We talk with Invincible Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men's Matt Fraction.
by Joey Esposito
Heading into the Baltimore Comic-Con, taking place October 10-11, we got a chance to talk with one of the hottest writers in comics, as well as con attendee Matt Fraction. Currently writing Invincible Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men, Fraction came onto the indie comics scene with his Casanova, then to Marvel with Punisher: War Journal, eventually leading to a long and highly praised stint on Immortal Iron Fist.
Since then, Fraction has become a key player in the events over at Marvel, working on some of their hottest titles coming out of Secret Invasion and Dark Reign. We chat about his start in the industry, his indie work, and what he has planned for Tony Stark.
CraveOnline: Hey Matt, thanks for taking the time to talk with us, we'll start it off pretty simple. How did you get your start in comics?
Matt Fraction: Being a fan, first off. They've always been a part of my life. I worked in a store for a few years and did a ton of shows as a dealer. Then coming out of school I was making short films and animated pieces and stuff around the same time that internet culture and comics fan culture were combining, and I was - just as a hobby, mind - writing a lot about comics online, reviewing them and opining into the ether because I was so smart and blah blah blah. Anyway I realized I was a loudmouth armchair quarterback and got really quite embarrassed by it. I decided it was time to put up or shut up - or put up AND shut up, I suppose - and started to try and get work out into the world. The animation stuff served as a kind of calling card, it was the work that got me work as it showed, I don't know, some degree of visual sensibility and writing ability or whatever. Anyway the animation stuff and the writing-about-comics stuff led to my first published short works and indy works. I just made sure everything I ever had published got into the hands of guys who could pay me to write for THEM, and that was how I got to Marvel.
CraveOnline: You've been instrumental in the shaping of the current Marvel Universe with books like Invincible Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men. What's it like being a part of that machine as opposed to doing creator-owned work?
Matt Fraction: I'm not sure I'd say it's a machine - I think machine suggests that we're all helpless and identity-less cogs, and implies a certain... I dunno, soul-crushing and identity-eschewing drudgery. The Marvel stuff is very much like being a writer on a TV show; there are a dozen other people in a room with you, and some producer-types, and there's a general direction that's decided upon as a group and then you go off and do your best stuff on your little corner. Does that make sense? It's a big collaboration on the macro level.
My creator-owned stuff, though, is just me and my artists. A smaller loop, but still a collaborative one. I don't want employees, I want co-conspirators, yknow? Whether that's the guy or girl drawing the stuff or coloring it or lettering it or reading it-- everybody on the team has a seat at the table.
CraveOnline: Are there any plans to return to Casanova?
Matt Fraction: Yes! Very soon. Very very very soon. Dotting I's, crossing T's, clearing schedules, and fueling up on weapons-grade science fiction hallucinogens and glam rock. I don't know if we'll be ready to announce stuff officially at Baltimore but we'll be very close.
CraveOnline: One of my personal favorite issues that you've written at Marvel is Punisher: War Journal #4, featuring the wake of super-villain Stilt Man. For an issue taking place, at the time, in the heart of Civil War, what is it like toning down the "event comic" madness to focus on relatively self-contained issue? Is there a pressure there, either from fans or editorial, to keep the tie-ins relevant?
Matt Fraction: Hey, thanks. I guess the only pressure I feel to keep a tie-in relevant is self-imposed-- otherwise, why tie in at all? A big inspiration to me with that stuff was Grant Morrison's brilliant ANIMAL MAN, early in his career, where he'd zero in on these small scale human stories in the middle of the Big Events the book was tying in to... or look at what Brian Bendis did with SECRET INVASION, where he was doing these epic, massive, arena-rock stories in one book, and then a tiny, human-scale story in another, and it all fit together in this really amazing watchwork of a story. I wish Marvel would release a huge SECRET INVASION that put out all of Brian's stuff in order it was released so you can read it all as one weird Michael Bay meets Robert Altman epic...
The practical side of going small is you don't have to worry about the other moving parts nearly as much; the impractical side is that if you don't have a story there you look like a chump for slapping a tie-in where it doesn't belong to juice your sales. Story is king, story is all, whether you go big or keep it small. And if it's not there you're doomed.
CraveOnline: What are your plans for Invincible Iron Man? The new storyarc is called "Tony Stark: Disassembled". How can you drag the man through mud anymore than he's already been?
Matt Fraction: No more dragging through mud; now it's time to dig down into the mud and see what's buried there.... all the king's horses and all the king's men gather to put Humpty Dumpty back together again only... well, maybe Humpty doesn't WANT to get put back together. If WORLD'S MOST WANTED was about stripping everything away from Tony Stark, DISASSEMBLED is about burnishing what's left to see if he's got what it takes to rise up again.
CraveOnline: You've been on Iron Man since the beginning, how long are you on board?
Matt Fraction: As long as they'll have me. I've got at least through 50 planned out.
CraveOnline: The Baltimore Comic-Con is coming up pretty quickly. Do you enjoy all the convention hopping that comes with the job?
Matt Fraction: Yeah, absolutely. Being able to say thank you to the people that afford me the ridiculous job I have, to shake some hands and sign my name, seems the very least I can do. Also I get to go to places I've never been, like Baltimore, which I've only driven through. I can't wait to visit all the locations where they filmed THE WIRE.
CraveOnline: Is there anything new coming up for you that you can tell us about?
Matt Fraction: Big announcements are happening in the X-Men universe at the show... keep your ears open and keep watching the skies...!