Marvel introduced their “Infinite Comics” format earlier this year, presenting digital comics written and illustrated specifically for the iPad and other tablet devices. The latest entry is Ultimate Spider-Man: Final Exam, announced Friday at New York Comic Con during Marvel’s “House of Ideas” digital comics panel. Set in the world of the Disney XD Ultimate Spider-Man animated series and available now on comiXology — free through Sunday, $1.99 after that — the story is written by Mind MGMT and Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.’s Matt Kindt, layouts by digital comics pioneer (and Final Exam co-plotter) Yves Bigherel and pencils from Ramon Bachs. Newsarama talked with Kindt about the story, which sees Peter Parker dealing with Nick Fury and a mysterious alien spacecraft.Newsarama: Matt, what has you excited about witting an Infinite Comic? It’s early in the life of the program at Marvel, and it seems that with each release, something new is done with the format. Did you see an opportunity to explore some new territory here?
Matt Kindt: Definitely. There is a lot of room there to explore and sort of push the medium forward… which I feel like I've always tried to do with traditional comics/graphic novels and with this — there's really no history to it yet — it's the wild west of comics, really. I'd love to do a lot more of these and push it even further. Just with lettering and layout alone there's so much you can do that can't be done in any other way.
Nrama: Staying in that same motif, was it easy to adapt to the technical side of writing in this format? Presumably, it's a very different process and type of thinking than a traditional comic.
Kindt: Well, it was different, but honestly, if I could come up with a formula for writing and creating comics that worked every time, things would be so much easier. Every book or series or comics I've done has developed in a slightly different way. Sometimes you get the idea for an image or a moment and built a story around that. Other times, you come up with a character and write a bunch of dialogue and build a story around that. And other times you have to try a bunch of different things until it works.
So, while this format was different in process, it's also what is always keeping me excited about this work. If anything this process was more like what I imagine Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used — I pitched an idea in a detailed outline and some directorial ideas for some layout/story-telling ideas, the artist did layouts and then I scripted over the top of it.Nrama: And one more in the same area: From your experience, how does it alter the writer/artist collaboration, in this case your dynamic with Yves Bigherel and Ramon Bachs?
Kindt: It's definitely more of an interaction and reaction. Without a super-detailed script, it allows the artists to flex their muscle a little bit more and contribute some ideas to the way the story is told. And then, getting that back, it gives me some ideas for dialogue or extra panels here or there. It's honestly more collaborative than a traditional comic. The lines between writer and artist are a little more fuzzy in the best of ways. A lot of times the artist, I think, can get treated like a production artist — just draw the story. This is definitely more conducive to creative storytelling.
Nrama: The story is set in the world of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. What appeals to you about that version of Marvel’s characters? And were you familiar with the show before taking on this story?Kindt: I'd heard of the cartoon but then ended up watching a bunch of them with my daughter once I got the job. I was pleasantly surprised. It's nice to get a take on the heroes I group up with that isn't dark and grim. I'm glad that there are still takes on these classic characters that don't forget the real core audience – kids. If we lose them as readers, there's going to be a whole generation of kids that will grow up without the love and passion for comics that I had and have now as an adult.
Nrama: You have books at both DC and Dark Horse, and now you're doing further work for Marvel — though it's certainly not unheard of, it is relatively rare these days to see writers with active projects concurrently at multiple publishers. They're also very different types of comics. How rewarding is this phase of your career, to be doing a variety of interesting comics at a variety of interesting places?Kindt: I'm really having the time of my life. If anything, I guess I credit paying my dues by doing my own thing for so many years. And I'm still doing it with Mind MGMT so honestly, I'm already getting to do everything I really want and care about. The stuff for DC and Marvel to me, is like the cherry on top — the kind of work I figured I'd never get to do. But having done my own stuff and showing how I think and what I do, I think that's actually helped me — editors can come to me and know what they'll get. I've already got a large body of work. The result is, I get projects that I'm actually a good fit for, rather than me trying to shoe-horn myself into a project I'm not right for or don't believe in.
Nrama: The story debuts during New York Comic Con, and guest stars Mayor Bloomberg. Does that mean it's safe to say Peter Parker isn't going to be drinking any giant sodas?
Kindt: Ha! Is that going to affect the trente size coffee at Starbucks? That's all I really care about. These comics don't make themselves — caffeine is essential!
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