Talking Comics with Tim | Matt Kindt on baseball, ‘Mind MGMT’ and ‘Red Handed’
Today is one of my favorite days of the year, as most Major League Baseball teams have their opening day. In late February, when writer/artist Matt Kindt tweeted that he was returning from a St. Louis Cardinals spring training trip to Florida, I got him to agree to an interview on the spot.
This exchange took place before Dark Horse’s WonderCon announcement that Kindt’s series, Mind MGMT, would have a finite 36-issue run.
In addition to discussing his Dark Horse series, and our shared appreciation of baseball (despite his Cardinals eliminating my hometown Atlanta Braves from playoff contention last season), we delve into the May 7 release of his First Second book, Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes. There are few storytellers that set a narrative environment as uniquely as Kindt can. This go-around he establishes the city of Red Wheelbarrow to serve a larger homage to classic detective fiction.
For additional insight into Kindt’s work on Mind MGMT, be sure to read Jeffrey Renaud’s CBR interview with the writer/artist from early February.
As a longtime fan of Kindt’s narrative sensibilities, I hope he gets in contact with the right folks with the MLB in order to pursue that baseball project.
Tim O’Shea: In a recent tweet, you described baseball as your second obsession, is storytelling your first?
Matt Kindt: Yeah, definitely comics is what I’m always thinking about. Except when I’m watching baseball which is why baseball is such a great break time thing for me. It’s got nothing to do with what I do all day every day.
Have you gone to spring training before or was this the first time?
First time — never really had the desire or understood the appeal. But now I do. It was fantastic. Great weather. Up close and super-small stadium. So awesome.
I am a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan, and hope to some day go to spring training. What is the main appeal for you — getting to see new prospects, or what?
I didn’t know what the appeal was, honestly. I just went this time on the invite of a friend of mine. It seemed like a fun way to get away for a few days and get some good weather and meet some Cardinals, go swimming, play tennis and go to the beach. There’s a lot to love about it.
Does your love of baseball seep into your storytelling?
It did sneak its way in — my new book Red Handed has a guy watching a baseball game on TV just so I could draw a little baseball. And I’m still trying to figure out who to talk to in the Cardinals organization about letting me travel with the Cards on the road for a summer and do a documentary style graphic novel about what its like to be a ball player in the MLB. I’d love to read that book.
What are the Cardinals chances this year (full disclosure to readers, they helped end the Braves playoff hopes last year, this does not cloud my Kindt coverage)?
I’m nervous. A lot of young guys, though that could just be amazing so we’ll see. It’s such a crap shoot, which is why I hate fantasy baseball. You never know. It’s such a long season. Before the World Series, only Cardinals fans knew who David Freese was. So I think we have a few sleeper stars like him waiting this year to emerge. That Braves game was insane. I stopped watching it right after the infield fly hit the grass. I couldn’t stand it. And then I found out later what really happened. I’d feel sorry about it but the Braves have been good for so long that I don’t feel bad at all. (Please don’t take it personally!)
In a review of Mind MGMT #7, CBR reviewer Greg McElhatton wrote: “Kindt offers up on the inside front cover a great 20-panel summation of everything that’s happened up until now.” How does one summarize six issues into 20 panels> Was it on some level (in terms of being helpful to the reader) an exercise in seeing you could do it?
I thought it was hilarious. When I read it I really just think it’s funny — the first really funny page in the comic only because it makes light of, and skims the surface of so much material. Almost like a parody page of what I’ve done so far, but useful, too! And I hate recap paragraphs. If I wanted to read prose, I’d pick up a real book!
I am intrigued by the thought process behind a layout decision–how did you come up with the idea of a bullet passing through a bird before it reached its intended target (Page 12 in Mind MGMT #8)?
There are a TON of birds in my backyard that my studio looks out over. I mean, a TON of birds.
You are a fan of the Cardinals, you have a bunch of birds in your backyard and yet your response is to have one caught in your narrative crossfire. Would you agree that an analyst would have some fun with that?
Ha! Yeah birds … it’s love/hate I guess!
I love that the most recent issue (Mind MGMT #9) featured a character like the Musician,”whose pop music influences the politics and unrest in Egypt.” I think that character is almost a mascot for your style of storytelling forms of pop culture that combine to influence your storytelling. Would you agree?
Sure. I think I get what you’re saying. Not sure I have the same power to influence people that Dusty has (the Musician). I could use a mascot, though — I like it!
With Red Handed, how long have you been wanting to try an homage to classic detective fiction?
I’ve loved Dick Tracy since I can remember. I read reprints of those strips when I was 10 years old and just loved them. I loved the crudeness of the drawing, and the super violent stories, and the gadgets and cutaways. I honestly didn’t realize how much the strip influenced me until an interviewer brought it up one time. And I was like, ‘Oh, yeah … I loved Dick Tracy!’ — so that was a few years ago and it gave me the idea to do a detective/crime book but a sort of weird version of that kind of book.
I genuinely think you are a marketing person’s dream, consider this partial description of Red-Handed: “Will he [Detective Gould] discover the connection between the compulsive chair thief, the novelist who uses purloined street signs to write her magnum opus, and the photographer who secretly documents peoples’ most anguished personal moments.” Can you tell me what inspired the street sign novelist?
My daughter. On car trips she would sit in the back seat and read every single sign and word we drove by. It was so funny (still is), and she would string all these disparate words together and I thought that would be a funny way to write a novel.
How early in the development of Red Handed did you realize the color needed to be Red? Or let me put it to you another way: Which came to you first, the name of the city (Red Wheelbarrow) or the color?
The original title of the book was “The Strange Crimes of Red Wheelbarrow,” which then changed to just “Strange Crimes” and then finally I settled on “Red Handed.” I think this book went through more titles than any other book I’ve done. Usually I settle on a title early and then it just sticks. I still call it Strange Crimes out of habit. The city was always called Red Wheelbarrow, from the poem by William Carlos Williams — one of the few poems that I like. I really wanted to do a long strange title. I love the titles of Philip K. Dick’s novels. They are always so strange and weird and unmarketable sounding so I wanted something that felt like that.
You always come up with funky marketing items for your books, are you doing any for Red Handed?
I designed a page inside the book that I plan on burning when I sign it. [He burned a few pages this past weekend at WonderCon, as noted by one of his recent tweets.] Does that count? Other than that…hmm. I need to get on that! I still have a month!