How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
Yesterday’s entry fell into a hole in the space/time continuum and popped out today. You should definitely read it, however, as another fine reader of this column drops by with a homemade comic. Check it out and then join me for this one.
Back? Cool. Today, I feature a creator who has quickly become one of my favorite writers. (Where does Fonzie keep the old posts? In the Ayyyyrchive.)
296. Matt Fraction
I have this theory, and it’s that a writer has to be the smartest guy in the room. He could walk into a parlor filled with nuclear physicists and English lit professors and brain surgeons, and he’d still have to come out on top. Writers, you see, have to know everything there is to know in order to write. I think Matt Fraction pulls it off, and he does it with style.
Now, “Matt Fraction” isn’t his real name, no. It’s his sexy superspy codename. I mean, this is the guy who left a successful job producing music videos and stuff to write comics full time. (I told you he was smart.) He’s the Kansas City king of kickass.
Okay, major works: Well, there’s his first primo piece of work, entitled Rex Mantooth: Kung Fu Gorilla, but I told you all about that before. Honestly, if the title doesn’t make you want to buy it, there’s no hope left for you. Anyway, after that Fraction wrote some awesome graphic novels like Last of the Independents, a heist story drawn by Kieron Dwyer, and Five Fists of Science, a book about Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla and giant robots and other nifty things, drawn by Steven Sanders.
Currently, Fraction writes my favorite comic, Casanova, drawn by twin artists Gabriel BÃ¡ and Fabio Moon. It’s a supercompressed spy comic from Image’s Slimline of two-dollar, 16-page comic singles. And my God, it’s the smartest book around, loaded with all sorts of fun references from all corners of pop culture and beyond. Heck, the main bad-guy-organization, W.A.S.T.E., is a Thomas Pynchon reference, for crimeny’s sake (I have since read the book from which it originates, The Crying of Lot 49, and it is awesome).
Casanova Quinn is a playboy spy baddie who travels to a parallel reality and replaces a good guy version of himself. So now, with a clean slate, will he side with the angels or the devils? Well, he sides with himself, mostly. The comic’s jampacked with awesome, from Ruby Berserko to Kleptomik to wherever the hell else it wants to go. I wasn’t into the book at first, but I stuck with it, and thank God I did. It’s the best comic on the stands, loaded with crazy ideas, clever dialogue, and marvelous characters. And the backmatter– I love Fraction’s candid talks with his readership. In some, he lays his soul bare, not only about the writing process, but about life itself. It makes for great reading. The first issue of Casanova can be read for free here, and the eighth issue– the first episode of the new “album”– can be read for free here. This comic never lets up– it is relentless in its awesomeness.
Because Fraction was so cool, Marvel snapped him up, and he can now be found writing Punisher War Journal and the Order, and co-writing the Immortal Iron Fist with Ed Brubaker. I’m convinced all the good bits of Iron Fist are Fraction’s. His two solo series are good, too. Punisher #4 (Stilt-Man’s funeral) is one of the best single issues of the year, and this month’s #12 is ridiculously awesome, what with the gun that shoots swords and the crazy monster killin.’ Meanwhile, the Order is shaping up to be a great series, and it’s not just because of the zombie hobos, but because of the excellent characterization. Also, this year’s Sensational Spider-Man Annual, written by Mr. Fraction, is easily the best Spidey story of the past decade, if not longer. If I was in charge of the world, I’d have him writing a regular Spider-title. And also the Doom Patrol, but that’s another story.
The man’s written perfect pop comics, and I hope he keeps ‘em coming. Everything Fraction writes is worth reading, including his Poplife and Basement Tapes columns found on CBR (he also co-founded Artbomb). Read ‘em, love ‘em, live ‘em. His website can be found here. (Congratulations on baby Henry, Matt, if’n you’re reading this.)
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