If you’re a fan of mainstream comics — and given the site that you’re currently reading, that’s probably a safe assumption — you’ve likely came across Matt Kindt recently.
A veteran of the comic book industry (Top Shelf published his graphic novel Pistolwhip back in 2001), his career has rapidly risen as of late, in large part due to the good buzz gained by his Dark Horse series Mind MGMT, which he both writes and illustrates.
Since Mind MGMT debuted last year, he’s started to make an impression on both Marvel and DC’s fictional universes, taking over writing duties on The New 52’s Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., and writing an Age of Ultron tie-in issue of Wolverine and the X-Men. Coming up is Infinity: The Hunt, a four-issue September-debuting miniseries illustrated by Steven Sanders and tying-in to the Thanos-driven event.
We talked to Kindt in-depth about Infinity: The Hunt — which is partly a revival of the superhero competition Contest of Champions that drove the 1982 miniseries of the same name — and discussed his increasing ubiquitousness within the comic book industry, with a workload that also includes a forthcoming Valiant debut on August’s Bloodshot #0.
Newsarama: Matt, it looks like Infinity: The Hunt at least partly involves reviving the "Contest of Champions" idea. That's a 31-year-old book at this point, but something that people still favorably recognize as a part of Marvel lore. Did the idea come from Marvel, or was it your call to revisit the concept?
Matt Kindt: It's funny, everyone's been making a deal out of it, and it was just sort of an off-handed idea I had. [Laughs.] I was a fan of that series when I was a kid. I didn't have it, and my brother had it — he's a little bit older — I would sneak into his room to look at it. It had all these crazy characters I had never seen, all the characters from foreign countries. Up until that time, I don't know if that had been done before. Even Secret Wars, that stuff is later. This was before all that. It was the first time we'd seen all these guys together, and characters you'd never seen before. I've always kind of loved it.
That said… you're not really going to get to see that. [Laughs.] I just sort of mention it. It's not a fake-out, it's setting up to do that, and then, blame Thanos for ruining Contest of Champions, not me.
Nrama: Given the way Infinity is structured, it seems that it's designed to allow for two different types of tie-ins — some very close to the action, and some that are more about what goes on while this chaos is happening. On what side do you see The Hunt?
Kindt: The events in this are set off by Thanos and the main storyline, but it's basically about the schools and the kids. What are they doing during this? How are they dealing with it? What happens to them, and how do they work together, or not work together?
That was the thing that got me excited about it when they asked me to do it; dreaming up different schools other than the Jean Grey School and the ones we know.
Nrama: You're not only creating new schools, but also a bunch of new characters — somewhere around 15?
Kindt: You won't see them all, but I came up with a ton of them. I'm not sure how many of those you get to see, but I think at least 12 will get some screentime.
Nrama: It definitely seems like a challenge to come up with that many new characters — did this series take a longer than average lead time, or did the process come pretty naturally?
Kindt: It takes as long as it takes. I don't know if it takes any more time. The hardest part was making sure that I wasn't repeating anything. There are so many characters. How many different superpowers are there? At a certain point, you're just combining different powers that are all the same, and putting them in a different personality.
That was the fun to me, trying to come up with unique abilities for the characters. That takes a while, but to me that's sometimes the most fun. You can't put a time limit on it; you can't schedule that. I've got a 10-year-old daughter, I was like, "Hey, you got any ideas for superpowers?" She came up with a something I ended up using. One of the characters is from my daughter's brain.
Nrama: Any hints on what the power might be, or are you keeping it under wraps?
Kindt: It's still developing. The character has these strange shadow and light abilities that you'll see.
Nrama: And along with the new students, there are also some recognizable ones from books like Wolverine and the X-Men — including Quentin Quire?
Kindt: Yeah, he's in it. There will be some familiar faces; we're not starting everything from scratch. There are a lot of good characters already out there.
Nrama: You wrote the AU issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, and with the Jean Grey School characters here, you're again getting to play in that ballpark — do you see The Hunt as maybe in sort of a similar spirit?
Kindt: It seems totally different me, but the same kind of fun, though. I'm doing a Marvel book because it seems fun to me to do it. Creating some new characters is fun, getting to stick Wolverine in there is fun. She-Hulk's coming in there, never written her before; that will be fun. There's a lot of fun to be had.
Nrama: And there's also Meggan from Excalibur on the cover.
Kindt: They gave me a list: "Pick the characters you want to use." I'm like, "Well, I'm just going to pick the characters I liked in 1989." I'm 40 years old. I was around for Contest of Champions, I was around for the original Excalibur, so those characters are the characters that I like.
Nrama: And also on the cover, is the female Black Panther, Shuri.
Kindt: She's sort of like a Jean Grey School instructor, for the Wakandan school.
Nrama: Wanted to talk about working with artist Steven Sanders, who seems uniquely suited to this type of story — not sure how early it is in the process, but is there anything you can say about the collaboration at this point?
Kindt: When I work with an artist, I feel like as a writer — every writer — should have to draw an issue of a comic at some point in their lives. Whether it's drawing it off their own script, or somebody else's. Even if you can't draw, try it. I think that gives you a unique perspective — so then when you're writing for an artist, you know where they're coming from.
I feel like I have a unique advantage in that way, in that I write and draw my own stuff. I know what kind of script I would want, so I just try to write that kind of script for the artist. You see these Alan Moore scripts and Neil Gaiman scripts, and they're great, fun to read , but if I was drawing the script, I would hate it. I think super-detailed scripts like that tend to discourage phone calls and talking. "Hey, what do you think?" "Is this good, or what about this?" I don't mind that. I'd rather have the artist bring something to it as well.
I'm a lazy artist, too, so when I write my own scripts, I'm writing what's going to be easiest to draw. [Laughs.] I guess that is one thing I do change when I write for somebody else — I don't worry about how hard it is to draw. If there's going to be a storm of bats or something, I'll put it in there, because I'm not drawing it.
Nrama: On that topic, since Mind MGMT is obviously a very different type of book than typical Marvel and DC fare, do you see your superhero work as maybe having something an advantage, or at least a different approach, than people who are more solely superhero centric? Or are the two totally separate for you?
Kindt: To me, there's no difference. Whether I'm writing Marvel and DC, or my own thing, there's no difference. The only difference in the creative process is, with Marvel and DC, I have to be careful that I am true to a character I didn't create. I do some research, and I read, make sure I know who the character is. It's easy when I'm writing my own characters — I know who they are, exactly. There's no screwing it up.
But I think with the Marvel and DC stuff, if you're not careful, you can mess up a character. But the editors are pretty good. I rely on them, too, to make sure that I don't mess it up.
A good story's a good story. Give me any character — I'll write any character. Give me your worst-selling book, and then if it's a good story, it should sell." And it doesn't. Frankenstein was a good example.
I just have a lot of fun writing it, it doesn't matter what it is. When I write, I thumbnail out the whole issue before I write the script, just like I do with my own stuff. Every script I've written for Marvel and DC has thumbnail layouts with it, which I don't show anybody, because I don't want the artist to see them. But I work exactly the same.
Nrama: You're in a very interesting position right now, career-wise, between Mind MGMT, both an Infinity tie-in at Marvel and another event tie-in, Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S. at DC, and Valiant work announced on top of all of that.
Kindt: I don't know what happened. I've been working in comics since 2000. It took 13 years to get here, but it's awesome. I'm having fun.
Nrama: Not that long ago, working for Marvel and DC concurrently was nearly the norm for a lot of big creators, but now it's pretty rare. Now, you're doing it during both of their big 2013 events. Just for you as someone who has loved comic books for so many years: That has to be a cool feeling, right?
Kindt: It's awesome. If it wasn't so much work, and I wasn't so busy, I would sit back and enjoy it more. But I'm sure in like a year, I'll look back and go, "Whoa, I can't believe how great that was."
Every editor I've worked with, they've all been very good to work with. It's just been a lot of fun, and I'm glad that I'm able to do it with everyone, and it's not weird. And I think part of it is just that I keep my mouth shut. I don't tell anybody anything about anything. [Laughs.]