AN INTERVIEW WITH MATT ROSENBERG
In anticipation of his upcoming series, we sat down with Matthew Rosenberg, the writer and co-creator of the upcoming ‘What’s The Furthest Place From Here?’. He had some things to say and some things to give away. Take it away, us!
Graham Crackers Comics: You’ve been away from the indy scene for a bit. How long have you and Tyler Boss been cooking up your return to co-glory? Who among your enemies are you looking to crush with this title?
Matt Rosenberg: So What’s The Furthest Place From Here? is actually a book we started working on while we were wrapping our last book together, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank. We knew we wanted to do something bigger, weirder, and more challenging for us but it took a while for that to take shape. And in the interim I got really busy with work, then Tyler got really busy with work, then I had some family stuff to deal with. And then we were finally ready to launch in the spring of 2020…. And then things went not great for the planet. So we went back to the drawing board and reworked things and here we are. So, this has been getting worked on and tinkered with in some form or another for a few years now.
As for ‘which of our enemies we want to crush with this book’, that’s not really how I view the process of making art. When Tyler and I set out to make something it’s about creation and expression, asking questions of ourselves and conveying ideas that are a part of us. With that in mind we are always much more focussed on crushing our friends. It’s much more rewarding. We’re really hoping to crush James Tynion with this one.
GCC: Did you feel any extra pressure after turning out a genuinely special book with ‘Four Kids Walk Into A Bank’, or is it ‘humility time’ because you’d never look at your own work that way?
MR: It’s like half past humility, maybe? No, I felt a ton of pressure. Not necessarily because the book is perfect, although I am proud of it. But because people seemed to really like it for the most part and you want to give people things they like. So much so that when we started on this book we were making something much closer to 4 Kids again. I was scripting pages and Tyler was designing characters when I realized it. We ended up having a long discussion over what to do because yeah, the instinct is to give people what they already liked. But creatively that is so unrewarding. I think what we liked about 4 Kids was that it was new and different and weird to us, and any attempt to recreate it would lose that. So we agreed to throw out the project we had and try to make something very different. Instead of a tight, contained crime caper with comedy set in a small town, we went big, epic sci-fi adventure with horror and mystery, set in a giant world. The challenge is doing that and still making it feel like “us.” I think at the end of the day this probably all comes off as pretentious, but inspired creators make better work, so here we are working out of our comfort zone in order to chase inspiration. And so far I’m really happy with what we’ve made.
GCC: You’ve been nice enough to take your time with us here. How about a water cooler pitch for everyone reading this? What would you like people to know about the book? (You know, in your own words instead of a rehash of the Chris Farley show for comics?)
MR: What’s The Furthest Place From Here? is a sci-fi / fantasy adventure set after the end of the world where all that remains are groups of children living among the ruins. When a long lost member of the group who call themselves The Academy returns he sets into motion a series of events that will result in a young girl named Sid going missing. Now The Academy must decide if they will risk everything to try and get her back.
It’s sort of a Lord of the Rings meets Lord of the Flies, but with a Mad Max / Warriors / Suburbia twist. That’s what I tell Hollywood people when they call at least. Then they apologize and say “wrong number.”
GCC: In the 2000’s, there were more than a handful of comics that offered soundtracks. They could be notes in a panel listing the music to listen to while reading, or liner notes of what was listened to while working on the book. You’ve got an original! single coming out w/ the deluxe version of #1. Did you always plan for that?
MR: No. Not really. It was something we’d discussed but probably weren’t going to do. But when the pandemic hit and comic shops closed Tyler and I went into a real existential panic and we came to the conclusion that when shops open again we should try and make the book into something that would put new people into stores. And this was one of the big ideas we had that actually made sense.
GCC: Did you know who was recording before you started working on the book?
MR: No. We have been running around signing bands up this whole time. It’s been really fun and taken years off my life.
GCC: How about the musicians read the book before they agreed? Did you have the songs available before you were working on the book?
MR: Some of them did. Others just asked what the book was about. It depends on the band. And we had a couple issues done before we reached out to any of the bands. But now we have some of the songs for later issues while we make this, which is fun. It reverses the whole process in a really interesting way.
GCC: Did you have to do all the leg work to get them on board, and either not, how did you land them?
MR: Yup. Contacting bands, dealing with studios, getting records mastered, setting up manufacturing, paying for all that… that’s all me and my very sad credit cards. Each band was different but usually it was mutual friends or just sort of blindly reaching out. For example Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker and Jets To Brazil is on the first record, and we know a bunch of the same people. Joyce Manor are also on the first 7″ and we followed each other on Twitter, so I just shot them a DM and asked. But the second 7″ has Worriers on it and I’ve known Lauren from Worriers for years. And Screaming Females are on the 2nd 7″ too, and we’ve always sort of run in the same circles and crossed paths so asking them seemed obvious. And also, obviously I’m a huge fan of all these bands.
GCC: Later issues will also have singles. How DID you get Fugazi to reform for the three songs you’re announcing exclusively to us today?
MR: Turns out nobody had asked them. So I offered them $50 and some free comics and they were in.
GCC: Crazy, how about a hint at someone on #3 then?
MR: A hint? Hmm…well Issue #3 is very Philadelphia-centric. Not on purpose, it just worked out that way.
GCC: And Fugazi was really willing to record under that name instead of their own. Huh. Impressive. (No, this isn’t a question).
MR: No… It’s not.
GCC: There are strong music ties through the whole book…TRUE or FALSE?!?!?
GCC: Are you allowed to speak for Tyler Boss, or does his name give him all the power in the creative relationship? I mean, no one is worried if they have to go talk to their Rosenberg, right? He had another excellent book earlier this year with Dead Dog’s Bite. What’s he like to work with? What should people know about his art (besides that he seems to be influencing Jorge Fornes)? (EDITOR’S NOTE- SO MUCH MORE MAZZUCCHELLI. SO OBVIOUS. OUR INTERVIEWER IS BEING DEMOTED.)
MR: I am allowed to speak for Tyler, but I don’t really want to. I don’t like the pressure.
But, yes Tyler put out Dead Dog’s Bite through Dark Horse this year and it is easily one of my favorite comics of the last few years. He’s a great storyteller all around and a brilliant artist, but more than that he is just drawing his influences from and doing things not a lot of other people in comics are doing. I love working with him because he’s always going to come back and make things that feel different and unique. But his world building is just brilliant, his character design, all of it. His characters ‘act’ so well on the page too, which is always something I hope for in an artist. And his command of not just laying out a panel but a whole page, is next level. It’s funny that you mention Jorge. I don’t think Tyler is really an influence, but Jorge clearly is inspired by David Mazzucchelli, who Tyler studied under. So there is a common language there.
But beyond the brilliant, beautiful, evocative work? He’s a nightmare. Really mean.
GCC: The book (to me) reads a lot like 70’s science fiction films. We have a society we can recognize our own in, but they’re removed from a fully shared knowledge base with us. There are factions that interact reluctantly with a common set of rules, there are factions that seem wholly violent, and there are people in each of those groups who are moving on momentum rather than actual awareness of what’s happening. They seem to have been doing what they do long enough to not question it. Sid in particular seems to not know what is happening to her, even though readers might be screaming at her trying to explain *NOSPOILERSHEREREADTHEBOOK*. Am I crazy to see bits of Soylent Green, Logan’s Run, and Omega Man in here? If I’m totally off base, was there a particular influence that really checked the right box for you?
MR: Oh for sure. I think a lot of creators try to pretend they don’t have influences and these things spring fully formed from their heads like baby chickens hatching out of eggs, but that’s never been me. I really love the synthesization of creating things. I love the idea that I’ve taken in all this art, music, movies, books, tv shows, comics, paintings, plays, whatever, and it’s all rattling around in my brain. And sometimes things come out onto the page that are direct references or riffs on things I’ve consumed, and sometimes I don’t realize what the influences are ever, but they’re there. But certainly 70’s sci-fi stuff is a very big deal for both Tyler and myself. But also Cormac McCarthy and JD Salinger, John Carpenter and John Hughes, the list goes on and on. And the same goes for comics. Obviously stuff like Sweet Tooth, Y: The Last Man, Judge Dredd, Tank Girl, Something Is Killing The Children, and I Hate Fairyland are all influences. As is stuff like Eternaut, Love & Rockets, Stray Bullets, and Concrete. We just throw enough stuff in there and make some kind of weird gumbo that doesn’t taste like anything else. But if you look at your spoon close enough you’ll be like “are there jellybeans in this?!”
GCC: Who’s your favorite Pod Race pilot?
MR: Obviously everyone wants me to say Sebulba, and he has the best racer… But it’s Teemto Pagalies.
They do, but everyone is wrong. Thanks again for your time, Matt!