Matt Fraction on FANTASTIC FOUR: 'You Can Build Anything'


In the first part of our conversation with Matt Fraction, the writer detailed his plans for Fantastic Four (with artist Mark Bagley) and FF (with artist Mike Allred), both relaunching with new #1s in November. He characterized the former as "constant new stuff and new places we've not been before" and the latter "the greatest hits performed by a brand new band." For the second half our interview, we talked about what it takes to make Fantastic Four — a more than 50-year-old property that debuted during the Kennedy administration — relevant in the year 2012. We also discussed more of his current output, including the recently debuted Hawkeye solo series; Invincible Iron Man, The Mighty Thor and Defenders, all wrapping this fall; and his forthcoming creator-owned series with Howard Chaykin, Satellite Sam. Read on, and learn what Saturday Night Live has to do with all of it. Newsarama: Matt, though I think perception has likely changed a great deal as a result of Jonathan Hickman's run on the series, there is something of a notion out there that Fantastic Four is a product of its time, and something that writers have struggled at times to "modernize." Do you feel a need to challenge that kind of perception at all? 
  Matt Fraction: I don't know how to do anything but produce the book I want to read. There's always a danger of looking boring and being boring in any comic that we choose, because not for anything, these are old f*cking 60 years old. [Laughs.] It's all trying to find new twists on this stuff. This has been around forever. This is the first Marvel comic. There are more than 600 issues of this thing produced. Yeah, it's old. It looks old sometimes and feels old because it's old. It's older than me. This book was around when John F. Kennedy was still alive. Just to put it on an order of magnitude, this book was almost three years old when JFK was assassinated. I get it. So was Spider-Man.

I think it's all about how you handle it, and what you have to say, and what you bring to it. If you look at the fundamental ingredients, the elements that are on the table, you can build anything. You can build the Marvel Universe with these elements if you want to. You can build a whole new universe with them. It's all in the execution.

Nrama: Yeah, it just seems that whatever reason, Fantastic Four has gotten more of a knock for feeling "old" more than some other Silver Age contemporaries.

  Fraction: Sure. I also think it was very uninteresting for a very long time. Look, a bunch of Marvel books had a really bad run there for a while. I think it's easy to shorthand — we shorthand everything. When a new season of TV begins, and none of the sitcoms are any good, all of these articles come out declaring that "comedy on television is dead." "TV sitcoms are dead." And then Louie comes along, and then suddenly it's, "the rebirth of the sitcom." Literally six months later.

There could be bad stuff that makes you feel like, "Oh, this is dead, they'll never get this back." Then suddenly there's a new twist. Hopefully it's all in the execution. I think John, if nothing else, has proven that. John Hickman, who has launched two successful Fantastic Four books. Clearly it's all in the execution. Two years ago, if somebody said they're going to launch another Fantastic Four book, and it's going to do great, you would say, "No, you're lying to me. You are a liar." And stick around, and not go away. They wanted to reboot FF, too, it was a package deal; it was Fantastic Four and FF. I just think it's all execution, and what you bring to the table, and what you have to say, and what you want your book to be.

  This is what I discovered when writing X-Men, is that it's all different for somebody else. What I think is a great FF run, somebody else will think is terrible. It's like Saturday Night Live — SNL was never funnier than when you started to watch it. It's been all downhill since then, and it just sucks worse every year. Everybody says that, and has said that for 37 years. I used to listen to my parents bitch about it. That was the fascinating thing about X-Men. I know people who love, like capital "L" love, the stuff that drove me away from the X-books. And that's amazing to me. And then I hear them complain about the stuff that drove them away. It's all cyclical. Show me a book that has run for 60whatever years consecutively without a weak patch, and I will show you a modern miracle.

Nrama: To touch on a few non-Fantastic Four subjects, it's disappointing to hear that Defenders is ending in November, especially because part of the notion was that it was characters who couldn't necessarily sustain a book on their own…

  Fraction: Or together, as it turns out, at least not when I'm at the wheel.

Nrama: Though obviously it's still a tough direct market in general, how disheartening is something like that? 

Fraction: It f*cking sucks! I don't know. It just sucks. It sucks when they canceled The Order. It sucks, man. It was a book that I loved writing, and I tried my best.

Nrama: The series is ending with issue #12 — were you able to wrap things up to somewhere near what you had planned?

Fraction: No, of course not. Does it wrap up? Yes. No, it's not what I wanted. There's a beginning, a middle and an end, and hopefully it'll work as a couple of collections and tell kind of a crazy story we've never gotten before.

  Nrama: On the other side of things, Hawkeye is just starting. It's striking at this point to see a Marvel book that doesn't have a hero in costume for effectively an entire issue (except for the flashback at the beginning).

Fraction: Yeah, if nothing else, just because he was in costume so many other places, I didn't know what else there was to do with him. Not for anything, but we already had Hawkeye books that didn't work. "Do something different, do something that's not being served." Find some space with the character that's not out there.  There's that old line about insanity being when you repeat the same action expecting different results, you know? Sometimes I think Defenders was doomed the minute the word Defenders was put on the cover.

Between all the Avengers stuff, Clint's doing all kinds of crazy sh*t. I wanted to find a book I wanted to read, which is always kind of the first goal, and is it true to the character, and does it work? And it did. It wasn't a book I had ever seen before, so it felt right.

  Nrama: And with Invincible Iron Man and The Mighty Thor ending in October, how weird is it being done with those two series? Especially Iron Man, which you've been on with the same creative team for more than four years now.

Fraction: It hasn't sunk in yet. It's completely weird. I'm still, in my head, tracking where [series artist Salvador Larroca] is — like, I still know how many pages Salva has drawn by now, and I know when he'll be done. I still have the sense of when he's going to need more pages. It's been four years. It's become like muscle memory now. It's very strange.

It's been a long time. When it sinks in, when I realize I'm not writing the book anymore, it's going to suck. [Larroca]'s been my partner for this long; it's a lot of work we've done together.

  Nrama: Then it was announced last month in San Diego that you're doing a creator-owned book at Image Comics with Howard Chaykin, Satellite Sam, which, not to be cliché, does sound like something very different for you.

Fraction: Yeah. Coming out of five years of pretty much nothing but work-for-hire superhero stuff at Marvel, which has been great and been fun, but if you eat at the world's greatest Mexican restaurant every day for five years, it doesn't matter that it's the world's greatest Mexican restaurant. It's nice to have Thai food.

It's the first of several creator-owned stuff I'm looking to launch in the next year, and each one is different from the last.

Nrama: Is there an ETA at this point for Satellite Sam?

Fraction: I'm getting a script to Howard in a couple of weeks, so it'll come out after Black Kiss II has wrapped. December/January I figure; January/February, something like that. 

More from Newsarama: Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
Twitter activity