Matt Sturges I: Living with Fables, & Now DC Exclusive

Matt Sturges I: Fables and More

Two surprise announcements at San Diego Comic-Con focused on writer Matt Sturges, whose DC exclusive contract comes just in time for him to co-write a Fables/Jack of Fables crossover with Bill Willingham next year.

Sturges began his comics career as co-writer with Willingham of the Jack of Fables spinoff series but quickly became a familiar name to DC readers. He took over both the Shadowpact ongoing series and the Salvation Run mini-series when Willingham backed off for health reasons, and he's the new ongoing writer of DC's Blue Beetle and Vertigo's House of Mystery title.

After the announcement at the Fables panel of both the crossover and the exclusive, Newsarama tracked down Sturges at the convention to talk more about the news. In this first of a two-part interview, we spoke to the writer about his exclusive, the Fables crossover, his new House of Mystery series for Vertigo and what Sturges is doing next in the DCU.

Newsarama: The big announcement at San Diego was the crossover that will finally return Jack Horner into the world of the rest of Fables. Is this exciting for you as a writer to get to dabble in the Fables universe?

Matt Sturges: It's definitely exciting. It's like finally being able to reach up into that cookie jar that's in the top shelf. You know? And get to the good cookies.

NRAMA: Can you tell us anything about the story?

MS: We're still working on the details of what the story is going to be. The story is called “The Literals,” and it's a physical collision between the things that are going on in Jack of Fables right now and the things that are going on in Fables after the big war is resolved. And it's just a frenzy of madness. I don't know how else to describe it.

NRAMA: And it was implied in the panel that some burning questions would be answered?

MS: Lots of questions about things that people have had about Fables, and how things work in that world, will be answered, hopefully in interesting ways.

NRAMA: It's a three-issue mini-series, but there will also be implications in the regular Fables and Jack of Fables series, right?

MS: There is going to be a three-issue crossover that is going to be a mini-series, and then there will be tie-in stories in Fables and Jack of Fables. And our hope is that you should be able to read the mini on its own.

NRAMA: Until then, what's coming up in Jack of Fables?

MS: The current big bad in Jack of Fables is this guy the Bookburner, who is about to storm the gates of the Golden Boughs retirement community. And he has very big plans for what he does when he gets there, so we're going to see, very soon, what happens when he makes his move. Whereas in Fables we have an all-out war, in Jack of Fables, we have a siege.

NRAMA: Let's talk about your DC exclusive contract. Why DC?

MS: I think, for me, it's because everything I've done for comics, every penny that I made from comics, has come from DC. They've treated me really, really well. And they have all the funnest toys that I wanted to play with. For me, it was a no-brainer.

I just know that as a freelancer who, not so very long ago was scraping by and living hand-to-mouth, the notion of doing something steadily and the knowledge that work's always going to be there was extremely enticing. There was just no reason to say no.

NRAMA: You were a writer for Clockwork Storybook, but because you hadn't written comics until recently, a lot of fans feel like you came out of nowhere.

MS: I spent a lot of time in "Nowhere" before I came out of it. [laughs] Jack of Fables was my first published comics work. Before that, I had been writing a lot of prose -- fantasy and science fiction, novels and short stories. I had been working as a writer for at least 10 years before I started writing comics, so I had a good amount of time to hone my skills when nobody was watching.

I don't know how I managed to go from "the other guy" on Jack of Fables to writing the stuff that I'm doing. I'm just glad it's happening and that I still get to do it.

NRAMA: We've talked before about House of Mystery, but now that it's into the series, you've really laid the groundwork for an ongoing story as well as providing the a place for very different stories each issue. That was the goal all along, wasn't it?

MS: It was. We were in the bar in San Diego two years ago, and the name House of Mystery came up. And we thought, what's something cool that we could do with that? And we thought anthologies were really cool, but it's tough to sell anthologies in today's market. And we thought, how could you have your cake and eat it too in a situation like that? What could you do? So we hit upon the idea that maybe we could have a type of story in which you could nest a lot of other types of stories.

And that's when we came up with the idea that House of Mystery could be about a bunch of people stuck in a bar, and they pay for their drinks by telling stories. That was the kernel of it. But it's evolved from that to the story it is now.

NRAMA: The character who's evolved as the center of the ongoing story is Fig, a woman who is new to the house, but clearly has a special attachment to it. She's talking to the house now, right?

MS: Yes. She is. She definitely serves as a multipurpose character. She's our point of view as we explore the house and find out what it is. But she's also an extremely pivotal character. And she's a fun character to write, and is a character who has my own voice in it. You'll see, as the series progresses, you'll get more of her internal monologue that really sets the tone for the series.

What the comic evolved into is how people communicate to each other. How do we express ourselves to each other? We focus on oral storytelling as a mechanism for people relating to each other -- going beyond what's literal and reaching for the metaphorical or the mythical as a way to achieve some kind of communion beyond simply talking back and forth.

NRAMA: So with the stories they tell, we learn about the characters' background and personality, even if it's not a literal history that they tell?

MS: Right. And if we can do that while showing bloody maggots all over a woman, so much the better!

NRAMA: What's coming up in the series?

MS: What we're really trying to do in the first arc is lay the ground rules for what's going on in the story. That's necessary whenever you create a fantasy world -- and of course it's not cut from whole cloth in this case, because the House of Mystery is definitely tagged as the House of Mystery that was in the Dreaming and the House of Mystery that had Cain from Sandman, but we've hijacked them and dropped them elsewhere so we could do horrible things. [laughs] But now we've done the set-up. And now we're to the point where we can kind of run around in there and do crazy things with it.

The next story arc deals with, "what's in the basement?" And there's that archetypal notion of the thing in the basement. So this is a house where a certain kind of storytelling has been going on for a very long time and has sort of colored the texture of that place. And so, what would be in the basement of a place like that?

NRAMA: All kind of nasty things, one would imagine.

MS: And it's a really big basement. [laughs]

NRAMA: As you start this DC exclusive, you're dabbling quite a bit in Vertigo universes. You said earlier that DC had the best "toys." Are the Vertigo toys a particular appeal to you?

MS: Oh, gosh, Vertigo is such a special case. When I first started getting into comics, which was when I was in college because I didn't read comics when I was a kid, the first comic that I really got into was Sandman. My friend Chris Roberson, who is writing the Cinderella mini-series, was my best friend in college. And he was the one who pushed the Sandman comic on me and started my love of comics. So that, and especially those particular type of comics that were inspired by the late '80s British invasion -- all those stories that would become Vertigo -- were the things that we loved and talked about, spending way too much time talking earnestly over beers. So to be able to have the opportunity to work with Vertigo is great. It's evolved over the years, but it's always been a place where you knew that you could pick up a Vertigo book and it was always going to be interesting and different. So, I think I fit well there. I know I'm different. [laughs] Hopefully I'm interesting too.

NRAMA: As an exclusive writer now, what are your goals at DC?

MS: Mainly to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully get better as time goes on. I have a lot of plans for House of Mystery, which is close to my heart. I've put a lot of effort into it. And Jack of Fables is something that continues to be a source of joy. And so I would just hope to keep doing those. And of course, Blue Beetle has been great and there is so much about that character I enjoy. And I've got some new things coming up in the DCU that I can't talk about yet, and those are also a lot of fun. People who liked some of the things I had in Salvation Run will like what I've got coming up.

NRAMA: Ah, so all this talk about Vertigo isn't accurate? You like playing with the guys in tights too?

MS: Well, when you put it that way, it sounds weird. [laughs] But I do have a fondness for DC's villains. I like trying to figure out what makes those guys tick. Something about rooting for the bad guys appeals to me.

Look for part two of our interview with Matt Sturges tomorrow, where we talk about his work on Blue Beetle, here on Newsarama.

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