Matt Kindt’s MIND MGMT from Dark Horse Comics could always be considered to be experimental and genre-blending and –bending, pulling from a wide array of traditions found in the best paranormal and procedural stories television, movies, and print has to offer. That’s why it’s no surprise that, when he chose to revisit MIND MGMT, Mr. Kindt would follow that same trailblazing, experimental spirit that made the original series so consistently engaging.
To that end, the creator has crafted a new chapter of MIND MGMT that ventures outside the comics medium that combines the printed four-color world of comics with a record that augments the reading experience. An adult spin on the read-along book/record combos of yesteryear, this MIND MGMT story is the first of its kind to pair a comic and a vinyl record to give birth to unique, robust, flavorful reading experience. As vinyl is outside Dark Horse’s wheelhouse, Kindt chose to turn to Kickstarter to make his vision of reality (and, as of this article, his campaign has almost tripled its goal with only two days into the campaign). Partnering with voice actor Clint McElroy, Kindt hopes to marry his story with the atmospheric overtones of listening to those old read-along books.
Mr. Kindt spoke with me recently about the idea behind the Kickstarter, why he chose to used mixed media to tell this particular MIND MGMT story, working with voice actor Clint McElroy on the project, and what rewards campaign backers can expect.
FreakSugar: Before we get into the Kickstarter campaign, for folks who might not be familiar with MIND MGMT, what can you tell us about the conceit of the series?
Matt Kindt: This comic and record completely stands on its own. If you’ve never heard of MIND MGMT this story will bring you up to speed and then blow your mind. It’s literally a training and recruitment device…and a story.
MIND MGMT is a secret organization that has worked behind the scenes since the 1920s to both influence and change the course of history. Sometimes it’s a force for good and other times… maybe not. MIND MGMT spans the globe as well as time so the series really opens itself up to tell stories in any era and focus on individual characters and their relationship with MIND MGMT. It’s got spies with mind powers, subversive advertisements, lethal written-messages, and psychotropic children’s books. Nothing in the series, or in this comic or record…is exactly what it seems.
FS: The idea behind Mind MGMT combines a variety of genres and styles. What was the genesis behind the idea for the book?
MK: MIND MGMT is really the culmination of everything I’ve ever learned and loved about comics and art – all put into one place. It’s a universe that’s allowed me to just run wild with unconventional ideas and formats. For me, it is a chance to show off the amazing thing that this medium of comics can do.
I was also inspired by Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. He created this kind of structure where he could tell any story he wanted to tell – spanning time and space. I really wanted to create something like that. A house that could hold any idea I had and still fit into a kind of cohesive world. MIND MGMT is at its core – spies with mind powers – but really it spans generations and the only limit is the outer reaches of what your mind can do. I really think that a lot of the craziest stuff in MIND MGMT is almost possible. It’s reality but just turned up 10%.
FS: Following up on that, tonally, the book is always engaging, sometimes uncomfortable, and consistently gripping. Did you have a particular feel in mind when beginning Mind MGMT or is it something that evolved over time?
MK: When MIND MGMT began, I really was just setting out to tell a handful of personal stories using the backdrop of historical conspiracy theories and secret societies. The deeper I got into the project however, the more I realized how much creeping paranoia seeped into it. I was adding these layers of subliminal text and images…it is definitely a project that evolved.
When I’m working on MIND MGMT I end up working in layers. For the books and in particular for this vinyl record and read-along comic it started with the basic idea. Tell a story with audio and visual comic. But the deeper I got into the process I realized it needed more. In the original series, I finished the first issue and had the idea to go back and add page-specific text to the page edges…subtly – like a subliminal message. I wanted to layer the comic pages in a way where you could read it once through and it’s kind of a breezy fun read. But somewhere in the middle of it you start to notice that there are some hidden message in it. Some things working in the background and in your subconscious. And then you have this need to go back and read it again. To put the puzzle pieces together to see another layer of meaning.
I ran into this same inspiration with the comic and record. You listen to the story and read along just like when I was a kid…but the images in the comic paint a different story – they subvert the audio…and then you have this crazy third layer of words and captions that are subverting both the audio and the image below it. It’s really working on three levels all at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like it. And that’s really why I felt like it was worth doing. It started as inspiration from nostalgia but then morphed into this crazy kind of hybrid medium that really hasn’t been explored at all.
FS: Moving on to the Kickstarter campaign, what can you tell about the effort and why you chose to do this project as a crowd-funded project?
MK: I knew that this comic book and read-along record was going to be a crazy format that we haven’t seen since the early 80s and might be a hard sell by traditional means. But I think Kickstarter patrons are looking for the cutting edge ideas and the concepts that are out of the box so I think it’s a perfect place for this project.
I back a LOT of stuff. And I really like it. I think it’s a great way to connect more closely with creators and actually get projects funded that might not otherwise ever be produced. From a practical point of view, I have absolutely no idea what demand there will be for this kind of crazy project so this was a safe way to produce it and gauge the interest. So the print run will be just a little bit above whatever the demand is. And this is a one-time deal. I’m not going back to press on this again. I want to keep this feeling of a rare kind of “art object.”
FS: In the press release, you said that the read-along experience is important to the story you’re telling. Can you tell us why that’s the case?
MK: I’m a firm believer in the story dictating not only the style but the medium that it is produced in. Comics need to be comics for a reason – they should utilize all the powers that comics have – the magic combination of words and picture to create a new meaning. Comics aren’t storyboards for movies. They’re a unique art form. For this comic and record – the story had to be special. It had to be something that could ONLY be told in this format. It’s impossible to replicate this storytelling experience in any other medium or in any other way. It won’t work as just an audio story – and the comic alone isn’t enough. But combining all of these things makes something completely new. I love the idea of using old technology…spoken words and images and text on paper…and making something that’s as powerful as any movie or television show.
You listen to the story and read along with the but the images in the comic paint a different story – they subvert the audio…and then you have this crazy third layer of words and captions that are subverting both the audio and the image below it. It’s really working on three levels all at the same time.
On top of that I layered in some subliminal sound effects and some backwards audio that you can only here if you put it on a record player and manually play it backwards (or reverse the digital file I guess – but that’s not as fun!)
I’ve never seen anything like it. And that’s really why I felt like it was worth doing. It started as inspiration from nostalgia but then morphed into this crazy kind of hybrid medium that really hasn’t been explored at all.
FS: I remember having all sorts of read-along storybook/record combos as a kid. Were there any books or general experiences that impacted your desire to do this project?
MK: Definitely. I still have a big beat-up stack of the old Peter Pan read-along book and records. G.I. JOE: Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb was my absolute favorite. The sound effects and creepy story are still rattling around in my subconscious to this day. There is part of me that’s trying to channel that feeling I had when I was a kid – but update it with a more grown-up sensibility.
FS: Clint McElroy is doing the voice acting for the record. How did he become involved in the project and what was the collaboration process like with him?
MK: I was a huge fan of Clint and My Brother, My Brother and Me (his sons podcast) so when I was introduced to him I was a little nervous I thought I was going to have to explain the project in detail and try to convince him to collaborate with me.
What I didn’t know? He is a huge fan of MIND MGMT. I talked to him on the phone and was kind of dreading the idea of explaining this idea to him. I got about thirty seconds into the conversation and I was talking about the old Peter Pan book and records and he stopped me. He knew EXACTLY what I was talking about and what I was going for. There’s really no budget for this project so I was worried. He’s a pro. He’s been acting and doing voice work as a pro…but being the fan he is – he donated his time. And he spent a LOT of time on this. He did many, many takes. And what he turned in was amazing. I actually got a little emotional…when I first heard it – he channeled everything I loved about those scratchy old 45 records. It was magic.
He refused to take a fee for working on this, so instead – I decided that we’re going to donate 10% of the profit to benefit recovery in Puerto Rico (his charity of choice) – and I couldn’t be more happy to do so. It sort of elevates this project to me. It’s about more than just having fun and entertaining. We’re going to be able to do some concrete good in the world. Which is really what the message of MIND MGMT always was. Do some good.
Clint is just an absolute gem. He’s has an amazing knowledge of comics history and he brings years of professional voice-acting – something that is completely outside of my expertise. He’s got his own new book (The Adventure Zone) that he did with his super talented sons…so I really felt like I was lucky to have him. This project would just be sitting in my notebook as a sketched out idea unless he’d come aboard.
FS: For folks donating to the campaign, what can you tell us about the rewards you’re offering?
MK: It’s my first Kickstarter so I really want to focus on delivering the coolest piece of art that I can. There will be some limited edition book plates at a higher level and a more rare gold colored vinyl and there are levels where you can actually get a piece of the original art from the comic. If things really go crazy, I might add something super-secret but we’ll see how it goes.
As of press time, the Kickstarter has already nearly tripled its $12,500 goal, with $34,745 pledged thus far and 28 more days left in the campaign! However, you can (and should!) still pledge to earn a wide variety of rewards! Check out the official Kickstarter page for more details!
From the official press release for the MIND MGMT Kickstarter:
Acclaimed cartoonist Matt Kindt is launching his first ever Kickstarter project to independently finance an unusual and historic project: an all new, stand-alone MIND MGMT comic book by Kindt and a read-along 7″ vinyl record by Kindt and Clint McElroy. For 20 years, Kindt has been writing and illustrating creator-owned comic books and graphic novels like MIND MGMT, Dept H., Ether, Revolver, 3 Story, Super Spy, 2 Sisters, and Pistolwhip and he’s once again experimenting with comic book storytelling to create the first ever read-along comic book and vinyl record for adults. And, just like MIND MGMT — Kindt’s globe-trotting mystery series about espionage, super spies, and psychic abilities — there’s a twist.
“I grew up loving read-along book and records like Planets of the Apes and Pete’s Dragon and I’ve always wanted to experiment with this format to tell a comic book story in a new and unique way,” said Kindt. “Rather than simply having a comic that illustrates the audio, the comic book story will subvert the audio that you’re hearing and the images will work completely differently when viewed while listening to the record.”
In MIND MGMT, a former secret agent, the mysterious Henry Lyme, has gone rogue and is working to dismantle the organization he once worked for. There’s a mysterious airline flight and a secret government agency of super spies. This story spans from the 1920’s to the present day—and things get weird.
“I’m launching this project on Kickstarter because it’s an experiment,” said Kindt. “Dark Horse Comics has been–and will continue to be–a terrific publisher for MIND MGMT, but they don’t make records and the read-along experience is essential to the story we’re telling. If you’ve never read MIND MGMT, don’t worry. This story is very much designed to be a stand alone reading (and listening) experience. And if you’re a fan of the series already, you’ll definitely find some easter eggs.”
The new MIND MGMT comic book is a full color, 24 page comic with a gatefold in the back that will hold the record in place. The MIND MGMT 7″ 33 1/3 RPM record will be pressed by United Record Pressing, the company which printed the Beatles’ first 7″.
Joining Kindt is Clint McElroy, a voice actor and the writer of comic books including King of the USA and co-writer of The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins, who does all the voice acting for the audio track. Kindt and McElroy will be donating 10% of the profits to the Hispanic Federation, the nation’s premier Latino nonprofit membership organization which is aiding Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Irma. Founded in 1990, Hispanic Federation seeks to support Hispanic families and strengthen Latino institutions through work in the areas of education, health, immigration, civic engagement, economic empowerment, and the environment.
“As the planet’s biggest Matt Kindt fan, I was tickled to participate in this project” said McElroy. “To become part of the MIND MGMT mythos is a major watermark on my life. It’s also a little terrifying. But I can handle it.”
If funded through Kickstarter, pledges will be delivered to backers this fall. The MIND MGMT Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1266952446/1292218885?ref=524941&token=a7a47b2b) is live as of July 10th and runs for 30 days.