“THOR WOULD GO SEE MASTODON PLAY LIVE”: TALKIN’ METAL AND ART WITH MARVEL COMICS’ MATT FRACTION
Comic book author Matt Fraction is a music fan and a metal guy. He’s written alloy-plated, ferocious, and long-haired characters, including Iron Man (he was consulted for the Iron Man 2 movie), the X-Men, Punisher, Thor, and – wait for – Iron Fist. His Iron Man work won him an Eisner Award, and he still gets down and dirty.
Fraction also works on the indie level, despite his high-profile gig writing mega-crossovers like the recent Marvel event, Fear Itself. His smaller-press work includes crime story Last of the Independents and the vampire bloodbath 30 Days of Night. His creator-owned book, Casanova, recently returned to the racks, continuing his offbeat tale of espionage and intrigue.
While making the rounds to promote his various projects, Fraction has emerged as a creative force who’s worth paying attention to even if you’re not into super-powered, gun-wielding badasses. After a he made Thrasher and Guns N’ Roses references on his Twitter feed, we thought might be an interesting guy to talk to about metal, comics, creating, and art. We were right.
You tweeted to note Thrasher’s 30th birthday. Where would you locate yourself in the triangle between skating, hardcore, and metal?
I was too fat to really skate when I was of that age. I was big kid that didn’t hit a growth spurt until I was about 16, so I could never get up in the fucking air. And hardcore was never my thing. I think being exposed to, like, M.O.D. or some shit like that sorta ground hardcore out of me young. Fuck, is M.O.D. hardcore or thrash? Fuck. FUCK!
That said, I’d buy [skate movie] Animal Chin on Blu-ray.
Did you have anything to do with Suicidal’s “Institutionalized” turning up in the first Iron Man movie?
I did not, but I enjoyed that it was there. I saw [Robert Downey Jr.] wearing a Sabbath shirt in the Avengers trailer and about peed my pants.
Even if it’s not part of the books, what major comic characters do you think are metalheads or punks?
[Iron Man, Tony] Stark, definitely. But he’d be the kind of metalhead that’d want to play you Bach and Yngwie back-to-back and then go on to all of Maiden and, like, Blind Guardian or some shit.
Hawkeye, I bet. He’d be, like, the guy with A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste playing in his earbuds on endless loop.
Thor. I bet Thor would go see Mastodon play live. And Clutch.
Emma Frost would be a X-Ray Spex/new wave girl…
And literally every single comic character I’ve ever written loves the Ramones. It’s fact! It’s now CANON. Put it in the handbook!
Is anyone from Casanova into metal?
[Criminal kingpin] Seychelle. Totally Seychelle.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what and why?
Sometimes? I used to quite a lot but lately — really the last six months or so – I’ve needed close to peace and quiet. A big chunk of Fear Itself I put together listening to Wagner, and then once I got rolling, I just needed to be quiet and concentrate… I dunno, it’s odd. My process changes constantly.
Is heavy music any more widespread or accepted among creative types? Or do pencilers still look at you weird when you arrive wearing a metal T-shirt?
No… there’s a… I’m not sure how to describe it. There are cliques, somehow, even in comics. But if it’s along musical tastes, I’d be amazed. It tends to be… well, not that. I don’t get weird looks for my Sabbath shirt; I get weird looks when I wear a collared shirt and tie.
Which company is more metal: DC or Marvel?
I’ve never worked for DC, so I can’t say which is MORE metal, but I can definitely say that Marvel has kind of always felt like the comic company run out of the belly of a pirate ship. Not even the acquisition by Disney has changed that; it still feels like an asylum run by inmates.
Who are some of the more metal people you’ve worked with?
Most metal people in comics: Dan Way [Wolverine, Venom, Starr the Slayer]. Marko [Djurdjevic, Daredevil, Mystic Arcana]. Chuck BB [Nyarlathotep, Secret Skull]. Esad Ribic [Loki, Wolverine]. My wife [Kelly Sue DeConnick, 30 Days of Night, Osborn: Evil Incarcerated, and translator of much manga], who is Bonn Scott reincarnate in lady-form.
Does liking the kind of music you like makes you more receptive to certain themes or aesthetic choices?
I think that I wouldn’t have ever listened to opera or classical music as a kid, had I not heard the metal guitarists I love talking about it. And I can… I can sort of see, like, narrative in the symphonic? Themes and movements and narrative threads all kind of fight it out in my mind. Refrains and all that. I don’t really have the grammar but… but I see in Bach what I see in, Irving or whomever. So… in a kind of longview way? Maybe so.
Writing Fear Itself, did you spend a lot of time contemplating fear? And what did you conclude from the experience?
Sure. I mean, I have kids now. It’s like externalizing your own heart and watching it run around and bump into tables and shit. I’m afraid of everything. It’s awful. My conclusion is, as in the book: Try not to be totally awful to one another all the time. That’s it; that’s the best I could come up with. Be decent; behave decently, spread decency. Nothing more profound than that can hope to stand up against the onslaught of ten thousand horrid tomorrows.
Rank the following music formats by personal preference: cassette, vinyl, CD, digital.
Digital: I am drowning in shit. I need less clutter. Digital. Great. Invisible. Done.
CD: Easiest to create digital copies from. Resale-able.
Vinyl/cassette (tied for useless/no presence in my home): Vinyl, because I’m a fucking addict, and a fucking collector, and the last thing I needed was to drown in more stuff, another collection, another obsession. True story: I was about to take the vinyl plunge a few years back, having qualified for myself just how I was going to do it without becoming a full-blown hoarder, when we found out we were pregnant with our daughter. She saved my life, I am convinced.
And cassette, as there’s simply no worse a media. It degrades every time you use it, for God’s sake!
I miss mix tapes, though.
You’re a Lou Reed fan. You followed the [Metallica-Reed collaboration] Lulu situation on your Twitter feed. What did you think of it? Should an artist ever look at a project and decide to shelve it? Or do you have to be true to yourself, execute your thing to the best of your ability, and let the chips fall where they may?
Hey, man. Just imagine if it had WORKED, y’know? I’d rather artists I admire fail spectacularly, fail admirably, than watch hacks score cheap victories. What’s worse: St. Anger or Lulu? Coney Island Baby or Lulu?
Is Chinese Democracy a Guns N’ Roses album or an Axl Rose solo album?
It’s like the Traveling Wilburys of metal records.
You book, Casanova, is creator-owned. What’s it like, balancing your indie career with doing massive projects for a company that’s the pinnacle of the business?
It’s all different muscle groups. It’s all different exercises and such. Like cross-training at the gym. Sometimes you need to run. Sometimes you need to lift. Sometimes, cardio. [Marvel’s] Fear Itself made Casanova very important to the regimen, I’ll say that much…
When you think about the future of the comic business, do you look at what happened with digitized music and break out in a cold sweat?
No, no, not at all. Our problem is we’re fetishizing it, trying to monetize it. They need to be cheap, or free. Marvel doing free-with-purchase is the start. Digital means comic shops in everybody’s pockets. It’s all happening.
You watch AMC’s Breaking Bad and Mad Men. So if we were to plot out a straight line, is it correct to infer you’re into Walking Dead? The comics, the show, or both? What’s good about them?
I’m not, really, weirdly enough, but for a very specific reason: It doesn’t work as a show. The promise of the premise is it’s a zombie movie that never ends – but to absorb it in 44-minute chunks means you’re absorbing… only 44 minutes of a zombie movie. I’d like to go back and watch the two seasons to date as box-set experiences, see how that holds together. But as a weekly experience, it’s like only getting a third of the way through a DVD. It infuriates me in some weird, intangible way.
The book works just fine on its own… because it IS the promise of the premise. Whether an issue takes place over 45 minutes or 5 days or whatever.
Speaking as a 30 Days of Night writer… glittering vampires: bullshit or not?
Eh, boring, to me, in that it so emasculates the women. Make ’em all glitter. Make ’em sparkle like damn disco balls for all I care. But for god’s sake, don’t make the women spineless, identity-less, weak-ass mirrors just waiting to reflect all that glitter.
You’re headed for a desert island: Do you take [Hannibal Lecter/Lector movies] Manhunter or Silence of the Lambs?
Oh, Manhunter, no doubt. In all things we must trust Michael Mann.
Anything else you want to mention?
D.X. Ferris is the author of 33 1/3: Reign in Blood, the first English-language book about Slayer, which is available cheap in hard copies and for the Kindle machines. (He’s been know to send bonus swag in exchange for a proof of purchase.) You can friend it on the Facebook, or follow his bullshit daily on the Tweeters: @dxferris and @SlayerBook.