Comics Vitae: Matt Fraction Part I, Rex Mantooth through The Order

Books Features Matt Fraction
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Illustrated by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
Published by Image from 2006-2008 and Icon from 2010 on.

Paste: Many people still think this is your best work. How do you feel about it now?
Fraction: I have a very complicated relationship with Casanova. It was the first time anybody asked me to write a comic that had staples in the middle. I had written short stories, I had written graphic novels, but I hadn’t written a “comic book” comic book. I wanted to write something that didn’t exist. I wanted to write something that I would read, as a comics buyer. And everything else kind of came after that. Just on those terms, it remains successful. I think it says something about my own unchanging taste more than it being any kind of great accomplishment on my part. I like spies. I like superspies. I love that world, that subgenre of a subgenre of a genre. I wanted to do something in that world, because I wish there were more comics like that. And there are hardly any.

Paste: You talk about how it’s what you wanted to read, and when I was reading all the backmatter in those comics, it seemed like you were basically just throwing every cool idea you had; everything you wanted to do into this one comic. Did you have a feeling, like, “this is my shot?”
Fraction: Yeah, very 8 Mile. I think part of it is just that I came from art school. I grew up in the era of sampling, where you wear your influences on your sleeve. The easy thing to go to is Tarantino, but for me it’s like the Beastie Boys, the first time I really remember hearing that guitar riff [mouths “She’s Crafty”], to me that’s always “She’s Crafty,” not “The Ocean.” I didn’t hear “The Ocean” until I was like 13 or 14, and I was like, “oh my god, it’s that Beastie Boys riff.” That came out of a post-hip hop world, where you wear your influences on your sleeve. Whether it’s Hitchcock and Welles going back and forth with Psycho and Touch of Evil, or Martin Scorsese doing Psycho in Raging Bull, George Lucas naming characters Klaatu, Barada and Nikto…

I thought this is what you do: you wear your influences on your sleeve, and you kind of find your own voice outside of that stuff. Part of it was the fear that I was never going to get done, part of it was fear that I was never going to have a chance, part of it was just exuberance. Like, you have your whole life to make your first record, and nine months to make your second, so you just put everything into your first one, so it’s as much of an autobiographical portrait of your DNA as possible. The references are one thing, but there’s a lot of autobiography in there, for all the tits and robots and explosions and stuff. I can look back at that book and I see who I was and where I was when I was writing it. I had to go back and reread it all before I started Volume 3, and I was mortified to see what I put out to the public. It wouldn’t make sense to anyone else but me, but… yeah. I suppose it was not knowing how else to do it, but to set my rules and agenda and just go for it.

Paste: How did you hook up with Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon? Was it a coincidence that you worked with twins on a book about doppelgangers and parallel universes?
Fraction: One of many happy coincidences that live around Casanova. If the story of making Casanova was a movie, nobody would believe it. They’d find it both hard to believe and too predictable at the same time. (Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon) approached Image around the same time — this was discussed right after San Diego Comic Con. (Image Publisher) Eric Stephenson facilitated. He was like, “Matt’s doing this series called Casanova. Fabio, I think you’d be great at drawing it, what do you think?” And the boys got back and were like, [in a Brazilian accent] “We have discussed it and have decided that Gabriel should do it for you.” The boys decided Gabriel was the one who should do Casanova. I went after Fabio, and they decided Gabriel would be better at it. I’m starting to write Volume 4 for Fabio, so we’re all in it together.

Next: Iron Fist