Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Matt Fraction Pt. 1

The writer of the INVINCIBLE IRON MAN goes in depth about the series' past, present and future



By Kevin Mahadeo

His brain is his greatest weapon.

Although that statement applies directly to the Marvel Universe's high-flying hero Iron Man, it goes just as well with the mind behind the ironclad Avenger's self-titled series, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN: writer Matt Fraction.

Launching in July 2008 two months after the release of the blockbuster "Iron Man" film, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN quickly became one of the Marvel Universe's top titles. For two years, Fraction has guided Tony Stark as he struggled against the son of one of his oldest enemies, the man who dethroned him as head honcho of the Marvel Universe and his own personal demons. Most recently, Tony made the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect not only the identity of his super powered friends, but also the entire world from the power hungry Norman Osborn. Now the man always looking toward the future finds himself with a brain stuck in the past.

Fraction takes readers on a look back at his entire run on the ground-breaking series and teases what's to come in the future in this  special two day Q&A on INVINCIBLE IRON MAN. In today's first half, the author reminisces on what attracted him to the Armored Avenger to begin with, the pitch that got him the title and Tony Stark's tragic path of redemption.


Marvel.com: You first launched INVINCIBLE IRON MAN almost two years ago, right around the time the "Iron Man" movie hit theaters. What were your thoughts going into the book then being so close timing wise to the film?

Matt Fraction: You know [IRON MAN] was one of the first Marvel books that I read as a kid month in and month out. I just wanted to write and pen an Iron Man book that I would have wanted to read. I didn't have any special access or information about the film that anybody reading Variety or Entertainment Weekly wouldn't have. Based on casting information and what we knew of both in front and behind the camera, I tried to write a book that I thought would have fit with what they were trying to do and the movie they were trying to make. But in the end, I just wanted to write the Iron Man book I'd want to read. It's very modest. [Laughs] I hadn't seen the movie. I didn't know anything about the movie. It's not the kind of thing you have any control over or own or can exploit or can be blamed for. I just wanted to write a book about a character that I loved.

Marvel.com: What about the Iron Man books attracted you in the first place when you were growing up?

Matt Fraction: Well, the armor is cool. And I liked Tony. He was the guy that I liked as much out of the suit as I did in the suit. My first regular [as a reader] was [IRON MAN #198] and at that point Rhodey was Iron Man and Tony was coming back and Obadiah Stane making his big power play. And then in issue #200, there was a new suit of armor. It felt very dramatic. It was like there was a status quo but it could just transfer inside out at any given point. People died. It was big. I liked how big and fearsome it all felt. It felt very, very epic to me. Again, I was coming in to the last three issues of a three-year storyline, but it did the trick.

Marvel.com: From looking at the character when you were a reader to now him, have your opinions or views of Iron Man changed at all?

Matt Fraction: I don't think I've thought about it like that. And I didn't really analyze the character in that way before I started writing, you know what I mean? I don't know how to articulate it. I feel like I know the character better, having spent as much time in his head that I have. But I hadn't really thought about what it was like inside his head before.

Marvel.com: Looking at your first arc, "The Five Nightmares," it set a tone for the series. It had a very cool thriller, high-tech feel to it, but it was also quite grounded in realism. It felt like it could take place in a real-world setting. Was that the tone you wanted for this book and where you wanted to take it when you first started?

Matt Fraction: Yeah, absolutely. It's as much a science fiction book to me as it is a super hero book. And the science fiction I respond to the most has recognizable aspects of the real world. We finished our first storyline, which had kids with backpacks blowing up cities and then two months later

kids with backpacks blew up Mumbai. And they didn't need repulsor bombs to do it. I wanted [INVINCIBLE IRON MAN] to feel like the old "Max Headroom" show, which said [it] takes place 20 minutes into future.

Marvel.com: What about the science fiction genre do you like?

Matt Fraction: I think it lets you talk about things that are happening and things that are going on in the world around you without having to do it quite so on-the-nose. When you're talking about a 22-page super hero comic, it's not the best place in the world for polemics on geopolitics or the philosophies of terrorism in modern warfare and responding to asymmetrical terror threats and all that stuff. It's a super hero comic, so it still needs to be fun and needs to be an Iron Man comic. So, cloaking it a little bit in science fiction lets you talk about more than you can normally get away with otherwise. In the way that "Twilight Zone" could talk about issues of the day but cloak it in the genre. Not that it's allegorical 100 percent, but it lets you talk about more than you'd be able to otherwise. It gives it a little weight.

Marvel.com: The "World's Most Wanted" story arc, the second of the series, ran for almost an entire year. During that time, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN was one of the only places you could find Tony Stark in the Marvel Universe. What was it like having pretty much sole control of the character following his massive exposure during and post-Civil War?

Matt Fraction: I think it was the pitch that got me the book, honestly. Tony had been everywhere for three years. I thought it was important to make him feel dogged and on the run and hunted and chased. People were very kind to let me do that. If Tony was in six books at once and in only one of them he was the most wanted guy on the planet and being hunted everywhere, I didn't think it would feel like he was really in trouble. And I knew where it was going to end up. I knew what the last line was. I knew what Tony's state was going to be coming out of it and I felt that if he was showing up in all these other places simultaneously you'd never believe the danger. After Tony got to ride high and be king of the world, I think his fall needed to feel big and petty and real and part of that was reducing his visibility somewhat to make you suspect that he wasn't going to be able to smirk his way out.

Marvel.com: You talk about Tony not being able to smirk his way out and after Civil War and Secret Invasion, Tony was on the bad side of both characters in the Marvel Universe and fans as well. "Most Wanted" really helped redeem the character. Why do you feel he not only needed to be redeemed but deserved redemption?

Matt Fraction: Well, my question [on that] would be bigger than your question and my answer would be bigger than your answer. This was a guy that used to make landmines. This was the guy who made money selling landmines, the guy that made money selling things to blow other people up with. So, when I thought about Tony needing redemption, it was further back than Civil War and recent history. It went back to his life before he was Iron Man. Part of the reason we ended up in a cave in Afghanistan was to show what his effects on the world were, to show what his legacy really is. He is a component in a very complicated equation and a very tragic equation in a lot of ways. So, that's why he needed redemption. That was what he was seeking to be redeemed for. As to why he deserves redemption, I think it's because he is a good guy and he's realized that while there's no undoing the past, you can certainly make a better future. And he gave everything he had to try and do that and to try and protect people. Saving lives doesn't mean killing other guy, you know? That if anything is hopefully propelling him forward.

Come back tomorrow for part two of this interview in which Fraction discusses what's ahead for Tony Stark and INVINCIBLE IRON MAN!


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