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

Books Features Matt Fraction
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The Immortal Iron Fist
Illustrated by David Aja, Others
Published by Marvel from 2006 to 2008

  Matt Fraction : This was my second major Marvel work. I had written an issue of Punisher War Journal when I got Iron Fist.

Paste: How did you start working for Marvel?
MF: I did a graphic novel called Last of the Independents. My last name is Fritschmann, and the whole reason I’m Matt Fraction in comics is because of the Warren Ellis forum on Delphi, which is this message board. It was one of those places where not everybody in the comics internet read the Warren Ellis forum, but everybody who worked in comics did. So I got to know a lot of people, creators, writers, artists, editors, people who could hire me, as Matt Fraction; a lot of influential people were there. I kept the name because I figured it was the only promotional oomph I had. So I would talk to these people, whether it was Warren or guys like Kieron Gillen, a guy coming up like me, and it felt like we were all peers, because I didn’t know any better. Or else I was so arrogant that I didn’t let myself know better.

I would show whatever my work was, if it was comics or commercials we were directing, or music videos we made, or the animated shorts I was involved with. I came from art school. I came from a place where you communicated with your peers by sharing your work. When I finally had this book Last of the Independents in print, I went to my first San Diego, and I went around and gave it to people. I gave it to my friends. I gave it to people I knew from the internet. I gave it to people whose work I admired, because I thought that’s how you make friends.

I gave it to Axel Alonso, who had edited some of my favorite comics of all time. At that point he had recently come over to Marvel. So Axel read it, he and I started to talk, and I started to pitch to his office at Marvel. That didn’t go anywhere. I pitched for like two years, and nothing happened. I said no a lot, and they said no a lot, and we just kind of kept trying to find a fit. And literally out of the blue he called me and was like, “Hey, we’re going to do this Punisher book that’s going to launch out of Civil War, and I think you’re the guy for it. I’m not really asking anybody else to pitch on this, so don’t fuck this up, but you’ll be fine. I’m going to put you through to Ed Brubaker, who’s kind of like you — these indie guys who just came over to Marvel. He’ll help you smooth stuff out, but you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine. Just don’t fuck it up, you’ll be fine, don’t fuck me on this.” That’s how I got hired at Marvel, almost verbatim how I got hired at Marvel.

So Axel put Ed and me in touch. Ed and I had met once, but knew each other through the internet, and Ed helped me get my head into a Marvel space, just writing-wise in terms of what Marvel artists are looking to read in a script. He was helping me through the early days on Punisher. Around this time he had pitched doing Iron Fist. Ed’s secret ambition all around was to do Iron Fist comics. Marvel said he was too busy, but if he brought in a co-writer he could do it. And Ed actually asked Robert Kirkman, but Kirkman said no, and then Ed asked me, and I said yes. So I had a book-and-a-half at Marvel at their starter rate, and decided to quit my day job and become a writer full-time.

Paste: Were you already big into old pulps when you started Iron Fist?
Fraction: Yeah, totally. There was very little learning research involved. I was super into it. I remain super into it.

Paste: You put a B- or C-list character in an homage to pulps and serials from 80 years ago. Were you surprised when the readers of 2006 liked it as much as they did?
Fraction: Yeah. And remain shocked. It’s about to come back into print. It’s insane. People got tattoos. People still talk to me about it. It’s nuts. You look at Marvel and think why isn’t there a _____ book, why isn’t there this book or that book or the other book, and this was one of those books where I don’t know why Kung Fu Billionaire isn’t on issue #800 right now.

Paste: Your run was fairly short, too. Is that how it was planned or did sales butt in?
Fraction: Ed got too busy, so Ed had to leave. Sales were what they were — it was Iron Fist. It was critically acclaimed, and not losing money was enough. But David Aja was going to stop because of the schedule and other work, and Ed was going to stop because of his schedule, and I basically didn’t want to be the Mike Love of Iron Fist, the only original member left ruining what you remember about the band. So I said alright, we’ll stop at #16. I knew what my twist was, what my end was, I thought I’d do that sort of West Wing thing where you end with a “holy fuck!” moment for the next guys, and let them have fun building everything up and finding out what the new status quo is. So it felt more important to go out on a high note with everybody happy, than to be the guy who ruined the book.

Next: The Order