One of the single best comics out there right now is the current run of Iron Man written by the amazing Matt Fraction, who also currently writes the equally amazing current run of Uncanny X-Men. He's one of my favorite comics writers right now.
Every week, Marvel has a digital column called Cup o'Joe where the editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada sits down to answer fan questions. From time to time, though, "Joey Q" isn't able to make make the interview/Q and A, and someone has to sub. When they do, the discussion tends to go a bit more into their writing and/or art. The column is always good, but this week it's outstanding because Matt Fraction is the sub.
Here are some of his answers to some great questions posed to him about his writing:
JM: Personally speaking, I loved Last of the Independents and Rex Mantooth. And it kinda begs the question…some people wanna be the rock band playing the arena shows, and some are content to be the world’s coolest bar band. I think Mantooth and so on is obviously your bar band stage.
Do you now wanna play the arenas?
MF: Y’know…the Beatles used to play secret shows. REM plays secret shows. Prince is famous for playing a three-hour arena show, then going to some small club, unannounced, and continuing to play ’til 3 AM. You know what I mean? To continue that metaphor…I think there’s room for both. I wanna do both. I also wanna be kind of like [movie director] Steven Soderbergh. I wanna do what I want to do, and if it falls into a place of commercial success…great. Soderbergh kind of says, “Hey, I’m gonna do Ocean’s 13 and it’s gonna be a huge hit…” and that earns him the freedom to go to Argentina and make a four-hour biopic on Che Guevara that’s totally in Spanish.
Then he’ll come back and do The Informant. That’s my speed. Jumping around to whatever interests me. But any commercial success is just a by-product. I just don’t have that kind of mind to calculate it out. I just want to tell my stories and do what I want to do and hope for the best. And sometimes you get lucky, which is almost what’s happening with the Che movie. Originally, it was just going to play in New York and L.A., but it sold out every show and they realized, “Hey, we really have something here!” So every now and then…who knows? Your bar gig becomes the arena show.
JM: In your Soderbergh analogy, is your perfect world in the comics business? Given your druthers, what do you wanna be when you grow up?
MF: I miss shooting films. I really do. But ultimately, I just want to tell stories, I want to tell stories with words and pictures, and however the stories get out there is fine. And now I really feel part of comics, and also can’t imagine myself not doing that. Regardless if it’s Uncanny X-Men or me drawing on grocery bags with a stick of charcoal, I can’t imagine myself not making comics. So…I don’t have a need to say “Mission accomplished” right now. There’s a whole world still out there. So onward and upward.
JM: In “telling your stories,” what is it about, say, the X-Men that you find appealing?
MF: X-Men is the ultimate metaphor book. All comics are metaphor to a certain extent, and we can go to art school and talk about signs and signifiers until we both fall asleep, but…for anyone who’s ever felt picked on or beat up on by the world, or is a minority or an outcast, this is where you connect with the X-Men on some level. And with that is the nobility of “sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them.” They don’t agree with what the world says, but they’ll defend to the death their right to say it. That’s what attracts me.
JM: So they’re a bunch of Patrick Henrys, but with laser beams for eyes.
MF: Well, that’s exactly the flip side. It’s the coolest special effects comics! They’re the coolest characters in comics, period. They’ve got wings, eye beams, claws, they’re beautiful, they’re handsome, you name it. It’s the coolest comic to write from that standpoint—I like the chrome on the outside just as much as I like the engine under the hood.
JM: How ’bout Iron Man? What’s inside you there that you wanna write that?
MF: It’s sorta like a science fiction book, but the future is taking place just 20 minutes from now. I just wrote a scene recently where a character helps pilot a plane with two dead engines into a dead-glide landing, and…well, look what just happened. It’s weird when you’re trying to come up with these “day after tomorrow” science fiction concepts and then they happen. But this should be a science fiction book. Yes, it’s about superheroes as well, but at its heart, it’s about this guy who’s got this test pilot mentality. He’s not just going to build the plane, he’s going to fly it, too. He’s got this Howard Hughes-ian mentality and compulsion. It’s fun to write a character like that. But I think looking at it as a science fiction book—in my mind, at least—puts it in a very cool world, with a totally open canvas.
JM: So what’s the next frontier? There’s gotta be another Marvel character you dig that you’d really like to put a stamp on, right?
MF: I think it’s less characters, more “kinds of stories..."