Interview: Matt Fraction on Marvel’s Fear Itself & The Mighty Thor

Fear Itself

Fear Itself

Matt Fraction is the popular writer of such books as Marvel’s Invincible Iron Man, Thor, and co-writing Immortal Iron Fist. His latest comics are Marvel’s new event, Fear Itself, and The Mighty Thor. Westfield’s Roger Ash recently spoke with Fraction about these books and more.

Westfield: Since Fear Itself is such a big project, how long have you been planning it?

Matt Fraction: About a year. It was late Winter/early Spring when we started to think about the idea as a Captain America/Thor miniseries. When we got to an editorial retreat and updated the room on what our plans were, it was Joe [Quesada] who said “This sounds like an event.” It grew from there.

Westfield: What kind of challenges does writing something like this present?

Fraction: It’s tough in a world where hyperbole has to top itself every 30 days with the sales cycles. We’re robbed the word “big” of its meaning anymore, but it’s big. Big. It touches every corner of the Marvel Universe. Joe’s particular genius was that he saw the story for how it could touch every corner and every character in the Marvel Universe before anybody else did. There’s a lot of bits and pieces. There’s a lot of coordination. There’s a lot of set up, too. I don’t get to write everything, but it’s fun to come up with an idea that will turn into this, say, Thunderbolts story, to pick something completely at random, for Fear Itself, for a hypothetical example. It’s great to have access to all the toys in the toy box all at once.

The challenge is, aside from just the scope and scale of it, making sure it’s accessible. That’s my own personal bugaboo. I hate exclusionary comics, especially when they’re purported to be events. To be a line-wide epic story, it’s got to be as getable to the man on the street as to someone like me who’s been reading comics since I was five years old.

Westfield: What can you reveal about the story of Fear Itself?

Fear Itself. Art by Stuart Immonen.

Fear Itself. Art by Stuart Immonen.

Fraction: There’s a Norse entity that feeds on fear. That’s the form of devotion he inspires and requires. Odin deposed him many, many, many years ago and obscured his existence. In the present day, Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull – who’s the new Red Skull, finds him thanks to her father’s obsession with all things Norse, and frees him. Once unleashed, he comes gunning for Odin and all of earth is in his way. The more we are afraid of him, the stronger he gets. So he basically goes about terrorizing everyone and everything he can while setting his sights on the big man. All of the Marvel heroes have to deal with this. Thor has to deal with this because of his father. Steve and Bucky have to deal with the sins of their past and this nascent Red Skull looking to be even better than her father ever was. It’s Captain America’s and Thor’s worst nightmares coming true at once at a time when we as a people, we as a culture, we as a society are particularly beleaguered with fear and terror and anger and paranoia. I hope there’s a degree of relevance to where we are right now and a lot of pyrotechnics.

Again, it’s tough when we use the word “big” to describe everything every 30 days, but this is the biggest story Marvel has done since Civil War. And I don’t mean in terms of number of tie-ins either. [laughter]

Westfield: I don’t mean to be silly, but when I think of fear, Man-Thing always springs to mind.

Fraction: There are a lot of great, opportunistic, things like that out there with a story like this– to take characters like Man-Thing or Phobos or any other number of characters and dust them off, bring them out, and give them a chance to shine. I, like you, hope that Man-Thing finds a place in all the pyrotechnics. I think it’s a great time to get a one-off or a miniseries about that character. Because of the nature of the bad guys, because of the nature of the foe, because of everything that happens in our first and second issue, the regular folk, the guy on the street, is terrified and terrorized too. This isn’t just superheroes punching each other while the world watches, this is homes being destroyed, lives being ruined, society in chaos. This is a villain who is looking to make regular people afraid, not just heroes. Fear is everywhere. It’s the perfect time for someone to tell a great Man-Thing story.

Westfield: You’re working with artist Stuart Immonen on the book. What can you say about his contribution?

Fraction: What can’t I say about his contribution? If the guy wasn’t already an A-level genius, this is the final proof. It is stunningly great stuff he’s doing. I’ve been a fan of Stuart’s for a very long time and have felt that he’s been topping himself project after project after project. This is somehow even bigger, even better, even more majestic and incredible than his stuff on New Avengers just was. It’s staggering how gifted he is. What he brings to these pages is beyond awesome. Even though I suspect he hates me for it because it’s a very big story. If you follow him on Twitter, you can see him politely grousing about it in a very funny, very Stuart, way.

Mighty Thor

Mighty Thor

Westfield: Also coming in April is Mighty Thor. How did that come about?

Fraction: The movie comes out in May and movies are great opportunities for new readers to come in. Historically new readers come in. It was the end of my first arc and my new arc was beginning. While I appreciate the frustration that some people feel trying to organize their long boxes or whatever, it’s really about making these stories and these characters open for new readers. So, it’s the second story I was telling in my Thor run anyway, but it also made a good jumping-on point for new readers. It is in all ways that lifers are concerned fairly cosmetic, aside from the fact that Olivier Coipel comes back to try and reclaim the Thor crown from Pasqual Ferry.

Westfield: What can you say about working with him?

Fraction: It’s only just started. Literally just yesterday I saw pages for the first time. They’re stunning. They’re great. It’s amazing so far, the idea that I’ve got Olivier Coipel and Pasqual Ferry trying to outdo each other is silly and ridiculous and amazing.

Westfield: What can people look forward to in the series?

Fraction: The first storyline is called The Galactus Seed and the punch line is that Galactus comes to eat Asgard. That is the short, sweet version my friend. Thor vs. the Surfer. Galactus vs. Asgard. Big cosmic barbarian space colossus adventure. If you don’t want to see space barbarian bloodshed, then I don’t know how to talk to you. [laughter]

Westfield: You are working on other projects as well. Is there anything you’d like to say about them?

Iron Man #503

Iron Man #503

Fraction: The 500th issue of Iron Man just came out. In 500, 500.1 and 501, we’re really trying to open it up to new readers. Around the 30th issue on a run, a story starts to accumulate weight. We’re making a really specific effort the next four months going into the Fear Itself tie-ins making very clean entry points to the Iron Man story. If you’ve heard about the book or checked it out in trades, it’s a good time to check out the regular issues. His Fear Itself tie-in is possibly the biggest shock in the last 30 years of Iron Man. As a man who’s been reading Iron Man since #197, I can say in absolute confidence that is not an exaggeration. The Iron Man Fear Itself tie-in is going to have to be seen to be believed. If you’re a fan, hang on tight. We’re just getting started.

Casanova: Gula #4

Casanova: Gula #4

My creator-owned book, Casanova, is going strong from Icon. The first issue of the second series just came out. It’s called Gula and it will run through April and there will be a collection shortly thereafter. New Casanova issues will start in May or June.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Fraction: Hold on tight. Fear Itself is just completely epic. I think you’re going to love it. It gets all of us excited and giddy when we talk about it. When a bunch of jaded, working in the salt mines, comic lifers can get giddy and excited and overjoyed and maniacally into what they’re working on every single day, that’s really saying something. I’ve never been a part of something like this before. It’s completely thrilling and I can’t wait for it to finally get let loose. And thank you for reading.


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