Meet Matt Veraldo
May 19, 2016
Matt Veraldo, who writes under the penname of Mister V, may often be found in the back of the Granby Library, reading old copies of Grand County's newspapers on microfilm. A cartoonist, Mister V is passionate about sharing the stories, then and now, of Grand County.
A native Coloradan, Veraldo grew up in Lakewood, and was fortunate that his family purchased a cabin in Grand Lake when he was about 10 years old. Remembering guys week-ends out, Matt tells of ice-fishing on Grand Lake with his dad, being frightened as the ice moaned, conjuring up images of Native American ghosts. These ghosts were the subjects of many of the Native American folktales Mr. Veraldo spun for his son as they waited for fish to bite. One of these stories, the Legend of Spirit Lake, is on his list,waiting to be told in cartoon form.
Summertime in Grand Lake was a magical time for Matt. His parents had opened a comic book store on Grand Avenue, with the intent of giving him something to do. As a result, Matt spent every summer day during his high school year behind the counter of the comic book store
"I got to read comics all day," he said.
It was a valuable time to learn to be still—very important for one who would become a writer and artist. He is quick to say that the store was "not about money—but about helping me become responsible and accountable." He was in charge of ordering books, managing the accounts, and visiting with the customers. He found that being part of Grand Lake's summer culture was unlike anything he had ever experienced. In fact, when he had to go back home for high school in Lakewood, he found himself dreaming of the small town, the lake, the alpine forests. He said "It was depressing to go back to the city. I just never felt at home there."
When asked when he began to draw, Matt replied, "I always doodled. I drew on my homework, in the margins of essays—my teachers were always treated to my drawing." The first adult cartoon Matt ever created was about a middle school with students who were monsters. The teacher was Medusa, who could turn students into stone. He says he still has this cartoon, but certainly wouldn't ever try to publish it.
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What does it mean to be a cartoonist?
"A cartoonist is a storyteller—not just about super-heroes. Telling stories with which I grew up is crucial for me."
He believes that everyone in Colorado should know about our legends and stories. When he moved to Granby he expected the stories of the Utes and Arapahoes to be common knowledge, but found that very few knew them. He delights in finding an item about which he can spin a tale. For example, he says that just down from his house there is a panning contraption. Obviously, the Fraser River has changed course over time and it was left behind. He can't wait to find out more about this piece of equipment and tell its story.
Living in a place steeped in history gives Matt something to celebrate each day. He says that it's easy to take for granted the little things that have value.
"In Grand County we value our community, we are generous with each other, we know our neighbors, and we have a past," he said.
"Our county is 100 percent unique. It's not easy to live here because we are somewhat isolated—but that is just what many of us love. The winters are tough, but we like them. We do not have access to many material goods, but we choose to do without or find them elsewhere."
"We tend to think of comics and cartoons as for children. That is absolutely not true," says Mister V. Masterful cartoonists can create cartoons that engage children as well as adults, delivering a message on two levels. The cartoonists that he considers masters are Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, and Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side. Mister V says that a cartoon is well-written minimalism—like a haiku. "You have to draw a thousand pages of comics before you can do a good one."
Matt works with would-be writers and cartoonists at the Comix Club at Granby Library and Kremmling Library. The Comix Club meets during May in Kremmling and will convene again in August in Granby. The only requirement for participating is a desire to draw and write. Mister V's first book, Grand Beginnings: a life is grand collection, has just been published and will be available at each of the Grand County Library District's branches.