What does a secret agent with false memories, a sci-fi author who knows more than he should, and a global secret organization have in common? They’re the opening threads to what Matt Kindt and Wilfredo Torres have in store with their first collaboration from Dark Horse Comics, BANG!
Created by Kindt and Torres, with colors and lettering by Nayoung Kim and Nate Piekos respectively, BANG! tells the story secret agent Thomas Cord... who might not actually be secret agent Thomas Cord as he starts to unravel the mystery of his own life.
With the debut coming February 19, Newsarama spoke to Kindt and Torres about the new ongoing series, the inspiration behind it and what they wanted to avoid, how they came together, and what they love about each other’s works.
Newsarama: Matt, Wilfredo, so BANG! takes a lot of visuals from James Bond films, but the story itself is sort of a riff on the fan theory that James Bond is a codename and not an actual name. So I guess what can you tell us about Thomas Cord?
Matt Kindt: The idea was to start this series with visual that seem familiar. Spies and action and double-crosses. Big opening set pieces that work as fun action/spy comics. And then seven pages in, we literally turn those tropes upside down and inside out.
I grew up reading all the Ian Fleming novels and my earliest memories are seeing Star Wars in the theatre and Moonraker at the drive-in. Spending a lifetime reading comics and sci-fi on top of that? I have a real passion for these genres and concepts. But I’ve also spent a lifetime seeing it done over and over again. And in the meantime I’ve been reading Borges (Ficciones) and Nabokov (Pale Fire) and trying to figure out how to keep making comics that are interesting to me.
So the long way of answering your question is that Thomas Cord is a way of taking a James Bond-esque super spy and creating something new with it. I love this idea that the character name isn’t the person. It’s the codename. There have been hundreds of Thomas Cords. Many of them have died violent deaths. Maybe some of them have actually lived to retire in a Prisoner-esque style retirement community. There is an entirely new world to explore here.
The twist is, how do you make Thomas Cord interesting if he’s constantly changing personalities? And that is the twist. He’s not changing. Every Cord shares the same memories and experiences. This personality has been burned into and imprinted on every new agent. But this process over time - and all of these memories being shoved into a new human brain, have warped the Thomas Cord persona.
He’s become this almost psychotic, misogynistic, misanthropic killing machine. That’s really giving away a lot but that’s just the first issue. We’re just scratching the surface of what this series is going to do.
Wilfredo Torres: Yeah - Matt covered this one pretty well. Cord has "layers."
Nrama: Freddy, speaking of visuals, where did you pull from the most for the look and feel of BANG!?
Torres: I tried not to reference any of the films directly but the idea was to make it feel familiar and put the reader in the headspace that we need them to get the story going. I grew up on the Roger Moore films so the opening of issue #1 specifically was my tip of the cap to that.
Nrama: What is it about each other's work that you found interesting since this is the first time you've worked with one another?
Kindt: I absolutely love Fred’s clean lines. He has such a great inking style. I was talking to him at HeroesCon last year and Kevin Nowlan came up and started going on about how he loved Fred’s style and inks and linework and I could see Fred’s eyes going wide… and I slowly stepped away… just in earshot… because Kevin is a legend. He’s one of the best of all times – and I could see Fred being complimented and humble about it and inside we were both like “holy crap…this legend loves your stuff!” So I knew right then – our collaboration was going to be golden. Fred’s so self-effacing – he doesn’t want to tell you how good he is…so I will.
He’s so good! He’s the artist that other artists love - there’s something in his lines, that if you’re trained in it, or you do it for a living - you recognize right away - something that not everyone has. And he makes it seem effortless. He’s got that clean line that is reminiscent of Hergé and Jeff Smith and Kevin Nolan and Mark Schultz and Jaime Hernandez - these once in a lifetime talents.
Torres: Well…that was all very kind and way too generous.
As a reader I’m a fan of the way that Matt can tell story’s of any size, he can do something that feels so grounded like Grass Kings but also blow your mind with these huge scenarios and trippy elements like what you find in Ether but still somehow find the moments that make it feel personal. As an artist, it’s exciting to be able to collaborate with someone that has that ability.
Nrama: You have Nayoung Kim on colors, Freddy with your linework being so distinctive what do you think that she brings the most to your art?
Torres: I feel like I have a pretty open line style and that leaves a lot of room for the color artist to put their own stamp on things. Nayoung has a great sense of color theory and She adds a texture to the line art that I’ve been really happy with.
Nrama: How long did it take to come up with the prose part of the book? What were you aiming for when you wanted to include it?
Kindt: It’s always last-minute on things like that. I treat the comic book as a complete entity - covers, back cover, insides and extras. It’s all part of the story. It’s this great space that you can use to really expand on and create the world. But the comic book pages comic first so I can’t really picture the rest until the insides are done. The first issue was 100% complete and then it just becomes obvious what’s needed. I’m responding to the story and the art to figure out the rest. And I enjoy text pieces in comics but they’re always too long. They tend to take you out of the story and the rhythm of how comics work.
Any kind of prose just grinds the entire flow of the story to a halt. So putting some text at the opening and close as bookends is a good way to let the comic work on its own. But also - keeping the text short. It’s basically half a page of pulp novel text at the opening and close so it’s not a lot. And it’s action packed and - it actually begins and ends the story so it’s not just extra. It helps push the narrative forward and then close it out and answer a few questions at the end. And I really just wanted to write some prose in an over the top Ian Fleming spy-novel kind of way that’s overtly sexy and violent all at once.
Nrama: Nate Piekos is definitely a workhorse here because there is a lot of homages and design that went into a lot of aspects here. Did y'all give him a lot of direction and style?
Kindt: We didn’t really give Nate much direction. Other than - I think we wanted the comic to kind of look like a big fun action comic - super fun and colorful and fit in with the other books on the shelf- so when you get to the page turn around page 6 or 7 - you get your mind blown. I think the style and the color and everything about this book is really subversive - it’s supposed to trick you into thinking you’re reading a comic like you’ve read all your life…something you’re used to reading…and then it’s absolutely not like any of those books.
Nrama: I'm curious did you have almost like a style-board that everybody went back to for reference?
Torres: Is that like a vision board? Nah, I think we mostly just made stuff up as we went along.
Nrama: What's the collaboration like when designing characters and costumes?
Kindt: Well, originally I was going to draw this book so I did a bunch of character designs and paintings to prep for it and then I met Fred and he was into the idea of the book – and so I turned it all over to him and he took what I’d done…and fixed it. [laughs]
Torres: Matt’s been a great collaborator and from day one he was open to my suggestions. It was important to me that the book reflected a broad diversity of people visually as much as they are story wise without feeling shoehorned in and luckily Matt was into the kinds of things that I wanted to bring into the mix. When you look at these characters, hopefully, they feel familiar, you know “who they are” until the page turns.
Nrama: Will BANG! be more of an ongoing or mini? Do you have a finite ending in place?
Kindt: It’s definitely an ongoing idea. There is a big world here that we’re just scratching the surface of – ala Black Hammer, but instead of super heroes – we’re really exploring iterations of spy, action, detective, and noir genres – imagine a universe where the A-Team, Knight Rider, Murder She Wrote, The Avengers (British television series), and the Twilight Zone all co-existed. We’re just getting started.
Torres: Yeah, we’re gonna juice this thing for all its worth!