I recently had the opportunity to speak with Glenn Matchett, Editor, Writer, and Publisher at GrayHaven Comics. This up-and-comer is certainly no stranger to the comic book scene, and has been making quite a splash with his writing. Aside from being one heck of a nice guy, Glenn is every bit the professional, and took some time to share with us his story and some advice!
You said in your introduction to Sparks that this is an idea you’ve been working on since you were 16. Could you tell us a bit about how the idea evolved over the years?
The main crux of it like the murder victim, the characters and the twist at the end have actually all remained relatively unchanged. I think my writing has obviously changed, even from when I wrote the script for Sparks which is close to 3 years ago.
The main change was that I always had it set in America but my editor, boss and one of my best friends Andrew Goletz pointed out to me that there are plenty of American crime shows and very few British ones so I switched it from New York to London. Of course now we have Sherlock and Broadchurch and stuff but I’m very happy that it changed countries. It seemed to fit better overall and some of my new plans for the book that have followed since wouldn’t be possible if it was still set in America.
In the samples that you’ve sent me, I noticed a prevalence of strong female lead characters. Do you prefer to write female characters, and if so, why?
Not really. I just do what’s natural. I do notice it is a recurring theme with my latest work that’s seen the light of day. I have a lot of male characters I created like Commander Cosmo who appeared in the third Gathering, the unfortunate trapped passenger from my Abyss 3 story and many more.
The reason Mel was female is because there weren’t many crime stories with female leads at the time. There was stuff with major female characters but not really with one as a focus. I decided it would help differentiate my story. I have a few ideas cooking at the moment which will feature male characters more heavily so people don’t think I’m a one trick pony.
You also seem very comfortable with the detective/mystery genre. What attracted you to this genre?
Childhood. I grew up on classic mystery fiction. I absorbed the works of Conan Doyle, Christie and others. Along with Stephen King those mystery books were my earliest influences as a writer.
I’m a huge Stephen King fan, also- what are some of your favorites of his?
I love Misery and the Shining. They’re both just so well written and incredibly chilling. I found that I kind of drifted away from his work for a long time but I read 11.22.63 and got sucked right back in, that was an amazing one. I’m also a big fan of his X-Files episode, does that count?
What is your process when writing comics?
I think a lot about what I want first. I’ll plan a story out in my head as I go about my day-to-day life and map it out panel for panel. I leave a little room for freedom or change but I do a lot of mapping in my brain before I start to type. I tend to do a 20-page script over the course of 3-4 days and then let it sit. I’ll read it over, make a few changes and then send it on to the editor who will make more changes and send it back.
I like listening to a lot of music when I write. Sometimes if I’m really concentrating I don’t necessarily pay attention to what I’m listening to but I like the noise there.
What music do you listen to while you’re writing?
My playlist is on random, Shaun Of The Dead style! I like a lot of instrumental stuff from movies and TV shows and find some artists incredibly awesome to write to. The works of Murray Gold or Danny Elfman or artists like Florence and The Machine or Queen have really helped with the creative process more than once.
What is the most challenging part of adapting your script to an illustrated page?
You mean with the Station? Well just condensing quite a large novel into a 5-page story was challenging enough! Considering how well received that story was I should maybe write novel length versions of my stories first and then condense them down.
What/who are some of your major influences?
Oh God so many. Like I said I grew up on Conan Doyle but another huge influence to me as a kid was Batman: The Animated series. Everything else I am a fan of to this day and everything I produce as a creator I can trace back to those 2 things in some way or another.
I really admire people who have had to work really hard to get where they are and be successful in their chosen fields. I could really go on for days on the various things that are major influences in me but they all can be traced back to Holmes and Batman. One of your pieces was entirely silent. Were there any challenges to writing such a story?
I have to be honest that one of my major faults as a writer is my dialogue. I can get people to talk. Sometimes about nothing of significance. I let them natter. Like I said Sparks was written at a time when that was still a major issue for me and I wouldn’t produce a script like that. Dialogue is probably my arch nemesis in some regards.
I wanted to do something without dialogue to see if I could. I hope it shows readers how much thought I put into panels beyond the words. A lot of reviews for Living With Death complimented the page where the panels were inside the characters brain and Sparks reviews complimented the scene depicting the different murder scenarios. In both cases the artists did deliver but both those scenes come from my script and how I wanted the page.
I also want to continue to try and do stuff in comics you couldn’t do in other writing genre’s. A silent story in prose is just a blank page but in a comic the art is still there to convey the story the writer is trying to tell.
Which of your projects is your favorite and why?
Sparks is very near and dear to my heart because it came first. Lots of ideas have come and lots of characters have followed since but Melanie Sparks and her little murder mystery was there first.
Living With Death I just love because I get to pore so much love for a particular genre into it. I made me sad to have to bid it farewell for now.
Those though and the majority of my work with GrayHaven I read it and just notice stuff I would change. The only exceptions were ‘The Station’ which was in the sixth Gathering volume with art by David Aspmo, ‘Fun At The Saloon’ which was in the fifteenth Gathering volume with art by Amanda Rachels and ‘Fasten Your Seatbelt’ that was in Tales Of The Abyss 3 with art by Kell Smith who did art on Sparks so those 3.
How did you get into writing comics?
I post on a message board called ‘Jinxworld’ which is the official site and message board of Marvel guru Brian Michael Bendis and mostly stuck to a thread about the DC universe. I’ve always been more of a Marvel guy but I wanted to expand my horizons and they were pretty great dudes at the time so I stuck around.
Andrew posted there too and just said one day ‘Anyone want to do an anthology for fun?’ Wanting to do comics for years and never really having a chance as a poor Irish boy with no money (not much has changed there) or contacts I jumped at it.
Our first anthology revolved around ‘Hope’ and I had a story illustrated by Brent Peeples who went on to do some work with Image. I was so proud but despite some beautiful art I hate that damn story now. It makes my eyes bleed to know I wrote that…oy.
The volume was a success and we did another and another and before we knew it we were kind of a thing with One Shots and mini’s and special projects. They’ve kept me around because I know where the batteries from the remotes are kept 🙂
Do you have any advice for writers/illustrators looking to make it in the comic field?
I’m nobody to be giving out advice. I tried getting a new project together a short time ago and I was like ‘look at all this stuff I did!’ and you know who cared? No one. It’s a rough industry and one that’s incredibly tough and competitive to get noticed in. Everyone thinks they can write comics and its not true. So many times I’ve seen people come to GrayHaven claiming to have comics as their dream and as soon as they realize its hard work they’re never heard from again.
I’ll be brutally honest but the main advice I can offer is be prepared for a lot of hard work, disappointment and more hard work. You’ll get knocked down so often but you just have to keep going. The people we all know in the industry and whose books we buy had a lot of the same coming up to the top so its not for the faint hearted.
If you’re a writer then write every day. Don’t make excuses, if you don’t have the time make the time. If you can’t make the time then writing isn’t for you. You have to study scripts which thanks to reprints and the internet is easier than ever and remember that it is tempting to fill your pages with dialogue and a billion panels with 100 things happening at once when you get started (guilty) but your artist has to have room to show what THEY can do.
If you’re an artist then just keep practicing and take what work you can. It may suck that it may not pay the bills but you never know who’ll see your work. The more you put it out there the more chance you do have of landing a paying gig of some description.
Also if you want to make comics then that’s fantastic, stop talking about it and do it. With digital publishing, the internet and Kickstarter its never been easier to get your work out there. Create something people enjoy, even if its free for them to read and you might be surprised where it leads.
Last, but not least, who are your favorite comic book characters?
I’m a huge Batman and Spider-Man fan so the majority of the characters from both universes.
Also love Dream and Death of the Endless, The Question, Booster Gold, Atom Eve, Daredevil, most of the Young Avenger’s, most of the characters from Fables, Hyperion from Supreme Power, I could really go on and on to be honest.
I’ll say Wilddog…not cause its true but I’m sucking up to Andrew so he’ll let me do a Sparks follow up.