“MIND MGMT” was a massive undertaking in new territory for its creator, Matt Kindt. With the series’ conclusion upon us, there was time for one final interview about the experience, the success, and the future.
“MIND MGMT” was the first book you did monthly art chores on, and it’s the longest monthly book you’ve written. Looking back at the early issues, how have you grown as an artist over the last 3 and a half years?
Matt Kindt: It’s really hard to say – being so close to it. I am definitely a different person coming out of MIND MGMT than I was going in. In some weird way, I feel like I have less to prove now. I think up until MIND MGMT came out – I was working on a graphic novel once a year – and it would come out and make a small wave and then sort of fade. And I got kind of tired of that – of fading away until the next book came out. So getting to have MIND MGMT come out and be a lasting presence for a few years in a row, I feel like I’ve finally accomplished a thing that really hasn’t been done before. With MIND MGMT I feel like I was able to finally build this enormous tower – or more of a temple to all that I love about comics – all that comics can do – and everything that I’m about and believe in – all in one package.
I think, before MIND MGMT happened, I always wondered what book or what work I would mostly be known for. I have a feeling this will be it you know? And I’m more than happy with that. The thing I started realizing toward the end, was that putting 24 dense pages of comics out every month – it starts to build up – it becomes kind of intimidating for readers to plunge into it – knowing how much work it might be just to try to figure it all out. So I think it’s going to have a long shelf-life as people slowly begin picking away at it and pulling it apart to see what’s really inside (kind of like you’ve been doing all along!)
During the book’s run, your profile in the industry rose and you took wrote several work-for-hire books. Did you ever find an upper limit to how many you can handle one time? Going forward, what’s the optimum number you’d like to do each month?
MK: I definitely hit a ceiling a year or so ago – over the summer – there were two or three months where I was writing 8 books (and drawing one of them) – and that was too much. I’d go to bed at night and not be able to sleep – my head was literally spinning – running through every story and thinking of ideas. The funny thing was, there wasn’t really a way to shorten the process or “hack” a script out – thank goodness – so I was just working ALL the time. So yeah – my comfort zone is 4 books a month – drawing one of them. That’s enough to fill my schedule but still allows me to take weekends off and enjoy some family time.
When you first pitched “MIND MGMT” to Dark Horse, it was going to be 56 issues. Can you tease some of the things we might’ve seen in those other 20 issues?
MK: You saw it all. I didn’t hold anything back. My original outline – which I’ll eventually put out there, outlined everything you saw. But what I realized when I sat down to start scripting it was – there’s enough material for 56 issues – but those issues would have so much air in them…and things would just get drawn out (I feared) – so I just tightened everything up. I really wanted each month to be a really dense reading experience unlike all the other comics out there – so giving myself less room to work with really helped me laser-focus the story and the events. No filler allowed.Continued below
What were some of the changes you made to the story after it started publication. Didn’t you put off killing a character longer than you planned?
MK: Yeah. I changed a few things here or there and added ideas as they came to me. Pretty much every inside cover story was empty – which allowed me some wiggle room to add characters or shade some events or people that I thought could uses some extra page-time. Bill (spoiler) – was supposed to die at the end of issue 6 but I didn’t have the heart to do it. I really wanted to see more of him and Meru – which ended up having much bigger ripple effects throughout the series – and ended up being integral to her journey and a lot of the big story beats at the end. He was definitely a classic case of a character writing himself – and not wanting to die!
The only other big thing that changed was the side-text. That was a last minute idea I had for the first six issues – but when I got to issue 7 I felt guilty – I felt like I was going to stop doing it because it was hard and time-consuming and there was no way I could (or wanted to) do that for three years straight. But that’s how my psychology ends up working – if I feel like I’m being lazy about it, then I’ll just double my efforts and do it…more. I’m not sure that it’s healthy to work like that but that’s how it is.
You once said part of the reason for doing “MIND MGMT” as a monthly was to connect better with fans. Judging by the fan page on Facebook, I’d say you’ve done that. Looking back, were there any WHAM moments when you realized that was actually happening, or was it more of a steady build?
MK: I think I started noticing at conventions. I’d been going to Heroes in Charlotte every year for six or seven years and then when the first MIND MGMT collections started coming out – that Heroes show I had lines all day – and a line when I’d show up to my table. I was used to showing up a little late and having a nice quiet and slow start – and that all went away. It was super gratifying you know? Not the attention – but more the idea that there’s an audience now to sustain what I want to do so I can keep doing it. I had to enlist my wife to help – I didn’t want to be one of those deadbeat creators that doesn’t reply to everything – so she helps me get back to people and stay in touch and keep grounded. I’m still really bad about replying to email – and I have a stack of fan-mail from the last 3 years that I’m just now getting to – it’s literally on the table right here by me – and I’m sending out crazy insane postcards to everyone that wrote in – but I didn’t have time to do that until I was done with the series!
Sales for “MIND MGMT” had their ups and downs. I know you had a built in escape at issue six in case it wasn’t well received. Was there ever a point after that when you considered ending the series early?
MK: No way. Once issue 3 or 4 orders came in – I had the green-light to do whatever I wanted. Sales were steady enough and books sales were great – finally hit the NYT Best Seller list – which my mom loved – finally a comic-related list she’s heard of! But no – if anything Dark Horse was encouraging me to do as much as I wanted or could – that’s where the Dark Horse Presents short stories came from. Dark Horse has been so great to work with – really the best possible working relationship a creator could ever have. They’re open to every crazy idea I ever had for MIND MGMT (selling ads on the back cover, 4-page fold-outs, stripping the logo off of issue 24, and changing the title and numbering of the last issue) – there is no other publisher that would have let me get away with all of that.Continued below
How important were digital and hardcover sales of the book over the course of the series?
MK: It’s all important – there are definitely a lot of people that waited for the hardcovers – and a lot of people buying both monthly and the collections – I think that Dark Horse got such a great printer and amazing paper and production quality on the books – they just look great – and I really liked the sort of newsprint cheap monthly feel that the issues had and then see it printed cleanly and on nice stock for hardcovers. It’s really two different kinds of reading experiences. I wouldn’t put importance of one over the other – or even digital – I think however you can get the stories into someone’s hands – I’m for it.
Are there any plans for softcover or super deluxe hardcovers? Or, dare I dream, an Artist Edition?
MK: I would love to do an absolute collection that has every single thing in it – and there probably will be at some point. My idea originally was to reward everyone that read and supported the monthly books and to keep those special. But I think, once all the dust has settled and the single issues get harder and harder to find – it’s probably impractical to leave all the extra ads and inside cover stories, etc. out of print. But that’ll be a concern for another day.
In the meantime, I have a bunch new MIND MGMT related projects in the works right now though that are taking up my work/brain time. I’m writing a commentary for the entire series that I’m going to record (and put on vinyl as well as as digital file) and a big “field guide” that has every single character in it with descriptions and back story. In addition to that I have two other big tie-ins that aren’t necessarily comics (or the movie) that I’m working on too but I can’t announce those yet!
Do you have any plans to return to “MIND MGMT” in oneshots, minis, or DHP shorts in the near future?
MK: Sure. After I do the commentary and the field guide I have two other big “MIND MGMT” projects that I’m developing – but again – too early for me to say anything. I hate being coy about that kind of stuff but I was never that guy that talked about projects ahead of time and then never gets around to doing them. They’re happening – I just hate talking about it until it’s done! Those projects are non-comic related – but I do have a notebook full of stories and ideas that I never got to – stuff that I thought up while doing the main series – so I’m sure I’ll go back to it.
I have to ask – any movie news?
MK: Sure – the 1-year option was up in the spring and they re-optioned it so the screenwriter could have more time to work on it – so I think they’re serious about it and they’re really respecting the material. High hopes! And some more money so I don’t have to worry about anything but making comics.
In addition to your work-for-hire writing, you’ve also started collaborating with artists on other creator-owned properties. Is there anything that makes a story like “Past Aways” easier to share with someone than your upcoming book “Dept H”?
MK: Yeah – I can push my art style in certain directions – but I didn’t feel like I could draw Past Aways in the kind of goofy fun way that I wanted it to look – with super bright colors, etc. I tend to save the ideas that I know my art is suited for – to draw myself – and then recruit someone like Scott for a story I think he’s better suited to draw. Not that I don’t want to draw that stuff! But there’s only so much time in the day and I have a lot of stories I want to tell before I kick the bucket!
Looking back, is there anything you’d do different with “MIND MGMT”? I don’t mean small things like a line of dialogue or the perspective in a certain panel, I know pretty much all artists always want to redo that stuff. I mean larger things, like delaying a death or exploring some idea deeper.Continued below
MK: Definitely. I think that’s the case with everything I’ve ever done though. That’s the nature of art though. You’re one person while you’re creating a thing – and then you get older, gain experience, have different thoughts and ideas about pretty much everything. That’s what makes it so hard to look at older work, no matter who you are. You’re always progressing and growing. So yeah – part of me sees this great big piece of work I’m proud of, and another part of me sees a thousand small missed opportunities. Ideas for ways I could have pushed things even further in every phase of the creation – from design to story to art. But you could drive yourself crazy doing that so I don’t think about it much. Once it’s in print I really walk away from it. That’s what it is. I’ll never be the guy that goes back in and “fixes” or tweaks anything years or even months later (except typos.) I feel like anything I would do now to something I did earlier in my life would destroy the integrity of the piece. That book or drawing or whatever you created is a document of who you were and where you were at at the time you made it. So to tinker with it afterwards kind of destroys that.
Be sure to check out “NEW MGMT” #1, hitting stands tomorrow!