Managing The Mind Of Matt Kindt: Performance Art, Jeff Lemire, And Mind MGMT #25

Liz Hey interviews Mind MGMT creator Matt Kindt:

2aa46e_96e13f5edddddd77df4284a5623d98a0.jpg_srz_p_355_355_75_22_0.50_1.20_0With one of the most intricately constructed stories on the market, it must be difficult for Mind MGMT writer and artist Matt Kindt to manage his own thoughts. Surely, Kindt's Dark Horse title has a reputation for a subtle narrative being told within the details of his plotlines, requiring some sites to post a "what you probably missed while reading" article every month, but of course enthusing readers nonetheless. I had the privilege of sitting down with the creator and picking at the mind responsible one of this year's most suspenseful thrillers:

 "Honestly, when I approach a book or a comic, I really think of things I can do with the medium. A lot of the secret messages or hidden clues [in Mind MGMT], the things that may seem like they're on the surface, are things that I'm thinking of as a way to push the medium. It's about how can we make this comic look more interesting, how can we make this format something that can't be repeated anywhere else. Basically, it's how we make comic books worthwhile. To me, it's figuring out what can I do to serve the story and to get those things across but also to show what comic books are capable of, something that will immerse you into the story from cover to back cover".

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A lot of that mentality derives from some of Kindt's earlier comic influences. He references Eightball in particular, "Dan Clowes does a really good job showing what you can do with comics that you can't do anywhere else." However, Kindt tells one story of an unexpected factor that shaped his work early on in his career:

"When I was in school, there was a class where we had to learn about performance art. We had to come up with these conceptual pieces and I just wanted to learn how to draw and thought I would never use this. But after I got out of school, I started looking at comics and approached it from that viewpoint, keeping it in the back of my mind. A lot of that performance art doesn't look like art or like it has any bearing but what if you apply those concepts to an art form like comics and do something that is part performance art and part abstract? It made me think a lot differently and I learned how to do design that way. I have total control of my books now because I'm not just thinking of the story and the comic, I'm thinking what is the concept of picking up a book as an artifact of the story or trying to make the reader part of the story in some way."

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As for the result, Mind MGMT has still been receiving high acclaims even within its third year of publication, no doubt due in part to its innovative style. Mind MGMT # 25, which just hit stores on Wednesday, marks a transition in the story's focus that Kindt has long been awaiting:

"My plan all along was to have 36 issues to tell the story and I would have Meru show up early and gradually become the lead character. By issue 25, she's going to get an arc to herself. We've spent whole issues on all these sidekicks with her sort of as the background or the vehicle that gets us into it. Now she's going to be forward and fully formed as a character."

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Kindt even laughs, "Basically I tried to kill everyone off or push them back to give her room to figure things out. All of it was planned. Although in my original outline, Bill's character was killed in issue in 6, but I really liked him and didn't have the heart to do it."

Besides Kindt, there are only a few people who know exactly where the rest of the series is going to end up, the others being involved through the movie option, he says:

"Right now, the movie has a screenwriter but he's busy writing the Wolverine movie and then he'll be writing Mind MGMT after he finishes. He's really great though, we had a bunch of people who pitched their idea of the movie and out of all of them he was the one that really got it and understood the material and would be respectful of the book.

When they optioned it, only the first six issues had come out. It was kind of funny to me because the first six issues are like the tip of the iceberg. They had no idea what was going to happen. So there was a big conference call where everyone was on the phone walking through my outline I gave them, telling the whole story. It felt weird to spoil every single thing *laughs* but I didn't want them to start and not know where it was going."

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But that's just one of his current collaborations. News of his team-up with good buddy Jeff Lemire to write one of Valiant's upcoming titles has been a popular topic of conversation, but for Kindt, it was something they've both been meaning to do for a while:

"Jeff Lemire and I have been friends for ten years and our careers have sort of paralleled each other. We jump from place to place and he'll go somewhere and I'll then go over. It's like when he started working for DC and then I said "Oh hey, I want to do that." I started working at Valiant and telling him how great it was so he wanted to do that too and so we decided to do something together. This project came out of us wanting to work together on something. Our schedules have been so busy it's been a matter of when and how but this has been an opportunity to do whatever we want. Then I told him how much I loved Dark Horse so now he has a book coming out with them."

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The book he's referring to is Lemire's upcoming ongoing series for Dark Horse, Black Hammer, due out in March. The story is said to use the superhero trope as a topic rather than a much more literal genre, so it will share similarities to their work in the Valiant universe while maintaining a still distinctly creator-owned aesthetic.

However, Kindt himself doesn't consider the two realms much different, even suggesting that for him, personally, they feed into one another:

"[Valiant] brought me in saying 'we want you to do what you do,' I got to work there because they loved Mind MGMT. And creatively, there's no difference between what I do for myself and what I do for them. Still my work there only started because of my creator-owned stuff. If Mind MGMT didn't exist, I'd be trying to fit in somewhere doing just what someone wanted me to do but Dark Horse has really given me a place and given me free range to do what I want. They made it so when I get approached by other people, I know they're asking me to do what I do."

Certainly, that's what readers ask for every time they buy one of Kindt's books, regardless of publisher.

Mind MGMT 25 was released this week on 8/27/14 and is now in stores.

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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