Matt Wagner was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania (in Amish Country, no less). Fresh out of art school he created a short story about a professional assassin who called himself Grendel and submitted it to little known independent comic book publisher Comico. That short story (published in Comico Primer #2) would lead to one of comics most enduring creator owned characters, and a career that spans over three decades now. Wagner has created stories and artwork for DC, Image, Marvel, and a slew of indy publishers. He is equally versatile with both writing and art, and his work runs the gamut from scripting to covers work, to full on writer/artist duties. Wagner currently lives in Portland Oregon with his wife Barbara Schutz. Barbara is the sister of his friend and long time editor Diana Schutz. Barbara is also the basis of the character Magda in Wagner's series Mage: The Hero Defined.
Matt has done lots of work for many comics companies, but these are the highlights.
Matt Wagner's first published work was a Grendel story in the second issue of Comico's anthology comic Comico Primer, in 1982. The following year, Wagner started a Grendel series that lasted only three issues before Comico cancelled it due to financial concerns. The third time was the charm for Grendel, and a new regular series written by Wagner with art by Arnold and Jacob Pander started in 1986. This series ended in 1990 with issue #40 and the demise of Comico in a mess of bankruptcy legalities. It would be two years before Wagner was allowed to work on his own creation, however in 1992 he brought his book to Dark Horse Comics and what would have been issues 41 - 51 were published as Grendel: War Child. Grendel's publication history is all over the map so, here's a handy breakdown:
Dark Horse (In reading order rather than chronological).
In 1993, Matt Wagner opened up the Grendel sandbox for other writers and artists to play in. The result, Grendel Tales, was a series of mini series that ran concurrent with the Dark Horse reprints. Wagner's involvement in these was little more than occasional covers and a running backup feature.
One final little oddball in the sprawling Grendel saga is a two issue mini series published in 1999. Grendel: Devil Child was written by Wagner's sister-in-law Diana Schutz with art by Tim Sale. It fits in well with the Grendel Tales series as Wagner had little to do with it.
In 1984 Matt Wagner began his semi-autobiographical tale Mage: The Hero Discovered. The initial series ran 15 issues and even though it ended before Comico's collapse, the publishing rights were still tied up in litigation for a few years. A 13 year gap ensued while the rights were ironed out and Wagner waited for his muse to strike. In 1997 he published the second part of his planned Mage trilogy, Mage: The Hero Defined. It lasted 15 issues with a 0 issue reprinting the brief Mage backup stories previously printed in Grendel Vol. 2 #16-19. A third and final chapter Mage: The Hero Denied is planned, however Wagner has not set any firm publishing date.
Mage is, as noted, semi-atuobiographical; Kevin Matchstick stands in for Wagner. He looks like Wagner and has aged (and grown a pony tail and then balded) as Wagner has. Wagner also, interestingly, drew a hitman in an early issue of the first volume of Grendel (before Mage), in such a way that he looks just like Matchstick and himself.
Matt Wagner has enjoyed a long relationship with DC. He has done copious amounts of work for them. What follows are the highlights:
- 1993 Eisner Award for best limited series, Grendel: War Child
- 1999 Eisner Award for best anthology Grendel Black, White & Red
- 1999 Eisner Award for best short story "Devil's Advocate" in Grendel: Black, White & Red