. Under the covers. Late late at night.