Matt Fraction Q&A

Punisher and Iron Fist writer talks shop

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By Sean Viola

The wind whips through New York City. It's a cold autumn day, the eve of Thanksgiving, and the city is bustling. Walking down 5th Avenue, the wind whispers a name: Matt Fraction. It's not a name currently universally recognized by comic fans worldwide, but until a few years ago, neither was Bendis. Fortunately for the young writer, he's got a one-two punch lined up to get people's attention. First up is Punisher War Journal, the triumphant return of Frank Castle back into the Civil War-focused world. And backing up Punisher, Fraction's co-writing the Immortal Iron Fist with Ed Brubaker. Finding a bastion of warmth in this frigid city, Marvel.com sat down with Fraction to get the scoop on all things Fraction. Marvel.com: You're not a new face at Marvel, having done stories in X-Men Unlimited and Civil War: Choosing Sides, but now you're in the spotlight with your first two big Marvel series, Immortal Iron Fist and Punisher War Journal. For the uninitiated, what brings you to the Marvel Universe and how would you describe your brand of comics to people who are unfamiliar with your previous work? Matt Fraction: I came to the Marvel Universe through my independent work--a crime graphic novel called Last of the Independents (drawn by art hero Kieron Dwyer) opened the door, and my historo-steampunk epic The Five Fists of Science (with superstar of tomorrow Steven X. Sanders) and sci-fi superspy casanova (with the hyperbole-resistant Gabriel Bل) kept the door open. Marvel.com: What are the upsides, and what are the challenges, of writing a Punisher comic set in the Marvel Universe? Fraction: Working against such a tremendous legacy, one, and two, writing a book that's coming out at the same time that Garth Ennis is doing some of the best work of his career, and some of the [best] work of the Punisher's history. As a fan, a reader, and a neophyte to the Marvel U., that's kinda bone-shakingly terrifying on some level. Marvel.com: Who do you think Frank Castle most needs to "punish"? Fraction: Anyone that would spill innocent blood. Anyone that would create the kind of environment that would create new Frank Castles. Marvel.com: What is the Punisher's favorite weapon? Fraction: His mind. His cunning, his imagination, his sense of strategy and asymmetrical combat... Frank's biggest, most brutal weapon is his intelligence. Marvel.com: What strengths does Ariel Olivetti, as an artist, bring to the visual aspect of The Punisher? Fraction: Ariel was put on this earth to create tremendous images of triumphantly huge men and women pummeling the hell out of one another. Ariel is god's own special effects artist, and from, like, day two of writing Punisher War Journal I knew I was writing for him. As an Ariel fan from way back, this is the book I've always wanted to see him draw. He brings majesty, triumphalism and amps go that all the way up to eleventy-billion. Marvel.com: Talking about Immortal Iron Fist specifically for a moment, what is the co-writing process like for Iron Fist? Does co-writing a comic change the way you approach the work? Fraction: Only in that we've found a way to justify playing Xbox 360 and calling it writing--we brainstorm ideas while I destroy Ed utterly at Ping-Pong. Beyond that, I find myself learning an awful lot from Ed, as Ed's been around the block a few times and with great success. So it's edutainment in the Mighty Marvel Manner, the way no one demanded! Hurrah! Marvel.com: What do your varying artist's styles (David Aja, Travel Foreman) bring to each of their respective sections of the book? Fraction: Total awesomeness, as well as a real sense of time, place and space. There's no mistaking Travel's loping, fierce grace and almost delicate linework with David's gritty, urban action and masterly flow. I think it really makes Immortal Iron Fist feel like a celebration of an entire legacy. Marvel.com: Also, can you give us a little insight into how you and Ed plan on working the flashbacks into the flow of the book? Fraction: Each flashback holds some relevant key, symbol or metaphor with that issue's theme--in terms of who that Iron Fist is, where they are in their life and how it may comment on Danny's predicaments in the present day. We created a handful of past Iron Fists and then [we] sit back, look at the shape of the modern story and figure out the most relevant way we can comment, create and enrich all the strands of narrative--and hopefully do it in as seamless a way [as] possible. Marvel.com: How do you establish a fighting style, if any in particular, for Iron Fist? Fraction: I use this formula: (adjective) + (number) + (animal or other noun) + (verb) And scramble, mix and match as needed until you come up with something like: Drunken Cobra Infinite Palm Strike Or whatever sounds awesome. Then tell Aja what to draw and bask in the awesomeness. Marvel.com: Is each iteration of the Iron Fist a different type of fighter? Fraction: Each iteration of Iron Fist has their own gifts, certainly, and their own spin on the Iron Fist power and mantle. Part of the fun of the book for me, so far, is exploring these powers in ways that manage to enrich the character while not becoming inconsistent with what we've seen before. Marvel.com: Does Iron Fist's role as a martial artist as well as a superhero present any special challenges? Is Iron Fist more of a superhero or martial artist? Fraction: He's more of a supermartial artist. As such, rather than be hamstrung by research and our own fears of being inaccurate and, therefore, disrespectful to any actual practiced martial art, we just mix and match and invent stuff. Who knows what crazy practices they invented up there in K'un L'un? That's part of the joy of the character. His many invented fighting techniques are unstoppable. And unknowable, because we are making them all up. Marvel.com: Where does Iron Fist sit within the pantheon of martial artists of the Marvel U? Will we see them come into play as the book progresses? Fraction: Hmm. Wouldn't that be interesting to have to find out? Marvel.com: Will we see any classic Iron Fist villains, such as Nightshade, popping up in the series? Fraction: There were classic Iron Fist villains? I kid, I kid. Of course we'll be seeing the ghosts of Iron Fist's past and present popping up--part of the fun of the book so far has been dusting off all this great stuff that people have either forgotten about, or never considered seriously, and infusing them with all new energy and excitement. We're really trying to both celebrate the classic Iron Fist run and reinvigorate the character for modern times. Marvel.com: What are the soundtracks for the Matt Fraction-written Immortal Iron Fist and Punisher War Journal? Fraction: For Iron Fist, I have a lot of underground club mixes and bootlegs from Asia--droning, holy, big beats and heart-attacks in hi-fi. Punisher demands tooth-grinding heaviness from the old and new school. Last night it was AC/DC and 3 Inches of blood with a Clutch chaser. Marvel.com: Lastly, Matt, could just give us a quick rundown of two or three of your favorite Marvel heroes and villains (besides Iron Fist and Punisher of course)? Fraction: Nick Fury. Superspies are in my bloodstream (read Casanova!). Most everybody behind the scenes in comics have superheroes that put on masks and capes...my superheroes put on suits and ties. Dr. Strange. Blowing minds is his business and business is very, very good. The Silver Surfer. His early FF stuff and his series from '67-'70 are tremendously bizarre, wonderful, berserk, insane. And your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man:The all-time greatest.

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