Matt Kindt and Matt Smith's Folklords was created out a set of coincidences, happenstance, and an almost missed connection.
With the limited series debuting this week from BOOM! Studios, Kindt spoke with Newsarama about the quirky behind-the-scenes 'making of' Folklords and also, of course, what's on the page.
Folklords follows Ansel, your average boy who lives in a not so average world of gnomes, elves, and other worldly monsters. But Ansel has never felt like he belonged as he begins to get visions of a more modern setting.
Newsarama: Matt, what inspired you to write this story?
Matt Kindt: Every story comes from a different place. Everybody asks the question, when you're talking about writing, where do ideas come from? Everyone has a different answer. I know exactly where every idea comes from. This one came from my editor, we were trying to figure out what comes next, because I’ve done Grass Kings and then Black Badge. And then we were talking about the next thing. I wanted to hear a few different ideas, and then out of the blue he was like, "I got a title, no idea, just the title." And I was like, "What is it?" "Folklords." - that was the title he gave me. And I was like, "I like that, let's do that one."
It was like one of those lightning bolt ideas that just sort of hit you, you know. And as soon as he said that I had this image of a kid in a suit, in some fantasy world, like a Conan kind of fantasy scenario, but he's in a suit and he doesn't seem to feel like he belongs. And I was like, "Well that's cool, that should be the cover." So I had the cover idea and the image. And it was just a matter of sort of figuring out, okay, what is he doing and why is he there? Why does he feel out of place? Why is he dressing up? Why does he have a tie? The whole story ballooned from the title.
Nrama: How did your editor, Eric Harburn, come up with this title? Has he ever told you?
Kindt: I have no idea. I really don't know. All I know is that he said it, and I was like "Can I have it?" He was like "Yeah."
Nrama: How did you and Eric connect?
Kindt: Eric has been editing my stuff since Grass Kings. I don’t know what his official title was, but he was involved in everything. I've been out to Los Angeles a few times, I think we were at lunch, when we were talking about what's next. That’s when he ran the title by me.
Nrama: Why do you think BOOM! Studios was the perfect fit for this series?
Kindt: I have a good relationship with everybody I work with there and that's 90% of it. To me, the personal relationships that develop while you're working together and like that sort of trust you build with. Working really hard on a thing and being able to trust everybody on the other end to do their job well, to be receptive and involved and excited about it. That's what makes it a good fit.
You can get it published anywhere. Getting the book done isn’t a big deal. It's the relationships with the people you're working with. They make the difference. Everything I've ever done has not always been based on that I like that publisher. It's because I like the people working with a publisher and that's it. That's why that's also the reason I don't work in certain places because you don't find that everywhere. So, when you find it, you just kind of hang onto it.
Nrama: Speaking on collaborations, how did you connect with your artist, Matt Smith, for this project? Why did you think his style was a good fit?
Kindt: Oh man, he's amazing. He really is. I ran into his art for the first time when I saw a print he did with every Twin Peaks character. He just had like a full body drawing of every Twin Peaks character on this big print. I emailed him to ask if he had any left and if I could have one. And he sent me one, and so I started connected with him just as a fan.
I don't remember the exact sequence, but I know that I did the Planet of the Apes story with BOOM!, and they paired me up with Matt on that. I just loved his art so much. He just reminds me of, and I told him this, I totally embarrassed him on Twitter because I compared him to Alex Coats and Jeff Smith put together. There’s something that's both of them and neither one of them at the same time, something new. He’s like "No, no." He's super humble about his style, but he’s really one of the best cartoonists working, I think.
After the Planet of the Apes thing I really wanted to do something with them. So, I sent him a few pitches for just different ideas that I had that I thought he might like. I knew he liked Twin Peaks and some other things. So, I sent him some stuff. It was kind of like that.
And then he rejected those ideas. And I'm like, "Oh, okay. I can see you're not a fan of my stuff. That's okay."
And then we circle back around and I was talking to Eric and BOOM! about what to do next. And I was like, "I really want to work with Matt, but I don't think he likes me." And they’re like "No, no, that's not it." And then I found out that the ideas I gave were too grounded. He wanted to do something that was a little more fantasy, more fun to draw, you know, a little more otherworldly.
Knowing that combined with kind of the Folklords idea, I was like "Oh, this is the book we can do with Matt" because it can be all fantasy stuff, and then the main character can be grounded like I want with the book. But everything else around him would be completely nuts. Every kind of fantasy trope we can throw into it, give Matt a bunch of fun stuff to draw. I wrote up a pitch for that, then he liked that one. I was like, "Okay, he doesn’t hate me. He just hates those other ideas." [Laughs]
Nrama: Folklords is solicited as a limited series. Would you like to make a sequel or make this into an ongoing?
Kindt: Yeah, definitely. My original pitch had a really big story in it, and I broke it up into chunks so that if it just crashed and burned, failed, and everybody hated it, then we can just have it be a self-contained thing. But there's definitely a bigger story that I'd like to unfold if it sells well, it seems like it's doing alright.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about the characters of the book.
Kindt: The main guy, Ansel is – he’s just a teenager. I don't know what else to say about him. He's really like out feeling entering into the world and the world is a crazy place with all of these fantasy elements. There are gnomes who are going to have a bigger part later on. There’s a crazy serial killing - actually I don't want to spoil that part. Ansel is our window into this world. It doesn't freak him out all the way because he's grown up in it, but he also feels separate from it. He feels out of place in this scenario. He's kind of like us in that way.
But he has a friend – Archer, who is like his best buddy. He has a secret past that we are going to find out about. Then Ansel has a girlfriend, she ditches him in the first issue. There’s more to her too. Um, who else is there? Mainly, it's his journey, and the conceit in this world is that when you turn 18, you have to go on your quest. It’s you’re right of passage that everybody has to go on this quest. He's the chosen one, except, everybody does that you choose your quest and go on it and you either succeed or you fail and then you come back and live the rest of your life.
Nrama: Can you tease anything about the Folklords themselves?
Kindt: Yeah, no, I like it. I think this is what I liked about the title too is that it sort of suggested this world, but the title is not necessarily what the story is about. In a way, like if you pick up a book called Folklords, your like "Oh, it's going to be all about the Folklords and then we're going to see them and we are going to see there adventure." But I liked the idea of the title being the mystery, the Folklords is the MacGuffin of the book, the thing you're going after, the thing that Ansel is going after. So, I kind of liked that as a title. It’s like if you pick up Justice League, it's going to be about the Justice League. Or this book is called Folklords, but it's not, it's about the mystery surrounding the Folklords. The Folklord are the thing we don’t know. So, I guess that's all I can tell you.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about the setting of the book, and the contrast between Ansel’s world and the modern world he sees in his visions.
Kindt: I really wanted to do something like a Conan the Barbarian story, but also mixed with everything else. So, there are like Hansel and Gretel sort of characters there - gnomes, ogres, and there’s just every kind of fantasy character that I could think of I just wanted to jam it all in there and sort of play off of weird conceptions of what those characters are. Then just put a little twist on them.
Yeah, this is scratching my itch to do a Conan story without being Conan at all. Like any of them. The more I started writing it the more forgot it was supposed be a Conan story. Oh, this is nothing like that. You know, it's nothing like Conan and there's no Conan in it, but there are swords. And there’s this great character named Ugly, who's kind of like a barbarian. She’s probably my favorite character because she's nothing like what you would expect. I think she’s going to be the best part of the book, I think, once people get to know her.
Nrama: She has a cool name.
Kindt: Yeah, I know, it’s pretty on the nose.
Nrama: What other monsters or lore can we expect?
Kindt: We'll be getting to that. Ansel begins fighting books from our world, with stories from our reality. And so I think he's intrigued by those. In the background there's going to be all these other fantasy worlds. What I had the most fun with in this arc is Hansel and Gretel, there’s a twist that's pretty dark, but I thought it would be fun. My notes from Eric, my editor, for #2 that I needed to tone it down a bit. It was a little too dark and I was like, "Oh yeah, I guess that's really dark, but it's a little less than it was, but it's all still there." I just wanted there to be real stakes and real danger. I wanted the characters to seem real and not so fantastical that becomes a parable or a metaphor or something. I wanted you to care about everybody.
Nrama: And to wrap up, why do you enjoy the fantasy genre so much?
Kindt: I don't know. I think I like to get around every corner. Anything could happen. Anything could be there. One of my favorite movies of all time, is Apocalypse Now. And what I love about that movie, there's a connection here, the connection to me is like that movie is just this guy traveling up this river and confronting one crazy thing after another. And the beauty of that is you’d think you know what’s coming next then you turn the corner and it’s one crazy thing after the next.
I love that kind of story. I love that structure of storytelling where the character goes on this journey and whether it's up the river in Vietnam or through the woods and enchanted forest in this fantasy story - we don't know what's going to happen next. And it could be anything. It’s just coming up with the most bizarre things you could possibly think of and then from throwing that, uh, against your character, I think that's what I like.