Loose Cannon: Issue #41

Fri, October 26th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Larry Young, Columnist

THE BIG MAN CONVERSATION

You may recall that Matt Fraction was a former editor of Savant. You may further know that

he's a partner in the award-winning design firm MK12. What you may not know is that he's writing

Rex Mantooth: Kung Fu Gorilla for inbred hillbilly Robert

Kirkman's Funk-O-Tron in November.

Ol' Fraction is poised to make a big splash, and since I get a

lot of emails every day from folks asking me THE SECRET and HOW

DO I BREAK IN and I WANT TO DO COMICS, TOO, and apparently since these

people just don't listen to me, I figured I'd pull up a metaphorical

stool at the proverbial bar and order Fraction and me a couple of

virtual pints and talk about how he's getting ready to climb up the big

diving board and get his feet wet.

[SLAP!]So. Matt. Introduce yourselves to the people, before I treat you like

McQueen did McGraw in Getaway.

Matt Fraction: Howdy, y'all. I'm Matt Fraction. By day I

co-own and co-operate MK12, and by night I write like a monkey on acid

and hope the commas ain't spliced and the participles don't dangle when

the sun comes up. I'm six-one, have big blue eyes, and a penchant for

swearing inappropriately. I am a long-time listener and a first time

caller. I have a cowboy hat and my girl writes the smut. Thanks to the

work I did at Savant and other general online dickery, my first comic is

about to come out as part of Funk-O-Tron's Double Take #6

(Sep012027), alongside teen heart-throb Joe Casey and new-father Charlie

Adlard's Codeflesh. Howsitgoin', Uncle Lar?

Larry Young: It's not what's going on, it's what's coming off that

counts, man. So, here's the thing. I get a lot of email from people

asking me THE SECRET, and I tell them that the secret is that there's no

secret. The secret is to just buckle down and Do. The. Work. When you

all started up MK12, wasn't that sort of a pick-yourselves-up;

dust-yourselves-off sort of thing? Tell us what happened there.

MF: That's the the thing, man-- the secret is easy to say and

understand, but a bitch to execute. With MK12, we were a typical

dot-bomb story: Money Man has Big Ideas, Money Man doesn't yield the

Tall Dollars overnight, Money Man Pulls Plug and Fires Us By Email. We

sat outside and smoked a lot of cigarettes and talked about where we

could find work... And to be totally honest, the thought of printing up

our resumes and having our khakis pressed made us sick to our stomachs.

We decided that, you know, we thought we were the smartest kids in the

room, so let's try and prove it. You can take the boy out of the punk

club, but you can't take the punk club out of the boy, so we said Do It

Yourself. It meant a year of peanut butter and ramen, lots of abject

terror and panic attacks but -- man, we were the fucking Captains of

our Fate, you know? We were behind the wheel, no one else. It's been an

education on the fly, that's for sure.

The lesson seems the same, though-- put your money where you mouth is

and fight like a motherfucker through whatever you have to if it means

getting what you Want and Need.

So, in that vein, what's a guy like you, you know, this year's Man

Most Likely To, make of the sort of infighting and inbreeding that makes

Comics 2001 the sort of mess it is now? I mean, there are a lot of

strides-forward being taken, here and there, yes. But it seems like the

corporate juggernauts are no longer leading the charge towards

innovation and are instead entrenching against Positive

Change.

MF: Aw, Shucks. The aforementioned Corporate Juggernauts are all

playing at being Microsoft, aren't they? They can't really innovate, so

they gobble up those who do... And then can't figure out why grafting

new ideas into old thinking gets you jack shit.

The good news is that lots of great cats are getting new eyes on their

work -- Jon Lewis writing Robin??! Gilbert Hernandez at

DC?!? Peter Bagge on Spider-man??! but at the same

time... You know, sigh. I want to care about that kind of bullshit, I

really do. By and large I just feel like I've got nothing to say with

characters and stories that aren't my own, you know? So honestly, as

great as it is to see some insane hiring polices in effect and know that

Good People are behind the scenes... But where's the new??!

Where're the balls? Where's the pop and crackle that comics so

direly need? It's there, it's out there, sure, but it's not coming from

the big guys.

This might be shallow, but this infighting bra-and-panty slap-fighting

just fucking slays me. Let the big frigates fire at one another so

smaller, stealthier vessels can navigate right on through.

So: better distribution, blah, blah, blah. Greater outlets having

comics available, blah, blah, blah. Tell me: How do you and your family

suffer for Your Art?

[Mantooth]
A page from "Rex Mantooth: Kung Fu Gorilla." Click to enlarge.
MF: This is optimistic naivete at its finest, but: there are so

many fucking problems with the industry that do we really still need to

stare in awe when, say, JIMMY CORRIGAN goes huge? Hmm. Let's see: it

was made OUTSIDE OF THE FUCKING SYSTEM. Great Books produced by those

with a spring in their step and gleam in their eye will Find A Way,

always. Look at Channel Zero, right? Organic mutant viral

marketing, nonlinear thinking, and a great fucking book (to totally

polish yours and Bri's knobs for a second) will get your work Seen,

Bought, and Read.

Having Power Man skinnin' the duker and slapping the word MATURE on your

cover insures nothing, no matter how good the book is.

Anyway: me and my work. It's my job. It's what I do. I meant to tell

you this, actually-- but I was talkin' to Mamma Fraction the other day,

right as I was about to start this One Thing that I had to get wrapped

fast, telling her about the Thing and she says, I swear to god, "So shut

the hell up and get your ass to work." I love my moms. The point,

though, is I have a really fantastic support system, be it writing or

MK12. My friends, my girl, my coworkers, my family all give me the gift

of Leaving Me The Fuck Alone when I need it, and kicking my ass when I

need it, too. But 'suffer'? Hells no, man, I'm having the time of my

life.

Your only nourishment for the next three days is a bottle of

Seagram's Seven your dad stashed in your luggage for you when you left

home after the semester break, and two stale bags of Pepperidge Farm

Mint Milanos. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

MF: Write. Like a bastard.

Hey, here's one for you: you run your show, you know what makes shit

tick, and you know how to get The Word out. I'm thinking a lot about

this old thinking, and that it seems like-- to pick up a war metaphor

for a sec-it seems like everyone's fighting all these different wars, on

all these different fronts, and even the generals are clueless as to

when the air support shows up. What I'm saying is, everyone is blaming

everyone. How essential are these old, tumor-ridden dinosaurs anymore?

Well, I think that the reason you have so many different factions

fighting the war on so many different fronts is because no one knows who

"the enemy" is. Now you and I know "the enemy" isn't other publishers or

video games or cheap drugs and loose women; "the enemy" is capital-B

Boredom. Not everyone producing comics gets that you can't just do a

words-and-pictures story and cash your check and expect people to care.

It's like the dinosaurs trying to blithely pretend that they didn't hear

that big impact and that they don't notice the sky's turned to nuclear

winter and just lumbering along their way, anyway.

Part of the dinosaur thing is the investment in inertia. Why do

something different that may not work, when we can do The Same Old Thing

That Always Has? At least we know where the files are for that, right?

MF: Could you Kick Out The Jams without Diamond?

Well, maybe, but why would you want to? Diamond's doing yeoman's work with what they have to deal with. If there's an unfairly beaten-upon whipping boy in comics, it's Diamond. Those guys are carrying their share of the load, believe

me.

MF: If the Big Boys croaked tomorrow, would there still be

Comics?

Sure. As long as there are people with instruments who make marks on

a flat surface, there'll be some kind of Comics.

MF: Would comic shops survive?

Look, what's the best-guess at now, for comic shops in the U.S.?

3000? It's an industry truism that 10 per cent of the comic shops buy

ninety percent of the comics. So if the comic store infrastructure

collapses, it'll be the bottom 2700 stores that go, and even then we'd

only lose 10 percent of the market volume. That's just mental.

MF: Let's play Apocalypse: tell me what happens when publishers

have no other option than Do It Yourself.

Marvel would find a way to make that Heroes' World thing work.

I'll let you have the last word.

MF: Right on. So-- yes. This is what it comes down to: How you

do it is simple, you just fucking do it. You fight as long and as hard

as you have to. The Good Ones will fight the Good Fight. There are

great people everywhere who love love love this medium and make that

known every day. And Good Work will always find an audience if the

thoughtpeach is shaking just the right way.

It's like this: you do me a huge favor, and say "Hey, Fraction -- write

this thing for me." I say okay, and want to do just as big a solid as I

can to say thanks, somehow. So now we've got MANTOOTH. It's a monkey,

sploding stuff and kicking dudes, I don't fool myself there -- but it's

the best goddamn monkey-splode-kick book I could write. This is my

activism: do the best work you can and get it out there. Never stop

fighting.

"If forty-five year old housewives are gonna pay for my Benz, then

them's the breaks," quipped larry@comicbookresources.com

The lads over at Grayhaven Magazine have done an interview with me which I very much enjoyed doing. I liked how it turned out so much, in fact, that I flowed them some illustrations for the article you will see nowhere else: a promo piece by the pre-famous Becky Cloonan for Brian Wood's upcoming Channel Zero: Jennie One, and a fully-toned page of Brandon McKinney's and my impending superhero OGN Planet of the Capes. If you don't want to read more of my hot air over there, just scroll down to the bottom for the pics.

I am just astounded that Total Movie, my favorite DVD magazine ever, is back after folding under the last regime. Some like-minded cats have resurrected it and breathed life back into its dying corpse. Six issues, a free DVD each month, plus forty free DVDs for a year's subscription of $39.95. I'm not shilling for these folks; this is really a friggin' deal. Hit Inside DVD for details.

While you can get your news and commentary about the funny books all over the Internet, I usually make it a point to let slip at least one bit of information at the Loose Cannon Message Board that I post nowhere else.

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