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Comics author Matt Kindt grew up with cats, having the critters through his school and university years. He even had a few when he got married and had his child. Then around the age of 30, he became suddenly allergic to them.
“It was a pretty miserable experience,” Kindt tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They were in my house but they couldn’t be on my bed. I couldn’t play with them. I loved the cats but hated what they were doing to me.”
That dynamic informs Hairball, the newest comic from Kindt and his frequent collaborator, artist Tyler Jenkins, with whom he created well-regarded comics Grass Kings, Black Badge and Fear Case. Jenkins’ wife Hilary Jenkins, handles the coloring.
The title is a rare foray into horror for the author, who is known for his crime, spy and action books such as Mind Mgmt, Dept. H and BRZRKR, with the latter’s first issue being the highest-selling floppy this century. He is on Hollywood’s radar as well, with those three titles, as well as a few others, set up around town for adaptations.
“Horror is one of the genres that I don’t work in a lot,” Kindt says. “I don’t read or watch it. To do it, I felt I needed a good hook.” A four-legged feline who may or may not be evil felt like a good hook.
Hairball centers on young girl named Anna living in a dysfunctional family who begins to suspect that her black cat is behind all her troubles: her parents’ fighting and the strange whispering in her ear at night. As she tries her best to rid herself of this creature, she finds that it’s not so easy to kill. But the cat may also be the only thing standing between her and an even greater evil that threatens to destroy her life.
The first issue of the four-installment mini-series is due to hit stores in April and hails from Dark Horse Comics. It is the second title to come from Kindt’s boutique imprint Flux House after Spy Superb, which hits stores in January.
“Hairball can be described as Junji Ito meets Hayao Miyazaki meets Stephen King,” said Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson.
Kindt and Jenkins were looking for another idea to work on, with the latter wanting to do a family drama, the former a horror book. The two met in the middle after the writer found his hook: a cat. Says Kindt: “(Cats) are very enigmatic. You can’t tell what they are thinking. You can tell what a dog is thinking of every second of the day. And there was something inherently fun about the idea.”
The writer first worked with Jenkins for Grass Kings, a rural crime comic series from Boom! Studios. That collaboration went so well the two have worked several times more. “He’s up for drawing anything,” Kindt says and compares him to Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele. “Tyler’s work leans more to fine art than comic book illustrations.”
Jenkins’ style is craggy and rough, fitting for both a family drama and a horror. Hairball has a very organic feel to it, a bit of a rarity in a field where the digital process has taken over many parts of comic-making. Jenkins is lettering the pages himself and his wife is hand-painting the color.
And in keeping with the family theme, Kindt’s own daughter contributed the cover for the fourth issue. Ella, 19, is studying art at the University of Minnesota and had painted a feline portrait for a friend. The image stuck with him and “I was going to copy her (but) instead ripping off my daughter I decided to just pay her.”
Check out a couple of Hairball covers, including one done by his daughter, below.
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