Matt Kindt | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Matt Kindt

The Building Blocks of Giants

Oct 15, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Matt Kindt is a St. Louis-based, Harvey Award-winning designer and comic book writer/artist. The eclectic, compelling style of his body of work is increasingly earning him notice. He’s perhaps best known for Super Spy, “52 interwoven short stories about cyanide, pen-guns, heartbreak and betrayal.” His version of Marvel Comics’ Black Widow is soon to appear in that publisher’s Strange Tales series, which showcases short stories from so-called indie artists dipping their hands into the superhero world. And, perhaps largest of all, Kindt’s original graphic novel 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man is out now on Dark Horse Comics.

3 Story re-imagines the story of the 50-foot-tall man, repurposing the classic tropes into a highly emotional tale of a boy born in the 1940s that just never stopped growing, and three of the important women in his life. It’s his story told through their respective points of view.

3 Story is clever and a little haunting, with an instantly classic look and feel. It’s very stark and emotional in places—Kindt is expert at wielding loneliness and isolation as effective tools, or pulling them back from time to time for some emotional payoff.

Kindt took some time to discuss the book, his background, the importance of cover design, and his take on art itself.

What’s your artistic background like? Any formal training? And is fiction writing something you’ve studied formally? Influences on either/both?

Matt Kindt: I got a BA in Art from Webster University here in St. Louis, and I took a bunch of creative writing classes, but most of it was art history and painting and drawing, with some design thrown into the mix. My influences or inspiration really would be Kerouac, Pynchon, Heller (Catch-22), and Philip K. Dick. Man in the High Castle by Dick ended up being one of those books that really influenced me without even realizing it until much later.

Your style is unique—there’s something nostalgic and cool—like a treasure found in a grandparent’s attic, paired with something very clearly modern and alt-indie. Does your art sensibility determine the sort of stories you want to tell, or vice-versa?

Hmm. That’s a tough one. My style is sort of hard for me to look at objectively, so I’m not really sure what to say about it. I can say that I’m never happy with it so every project I try to change it a little bit and bend it more to something that I like. In the end, though, I think I’ve been trying to create something that you might find in somebody’s moldy basement. As for art style and content—to me the story is king and should dictate the look of the story. And I end up bending my art and colors and look to suit the story I’m telling. Every once in a while I’ll get an idea for a story or piece of a story where I just want to try a certain look or art style and I’ll write a story to fit it. I think the children’s book sections of Super Spy came about that way. And also in 3 Story, there’s a section where I drew the pages to look just like the art in one of my favorite children’s books, Giant John.

Did you grow up a comics fan? Superhero stuff? All sorts of stuff?

Oh yeah. I read everything I could find when I was growing up. My older brother was really into comics and he definitely helped form my early taste in comics. I loved Daredevil, Legion of Super Heroes, X-Men and Tintin. I think I loved Tintin the most because there were so many panels and so much action on every page—they lasted longer than the other comics. So with that background, it tended to push me towards genre work. I read lots of science fiction and crime books. I loved Dick Tracy and Chandler and Hammett as I got older. So I think that’s one thing I’ll never get over—my love of genre. Regardless of what story I tell it’s probably going to be in a genre—or a mix of a few together.

How do you split your career between comics and the design work?

Well, I’ve gotten to the point where I can just pick and choose my design work. I end up only designing for books that I like. I spent the first 10 years of my career as a designer doing whatever project came along, so luckily now I can turn things down. I love to design, though, so it’s great when a book like Jeff Lemire’s Essex County comes up and I get to do the cover. That’s one thing in comics I think doesn’t get thought about. Comic cover design seems to be so formulaic. So it’s fun to be able to elevate the look of comics in general.

The main characters in 3 Story are artists of one kind or another. That’s a really interesting choice. As an artist yourself, is this, in a way, you sticking yourself into the story, fleshing out characters in a manner that’s very dear to you? Is the giant’s mother being a non-artist directly related to how she’s sort of a pathetic, closed-off character?

Actually the mother is an artist as well—there are a few scenes that show her paintings-not an “artist” with a capital “A” but she did paint. I think what’s sad (but not pathetic) about her is that she did have some kind of talent, but ended up not having the time and outlet to develop it further. She was a single mom with a son that had this crazy problem. So she ends up putting her life on the back burner in a way to help her son out. I think art is really important. And I really believe that everyone has the capacity to be an artist. You don’t have to be able to paint or draw to be an artist. It’s more about a way of thinking. It doesn’t really matter what your job is—you can be artful in your job. It’s just coming at a problem or activity from a different way. Thinking about things differently and experimenting. I think people—including myself—tend to be so goal-oriented that the process becomes work… and it doesn’t need to be. The process is where the fun can be had, no matter what you’re doing.


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