Tagged: Matt Fraction

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Editing Away the Future

This past weekend I was graced with the presence of ComicMix EIC/Columnist/Cranky Elderly Statesman Mike Gold. He invited me out for a brisket sandwich and conversation. For those not in the know, Gold and I are Jews – and as such, after circumcision, Bar Mitzvah, and a wedding to a Jewish bride, “brisket and conversation” is the next milestone in the Hebrew circle of life. In a day I’ll not forget for a good long while, we waxed poetic on a bevy of topics. It was like “Tuesday’s With Morrie,” except no one was dying. One point that seemed to come up again and again revolved around the state of the comic book industry. And when the dust had settled, and my brisket was fully digested, it came to me. There’s plenty of good going on in comics today, but for all the bad the finger of shame is pointed heavily at the editors’ desks.

What is a comic book editor? Well, he or she is many things to many people. To artists and writers, they are the boss. They assemble the parts, and roll out the final product. They help dot i’s, cross t’s, and make constructive criticism to ensure that the book that hits the shelf is the best it could be. To the fans, they are mysterious figure-heads who get their names right under the talent on the title page. They are the kings at conventions, giving sage advice one minute, and spinning bad fan-reaction the next. In the days before the Internet they were the keepers of secrets – the walking Wikipedias of their brands.

And today? They are that and more. Constructors of continuity, ruiners of rumors, and dolers of dreams. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Has their hubris finally caught up with them? I offer some proof, by way of my all-powerful-never-wrong-because-I’m-a-columnist opinion.

How about the Epic Cross-Over of Infinite Magnitude! The first time it happened it sure must have been novel. Upend the whole universe and throw all the heroes together in a big fight. Sounds cool, right? Sure. And I bet it sold like hot cakes. A chance to see Spider-Man, Captain America, The Thing and Ben Gallagher all fight Dough Boy, Red Skull, and Avalanche no doubt equaled a nice spike in sales, and plenty of direction for the respective players, when the dust settled. But be it the editors, or the powers that be behind them. what was a once-in-a-decade deal has now become a yearly escapade. And it drags down the whole industry with it. And where it used to be a single book to encapsulate the ruckus, thanks to those editors, it now permeates the entire line of comics coming out.

I’ve been truly enjoying Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man now for two and half years. But lately, the books have been disjointed, discombobulated, and terribly boring. Fear Itself has consumed it, and because I’m not interested in Marvel’s excuse to dress everyone up in spikes and Tron lines. I’m buying a book that makes little sense. And when the crossover is over, I’ll invariably have to suffer for at least an issue or two more to deal with the eventual fallout. And the whole time, I can’t help but see the puppeteer’s grimy hand placed sorely up Matt Fraction’s asshole.

And yes, I know he is the lead architect/writer of Fear Itself. But I doubt he walked into the editor’s office with the pitch saying “This needs to bleed into seven different mini-series, and 13 other books.” The fact is with each passing summer “epic,” the publishers invariably encompass more and more books. And every time they do it, it stops any forward momentum on a series cold.

Invincible Iron Man was an amazing deconstruction of Tony Stark, full of intrigue, new and old villains, and a strong cast of supporting characters. Thanks to Fear Itself, I’ve had to suffer three or four books of Tony building weapons with dwarfs while he drinks. The intrigue? The drama? The 30+ books of character building? Gone with a swing of Odin’s Budweiser and a fight with a mud-monster.

But I digress. With the New 52, DC’s Dan DiDio stuck his neck on the line and said “this is what we need to do to shake things up.” And I whole-heartedly agree. But he chose to end the current continuity by way of one of those aforementioned epics, and then give all of us a do-over on his “One Year Later” trick. Remember that? And to boot, while countless writers sit on the sidelines waiting for a chance to shine, Dan hands himself a job on OMAC.

I’m curious. Did he pitch the book to himself? If the editors exist to challenge their artists and writers to make the best books possible, if the New 52 was supposed to exist to make it not only easy for new readers to jump in, but to hold the industry to a higher standard of quality. How do books like Voodoo, Hawk and Dove, Mister Terrific, and Grifter get published?

Furthermore, what about the books that were universally “meh’ed” like Red Lanterns, JLI, Catwoman, or Red Hood and the Outboobs? Did the editors really sit back at their desk with the assembled pages, and say “now here’s a book I am proud of” or did they just get the damned thing done and hope for the best?

Stay tuned next week, when all the ComicMix columnists will be editorially mandated to write on the same topic: Honey Badgers!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: “Super-heroines,” Get Back In The Kitchen!

So after a few weeks of daydreaming and being all cutesy-wootsie, I figure it’s about time I stir the pot a little. Let me get behind this wire mesh wall, force field, and don some protective gear. There. Safe and secure. Ahem…

Marvel’s female superheroes suck.

Don’t believe me? OK. Name the first few Marvel superheroes that come to mind. I’ll give you a minute. Who did you say…Spider-Man? Thor? Captain America? How about Iron Man? Hmm. No double X chromosomes there. The last big event to revolve around a woman? Oh yeah! House of M. The one where Marvel showed that a chick who ain’t barefoot and preggers goes crazy and resets the universe at will. Now there’s a feather in a feminists’ cap.

When I say “important women of Marvel,” aren’t they are always the yin to the yang of a more powerful man? Pepper Potts. Sorry Matt Fraction, you can put a repulsor in her chest, you can give her a code name, but she’s still just Tony’s secretary. Mary Jane Watson-Parker-Watson-by-way-of-a-retcon? Face it tiger, she’s just there to fall off buildings. Maria Hill? Nick Fury’s assprint hadn’t even cooled off before she was ousted back down to who-cares-ville. And when we open the discussion to those ladies who carry the hero badge? It doesn’t get any better.

Sue Storm, the matriarch of the Future Foundation. The soul of the Fantastic Four. Completely boring and useless without her husband. The best writers of Sue have always pegged her as a strong and independent woman. But take her away from Reed, Ben, or the children and the only bullet point left on her resume is part-time booty call for Namor.

Black Widow: slut with guns. How about Ms. Marvel? I’ll be completely honest. I don’t know a thing about her. Best I could tell? She was brought in because Marvel has no Wonder Woman, so they threw her on the Avengers. Beyond that I assume they keep her around because cute girls can show off their butts by cosplaying as her. What of the X-Men? Well, Jean Grey has died only 17 times, and has changed names to various permutations of “Phoenix,” all to what effect? She’s Cyclop’s gal. She maybe did Wolvie in a closet while Slim was waxing his car. And in the Ultimate Universe, maybe she did Charles too.

Let’s not forget Storm. She was married off to Black Panther so they could make super-black-babies that will invariably land on some future iteration of the X-Avengers. Not because they’ll be well written mind you… but they will add that “affirmative action” flavor John Stewart was used for back in the JLA.

I say this obviously not just to be cranky. I openly yell to the heavens for someone to come in and make the women matter again. Joss Whedon put Kitty Pride and the White Queen front and center in his amazing run on Astonishing X-Men. More than that, he made them more than worthless eye-candy in butt floss. He gave them dimension, and class. They weren’t in peril for perils’ sake.

Given Whedon’s pedigree for good female characterization, it didn’t come as a surprise. Whedon aside, other Marvel writers certainly have the know-how. Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathon Hickman are all amazing writers who know the ins and out of nuance. They’ve each made the females in their books (yes that includes Pepper in the aforementioned Iron Man series) very potent. But my gripe remains the same.

It’s not enough to write a woman as powerful, smart, and put-together. It’s the act of writing them as such that they are more than decoration. Throughout Marvel’s recent history, it’s been a literal boys-club. Civil War? Captain America and Iron Man fighting in the sandbox. Secret War? An excuse to make Norman Osbourn king of the playground – until sales dipped, and people stopped caring. And now we have Fear Itself, which as far as I can tell is only an excuse to half-kill Thor, and dress everyone up in Tron-stripes.

I yearn just once to have a female character in any of these situations stand up and set the world straight. Not to say it’s happened in the DC ever… but I actually believe Marvel has the smarts to actually do it. In this day and age where the DCnU turns Starfire and Catwoman into sultry sluts with no character trait beyond their cup size… I look to the House of Ideas to set the industry right.

When DC was making up Kryptonite and the color yellow the ultimate weapons against its heroes, Marvel figured out that debt, responsibility, and a guilty conscience was far better. Let us hope that in the coming times, they take the next step and realize that women are more than tits and tiny costumes. They are the fairer sex, the stronger characters, and perhaps the last untouched resource for superior fiction.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

ComicMix Six: Comic Book Folks to #FollowFriday on Twitter

ComicMix Six: Comic Book Folks to #FollowFriday on Twitter

It’s #followfriday on Twitter, and these are some of the comics folks you should be following if you aren’t already doing so…

  1. Warren Ellis – If you’ve ever read anything by him, especially The Authority, Planetary, or Transmetropolitan, it probably won’t surprise you
    to learn how angry he can get on his Twitter. What will surprise you—and
    probably make you laugh–is how flowery his language can get when he’s on a
    tirade. Oh, and he also has a lot of really interesting links to share and
    interesting insights on the medium to discuss. Besides, who else do you know
    that’ll greet you every morning with “Good morning, sinners?” http://www.twitter.com/WarrenEllis

  2. Ben Templesmith – Possibly the handsomest man in comics, Ben
    Templesmith is the Australian-born artist behind Fell (with Warren Ellis) and
    several Steve Niles projects, most famously 30 Days Of Night. His Twitter feed
    is chock-full of goodies, including insights as to the life of a professional
    artist, many interesting links, and a healthy dose of political opinion, if
    that’s your thing. He’s still one of the friendliest folks around, too—almost
    seven thousand followers, and he’ll often still take the time to answer a quick
    question from you here and there. http://www.twitter.com/Templesmith

  3. Bryan Lee O’Malley – The mastermind behind the Scott Pilgrim
    series hates just about everything on the Internet and doesn’t mind saying so.
    That said, following him is really the best way to get news about the upcoming
    Edgar Wright-helmed movie adaptation. Basically, if BLO doesn’t say it, it’s
    not official—regardless of what Matt Fraction (www.twitter.com/MattFraction)
    might suggest. http://www.twitter.com/Radiomaru

  4. Brian Michael Bendis – His Twitter feed might be the only
    thing the New Avengers scribe has written in the last five years that didn’t
    somehow involve Luke Cage or Spider-Woman. What it does include is Bendis’s
    take on just about everything going on in the comic book world, along with
    reposted links to just about everything Bendis-related going on in the world.
    As an added bonus, you’ll get a new appreciation for comic book editors once
    you see how bad his grammar and punctuation is. http://www.twitter.com/BRIANMBENDIS

  5. Gail Simone — If Twitter gave out a prize for “crazy
    mysterious,” this Wonder Woman writer would surely win it several times over.
    Until recently, apart from the occasional fake flamewar with Mark Waid (http://www.twitter.com/MarkWaid),
    she mostly appeared, gave an assignment—for example, “TODAY’S ASSIGNMENT:  Fictional convention panels that SHOULD
    exist, but never, EVER EVER EVER will” or 
    “Today’s Assignment: Tweets as sent by participants during epic comic
    stories. What did they twitter to friends as it all went down?” —and then vanish
    again until the next time. Now, she tweets more regularly, if only to tease Geoff
    Johns about Blackest Night. http://www.twitter.com/GailSimone

  6. ComicMix — Okay, seriously, if you’re not
    reading our Twitter feed, what the heck are you waiting for? http://www.twitter.com/ComicMix

SDCC: EW’s “Visionaries” Panel

When Entertainment Weekly assembles seven of the most powerful men (and woman) in all of comics, obviously some massive news bombs are going to get dropped.

“Yes, I read comic books in the bath,” Grant Morrison announced, shocking the assembled fans and setting the blogosphere ablaze.

Okay, so there was little in the way of truly newsworthy information disseminated by the esteemed panel of Jim Lee, John Cassaday, Matt Fraction, Mike Mignola, Robert Kirkman, Colleen Doran, and Grant Morrison. However, there’s something immensely satisfying about sharing an hour of time with some of the most creative individuals in the comic book world (and frankly, beyond). It’s the kind of panel that reminds a guy why he reads comics in the first place, because these guys work their hardest and embody the philosophy John Cassaday put forth, “There’ll be limitations in whatever you do, so you might as well go for it.”

Also, these people are really, really funny.

A topic that is nearly omnipresent at this year’s ‘Con, the specter of the film industry looming large over the conference, was addressed by the panel, with many attendees asking questions about the increasingly symbiotic relationship between film and comics.

“I see a lot of storytelling techniques in TV being effected by comics,” Lee commented, pointing out that the comic book has become so successful that mainstream has no choice but to adapt some of its devices. However, not everyone on the panel was as excited by the increasingly close relationship between comics and movies,

“I see people applying film rules to comic book visuals, let’s do the comic and then let someone else do the film,” Mike Mignola said, keenly aware of the difference between comics and film. Human quote machine Grant Morrison added, “Hollywood is more formulaic, comics allow you to break those rules.”

All of the panelists expressed some dread at the lure of comic to film adaptations limiting the ambitions of up-and-coming creators. However they all reasserted that this is a life they pursued not for money, but because its the only calling they ever felt, “I really can’t imagine doing anything else… everyone up here ha a compulsion,” Colleen Doran said.

Following the theme of creative expression, Jim Lee and newly minted partner at Image Comics Robert Kirkman were asked how that will effect their craft, “Once you’ve done all that stuff, it’s kind of hard to just go back to a table and just sit there drawing,” Lee said. Adding that there’s a liberation that comes with his executive status. As for Kirkman, “So far, it’s just making a few extra phone calls.”

Matt Fraction Doubles Up Movie Deals

A big week for writer Matt Fraction, who’s just nabbed a couple deals to see his comics turned into movies.

He’s just inked a deal with producer Rick Alexander (MGM’s Adventures in the Land of Zametherea) and manager-producer Jeff Krelitz to turn two of his co-creations, Casanova and Last of the Independents, into movies. A major A-list actor is already mulling over the lead in Casanova, an adventure-caper about a thief-turned-spy, which Alexander promises will evolve into a "mega-budget, effects-intensive action spectacular." (He says he’s aiming to unleash the "spectacular" during the Fourth of July weekend 2010.) This is merely the first of what the producers hope will be a Bond-type franchise. Casanova "[will] live on but be played by a different actor each time out," says Krelitz, who notes that the duo will hire a scriptwriter only after securing a star and director. As for the swaggering bank-heist thriller Independent? It already has a screenwriter — that’d be newcomer Alex Litvak — so producers are currently shopping for a director with hopes of an early 2009 shoot.

Matt Fraction on ‘Thor: Ages of Thunder’ and ‘The Order’

Matt Fraction on ‘Thor: Ages of Thunder’ and ‘The Order’

Newsarama has posted an interview with Matt Fraction about Thor: Ages of Thunder, his upcoming peek at the war-torn history of Marvel’s Norse Gods.

Newsarama: Matt, what’s Ages of Thunder about, and how does it tie into the Thor mythos?

Matt Fraction: It’s a Thor graphic novel, told in parts, that plugs the pure Stan-and-Jack interpretation of Thor and the Asgardians into the Norse myth cycle. It sort of exists outside of any current incarnation of Thor – one of my favorite things about the Norse myths is that it’s cyclical; that Ragnarok has survivors and the stories begin again.

So we’re using that as a motivation to look at Thor and his pantheon throughout various different eras of Ragnanroks, with various different visual interpretations. Each time they’re living through these insane and colossal stories that build on top of one another, each chapter presenting us with another way of seeing Asgard as it rages towards its inevitable destruction and rebirth.

Ultimately, these stories present to us with the reasons why Odin saw fit to curse Thor with the humanity of Donald Blake, and who he becomes because of it. That’s the uniting thread that, no matter what apocalypse he’s skyrocketing towards, Thor had this flaw, and this ultimate redemption because of it, told in giant, divine terms. It was danced around back in Thor#159, if you want to get all continuity-guy on it; Ages of Thunder is a kind of explicit play-by-play, where Thor’s lack of humility triggers all of these wonderful, horrible things.

Along with making a passing comparison of Thor to Wu Tang Clan, Fraction shows off a few pieces of art from the series and also weighs in on the "real" reasons his series The Order is coming to an end with issue #10.

Thor: Ages of Thunder hits shelves April 30, 2008.


Catching up with the Big Two

Catching up with the Big Two

Per my column yesterday, you know I’m not going to parrot press releases from Marvel and DC, but that doesn’t mean I can’t cull actual news from them where I discern it exists:

Marvel’s gearing up for their World War Hulk event, and as I’m married to someone who inked the Hulk for over two years I had to ask my Marvel press contact if he had any word on who’s slated to ink all the books.  So here’s your complete list of “top 2-3” creative teams (writer, penciller/inker or writer & artist) for all upcoming World War Hulk tie-ins:


Writer: Peter David

Artists: Al Rio/Scott Hanna, Lee Weeks (p/i), Sean Phillips/Tom Palmer


Writer: Greg Pak

Artists: Gary Frank/Jonathan Sibal


Writer: Greg Pak

Artists: Carlo Pagulayan/Jeffrey Huet; Aaron Lopresti/Danny Miki and Sandu Florea; Juan Santacruz/Faul Fernantz Fonts; Gary Frank/Jonathan Sibal; Takeshi Miyazawa (p/i)

That’s right, I’m all about loving the inkers!

Marvel’s also got another Spotlight book in stores on May 23, this one focusing on the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer; perfect timing considering the movie coming out in mid-June.  John Rhett Thomas supplies the original written content with pre-existing images from the FF’s 40+ year history.  Hope that means some royalty checks for lots of terrific artists!

And Matt Fraction (check out his sweet reminiscence of Vonnegut) is writing a special 48-page Sensational Spider-Man Annual tying in with its “Back in Black” storyline.  Sal Larocca’s on pencilling chores, including “Romita-esque flashback sequences” — good luck with that, Sal!

Meanwhile, DC’s sent out its latest Direct Channel newsletter, which discusses sales incentives for retailers on the second Minx title Clubbing (writer Andi Watson has a nice write-up), brags about mainstream press for the debut Minx title The Plain Janes in PW and Variety, and lists books going back to press, returnable and resolicited books, release dates and so forth.  An invaluable resource for retailers, as always.