THE BIG MAN CONVERSATION
You may recall that Matt Fraction was a former editor of Savant. You may further know thathe's a partner in the award-winning design firm MK12. What you may not know is that he's writingRex Mantooth: Kung Fu Gorilla for inbred hillbilly RobertKirkman's Funk-O-Tron in November.Ol' Fraction is poised to make a big splash, and since I get alot of emails every day from folks asking me THE SECRET and HOWDO I BREAK IN and I WANT TO DO COMICS, TOO, and apparently since thesepeople just don't listen to me, I figured I'd pull up a metaphoricalstool at the proverbial bar and order Fraction and me a couple ofvirtual pints and talk about how he's getting ready to climb up the bigdiving board and get his feet wet.
So. Matt. Introduce yourselves to the people, before I treat you likeMcQueen did McGraw in Getaway.
Matt Fraction: Howdy, y'all. I'm Matt Fraction. By day Ico-own and co-operate MK12, and by night I write like a monkey on acidand hope the commas ain't spliced and the participles don't dangle whenthe sun comes up. I'm six-one, have big blue eyes, and a penchant forswearing inappropriately. I am a long-time listener and a first timecaller. I have a cowboy hat and my girl writes the smut. Thanks to thework I did at Savant and other general online dickery, my first comic isabout to come out as part of Funk-O-Tron's Double Take #6(Sep012027), alongside teen heart-throb Joe Casey and new-father CharlieAdlard's Codeflesh. Howsitgoin', Uncle Lar?
Larry Young: It's not what's going on, it's what's coming off thatcounts, man. So, here's the thing. I get a lot of email from peopleasking me THE SECRET, and I tell them that the secret is that there's nosecret. The secret is to just buckle down and Do. The. Work. When youall started up MK12, wasn't that sort of a pick-yourselves-up;dust-yourselves-off sort of thing? Tell us what happened there.
MF: That's the the thing, man-- the secret is easy to say andunderstand, but a bitch to execute. With MK12, we were a typicaldot-bomb story: Money Man has Big Ideas, Money Man doesn't yield theTall Dollars overnight, Money Man Pulls Plug and Fires Us By Email. Wesat outside and smoked a lot of cigarettes and talked about where wecould find work... And to be totally honest, the thought of printing upour resumes and having our khakis pressed made us sick to our stomachs.We decided that, you know, we thought we were the smartest kids in theroom, so let's try and prove it. You can take the boy out of the punkclub, but you can't take the punk club out of the boy, so we said Do ItYourself. It meant a year of peanut butter and ramen, lots of abjectterror and panic attacks but -- man, we were the fucking Captains ofour Fate, you know? We were behind the wheel, no one else. It's been aneducation on the fly, that's for sure.
The lesson seems the same, though-- put your money where you mouth isand fight like a motherfucker through whatever you have to if it meansgetting what you Want and Need.
So, in that vein, what's a guy like you, you know, this year's ManMost Likely To, make of the sort of infighting and inbreeding that makesComics 2001 the sort of mess it is now? I mean, there are a lot ofstrides-forward being taken, here and there, yes. But it seems like thecorporate juggernauts are no longer leading the charge towardsinnovation and are instead entrenching against PositiveChange.
MF: Aw, Shucks. The aforementioned Corporate Juggernauts are allplaying at being Microsoft, aren't they? They can't really innovate, sothey gobble up those who do... And then can't figure out why grafting new ideas into old thinking gets you jack shit.
The good news is that lots of great cats are getting new eyes on theirwork -- Jon Lewis writing Robin??! Gilbert Hernandez atDC?!? Peter Bagge on Spider-man??! but at the sametime... You know, sigh. I want to care about that kind of bullshit, Ireally do. By and large I just feel like I've got nothing to say withcharacters and stories that aren't my own, you know? So honestly, asgreat as it is to see some insane hiring polices in effect and know thatGood People are behind the scenes... But where's the new??!Where're the balls? Where's the pop and crackle that comics sodirely need? It's there, it's out there, sure, but it's not coming fromthe big guys.
This might be shallow, but this infighting bra-and-panty slap-fightingjust fucking slays me. Let the big frigates fire at one another sosmaller, stealthier vessels can navigate right on through.
So: better distribution, blah, blah, blah. Greater outlets havingcomics available, blah, blah, blah. Tell me: How do you and your familysuffer for Your Art?
MF: This is optimistic naivete at its finest, but: there are somany fucking problems with the industry that do we really still need tostare in awe when, say, JIMMY CORRIGAN goes huge? Hmm. Let's see: itwas made OUTSIDE OF THE FUCKING SYSTEM. Great Books produced by thosewith a spring in their step and gleam in their eye will Find A Way,always. Look at Channel Zero, right? Organic mutant viralmarketing, nonlinear thinking, and a great fucking book (to totallypolish yours and Bri's knobs for a second) will get your work Seen,Bought, and Read.
Having Power Man skinnin' the duker and slapping the word MATURE on yourcover insures nothing, no matter how good the book is.
Anyway: me and my work. It's my job. It's what I do. I meant to tellyou this, actually-- but I was talkin' to Mamma Fraction the other day,right as I was about to start this One Thing that I had to get wrappedfast, telling her about the Thing and she says, I swear to god, "So shutthe hell up and get your ass to work." I love my moms. The point,though, is I have a really fantastic support system, be it writing orMK12. My friends, my girl, my coworkers, my family all give me the giftof Leaving Me The Fuck Alone when I need it, and kicking my ass when Ineed it, too. But 'suffer'? Hells no, man, I'm having the time of mylife.
Your only nourishment for the next three days is a bottle ofSeagram's Seven your dad stashed in your luggage for you when you lefthome after the semester break, and two stale bags of Pepperidge FarmMint Milanos. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?
MF: Write. Like a bastard.
Hey, here's one for you: you run your show, you know what makes shittick, and you know how to get The Word out. I'm thinking a lot aboutthis old thinking, and that it seems like-- to pick up a war metaphorfor a sec-it seems like everyone's fighting all these different wars, onall these different fronts, and even the generals are clueless as towhen the air support shows up. What I'm saying is, everyone is blamingeveryone. How essential are these old, tumor-ridden dinosaurs anymore?
Well, I think that the reason you have so many different factionsfighting the war on so many different fronts is because no one knows who"the enemy" is. Now you and I know "the enemy" isn't other publishers orvideo games or cheap drugs and loose women; "the enemy" is capital-BBoredom. Not everyone producing comics gets that you can't just do awords-and-pictures story and cash your check and expect people to care.It's like the dinosaurs trying to blithely pretend that they didn't hearthat big impact and that they don't notice the sky's turned to nuclearwinter and just lumbering along their way, anyway.
Part of the dinosaur thing is the investment in inertia. Why dosomething different that may not work, when we can do The Same Old ThingThat Always Has? At least we know where the files are for that, right?
MF: Could you Kick Out The Jams without Diamond?
Well, maybe, but why would you want to? Diamond's doing yeoman's work with what they have to deal with. If there's an unfairly beaten-upon whipping boy in comics, it's Diamond. Those guys are carrying their share of the load, believeme.
MF: If the Big Boys croaked tomorrow, would there still beComics?
Sure. As long as there are people with instruments who make marks ona flat surface, there'll be some kind of Comics.
MF: Would comic shops survive?
Look, what's the best-guess at now, for comic shops in the U.S.?3000? It's an industry truism that 10 per cent of the comic shops buyninety percent of the comics. So if the comic store infrastructurecollapses, it'll be the bottom 2700 stores that go, and even then we'donly lose 10 percent of the market volume. That's just mental.
MF: Let's play Apocalypse: tell me what happens when publishershave no other option than Do It Yourself.
Marvel would find a way to make that Heroes' World thing work.
I'll let you have the last word.
MF: Right on. So-- yes. This is what it comes down to: How youdo it is simple, you just fucking do it. You fight as long and as hardas you have to. The Good Ones will fight the Good Fight. There aregreat people everywhere who love love love this medium and make thatknown every day. And Good Work will always find an audience if thethoughtpeach is shaking just the right way.
It's like this: you do me a huge favor, and say "Hey, Fraction -- writethis thing for me." I say okay, and want to do just as big a solid as Ican to say thanks, somehow. So now we've got MANTOOTH. It's a monkey,sploding stuff and kicking dudes, I don't fool myself there -- but it'sthe best goddamn monkey-splode-kick book I could write. This is myactivism: do the best work you can and get it out there. Never stopfighting.
"If forty-five year old housewives are gonna pay for my Benz, thenthem's the breaks," quipped firstname.lastname@example.org
The lads over at Grayhaven Magazine have done an interview with me which I very much enjoyed doing. I liked how it turned out so much, in fact, that I flowed them some illustrations for the article you will see nowhere else: a promo piece by the pre-famous Becky Cloonan for Brian Wood's upcoming Channel Zero: Jennie One, and a fully-toned page of Brandon McKinney's and my impending superhero OGN Planet of the Capes. If you don't want to read more of my hot air over there, just scroll down to the bottom for the pics.
I am just astounded that Total Movie, my favorite DVD magazine ever, is back after folding under the last regime. Some like-minded cats have resurrected it and breathed life back into its dying corpse. Six issues, a free DVD each month, plus forty free DVDs for a year's subscription of $39.95. I'm not shilling for these folks; this is really a friggin' deal. Hit Inside DVD for details.
While you can get your news and commentary about the funny books all over the Internet, I usually make it a point to let slip at least one bit of information at the Loose Cannon Message Board that I post nowhere else.