WonderCon's Matt Fraction Panel was laid back and relaxed as John Siuntres introduced the breakout writer of "Uncanny X-Men" and "Invincible Iron Man" to loud applause, while giving a special hello to one Ed Brubaker sitting in the front row.
John started things off discussing with Matt his earliest published work, praising the writer for works such as “The Last of the Independents” and “Rex Mantooth.” He shared that “Rex Mantooth” came about from the artist having the idea of a "kung fu gorilla."
John turned the discussion over to Matt’s pre-comics work, mentioning how the writer worked in animation before comics. Matt elaborated that he worked for a company called MK12.com who produced short animation films as well as doing work for live action films, such as the Will Ferrell movie “Stranger than Fiction,” and after he left the company, the opening montage for “Quantum of Solace.”
John next asked Matt what characters he has pitched on during his tenure at Marvel. He answered with an exasperated, ‘hundreds.’ He literally used to write hundreds of pages for every pitch, never realizing how precious an editor’s time can be.
In the beginning, he always wrote too many pages. Jokingly, he said he would try to be like Alan Moore, and write these huge 3 page descriptions for a simple, single panel. He gave an example of how in a past panel on comic writing at another convention, he compared an Alan Moore panel description to a panel description written by Garth Ennis of a similar scene, and that Garth’s single sentence description was just as good as Alan’s long and eloquent style.
Getting back to the original question, Matt revealed how he had a pitch for Bruce Banner as a stuntman for a Marvel Knights-style book, where a film director would constantly place Bruce the stuntman in more and more dangerous sequences knowing that the Hulk would inevitably emerge from the destruction. He also pitched on all the typical heroes who Marvel receives pitches for regularly, characters such as Nick Fury, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange.
John moved things along, asking Matt about the genesis of his comic creation “Casanova.” It turns out that Casanova began as a Marvel pitch for a "Son of Dominic Fortune" book, which actually had an opening page of the lead character playing cards with MODOK, something that survived in altered form into the actual Casanova comic.
Things moved onto how Matt got started at Marvel with his first book, “Punisher War Journal,” and he explained how Axel Alonso one day called him offering him the job with the simple disclaimer, "I didn’t offer it to anyone else, so don’t fuck it up." Ed Brubaker actually helped Matt with his first Punisher script, laying down the pavement for future collaborations.
The first Marvel comic Matt can remember buying was a Spider-Man issue featuring a faceoff with Stilt Man. The impact of this issue stuck with him as the villain was appropriately killed off in his first issue of "Punisher War Journal," and he ended his run on the series with a new character taking on the name and suit of Stilt Man.
Things turned to "Iron Fist," with many fans in attendance applauding and whistling to show their love of the character Fraction and collaborator Brubaker revived so well. Before he could answer how he ended up co-writing the book, Brubaker chimed in from the crowd that, "Marvel wouldn’t let me write another book by myself!" Matt moved the joke along, adding that Robert Kirkman was asked first.
More Iron Fist was discussed, revealing that the impetus of "The 7 Cities of Heaven" in Iron Fist was simply a Bruce Lee poster hanging on the wall of the office. Ed had the idea for "7 Cities," while Matt came up with everything else as far as other fighters and their names, including "Bride of Nine Spiders."
The X-Men came up next, as all it took was a quick phone call from Marvel asking if Fraction was interested in "Uncanny X-Men." He agreed to the book a full year or more before his run started, and the whole time in-between he was expecting Bendis or Millar to suddenly show interest in the book, ending his run before it even began. Luckily for him, it never happened.
John Siuntres then asked Matt what he was watching on tv, as he realized pop culture seems to be a big part of his writing process. With his 7 month old baby, he basically just watches a lot of "Blues Clues," "Backyardigans," and sign language DVDs and he’s lucky if he’s able to catch a current episode of "The Office" or "30 Rock." He also admitted to becoming a fan of the Dr Who series, after wasting years making fun of the franchise in ignorance.
Fans took control of the floor; with the first declaring his love for “Punisher War Journal,” stating that the "sword gun" seen in a past issue was simply awesome. Matt shared that Tony Moore deserves the credit, as he came up with it as a joke. The fan continued saying how he felt the book "was funny, but the Punisher wasn’t in on the joke." Matt gave an enthusiastic "Exactly!" in response, as he felt the series is about a character that sees himself as judge, jury, and executioner facing off against supervillains dressed like animals. He can’t outdo Garth Ennis’ groundbreaking run, so his book was more about the Punisher going after the Rhino. If a character like Galactus showed up, the Punisher would simply think, "I need a bigger gun." It’s a real and gritty character in a crazy and colorful world. He added that by the very end of the series, Punisher was in on the joke.
One fan shared how he really enjoyed Iron Man’s characterization as an unstable character. Matt agreed, stating that the root of the character was that he is an alcoholic. Just because Tony Stark currently doesn’t drink doesn’t mean he still doesn’t think or act like an alcoholic. The character is a "dry drunk," trying to do everything by himself without the detrimental aid of his addiction to relax him. “Is he stronger than his disease? What’s critical is he doesn’t ask for help.”
Next up, Matt was asked if the extremis being taken away from Tony Stark was his idea or Marvel’s. It was not his idea as it was a part of the Secret Invasion storyline before he started, but it and Dark Reign fit in with what he had planned for Tony Stark. He revealed a small spoiler that Tony Stark will eventually shave his head while on the run as a disguise.
The panel neared its end as many fans began asking about the writing process, with one fan in particular asking if Fraction writes scene by scene, or writes out a plot to later break down into scenes. The writer replied that, he has so many ideas he tries to squeeze into every script that it’s almost like trying to catch butterflies with a stick dipped in honey. Whatever sticks, works. He’s getting better at articulating his ideas, but he still doesn’t have one set way of doing things.
Asked about pitching an idea, Matt said it’s best to pitch a simple line about your idea, and if an editor shows interest, then elaborate. It’s like how he and Ed can sum up their original plan for Iron Fist as "Billionaire Kung Fu Fighter."
Matt shared some advice for aspiring writers saying that if he could travel back in time 10 years ago he would tell his younger self to write everyday, meet plenty of writers and editors, and most importantly, follow up with those writers and editors in emails. And also, don’t get discouraged.
The panel closed with a final hint that big news involving the writer would be revealed on Sunday, possibly even Saturday.