Talking Comics with Tim: Matt Kindt on Revolver
It’s never boring when I get to catch up with writer/artist Matt Kindt about his creative and marketing process–as well as the film, Donnie Darko (and a range of other topics–including video games, Crisis on Infinite Earth and learning how to drive a stick shift). Had I known we could have talked while at a baseball game (this will make sense once you’ve read the interview), well I was crushed (OK not crushed, but I’m finding out next year if Kindt is partial to major or minor league baseball–and we’ll plan our next interview accordingly). Although I was fortunate enough to read an advance black and white preview of Revolver (his new graphic novel for Vertigo “a tale of two worlds — and how both test a man to his limits”), I’m looking forward to this Wednesday, July 14, when I can buy the book in its final form. While we all wait, enjoy this interview.
Tim O’Shea: How much advanced layouts, given the conflicting narratives that you maintain throughout the tale, did you have to set up at the project’s outset?
Matt Kindt: I lay everything out well in advance. I don’t pencil any pages until the entire thing is layed out. Especially with a book like this where I had a hard page count, meaning I couldn’t go over my page limit, I had to be very precise with everything, including where the page-turns would be for certain big reveals, etc.But I really do that with every book – I don’t start penciling anything until I’ve figured out the entire book.
O’Shea: Again, given the complexity of the book, how concerned were you when the book’s editor switched from Bob Schreck to Joan Hilty?
Kindt: I wasn’t concerned with the book as much as I was just hoping that Bob Schreck would be okay and happy and then just a little nervous meeting/working with Joan only because I’d never really had a good long conversation with her before. But Bob ended up good and happy and Joan ended up being a fantastic champion of me and the book so in a way I ended up coming out ahead on the deal by getting to work with both of them.
O’Shea: Am I crazy to say that — to a very limited extent– this book reminds me of Donnie Darko? That’s not a slam, what I mean is that once you read the book, you want to go back and look at it again to see what you might have missed on the first readthrough?
Kindt: No – that’s great. And it’s definitely my intent. It’s a fine balance though – I want you to be able to “get” it on a first read through so I try not to make it intentionally obtuse or confusing where you’re having to decipher a lot of things to just figure out what’s happening. I think that takes you out of a book when that happens.
But what I did want to do is put some extra things in there that you don’t notice the first time but after you get the meat of the story you can go back through and pick up on some other little subtleties. I think the page numbering text-scroll is one of those threads too where you can pretty much ignore it, but hopefully ou’d go back again and read it and get that extra layer of story.
What I hate is a story where it all hinges on some twist and once you get the twist then there’s no reason to revisit the work again. Donnie Darko is great in that way because you get this sort of crazy twist but the first 90% of the film is still so enjoyable that you want to see it again because it’s just good. Where something like The Sixth Sense is maybe good for two viewings – one to be surprised, and two to see it with open eyes. But I tried to make Revolver into something that isn’t so much about a twist but about these characters making some choices that we can all kind of relate to.
O’Shea: In our previous interview we discussed your affinity for diagrams, how the hades did you fight the urge to not execute a detailed aerial view of San Francisco [which you referenced in the publication Revolver (within the book Revolver)]?
Kindt: You crack me up! Well, I don’t know. I had so much I wanted to pack into the story that there just wasn’t a really good place for it – I actually have a detailed drawing laying around here somewhere, so I didn’t really fight the urge to do it – I did it – but I didn’t think it fit for some reason at the time.
O’Shea: How insane did you drive yourself when you decided to make the footer of the page (where the page numbers are shown) also be where you provided a statistical news crawl throughout the tale. Did you strip those in after drawing the pages? On a related note, why did some of the pages not have the news ticker–is there a message in their absence?
Kindt: It did drive me crazy. And it was one of those ideas I’d had after all of the art was completed. Credit to my editor Joan for letting me dump a bunch of extra stuff on her at the last minute to edit. I felt a little bad about it but once I had the idea, I couldn’t NOT do it. The hardest part was keeping each piece of text relevant to the page it appeared on and also incorporate the page numbers. Short answer is yes, it drove me crazy. Some of the pages without the text were simply design decisions where the art went full-bleed and I didn’t want the text running over it.
O’Shea: On page 36, there’s a flashback torn strip of Sam learning to drive stick shift from his late father. In trying to convey the flashback nature, when did you arrive upon the decision to try to pull off the look of a textured tor piece of paper (and how the hell did you pull it off so well)?
Kindt: Well, I don’t have a lot of flashbacks in the book so I just wanted to set it apart from everything else to keep it from being visually confusing. And I loved the little flashback mini-story – which is actually an autobiographical piece – me and my dad trying to teach me to drive a stick shift.
O’Shea: Color is crucial to the shifts in narrative, how did you decide which portion would garner certain colors?
Kindt: All of the color shifts are based on the two different world’s that Sam occupies. I was calling them Earth 1 and Earth 2 in my script as an homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths which I loved growing up. But I really felt like if the main character was going to be shifting his realities, the reader really needed a visual clue so we could follow him.
O’Shea: I cracked up when I read your description of the book in a CBR interview earlier this year: “I was limited to 160 pages, so it’s a pretty snappy book.” You do realize that you fit more story in 160 pages, while others may take 250 pages or more to fit all that you get into your story.
Kindt: Ha – yeah, actually it’s closer to 190 pages. I originally started out at 160 pages but then requested 30 more so that I could fit it all in. And to Vertigo and my editors’ credit they were pretty flexible.
I don’t know what to say really – the characters end up being kind of real to me and every one of them has a back story and history that I’ve also got in my head – but at the end of the day you can’t just branch off into everyone’s back story without losing the main narrative so I have to pick and choose what to show and hope the rest just sort of gets in their subconsciously.
I’m also not really a fan of big decompressed stories – which I think is the case with a lot of manga storytelling where they’re telling a pretty short story over 36 volumes. You end up flipping through those pages so quickly and reading it like a magazine instead of a book which just isn’t as satisfying to me as a reader and an author. I like to spend a little more time on each page and slow down the reading process a little bit.
O’Shea: After a day of working on pages, when you have to step away to clear your head and get a fresh perspective–what kinds of rewards do you give yourself for the hard work? What do you do for non-storytelling fun?
Kindt: Well, my wife jokes that I have at least 3 birthday parties every April for my birthday – which usually involve go-carts, paintball, and baseball games spread out over a few weeks. But on a regular work day I usually play with my daughter, and then read, watch movies, and play xbox until I can’t keep my eyes open.
O’Shea: For future interviews with you, will I expected to feed you a meal–as happened in this recent Toronto Star interview by Corey Mintz? I love how you described it in this tweet:”Easily my favorite interview ever-cleverly disguised as the most awesome 5 course meal ever…”
Kindt: Yes. Or we could go to a baseball game and talk about comics or go to the pool or pretty much any of my birthday-type activities. I think it’d actually be kind of funny to do in interview on xbox live while playing Call of Duty or Left 4 Dead, y’know? Deep questions and answers followed by screams and profanity as I get shot from behind. I don’t think that’s ever been done…
O’Shea: As far I’m concerned, you are one of the best creators in terms of marketing your work. What quirky items are you developing for Revolver?
Kindt: Well, I think the Revolver convention promo thing is going to involve squirt guns. That’s all I can say right now….
O’Shea: Anything else I should give you a chance to talk about?
Kindt: Can’t think of anything – I Twitter and Facebook and blog and website all the time so you can catch up to me on all of that stuff. I’ll be at SDCC next month and NYCC in the Fall as well. Other than that…I’ve got four new books coming out in the next two years so I’m going to be pretty busy for a long while.