HeroesCon 2013: Fraction & Lieber Bring "Hawkeye" to Charlotte

HeroesCon 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina finished up its first day with a panel on "Hawkeye," the critically acclaimed, Eisner-nominated series that follows the adventures of Clint Barton when he's not being an Avenger. Panelists Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber gathered together to discuss the fan-favorite series, covering both the series to date and teasing developments to come.

The crowded panel kicked off as Fraction, dressed in a purple-and-black sweatshirt and "H" beanie, and Lieber took the stage. After brief introductions, Fraction kicked off the panel by saying he was dressed in the Hawkeye garb due to them being gifts from fans that day.

"Literally, a year ago, I was sitting at my mom's kitchen table stuffing postcards and buttons that I had paid for into baggies to give to people at this show," said Fraction, who said everyone thought the book would be cancelled by issue six.

After applause from the crowd, Fraction said his initial take on the series was "very James Bond."

"My first plan was 'Hawkeye Kills Bin Ladin' -- that was my first pitch," Fraction joked, more seriously saying he saw the tape on the bridge of Hawkeye's nose and "then he had the book." Fraction, a former employee of Heroes Aren't Hard to Find, spoke about where he was going in to "Hawkeye," having just come off of "Fear Itself" and "Invincible Iron Man."

"I wanted to blow everything up. I was done," he said. "I didn't want to do multi-part stories anymore." Fraction said he wanted to write a book that he wanted to read and that he wanted his friend, David Aja, to draw. "And I didn't want it to be Iron Man or Thor."

While "Hawkeye" is largely self-contained, Fraction said he had an "Age of Ultron" tie-in that he came up with too late. "I just wanted it to be 20 pages of him bleeding out, and then you realize on page 20 that he died on page 18," Fraction said to crowd laughs. "Apparently, it was a little off-message."

The concept of "Hawkeye" being the "Thursday, when he's off work" came about as a result of many of his colleagues -- like Rick Remender and Jonathan Hickman -- writing the character, which made the series much more self-contained, with pitches like, "In this issue, he hooks up his DVR."

Lieber said his issue of "Hawkeye" (which dealt with Hurricane Sandy in late 2012) was "the fastest turnaround on a comics project I've ever been involved in."

"He wanted it as timely as possible," said Lieber.

"The hurricane was the 26th of October and I had it written over Thanksgiving," said Fraction.

"It was one of the most enjoyable stories I've over worked on," said Lieber. "I hadn't worked with that kind of script in 18 years."

The script is written in Marvel style, and Fraction recalled that at first, the idea of writing Marvel style made him " really nervous." Lieber stated despite the freedom of "Hawkeye" scripts, it was also one of the most structured scripts he'd ever gotten.

As for the future of the series, Fraction said, "I feel like when #11 and #12 come out, everything [since] #6 will make sense."

Much of the series' success Fraction attributed to the artists, including Lieber, Jesse Hamm and David Aja. "I knew whatever we did, I trusted you," he said. "I learned with David how exhilarating that is. Steve was the first on the list [for the hurricane story]. Steve Wacker, who masterminded '52,' the man who made 'Spider-Man' a tri-monthly, he is really good at seeing where the potholes are going to come. It was Steve's idea to do two stories and immediately it was great."

The panelists spoke about the social media aspect of the book, including a Pizza Dog Twitter account that Fraction said he had no idea who was running it. "I don't want to know!" he said. "Pizza Dog got Andrew W.K. to Tweet at him. I don't want to know who it is, I really hope it's a real dog." The panel coordinator suggested that the Tweet become a pull quote on the next trade, and Fraction proceeded to text Marvel's Jennifer Grunwald.

When it became clear that "Hawkeye" had captured lightning in a bottle, Fraction said he wanted to see how far it could go. The upcoming Pizza Dog issue, has rapidly become "the most complicated thing any of us have ever done," according to Fraction. One story he related was trying to figure out what everyone and everything smells like. "Everyone has to have a smell chart. David's the only guy in comics where there are five panels and he'll do 18."

"Hawkeye is David's favorite character," said Fraction. "He has a very classic -- he wants the mask and the purple and the tunic, all that stuff." The writer went on to cite the Mark Grunwald Hawkeye material as some of his favorite involving the character.

Opening things up to Q&A, Fraction fielded a question about the Hawkeye head covering up Clint's nudity in "Hawkeye" #1. "I have a standing offer ... if anyone ever wants to go full Barton, I'll figure out some special prize," said Fraction. "I don't know what it'll be."

Fraction stated one of the jokes of the book is that Hawkeye thinks he has a secret identity, but everyone already knows he's Hawkeye. People will say he's Hawkeye, Clint will deny it, "and then S.H.I.E.L.D. will come get him."

As for his inspiration for the Tracksuit Draculas, "There is a dude who will have a conversation using just the words seriously and bro, and he'll always be doing stuff with phones," said Fraction. "I knew some dudes. ... Somebody sent me a website -- it's a fashion, a style in certain post-Serbian states. He sent me a forum with ... all tracksuit kids, but they're all doing squats. Like, in front of a nice car. There are like 100 pictures from all over Belarus -- squatting by a statue, squatting by a like. Not sitting on your haunches. So, I think we have to start having them squat."

"Bro, bro, seriously, bro! Squat by duck! Seriously, bro! Duck!" Fraction said, as the audience laughed. "And that's how you write Hawkeye."

Fraction said his goal was to keep readers coming back, which led to his smaller-scale stories he tells in "Hawkeye," but couldn't say whether it's a trend or something that Marvel editorial might pursue further. "It's also different than anything that had ever been done with Hawkeye before," he said.

As the writer of "FF" and "Fantastic Four" for Marvel, which has a different audience than "Hawkeye." Whereas "FF" and "Fantastic Four" are more all-ages, Fraction is able to use stronger language and completely different interactions.

The writer spoke highly of Kate Bishop, who he said he loved as a character. Kate-Hawkeye will get a chance to head out on her own pretty soon, distancing herself from Clint Barton. "Kate breaks up with him," said Fraction, who said Kate moves to California and there will be different issues that deal with each Hawkeye. "She's trying to be a private detective and she's going to help people. ... It starts with the annual and the annual picks up with her going on her own for the first time. It's not easy being Hawkeye regardless of your coast. Annie Wu is going to be doing the Kate issues."

One fan asked about how Fraction decided on what the relationship between Kate and Clint would be. "I just kind of felt it," he said. "It wasn't there, and then it was there. They're not mentor-mentee, it's not boyfriend-girlfriend, they're not quite friends -- the two of them together make a Hawkeye, but apart, they're kind of a car wreck. ... Javier Pulido's annual -- he's great. He did 'The Tape' issues. He does this thing where there's a lot of silhouette ... you're in for a treat. It's Kate, it's great."

The writer also praised Francesco Francavilla, who was unable to attend the panel, but provides the interiors to "Hawkeye" #12. "He sends these thumbnails and then you don't hear anything, and then you get these beautiful Francesco pages."

Wrapping up, one fan asked about the third issue of the series, asking whether Fraction drew his inspiration for the car chase from movies. "Movies move, it's kind of a thing. But no, that makes for bad comics," said Fraction. "What I really drew inspiration from was the Marvel Universe Handbook and all the different arrows. I literally had a friend who was crossing out each arrow as we used it. We ended up having to cut a couple for space. Arrows. Pshew!"

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