Matt Shepherd is quite simply the man behind the man-man. An Anglophone living in Quebec, Canada, he was roped up by the Comixpedia crew to become the Special Events editor. From his devious Canadian mind was spawned the latest installment of Fright Night, and the most current machination is the love-infested Blind Date event for the Valentine's period. In this interview, Matt spills the beans on his comic book pasts, and his burning, bilious jealousy of our Editor-in-Chief's things.
How did you first get interested in comics?
When I was four or five years old, I was in the hospital for an operation â€“ a rather delicate but not life-threatening dealie. My parents (I think) bought me, among other things, an issue of Spider-Man, and I have a very distinct memory of being enraptured as Spider-Man fought somebody with a starfish on his head (in later life, I have parsed this as being most likely Electro. If anybody can confirm if Electro fought Spidey any time in the 1977-1978 area, I'd be very grateful). I was hooked.
What comics did you read? What are your favorites?
A few years after my first brush with Spider-Man, we moved to rural New Brunswick, and the general store a half-hour walk through the back fields from my house sold old comics for half-cover price, about a dime apiece. My first favorite comic was The Legion of Super-Heroes, on the brilliant assumption that if I was going to spend a hard-earned dime on a comic, I might as well get one with a bunch of super-heroes rather than blow it all on just one.
The first comic I remember BUYING with my own money was a Marvel Team-Up where Spider-Man (still a favorite) and Power Man saved people from burning buildings in the ghetto. As a rural kid from northern Ontario and New Brunswick who didn't watch much TV (my parents were fairly religious â€“ not fanatics by any means, but very selective about what TV we got to watch) this was my first brush with black protagonists, disco fashion, and people talkin' jive.
I didn't start making the Marvel/DC distinction until I was much older. I remember being thrilled about Alpha Flight, because they were CANADIAN, so that was another early fave.
The last super-hero comic I picked up on a regular basis was the Milligan/Allred X-Force, but the local shop wasn't hip to the name change (I live in a mid-sized town in Quebec, and the comic book store guy doesn't do English) and never got X-Statix, so I just let it go. I still buy Palookaville and Optic Nerve whenever they come out, and am a huge fan of Super Hero Happy Hour (now Hero Happy Hour, thank you, you litigation-happy corporate wankers) due to my other work with Chris Fason.
I buy TPBs of the good stuff like Planetary and will probably get around to collecting the Morrison X-Men at some point soon, because The Invisibles was a brilliant comic.
What comic projects have you been involved with as a creator?
Well, I've been writing Man-Man for a couple years now, almost three, and The License has been on Graphic Smash for a few years now. There's Deadies, which was an on-again off-again project with Roy Boney, which we may have found a good publisher for (details and a contract pending). There's also another project I work in with Roy, Dead Funny, but we keep it separate from everything else we do because the thesis behind it sort of demands a hands-off atmosphere.
What do you do outside comics online?
Online? Not much, really. I used to try to maintain a blog, but that never really worked out â€“ too much other writing on the go. I'm active on a few messageboards pertaining to my offline hobbies â€“ winemaking, vermicomposting, minidisc recording.
I also have a couple of jobs: the regular day job, as a French-to-English translator, and occasional gigs as a seminar instructor for radio stations in northern Quebec, mostly in Cree communities.
Whereabouts do you live? What influence has that had on you?
I've lived in Quebec for about seven or eight years now. Creatively, I can't think of a direct effect â€“ I suspect I'm more prolific than I might be elsewhere in Canada, because there's a certain sense of dynamism when you're part of a minority-language community. You feel more motivated to create things in your language. When I lived in Toronto, the edge to create came from a spirit of competition, in several ways. Here, it's more that there's not so much people doing it.
What's your favorite movie? Book? Song?
Movie? Glah. I really don't know. I watched The Seventh Seal tonight and really enjoyed it, but I watched it so my girlfriend would have a deeper appreciation of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, which SHE hadn't seen yet, and that really covers the range. I've been funneled tons of freaky Asian cinema from a friend in Toronto recently and very much liked Ju-on: The Grudge. I'm hoping to get a copy of Suicide Club or Battle Royale II sometime in the undistant future. I just finished an excellent book called The Devil: A Biography by Peter Stanford, an examination of the history of the devil as a religious and mythological figure. Very good stuff. My favorite album of the moment is Triosk meets Jan Jelinek's 1+3+1, which is a brilliant jazz/electronic fusion thing.
How did you get involved in Comixpedia and what exactly is it that you do?
Well, I'm a big fan of most of the comics at Altbrand and participated in a few of the events they put on. But after a few years and a few events, the "Altertanimnent" sort of petered out â€“ not sure why â€“ and I offered to help rustle some stuff up, but I don't think the timing was quite right. Within a few months, though, Xaviar Xerexes had started Comixpedia, and a few months after that, e-mail conversations with him (uh, you… what's the protocol here?) brought up the idea that running some similar events through Altbrand might be helpful to both Altbrand and webcartoonists in general.
So basically, I think up ideas for group events, the goal being to try to get as broad a cross-section of the online comics community working together as possible, and then â€“ with lots of help from Xaviar and the rest of the 'Pedia crew â€“ try to execute them. This usually consists of making something up, posting it, trolling message boards and e-mailing people personally drumming up participants, and then doing a lot of twice-daily updates of the sites to make sure everything stays up to date.
There's some weird karma where I can't seem to run an event without the site blowing up, though. It happened last October during Fright Night, and right now during the Valentine's "Blind Date" event. I don't know. I think maybe I'm haunted.
Really, I don't do one-third of the work the other Comixpedia mavens do, so I blush a bit to be referred to as one of the major editors of the site. It's more a frantic week or two every three months, and things calm down again after that. But then again, they don't pay me nearly as much as the other staff members, so it all evens out. I hear Damonk bought a speedboat last month, and is waiting for the canal in Ottawa to open up so he can race it.