Matt Kindt & Orson Welles’ Sleight of Hand

mindmgmt19
Matt Kindt

Matt Kindt opens his latest issue of Mind MGMT with a trip to the theater. Meru, Lyme & company are searching for former Mind Management agents to recruit to their cause. They have tracked one, known as The Magician, to Berlin where she performs, as her name suggests, as an illusionist. Unfortunately, Meru’s ability to cancel out the powers of others tips off The Magician to their presence. She slips through a trap door and bolts for the exit. The remainder of the issue alternates between Lyme’s group trailing The Magician, and The Magician realizing how her life, carefully hidden away from her old employer, is crumbling away around her. Increasingly she feels forced back into a game she has little interest in playing anymore.

At first the choice of a magician for this former agent’s profession appears to be a rather straight-forward choice on Kindt’s part. Similar to so many of the Management’s operatives, her powers are based on suggestion, the ability to coax a person and/or group of people into believing something. She was trained to peer into a target’s mind, identify what that person wanted to see, then build up an illusion which exploited those expectations. Using such means, she led assassination teams and brought down governments, until becoming burned out by all of it. She continues to use the same skill set on stage, however. After all, at its essential, does not the art of conjuring function on the same principal: anticipate what an audience wants to see, then manipulate those preconceptions? Eventually “they all see what I want them to see.”

Mind MGMT Magician
Matt Kindt

Except Kindt allows the curtain to slip a little, revealing the hidden machinery. The reader’s first view of The Magician on stage is a splash page, which upon closer inspection is not made up of a uniform image, but a patchwork of paper roughly fitted together in the attempt to form a single whole. Kindt does not try hard to hide these blemishes. The top of one fragment curls, while its bottom edge leaves a gap of white between pieces. This visual motif continues throughout the issue, where The Magician’s half of the story is told through strips of paper overlaying the page. It would appear that Kindt is calling our attention to how his comic is constructed.

Something else that begins with some innocent seeming sleight of hand is Orson Welles’ 1972 film F for Fake. One of the last projects completed by Welles, it is nominally a documentary on a famous art forger, Elmyr de Hory, and Clifford Irving, author of the hoax Howard Hughes memoir. F for Fake was one of the early essay films, a style while more commonplace today, was rarer at the time. Instead of a fact based linear structure, Welles constructed a free-associative, conversational rumination on art, creativity, and other matters of truth vs fiction. Welles, himself a major teller of tall tales, liberally sprinkles in parts of his own biography for seasoning. The result is a masterpiece equal to his early triumphs of Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons.

f for fake
F for Fake

F for Fake has long been a favorite film of mine, and it quickly came to my mind, as I reflected on Mind MGMT #19. Welles had a lifelong interest in magic, so it is not surprising that he begins the movie by entertaining a child with some age-old parlor tricks. As the movie continues, though, it becomes clear that magic has a deeper meaning for him. “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth . . .” goes the thinking of Picasso as quoted by Welles. The magician, the hoaxer and the artist all have the same goal: to trick you into believing what is not. Welles cites his own career as evidence, for example his famous radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, which inspired quite-real hysteria. Citizen Kane is filled with faked news reels, actors aged through makeup, and other tricks of the trade. Yet beyond all of that, Kane possesses an emotional truth that continues to resonate. It does not matter if there never was a Charles Foster Kane, or how much his fictional biography does or does not resemble the factual one of William Randolph Hearst. What truly matters is that for two hours we are caught up in a story that not only entertains us, but teaches us a little about the human condition at the same time.

This is what all creators do. We are all Masters of Delusions, to quote Mind MGMT’s cover text. This is why Kindt lets the seams show through in #19. Besides, all those flaws in the paper, which I described above, are not real. They are just another form of trickery to make the reader think that the comic is tattered. Kindt is as much a faker as Welles or Irving or anyone else. What is an artist’s job description, but to lie? Words and pictures on paper cause us to gasp or smile, laugh or cry, even though we know that these people never existed. We cannot help it. Just like The Magician’s audiences, we are at their mercy. We are spellbound by a good story.

And honestly, would you have it any other way?

Cheers.     

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