Kevin Matchstick was an ordinary person until one night while coming home from work, he met a mysterious stranger. Kevin, normally a quiet and reticent man, opens up to the vagrant. The two discuss personal philosophies and Kevin goes on his way. Later, odd things start happening to him, starting with Kevin witnessing a complete stranger being attacked in a back alley. Spurred on by an odd compulsion, Kevin jumps to the man's rescue. He chases off the attacker, but he's too late to save the victim. Over the course of the next few days, Kevin proceeds through several more increasingly violent attacks, surviving them all with hardly a scratch. The vagrant eventually reveals himself to be a mage called Mirth, and begins revealing information, slowly at first, about why Kevin suddenly has super powers. Eventually, Mirth enlists Kevin in the war of light against darkness, and they fight all manner of evil creature, gathering friends to help along the way. In the end, after all of their friends have died protecting Kevin while he was most vulnerable, Mirth finally reveals that Kevin is an avatar, and the personification of Arthur Pendragon, just as Mirth is the personification of the wizard Merlin. Kevin's mission is to defend the Fisher King who's blood can be used in a ritual to tip the balance of the war in favor of the darkness.
Kevin Matchstick was created by Matt Wagner for his series, Mage: The Hero Discovered. Kevin's physical appearance is based off an early self portrait that Matt drew, and as Matt has aged, so has Kevin. In fact his overall character evolution is supposed to be loosely autobiographical. (Many of the other characters are also based on other real-life comic artists.) Matt has a total of three mini-series planned for Kevin, the first two of which have been published. The final story in the cycle, Mage: The Hero Denied, has yet to receive a release date.
Kevin's first appearances are rife with callowness and disbelief. It takes a long time and the death of several of his friends to give him the maturity to accept what he is, and to take up the mantle as the leader of the fight against the darkness. As the years pass and Kevin grows more confident in his powers, he grows more arrogant, and even a bit jaded to the damage he causes in people's lives. He still fights the good fight, but he doesn't allow for other people's agendas, which often puts him at odds with the other heroes he meets on his journeys. When Kevin finally encounters his second mage, Wally Ut, he doesn't even realize it and it nearly gets him and his two companions killed. At the end of the second story arc, Wally Ut reveals that Kevin is not just the avatar of The Pendragon, but that he is also Gilgamesh the Sumerian. Kevin accepts these changes more quickly this time around, and easily saves himself from a tidal wave of evil darkness by piercing it with his inner light. In the end he proposes to his new girlfriend Magda, realizing that life is what you make of it, not merely what happens to you along the way.
Kevin has a few characteristics of note: he is afraid of heights, he loves Cherry-Coke, and he always wears his lighting-bolt t-shirt. At first, we merely see him wear it all the time, and take it as if it is a superhero costume. However, in his world, there are no classic superheroes. Instead, this is just a normal t-shirt, and eventually we see that he actually just has a load of the same t-shirts, so every time one gets destroyed, he can put on a new one. Later, in the Hero Defined, it turns out that most of the other avatars also wear t-shirts with some kind of emblem on them. The degree to which he is afraid of heights changes from time to time. Originally it was an overwhelming fear, but by the end of The Hero Discovered, he was confident enough in his power that he was largely over it. However, in The Hero Defined he is once again afraid of heights, for instance both in the Grand Canyon and in the cliffs of Dzoxk.
Kevin's appearance has changed over time. At first he wore a brown leather jacket, jeans, and grey jogging shoes. He had a black beard and short hair. By the end of The Hero Discovered, his hair had grown long enough in the back to tie it in a short ponytail.
In the first Interlude story, which took place some years afterwards, he was cleanshaven, had replaced the leather jacket with a trenchcoat, wore cargo pants instead of jeans, and wore red high-top Chuck Taylors instead of the jogging shoes. His hair was in a full ponytail.
In The Hero Defined, he had somewhat long hair in the back (usually not in a ponytail), and short on top. He once again had a beard. He still wore the trenchcoat and cargo pants, and now wore black high-top Chuck Taylors, except that the familiar Converse star logo was replaced with a white lightning bolt, as seen on his shirt. (It's not overly punctilious to provide these shoe details: Wagner showed a close-up on his shoes each time he got a new pair, so he obviously considered them to be of some import.) At the end, when the Bat blew up, it blew off the hair from the top of his head, giving the impression of male-pattern-baldness.
These changes in his appearance loosely mimic the changes Wagner himself has gone through over the decades that he has been writing Mage.
Major Story Arcs
The major story arcs revolving around Kevin Matchstick, all relate to his growth and development as a hero. The development is foreshadowed by their titles.
Powers and Abilities
Kevin's powers stem from the fact that he is the reincarnation of several ancient heroes including King Arthur Pendragon and Gilgamesh the Sumerian. Kevin has demonstrated super strength, invulnerability, and heightened durability at various times. He described his powers this way in The Hero Defined: "So long as I'm in [the Bat]s] general vicinity, I'm fairly resistant to harm. More so, if it's in-hand. Normally I'm right-handed but--with the Bat--my aim and dexterity are flawless. My balance and agility, precise." At this point he holds the bat horizontally between his hands and does a handstand, with the Bat balanced on a small rock like a see-saw.
His strength and durability have varied. Partly this is because his power works best when it is used in the service of the struggle against the powers of darkness. For instance, Kevin was still able to accidentally get a splinter; he was also hurt when he asked Rashem to punch him in the stomach solely in order to prove himself to his cellmates. The variance in his power levels has also changed due to his experience as a hero: the greater understanding and belief he has in his power, the better he is able to take advantage of it. There is also somewhat of a power level change between The Hero Discovered and The Hero Defined.
In The Hero Discovered, Kevin was able to accomplish the following durability feats: He survived being run over by a several-car subway train with no effects whatsoever. He fell 5 or 6 stories, and later was thrown from the top of a football stadium to the field with no ill effect. He jumped from the top of an elevator shaft and fell through the elevator car and to the bottom of the shaft without being hurt. He jumped from the top of the Styx, which was over 20 stories high, creating a hole in the sidewalk where he fell, and was totally fine. These feats all comport to the Umbra Sprite's comment that Matchstick is "beyond any harm this world has to offer him." He was eventually totally immune to Redcap slings (which at the beginning Mirth thought might hurt him, at least when in the faerie realms), shrugging off scores of them pelting him at once. He was able to enter the mouth of the dragon Cromm Cruich, which was full of magical fire, without harm.
In The Hero Defined, Kevin's durability was still superhuman but seemed somewhat lower than before. He survived a fall from a high cliff in the Grand Canyon into the Colorado river. He absorbed a kick from a bridge troll, but it caused him pain. When he fought the Dragonslayer, an avatar seemingly at his own level of strength and durability, he was visibly bloody and bruised. When the Bat reacted negatively to this fight, it used its power to burn his hands severely--enough so that even after Joe tried to heal him, and after Isis used a healing poultice on him, he sill needed to wear gloves while holding the Bat for a long time afterwards. He was still able to tank a hail of Redcap pellets without any effort. He was bitten by a poisonous Sprigginflint but suffered no ill effects, possibly because he killed it by sending the Bat's energy through his arm, thus negating the poison. At one point Magda gave him a spell of protection, and interestingly it came into effect when he was shot by a cyclops' eye-blast. This somewhat implies that the eye-blast would have been enough to hurt him if it weren't for the spell. The Sprigginflints knocked a giant boulder (about 15x15x15') on him, which apparently hurt him pretty badly. He said he was only protected by a shield that the Bat threw up, and that if the boulder moved, it might crush his legs. This seems to not only go against the Umbra Sprite's pronouncement that he can no longer be injured by anything of this world, it also seems like it goes against several past situations, like being run over by a subway or falling from enormous heights several times.
In terms of his strength, he had the following strength feats in The Hero Discovered: He kicked a Grackleflint up and behind him perhaps 20-40' against a wall. He punched a hole in a brick wall. He jumped onto the field goal posts of a football field and ripped a post off, then beat an ogre to "death" with it. He easily whizzed a cinderblock through the air. He ripped the bars off a jail cell. He kicked his foot through a car door. He easily lifted a piano. He leapt from the top of one skyscraper to the top of another across the street; Mirth said that he had to make sure to too jump too far when attempting this. Most impressively, he flipped over the enormous dead body of Cromm Cruich, which would have weighed a hundred of tons or more, with one hand.
In The Hero Defined, his strength was, like his durability, still high but perhaps not quite so much as before. He could easily jump through a high-up warehouse window, and used a tree to catapult himself far into the air, landing without damage. He ripped the trunk off a car. He was apparently not as strong as Kirby Hero, the Olympian: when a boulder fell on him, he couldn't lift it, but Kirby could (although it's true that Kevin didn't have any leverage). (Mirth's book on the avatars also says that Kirby is stronger than Kevin.) Even Kirby had to strain to lift the boulder, though, and it was far, far smaller than the body of Cromm Cruich. This variance in strength (able to flip a dragon with one hand, unable to lift a boulder) might be partially explained by the importance of the deed in relation to the struggle: the dragon was a major hazard, but the boulder was a more minor incident, and Kirby was there anyway, so perhaps his strength just did not need to rise to the challenge.
His greatest powers so far, however stemmed from his use of a magic baseball bat which is the reincarnation of the sword Excalibur. When Mirth first revealed its magic, he said it would act similarly to a cattleprod, and this seemed to be borne out when Edsel used it. However, once Kevin took it on, its magic fully asserted itself, and it became much more powerful, enabling him to kill many faerie monsters. The Bat was usually powerful enough to destroy a "nasty" in one stroke. However for more powerful creatures it may take several hits to destroy them. In The Hero Defined, Kevin was also able to use it to fire energy blasts. These blasts were enough to take down the Dragonslayer or destroy a boulder. It could return to his hand when he throws it. He could use it to block magical attacks, such as dragon fire or a cyclops' energy blast. He could heal injuries or recharge someone's health, including mortal wounds, as he demonstrates when he negated the Sprigginflint poison in Bartholomew Gretch, or when he reinvigorated Joe Phat and revived Kirby Hero at the end of The Hero Defined. The total amount of energy the Bat contained was very high--enough so that when Emil siphoned off a portion of its energy over time, it was enough to bring life to the Man-Mountain of Dzoxk and to give the golem's shield enough power to hurt the Olympian. Kevin was later able to take this shield and use it to project energy blasts himself. He was also able to conceal the Bat's powers and make it look like a normal bat for a short time.
Kevin's powers come from the faerie realms, the source of all the avatars' powers, as well as the source of power for the World Mage and the evil faerie creatures. Originally, it was said that the Bat was the conduit for his power. However, he eventually destroyed the Bat when he resurrected Kirby Hero, and yet he still retained his powers. When Kevin met the Dragonslayer, the Dragonslayer said he once used a power object like the Bat, but now no longer needed it. It may be that Kevin no longer needs the Bat, or it may be that he will find a new form for it.