This interview was conducted 14/12/2018
Ever dream of working in comics? Course you have but what’s the chances of you writing a comic, getting someone to draw it , getting it printed and then not only getting comic stores to stock it but people to actually buy it? East London born and Dagenham raised Matt Garvey has not only done all of these things but the comics he and his fellow creators have hitting the shelves are arguably better than some of the titles the established comic companies are publishing. He isn’t a one trick pony either and has written everything from comedy to work that has that elusive twist you just didn’t see coming. Matt also won the Pipedream Indie writer of the year award in 2018.
Matt very kindly tore himself away from adding to his ever growing catalog of comics to give up his valuable time for a chat.
Matt thanks for agreeing to speak with us. The reason I say your time is so valuable is that whenever I see one of your posts on twitter its usually saying you are about to work on a script . How much of your time do you spend working on your comics?
Honestly, it is my absolute pleasure to be here…
Oh, I spend waaaaaay too much time making comics.
I’m up at 6am every morning (including weekends), I am in my “office” at 6:30am and I do comic work till 9am, then I start my day job and work right through till about 1pm, then I do another hour of comic work. 2pm-5:30 day job again and then I’ll do another couple of hours of comic work, then eat, shower, spend time with my amazing with…in bed by 10pm…repeat.
Some days, I don’t get to work from home and have to go into town for meetings, but that still doesn’t stop me…I usually go to my favourite food court in Stratford at silly o’clock and write comes there…its actually really peaceful.
Weekends are better because I get to really focus on comics for a lot longer.
But it’s safe to safe that comics are second full-time job for me…
When did you start having a writing itch to scratch? Were you a comics fan growing up?
I’ve loved comics since I was ten, so that’s going on 27 years now. I bought my first comic Daredevil #305 from a little sweet shop next to the pub where my dad used to take us when he was “babysitting”. He refused to buy it saying it was a waste of money, so the next morning while everyone was still asleep I sneaked there to buy it and I haven’t stopped sneaking…I mean buying them ever since…especially when I found out there were these things actually called…comic shops!
So, that’s where it all started, as for writing I always wanted to give it ago…but making comics might as well have been the moon to me…I could never get there…didn’t know how and there wasn’t as much info about “how to” as there is now….but I had an idea. Then about eight years ago, I started reading whatever I could find about making them, Stan Lee’s: how to write comics, How to Draw Comics the “Marvel” Way, Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics, Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud…basically anything that could help me learn the language of comics and have some guidance on where to start. Once I had written my first script, I literally googled how to find artists and the good old net suggested joining forums, so I joined MillarWorld, met a few artists, said that I had a script and I had a budget and wanted to make it and I made my first 10 page comic…and it weren’t good. Weren’t terrible either, but I was still learning. I got loads of support from the people on MW and them along with my wife encouraged me to keep going, so I did…I went and learned the craft, started small with 4 page stories and eight years later…I’m putting out comics that people seem to really like…which is wonderful.
What made you think about getting in to not only writing comics but putting them out yourself?
It’s simple, no one is going to do it for me…a lot of people have delusions of grandeur that as soon as they have their 1st comic ready IMAGE will be waiting with open arms as soon as you submit it, then you are going to be inundated with calls from DC to write Batman. I’m not saying that can’t happen, but sadly it doesn’t work like that for everyone. You have to establish yourself, grow your audience and get books out there…and that takes time. I mean if I ever “break in” to comics I am going to be an eight year overnight success!
Plus, I like selling my own comics…it’s fun meeting people at cons and shop owners, because we all like comics!
2018 was a busy year for you wasn’t it? You put out a staggeringly amount of books for someone that’s self-publishing. Is it hard to keep up that kind of pace and still have a life?
Yeah, pretty busy, but that was mainly due to the hard work of Robert, Andy, Grayham and Michael. They are the chaps drawing the comics…writing a script is very easy in comparison.
I appear to be busy because I always have books coming out, but what people don’t know is that it has taken years to get comics to this stage…I’ve got comics I started working on nearly two years ago, finally ready to be released 2019. At the moment, I’m not even working on comics that’ll be out in 2019, I’m writing and finding artists for comics that’ll be out in 2020. But I’ll still have at least seven comics out in 2019….it’s like a production line.
Do I still have a life? I have a wonderful life…and I never sacrifice time with my wife. I do and always make time for her…she is my queen and if you said to me right now, comics or your wife, pick one?
Then it would be bye bye comics…
However, I am very lucky…my wife is incredibly supportive of my comics and she encourages me to write when we have free time and have nothing planned.
You were recently crowned 2018 indie comic of the year by Pipedream following an online poll did you feel about coming out top against such a strong field?
Oh it was amazing news to be “crowned” comic of the year 2018 and the prize money will really come in handy this year…
Wait what do you mean there is no money?!
Yeah, but there is an actual crown though, right?
In all seriousness, it was lovely. The team and i couldn’t be more thrilled about it.
As for the strong field, you are absolutely right…it was incredibly strong…
I so am glad we won, especially because it’s good to show the indie/small press community you don’t need to have a publisher behind you (big or small) to get the accolades for all your hard work.
I’m a huge advocate of people just getting out there and making comics, but a lot of people think you need a publisher to do it…but you don’t.
Get your comics made and get them out there…your books will find its audience if you just have to put the effort in.
Having a comic is only half the battle…you have to sell it…online…to shops at cons.
There is no point having a comic if no one is reading it…give it away if you have to…build up your readership…it’s not rocket science.
It seems that every new title you do is a departure from what’s come before is that a case of you flexing your writing muscles or is it led by something else?
I just don’t want to be repeating myself or pigeon holed as “oh you’re the guy that juts writes dick jokes in CHUNKS”. I have loads of ideas so why should I limit myself to what genre I handle next or story I wanna tell. The way I look at it is, I write the comics that I would wanna buy and I buy a lot of very different comics…
White Noir and The Ether were two of my favourite comics of 2018 where did the inspiration for those two come from?
The Ether is an easy one. When I started at my day job, walking to my office on the first day I walked passed a suit maker and I saw this mannequin in the window and it looked like The Ether…and I thought that looks terrifying and would make a great look for a superhero. BUT I knew everyone would think that I’m just ripping off Rorschach from Watchmen with the character design…so I took a picture and sat on the idea for TWO years, until I came up with the twist…then I wrote it.
White Noir is a little different, for some reason I came up with this idea of a guy waking up after a car crash in a snow storm, with a stag’s head through the windshield. But that’s all I had.
Dizevez was coming to the end of issue one of The Ether and I knew I wanted her to draw it, but still had no idea where the story was going. So I did a really lazy thing, I said, well I’m just gonna give James (the protagonist) amnesia and I am going to write it as if I was him not knowing what was happening…then by the time I had written the first five pages with him walking into town the ideas just came to me, twist after twist and by the time I finished writing #1 I had plotted the whole arc…with a huge twist at the end too.
You table at a few conventions throughout the year but we never seem to have you at any cons beyond middle England whys that?
It all comes down to cost, sadly. My comics cost me around £2 to print and I sell them for £3, because when someone sees my comic next to a Marvel and DC comic on a shelf, I want them see a comic that looks as good as those from the big two and because mine is cheaper…maybe, just maybe they’ll take a punt on a small press comic. Also, when I’m at cons, it means that customers can buy THREE comics from my table and still get change from a tenner.
I only make a £1 for every comic I sell, so when you factor in travel, hotel, table and the food costs it is sadly way out of my price range. I applied for a table at Thought Bubble the other year and when I did the maths I would have to sell 400 comics, just to break even, so I had to turn it down.
The most I have ever sold at a three-day con was 253 comics. It’s fair to say I am good, but I am not 400 copies good.
For that reason, I have to stay to cons that are local or no more than a few hours’ drive away, but I’d love to do more.
Does having such a varied stable of titles help when it comes to getting people interested in your work whether it’s at cons or online?
Most definitely. I have only been selling my comics for three years and I’ve done the same comic cons a few times and I see people selling the exact same comic they had on their tables three years ago and they wonder why they are not selling as well…people are only going to buy your comic once. That’s why when I do a MCM show in London I always have at least two new comics at each show, because people come back and its nice to say “sorry I don’t have #2 of The Ether ready just yet, but I have two new titles that you might like” when I did my first show I have four comics ready (CHUNKS #1&2 and Cordelia Swift #1&2) , because I knew right then not everyone is gonna like CHUNKS, it is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I needed to appeal to as many people as I can. I know have 15 comics across 7 different titles on my table, so there is bound to be something on that table that appeals. If not at the next show, I’ll have a couple more!
When I travel up and down the country I always try and pop into as many comic shops as possible and I’m always amazed at how many stores carry your stuff how did that come about?
There is no secret to this…I just googled EVERY comic shop in the UK and I called everyone (not emailed, CALLED) asking if they stock small press comics and if they said yes, I ask “how do I get my books on their shelves?” I now have a lot of regular shops who carry my comics and that is amazing, and I am so appreciative that these local comic shops take a punt on me.
The art on your comics has always been of an extremely high standard especially your work with Dizevez how did you both find each other?
Good old MillarWorld again. Diz was posting these amazing posters she did of actors as superheroes and they were wonderful and I complimented her work and said, if you ever wanna do a cover for one of my books let me know. A couple of hours later she messaged me saying she’d love to, she then did the cover for Transfer #1 and a load of others which were amazing, and I asked if she wanted to do a full comic, she said yes and the rest is history.
The Devil in disguise came out at a frightening rate and then you had a trade out before we could say Holy John McCrea cover Batman! Once you had the idea did this particular set of scripts flow quicker than the others and how did the cover for the trade come about by the aforementioned Mr McCrae?
That’s all down to Robert, that guy works soooooo fast. Again, I found him on MW and approached him, sent him the script for #1 and he finished it within weeks. It got to the point he was drawing the issues faster than I was writing…
As for the John’s cover for the trade…John, is lovely and we follow each other on twitter. And about a year ago I asked him how much he would charge to do a cover for a comic I was working on (that sadly didn’t happen) and he gave me a price, so when I needed something for the trade there was no one else I wanted to ask. I sent him #1-3 and he came up with the cover concept within hours and nailed it…
What can we look forward to in 2019 from the house that Matt built?
Loads of stuff coming in 2019…and I mean loads, not to jinx it but if I don’t put out at least seven issues next year I’ll be very disappointed because my actual target is ten.
So far the second issues of The Ether is on the shelf and TRANSFER nearly ready. John McFarlane and I have #1 of Untitled Generic Space comedy coming out. I have PREY FOR US part one coming out with J Francis Totti, Lucky Me with Jess Taylor, an all ages kids comic called Camp Bleh with Rosie Hague, a follow up to Red Rocket Comet, a superhero comic called BEAT and a Super villain Prison comic called THE CAGE…plus another couple of untitled comics too…so it will be a busy year.
Lastly but not least where can anyone who’s interested in your work find you?
If your local comic shop doesn’t stock my comics, you can find me at mattgarvey.co.uk where you can find a link to my online store….and you can usually find me on twitter at @mattgarvey1981
Matt Thanks very much for taking the time to speak to us.