Interview: Matt Lesniewski on 'Static'
We chat with the writer/artist about his new original - and we do mean ORIGINAL - graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics.
To flip through a Matt Lesniewski comic is to plunge yourself into the artist's tormented experience. We're not trying to sound grandiose here or overly melodramatic. It's a simple fact. Just put your peepers on the image above or any one of the several hundred panels found within the Static graphic novel. Each image arises from a colossal consideration. Lesniewski couldn't rush through a page to save his life. He's incapable of expediency, and to applaud him for it is to invite dismissal.
Brad chatted with Matt via Zoom, and as hard as Brad slung complements at the artist, Matt politely acknowledged them while also highlighting how his process created a tremendous burden. Matt Lesniewski cannot imagine an existence where he's not drawing comics - well, that's not true. He can imagine that existence, and it terrifies him. The anxiety of a life without comics is what generated the new graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics.
Static may appear to be an apocalyptic fantasy about a mercenary collecting odd biologicals for a mad scientist, but it's really a confrontation with Matt's dread regarding sedentary. We all get stuck at some point in our lives. Breaking free often requires a little luck and a gargantuan amount of determination. Static unpacks this very human struggle in an extraordinary fashion.
Since the comic's release a few weeks back, Matt Lesniewski has taken to his socials in a passionate attempt to make as many people aware of the book as possible. We're all too happy to help. We've been fans of Matt's since The Freak, and his recent series, Crimson Flower, done in collaboration with Matt Kindt and colorist Bill Crabtree is also very much worth your time. Matt's the kind of artist that once you encounter you sign up to follow for your remaining days. We'll never miss a book from him, and this conversation was a dream to conduct.
Yes, this interview was edited for length and clarity, but you can listen to the entire fifty-minute discussion on our Patreon feed. Just 1 Dollar.
Brad: You seem to be doing the bulk of the advertising for Static on your own. Why are you banging the drum as hard as you are with this book?
Matt: Well, if I don't, I feel like no one's going to even know it's there. Before the recording started, you mentioned Crimson Flower, which came out before this, but I actually did Static first, but it's just now coming out. And I spent all of 2019 working on this book, so a year of my life was dedicated to bringing this crazy idea to life. And so now I'm learning the promotion side of these things. But if I had it my way, I would just be alone in this room creating my crazy ideas.
Brad: When I look at the back matter of Static, it's obvious to me that this world, and this character and this idea has been with you for a long time. You talk about how you couldn't stop drawing Emmett. You just kept drawing him over and over and over again. And that communicated to you as the artist, that there was something real here. Can you talk a little bit about Emmett and why he got his hands on your brain as hard as he did?
Matt: I think before I even started working on it, I was just thinking about this idea. People who aren't really familiar with the book, they might guess Static is the name of the main character. A lot of people do, it's an understandable mistake or misunderstanding.
Matt: It's actually referring to a static character or a state of being in a place where things aren't changing. And that idea, in general, is probably the first thing that came to me. Before The Freak actually, I was thinking about this concept. I had this job where I was a delivery driver for just a small local office supply company. Long story short, I'd be driving around in this van delivering orders, but between orders, I'd be, let's say at a red light thinking, "If this comic book thing doesn't work out, I'm not good at anything else. This is just life, I guess. I'm just stuck here. Is this what life is?"
And that spawned the idea like, this can be a lot of people, whether it's a job or a state of being, where maybe you want a break from this thing, but it... And then I started thinking about the future, "I could be here 20 years, 40 years. And the longer I'm in it, the longer I've spent invested in this thing I don't even like. Where am I going? Okay, I could break from it, but now where do I start? Because then I'm starting from scratch, I don't know anything else."
Brad: When I look at your work I can sense an immense agony within the creation of every panel. It seems like you put everything into that one panel and then onto the next panel and it looks like you put everything into that one. There is real artistic torment there.
Matt: I'm glad that resonates because I actually made sense of that through talking about it in other interviews. That all comes from me caring a great deal about what it is I'm doing. I put everything into it and I care so much. The detail and everything else is a result of that. I'm spending all my time on it and all my effort, and I'm trying to make this as good as I can, I'm trying to put everything I can into it.
With something like Static or The Freak, I put even more of myself into it than say something like Crimson Flower, which I put a lot of myself into too. But it's even more so with Static because it's all my stories and ideas, it comes from me, it comes from a real place. I'm not thinking of, "What's the best catchy elevator pitch? Or what do I think people are going to like?" I don't know how this is going to sound, but it's more therapeutic than anything. It's a way of exploring some dilemma or some idea through these fantasy-type creations. It is therapeutic in a way, I'm spending all this time with these real things.
Brad: Are you exhausted when you complete a project like Static?
Matt: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
Brad: And how do you celebrate that? How do you relieve yourself-
Matt: I don't!
Matt: I don't celebrate. I just try to take a break, but then there's this other messed up side of me. People are just now finding out who I am a little bit, but I've been working at this, trying to "break in" - using air quotes here - in different ways for several years. Any moment where I'm not working on something, or I'm not doing an interview, or I'm not sending emails, or I'm not sketching, or I'm not working on the next comic or whatever it is, mentally I beat myself up like, "Are you not taking advantage of this opportunity?"
Any moment I'm not doing something to advance what it is I'm trying to do, or working on the next thing, I'm constantly in agony. And if I'm working on it, I'm in agony. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying it but I'm like, "It would be nice to have a little break." Then the second I take the break, I'm like, "You need to get back to work. Isn't this what you wanted to do? This is the thing you spent basically your life trying to get the chance to do. Now that you have it, you're not going to do it?" It's this constant back and forth fight in my head. Now I just sound crazy.
Matt, you don't sound crazy. You sound like a person who cares a great deal for the art form we all hold dear. If you agree, please seek out Static at your local comic book shop, or buy one directly from Dark Horse Comics. Follow Matt on Twitter HERE and on Instagram HERE. You can also sign up for his Patreon to catch an early glimpse of his upcoming project. And, don't forget, you can listen to this interview in full over at our Patreon Feed.