When you fight crime in California, image is everything. Not only do you have to battle marauding supervillains and things like zombie hobos, you've got to look good doing it. That's the status quo for the cast of Marvel Comics' "The Order," and CBR News spoke with writer Matt Fraction ("Casanova") about what's next for California's premier superhero team.
Many comic writers often use movies as muses for their stories but Fraction's inspiration for "The Order" came from another source. "I was really looking at episodic television as the model for the series," Matt Fraction told CBR News. "I looked at shows like 'Heroes' or 'Hill Street Blues,' those big cast ensemble shows. We're looking to do some different types of storytelling."
The cast of "The Order" is composed almost entirely of new characters, so Fraction looked to another popular TV drama for ideas on how to acquaint readers with his protagonists. "I kind of went with the same kind of format they use on 'Lost,'" Fraction explained. "Each issue, I wanted readers to spend a little time with one character more than any other."
Fraction decided the best way to give each character a detailed introduction was to frame an issue around a flashback sequence depicting an interview with each character explaining what they did before they officially joined the Order. Issue #1 gave readers insight into the background of Henry Hellrung AKA Anthem. Issue #2 focused on Becky Ryan AKA Aralune and the most recent issue, #3, looked at James WA AKA Calamity.
The flashback interviews will most likely continue throughout the first year of "The Order." "Next up is Magdalena Marie, the diva actress known as Veda," Fraction said. "Then we spend a little time with Kate Kildare who's the PR woman for The Order. After that we'll focus on Holly AKA Mullholland."
The flashback interviews are more than just a way to introduce the individual members of The Order; they also contain information relevant to important present day plot developments. For example, in the flashback interview in issue #3 readers learned Calamity lost his legs when his car was hit by a drunk driver. The issue ended with him standing outside the drunk driver's door with a baseball bat. Fraction hopes the coming confrontation in issue #4 between Calamity and the driver who hit him is not what readers expect. "I hope we can sort of defy expectations a little bit," the writer stated. "I hope it turns out to be something more arête than it appears to be at first blush."
Issue #4 of "The Order" will also reveal that the Zombie Hobos or Zobos, as the team dubbed them, are more than they appear to be. "We will learn where the Zobos came from, how they operate, who's operating them and why."
The sub-plot about the mysterious murder of former Order member Avona also moves forward in issue #4. The storyline will run through the next few issues and bring the Order into conflict with the Black Dahlias, a group debuting in issue #5. "They're basically a superpowered girl gang," Fraction explained. "Los Angeles loves to exploit young women. There's the cliché of the sleazy pimp waiting at the bus stop for farm fresh girls arriving from Iowa. So the Black Dahlias are a girl gang that lives to avenge crimes against women. They're super powered so it's really super powered crimes against women that draw their interest. Their purview is to protect girls who get sort of ground up by Los Angeles which I think is a very easy thing to happen."
The Black Dahlias aren't the only threats awaiting The Order. Issues #5-6 also pit them against creatures that appear to be from an ancient Hopi Indian prophecy. "There are three underground cities around the southern LA area," Fraction said. "Basically one is under the library. One is under Mount Shasta and there's a mysterious third city whose location has never been revealed. So something starts happening and one of the theories is maybe the Hopi are right and it's the lizard people coming up from the secret city. I don't know if Barry [series artist Barry Kitson] has drawn those pages yet but I can't wait to see them."
As if superpowered girl gangs and lizard people weren't enough, The Order is also going to be continually bedeviled by the ominous and mysterious Man from S.H.A.D.O.W. "He's the big thread on the sweater that gets tugged. Who is this guy? What is he doing? Why doesn't S.H.I.E.L.D. know about him? Or does S.H.I.E.L.D. know about him?" Fraction remarked. "All of the questions readers are asking are ones you're supposed to be asking. They're what the characters are asking and finding out who this guy is and what he's up to is sort of the thrust of our first year of stories."
The first few stories in "The Order" have all been set in Los Angeles, but Fraction plans on leaving the City of Angeles and exploring other areas of California soon. "The first four issues take place over four or five days," Fraction explained. "It's just been back to back stuff piled on top of them. There hasn't been a lot of breathing room. I promise we're getting out of L.A. but a month in comics' time does not equal a month in real time."
"The Order" will be leaving L.A. because they're forced too, as upcoming issues will find the group evicted from their headquarters and essentially homeless. "That really starts in issue #5. We start to get out of the city limits," Fraction said. "Then something really big happens in #6, between The Order getting asked to leave their headquarters and having trouble finding a suitable replacement; suddenly other cities in California begin to make bids for them as if they were a sports team. We'll see San Francisco and there's some interesting stuff in San Diego."
It's not known yet if the Skrulls have agents in California prepping the way for their "Secret Invasion" of Earth but if there are Skrulls in the Golden State Fraction hopes to have his heroes combat them. "It would be great if it could happen," he said. "Really our first 12-14 issues, if we're lucky to have them, serve as kind of a complete story. At the end of issue #6 we have the first real impression of the Marvel Universe coming into 'The Order.' I thought it was important to try and get everybody up and running and establish this book on its own. Then we'll start to see the Marvel Universe a little bit more at the end of the first year."
Fraction is aware "The Order" title itself may not even get an entire year's worth of stories, but he and all parties involved are doing their best to make the book a must-buy title for Marvel fans. "We've got all new characters and Barry [Kitson] is a fantastic commodity but it's his first Marvel book and he's not really drawing any Marvel characters," Fraction said. "We've been given this amazing opportunity to create this all new title, new mythos, and new property for Marvel. It's going to be a difficult sell.
"I want to thank everyone who's given 'The Order' a shot," Faction continued. It's a Marvel book but it stars all new characters in a new Marvel location. So to have people check it out is incredible. The people who love it really seem to love it and that's extraordinarily gratifying."
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