Grass Is Greener For Kings In Closed Circles

by Vince Brusio

A belly full of ribs with time and space on your hands can do more than kill hours between comic cons: it can give birth to a vision that will make a publisher like BOOM! Studios say “green light!” This was the backdrop for Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’ Grass Kings. A concept out of left field got hit by the batter to send it soaring over the heads of spectators in the nosebleed seats. Neither creator was a novice. Both had already proven themselves. Grass Kings Volume 1 HC (OCT171270) was the new rollercoaster that hadn’t been tested yet, and both men were feeling like daredevils. In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, both Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins explain their egos and excitement for making what seems to be a new flavor of comic book candy.

Grass Kings Volume 1 HC (OCT171270) is in comic shops February 14.

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Vince Brusio: Gentlemen: Grass Kings. An amalgam of Lord of the Flies and The Goonies? Or is that too simplistic a comparison? What were some of the chemical mixes you considered during your brainstorming? And over what period of time did your conversations resonate over the phone or email? Has this project been long in the making?

Tyler Jenkins: I can tell you exactly the moment of initial conception of this idea. I was staying at my art rep’s house in Nashville and attending the Nashville Comic-Con. This was 2014. Nashville was a week after NYCC and I had the week to hang out in the city. I spent that week primarily eating ribs on the main drag and coming up with the initial thoughts for this project. Keep in mind that while the main core is very similar, the amount of growth and depth that has been added by the rest of the team is phenomenal, and really makes it what it is. It was and is, to me, a reaction to the crime comics I love, like Southern Bastards and Preacher and Scalped. TV shows like Longmire and movies like The Devil’s Rejects and Unforgiven, Gran Torino and Pale Rider. It was also, primarily, me trying to come to terms with the real fear of losing a child. Of trying to understand and purge myself of the fear and worry that I am sure all parents face. In truth, it has failed in that regard...I still worry about my kids, haha. I would also comment that comparing to The Goonies may give an unrealistic expectation of fun. There is little fun in the world of Grass Kings. No escape from the torment of demons of the past. This project really, really came to life as Matt pulled these pieces together and then wrought them into something meaningful and concrete. I would give 98% of the credit to Matt for making this a great story. It may have been a workable idea and a workable set of feelings...but an idea and feelings are not a story.

Matt Kindt: Tyler came to me with this idea – nearly all the way there. The idea of the kingdom and all the characters were all ready to go. Tyler had a lot of the themes and the feel of the book all ready to go. Honestly, Tyler’s a great writer – he had all the elements and just handed me the gold and asked me stack it all up. I can honestly say I’ve never been approached to collaborate on a title like I was on this one. Usually I’m the guy with more ideas than I have time to draw and I’M the one looking for an artist. Rarely (I guess never) have I had an amazing artist approach me with an idea and wanting to collaborate on it. The only parallel I can really even think of is something like Hellboy and Mignola and Byrne – the early stories that Byrne scripted. Mignola could do it on his own...and I’d be guessing at why he wanted the help. Tyler’s the same way – he’s got it all. But I was more than happy to contribute. What he brought me was not at all the kind of story I would have come up with on my own – the setting, the premise – all of it was super original and out of left field for me. I think that’s what ultimately drew me to the project. What could I do with these ideas? What am I about? What can I bring to it – what spin can I add to make it OUR project? And that’s the true magic of any collaboration. Apart, we’re chocolate and peanut butter – both go well with a glass of milk – but together – now you’ve got candy!

The heart of the story is about family – but if anything, I think maybe I turned up the “crime” knob just a little. I love crime fiction and all the pulp genre stuff, and this has it. That and some super-heartbreaking stuff that I won’t spoil.

Vince BrusioMatt, tell us about the characters in the story. Who are your favorites? Who required more psycho analysis to get their voice right? Who’s a loose cannon? Who’s the wet paper towel that’s nevertheless been doused in kerosene?

Matt Kindt: I think Pinball is my favorite. He’s a friend of the brothers that are the main characters. It took me a while to find his voice – but I think maybe I just relate to him the most – he’s a little nuts – bouncing from one idea to the next – he loves everything – is excited and inspired by everything around him – super funny kid. He loves French New Wave films and monster movies – absolutely the most fun character to write.

Vince Brusio:Tyler, what makes this title fun to draw? How do you go about drawing it? What music sets the mood for you? What distractions or absence of distractions get your gears going to make Grass Kings take sprout, and grow?

Tyler Jenkins: The setting of Grass Kings is pretty much (other than the preponderance of shipping containers) exactly where I live now. Way out in the middle of nowhere, in a house in a field. I look out the window and there is the inspiration for the setting, and for the feel of the world. This title is fun because it is basically every single thing I love and have always wanted to draw all rolled into one. For music, southern gothic and psychedelic blues rock are the jam here. But that is what I listen to all the time. I feel like I know these characters already very well, having thought about them for so long...basically I just sit down and start drawing and it comes out. Then I ink. Then I paint. It all flows very smoothly.

Vince Brusio: Matt/Tyler, why is BOOM! Studios the right fit for this story? What do they bring to the table as a publisher?

Tyler Jenkins: Kickassery, basically. BOOM! has been a champion of this project from day one. Jasmine has been a champion of me and my work and this project since we met. I cannot thank them enough for having the guts to let me just try out watercolour painting a whole book, sight unseen (Snow Blind), and getting that style off the ground. Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn, on top of being awesome people, are also killer editors. They have helped massage and form this story from day one, and are certainly instrumental in its coherency of message. AND they put up with a bunch of fruity, artistic flailing about on my part.

Matt Kindt: Tyler was already working with BOOM! when they asked me to get involved. And in my quest to work with every publisher in existence, BOOM! was next on my list! (laughing) But seriously – everyone in the office was so super nice and loving of my previous work – they just made me feel really welcome. This is what I love about the comic industry – everyone getting along and working together to make the stuff we love – comics. It’s not about beating another publisher or screwing the other guy over somehow. It’s about like-minded people that share a passion for an art form that often gets overlooked and underappreciated.

Vince BrusioMatt/Tyler, if you could go keyboard commando on social media to brag about how this book has a special place in your heart, how would you go about explaining it? Is it the plot structure? The characters? The narrative? What gives Grass Kings such a pulse that you would encourage people to put it on their pull list?

Tyler Jenkins: This is going to be harrowing. This is going to hurt in a lot of ways. If we do our job correctly, this story is going to sting and make you cry. These characters will be loved for their humanness, and for their failings. These characters are real. I can see myself in their failings and flaws, and maybe in their final redemption or lack of peace we can say something about how to move forward with life.

Matt Kindt: Ha ha! Yikes! Tyler is making me sad! It’s pretty dark – but really what I think makes this series sing is the breadth of characters – there is a large cast – a lot of oddballs that live in the Grass Kingdom that we’re going to slowly get to know. We have a potential serial killer, a missing kid, a corrupt sheriff, a town full of law-breaking squatters, a guy obsessed with flying old World War I planes, and an ex-Navy Seal sniper. I promise you that no other comic has ever had all of that at once. As sad or dark as some of it is – there’s some funny moments. We’re definitely driving the bus off the cliff – but we’ll make you laugh (and then cry) while we’re doing it.

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Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.

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