Comics are a form of visual storytelling that have been around since ancient times. Even Egyptian hieroglyphics are considered similar to comic strips because they have sections that involve images and language that convey a story.
Comic books, also known as illustrated books, evolved from newspaper comic strips in the 1800s. The grandfather of comics, Swiss teacher and artist Rodolphe Töpffer, is credited with the first comic book, The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck (1837), it was 40 pages. NYT Best-Selling writer and illustrator Matt Kindt also got his start by publishing a 40-page mini-comic in the early 1990’s. That was his bridge to writing graphic novels. And now he can add screenwriting to his list of achievements.
Dark Horse Comics, Valiant Entertainment and DC Comics/Vertigo are just a few of the publishers he’s worked with and some of his oeuvres include Mind MGMT, Divinity, Pistolwhip, Ether and Revolver. His puissant stories combine “sequential art,” germane dialogue and sous-vide storylines, creating notable intertextuality and hyper-metafiction masterworks.
His latest collaboration is with Keanu Reeves on Boom! Studios’ BRZRKR, the tale of a hybrid mortal-god warrior with a propensity for extreme violence.
What are mini-comics?
They're self-published comics that are assembled by hand. You photocopy it and put it together.
What was the first one you did?
Liquid Paper. It was on 8 1/2 x 11 paper and about 40 pages. The character Pistolwhip first appeared in it. It was about this bellhop trying to be a detective.
What comics have inspired you?
I’d have to say Frank Miller's Daredevil and Daniel Clowes' Eightball. Reading those made me realize this was something I could do for a living.
How did you learn to draw?
I've been drawing my whole life. I used to teach a class to kids, and I would tell them the only difference between being good and great is the kid who stopped drawing.
It's a little bit different to have the creator of a comic also be the main character. How does that affect your writing process and what kind of routine do you have with Keanu Reeves for BRZRKR?
When I collaborated with Jeff Lemire on Cosmic Detective, we kicked ideas back and forth. This isn't much different, except Keanu came with big ideas. When we create panel descriptions, we do the dialogue out loud. It’s something like line reading, which helps us figure out what’s good, what’s not. It's a new experience for me.
How many issues will there be? How many have you done? What’s your process?
We work on it in chunks. The first four issues, we did an outline and a big chunk of it. The second four and the last four will be worked on like that. It'll be twelve issues.
What are the benefits of collaborating as opposed to writing solo?
It’s good to have another brain, have another perspective to work with. When I work solo, I'm in my own bubble.
How does living in the Midwest affect your writing?
Living in the Midwest has influenced my career and helped me build it. My advice to any creative is don't let money be your reason for the job. Be conscious of where and how you live. Be conscious of your overhead. The cost of living in St. Louis is reasonable, so I live within my means. I've never worked because I needed money. I work on projects I’m interested in. For me, writing is fun. It’s something I enjoy.
What's the difference in collaborating with an artist for comics and a director for a film/television when writing?
When you're writing a screenplay, you're not encouraged to give direction. There's less detail in the staging of action. It's dialogue driven. The writing process for comics is more visual. I have to imagine what it will look like on the page. Using an image is a concrete element in the process. When I write comics, I write with the artist in mind.
What is your screenwriting process?
I equate it to drawing. I start with broad strokes, building up to breakdowns of smaller, more focused parts.
What was the inspiration for Mind MGMT?
I wanted to write something big but flexible. Sandman was my inspiration. It has the framework that can incorporate any story - magic, supernatural, spies.
Can you talk about the two scripts you've recently adapted from your work? I can’t say too much, but I’ve written a television pilot for Mind MGMT and a feature for BANG!
Since you're a visual artist as well, how does this come into play when you adapt your work into a screenplay?
One thing writing an adaptation causes you to do is revisit the work. It makes you examine what it's about. You have to boil things down while also expanding them. When I was adapting Mind MGMT, it was like having new tools to paint with. It was like playing in a new toybox!
What’s your advice to aspiring writers?
Just start doing it. Do your own thing first if you can. Everything else falls into place.
What’s happening with Grass Kings?
Grass Kings was artist Tyler Jenkins idea. I turned it down at first. I felt weird about working on something that was his story. He was a fan of my work, though, and trusted me to come on board, so I did. I added elements to make it more pulpy – murders and a serial killer.
Any particular time of day you prefer to write?
I like the early morning because I'm a little groggy and connected to my subconscious. Things are dreamlike, which writing is like.
What's the most fun aspect of writing?
It's like a dream you control. It's the ultimate escapism. Like reading a great work, where everything around you dissolves and you're immersed in that world.