INTERVIEW: Matt Miner, writer of “Liberator”

matt-dara1Matt Miner is the writer of “Liberator”, a 4-issue mini-series starring masked heroes who save, protect, and avenge abused animals.  Matt and artist Joel Gomez (Wetworks, Nightmare on Elm Street, Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs, Flashpoint: Reverse Flash and Detective Comics) are working hard to fund this mini-series using Kickstarter (see link below), and have some surprising and amazing ‘gifts’ for backers.  The Kickstarter page has a collection of highly positive quotes from such people as Scott Snyder, Steve Niles, Neko Case, Justin Gray and more.  Most importantly, this is a comic based on horrific things that happen every day and go mostly unnoticed or are ignored – the plight of abused animals.  These poor animals have no real voice with which to better their lives.  These characters, and their writer himself, are their voices.

Matt was able to take some time to answer some questions for us, where you will learn why this mini-series is so important, and why it deserves the support it needs to be successful.

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– First, can you tell us a little about yourself, maybe a bit of what a normal day-in-the-life of Matt Miner might be like?

Well I’m a New Yorker, an animal rescuer and animal rights and social justice activist.  I’m also a comic book writer and a dad to several rescued animals.  A day in my life includes a lot of dog walks, dog poop, writing, chatting with folks on Twitter, trying to find homes for animals and pushing my Kickstarter for Liberator.

– For your new title – the mini-series “Liberator” – you are attempting to get funding from the Kickstarter program, with the idea of funding the whole mini-series in one swoop.  What kind of gifts do you have up that might entice someone to back your project – other than helping a destined to be amazing series get printed, of course?  Also, how did you get bands like Bad Religion to help you in this?  There’s also some amazing artwork being offered.

Well we have all the offerings – the books, rad prints, variant covers, Kickstarter exclusives, limited editions, original art, etc.  The thing that makes the Liberator Kickstarter a little different is that, well,  good projects with a good message tend to attract other good people who want to help.

So we started inviting folks to contribute to the project – articles, interviews, stuff of that nature.  An issue of Liberator is 24 pages of comic adventure story and several pages of these extras.  The reward packages from bands and organizations are things they’ve bundled up specifically for us, to further help Liberator succeed.

So that’s why we have those cool swag bundles from Bad Religion and Propagandhi and the Descendents and filmmakers and activist organizations and the like.  It’s because they give a damn and they’re good people who wanted to help.

Other folks are jumping onboard daily and we’ll be announcing them throughout the campaign.

– It seems every comic fan and creator has that one special title, or that one special character, or issue, etc. that got them into comics on more of a ‘serious’ level – from spectator to collector.  Any comics stick out in your mind as being major influences on your life or your comic work?

Growing up in the 1980s for me it was all about those quintessential game changer Batman stories – you know: Death in the Family, Year One, Dark Knight Returns and Killing Joke.  On the Marvel side I was all in with Punisher, Punisher War Journal and some of the Wolverine stories – really grim and gritty stuff compared to the bulk of superhero titles at the time.  But that grim realism and heavy narrative, that dark and brooding internal dialogue, spoke to me and I really connected with those stories.  In my opinion they’re still some of the best comics ever written.

– The premise for “Liberator” is pure genius, in my opinion.  I’m curious as to what brought you to writing this mini-series, and how much of your own personal activism experience went into it?

That’s very kind of you to say, but the premise is heavily inspired by real life true events.  There are people who actually do this type of direct action for animals and when I learned of them I thought to myself that they were kind of like superheroes but for animals.  They’re masked, they do all this black ops shit, they save animals – I thought it was brilliant stuff.  My own personal activism never ventured into this illegal arena – I was more on the aboveground front line with signs and bullhorns – but I’ve always been and always will be a vocal supporter of the underground.  Lately I’ve been focused on  rescue of abused cats and dogs and death row animals in our city shelters.

– Your efforts in saving troubled animals, ranging from outright activism to the BSL News blog, is truly amazing and inspiring.  What do you think made this so important in your life, to the point of having the passion and drive needed to devote so much of your life to Animal Rights?

It’s pretty common with folks like me to have had some sort of personal trauma in their early lives where they feel alone, helpless, scared, and voiceless.  Having had experiences like this, it makes it easy to empathize with abused and neglected animals.

– Can you tell us about your work with your BSL News blog, and what it’s like to be on the ‘frontlines’, so to speak?  You seem to be doing some great things on there.

BSL News is a site run by my wife and me – its mission is to help combat breed specific legislation (laws targeting specific breeds of dogs for their genetics) and give us a hand in our rescue efforts.  I don’t know that it counts as the frontlines, but it’s certainly been a good resource for helping open eyes to the harm that breed stereotypes can cause and call people to action to fight when breed bans or BSL is proposed.

– In the video for the Kickstarter page you can see you not only in full action, but also in an appearance on television.  I also read that you were interviewed by the BBC in regards to Hurricane Sandy.  I assume the BBC interview was in light of your dedicated work with helping displaced animals from the aftermath of Sandy?

I was interviewed twice by the BBC regarding Sandy, but both times it was in regards to the piss poor job LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) was doing in regards to restoring power to the poorer areas of the Rockaways.  It’s really shameful how LIPA was hard at work restoring the rich Long Island neighborhoods and left the poor in Rockaway to freeze to death.  They actually asked why I didn’t evacuate before the storm and I said “well, I’m not going to leave my animals” and they kind of scoffed.  It was uncomfortable.

– Back to the comic, how did you get Joel Gomez in on this project?  His artwork is amazing!  Really sets the tone, from what I’ve seen.

Joel’s very talented and he’s really helped bring a new level to the project.  I was referred to him through Freddie Williams II and Joel, even though he’s not an animal rights person, thought the story was intriguing and worth telling.  He’s been great and his art is going to blow you away.

– In the press for the Kickstarter page, you mention that fans of things like ‘Batman’ and ‘Dexter’ would enjoy this book.  What edge does the book ride on, in so far as vigilantism goes?  It’s obvious there is some direct action going on, but how far is it taken in the mini-series?

The two heroes within the book stick to a nonviolent code of conduct, with “nonviolent” being defined as violence toward a living being.  I don’t believe you can be violent to a nonliving inanimate object – therefore I consider smashing a window or flattening a tire to be a nonviolent action as long as you take all necessary precautions to avoid harming any life.

The heroes of Liberator are anally meticulous to make sure no human or animal is hurt in the course of any of their actions, which is also true for the real life animal activists that inspire the story.

– I think one of the most inspiring things about this title is that you have dedicated some of the proceeds from it to fund more of your work in dog rescue.  What brought you to this idea, and what area do you feel will benefit directly from the proceeds?

My wife and I do independent dog rescue, meaning we’re not with a group or organization and work on our own.  So the cost of everything from leashes to food to neutering to shots normally comes out of our pocket – for large vet bills we run fundraisers which helps a bit, but it’s still a lot of money for us.  If Liberator’s successful we could afford to help more dogs and cats and out here in Rockaway, and since Sandy hit, there are a LOT of displaced animals who need the help.

– Can you tell us about the main characters in ‘Liberator’, and maybe a bit about why they took the path they’re on?

Well, we’ve got Damon Guerrero, who’s an Hispanic mid 20s slacker barista who really found his calling working in the animal liberation underground.   His equal and eventual partner is Jeanette Francis, a strong and wicked smart mid 20s college student who saw what was going on in her university’s labs and it rocked her world view.  They’re both fueled by separate but equally disturbing pasts and a burning drive to help those who can’t help themselves.

– You have rescued animals in your home, both cats and dogs.  I wonder what might have brought them into your family?  Do they have stories to tell, as well?

All our animals are rescues and all of them have stories.  Our pit bull girl Dara is who got me rescuing; she was my first rescue – she had a day to live at the kill shelter and I saw her photo on Facebook and she was so scared and skinny and I fell in love with her deep soulful eyes.   I got her off death row but couldn’t bring myself to adopt her out and insisted on keeping her.  Our pit bull boy Joey was a neglect case in a housing project.  The sweetest little boy you’ll ever meet, all he wants to do is snuggle and sleep and these “people” who had him couldn’t even bother to walk him or give him water.

We’ve got three cats, two of them rehabilitated ferals from the Bronx and one a dumped housecat who we rescued from under the Rockaway Beach boardwalk a week before Hurricane Sandy.  They’re all amazing cats with huge personalities and my life is more complete from their presence.

Lastly we’ve got a foster Rottweiler in my home office.  Sweet guy, huge heart, super gentle – nothing like how he looks upon first sight!  He was tethered in the sun on a 3 foot chain and prong collar when we met him.  Slowly we convinced his wretched “family” to let us start taking care of him there, then finally to give him up.  Luckily we got him before the hurricane because he would have drowned in the shitty little shed they shoved him in when it was raining.

– You’ve done a lot of work with fighting dogs, it seems.  How much of a problem is such a thing as we’re heading into 2013?  Can you also talk about some of the actions you have been a part of in this area?

I’ve done some work with fighting dogs but not a lot.  It’s still a huge problem in a lot of areas, and out where we live is no exception.  Abandoned houses are even more common now post-Sandy and they’re regularly broken in to and used by dog fighters to store their canine victims.  It’s heinous.  The only good thing about this practice is that literally anyone else could also break in and remove those dogs.

– What other comic book work have you done previously?  Any experiences or lessons in these works that might have helped get ‘Liberator’ put together, in terms of writing it?

Liberator’s my first comic writing work but I took it very seriously so I didn’t rush anything and I made sure to have the money to bring onboard a professional art team.  I took classes under Scott Snyder to really polish the book and hone my craft.  I wanted to be sure this thing was as good as it possibly can be because I’ve wanted to do the book for nearly a decade and there’s no sense in doing it half assed and having the thing suck.

– I think the work you’re doing and have done is very important and I believe it is also needed on a broader scale.  Do things look to be going in the right direction, in terms of Animal Rights?  What major changes would you like to see?

As long as a person thinks they should be able to use and abuse an animal for their own gain I think there’s work to be done.  It’s a constant struggle and hard to gauge if things are going in the right direction.

Activism-wise we’re headed into a total loss of our first amendment rights – activists are rounded up as terrorists and nonviolent crimes are punished with decades in federal prison just due to the person’s political ideology.  Anarchists are targeted for thought crime: believing that we’d be better off without the government in our affairs and Occupy folks are beaten down and maced by cops for holding a sign.

Realistic changes I’d like to see?  Sure, I’d like to see felony charges be standard for animal abusers and animals not classified as “property.”   Animals are a “him” or a “her”, not an “it.”

– Do you have any future comic-related plans once ‘Liberator’ is released?

I’m working on two other projects at the moment.  I’m contributing a piece for the Occupy Comics anthology – I guess the publisher feels I have a unique enough view of the Occupy Sandy folks since I was here for the storm and the aftermath; I’m thrilled to be able to say “thank you” to them this way.  I’m also working on a piece for an anti-bullying anthology that should be great – I’m a huge supporter of efforts to end bullying and, again, thrilled to be able to help in this small way.

– Not a question, but I really wanted to thank you for putting so much of yourself and your life into helping animals in the many ways you do.  Creating/writing ‘Liberator’ while also using the sales to fund your work is seriously awe-inspiring.  As someone who grew up with Pit Bulls and the like, I wanted to take this chance to applaud your dedication, and to say I’m really looking forward to this mini-series!  Thank you for doing this interview with us.

Seriously, thank YOU.  Since starting work on Liberator I’m thrilled to find folks who also share my passions for animals alongside a love of comics.  Thanks so much for giving a damn!

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HELP “LIBERATOR” GET PUBLISHED – SUPPORT IT ON KICKSTARTER: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mattminer/liberator-4-issue-comic-series-by-matt-miner-and-j

FOLLOW AND/OR GET IN TOUCH WITH MATT MINER ON TWITTER:  @MattMinerXVX

IMAGES AND ARTWORK FROM “LIBERATOR”, AND MORE:

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– Interview by F. Fang / Edited by Jared Butler

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