My Cup o' Joe

MyCup o' Joe 41: MyCup o' Matt

Matt Fraction subs in for Joe and spills his guts on the future of Iron Man

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MyCup o' Joe is the weekly communiqué from Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Joe Quesada to the legion of Mighty Marvelites Assembled! Every Friday, Joe will sit down with journalist Jim McLauchlin to answer questions on the pressing issues of the day at Marvel and throughout comics. Well, usually. As Joe is in Parts Unknown—a lot of good pro rasslers come from there—Invincible Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men writer Matt Fraction takes up the baton! And you get to chip in as well! Fan questions are answered every week, so ask YOUR questions at the bottom of this page!

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JM: I don't think we've ever had the discussion before, so what are you in real life? What was the job when you were a civilian, before you became one of these comic nerd guys? MF: Well, I was always a comic nerd guy. I just wasn't always getting paid to make 'em. But me and some friends from art school started a motion graphics-slash-design and animation company, so I worked in advertising and doing cool animated bits for TV and movies and wrote in my free time. JM: So how'd you wind up traversing into the comics business? MF: It was just something I always wanted to do. I used to work retail at Heroes Aren't Hard to Find in Charlotte, NC, and then I started to work towards actually WRITING comics by using the Internet in those early, halcyon days when it wasn't hard to get noticed for talking about comics. And at the same time, my friends and I were writing and producing and directing these short films, and trying to get them out there out in the world. I guess the confluence of the short films and the writing about comics wound up getting me work in comics. JM: So what was the first work? MF: The first published thing I did was for Robert Kirkman's Funk-o-Tron Press; I did three short stories with [artist] Andy Kuhn about a Kung-fu…

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JM: Oh! Rex Mantooth, Kung Fu Gorilla! I'm sorry, man, but…I forgot that was you. I LOVED that stuff! It was hilarious! MF: [laughing] Well, thanks! There's a lot of things getting kicked and then exploding. And there are a lot of swear words. I'm glad you liked it. JM: I did. So where was it from there? MF: From there, I did a crime graphic novel with Kieron Dwyer called Last of the Independents. And between Mantooth and the graphic novel, that was kind of my calling card to editors and folks who could, you know, start paying me to write. I kept doing the indy stuff while I wrote some pitches. Independents was "critically acclaimed" and all, but it didn't change my employment situation, at least not at first. But it got me more work. Steve Niles was a big fan of Last of the Independents, and he asked if I wanted to do a 30 Days of Night thing. So I got to be the first guy who wasn't Steve to get to play around in the 30 Days of Night universe. [Marvel Editor] Axel Alonso was also a huge fan of Last of the Independents, so he started championing me to his guys at Marvel. I started cracking on some pitches and proposals, and probably wrote a couple hundred pages of stuff that's never been seen except by some editors at Marvel. But after two and a half, three years… I got in, started working, and now here we are. 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.

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JM: In "telling your stories," what is it about, say, the X-Men that you find appealing?

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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.

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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." We are slowwwwwly edging towards some pretty big plans with X-Men. I think there will be some specific announcements at the New York Comic Con, but things in the X-Men are escalating. The arena is getting bigger. The X-Men have been off in their little cul-de-sac for he last few years, off the main stage at Marvel, but they've been on a couple of collision courses with the rest of the Marvel Universe, If you read the Uncanny Annual with Emma Frost, Namor, Norman Osborn and all, it doesn't take a genius to figure out where we're headed. I don't know that it's a capital-E "Event," but more a little-e "event," and I'm looking forward to that challenge right now, doing that kind of stuff.

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And with Iron Man, I'm in the middle of a big yearlong story, so I like that challenge, the "can I do a 12-part story?" aspect. You have to make it all satisfying in total, but push everything forward with each individual issue. Everything's changing for Tony Stark. Everything's ending. Even the future is ending. For the first time in his life he doesn't know what's going to come next. JM: So the ever popular, "What are you reading these days, man?" And it need not be comics. Hit me with a novel, a magazine, whatever. What's tripping your trigger? MF: [laughs] Man, I have a baby! My reading time is very slight! I do a lot of "maintenance reading," what I consider the "homework" kind of reading, keep up with what's going on in the rest of the Marvel U. I read and enjoy a lot of Grant Morrison's DC stuff as well. I thought "Batman: R.I.P." was tremendous. Final Crisis…I can't wait to see how it ends. The Herbie reprints that Dark Horse put out…those are great. I'm reading the Bolaٌo novel 2666 very slowly. But it's, like, and 800-page novel, so it's gonna take forever. I'm loving it so far. But yeah, with the baby, reading time is precious. JM: Then I will take no more of your time. You have some fan questions to answer yet, and a housekeeping note Jan. 30 will be a Cup O' Dan Slott. So if you have questions specific to Dan, let 'em rip! And hey—real quick—CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND THE MI-13 is NOT CANCELLED! There's been some crazy-pants misunderstanding or misspeaking or just general mess-up and there is BAD INFORMATION out there clogging up the interweb tubes, kids. Don't believe the antihype! CAP still flies strong and is one of my very favorite Marvel gooks at the moment. Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk are cranking out an absolute gem of a book and you should listen to the buzz around the thing and give it a read. Here, check out this art if you don't believe me, featuring Dr. Doom…and Dracula…ON THE MOON. Let me say that last part again: ON! THE! MOON!

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Mr. Shiach asks: Any chance of Anthem, Calamity, or any of The Order showing up? That was one of my favorite comics when it was coming out and I still think there's a lot more that can be done with the characters. Matt Fraction says: Hey, thanks. I like 'em, too. But I'm a bit hesitant to go shoving them down people's throats all the same—does that make sense? The good news is that Henry shows up as Henry in Invincible Iron Man #11. I know the Order was also active in the pages of Avengers: The Initiative during Secret Invasion. That'll have to hold you over, Order Superfan #1. Jason asks: 1) I'm absolutely loving the new X-Force. Any chance more of the former New X-Men will join the team, such as Mercury or Hellion? 2) I realize no one is safe in the Ultimate universe at the moment, but any chance that Kitty Pryde gets a pardon? She is one of my favorite X-Men and I would like to see her pulling double duty in Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men. 3) Have the X-Men came up with a way to get her out of that damn bullet yet in the Marvel Universe? Please bring her back as soon as possible. Assorted Marvel editors tell us: 1) Check out X-Force #13. And while you're at it, that guy on the cover of #14 looks familiar too, eh? 2)

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2) Better take it up with MJ! Doesn't look like she's in the pardoning mood, though…

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3) They haven't yet found a way to get Kitty out of the bullet. It's a really tricky bullet. But they're trying. Samazing asks: What's going on with Runaways? I hear Terry Moore is leaving soon. True? Editor Nick Lowe says: Terry Moore IS leaving soon, with Runaways #9, and we're going to miss him terribly. As for what's going on after that, keep your ear to the ground, Samazing. GeorgeGaluschak asks: How does Norman Osborn, who had two kids with a girl half his age, threw the same girl off a bridge, and killed a newspaper reporter get a government job? Editor Tom Brevoort says: First off, does anybody really know about Norman's two kids out in the public? I don't think so. Secondly, have you seen some of the people who've held public office over the last few decades? And this is incredible to you? In tough times, you want a bastard on your side, somebody who's going to take care of the bad guys and keep you and yours safe. Right now, Norman is that bastard. Lanceaholics asks: Advice for artists is easy to find. What about writers? Can I do anything aside from self-publish to get my work out? Matt Fraction says: For me, it wasn't enough to get my work out there, but to then meet editors, assistant editors, and everyone else involved with production that I could, and make sure they got copies (or links to) everything I'd done. To strike up relationships and cultivate them over a very long period of time. I found that it wasn't enough to hope that good reviews—hell, even great reviews—would inspire the people who could give me work would seek my stuff out. I had to put it in their hands and introduce myself. And work like crazy. That helps a lot, too. The same way an artist sketches, I think a writer should constantly be writing. That was my experience, anyway. MartGray asks: How about giving Monica Rambeau her place in the sun? A house ad for Black Panther isn't enough!

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Editor Nick Lowe says: Everyone email Joe Quesada and DEMAND that Nextwave return! Jason asks: Will Psylocke be appearing in Uncanny X-Men soon? Matt Fraction says: Mmmaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyybe. Yeah, okay. Read "Sisterhood" for the whole bloody story, running in Uncanny X-Men #508-511.

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Hamgravy asks: Hey Matt Fraction, Could you speak to any technique or objectives you're employing as a writer right now? Are you writing Uncanny X-Men with a conclusion already in mind? If so, will this be affected when the book goes to three times a month (this is a big convention announcement, right)? Matt Fraction says: Hm, let's see. Techniques and objectives. Well, with Uncanny, it's such a huge book, and we've got such big plans, I'm trying to find a balance between delivering your money's worth, month in and month out, and still have the book build and weave its multiple plotlines together in a way that is constantly rising, resolving, and moving forward relentlessly. We've put together a lot of plans—by "we" I mean everyone in the X-office—and everyone's aware of where everyone else is going. So one of my objectives is to make Uncanny feel like the Mutant Mothership, where we're reflecting bits of what's going on all over the X-universe, if that makes sense. Axel's fond of calling Uncanny "mutant central," and I think that's definitely a goal. Another thing is that I'm writing for multiple artists at once, so there's a lot of forethought and planning with where we're headed before we head there. A lot of careful plotting and foreshadowing and stuff like that, all of which is pretty new to the way I normally work. Am I writing with a conclusion in mind? Not exactly a conclusion, but there are some huuuuge story beats I'm heading towards. Massive upheavals, carnage incarnate, chaos, love, death, explosions kicking, all that good stuff. There's a roadmap and every few months I grow it out a little more. There's a plan. What started in "Messiah CompleX," what started in Uncanny #500... it's all been planned out. And every new resolution will bring about new complications... Steven Ghost asks: Hey Mr. Fraction, will Iceman be appearing in an arc on Uncanny X-Men? Matt Fraction says: Iceman just had a great story wrap up in X-Men: Manifest Destiny and he'll be showing up in Uncanny before too terribly long. One of the things that our revolving everybody's-on-the-team strategy to cast management has meant that some old standby favorites have had to rotate out for a little bit, but I try not to pull anyone out of Uncanny that's not showing up elsewhere—Iceman in Manifest Destiny, there's lots of Storm in Astonishing, etc. I promise, give me enough time, and everybody you love'll show up. And Adam X. Anybody remember Adam X? He was like the X-Treeeme Cool Ranch Doritos of mutants. I think he should come back. Emlyn asks: Hi Fraction, What's is it like to be given the keys to a major character such as Iron Man? Especially as he was the focus of so much media buzz, and you came from a world of creator-owned work and smaller characters where you really had to create the buzz yourself? Matt Fraction says: It's pretty nuts. I was lucky in that I'd been turning in…oh, I think maybe four Iron Man scripts before the movie had come out, so I felt like I was in a good groove on the book and knew what my voice was gonna be and all that, so I didn't have that thing where I didn't know who I was and suddenly felt pressured to write like the movie. But yeah, any time you can write a book and have a multimillion dollar Hollywood blockbuster based on it open the Friday before your book comes out, you should do it. Also if the movie is amazingly good, that's good. All that stuff really helps. You should have Robert Downey Jr. in the movie, too. He's great. Phil asks: Matt, any chance any Alpha Flight characters other than Madison will be showing up in X-Men? Matt Fraction says: Yes. There is a very very very very good chance of an Alpha Flight character joining the team. In, say, Uncanny X-Men #508. Timo McShade asks: Hello Mr. Fraction, You write a really sly Tony Stark. It seems with his current position in "Dark Reign" that he is doomed, but he IS a futurist. So I know he is up to something. Does that something involve Pepper? Matt Fraction says: Tony's up to a lot of things. Whether or not he's smart enough, and lucky enough, to pull them all off remains to be seen. As to what's in store for Pepper, longtime readers of my stuff, especially of The Order, should be able to guess where I've been heading with her—long before Invincible Iron Man, even. And I can't wait to get there. Like in, say, Invincible Iron Man #12.

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Regarding Pepper, the best parts of the book are her interactions with Tony and their relationship. Could Tony finally settle down and become a one-woman guy? Matt Fraction says: One day, maybe. Is Pepper really that girl? Who says he's right for HER? I'll tell you this much: I'm looking forward to complicating their relationship some, that's for sure. Your Thor work is fantastic. If writer J. Michael Straczynski ever leaves Thor, would you write the book? Matt Fraction says: Hey, thanks. He's a lot of fun to write. And that sounds like a suicide mission if I ever heard one.

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Jeremy asks: Love all the stuff you've been doing for Marvel, Matt, but when can we expect the next volume of Casanova? I'm itching for Avaritia! Matt Fraction says: I'm itching for it too. Look for more Casanova later in the year. As Gabriel Bل, my Eisner Award-winning supergenius of a partner in crime, wraps up his work on The Umbrella Academy v2, and another thing or two that he's working on with his twin brother (and Eisner Award-winning supergenius in his own right) Fلbio Moon that I'm not sure is public knowledge yet, we're looking to get back to Cass, Cornelius, and the whole screwed up Quinn family. In the meantime, are you checking out The Umbrella Academy v2? Spider-Man asks: Over in Invincible Iron Man, we've seen Pepper Potts go through a pretty miraculous change. Any chance of her getting involved in something big in 2009? Say, helping Tony out? Matt Fraction says: Oh my yes. I love Pepper. She's the heart of Invincible Iron Man, in more ways than one. -- Next week it's MyCup o' Slott with writer Dan Slott (Mighty Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man). Don't forget to leave your fan questions below! Learn more about The Hero Initiative, the only federally chartered charitable organization dedicated to helping comic veterans in medical or financial need at www.HeroInitiative.org. It's a chance for you to give back to the creators who gave you your dreams.

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