It's hard not feel powerless when nature unleashes its terrible and awesome might, and millions experienced precisely that sense of helplessness when Hurricane Sandy bore down on New York, New Jersey and much of the Northeastern United States in late October. In the storm's aftermath, hundreds of thousands found themselves filled with a profound desire to help the survivors rebuild their homes and their lives.
Among that number was Matt Fraction, writer of Marvel Comics' "Hawkeye" series. Fraction, in contemplating what he could do for those struck by Sandy, came up with a way for both him and readers of the book to help those who remain in need weeks and months after the storm itself has faded. As a result of his musing, Fraction will donate all of his sales incentive bonuses from January's issue #7 to the Red Cross' Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
The idea and the desire to create a special comic to help raise money for hurricane relief grew out of a combination of Fraction's childhood and news footage the writer saw of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy. "I grew up in North Carolina, which means I know about hurricanes and hurricane damage," Fraction told CBR News. "I still remember Hurricane Hugo. There's that basic level of empathy -- I just felt powerless. New York is the greatest city on Earth, and I have a lot of friends and fond memories there, so I wanted to do something, especially when the stories started to come out of how people were rising above things and being fantastic and inspiring. It felt like this could be a good thing to do; to bring some of that to the book and hopefully do some good in the meantime."
Of course, the amount of good Fraction does with "Hawkeye" #7 is ultimately up to readers and comic fans. "The way you get paid at Marvel is, you get a flat rate for writing pages, but then, if a book hits certain levels, you get sales incentives, which are kind of bonus payments" Fraction explained. "Theoretically, the better your book sells, the more money your book makes. The idea is, the more copies of 'Hawkeye' #7 that we sell, the more I'm going to be giving to the Red Cross, earmarked for their Hurricane Sandy recovery effort.
"Digital sales are an entirely different system and one I don't quite know how to parse yet," Fraction continued. "I'm going to do my best, though, to try and figure them out in a way that doesn't violate my contract or the NDAs I've signed. I want fans who buy their comics digitally to be able to help out as well."
Fans who purchase a copy of "Hawkeye" #7 won't simply help with the Hurricane Sandy relief effort -- they'll also be given a topical story that plays to the strengths of the critically-acclaimed book.
"I doubt I could tell this story if I was still writing 'Thor' or 'Iron Man,' but this is what 'Hawkeye' ended up being about. He's the super hero that doesn't matter; all that matters is that he's a super hero," Fraction said. "This book is pretty different from anything Marvel has done, and certainly anything I've done, in that it's a story of what this regular guy super hero does when he's not hanging out with his super hero buddies on the Avengers. It's a comic book about a guy who can't stop trying to be a better man, and when are we any better than in the face of complete disaster? From my first hand experience, natural catastrophes have a way of bringing out the best in all of us. It felt like a very natural fit with the stories we were already doing in the book. "
There are actually two title characters in Fraction's "Hawkeye" -- Clint Barton of the Avengers and Kate Bishop of the Young Avengers. And in issue #7, they'll be dealing with Hurricane Sandy in both New York and New Jersey. "In one half of the book, we have Clint's story where he goes to Far Rockaway in Queens with another tenant in his building that readers of the series will recognize. He goes to help this guy move his dad to safety, but his dad is one of those people that doesn't want to go," Fraction said. "Then, on the flip side is Kate, who has a social function to attend in Atlantic City at some five star hotel. The thinking there is, 'What could possibly happen to us in a five star hotel?' So she finds herself trapped in this hotel, wearing high heels and an evening gown during a major flood."
Clint and Kate's different socio-economic backgrounds afforded Fraction the perfect opportunity to look at Hurricane Sandy from very different perspectives, but the primary reason the writer chose to split the story into two separate tales was necessity. In order to fit the Hurricane Sandy story into the book's schedule, the writer had to work quickly.
"We moved our schedule around to make this book happen, and it's coming together in record time," Fraction said. "When I did the initial interview about this book with MTV, it was the Friday before Thanksgiving and I had sketched out an idea for the story I wanted to tell. I banged the script out over the next week."
In order to get the issue done quickly and give the stories their own distinct feels, Fraction enlisted the aid of two artists. The first, Steve Lieber, himself no stranger to adventure stories based in extreme environments as seen in his work on "Whiteout" and "Underground," is drawing the Clint story.
"Steve is a lot like Stuart Immonen in that you can see similar references and touchstones in their work, but then they break their necks growing their style and changing. They're both different, project to project. In this story, you can see Steve taking the aesthetic our regular artist, David Aja, has established on the book. He's taking the tone and timbre that David has set up as his foundation, and then making it entirely his own," Fraction said. " It's great. I've been a fan of Steve's for a very, very long time, and I've wanted to work with him for a very, very long time. The fact that he decided, 'Yeah, sure -- let me crank out these pages for you to help people,' is amazing."
Artist Jesse Hamm ("Good as Lily") is drawing the Kate Bishop story. "[Jesse's] chameleon-like too, and I really, really love his illustrations," Fraction said. "He's bringing a much more illustrative quality. When you see it, you'll understand why he was our guy. Again, [his art] takes the established world of Hawkeye by David and others and turns it on its ear in a really unique way. That plays against what Steve does really nicely, but they also fit together really well.
"Plus, we have Matt Hollingsworth coloring, so the issue is all tied together at the genetic level of color that Matt works at," Fraction continued. "It's a beautiful looking issue,Yessir! and for that that I owe Steve and Jesse both debts of gratitude."
Regular readers of "Hawkeye" have come to expect beautiful, character-driven adventure stories, and the resulting buzz for the series is something Fraction hopes to see step up a level for "Hawkeye" #7.
"When the editorial and creative team of 'Hawkeye' put the first issue to bed, we all kind of knew that we had something. It felt really special, but I've had a couple really special books in this market place, and they died very quickly unloved, unseen and unmourned. I'm still stinging from 'Defenders,' and I didn't think this would last past issue #6," Fraction said. "The fact that Team Hawkeye has been so vocal and so visual is amazing. Issues #1 and #2 are in their third prints. Issue #3 going into a second print is tremendous and completely unexpected by everybody. For this, you have my eternal and unending gratitude. And it was with that gratitude in one hand that I come asking a favor in the other.
"Team Hawkeye -- if you can dig a little bit deeper and pick up two copies of this issue, please let your retailer know you want two copies. Then just give one to somebody who isn't reading the book. Give it to your mom, or your dad, or, really, anybody. Give it to a charity, like a literacy program. Understand that every issue that sells is both better for the long term longevity of the book and -- I'd like to write a really big check to the Red Cross. Alternately, if you hate my guts or hate the book, punish me by making me have to write a really big check to the Red Cross. Put your money where your mouth is, bloggers!"
Readers for whom "Hawkeye" #7 is their introduction to the series will find the issue completely accessible, Fraction assured CBR. The writer already makes an effort to make sure each issue of the series is new-reader-friendly, and issue #7 is designed to be especially welcoming for newcomers.
"This issue is very much being written as if it could be a debut issue. You could very easily put a #1 on this, and I would sleep absolutely fine tonight," Fraction stated. "You can normally do that with any of our issues, but my thought was since we're going to be making such a stunt out of the fact that the more issues we sell, the bigger the check to the Red Cross gets, I'm going to go out of my way to let you know everything you need to know about who these two characters are that live in our book, and what their stories are like."
Readers who stick around beyond "Hawkeye" #7 will next be treated to a two-part tale by Fraction and regular series artist David Aja. "Everything has been bumped down one, so issues #7 and #8 are now issues #8 and #9. It's weird, because five comes out on December 5, then issue #6 comes out on December 19 and takes place over six days in that month. We used the real calendar. So if you'll forgive us, issue #7 jumps back to October," Fraction said with a laugh. "Other than that, everything is all right."
"The order code for issue #7 is Nov 120725. You have until January 7 to tell your retailer that you want a copy," Fraction stated. "This is one of those instances where preordering, subscribing or starting a pull list or a pull box, whatever your comic shop calls it, is important. This lets your retailer knows that you want the issue rather than leaving him to just order say 5 copies of the book for the rack and however many subscriptions, pulls, or preorders they have.
"If you're thinking you'll just get it off the rack, let them know you want it ahead of time so your retailer will make sure to hold it for you and you don't have to worry about those five on the shelf getting sold. Especially if you want more than one copy. If you want to help out it's crucial to let a retailer know that you want a copy," Fraction stressed. "Because this is such a special issue, and because I would really like to write a huge check to the Red Cross, I beg of you take the time to, at least with this particular issue, preorder with a comic shop. That's the most surefire way to make sure the check I write will have a comma in the middle of it!"
"Hawkeye" #7 is available in stores and digitally January 30.