This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on September 8, 2015.
Usually it takes years or even decades to recognize the full import and value of a comics series. Whether something was just an interesting fluke, an enjoyable treat, or something well and truly special is difficult to determine as it comes out. But then there are the rare cases in which it’s obvious that a comic is not just good, or even great, but a true masterpiece as soon as the final page is turned.
This week Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt entered that rare strata of creation.
While Mind MGMT may not have had record breaking sales, it has received widespread critical acclaim from both critics and fellow creators, peppering its affordable hardcover editions with some of the choicest pull quotes in all of comics. So it should come as no surprise that both the property and its creator have become hot quantities less than five years after it began. While Kindt has seen increasing success at publishers like Dark Horse and Valiant, Mind MGMT has been eyed by another industry altogether.
The series has been in preproduction for a movie adaptation at 20th Century Fox since 2013, and has Ridley Scott attached to produce and Kindt acting as a consultant. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. So that raises two interlinked questions: What makes Mind MGMT an intriguing property for a Hollywood adaptation and should it even be adapted?
From the very first issue of Mind MGMT it’s clear why Kindt is working in comics. He utilizes so many aspects of the medium and every inch of the page in order to tell his story. The most obvious examples lie in the margins of the pages themselves. Panels are set within pages of a field manual distributed by the mysterious Management with notes and rules in blue type laid across the bottom. As the series continues, new additions are made in this typically unutilized terrain, including selections from a novel. The comic is typically telling two to three stories in tandem, something that would be impossible outside of comics.
The use of space and page layouts is far from the full extent of Kindt’s visual flair though. The wide variety of mental powers exhibited by the many agents allowed for a lot of experimentation. While the indestructible immortals allowed for big, brutal battle scenes, others were more nuanced in their representation. The Illusionist who arrived late in the game, creating mental constructs to trick or trap others, led to some trippy and devastating panels. The non-standard storytelling, rearranging time and setting, also made for some very intriguing sequences and revelations. This sort of visual interplay, unlike the comics-specific elements, could be adapted by a director with a top eye to great effect.
The first six issues of Mind MGMT were designed to function as both a mini-series and the introduction to a much larger story, depending on whether the series flopped. It did not, and instead of Meru following a seemingly endless loop of recollection and misremembering, she broke free. Yet just within those first six issues, there is a bounty of ideas and conspiracies. What begins as a singular mystery about a plane on which every passenger lost their memories spirals out to a much broader story of mysterious agencies and superpowered operatives. It moves across exotic locales and introduces plenty of heroic and deeply disturbing characters.
I repeat, that’s just the first six issue. Things only continue to grow from there, revealing a history every bit as complex as the epic conspiracy in 100 Bullets. Kindt created a very full world filled with fascinating characters and plot threads that only barely surfaced in Mind MGMT. Each issue was packed with bonus content and small details that alluded to how much more was happening just outside of the panels. The story of Mind MGMT is not one meant to be contained in two hours. Its scope could only be potentially contained in a series of films or mini-series on a prestige network. Kindt’s world feels every bit as packed with detail.
A Damn Good Story
Mind MGMT is a lot of thing, but at its cores it’s simply a damn good story well told. No matter how bizarre the machinations of the plot become or how strangely the comics page is used, everything centers around the characters and their journeys. Kindt does not experiment for experimentations sake, but utilizes each element of the comic to help readers understand what is happening and why they should care.
When you take everything else away, the journey that Meru and all of her compatriots go on is still incredibly engaging. Every central member of the cast has a clear arc, some tragic, some redemptive, some heroic, and most of them a blend of all three. It is difficult to not be sucked into their journeys and invest in whatever happens next. By the time the final issues, Mind MGMT #35 and New MGMT #1, came out, many readers could be brought to tears by a simple sketch of someone lost many issues before. In Mind MGMT, every character mattered and that core resulted in one of the best comics stories this decade. That same central focus ought to serve any adaptation very well.
To Adapt or Not to Adapt?
It’s obvious why Mind MGMT would appeal to Hollywood studios. It’s a long-form story with plenty of visual flair all hooked into brilliant, emotive characters and ideas. There’s so much to love here, that it’s easy to imagine movie audiences falling in love and forking over their money much in the same way comics fans have. Any writer or director would be lucky to have the opportunity to sculpt Kindt’s ideas to a different medium.
But should it be adapted?
There’s not a yes or no answer to that question, and like so much of life (and sooo much of Mind MGMT) the answer lies somewhere in between. Simply put: It depends.
The truth is that the imaginative, innovative, instantly canon-worthy Mind MGMT being discussed will never exist outside of the comics medium. It is irreproducible. Other comics classics that have been lifted for the big screen, like Watchmenand Ghost World, share that trait. They only work like they do because of how they are presented. The success (read: Ghost World) or failure (read: Watchmen) of their adaptations isn’t based on the source material, but the adaptation itself.
Mind MGMT is an excellent source of inspiration; it has undoubtedly already inspired a wave of young comics writers and artists to keep pushing the boundaries of their chosen art form. But it cannot be a crutch or a bible for how to create a new work of art, no matter what medium it is in. It is a great starting place for a movie, but whether that movie will be any good is ultimately up to those involved.
Whether or not Mind MGMT ever reaches production at Fox or any other studio isn’t important. It has no bearing on the comic itself. Mind MGMT is a complete, revelatory comics work. What more could anyone possibly ask for?