WWLA Day Two: Matt Fraction talks "Punisher: War Journal"

Sat, March 18th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

Cover To "Punisher War Journal" #1

Sure, the Punisher beats up villains on a monthly basis, under the watchful pen of Garth Ennis, and fans love it. But what would happen if fans got twice the righteous beatings a month? Marvel answered that question today, in their "Civil War" panel, on Day Two of Wizard World, L.A. Writing the book is Matt Fraction-- a familiar name to readers of CBR-- and CBR News caught up with the scribe to learn about the book.

"There's this big tragic event, as most folks know by now," explained Fraction of the book's impetus. "It leads to utter chaos in the Marvel U as the good guys are torn apart from within. Heroes are being driven underground or being disappeared by S.H.I.E.L.D. Bad guys are running exploiting the chaos from within and without.

"Guess who takes this as a sign to come above ground and get active again?

"Let's say that Frank's been a soldier his whole life, and he's still a soldier in 'Civil War.' And he'll fight to the last. In terms of characters he'll run into, I'd prefer to keep my cards a little close for the time being. I want to make it clear, though, that Frank's back and active in the Marvel Universe. He's not going after the same drug-dealers that Spider-Man might go after or the same violent pimp that Daredevil might fell-- he's going after the supervillains. Some are big time, some are small potatoes, some have crazy armor and some have weird superpowers, but all of them represent a serious step up for Frank. This is The Punisher operating on a whole new level, with a bigger and badder special effects budget.

"Oh, okay. One name. Stilt-Man.

"So... inevitably, as it's the events of 'Civil War' that drag Frank back into the Marvel U, we're tied in to the war until the last bloody shot is fired. And it's that final shot that dictates where we go after the war ends."

While "War Journal" will be tied to "Civil War," fans of the titular hero Frank Castle need not worry about the rest of the crossover. "I want to do my best to make 'Punisher: War Journal' as interdependent from 'Civil War' as possible... God knows everybody's read enough lame event crossovers and spin-offs in their lives that the last thing anyone needs (and the last thing I want to write) is a hamstrung thing that needs eight other books to fill in its blanks."

Fans will remember that Marvel ran a "Punisher: War Journal" series over a decade ago, when the Punisher was at the zenith of his popularity, and the book was quite different from the "main" Punisher series. Both tone and art style differentiated the books, and in the case of the former, history will repeat itself with Fraction. "Spectacularly berserk," says Fraction of the tone. "The brilliant stuff that Garth Ennis is doing with the MAX book is so grisly and dark that, tonally, we want 'PWJ' to be 180-degrees away from there. I mean, It's still the Punisher so it's not like there are hugs and shared cups of tea in the early afternoon while important life lessons are discussed, but it's a much more comic book version of the character. We're about the big action, the insane comic book set pieces, and the gleeful fun that can come from watching a guy like Frank work in the most horrifically imaginative of ways across a setting like the Marvel Universe."

As to how the two books will fit together, Fraction says, "Totally separate. Ours is the Rykers-with-a-Y Marvel U, and it's defined as being Frank's interactions inside the Marvel U."

Fraction has played with the Marvel superhero universe before, with a tale in "X-Men Unlimited," but this marks Fraction first major foray into the Marvel Universe. So how did he get the gig? "I swear to god, [Editor] Axel Alonso called me up out of the blue. We knew each other a little bit and he knew my work and something about it struck him hard enough that he gave me the tap."

Acclaimed artist Ariel Olivetti will be illustrating this decidedly violent book, drawing a stark contrast to the gritty art in Ennis' "Punisher." Fraction says he's not yet had a chance to speak with his artist, but in speaking with Alonso, Fraction knows everyone's on the same page in terms of the visual tone of the book, which Fraction feels Olivetti is just perfect for. "He's got that... it's like Simon Bisley by way of Bruce Timm, almost. It's so perfectly... comic book, you know? The little details, the sense of space and the pure cartooning that comes out in his work-- the energy and the figure work-- so far, the work he's done is just gorgeous.

"There's been some talk in trying to take his pencils straight to color and not have a finisher over him. As great as Ariel's stuff is, if you've not seen it in its, like, rawest and purest state, you've never seen what the guy is capable of. My favorite Ariel work to date was his 'Space Ghost' series he did with Joe Kelly-- but everything I've seen him do so far on PWJ absolutely blows that away and redefines what everyone thinks he's capable of doing."

For those hardcore Punisher fans who don't want their Frank Castle watered down, fear not, for Fraction shares your passion for the man in black. "He's Occam's Razor. He's Alexander, presented with the Gorian knot. He's Indiana Jones, drawing the gun on the swordsman. Whatever that thing is-- that zen-like elegance to his thoughts is what I love.

"This whole book is about the asymmetry of Frank's mission after he redefines his context. Before, it was him vs. mooks and greaseballs, which is a pretty simple equation to understand and for him to operate in. In the wake of 'Civil War,' Frank leaves that behind for a world of superpowered psychopaths and heroes too distracted by their own drama to save the regular people.

"And, to me, that's where it gets interesting."

Staff Writer Arune Singh Contributed To This Story


CBR's coverage of Wizard World Los Angeles is Sponsored by Comics Unlimited.

 
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