Matt Miner is a writer who believes in what he does for a living. As a longtime animal-rights supporter, Miner created a comic about underground activism called Liberator following a character named Damon as he battles animal abusers.
The comic has already met critical acclaim and a complete collection of Liberator volume one was released in a trade paperback this month.
Miner talked with us about the inspiration of his comic with perfect timing as the pop-culture event C2E2 bolts into town this week. [Note: Miner will not be present.]
Windy City Times: Hi, Matt. Where are you calling from?
Matt Miner: From New York. I have been here for eight years.
WCT: How long have you been working on this project?
Matt Miner: For a year and half maybe. It has been over a year since I first started putting it together. These things tend to take a long time from when you have an idea to when you have an actual book on the shelf.
WCT: What exactly is your job title?
Matt Miner: I am a freelance writer. I also do dog rescue. I wouldn't say as a hobby, but it is not a paid thing.
WCT: How did you get into comic-book writing?
Matt Miner: I have been a comic fan my whole life. When I was younger I wanted to be a writer. I was writing prose and short stories but getting rejected left and right. I gave up on it because of the rejection. I became involved with drugs and alcohol. That killed my motivation to write for a long time until I got sober. I came back!
WCT: Have you written for mainstream comic companies?
Matt Miner: Right now all the of the stuff that is out there that I have written is for indie comics.
WCT: What company is Liberator with?
Matt Miner: Black Mask Studios.
WCT: How have they been to work with?
Matt Miner: Awesome. It was started by one of the guys from the band Bad Religion Brett Gurewitz who runs Epitaph Records and Steve Niles who wrote 30 Days of Night. It is a bunch of old punks, which is what I am. It has a real family feel.
WCT: You did a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. I knew it was done a lot in the music business but is it common in comics?
Matt Miner: Oh, yeah; it happens all the time. These projects have to pay these artists to come to life. Paying the artists is not cheap. Something that is creator owned like Liberator you need to have money to pay your creative team. Unless you are independently wealthy you have to find a way to pay that money. Kickstarter is awesome for that.
WCT: This project must be near and dear to your heart. Do you have dogs?
Matt Miner: I have foster dogs and rescue dogs. I am always trying to find homes for them. We rescue abused dogs and bring them back up to health with veterinary care.
WCT: Are the two main characters in Liberator based on people you know?
Matt Miner: Not on people I know, per se. I was involved heavily in animal rights for a long time and the protests. During that time I learned about this underground movement where people did things you see in Liberator where they put on masks and gloves and break into labs. They save animals and then go into property of people hurting animals persuading them to not continue on hurting animals. They take away their profit motivation for doing that. In my 30 years of doing it I never hurt anyone.
Their intention is to not hurt anyone but they will go set a person's car on fire or destroy their property for hurting animals. I saw videos of people on YouTube where people broke into labs and stole animals. I thought of them as being like superheroes. It is kind of like Batman, but for animals.
I thought it was a cool comic concept and since I was involved in animal rights it all came together. I learned a lot about it in the process.
WCT: Would you like to be similar to your main character, Damon, in some ways?
Matt Miner: No, he has some serious problems. He is not 100 percent in it for the right reasons. His problems with anger has put him in some dark places. He is not someone that I aspire to be like.
The stuff I do with dog rescue is all legal. I am not breaking into people's houses or setting things on fire.
WCT: This comic is not for kid,s from what I saw.
Matt Miner: It is for adults or like a teen-plus. There are some f-words and some pretty grisly imagery.
WCT: There is an upcoming lesbian storyline. What inspired that?
Matt Miner: I think when you work with characters for a while they kind of tell you who they are. We are working on volume two of Liberator right now. Issue one his stores last month and issue two is coming out soon. The characters are continuing on in a different way with a different title that has not been announced yet. [Two] of the characters, Jill and Heather, I have been working with for a long time. It is like they told me that they are gay and together. It is just the way the story went. It made sense for these two.
WCT: How has the reaction been from the comic so far?
Matt Miner: Really good. There has been a lot of critical acclaim. I have been very happy about that. I didn't want it to be too preachy so I was very careful. I went back to school to learn how to do this properly. I wanted to learn to tell a story without being heavy handed. The story is not about animals but the people who save them and are involved in this world. It is not all about the message.
It has been received very well not just from the animals rights people but from the people that read Batman and Spiderman.
WCT: What is your opinion on gay characters in comics?
Matt Miner: I think there needs to be more gay characters in comics. I think it needs to be not a publicity stunt. Comics should be more reflective of real life. There are gay people in real life so there should be gay people in comics. They don't have to be a stereotype or broadcast their sexuality every two seconds.
I think we are seeing more gay characters in comics now. Archie started that with Kevin Keller. It is good there is more inclusion with gay characters in comics but at the same time it is being used as a media ploy.
I am for more gay characters but I wish it wasn't the focal point of who they are.
WCT: I know you have come to comic conventions in the past here in town.
Matt Miner: Yes, but as of right now I don't have plans for Chicago this year, unfortunately. I did C2E2 last spring and it was awesome.
Get your gay nerd with Stan Lee and the gang at C2E2 in the South Building of McCormick Place April 25-27. Visit www.c2e2.com for more information.
Liberator may be purchased at www.amazon.com, kingsroadmerch.com or a local comic shop near you.