“Most of the others started with either Marvel or DC and discovered the joys of owning their own characters and following a creator owned path. I did it the other way around. I was first published as a creator-owned guy in the early 80's and then later, I went and did stuff for the big companies. I find that balancing trick just perfectly easy. I guess part of that is I have found such reward, not only financially but creatively, from the two creator-owned series that I have. Mage and Grendel really do kind of fulfill the dual nature of my creative impulses. Going to play with the big characters is just fun, almost like a band doing cover songs - you know. In the case of something this big, it's a neat chance to make a real mark on these characters.”

A comic book artist, writer, and creator born in Pennsylvania in 1961, Matt Wagner is best known for his award winning Grendel and Mage books, but he has contributed to nearly every comic book company in some form or another, and worked on various different books.

Wagner grew up in rural, small-town Pennsylvania, and found that his desires to create comics ostracised him from other children. This isolation through his early years of development planted the seeds of independence and dark embitterment that help establish the character of Hunter Rose, the original Grendel. “I grew up with the general sense of ennui, you know kind of out in the country and most of the people I knew thought drawing was for sissies and that sort of stuff.” Wagner says, “There was a general sense I think in myself where I didn't feel very engaged growing up by the world around me. Matter of fact, it was only when I went off on my own, when I left home that I began to feel more engaged, and you can definitely see that in the Hunter Rose story line.”

Wagner’s first published work was in Comico’s Primer number two in January of 1982. The short story in this anthology series featured the first appearance of Wagner’s signature Grendel character. The following year he released a three-part mini-series about the character. The original Grendel mini-series was met with accolades and success, perhaps more so than even Wagner himself could have imagined. His brooding anti-hero was the inspiration for many other creators, and the assassin painted a portrait of Wagner’s own take on the world, and on what today’s youth stand for. The success of this cemented his position with Comico, an upstart creator-owned independent publisher.

In 1984, Wagner began releasing the fifteen part maxi-series Mage the Hero Discovered, the story of Kevin Matchstick. Considered a tour-de-force for a new look at the super hero mythos, Mage was about a young listless man who discovers that he is a hero, and therefore must defeat creatures of mythological origin on Earth. Over the next six years Wagner produced various Grendel stories for Comico, creating depth and character that set his books apart from most others on the market at the time.

In 1990, Wagner worked on Dark Horse Comics Presents, another anthology book, offering a story titled “The Aerialist”. Soon after his work was seen in every major comics company. He continued to create more Gendel stories, while working on such books as DC Comic’s Sandman Mystery Theatre and Marvel’s Savage Hulk. He brought his character together with one of DC’s flagship characters in Batman/Grendel: Devils Riddle. This was one of the first times that a creator owned character would be combined in a story with a major comics company icon. It was met with rave reviews and high esteem.

Since then, Matt Wagner has continued to put out high quality work for Dark Horse, Marvel, and DC. This year he released a new Grendel Anthology series called Grendel: Black, White, and Red for Dark Horse Comics for which he won two Eisner awards for best anthology and best short story. He has also released an additional mage stories; Mage the Hero Defined. Both Mage and Grendel are at this time in pre-production to become major motion pictures. Wagner’s career has been one that every independent creator-owned comics nut dreams of. He has found success at every venture, and sees only more in the future. When asked of his future projects, he says, “I’m just getting ready to start a biggie. My biggest thing for DC ever. I don’t even have a working title yet, but it’s Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. It’s the first time Superman and Batman meet Wonder Woman in their continuity. And right now I am drawing the whole thing.”


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