For Matt Kindt, magic has always been a hard concept to grasp - but now he's using that doubtful view on the supernatural to delve into an entire realm of magic with artist David Rubin in a creator-owned series titled Ether.
Scheduled to debut November 16 from Dark Horse, Ether follows a 'analytical and logical' man named Boone Dias who has to question himself and the world around him when he visits a supernatural realm with magical residents called the Ether. And as a someone who relies more on empiricism in a world filled by people with a belief in magic, Dias finds himself in the role of solving the supernatural denizens' toughest crimes.
Newsarama spoke with Kindt about this new five-issue series with Rubin, how it was inspired by his own reservations about the magic and supernatural in fiction.
Newsarama: Matt, what is Ether about?
Matt Kindt: Ether follows the travels of a scientist who firmly disbelieves in the supernatural - and the series constantly has him bumping up into and confronting things that are clearly supernatural: faeries, golems, and a mystical portal to the "Ether" that can only be entered through very mystical means.
But our protagonist, Boone Dias, is determined to explore this supernatural world and explain in in scientific terms. In a lot of ways he's patterned after the analytical and logical mind of Sherlock Holmes - a mind that believes there's a rational explanation for everything.
And that's where the entertainment comes in.
How does this logical mind come to grips with things like talking purple gorilla gatekeepers and getting shot at by magic bullets- bullets that are literally "magic."
Nrama: And just what is this realm, the Ether?
Kindt: It's a lot of things - a sort of flip side to our reality - it's the afterlife and a magical realm that contains all the myths and other-worldly place, people, things, that we normally think of as fictional. Faerie lands, and magical cities - all based on historical and "real" myths of Earth.
Nrama: The term “Ether” ( or “æther”) was once a generally well-received scientific term for a mysterious substance thought to make things work. Is that something you’re striking on for this series?
Kindt: Definitely. David Rubin and I have really tried to flesh out this place and make something other-worldly seem real and grounded. We're tapping in to myths and legends throughout history.
Nrama: Getting into the heart of this, who is Boone Dias?
Kindt: Boone is a guy who needs answers. He's not able to accept the idea of magic. He needs to understand it. To figure out how it works. In a lot of ways I think he's sort of a surrogate for my feelings on the supernatural and magic, and its place in the world and its role in comics. I think that's what's really fascinating to me is how and why people in the real world, and readers of comics, are willing and able to explain the unexplainable. There's something fun to really tap into there - the power of writing and words - which is really what the Ether is built on. The myths and legends of all of history -- all of that is what has created the Ether.
Nrama: So what is Boone after, moving from the Earth realm to the Ether?
Kindt: What he thinks he's looking for his answers and scientific explanations for everything that appear to be "super natural." But as the story progresses we'll start to realize that he's searching for these answers as a way of avoiding his real problems. The Ether changes Boone every time he enters it -- and it has really left his Earth-life in ruins. Every issue has a mini story at the end that shows his life before -- what his life was like before he discovered the Ether and became obsessed with it. The Ether ends up being like a kind of addiction for him. His search for answers and discovery are as addictive as any drug. As fun as the series is and as wild as the discoveries are, there's a pretty sad back story for Boone that we'll slowly start to see unfold.
Nrama: Who else is in the series, on both sides of the line?
Kindt: There's Violet Belle, the faerie with a really bad attitude that has a love/hate relationship with Boone. And Boone's reluctant companion in the Ether is a big purple gorilla called Glum, who acts as the kind of gate-keeper to keep the riff-raff out of the Ether. Boone also has a wife on the Earth-side of things -- who is no longer around, which is really going to be the heart of the mystery of this first series.
Nrama: This really seems to try to reconcile the seemingly conflicting beliefs in science and magic. In large part your previous stories have been heavy on the science side of thing, even if it’s sometimes fictional science. What brought you into this crux between science and magic?
Kindt: Magic and supernatural stories are something I've never really been attracted to. I absolutely love Hellboy, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and The Sandman as a reader. But as a creator those sort of magical realms never interested me so I started to question myself and wonder why. I enjoy reading it but I don't enjoy writing it. That's when I sort of struck on the answer. My head is too analytical when it comes to magic and supernatural. I want everything to make sense. I feel like it's too easy to cheat in fiction if you introduce magic into things. That gave me the idea for this character. Someone who needs to understand it all -- but by trying to answer everything ends up killing the mystery and fun and magic. So I think that's ultimately the aim of the series... should we really try to label everything and have a diagram and instruction manual for all of life? Or is it more fun to sometimes let the mystery be.
Nrama: For many people, this artwork by David Rubin will be considered the star of the show for Ether. How did you connect with him?
Kindt: I'd seen what he had done on his amazing book Hero and the Battling Boy tie-ins and just fell in love with his style. I'd been looking all over for artists to tackle this - and I was super picky because at the end of the day there is so much fun stuff to draw in this series -- I wanted to draw it. But my schedule with Dept. H isn't going to allow me to draw anything more than that for a couple years and I didn't want to wait that long to start this - and I wasn't going to I was going to just wait until I could draw it. Until I saw David's stuff and he was available - and I knew he could draw this better than I ever could. That was the tipping point. I wanted somebody that could make this better than even what I saw in my head. And he did. Every time an issue comes in, I call everybody in my studio over to look at it with me. We're all huge fans. David is a star and I'm so lucky to be working with him.
Nrama: As an artist yourself, how have you sized up David’s work in order to collaborate with him more effectively?
Kindt: I sent him my outline before we started and he turned in page after page of character designs and location sketches and vehicles and flora and fauna that populate the Ether. He just turned in reams of the most amazing concept art. Some of it was based on my outlines and some of it was just things he threw in for fun - which made this a really fun collaboration - his art was giving me more story ideas and ways to expand the characters and the Ether universe. David is really a master of taking the script and then expanding it with his visual style - really making the story come to life. There's no better feeling as a writer than working with someone like David, where you're writing pages with this strange expectation and excitement to see how he's going to handle it - knowing that it's going to be better than what you're picturing in your head.
Nrama: Last question then… Big picture, what are you and David hoping to evoke from readers with Ether?
Kindt: A sense of adventure with a heartbreaking personal story woven into it.