Who is Matt Forbeck after all?
We know you as a man of all trades: from writer to game designer and entrepreneur. But let’s rewind a little bit and find some curiosities that might have escaped us.
What did you want to be when you grow up?
I always wanted to be either an astronaut or a writer. I had terrible asthma as a kid, though, and poor eyesight, and that took me out of the running for a job with NASA. Fortunately, I had writing to fall back on.
What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?
I’m sure I was too young to remember. My parents read to me from an early age and claim that I was reading on my own from age two or three. At that age, my favorites were Where the Wild Things Are, Go Dog Go!, and anything by Dr. Seuss.
I read all of those to my kids as well. Even though my youngest ones are now 12, I can still recite Where the Wild Things Are by heart.
Did you enjoy bedtime stories?
Of course! The bedtime stories we read to kids (or for ourselves) are the gateway toward bigger and more complex fantasy stories, and that deep connection to our childlike wonder is what makes them so magical for us.
And comics: which were your favorite ones?
I read all sorts of comics, both then and now. My favorite character has always been Spider-Man, and I often tell people I learned to read with the Spidey comics, a kids’ title made in conjunction with The Electric Company. That was a show that came on after Sesame Street in those days and featured Morgan Freeman playing Easy Reader!
Do you still read comics regularly or prefer novels now?
I read both and love them each for their own strengths. I wrote the 2009 and 2014 editions of The Marvel Encyclopedia and wrote the 1960s chapter of Batman: A Visual Encyclopedia, which hits stores on September 29. That gave me a good excuse to gorge myself on comics.
I also co-designed the WildStorms collectible card game for Jim Lee back when WildStorm was still a division of Image Comics. And I designed the Marvel Battle Dice and DC Battle Dice games for Playmates Toys. On top of that, I’ve written a number of comics over the years, including twelve issues of the Magic: The Gathering comic for IDW.
In the other direction, I’ve had twenty-seven novels published to date, including the Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy. I read voraciously, in many different genres and on all sorts of topics. It’s all grist for the creative mill, and it gives me the chance to tear apart the writing in my head and examine how it all ticks.
What are you reading right now?
I’m finally getting around to reading Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girl. I’ve known Lauren for years and loved her Moxyland and Zoo City, so I have every expectation it’ll be excellent.
Growing up were you outdoorsy or did always prefer reading/gaming?
My asthma kept me inside some days, but my parents liked to push us outside. They often took us camping and fishing too, and I played baseball, basketball, and soccer both in school and just for fun.
All that said, I loved games and played them a lot. When I six, I was hospitalized with pneumonia, and a priest came in to give me Last Rites, which isn’t nearly as serious as it sounds. Afterward, he taught me how to play chess while I lay there in bed.
What kind of games did you play?
I played anything I could get my hands on. When I was very young, there weren’t many great options, but I enjoyed anything from Trivial Pursuit to Stratego. When I was twelve, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, and I got hooked good.
That broadened my horizons, and I dug into games like Squad Leader and Boot Hill and whatever else I could find. As I got older, it grew into a career.
And how about tv series and movies: are there any that had a deeply impact on you?
Lots. Star Wars blew my mind. My parents took me to see it in a theater seven different times, which was the only way to manage it in the pre-home-video days. I also got a lot out of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Blade Runner and, later, Apocalypse Now.
And, yeah, there’s a Harrison Ford thread running through all of those—even Apocalypse Now if you know where to look.
Most TV from that era is forgettable, but it’s gotten much better over the years. I loved Twin Peaks back in the days, and I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation religiously.
Have you watched anything recently that you’d recommend?
For TV, be sure to check out Breaking Bad and True Detective. They’re fantastic from one end to the other, and they highlight the kind of excellent shows you can do when you have a strong story arc taking you from one end to the other.
For something more episodic, check out Leverage, which was co-created by my friend John Rogers. I helped set up a book deal for that show and even wrote the first novel, The Con Job, which is set at San Diego Comic-Con.
For film, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. It was funny, fast, and fun. I also really enjoyed Her. It does a great job of tackling all sorts of intriguing issues, and I found myself thinking about it even weeks later.
Are you a person of idols?
Not really. I’ve met lots of famous people, and the one thing you learn is that we’re all human and fueled by many of the same hopes and fears. Some of us have fantastic talents that bring us to a wider audience, but that doesn’t change our basic humanity—just the tools we have for dealing with it.
Who were your childhood heroes?
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Hank Aaron. Stan and Jack took comics and reinvented them for the latter half of the twentieth century. They gave me some of my favorite characters in stories so rich that Marvel and DC are still mining them to this day.
Hank was not only a fantastic athlete but also played baseball in a less-open era when becoming the home-run king as a black man brought him a unique set of challenges. He bore up through it all like a true hero and never lost his transcendent joy for the game.
And today? Who do you look up to? Why?
You wouldn’t know my heroes. They’re not famous. They’re people I deal with every day, the ones I can really watch struggle with and triumph over life: my parents, my wife, and my kids.
Seeing how they handle their lives with as much grace as they can muster inspires me. The fact that they also depend on me to be the best son, father, and husband I can manage keeps me going through even the darkest days. And sharing with them the joys I can find only makes them that much better. //
Thank you, Matt for letting us get to know you a little bit better!
(Psst!… Stay tuned for more interviews!)