“Ether,” the only comic on stands featuring “assassin eggs, weird pirates, ice deserts, and more noir absurdities” returns this September with its third installment in the series, “The Disappearance Of Violet Bell.” From creators, Matt Kindt and David Rubin, and publisher, Dark Horse Comics, this new arc catches up with portal jumper Boone Dias on trail of the Faerie King’s missing daughter in more surreal mystical science infused adventures.
To learn more about this new great journey into the “Ether” series we are able to speak to the creative team behind “The Disappearance Of Violet Bell,” Matt and David. The two creators discuss returning to the series, Boone as a leading character, the possibility of ever switching roles, and more. A big thanks to the team for taking the time to discuss their thoughts on the series with us. To read our interview with Matt and David continue below and to read “Ether: The Disappearance of Violet Bell #1” look for it in shops and online this September 18th.
You both are extremely accomplished and seasoned comic creators. I think I said this to you guys last time we talked for ‘Golems,’ but “Ether” feels very much like project that showcases what you both do the best. Has your feelings about the series changed at all going into this arc? Is Ether more you or are you more “Ether” as creators at this point?
Matt Kindt: I think “Ether” was originally a very dark story. The pitch I remember was pretty bleak. And I wrote the first issue for David in line with that idea. We had a protagonist who is kind of a jerk. He’s smart, talented and driven but he’s abandoned his family and has a careless disregard for his own life to put it mildly. He’s obsessed with going to this kind of “fictional” fantasy world and his singular goal is to explain it all scientifically. He’s confronted with a talking gorilla and a civilization of faeries and he’s got his microscope out, trying to explain away the fantastical.
When David’s art came in I remember being shocked. It wasn’t at all what I’d imagined this series being. I thought it was going to be a sort of dark melancholy tale. But David’s art was so bright and energetic. He was adding all these amazing little details in the background. His concept sketches were amazing. He’d drawn a lot of characters that weren’t in the script. He created these strange creatures and he would sketch out vehicles and he was pushing the idea even further than I’d imagined. And the energy and color – it lightened the mood of the book. I think it would have been a pretty dour slog with anyone else drawing it.
This turned “Ether” into a more subversive kind of story than I’d thought it would be. It is still dark. It’s got a kind of tragic arc and the protagonist doesn’t ever become likable in a traditional sense. But David’s art makes it a great candy-colored pill to swallow.
David Rubin: There is a lot of us in “Ether.” I think that Boone Dias is a mashup between Matt and me, physical and psychologically. And the whole series too.
This new arc is darker than the others, at least in an emotional way, and a lot of threads that we started in the previous arcs are all tied together here.
Is there more freedom as creators going into a 3rd arc of a series? I know the rule is always “each comic could be someone’s first comic” but I imagine there some level of understanding that most people picking up “The Disappearance of Violet Bell” are along for the ride and you guys can approach things with that understanding?
MK: I treated these books like Sherlock Holmes. You don’t need to know what happened in “Hound of the Baskervilles” to “get” the “Study in Scarlet.” This was the great thing about Holmes and it was probably the biggest influence on this series. You could read these in reverse order if you wanted to. I think that was important for me and for this series. It’s hard to build an audience in modern comics – so I think accessibility is key. The character definitely has more of an arc – our hero, Boone – is not the same character he was in the first book. He’s changed. But I think the stories also really stand on their own. It’s a playful sort of take on mythology and fantasy stories – with a sort of strange melancholy twist.Continued below
DR: The sense of wonder is the same. There is a new mystery to solve like in the other arcs, but the characters aren’t the same; they’ve grown. Boone Dias, Glum, Violet… are like real people; all the things that they lived through in the last arcs changed them and the way to see the world that surrounds them.
Boone Dias lives in the Ether in this arc, so he needs to adapt to the new environment. He isn’t a tourist in the Ether any more. He lives there now and it changes a lot of things for him and for all the characters in the series.
The series is visually stunning while also feeling so alive with history and characters. It seems like you guys make sure everything has a purpose and every inch of the page has meaning. How do you keep making it feel unique? How are you guys still finding ways to have fun with this series? The riddle issue and dream sequence in “Golems” really stood out as examples of doing something fun and different while still in the tone of the series.
MK: That was maybe the toughest section to write – and I felt guilty asking David to draw it. It was a LOT of panels and really a kind of complicated puzzle of a sequence to put together. But I felt like no one had really done anything like that in comics – and I love riddles – and David is really fearless. This is the beauty of our collaboration I think – we are both 110% in on it. At the end of the day I think we’re both just trying to push comics into new territory and make comics that you won’t be able to forget.
DR: The most important thing to me in the comics medium is to have fun with what I’m working on, and I think that the readers can tell and have fun while reading my stuff.
I try to not repeat the same narrative and aesthetic formulas from one issue to another. Trying to find new ways to tell the story in each issue is a hard work, yeah, but it’s really fun and interesting for me. And I think that Matt and I have some aces up the sleeve for the old and the new “Ether” readers in “Disappearance.”
One of the most interesting things about the series has been the character of Boone. He still has such a faith in science even in the world of the “Ether.” He uses that faith and confidence to be able to almost Macgyver his way out of any situation. How do you portray a character with such confidence and still have him relatable or at the very least someone to root for?
MK: I think that is the point of the series really. I’m not sure we are rooting for him. He’s a damaged character and he has a really big flaw. I think if we’re rooting for him, we’re rooting that he’ll become a better and less selfish person. He is probably one of my most favorite characters to write because of that. The protagonist is someone you usually root for – to succeed on the “mission” or the “quest.” But with Boon – I thought it would be interested to write a character where his mission or his quest is almost incidental. We’re rooting for him to develop empathy. To open his eyes to the plight of those around him. And as fun and jokey as this series can some times be, the ending got to me when I was writing it. Without spoiling it too much – it ends with a hug – but it’s the best and worst kind of hug I could imagine.
Without spoiling the ending of “Copper Golems” I will say it was quite a cliffhanger. How did you guys feel ending on a note like that? I am sure you know you had this arc to address that end but was that always the goal for “Golems?”
MK: Yes – we had a long outline for the entire series with a definite series of moments we wanted to get to. The resolution with Boone’s wife and kids…and then the big confrontation with the “villain” in this arc. Everything has been building to this. We’ve been seeding the “Moriarty” character much like Holmes – building to the ending in this book.Continued below
DR: Everything followed a plan, with multiple variations on the way, but a plan nonetheless. If I’m honest, I have to tell you that I cried when I finished reading Matt’s last script of this third arc. It’s very emotional and full of sense of wonder. I already knew what happens in this entire arc before I read it, so if I was very exited when I read the final script, I hope that the readers will be exited too when they read the whole new arc.
David’s work continues to blow my mind each and every project he releases. I was lucky enough to read the first issue of this coming arc and again David continues to evolve and do crazy things. Is there anything this arc you are looking to do that you have not done the previous issues David? Matt, what do you do with this guy at this point?
MK: David is someone you send a script to and then just get out of the way. I honestly feel like a he’s one of a few kindred spirits I have in comics. He’s fearless and you can see the fun he’s having on the page. He’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime collaborators that I’ll spend the rest of my career trying to keep happy!
DR: I always try to do my best on every new project, on every new arc, on every single issue.
Every page is a new challenge for me, and I try to put in all the energy and fun that I can, searching for new ways to tell the story and on every element of the whole page.
And it is so fun thanks to Matt! He writes in a way that is more visual, more evocative—but at the same time open enough to leave you room to contribute with your own ideas. It’s a good sensation that we got to build this new world, this series, together. Not Matt doing the scripting and me doing the art; no, we’re working like a team. All the ideas of both of us merge in a single way, so the it’s not important who came up this or that idea, the importance is that the ideas work.
When I am reading a book like “Ether” for Dark Horse in the back of my mind I am always thinking oh I hope this gets the Dark Horse Oversized Library Hardcover treatment? Could you see “Ether” getting something like that in the future? Would you dare deprive us collectors of back ups full of Matt’s sketches and notes and an oversized format that David’s art so truly deserves?
MK: Oh yeah. The world needs that!
DR: I hope so!! That would be fantastic and give the whole series a new and more powerful reading experience.
Could you ever see a tie in series for “Ether” with David writing and Matt doing the art?
MK: Ha ha! Whatever David wants – he gets!
DR: That would be fun! I think that we could try it on some kind of short story, or other brand-new thing, but I’d prefer to write it with Matt than only writing it by myself.
I often ask what do you hope readers take away from the series so I know I have asked that before. So this far into the series what have you guys taken away from readers of “Ether” and what do you think you have taken away from this specific series?
MK: I don’t’ really want to explain the work or set up some kind of expectation for readers. I think the ending is pretty clear. It’s a similar theme that I ended up hitting with the ending of “MIND MGMT.” I don’t consciously set out to make a point. I’m trying to have as much fun as I can, making comics – making something new in this medium that we haven’t seen before. The takeway? The themes? That all just happened naturally without me having to worry about. Have fun. Love your neighbor. The end.
DR: The magic of comics leads the way. We’re only walking on through it.