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FOG! Chats With Matt Kindt About Magic & Mystery in ‘Ether’

etherinterview

As both a writer and artist, Matt Kindt is a force to be reckoned with.  Since breaking out fifteen years ago with his graphic novel, Pistolwhip, Kindt has written and illustrated stories across all genres.  In addition to writing such well known properties as Spider-Man and Suicide Squad, he’s also been one of the architects of the current Valiant Universe, writing Rai, Unity, Divinity, Ninjak, Book of Death and 4001 A.D..

His creator owned material includes Sweet Tooth (with Jeff Lemire), Revolver, MIND MGMT, Super Spy, and 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man.  His newest series, Ether with artist David Rubin (Battling Boy), asks the question, “Can science solve murder by magic?”

Matt took some time to discuss the series, working with David Rubin and the book’s influences.

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FOG!: Matt, what was the genesis of Ether?

Matt Kindt: I hate super natural and magical stories. That’s really where it started. Since I was a kid. I loved how Dr. Strange looked but I always felt like the magic was too convenient. Ultimately it ends up being a way to cheat the story or it’s so grounded that magic wielding ends up like using a gun or a sword in physical combat…so why bother with magic.

But that 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.

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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.

David Rubin’s artwork is amazing.  How did he get involved in the project?

Ether was on my list of projects I wanted to do next…when I was writing it, there were so many fun things I was seeding into it because I was looking forward to drawing it.

But, as a creator, I have a problem. I’m like a starving kid in a candy store. I want ALL of the candy – but the reality is my stomach is only so big. And my time that I can dedicate to projects is limited as well. I can’t draw more than one monthly comic (Dept. H) which is going to keep me occupied for the next couple of years.

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But I really was excited to get Ether going anyway. And David was available. I am a huge fan of his work. His book Hero is just amazing. He’s an artistic genius. And honestly, his availability convinced me to give up the idea of drawing Ether myself – since I knew what he was turning in would be better than anything I could do. The choice was easy.

Ether mixes magic with science.  But it’s also a mixture of science fiction with fantasy.  Were there any particular influences when developing the book?

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). The idea is to world-build a place where all of these things exist in burrows – nestled next to each other – and then have fun with the friction of those places and characters bumping into each other.

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And on top of it, throw in a main character who doesn’t believe any of this is real.

The heart of Ether is a procedural, but reading the first two issues, I found the story to feel more like a journey than an investigation.  Part of that is simply because as a reader, we’re learning about a completely new environment.  When writing the story, how important is it for you to explore the world versus solving the mystery, or is the pace intentional for the audience to learn as Boon Dias does?

Mysteries are like genres to me. They’re the hook to get you in to the story. The thing that keeps you motivated to turn the pages and it has to be good. It’s what I need as a reader and it’s fun to write, but ultimately, this story isn’t as much about the mystery as it is about the journey of Boone and his sort of growth as a human being that thinks he has an answer for everything being placed into a world that doesn’t necessarily want to be answered or classified or labeled.

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It’s what makes Sherlock Holmes such an enduring character. It wasn’t the fantastic nature of the mysteries he was solving that made the stories so great. It was the characters – the interplay between Watson and Holmes and his clients that makes the stories enduring.

You’ve written comics in virtually every genre for every major publisher.  Are there any particular collaborators that you haven’t worked with yet that you want to?

That’s honestly a pretty tricky question. I think as a creator, I have a lot of artists and writers that I’m a big fan of, but I don’t have a desire to work with them. I think that kind of happens organically. You meet someone and get to talking and hit it off. Most of my collaborations have happened that way.

The worst-case that I’m always afraid of is working with someone who’s work you love, and then there’s some kind of friction or creative difference and then it sort of colors how you feel about their work. It’s really hard for me to separate the creator from the work. So a little afraid to even meet some of my favorite creators that I’ve been reading for years. It’s a risky prospect I think.

Why should a reader check out Ether?

Well. I promise you’re going to see some crazy stuff that you have never seen in comics, books, or movies before. I mean…some really insane things.

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A wizard giant, a 12-year-old-girl who happens to be a  magician/scientist and Boone’s worst nightmare. An army of oxidized copper robots, a city of insane, perverted immortals, and a mythical Manhattan at the center of the earth.

What are you currently geeking out over?

Loving (Jeff) Lemire’s Descender, just picked up Dave McKean’s Black Dog which I can’t wait to read as well as the new Twin Peaks book.  TV – Westworld and Bloodline (Netflix). Most of my reading is research which I also love. Just read Hero of the Empire (Winston Churchill) and D-Day Through German Eyes. And finished Seveneves by Neil Stephenson which was narratively a little crazy and (good) sci-fi. And music – hardly every go out to see live music anymore (too busy working) – but went to see Kishi Bashi and he put on an amazing show. Makes me want to start playing violin again – the things he can do with that…!

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Ether #1 is available in stores and via digital today.

 

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