“I have to show that I can write superheroes and not just dick jokes” Matt Garvey on creating a variety of work with The Devil In Disguise, White Noir and The Ether

2018 was a stellar year for writer Matt Garvey, with the debut of the critically acclaimed white NOIR and The Ether, as well another issue of the ongoing Chunks. But never one to rest on his laurels, Garvey has started 2018 with another debut – this time the superhero horror book The Devil In Disguise! So how does he manage to keep churning out so many great books? We find out if Matt has his own Faustian pact and why variety is so important for his creative ambitions!

Tell us a bit about the inspiration for The Devil In Disguise – it feels like a throwback to classic 70s horror comics and movies, were any of those an inspiration for it? 

Matt Garvey: Let’s be honest, I’m just weird…my head is always full of strange ideas…I get a lot of ideas, especially for twists. The “inspiration” or story idea usually just pop into my head and I think to myself “ooooh that will blow the reader’s minds”

It will start with that one idea, concept….even joke and then I start to mentally work through that idea….

How do I get to that point, joke or twist? How would this comic work? Does it work?

With Devil in Disguise (DiD) it was exactly the same, about 18 months ago I was on the tube (just like the start of the comic) and I was in my Elvis phase and was listening to a lot of THE KING. Looking around on the tube I noticed a pregnant lady asleep in the corner and the song (you’re the) Devil in Disguise came on the shuffle…

BOOM!…Idea…print that!

After that, the story started flowing and I came up with the twist(s) on the last couple of pages too and that was it…

It reads like a horror but the synopsis says it’s a superhero book – so which is it? Or is that giving away the ending too much?!

MG: Can’t it be both?

Doctor Strange, Blade, Spawn…Swamp Thing to name but few, are all superhero comics and all have horror/occult elements in them.

When I started physically putting out comics last year I noticed a gap on my table…I had comedy, adventures, Sci-fi…but I had no superheroes and some people just want “capes”

Also, with the exception of Cordelia Swift, all my comics have bad words and are not appropriate for kids. Now, I’m not saying that you could give DiD to a five-year-old, but there is no bad language in it (other than my grammar).

So, at my next con, if a 12-year-old comes over to my table looking for a book and he is not into steampunk, I have an appropriate(-ish) superhero comic for them, because i think The Ether is too mature for younger readers and has some very strong adult themes. (Didn’t realise I’m a responsible person, did you?!)

Plus, I’ve always said that working for the big two is the dream, not the goal (the goal: just tell the stories I wanna tell and put out good comics), but if I am gonna have a shot at making that dream come true I am gonna have to show them that I can write superheroes too and not just dick jokes!

How did you hook up with artist Robert Ahmad – he has a really great style to his work that feels like something from a 70s Marvel horror book. 

MG: Hook up? I’ll have you know I am a happily married man!

I have a number of scripts that are ready to go, but a lot of times I am waiting for the right artist to match the “style” i think it should be. That’s not me saying that I’m not open to different interpretations…because I have been pleasantly surprised before. Because a great artist is a great artist. But, if you take CHUNKS, for example, there is a reason I wanted it to have a cartoony feel…because you can get away with more risqué  jokes if it looks childish….look at Family guy and South Park…you wouldn’t have been able to get away with 90% of their jokes if they were a live-action sitcom, filmed in front of a live studio audience… If Dizevez had painted CHUNKS instead of Cris, yes it would have looked beautiful there is no doubt about it, but would it have been as funny? I don’t think so…my writing isn’t that good.

Vice versa, if Cris had drawn The Ether…it woulda looked wicked, but The Ether is a brutal story…that I think that suited Diz’s style better.

So, that was a long winded way of me saying that its important to find the right artist (collaborator) for the right story…it helps.

Finding Robert was easy…we are both on MillarWorld (comic forum) and I saw him post some amazing art on there.

Absolutely loved his style…it reminded me of the late, great Darwyn Cooke, whose art I adore. So, approached Robert with my proposal, he read the script, drew it and nailed it!

Couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out visually!

And I love the orange colour scheme, was that always part of the plan visually or did it just evolve?

MG: How the orange came to be is, I started colouring a couple of pages (because I am teaching myself how to colour), I was trying to go for a going for a Francesco Francavilla style colour scheme. Simple, two, three colours max. Robert said he liked it and then he came back with a page he did in the orange and I said yep…let’s do that…it looks wonderful.

It reminded me of Cooke’s Parker, which I love and it works and works REALLY well!

The Devil In Disguise is quite a departure from white NOIR or Chunks, do you try and write in different genres to sharpen your skills or are these just the kind of stories you’re interested in telling? And is it easier as a writer to explore more genres do you think?

MG: Yep…I’m trying to branch out and flex my writing muscles, I like challenging myself, it’s the only way I’m gonna become a better writer and I don’t want to be accused of repeating myself or repeating myself.

Plus, the bigger my portfolio of comics the more readers I am going to appeal too and if they pick up one book, the might try another that isn’t usually in their wheelhouse. P

As a creator, if you want to approach editors, one showing them that you can get comics out there is VERY important, because an editor isn’t going to read a script on its one.

Also, like us editors have tastes and work on specific comics, so do your research….what comics to they like and what are they working on.

So, don’t send a comedy comic to the editor of Batman. Yeah, he/she might like it and it will make them chuckle, but doesn’t show them you can write a decent Dark Knight story.

Congratulations on an amazing year with Ether and white NOIR hitting our top 20 indie comics of the year list. Can you tell us a bit about the inspirations for both of those books as they seem to have really strong ideas as a central concept – can you even talk about the twist at the end of the Ether yet or are you still keeping it a surprise for readers?

MG: *coughs* Top fourteen (one in the top ten) *coughs* let’s not underplay this! I kid…or am I?

Seriously, thank you for even considering our comics in the list, we do appreciate it.

I like to keep twists under wraps as long as possible…because someone, somewhere isn’t going to know it. With The Ether especially, if you know the twist, I really think it ruins the impact of the story. So, I am not gonna spoil it here.

With regards to inspiration, I got the idea three years ago. It was the first day at my current day job and I saw this mannequin in a shop window with the face of a map and I thought that would be a fantastic mask for a superhero. But, I knew people would think that I am just ripping off Rorschach, which I really didn’t wanna get accused of.  So I sat on it for over two years, trying to think of a story and a twist worthy of people’s attention. Then about a year ago, PING “lightbulb”, got the idea of the twist and people seem to like it. So, shhhhhh…

white NOIR was a strange one, again for years I had an idea which is is the first page of the comic. I had this visual image of a guy waking up in a blizzard after crashing with a stag’s head through the windscreen…but again, I didn’t have a story to go with it.

After seeing the amazing job, Diz had done with The Ether (which was her FIRST EVER comic!) I knew she would be perfect for white NOIR. I thought, I’m just gonna write it…I’m gonna give the main character amnesia, so just like him I have no idea what is gonna happen next. Which is REALLY unusual for me, because I usually bulletpoint a comic out, so I know where its going and structure how to get to that original idea or twist….but that was on the first page, so I was screwed! However, as I started writing, the ideas just came and as I wrote I kept getting more ideas for twists and I finished the first draft in a couple of hours. Rewrote it the next day, sent it to Diz and told her that I wrote it with her in mind. Bless her, she came back in a few hours and asked “can I draw this?!”

And then a couple of months later we had the first issue done…and now I know where the entire story is going, I have even MORE twists and I have an ending planned…you’ll love it.

white NOIR feels like a classic crime story, and when we chatted at the Swindon signing you said you had steered clear of books like Criminal as soon as people started comparing your idea to it. So have you checked any of these out yet, or are you still keeping your distance?

MG: Still not read any of it…not only have I got the deluxe hardcover on my bookshelf behind me, I bought them all digitally from Comixology during a sale the other year…and its killing me because I REALLY wanna read them.

Until I have finished writing white NOIR I’m not going anywhere near it.  But, it was such a nice compliment to be compared to a comic by Phillips and Brubaker though.

I’m actually not reading many comics at the moment…buying, but not reading…my PILES are huge. I’m on a huge writing binge at the moment and I don’t want anything I’ve read seep into my subconscious that’ll come out in my writing.

I did snap over the festive break and read a couple of comics, some Moon Knight, #1 of Mister Miracle, catching up on Batman and a few Image books…but apart from that I’m soooooooo far behind.

Your partnership with Dizevez on The Ether and white NOIR has produced some really strong results, how did you meet and what is it about her work that really gels with your kind of story telling?

MG: Again, it was a meeting on MillarWorld (seeing a trend here readers?)

Way back in May ’16, Diz was posting some amazing pin-ups she did. There is a fantastic Wonder Woman one which blew me away and she also did one of The Rock as Black Adam…it was all serious breathtaking stuff. I paid her a couple of compliments (much deserved) and made a silly comment “if you ever want to do a cover for one of my comics let me know” within seconds she responded saying “YES!”…I sent her a PDF of Transfer.

She did a couple of covers and I asked if she wanted to do a full comic with me and again she said yes.

With regards to gelling, that was even easier, Diz, along with all the other collaborators I have been fortunate to work with, all have the same thing in common.

They are all REALLY nice people…plus, it’s not “work for hire”. I pay for the privilege to work with them, we are a team.

S’why on the inside of ALL the comics, it doesn’t say CREATED by Matt Garvey…followed with ART by…I am not the sole creator. I am part of the team….without these fantastic people in my corner all I would have would be words on a page. I want the artists who work with me to enjoy drawing the comic as much as I did writing it and I think that shows on the page.

I write full script, but when I write a comic I try to give the artists as much freedom as they want. I always write them a note along the lines of “I have written full script, but please use this as a guide only, you are the artist and have a much better visual eye than I will ever have, so if you can think of better way to show what I have written, GO FOR IT. As long as we get to where we need to go and you leave me enough room for the words, let’s just make a great comic” Some artists follow my panel descriptions exactly, but others will follow it but put their own visual twist on it….which I am all for, it’s a collaboration.

What’s the plan for releasing future issues of white NOIR and The Ether, is she working on them now? Will you be able to get her to finish both series before the big time comes calling?!

MG: Diz has the second issue of The Ether in her inbox, so hopefully she’ll get to start on that soon and I am also working on the follow up issue of The Ether and white NOIR as we speak.

I am hoping we get both series finished before Diz gets snapped up by one of the big two (which, let’s be honest, is only a matter of time and much deserved) but I’m sure we will get it finished sooner or later. Not just with Diz, but with all my collaborators there is some real, amazing untapped talent there and I’ll do whatever I can to get their art in front of the right people, to help their careers, even If it means that we never see what happens to The Ether because Diz is off drawing comics for DC, I’m ok with that.

You’ve done a great job of getting loads of first issues out in a short space of time, was this an intentional way to get people interested in new titles from you, rather than focusing on one title at a time? And has it created any kind of logistical problems in terms of getting the next issues out to people?

MG: There are a few reasons why I have been working on so many different comics.

Firstly, I have waaaaaaaay too many ideas and get too excited to make them and the more comics I have out there the wider my readership gets…”oh, you don’t like steampunk, but you like Sci-fi? Well…try Transfer then”

Also, this is small press, for the majority of artists and writers out there, we all make comics in our spare time around our day jobs…for artists especially…those guys have it tough.

Imagine you’re an artist, you have just had a really crappy day at your day job, you come home, you are exhausted and then you have to muster the energy to go and draw an amazing comic page…That’s a big ask. So, with that in mind, it is just not possible to put out issue after issue on a monthly or even a quarterly basis.

But at the same time, I don’t want to have the exact same issues at every con I attend….because you’ll find that you see the same faces at cons and if a customer bought CHUNKS #1 last time and that’s all I have sitting there, they are not going to buy it again. BUT, I may not have the follow up issue, but I do have these two new comics that they might like.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Chunks as well, in order to get the full set! Will we be getting more Pineapple Chunks in 2018, or are you too busy with all your other books?

MG: CHUNKS, you say….i don’t think you deserve more, because #3 didn’t make the top 50 list…I assumed you didn’t like it, so why would I make more?! ;p Kidding.

I love CHUNKS, it was the first comic I ever wrote and would love to do more. I have started writing issue four and I have two really good jokes, but I like to have four REALLY good jokes per issue…so I’m working on it. Plus, I love working with Cris, he is a lovely and I know he is up for it, schedule permitting, because he is very busy with other work. So, it may be a while before we see the end to the first arc.

And what about Transfer, blimey you are a busy chap!

MG: It’s good to be busy and always moving forward…There is more Transfer coming, I promise.  Just waiting for a few more pages from Eder and then I can throw that at you too!

Plus, loads more new comics coming soon.

You can purchase The Devil In Disguise, The Ether and white NOIR from Matt’s online store. And for more updates follow him on twitter @mattgarvey1981

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.