Matt Kindt is the most prolific writer of the modern Valiant era. Kindt has had a hand in several of Valiant Entertainment's biggest series, including Ninjak, Divinity and the superhero team of Unity.
More recently, Kindt has taken over the reins of Valiant's flagship title X-O Manowar. At Valiant Summit 2017, it was announced that Kindt would stepping away from Ninjak, but would write the character in a team-up with Shadowman titled Rapture. Kindt will also be writing the Harbinger Wars 2 #0 issue and is launching Eternity, the follow-up to Divinity III: Stalinverse.
It's safe to say that Kindt is juggling quite a bit when it comes to working in the Valiant Universe. At Valiant Summit, ComicBook.com spoke to him about all of it.
You've between writing Ninjak and Divinity and now with all these new projects you have coming up you've become, arguably, the definitive Valiant writer for this generation. What do you think makes the Valiant Universe so special in comparison to all the other universes that exist in comics right now?
Matt Kindt I think there are a couple things that make it unique or interesting to me, at least as a creator. I think the first thing is that
From a creator's standpoint, that's what I like about it, but I also like that they're more grounded. There's not really a character in the Valiant Universe that flies just because they can fly, and like, "I have flying power." There's a reason for it. They have the science that explains a lot of the things that happen, and I think that appeals to me personally as a creator just because that's how I've approached all of my writing. I think I wasn't aware of it early on, and I think that the further I got into comics and the more I've done and the more books I've done, I've realized the take I do on comics is take a crazy or an absurd sort of scenario and then imagine what it would be like if it was for real. If a person really could do this thing, what would be that like, what would their life be like, what does that do to your character?
I remember I think the first time I was aware of that it was this book I did called 3 Story, which is about a guy who grew three stories tall, and the story was told sort of from the point of view of his mother and then his wife when he was older, and then his daughter, trying to figure out what happened to him when he had disappeared. The story is ridiculous, the guy grows three stories tall, it doesn't make a lot of sense from science. Your bones couldn't actually sustain a body that big. What is interesting to me about that approach is, "What would it be like to be that big?" It's different than something like you see Giant-Man or Ant-Man or a character like that, and, boom, they're really big. It's never explored, like, "What does that do to your senses? What do things sound like? What does it look like? Can you hear people when you're that big?" The actual nitty-gritty of what's it's like. That book sort of made me realize what I like about writing, which is taking the fantastical event and then grounding it.
I think the Valiant Universe is the only universe that does that, where they take these fantastical things, sort of the tropes that on the surface look like other superhero books, but then they ground it in a reality that I think makes for
As much as there is still to explore in develop in the Valiant Universe, you're about the create a pocket universe within that in Eternity. What sent you in that direction?
MK: I think truthfully this arc, Eternity, it's in a lot of ways fourth arc of the Divinity series that I pitched from the very beginning. I had an idea, a very distinct idea for four different stories we would tell with Divinity as the thread that holds it all together, with the idea that this is my way to worm into the Valiant Universe and then blow it up into cosmic stories, which I had never gotten to really tell and I've been wanting to since I was a kid reading Jack Kirby. I read The Eternals and I read the Fourth World stuff and I just loved it. I don't know anybody that grew up during that era or who has read Kirby that didn't somehow plant some kind of weird seed in your head of something you wanted to do at some point. I mean there's a reason Kirby's a touchstone, and it's just the sheer creativity he brought to it.
I feel like everything I just said about the Valiant Universe being sort of grounded and there being a reason for everything and sort of science-based doesn't lend itself at all to cosmic, so it's, "How do you do cosmic in that, but still maintain the integrity of what the Valiant Universe is and what makes it special, and also sort of be true to what I like?" Which is grounded stories about characters that act like real people and respond in real ways, "How do you do that, but still have cosmic godlike characters that live in the fourth dimension or something?" I figured out a way to do it, which is really a lot of research into quantum physics, and I don't pretend to be any kind of expert in it, like I read a bunch of stuff and barely understood what I was reading, but understood it well enough to be able to sort of sketch out how the universe could work or how it could work in a scientific way.
We'll get a little bit of that, but really just as an excuse to sort of blow it up and show a lot of colorful characters and, sort of in a selfish way, just let my imagination run wild and come up with a bunch of weird characters.
You mentioned Kirby being a touchstone for a lot of creators, but some creators use that inspiration more blatantly than others, even in some cases becoming a pastiche. Is the Kirby influence on Eternity seen on the surface, or is it more just in that creative impulse?
MK: I was really conscious of that, because I didn't want to do a pastiche, and I didn't want to do something that's an obvious, super obvious homage to Kirby because that's been done so much, and I love it all. Gødland, and Tom Scioli's American Barbarian, he's the master of that, and I love it.
I was very conscious of not wanting to do that. That's ground that's been tread, been tread well and done well. I wanted to do something that on the surface, when you flip through the book, it's like, "Oh, Kirby. Okay, this is going to be fun and exciting." Then when you start reading it, there's another level to it, it's not just repeating tropes or using visual icons that Kirby established. It's using it, but also subverting it and telling a different kind of story. It's always a personal story to me. If there's not something personal in it, then it's not something I'm interested in telling. It's a very personal sort of heartbreaking story told with the Jack Kirby veneer on top of it.
I think that to me it's like the same way I'll use any genre. To me, I love genre fiction and I'm a fan of all of it. I love crime and mystery and a little bit of horror and supernatural I'm starting to warm up to. What's great about the genre stuff is that's the hook that gets you in. It's like, "Oh, this looks cool," or "I like mysteries." The thing that keeps you there, the thing that makes it worthwhile to me, to write and to read, is there being something human in there that people can relate to or you'll respond to, and that has to be there. The cosmic stuff is the hook to get you in, and then hopefully you'll still be touched by the story at the end.
Why isn't Eternity just Divinity IV?
MK: I think in a lot of ways it's because we are creating this kind of a secondary universe or a universe inside a universe. It's just a way of signaling that there's something bigger happening, and Divinity is sort of the gateway into this world. It's something bigger. How do you go bigger than a word like "divinity"? Well, "eternity" sort of covers everything else.
Would you then consider the Divinity trilogy as it exists now to be complete? Or is Divinity IV still a different story you may write in the future?
MK: I think Eternity, in my mind, is the fourth book. To me, it's a quartet, so there will be Divinity I - Divinity III and then Eternity is sort of like the capstone, which ends up being the launching pad for a lot of stuff that'll happen after hopefully.
You're now writing X-O Manowar. You were already the world's biggest Ninjak fan before you started working on that character. Was X-O Manowar a character you had to warm up to or were you a fan, to begin with?
MK: No, he's the second best character in the Valiant Universe, after Ninjak. Rob [Venditti] kind of had a monopoly on X-O and I was happy to have him have that because he did an amazing job on that run.
I was like, "I'm just going to outlast him, I'm going to keep writing Ninjak, keep writing everything else and then as soon as he's off X-O I'm going to make my move."
I love the character. X-O and Ninjak to me, they're the cornerstones of the Valiant Universe.
You've written Aric in comics before as part of an extending cast. How does that compare to writing him as a solo character now?
MK: I think when I was writing him and he would show up in Unity, I had to be very observant as to what Rob was doing with the character, because I wanted to stay true to that, and that's the whole key to a shared universe. If the characters change from book to book, from writer to writer, then I just think that the shared universe can fall apart. You have to be super conscious of staying true to what's happening with the character while that's going on. In a lot of ways I was writing Aric through Rob's point of view and his eyes and what he's doing, and so it's kind of nice to now sort of have a clean break in a creative way where he's off of earth and he's on an alien planet and it's been at least a year since we've seen him, since anybody has seen him, and we don't really know what happened.
It's given me sort of free license to sort of, not reimagine him, but just sort of find his voice again and sort of give him a new voice that's true to the old character, but he's already gone through something so he can be a little bit different. I think it'll make sense continuity wise to do that, and part of the fun then is to, like that gap between what Rob did and where he starts in my run, there's a gap there on purpose, because there's a lot of things that happened that we didn't see yet, that we'll get to see over the course of the year, and that's going to be sort of fun to revisit.
What would you say is the biggest difference between your take on Aric and Rob's?
MK: I think the character, he's going to be the same. He's the same guy, you can't really change who Aric is or was, and I don't think you need to. He's great, he's a sort of barbarian with a suit of armor, but I think the biggest change is going to be not necessarily him, but the armor and his relationship with the armor. You kind of get a hint of that in the first issue or two, where the armor starts talking, which doesn't really happen much.
It's just going to get worse, or better, depending on whether you're Aric or not. I think that to me was my way to sort of put a new spin on a character or show Aric in a different way, is to make the armor make a natural leap into sentience or become this like crazy hyped up AI and sort of make it come into its own, so in a way I'm adding a character to the story, which is the armor as a character. I think that is going to bring something different out of Aric that we haven't seen before.
If the armor is a character, how would you describe its personality?
MK: Here's the thing about the armor, because it can be, I think, a little bit abrasive and probably seems pretentious and pompous. In defense of the armor, it has all of this knowledge of all of our history and all these alien planets and knows everything that can be known practically. We have this, and then we have it paired with Aric who is basically a barbarian, and there's friction there. Those two aren't going to get along.
Which is where the fun of writing it comes in, is to have this armor that has all this knowledge, and then figuring out what their relationship is going to be. I think that friction and that tension is going to be kind of exciting. Rather than Aric wearing the armor, the armor is sort of riding on Aric now in a different way.
You're also writing Rapture, which sees Ninjak teaming up with Shadowman. Is this more of a Shadowman story with Ninjak guest-starring, or vice versa?
MK: It's an ensemble piece because I think Tama the Geomancer, I'm championing her as one of the lead characters as well. She's the girl that was in The Valiant, and so the whole series starts out with her, and it's like the first eight pages. When I pitched that I was like, "Warren [Simons, Valiant editor-in-chief], I really want to do Shadowman and Ninjak, but the first eight pages are just going to all be Tama the Geomancer. She's the only one you're going to see."
I was like, "We need to do it this way because she's really important." He's like, "Yeah, whatever the story needs," which is to his credit. She's going to be the bookends that tie it all together. I think it's going to start out as buddy cops, Shadowman and Ninjak, and then it's going to end up being Shadowman's story by the end, because of the nature of what they're doing, going to the Deadside and trying to find the Liveside, and I think that's going to be the key to Shadowman sort of resolving some of his horrible issues that he has, character issues.
Ninjak and Shadowman usually have very different kinds of stories told about them. How does Rapture blend that all together?
MK: I think it's going to be kind of a third thing, which is like Lord of the Rings, and I think Warren described it that way. I was like, "Oh, yeah, I get that," because it's set in the Deadside and I really wanted to make the Deadside seem more grounded. There are these different factions and different weird creatures, and then there's going to be a big battle. I really wanted to do a straight-up barbarian, so there's going to be this Deadside barbarian that's been around forever, that we get introduced to called Rex the Razer.
It's definitely got a fantasy feel to it, and adventure, and then just some horrible heartbreaking stuff at the end. Also a little bit of cosmic thrown in with the sort of the heaven and hell element. The idea of it was to have, if there's a Deadside - which we've seen a bunch of times - if there's a hell, then there has to be a heaven, right? Hopefully, there's a Liveside somewhere, and that's the whole point, is trying to find that Liveside.
Valiant fans have been begging for more Shadowman stories. Do you feel any added pressure in writing the character?
MK: No, I'm happy to. I think what's funny is my run of Ninjak sort of made sense to go to the Deadside and then once we were in the Deadside I'm like, "Well, where's Shadowman? Why isn't he back?" I was a fan of the books, I was like, "I wanted Shadowman," and I said, "Well, wouldn't he be here? Couldn't he be here?"
I think it just made sense in an organic way to have him introduced back into the universe in the Deadside with the Ninjak stuff. As a fan of the books and as a reader in the past, it's nice to just be in control now, where I'm like, "Oh, I want Shadowman back. Let's bring Shadowman back."
MK: No, when I pitched the series I pitched as much as I possibly could think of or had, and when I got to the end of it I felt like that's the story that I had to tell. Then it felt like a natural conclusion, and I had this personal story and started establishing who he was and his relationship with Roku and I feel like after that was all I had for a while. Then when Christos, I was talking to him about what he's doing with Ninjak, I had this weird feeling I've never had before, which is like this weird jealous feeling like someone dating your ex-girlfriend. You're done with your ex-girlfriend, and it's okay, they should be dating, you're happy for them because they seem happy together, but a part of me is like, "I miss Ninjak."
But, no, it's good. What he's got planned is going to be amazing, and honestly, I'm looking forward to reading that as a fan again. I think that's one of the catch 22's of writing these books that you're fans of, is that you don't get to read the books as a fan. Knowing that it's going to be in good hands and then being able to pick up that book and read it, for just the entertainment of it, not because it's part of my job, is going to fun.