The following is an interview with Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT, Dept.H), the writer of Dark Horse Comics’ upcoming comic book series, Ether. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Kindt about his unique approach to creating a supernatural story, his collaboration with artist David Rubin and its impact on the series, how Ether compares to his currently running Dept.H, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: This Wednesday, November 16, will see the release of your new series, Ether, from Dark Horse Comics, depicting what happens when science and magic intersect. What inspired this new series, and how would you describe your experience in delving into the supernatural genre?
Matt Kindt: I really don’t like supernatural and magical stories. And that’s a simplification, of course. I get into this discussion all the time with my studio-mate Brian Hurtt (Sixth Gun), and he keeps a running list of the things I “hate.” Which is pretty varied. From musicals to horror movies to stories with magic. The thing about not liking things generally is that there are always exceptions. I’m not a hypocrite – I’m open minded. I like The Sound of Music. I love the movie Alien, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell is one of my favorite novels ever. That’s musicals, horror, and magic. So, all that said, I think it was my desire to figure out what I didn’t like about magic and supernatural in stories and just approach the genre in a way that would satisfy me as a reader in that genre. Ether was born.
That’s what got me to thinking – if someone made me write a comic about magic, or with magical elements, what the heck would I do? How would I handle it? And that’s where Boone (the protagonist in Ether) came from. He was sort of my surrogate – my way into the story. A sort of Sherlock Holmes mind-set that gets thrown into a magical realm and has to cope with a place where nothing seems to make rational sense. Then, he gets called upon to solve a murder in the Ether – seeing as he’s scientific and rational. He is the best candidate to solve this crime. The problem is, what happens when the detective, who doesn’t believe in magic, is solving a murder perpetrated by a literal magic bullet? And that’s what made this the most fun I’ve had writing in a long time. That friction between the rational and the unexplainable.
BD: The artwork by David Rubin is truly striking. How would you describe your creative process in working with Rubin, and how do you feel that his artwork aids in depicting both the scientific and fantastical aspects of the story?
MK: I had some old character sketches and ideas for some of the look of the characters, but when I sent that to David along with the pitch and outline for the series, he took it upon himself to draw over twenty pages worth of set designs and characters and other elements that we could weave into the story. David’s imagination is boundless really. He’s one of those rare artists that writers get to work with, where they just take an idea and run with it – making it visually bigger and crazier than anything you’d been picturing.
What I think David adds, and what really caught me off guard – was the sheer FUN that he brought to this project. I think initially I really imagined this as a dark procedural with really dour elements and a downbeat kind of vibe. Really dark. And then when his art started coming in and I saw how his fun sort of cartooning and character design meshed with my words…it honestly shocked me. It’s like hearing a melody and then the harmony starts joining in and makes the song into something different and bigger and more powerful. I’ve never had a collaborative experience catch me off guard like that and surprise me. What Ether turned into is a testament to David’s personality and style.
BD: Do you feel that the murder mystery aspect of Ether compares to that of Dept.H., and have you come to enjoy writing mysteries in the sequential art medium?
MK: It’s definitely a different vibe. The murder in Ether was actually committed with a literal “magic bullet,” so right from the beginning we’re dealing with something else entirely. I’d say both series are first and foremost character-driven pieces. The mystery is central as a sort of backdrop for bigger things in play. But where Dept. H is intentionally claustrophobic and oppressive, the mystery and locations in Ether are light, colorful, and expansive. There’s a sense of wonder in Ether and fun that sort of takes the sting out of the horrible murder and the heart-breaking ending that the first arc has [laughs].
BD: Along with the supernatural mystery of Ether, there is a whimsical and playful aspect to the series. What do you hope that readers will take away from the series?
MK: I hope curiosity. I drop a lot of literary and mythical Easter eggs in this book. Everything in this series is from something or a nod to literature and myths from all over the place.
I’m really pulling from all mythology from all times. The idea is that “Ether” – the magical realm where a lot of the series takes place – is a place created by humanity and our desire to create other worlds and after-lives. So, every place and most of the characters are at the very least inspired by something that humanity has invented. I’m pulling from all cultures and religions and time periods – we’ll see aboriginal gods, renaissance wizards, really angry faeries, La Ciudad Blanca, the legendary White City of Honduras, Cloud Cuckoo, Baltia (home of the immortals). I’m hoping readers will start getting on-line and looking up some of the crazier references and see what kinds of things we’re tapping into with this book. Get inspired – and realize how much of our world is shaped by fiction and writing from the beginning of time and onward.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you are able to share with readers?
MK: If you’re looking for a great all-ages adventure book for that kid (or grown-up kid) in you life, Brian Hurtt and I just came out with a new graphic novel, Poppy and the Lost Lagoon, that would make a great holiday gift! It taps into a lot of the same kinds of things I’ve loved as a reader forever – cross-sections, diagrams, puzzles, and a world-spanning adventure with submarines, automotons, and weird sea creatures…and it’s all-ages, so I promise that book won’t break your heart or make you feel melancholy!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Ether?
MK: I’m not going to spoil it – but Boone has already lost a lot by the time we catch up to him. First and foremost, Ether is a fun adventure book with magic and fist-fights with rusty automotons, ape-slavers, flame-sword-wielding women warriors, and shady librarians, but there’s a terrible twist to all of this that (unlike the all-ages book, Poppy!) will definitely break your heart. Hopefully [laughs].
*Cover art (above) by David Rubin. Variant cover (right) by Jeff Lemire.