We got to pick the brain of France-based writer Matz, the mind behind The Killer books, about the newest installment, The Killer Volume 4: Unfair Competition. He talks to us about the Killer’s journey, where he’s going, and what he’s up to in this new action-packed global adventure!
The Killer has been described as “modern noir.” How much influence would you say the series has drawn from classic crime fiction versus more contemporary espionage and murder mysteries in film and television?
MATZ: I’ve spent a huge amount of time, as a teenager, reading classic noir. I remember spending summers in Paris, reading. I loved that. I didn’t miss going away on vacation at all. Why hang out on an overcrowded beach in the sun, when you can be in sunny empty Paris, cruise the bouquinistes for cheap noir novels (at the time, you could find them for just a few Francs), and hang loose, watching the tourists walk by; so yes, James Cain, Jim Thompson, Chandler, Hammett, and also classic literature. I always favored noir over murder mysteries. Solving a crime is less interesting to me than looking at the whole situation and trying to decipher the souls of the people involved, because nothing is black and white. Jim Thompson was fantastic because that’s what he did—he looked into the souls in a convincing way. He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. I also spent a lot of time at the movies, including at the Cinémathèque, where I could see all the classics. Melville or Leone, naturally, are probably the two main influences for The Killer. I always loved westerns. Ford, Hathaway, Walsh, Peckinpah, Boetticher, I just love them.
One of the many things that stand out about your books have been the lush environments provided for your leads. How much research do you undergo, and how much reference do you leave for your artist to interpret on the page?
M: One of the perks of doing graphic novels is that there are no budget limitations about locations. We can go wherever we want to. So I choose the locations according to a variety of criteria. First, the visual ones: I like to have some significant visual changes. We can go from tropical South America to Canada in the winter, or from the jungle to Paris. It’s a radical change of ambiance. Then there are the strategic and political criteria. Cuba is a very interesting place where to develop a story. So close to the US yet so different. Also, it was important for the Killer to have a safe place in an environment where he would be able to blend in physically (so I ruled out Africa and Asia and went for South America), and where there would be no extradition treaties with the Western world countries. That’s why he is in Venezuela. And also, I make him travel to some places I don’t know and dream to go to. It’s part of the fun. I travel thanks to him, and so does the artist, [Luc] Jacamon. He has to research the places, and I let him handle that part. For the places that I have traveled to, I can give him some pictures I have made, otherwise, with the Internet, it’s quite easy for him to find the material he needs. I don’t interfere with that part, unless I see something I really don’t like.
What’s the key to keeping characters that work and live in such a dark world relatable to readers?
M: The Killer is not about action or violence, it’s about the character, and even more so, it’s about his conscience and the way of the world. The Killer is a way to get into all these issues he’s faced with, whether physically, or intellectually. And everything he refers to is historically or scientifically accurate, so it keeps it interesting and relatable. After all, the Killer is talking about our world. It’s a world in which there are many realities, all kinds of people: nice ones, bad ones, cruel ones. So by making the stakes and the universe interesting, and by making the Killer someone who asks the right questions, I think people are able to relate to him, to ask themselves questions that are both interesting and fun. And also they can wonder if they’d do what he does.
In all of your research for The Killer books, what has surprised you the most?
M: Researching for the Killer implies reading a lot of history, which I have always been interested in; everywhere, all periods of time. And what’s really amazing is how man has not changed throughout time. Things have always been the same. It’s amazing how little we have learned. Sure, we’ve invented a lot of things, useful things, useless things, we came up with a whole lot of ideas, mostly good ones, but about what really matters, about the way we behave among ourselves and towards the world, we’ve made no progress. In some instances, like religion, you could even say we’re going backwards. It’s something that makes you wonder about how smart man really is.
Do you have an endgame in mind for this character or is that something that’s always changing?
M: No endgame at this point. One of my beliefs when it comes to writing is to not give the audience what they expect. So everybody expects the Killer to die, and I don’t see it happening. I think when the series ends (and it might be sooner than later, as it seems like Jacamon is getting tired), it will not be because the Killer dies or is incapacitated. It will be because he will have decided it’s time to move on to do something else.
The Killer Volume 4: Unfair Competition is written by Matz and illustrated by Luc Jacamon. It is scheduled for release in April. Pre-order your copy today!