A Conversation With New York Times Bestselling Graphic Novelist, Matt Kindt
Comic books bring certain images to mind: masked heroes, sound effect bubbles, pop art drawings, a decolletage-heavy damsel in distress. But that’s only the surface. Below the most mainstream of graphics sits a world of peculiar stories told through text and visuals, ranging from fantasy to full-blown horror and every genre in between. St. Louisan and New York Times bestseller Matt Kindt is a quiet master of this art.
Kindt, who graduated from Webster University’s fine arts program in 1995, published his first book in 2000. Entitled “Pistolwhip,” the book is a graphic novel version of a radio drama. “I took it to San Diego Comic Con and literally just handed it to publishers on the show floor,” he says. “I’d mocked up copies of the book, so it was already finished. I was just looking for someone to publish it.” Top Shelf publishing picked up Kindt’s work, thrusting him into the title of professional creator.
“That was what really got the ball rolling, and I began writing and drawing a book every year. There was a sequel to “Pistolwhip,” and then “2 Sisters,” which was a World War II espionage book,” he says. Post-publishing, he was laid off from his “day job,” designing coffee table books for The Sporting News. It was then that he decided to pursue comics full time. “I figured that if I could just start treating the writing and drawing as a full-time job, eventually that’s what it would become. And it did.”
Kindt has worked with well-known comic book mainstays, like Spider-Man and The Justice League, but it is his originals that really stretch the medium. Outside of “Pistolwhip” and “2 Sisters,” Kindt has taken readers to the life of a giant in “3 Story,” the top-secret world of government mind control in “MIND MGMT” and, most recently, an undersea murder-mystery in “Dept. H.” And he’s done so while quietly tucked away in Webster Groves on his back porch, or in a studio he shares with two other comic creators.
Kindt says he grew up reading Marvel Comics, often falling into the same predilections as his older brother, the way siblings often do. His interest expanded over time: X-Men lead to Daredevil, and so on. By college, he was tired of superheroes and had largely moved past comics, as the stories were no longer of interest to him.
“Around the same time, I met my wife in art school, and I realized that all these old comics were mostly directed at adolescent males,” says Kindt. “But I didn’t really want to spend my life making comics for them. I wanted something that my wife would want to pick up and find interesting. She really inspired me to change my approach and my thinking about what comics and graphic novels could be.”
Kindt’s wife, Sharlene Kindt, continues to be part of his work. While she hand-pours soy candles for her own business, Webster Wax, she also serves as the colorist for Kindt’s latest series, “Dept. H.” The story engulfs readers in a beautiful, yet terrifying mystery, namely through watercolor visuals. It launched in 2016, with its most recent issue (No. 11) hitting shelves earlier this month.
“I’d been wanting to do an underwater story—something with aquatic life, plants, rocks and the ocean. All of that is really visually compelling to me, and I’ve been obsessed with submarines and underwater adventure since I was a kid,” says Kindt. The documentary “World Without Sun” served as inspiration for the project. “I’m also terrified of drowning, so I think watching that stuff and reading and writing about it is kind of fun, poking at my own phobias. Plus, I love the idea of a locked-room murder mystery. You’re in there with the murderer, trapped under millions of tons of water. That was something I had to draw!”