Last month, the first issue of MIND MGMT, Matt Kindt’s new monthly series published by Dark Horse Comics, hit comic book store shelves with high praise. Of course, it also made our weekly Wednesday Run column! Those with great expectations surrounding the series were not left disappointed.
In MIND MGMT, Matt Kindt, acclaimed artist and author of Revolver, 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man and Super Spy, weaves a blend of sci-fi, speculative fiction and government conspiracy story, that is both action-packed and engrossing. Multiple (and absolutely fun and rewarding!) readings of each issue seem to be the order of the day. He spoke with JP Fallavollita via email about the series, its’ beginnings, his creative process, and the pleasures of monthly comic book storytelling.
JP Fallavollita: Congratulations on a thrilling first issue, Matt! MIND MGMT immediately evokes many different aspects of pop culture and speculative fiction: the stories of Philip K. Dick, the television show Lost and late-night conspiracy radio shows spring to <a-hem> mind. And it’s got a government black-ops twist, of course! What can you tell us about the genesis of the series?
Matt Kindt: It started with the title – I loved those words together – and then started to build something around it. It really just seemed to suggest itself. And I liked the idea of revisiting a sort of “Super Spy” world but in the present day (most of the time) and adding an extra crazy element that I haven’t really played with before with the sort-of-sci-fi mind powers.
Then it’s just a matter of thinking of what kind of people would be in this organization and what would it be like for them? The scenarios and stories then just sort of suggested themselves as well.
JP Fallavollita: The opening sequence in the first issue was one of the most memorable I’ve read in recent years. Absolutely riveting! The comment you make at the end of that particular scene – how dreams can surprise even the dreamer – seems important at this early stage of the series. From a philosophical perspective, what do you think it means to us, as human beings, that dreams have the power to surprise?
Matt Kindt: I don’t really like explaining things too much, so I won’t really address what I’m going for in the story – but I will say that it occurred to me recently how strange dreams are. Not the content necessarily, but the idea that your own brain – you, your soul, etc. can generate something automatically while you’re asleep that can startle you, scare you, and surprise you. That’s just such a strange phenomenon to me when I think about it. And then really that’s the spring-board for the series I guess. If your mind is capable of that – what else can you surprise yourself with?
It’s really a similar process to writing – where does the idea come from? At some point something just “occurs” to you and you develop it – but that point where it “occurs” is the most exciting part of the process.
JP Fallavollita: From a storyteller’s point of view, what does that comment mean to the MIND MGMT series?
Matt Kindt: …you’ll see! Honestly – I’m not trying to be a smart-ass or anything – but around issue 4 or so that line has a terrible and (hopefully) profound meaning.
JP Fallavollita: MIND MGMT, literally from cover-to-cover, is dense with story, plot threads, secrets and hidden meanings. I happily read the first issue twice for fear that I missed something! (I did!) What’s your plan for all of this information? Is it all part of story or the historic continuity, mythology and reach of the MIND MGMT agency? Will we see it continue from issue to issue?
Matt Kindt: Yes – that’s the plan. I really want to cover and show every aspect of the idea – from the origins of MIND MGMT, to all of the agents, to the crazy secret master plan in issue 30-36.
All of it is sort of designed to entertain and inform as you go and then build to something as crazy as I could come up with. And I want to give you your money’s worth. $4 isn’t cheap. I don’t want anyone sitting down and reading a $4 comic in five minutes! And if you do, I want you to have that nagging feeling that you did miss something (because you did)!
JP Fallavollita: I’d be remiss to not ask you about process. At Biff Bam Pop!, we’re fascinated by that subject – especially since you’re both writer and illustrator of your work. With something as rich as MIND MGMT, what is your personal process on each issue from story to painted visuals?
Matt Kindt: Well, I started out with a 12-page synopsis of all 36 issues along with details on all the major characters and story arcs. So that’s my master document I work from.
That’s broken down into 6-issue chunks so then I go through and thumbnail out six issues at a time. After it’s thumbnailed, I write a script to go along with it (filling in dialogue) and turn it in to my incredible editor (Brendan Wright – props!). Brendan goes through and makes sure it all makes sense and is consistent (not an easy task) and then I pencil and letter it, send it back to Brendan and ink and color is what I do for the last week of the process. Then scanning, cover design, etc.
I have a bunch of side notes for the inside-cover stories that I’ve developed as well, so I try to pick a story that will compliment each issue and also push the MIND MGMT history forward.
JP Fallavollita: Matt, you’re attempting something quite revolutionary in the current era of the monthly comic book: you’re actually promoting the series as a monthly reading experience! Most comic book series’ are geared towards a story arc for an eventual trade collection. Although this may work for your series as well, you’re filling each issue with supplemental material to the MIND MGMT world that won’t be part of any future collection. What’s drawn you to a specifically monthly reading experience?
Matt Kindt: I think nostalgia. I really miss going in every week and coming home with a stack of comics to read. Now I come home with a couple trades and it’s not the same.
There’s something kind of crazy about jumping from 24 pages of one story to another and then another and chaining them off like that. And I miss that wait – the anticipation of waiting 30 days for the next issue – and talking about what’s happening with friends and trying to guess what’s going to happen – it’s so much more interactive that way. It creates a dialogue – between readers and other readers, and readers and me – and I love that.
To me there are two different fans of the show Lost. There are the fans that watched and waited every week for years. And there are the fans that burned through every season on DVD in a month. And I’m not saying that one fan is better than another – but the experience of watching and thinking about a story over a span of years is completely different than ingesting it all in one or two sittings.
JP Fallavollita: The series premiered earlier this spring as a set of three, free, online short comics in the digital Dark Horse Comics store, with storylines detailing background information on the MIND MGMT organization. This, coupled with all of the bonus material in each monthly issue, seems like a lot of extra work. What was the thought process in making this decision and how has the experience been thus far?
Matt Kindt: The idea for doing the weekly prequel shorts was my idea and the thought process was…not really thought out, frankly. I thought it’d be a great way to promote the book – who can turn down a free comic?
What I didn’t think about was it being a whole extra issue of content in between issues 3 and 4 (on my schedule) – so it was a pretty hectic month getting it all done. But I did and I’ll have issue 5 in the can by the end of the week so I’m way ahead of schedule. What’s great is that Dark Horse is going to release those 3 shorts as an issue 0 after issue 6 as a way to jump on to the series so, in effect, I’ll be 7 issues ahead so it all works out.
All the other bonus stuff in the issues is just my way of making sure that each issue is jam-packed. I want readers to have something to sit with for a while and take in. Put it at the bottom of your stack – and wait until you’ve got a bigger chunk of time to spend with it. That’s my hope. And I’m trying to avoid the addition of big blocks of text that does serve to slow you down and is content but isn’t comics – I want it to be all comics!
JP Fallavollita: Without giving too much away, what more can you tell us about Meru and the object of her investigations, the mysterious Henry Lyme, as well as MIND MGMT itself?
Matt Kindt: Lyme won’t be much of a secret after issue 4 really – and by issue 6 you’ll think you know it all… So I won’t say much – but you will get all of (well most of) Lyme’s story, and a good chunk of Meru’s, by issue 6.
And – I can tell you that you’ve already seen Lyme in issue 1! He’s there if you look close!
Many thanks to Matt Kindt for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop! about MIND MGMT, and to Aub Driver at Dark Horse Comics for helping make it happen. MIND MGMT, issue #2 is out in stores today. Be sure to read it a few times, lest you miss something important!