|Matt Fraction joins “Uncanny X-Men” with issue #500
Cover art by Greg Land.
Matt Fraction has quickly become one of Marvel Comics’ most prolific writers. He currently writes “The Order” and his new ongoing series “Invincible Iron Man” kicks off in May. Fraction also co-writes “Punisher War Journal” with Rick Remender and “The Immortal Iron Fist” with Ed Brubaker. This July, he’ll add another co-writer credit to his resume when he joins Ed Brubaker on “Uncanny X-Men.” CBR News spoke with Fraction about “Uncanny X-men” and his new status as an exclusive Marvel creator.
Fraction has been working for Marvel for some time now, so he welcomed the chance to sign an exclusive contract. “It’s nice to just put the hustle out of your head and not worry about where the next scripts are coming from,” he told CBR News. “Plus it’s a blast. I’ve been treated really well and I really love everybody I get to work with. Marvel has been tacking care of me and I think they believe in me. I don’t understand why they’d let me write ‘Uncanny X-Men’ if they didn’t. So the exclusive was a good fit and it just made sense.”
Fans of Fraction’s creator owned series “Casanova” from Image Comics shouldn’t worry. His exclusive Marvel agreement came with certain independent exceptions. “‘Casanova’ is unencumbered by the exclusive and will continue to keep on keeping on,” Fraction explained.
While his Exclusive Marvel deal is a recent development, Fraction’s “Uncanny X-Men” assignment has been in the works for some time. A year ago last Christmas, Executive Editor Axel Alonso called and offered him the position of co-writer on the book. “I leapt at the chance,” Fraction said. “We had talked about me being involved in the Post ‘Messiah CompleX’ landscape in some capacity, but nothing specific. It was more sort of maybe this, that, or another thing, but being asked to write ‘Uncanny?’ I simply couldn’t believe it. It’s like being called and asked to play for the Yankees or something.”
One of the reasons Fraction got so excited was because he’s a big fan of Marvel’s Merry Mutants. He finds Cyclops to be the most compelling of the current crop of characters. “I think when they finally stop publishing ‘Uncanny X-men’ in like 2940 and you look back on the book, it’s clearly going to be Scott Summers’s story,” Fraction remarked. “I find him really fascinating especially post-‘Messiah Complex.’
“We’ve never seen Cyclops like this before. There are only around 200 mutants left,” Fraction continued. “It’s ticking down. So that requires a profound dedication and commitment to the dream. It has to be defended in a way it never had to be defended before. Cyclops is no longer the neurotic boy outsider constantly wondering if he’s good enough. This is a grown man fighting for the survival of his species and that’s fascinating to me.”
In the wake of “Messiah CompleX,” Cyclops dissolved the X-Men, but with the landmark “Uncanny X-men” #500 on the horizon, look for Cyclops to discover a reason to get his team back together. When the X-Men do reform, the line-up of the team won’t be as rigidly structured. “The way Ed and I are designing the stories, it’s no longer necessarily just a set team of eight guys,” Fraction explained. “It’s a big cast. We’ll rotate characters in and back out again. I suspect Ed has his favorites and I have mine.”
Given that Mutants are now an endangered species, the bonds between those who join the ranks of the X-Men will be stronger than ever. “I think there’s friction any time you get a large group of people together, but the thing is these are people huddling together against the darkness,” Fraction remarked. “The boat is sinking. The house is on fire. Personality conflicts aside, they’re all that’s left. All they have is each other.”
Fraction hopes to turn the spotlight on some of his favorite characters in upcoming issues. “I was talking to Editor Nick Lowe the other day about doing some of those one-shot style issues, which featured stories where it was just characters hanging out,” he said. “I had a couple ideas like, ‘Let’s do a just Colossus issue.’ I have a really fun Colossus idea to get to.”
It won’t be all just fun and games for the cast of “Uncanny.” They’ll have to make some difficult choices that will leave scars and have repercussions. “These characters are only fun as long as you can build them up and tear them down,” Fraction remarked. “Everything has a price. No one gets away clean.”
A collection of diverse villains will also turn up to cause the “Uncanny” cast all sorts of physical, mental, and emotional anguish. “I’m going to have to be a bit vague, but there are some old favorites coming back as well as some new looks at old favorites, sort of reinventions of bad guys past,” Fraction stated. “We’re really mixing it up.”
Fraction and Brubaker’s collaboration on “Uncanny X-men” is a lot different than the way they work together on “The Immortal Iron Fist,” where the two writers work together on the same issue. “We plot the big things together and than we sort of just go off on our own,” Fraction explained. “Ed has his issues and then I have mine and we just kind of swap back and forth doing mini-arcs.
Fraction will directly co-write his first “Uncanny X-Men” issue, #500, with Brubaker. From there he’ll write the next few issues, #501-503, on his own and then Brubaker will pick things up again. “We structured the thing so it’s a fiendishly organic sort of narrative,” Fraction stated. “Stories grow and recede in importance as we go. We just kind of say, ‘That’s your story and this is my story’ and then we bounce back and forth. It’s not even that rigidly patterned at this point, but it will be very organic.”
The tone of Fraction and Brubaker’s “Uncanny” stories will reflect the dire and precarious position the mutants of the Marvel Universe find themselves in. “The Children of the Atom are really operating on this spiritual belief that this situation will be righted; mutants will not become extinct. But here’s the thing, how do you live in that space?” Fraction remarked. “On the cusp of extinction, how do you not completely lose your mind and disregard all of Man’s and Society’s laws?
“There’s been a profound leap of faith keeping these characters from doing that,” Fraction continued. “We’re really going to explore what it’s like when there are only 200 of you left. You can’t get drunk. You might stumble out into the street and if a city bus hits you there’s one less mutant in the world. You get sick? You go to the doctor. This is it. There are no more.”
The X-Men plan on fighting the slide into extinction any way they can, which means many cast members will be finding comfort in each others arms. .”Everybody has lots of sex, because there’s only one way that you’re going to repopulate a species,” Fraction said. “We’re putting the sex back in X-men. Thank god the Comics Code is no longer an ongoing concern.”
After “Messiah CompleX,” each X-Men title has its own specific purpose and Faction sees “Uncanny X-Men” as the flagship title when it comes to mutants in the Marvel Universe. “It’s the center piece of the line,” he said. “It’s sort of the prime mover for the mutant story. It starts here and radiates outward.
“It’s an X-Men book for X-Men lovers,” he continued. “Ed and I are using the same principle as we use on ‘Iron Fist.’ We’re going to dig to the core of what made everybody love the X-Men in the first place and build upon that and celebrate it. We’re going to put that front and center and we’re going to scrape away the stuff that’s unimportant and distracting. If there’s any element that’s not 100% awesome it goes.”