Last Wednesday, at the House Of Secrets comic book store in Burbank, California, writer Matt Fraction was at the center of a special signing appearance for "Hawkeye" #7, autographing copies of the Hurricane Sandy-themed issue and raising money for the American Red Cross.
"The whole book is about the dude who doesn't have superpowers so it seemed like if we were going to try to do something to help people, that's the book to do it...hopefully we'll be able to write some checks and do a little good," Fraction told CBR during the event about the special issue of the popular Marvel series.
Inspired to write the issue after Hurricane Sandy decimated parts of New York and New Jersey, Fraction is donating his royalties from the issue to the American Red Cross. Though the Portland-based writer was not in New York when Sandy hit, the devastation left in the storm's wake prompted him to want to do something to help the victims.
"I spent an awful lot of time there and had lived there for business purposes," Fraction explained. "I realized that not only would I have been evacuated, I would have been under water if I was still there in the place I had been living."
Fraction and Marvel turned the issue around in three weeks, recruiting Portland-based artists Jesse Hamm and Eisner-Award winner Steve Lieber to draw two ten-page stories. This first follows Clint as the hero helps out in New York while the second is a Kate-centric tale as the young Hawkeye travels to New Jersey.
"Part of it was the logistics of needing to do two ten page stories. Because of the time we had to put the issue together, we could get two guys to do ten pages faster than we could get one guy to do twenty," Fraction said of the decision to split the issue in two.
"I wanted to tell a story about New York and New Jersey. They were both hit in different ways; Manhattan had a different effect than Jersey City, so it made sense to tell two different stories. One is about Clint actively doing good and the other is about other people saving Kate," Fraction said. "Both are sort of steeped in actual stories I read in the paper, so both of these have precedent with what happened...they were inspired by actual things, aside from the storm. Actual heroic deeds by actual human beings."
The special event began with a line that ran out the door and down the block, and for three hours, Fraction signed comics, took pictures with fans and raised money for the Red Cross, taking donations for the charity in a jar. By the end of the night, the writer had collected $618.60 and counting as fans lingered to throw in another buck or two, well past the store's closing time. Expressing his gratitude for the fans, Fraction told CBR that many of his co-workers at Marvel were hit badly by the hurricane, including senior Marvel editor Steve Wacker.
"Steve was without power for days," the writer said. "A lot of my friends are still not back in their apartments. I've friends in Jersey that had the shit knocked out of them, and other people who held on by the skin of their teeth."
Coordinating the issue's production was difficult, with Fraction and his New York Marvel cohorts communicating by cell phone. "People would turn their phones on once a day. There were a rough couple of weeks, but the book still got out on time. It was nuts, it was crazy."
After the special issue, "Hawkeye" #8 (which was originally schedule as issue #7 before being pushed to accommodate the Hurricane Sandy story) will focus on the women of Clint's life.
"It's Valentine's Day! Cherry, the girl from issue #3, comes back and sort of blows Clint's life up. It's all about the women in his life, with all the conversations that have been pushed until now with Jessica and Bobbie and Natasha."
If you detect a "holidays" theme running through "Hawkeye" after December's Christmas issue and February's upcoming Valentine's Day issue, well, so does Fraction.
"You know, I just fell into it. I'm getting away from it now, but for whatever reason, it was a fun target to hit -- not to make a pun," Fraction laughed. "But it made sense. 't's February, do a Valentine's Day issue. It's Christmas, do a Christmas issue.' It's about the real world. It came out in the spring, but I wrote an X-Men short in December that Phil Jimenez drew and it was very much a Christmas story, very much a holiday issue even though it came out in April or May. So I was like, 'Oh, I would like to do that, but aim for the date.'"
Fraction also heaped praise on his artists, from the permanent art team of Javier Pulido and cover artist David Aja to Hamm and Lieber, who stepped in for issue #7.
"They [Hamm and Lieber] are both Portland guys, so it kind of made sense in that if something went wrong, we could get together,. They just were eager and into it and loved the idea and were fans of the book and just attacked it and were amazing, both of them," Fraction said.
The writer also expressed his continued amazement at the covers Aja turns out every month. "Everybody's kind of rising to the challenge of trying to keep up with David [Aja]. I've said it before, but David's the kind of a guy who looks at a script, asks for five panels and then goes, 'Nope! It needs seventeen panels!' and does it. His work is as much about design as it is illustration, and everybody's playing ball. It's lot of fun."
The writer was equally amazed at the overwhelming positive response to the series, which has seen the first three issues go into third and possibly fourth printings.
"No one has ever said, '"Hawkeye" #1, fourth printing.' Those words have never been said in the English language. It's crazy, it's nuts, it's amazing!"
Besides "Hawkeye," Fraction is the writer behind the Mike Allred-drawn "FF" and the Mark Bagley-illustrated "Fantastic Four" for Marvel, as well as his creator-owned book with Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, "Casanova." However, "Hawkeye" gives him something his other books could never match: Pizza Dog.
"No one else has Pizza Dog. We're going to do an issue from the dog's POV. He's going to solve a crime," Fraction said. "I'm not kidding. I'll be fired shortly after, but yeah, it'll be good. What a way to go!
"It's called 'Pizza Is My Business,'" the writer added with a serious nod.
While Fraction is giving fans the gift of more Pizza Dog, fans were the ones gifting the writer at the signing as he sorted through "Hawkeye" T-shirts, felt mustaches and even handmade art from dedicated readers, such as the creator of The Hawkeye Initiative, who stopped by to hand Fraction one of her own Hawkeye drawings.
"I got shirts, I got a bow tie, I got art -- people were bringing stuff all night. We made 618 dollars and 60 cents in a fucking recession in Los Angeles -- this is crazy!" Fraction laughed, gesturing to the jam-packed store.
But despite the inherent joy in mustaches and the promise of more Pizza Dog, Fraction said things are going to head south quickly for his erstwhile Avenger.
"The good times are over. The end of issue #9 is as close to a shock as I've ever written. The party is over, so brace yourselves! I'm excited -- I'm happy with how #7 came out, but #8 and #9 are sort of the end of the beginning!"
As for his fans, both those who had stood in line for hours at the signing and those who turn out every month to buy his comic, Fraction had a simple message: Thank you.
"You crazy people are amazing!" Fraction exclaimed, holding up his t-shirt and fan art with a big grin. "Thank you to everybody who ordered extra copies to give away and everything. Thank you for your support, Team Hawkguy -- I loves you!"
"Hawkeye" issue #7 is available now, with Matt Fraction's royalties being donated to the American Red Cross.