After throwing a little shout out our way in the zero issue, series editor Brendan Wright joins us for this special in-between-issues installment of Minding MIND MGMT, the Multiversity Comics column dedicated to examining all things “MIND MGMT.” He introduces himself and talks about the past, present, and future of the series.
You previously worked with Matt on “3 Story” as an assistant editor, and you’ve been promoted since then. Congrats! How did you get interested in editing as a career? How long have you been doing it?
Brendan Wright: Thank you! I’ve loved comics a long time, but I never thought about editing as a career until after college. I went to film school at the University of Southern California and was planning to go into film in some capacity, but after four years I was a little disillusioned by the business and by LA, so I moved back to my home state of Oregon and started kicking around a few plan Bs. Since I already lived in Portland, which is the home of Dark Horse, Oni Press, and Top Shelf, comics was naturally on the list.
One of the films I made at USC was shot in Portland but planned in LA. I enjoyed writing and directing, but it turned out that I found managing the production in a different city, overseeing casting and scheduling over the Internet and phone, more fun, so when I decided on comics, editing seemed like the closest equivalent to that. My first job in comics was an internship at Top Shelf, which primarily involved marketing efforts, but my editing career started in 2008, when Dark Horse hired me to assist editor Diana Schutz. While I took on more and more editing responsibilities over the years, including “MIND MGMT,” I officially shook off the assistant title earlier this year.
How did you originally get involved with Matt Kindt?
BW: I knew Matt’s work from my time at Top Shelf, during which Brett Warnock gave me a big chunk of Top Shelf’s catalog to read. As you mentioned, I first worked with Matt on “3 Story”, which was edited by Diana. I came onto the book when it was already about half done, but Matt and I developed a pretty great rapport. It was definitely Diana’s show editorially, but as the book finished up, my share of the direct work with Matt grew, and that year we met for the first time at Emerald City Comic Con and did a bunch of the proofing of the finished art over coffee. So we became really comfortable working together.
Can you share any behind-the-scenes information on the beginnings of “Mind MGMT” as a project?
BW: Probably not a lot. After the acclaim that “3 Story” got and then it getting optioned to be a movie, Dark Horse approached Matt about doing something else, and the pitch that everyone went for was “MIND MGMT.”
I was originally assigned to the project as an assistant, but I didn’t know the title, so when I got a Facebook message from Matt saying he thought we were going to work together again I had no idea why the subject of the message was “mind mgmt!?” I became the editor not long after, when Diana had to let it go to focus more on the “Manara Library,” which is a beast of a publishing program, but on which she has been killing it.
When I took over as editor, Matt had written a draft of the first arc, but we weren’t sure if the series would continue beyond that, so we talked a lot about how to make a first batch of issues that could work either way. Something I don’t think either of us has mentioned publicly is that, at one point, we had two different endings to the first arc figured out, one for if the series was continuing and one for if we only got the first six. I’m glad it worked out, both because I love the series and because part of the appeal for Matt was that he had never done serialized comics before.Continued below
Was it a close call? Are the sales numbers what you expected?
BW: The sales have been encouraging, and despite a lot of nail biting before we launched, once we were going the continuation happened pretty painlessly. We initially hit our sales goal for the first issue, and since then reorders have caused us to exceed it and completely sell out of #1. The second issue was a bit scarier, but in retrospect it became clear that the demand was just underestimated, and it’s also gotten a lot of reorders. The last few issues have seen sales go up, so we’re feeling pretty good about going the distance.
A big part of being an editor on a company-owned property is coordinating the story with events from other books. What would you say is the biggest job for an editor on a creator-owned project?
BW: It’s more like being an editor at a book publisher, in that an editor is an additional set of eyes. Our only concern is how the book works on its own, and we can plan very far ahead (we definitely know how and when the story ends), since outside events aren’t going to influence anything. I make suggestions at every stage, but it’s Matt’s book, so the final decision on everything is his. The biggest thing is probably making the schedule, since a book with as unique a production process as this one has can’t use the same kind of schedule as most of the other books I work on. With some differences, the schedules on the others are all pretty similar, but MIND MGMT’s had to be made from scratch, and I only really got the hang of it on the second arc.
Is it a big change from editing a book with a separate writer, artist, colorist, what-have-you, to a book like “Mind MGMT” where it’s all done by one guy? Would you say it’s easier, harder, or just different?
BW: I can’t imagine how crazy it must be for Matt, penciling one issue while working on the covers for another, receiving script notes from me on a third, and approving designs for a fourth, but on my end it’s probably slightly easier, since all the communication is just with one person. We never have to have “MIND MGMT”conference calls.
Matt has described you as a collaborator for the series. Is there anywhere in the published issues where readers can see your hand? A particular scene, character, or direction?
BW: I hope not. My back-and-forth with Matt, which includes phone calls when we start an arc, followed by notes on the outlines, scripts, art, and lettering, has been really gratifying, and he’s been very generous in how collaborative he’s made the process feel, but it’s his book all the way. I can spot a line or a visual idea here and there that I’ve contributed, but the bulk of my suggestions are actually aimed at prompting an even better idea from Matt, and nineteen times out of twenty, that’s what happens.
Matt has such a clear voice, and I know it pretty well from reading his other books and working on “3 Story,” so my goal as the editor of “MIND MGMT” has always been to make it the most Matt Kindt—like thing ever. As we’ve been gone along, I’ve considered my measure of success to be how much people don’t detect my involvement.
Between the free prequels, the discounted zero issue, the strips on io9.com, and the upcoming appearance in “Dark Horse Presents”, there’s a clear push for getting this series some attention. How much of this is your idea, and how much is Matt’s? It’s still early, but have you seen any impact?
BW: The marketing approach has been very collaborative. The digital prequels were something Matt wanted to do from the beginning, the “3 Story” one-shot with the “MIND MGMT” preview, the “DHP” story, and making #0 cheaper were things I pushed for, and the comic strip and the unveiling of the 52 retailer sketches came from Dark Horse’s marketing department.
From a marketing perspective it was important to me that every time we do something like this it gives existing readers something new and contains something to intrigue new readers. So for the prequels Matt came up with a bunch of ideas, and I helped him narrow them down to ones that fit specific parameters: one introduces Meru, one gets into Lyme’s former role at Mind Management, and the last hints at the history of the organization. Matt’s other ideas were really fun, but I didn’t feel that they told readers about the specific story we were telling, though they’ll show up in one form or another later. The other things like the “DHP” story have had similar considerations. If you’ve never read “MIND MGMT” before, it should be pretty compelling, and if you’ve been following, it makes a great prologue to the second arc.Continued below
It all appears to have been successful. The prequels allowed us to build up some buzz and get positive reviews right before the first issue was released, and everything else has kept the series on people’s minds. I think part of the reason readers can be shy about picking up a new series is the fear that they’ll get really into something and then it will be canceled. Doing things like the comic strip and the “DHP” story send the message that we’re committed to the book and it’s safe for them to try it out. We won’t break their hearts.
What other books are you involved with right now? What would you recommend to readers who like “Mind MGMT”? Is there anything upcoming from you (or Dark Horse in general) you’re excited about?
BW: Probably the most high-profile thing on my plate right now is “Catalyst Comix,” which is masterminded by Joe Casey and brings back several of the Dark Horse superheroes. That’s starting in the summer. I’m really excited to be working with Shannon Wheeler on a new series in “DHP” called “Villain House,” which is starting in February. Also in the superhero realm, the April issue of “DHP”has a new “Nexus” ten-parter and the soon-to-be-announced return of a great action-comics series from the mid-oughts. We reassembled the entire creative team for it, and we’re also publishing a collection of the original series. I think this time it’s going to get the attention it should have the first time. I’ve been having a blast coediting the “Creepy” and “Eerie” anthologies, and I am especially proud of the all-romance issue of “Creepy” that we’ve assembled for February.
“MIND MGMT” fans also seem to dig “The Massive,” which is another brainy long-form story, with lots of backup material in the issues so far. Matt wrote a Conan story for the next “Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword,” so I’m looking forward to reading that.
A frequent topic at Multiversity Comics is the apparent decline of the importance of the artist in comics. While not typically an issue at Dark Horse, both Marvel and DC have been focusing on the writer and treating artists as interchangeable. Do you have any thoughts or feelings on the subject?
BW: I suspect the reason that that’s more of an issue at Marvel and DC is that so many of their comics are part of a shared universe, where the next big story that affects everything is a bigger deal than an individual series’ visual identity, and that type of approach leans more on writing than art to make everything line up. Plus, with DC and Marvel now parts of large intellectual-property empires, the writing feeds the movies more than the art does, since Chris Evans looks pretty much the same whether he’s in a movie based on a Jack Kirby comic or a Bryan Lee O’Malley comic.
But it also strikes me as cyclical. I’ve been reading comics fewer than twenty years, and even in that time, the relative attention paid to writing and art feels like it’s switched back and forth a few times. It wouldn’t surprise me to see things swing the other way in a few years, even if that swing is led by the independent companies rather than DC and Marvel.
Is there anything you’d like to share, but I didn’t ask about?
BW: I blame myself for this, but the entire Internet thinks the title is “Mind MGMT,” which is what I put in the initial ad copy before I learned that it was actually “MIND MGMT,” all caps. I’ve had it right for a while now, but I haven’t mentioned it online, so no one else knows.