Like jazz, noir crime novels are a uniquely American art form, one that has not only found fans around the world, but has also inspired people in other cultures to engage in it as well. One of the best examples of this is The Killer, a series of graphic novels penned by French writer Matz and drawn by his countryman Luc Jacamon. With The Killer Volume 5 Fight Or Flight available now in hardcover and digitally — Volume 1 and 2 were collected in The Killer Omnibus Volume 1, while Volume 2 and 4were collected in The Killer Omnibus Volume 2 — I queried Matz about how this noir series came about, and where it’s going in this new collection.
For those who are unfamiliar with this series, what is The Killer about?
The Killer was conceived as the autobiography of a hitman. Which means it’s a first-person point of view, and we are inside his head. Therefore, we enter his logic, we see the way he is able to live with what he does and with himself. How he justifies himself. Through his observations, we have a larger picture of the world we live in. The whole series is supposed to be a reflection about mankind and human nature.
People often tell me The Killer is a cynical piece; I disagree and object that the character of The Killer may be somewhat cynical, but the series itself is not. It has a deeper, more subtle meaning.
What is the plot of The Killer Volume 5 Fight Or Flight, and how do these events connect, both narratively and chronologically, to those in the first four volumes?
Volume 5 Fight Or Flight takes place a few years after Volume 4. Things have evolved. Mariano, The Killer’s friend, has become an ambitious politician. So ambitious that he wants to speed up his career by taking out his main rivals or opponents. And when one of your best friends is a hitman, it comes pretty easy. His reasoning is that James Bond is an imperialistic thug who has no match in the Third World. He offers the position to The Killer, but he still plays his friend for a fool. And even though The Killer knows being manipulated is part of the job description, you want to be careful what kind of trouble you get dragged into. Especially when things don’t go as planned.
What inspired this story arc, and what was it about that inspiration that made you think it would be a good storyline for The Killer as opposed to a new series?
The main inspiration was a paragraph in a Carlos Fuentes book, The Hydra’s Head, in which he had this idea about James Bond, as explained above. That he is some imperialistic thug and that his job is to keep things as they are. And since seeing things from a different standpoint than a European or North American one has always been part of The Killer’s DNA, it became obvious that this could be the right angle to tell another Killer story.
Since the beginning, The Killer has been drawn by Luc Jacamon. But I’m curious how you work together. When planning a scene, do you just give him the script and let him go, do you two collaborate on how it will be laid out, or do you direct him like a movie director?
I write a very detailed script, frame by frame, or panel by panel, with the corresponding dialogue. Basically, as precise as I can be. Then I send it to him. He then draws it and rearranges it depending on how he feels about it, what he can do with it. Sometimes, it’s exactly like I planned it; sometimes it’s quite different. When it works, it works. When I have issues, I tell him about it and we make some adjustments. We’ve been working together a long time now, so I know what he does and how he does it, and he knows what I mean in my script. We have a fruitful and efficient collaboration.
Has Luc ever done anything that gave you an idea for the story?
Not really. His input can be, “I don’t want to draw cars,” or something like that. So, I try to accommodate him as much as I can. And if he aggravates me for some reason, then I write in a car chase.
The Killer owes a debt to the noir crime novel genre. But which of those authors, and which of their novels, do you consider to be the biggest influence on what happens in The Killer Volume 5 Fight Or Flight?
It’s true that noir has always been a main influence on me. My favorite writers, whose books and themes I’ve always looked up to, are James Cain, Jim Thompson, Ross McDonald, Charles Willeford, Donald Westlake, and such, but it would be hard for me to single one out for The Killer Volume 5.
Understood. The Killer is the first comic of yours to be translated into English and sold in the U.S. Which seems odd to me, if only because Du Plomb Dans La Tete [a.k.a. Headshot] was made into a Sylvester Stallone movie in 2012 called Bullet to The Head, you’d think someone would’ve brought that comic to the U.S. back then. But anyway, have The Killer books been changed at all for American audiences?
No, there have been no changes whatsoever to the Killer books for the American audience. None that I am aware of.
As I understand it, there’s been talk of making a movie of The Killer. What, if anything, can you tell us about it?
Can’t say much at this point. As you know, it’s a slow process.
If the director asked you who he should cast in the main roles, who would you like to see in the movie and why them?
I’ve actually never really thought of any actor for the main part. The main thing when I designed the character, was to have someone who could blend in almost anywhere. But I know that’s not how things work in Hollywood, and besides, you probably need to have the best actor available. And if he is good looking, like Brad Pitt [Fight Club], then great.
Though I think the Killer’s girlfriend could be Rosario Dawson [Daredevil]. I’ve always thought that.
I understand that you also did an adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel noir crime novel Savage Night. What can you tell us about it?
Savage Night, which I adapted and Miles Hyman illustrated, was released in France in 2008. As I mentioned before, Jim Thompson is a major influence on me and a longtime favorite. So, it was quite a challenge to adapt him. It’s been a very interesting and enriching experience.
Since then, I’ve also adapted James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, also with Miles Hyman, published in the U.S. by Archaia/BOOM! Studios [available here]. Adapting such novels is a rather risky and huge undertaking, but I consider myself lucky to be able to spend so much time with these books and these writers. James Ellroy has approved my adaptation of The Black Dahlia. We became friends, and this is a great honor for me. I hope Jim Thompson would have liked Savage Night.
Are there any plans for your Savage Night to come out in the U.S.?
I am not aware of any plan regarding a release in the U.S. I would love to see it happen, though.
I understand that you also have a connection to Donald Westlake and the Parker novels he wrote as Richard Stark, as well as the adaptations of the Parker books The Hunter, The Outfit, The Score, and Slayground that Darwyn Cook did.
Yeah, I bought his first Parker adaptation in English as soon as it came out. I absolutely love Westlake, and I think Cooke did a cool job. It was very different than what Miles and I did with Savage Night, but I liked what he did, and actually, I translated The Score to French. I also had translated Donald Westlake’s novel The Hot Rock to French, and I became friends with him. He was the nicest, funniest, most elegant man I have ever met.
Nice. Finally, if someone really enjoys The Killer, what comic would you suggest they read next and why?
There is another series I have done with Luc Jacamon that deals with similar themes, called Cyclops, also published by Archaia.