Matt Fraction went to art school. He emphasized that fact a couple of times during our interview. He wasn’t bragging or playing the artiste, he was simply describing how that experience shaped how he writes comics. It also sums up how readers view Fraction, though — he’s the indie hero who conquered the capes, an American Morrison injecting big ideas and idiosyncrasy into the often moribund world of superhero comics, while always embracing the inherent absurdity of the genre. The author of Hawkeye, Sex Criminals and Casanova writes serious comics without succumbing to the grim and maudlin tone that has seeped so thoroughly into the superhero world over the last few decades. And even when he’s writing superheroes and alternate reality science fiction spies, Fraction never loses his hold on the humanity of his characters.
Paste spoke with Fraction (who was recently announced as the collaborator on Chuck Palahniuk’s comic book sequel to Fight Club) about his career, winding him up and letting him talk about many of the books he’s written over the last decade. Here’s the second part of that interview. For Part 1, Click here.
Invincible Iron Man
Illustrated by Salvador Larroca
Published by Marvel from 2008 to 2012
Paste: Is it easy to write for Tony Stark?
Fraction: It got easier. It became effortless after a while.
Paste: Do you just imagine Robert Downey Jr. saying your lines as you write them or do you ignore the movies when you’re writing the comic?
Fraction: I was five issues in when the movie came out, so I hadn’t seen anything. I had no special knowledge. We came out the Wednesday after the movie came out. I first saw it on that Friday night, and when it was over I thought, “God, I wish I get to write Iron Man — WAITAMINUTE I DO!” and went home and finished issue #5. So Downey was never in my head. It was about being smarter than me. I was able to find myself in Stark very quickly, but it’s much harder to find Stark in myself. It’s hard trying to write brighter than me.
Paste: Did you do a lot of science or tech research?
Paste: That tends to be the stuff I read anyway. It was a very dark book to write. We predicted Mumbai, we predicted Benghazi, we predicted every horrible thing that’s happened in the world. We predicted Sandy Hook. Coke announced they’re going to start using their machines in Africa to sell things like fresh water and cellphones and batteries, and they’re calling it Downtown in a Box. It was the first time we predicted something good. I predicted ways to kill people with cellphones, I predicted drone strikes, I predicted Silk Road, I predicted lots of different stuff in that book, well, quote-predicted-unquote, as it was pretty low-hanging fruit, but we predicted lots of scary things. That was the hardest part of that book. I guarantee you my name is on watch lists. If my name isn’t on NSA watch lists, then the NSA is failing us all, because I have Googled some spooky-ass shit.
Paste: Have you ever gotten any notes from Marvel about toning down the politics?
Fraction: I haven’t. I think I sort of have a pretty good understanding of what they want from me, you know? There’s this great Alan Moore anecdote that I love to tell about when he left Swamp Thing at the height of his powers. Someone asked him why he was leaving when he was at his best and his response was, “I realized I wanted to tell stories about the environment and the big muck monster was getting in the way.” I’m very good at telling the difference between stories about the environment and stories about the muck monster.
Paste: When you’re writing a character like Iron Man, do you feel more pressure, or the need to be more careful, than when you’re writing a less popular character like Iron Fist?
Fraction: To me, it’s all the same weight and magnitude. It’s always somebody’s favorite character somewhere. And you’re going to hear from them. If you blow something, you’re going to hear from them. You have to swing as hard when you’re writing The Order as you do when you’re writing Uncanny X-Men. Otherwise people can tell. It’ll read in your work that you don’t care. It’ll read like you’re picking up a paycheck. I’ve been fortunate in my career that I’ve never written anything I wouldn’t try, that as a reader I’d at least pick up and give a shot. I’m not saying it’s all good or successful, but I’ve never taken a job just to pay a bill.
Next: The Defenders