Next in a string of interviews that are either finished, underway, or soon to be started, is Marvel’s very own, but not exclusive, Matt Fraction. Author of the popular Image comic book Casanova, and currently also writing The Uncanny X-Men and Invincible Iron Man for Marvel, Matt Fraction is a favorite among many Marvel fans. Make sure you check out his website for regular updates, and a bit of Matt Fraction randomness.
And now, on with the show.
Geeks of Doom: For the comic newbie, tell us who you are.
Matt Fraction: My name is Matt Fritchman. I write under the name “Matt Fraction.” Long, uninteresting story. I write the book Casanova, at Image Comics. I write Invincible Iron Man and The Uncanny X-Men, and I co-write Punisher War Journal with Rick Remender at Marvel Comics.
GoD: When you go home at night, what or who do you go home too? Wife or dogs?
MF: I work from home, alongside my wife Kelly Sue DeConnick, a comic writer in her own right, my son, two dogs and two cats.
GoD: Was being a comic writer a childhood dream? If not, what got you in to it?
MF: Writing was. Telling stories was. Comics, movies, stories– whatever I could do, I would do.
GoD: Did you read comics as a kid? If so, what comics did you read? Were you a DC or Marvel kid? Who was your favorite character?
MF: Yes; pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Comic strips, too– I remember reading Batman and Spider-Man as well as Peanuts and, weirdly enough, Doonesbury. When I became a weekly comic reader, I was a Marvel kid– this was just at the tail end of Crisis, so I found DC to be bizarre and impenetrable to a new reader. Spider-Man was always a favorite. Toy and movie tie-in comics. Star Wars was huge. GI Joe, later. The first comic I remember buying was Batman #316.
GoD: You started out with the smaller publishers, what were those early days like? Did you feel that you would one day make it to the big leagues?
MF: Hard, as I had a demanding day-job that could eat up each and every waking hour of my time without warning. Never fight a war on two fronts. I never thought much about where I was going; I just wanted to go and tell stories. I was grateful, if not gracious, for the opportunity, and amazed that anyone was willing to spend money publishing my work. I still don’t think I’ve made it to the big leagues– I’ve seen the big leagues, and brother, I ain’t in ‘em.
Q. When did you conceive of the idea for Casanova? Did you know that it would be ‘the one’?
MF: Oh, I dunno– I guess I started thinking about it as a comic around 2003. It cooked an awful long time. My whole life, arguably. And “The one” what? It’s one; not THE one.
GoD: ‘The one’ referred to the fact that Casanova is a huge hit, away from the big two. Is it nice having that involvement outside of DC or Marvel?
MF: Not to be argumentative, but it’s not exactly a huge hit. Nobody loses any money on Casanova but it’s not… y’know, we’re not talking about The Walking Dead here.
And yeah, it’s great having work outside of the superhero mainstream. It’s a whole different set of muscles to exercise, and it keeps me healthy, I think.
GoD: Speaking of Image, DC and Marvel, briefly, do you believe that the problems in the comic industry are a result of DC and Marvel corralling all the talent, or the distribution methods withholding comics from bookstores where non-comic readers visit?
MF: I don’t believe Marvel and DC corral talent from anyone but each other. I can’t speak to DC, but Marvel has been nothing but accommodating in allowing me to pursue creator-owned, independent, work. Distribution is definitely an issue; retail markets are another issue; the books themselves are yet ANOTHER issue. But I don’t think me being Marvel exclusive causes any problems except for maybe a DC reader that wishes I worked on that side of the street…
GoD: How is work coming for, what I guess will be called ‘Avaritia,’ the third Casanova series?
MF: It’s not; everybody’s too busy at the moment. We’re a year away or so yet. But when it comes back, I think folks’ll be happy, I think old school Casanova fans will be more than sated and new readers will find themselves at a perfect welcome point.
GoD: Were you a fan of the old heist movies?
MF: Yes. One called Charley Varrick in particular I magpied half to death for Last of the Independents.
GoD: What was it like being part of the SDCC Comic Visionaries panel?
MF: One of those things was not like the other, and it was me. I saw Sam Jackson picking at a fruit plate and working on his laptop in the green room. It was like that.
GoD: What was the first thing you ever wrote and had published? Was it any good?
MF: Hmm. Outside of, like, student newspapers? A magazine article about internet dating. And no, it wasn’t any good.
GoD: What was the first thing you wrote for Marvel? How did you get on board with them?
MF: A Wolverine short story in X-Men Unlimited #9. I gave copies of a graphic novel I did with Kieron Dwyer called Last of the Independents to Axel Alonso– or alternately Axel came in contact with it outside of my devices, I can’t honestly recall, but I sure gave it to every editor that’d shake my hand. Anyway, that got me working in his office, submitting pitches and learning the ropes.
GoD: You wrote The Immortal Iron Fist with Ed Brubaker, what was it like working with him?
MF: It was great. He’s one of my best friends in comics, and in the real world besides, as well as an incredible teacher. Coming from the indy world, it was a terrific crash-course in writing comics the Marvel way.
GoD: How did you end up working on Immortal Iron Fist? Was he a character you had wanted to work on?
MF: Ed asked– he was overworked, but wanted very badly to write the book. I was brought in to help him shoulder the burden. I think he asked [Robert] Kirkman first, who said no.
GoD: What’s your favorite part about writing Danny?
MF: His depth. I like that he’s so deep he comes off as a flakey space cadet, but in fact he’s got oceans inside of him. I find very reassuring, if not outright aspirational.
GoD: What is it like dealing with David Aja? How do you manage with his location?
MF: It’s a joy. And a pleasure. He made us look far smarter than we really were. And I’m pretty nocturnal anyway– me and Aja keep near-identical hours… and our babies were born maybe six months apart. David’s a wonder. I love working with him.
GoD: The first issues of both Invincible Iron Man & The Order both begin with the main characters talking about their experience with alcoholism. How important do you think this trait is to the characters, and do you feel like a comic book writer has a particular responsibility in portraying a real-world problem like addiction?
MF: To Henry and Tony? It’s key. It’s a defining trait. I don’t think a writer has any responsibility to anything other than their story, whatever that story may be. In fact I tend to find the intermingling of real-world problems to be oftentimes handed clumsily and with too heavy a hand. I might be as guilty of that as anyone, I dunno.
GoD: Can you share any ideas or story points that you would have used in The Order if it had continued beyond 10 issues?
GoD: Does this mean that we might be seeing some visits to some of those story points in the near future? Is there any plans for any of the Order characters in the near future that you are aware of?
MF: Henry, maybe in Iron Man at some point, but I’m not sure when. I’d like to write a scene with he and Tony again. And I believe the team’ll be seen in some capacity during Secret Invasion, but not from me– I thought it’d be kind of weird, or kind of rude at the very least, to shoehorn the team into my other stuff…
GoD: How did you come up with the idea for The Order? Did it actually spawn from Lost, in how you deal with your characters, or did that influence come later?
MF: They were in Civil War, and it seemed like a fun idea. I’m interested in the notion of civic responsibility and volunteerism, in real world heroism in big ways and small. The excellent Peter Milligan X-Force book had sort of covered the idea of superhero team as sleazy Hollywood wannabes; I wanted to do a book about regular people volunteering for a superhero army.
There were some ideas we inherited and others we brought to the table; the Lost thing just seemed like a great way to introduce all the new characters in a way that made sense. And it gave us a little structure to play with, and play off of.
GoD: What is next for Matt Fraction? Anyone you haven’t worked on that your dying too?
MF: I’m gonna finish writing my bits of Punisher War Journal #25 tonight.
GoD: What are you currently reading? Both in and out of comics? Who are some of your favorite authors, once again, both in and out of comics.
MF: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon and Brave New War by John Robb. Comicswise, the remastered Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg! And old Walt Simonson Thor comics. Favorites? Oh, man, that’s a long long long list. I love everybody, everywhere, ever.
GoD: Finally, I was also told to ask you about this shirt– any comment?
Keep your eyes peeled for Invincible Iron Man #5. And you can download that image on my website and make your own.