Matz: Exploring the Mind of a Killer

A comics interview article by: Charles Webb
Last week Charles Webb took a look at Matz’s The Killer, Volume Two, this week Charles got to sit down with Matz and pick his brain about the series and what’s to come for it and him in the future.


-Alex Rodrik, Editor of Features and Interviews

Charles Webb: What do you think of the response so far to The Killer?

Matz: The response to The Killer has been great in the USA. I was impressed with how in-depth and positive the reviews were (better than here in France, actually), and people really seem to have taken a liking to it. The series has interested David Fincher, who’s working on a movie adaptation. We were nominated for an Eisner, and it has become a popular series. What more could we ask for -- aside from seeing the movie actually made and large sums of money?! It’s very rewarding for me to be published and successful in the USA, I have to say, and meeting the readers over here has been a great experience. Also, The Killer has found a very large audience, as it has been published in various languages besides French and English: German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian, Finnish, Turk, Dutch…

CW: This isn’t your first successful title. Could you share a little of your comics writing background with our readers?

Matz: The first Killer was released in France in 1998. It was my first really successful series. Previously, I had only published a novel, two comic books and a short story series. But since The Killer, I published another series with the same artist, Cyclops, which should be published in the US soon by Archaia, and another series in collaboration with Colin Wilson which is called Headshots in English, and likely to be released in the US shortly. All in all, 2010 is my 20th year in the business, and will see the release of my 20th book in France. Recently, I have worked on two projects for American publishers, which I am curious to see how they look.

CW: How did The Killer project come about?

Matz: At first, I intended to write The Killer as a novel. But then I got to thinking that it would make a cool comic book, especially because it would be very efficient to deal with the silent character, who is acting while thinking about things that are disconnected with his actions. What he’s doing is interesting and entertaining, what he’s thinking is potentially disturbing. So I stopped writing the novel and went hunting for an artist. That’s when I met [Luc] Jacamon, who had not yet done anything in the comic book area but was quite motivated. What I liked about him is that his style is quite unique and sophisticated, yet accessible to a mainstream audience. So we embarked on the journey, which has not ended yet.

CW: What were some inspirations for the unnamed lead character?

Matz: There wasn’t one main inspiration for him. In a broad sense, I would say that reading history books was the main inspiration. When you read about the wars, the death camps, the massacres, you can’t help but wonder what these people were thinking. Where is the human conscience that people like to talk about so much, and which we so rarely see? Also, when you see hitmen in books and films, most of the time they are empty shells; they just carry out the hits. But I was wondering, these guys have to be thinking something, they have to have a life, a family maybe. They have to be thinking about stuff, they have to be reasoning their lives somehow. Film-wise, I think a movie like “Le Samouraï,” by Jean-Pierre Melville with Alain Delon (it’s out in the USA on DVD, I’ve seen it, and it’s worth it) was influential, Sergio Leone’s movies, too, Jim Thompson’s novels, because he’s a genius at dealing with desperation and disturbingly perverse characters.

CW: When I read the character’s inner monologues, I hear a lot of mob hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinksi (footage of him here: Have you heard of him?

Matz: I read a book about him last year -- fascinating stuff, and indeed very interesting as research and documentation for me. It’s a great book because you get really close to understanding that killing for him wasn’t such a big deal, and how easily he would carry out his hits. But reading it, you realize that’s probably the truth. With the right frame of mind, it’s probably not all that difficult for some men. At the same time, with his background, you kind of understand why -- even though all people with such a background don’t necessarily turn out to be murderers. I didn’t know there was anything on video, so thanks a lot for the link, even though I can’t wait to go look at it and I may have to give you shorter answers in order to do so!

CW: What drew you to this character?

Matz: From a writing point of view there were a few challenges. The voiceover for one, because maintaining an unnamed character for so long was quite tricky (and you will note that his girlfriend also is nameless). Having people relate to a cold-blooded assassin was another one. But the biggest draw was the fact that this character is a vehicle to develop disturbing arguments. Some are true, some are less true, some are not at all. But some hit the mark. The Killer hates hypocrisy. He sees it everywhere (rightfully so). He hates political correctness. He sees no justice in this world and doesn’t understand why he should be playing by rules no one plays by. He brings it to the limit, because otherwise there would be no real force to the fiction. That’s why The Killer is not truly an action series. It has action in it, but there is more than just that. The new series at times has less action than the last one, but that’s because The Killer is caught in a whirlwind of hesitations.

CW: Volume 2 sees the title character forming relationships in spite of himself. Is this making him more human or softening him up for the inevitable fall?

Matz: You are right, that this is one of the most important things in the series. For a total loner, The Killer uncharacteristically gets involved in a series of relationships that change both his life and the way he deals with things. It makes his life richer, yet more difficult. It’s not necessarily softening him up, and it doesn’t make him fall. It brings more responsibility to him. And on the contrary, in the next cycle, he will find himself needing the assistance of his new friends. I think it’s an interesting turn, something that brings more depth to the story. But it’s true that this does bring some dangers, and even some vulnerability. It might also make him more determined. Now he has people he cares about.

CW: What’s the collaborative process like with artist Luc Jacamon? What did he add to the project?

Matz: It’s an easy one. I write a detailed script, with a description of each panel, with all the dialogue, page by page. Then he has carte blanche (always keep the artists happy, otherwise they become even more difficult than they already are), meaning that he has some room to change the shots, the angles, the number of panels on the page if he feels he can enhance the original breakdown -- just as long as he keeps the texts on the page. There is something quite fragile and particularly important in comic book writing, and that is the pace. It turns out the pace is mostly given by the text, but the art also contributes. We’ve been working for so long together now that this is a really easygoing process. I know what he likes and what he doesn’t, which doesn’t necessarily keep me from doing it, just for the sake of having him complain from time to time. He also knows how to deal with me.

CW: Has The Killer taken any turns you didn’t expect?

Matz: Absolutely! I tend to set him a course, with a beginning and an end, but in between, he sometimes decides to do things on his own, he gets ideas I didn’t have at first and which make a lot of sense. That’s the fun thing about this series for me: I look at things, I read the news, I see something, and I wonder “what would The Killer think?”, and it works its way into the books!

CW: What can you tell our readers about the next volume of The Killer, Modus Vivendi?

Matz: This next volume is a turning point where The Killer’s conscience starts to impact his professional activity. The Killer finds himself carrying out hits he doesn’t really like, and understands that the essence of a hitman is to be manipulated. He used to not care about that, but he’s changing, especially since he’s suspecting he could soon find himself on the wrong side of the deal.

CW: What are you working on next?

Matz: I’m working on The Killer #9 over here in France (that should be the next volume after Modus Vivendi there in the US). I’ve recently finished the Cyclops series. (Last book should be released in France in January 2011. I don’t know when Archaia will start publishing it there in the US.) I’m currently working on an adaptation from a quite funny and edgy Cuban novel with an Italian artist that I love, Paolo Bacilieri. I’m looking forward to seeing the release of my American short stories, with Image’s western anthology Outlaw Territory and Archaia’s Days Missing. I have a couple of other projects that are not quite there yet, but hopefully should work out. As you may know, I also work for Ubisoft on videogames, and there are a lot of good things in the works there, too... Keeping busy.


If you liked this interview, be sure to check out more of the author's work at Monster In Your Veins

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