Matt Fraction on FANTASTIC FOUR's Voyage and FF's Mission

 

Both Fantastic Four and FF are relaunching with new #1s in November as part of the Marvel NOW! revamp, and Matt Fraction will be writing both — though the books, while connected, will feature very different casts with very different goals.

Fantastic Four, illustrated by Mark Bagley, focuses on the classic lineup — Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch and the Thing; but you knew that — going on a family trip through space and time that will seem like a year to them but should only be four minutes on Earth. Things don't work out that way, meaning a hand-picked replacement team of the Scott Lang Ant-Man, the green She-Hulk, Medusa of the Inhumans and new character Miss Thing have to fill the void over in FF, illustrated by Mike Allred. And that involves directly targeting Dr. Doom, for his role in the death of Stature — Ant-Man's daughter, Cassie — in Avengers: The Children's Crusade.

Newsarama discussed both Fantastic Four and FF in-depth with Matt Fraction, including revisiting the book's more than 50-year history, following Jonathan Hickman's acclaimed run on the franchise, how the two books will operate and aiming for a Pixar-esque mass market appeal.

 

Newsarama: Matt, before we get too deep into Fantastic Four and FF, just wanted to say that it's been a lot of fun following your Tumblr, chronicling your experience and your re-reading of the old issues.

Matt Fraction: Yeah, it seemed like a good way to build a community around the title, and get people familiarized, or refamiliarized. There's never a bad reason to revisit the foundation stone of the Marvel Universe.

Nrama: You've found a lot of fun ancillary material, too, like in the letter columns.

Fraction: Yeah, where Alan Weiss has the first letter in the first letter column of Fantastic Four. George R.R. Martin writes in regularly, and Roy Thomas, and Steve Gerber. And you're kind of watching Kirby become Kirby, and the Marvel Universe becoming the Marvel Universe. It's a fun trip.

Nrama: Fantastic Four is obviously a well-known and fairly straightforward concept, but you're surely looking at it a different way now that you're actually writing the books. Are you finding yourself discovering new things about the series, some universal truths?

Fraction: I think there's a reason why they're universal truths. The mixture is kind of right from the get-go. It's terrific. There's a reason why it's the root of the Marvel Universe.

 

Going into it, my thing was to honor what Stan and Jack did with this book, you have to kind of invent the Marvel Universe in 102 issues. So I wanted to just invent stuff, and go places we have not gone, as a going concern. Upend everything we could upend beyond the relationships that are at the heart of the book, and these characters that have made it last and endure as long as it has.

Nrama: Let's recap a bit how the two books work with each other: Fantastic Four and FF feed directly into each other right away, correct?

Fraction: The first storyline involves both books, because it's about this new version of the Future Foundation, and where the Fantastic Four are going, and why. It's sort of one big story.

I wanted it to be weekly, but we — I — couldn't quite manage that. [Laughs.]

It sets both of the stories up, and kind of recalibrates after John's run.

John has written something that's never been done in the Marvel Universe before. He's written I think what's going to be, after Stan and Jack, probably the most definitive run on the book. And this is a book of incredible runs.

 

People are going to look back on this time as being the era when John was writing Fantastic Four and FF and [Kieron] Gillen was writing Journey Into Mystery, and shake their heads that those books were coming out at the same time and nobody seemed to notice. It baffles me, the things that get attention over these two runs.

Anyway. To do anything like John would be like a pale imitation of what he's done, and not only would just be lousy, but disrespectful, and not cool or good, and not anything anybody would want to read, you know?

So you have to take a moment, and kind of breathe in, and carve out different space. When you see how this stuff ends, it's staggering. It's a staggering piece of work. Now it's kind of a new era. So you have to take a second to kind of size up what that era is, and get into it.  Honor the past by carving a new future.

Nrama: It certainly sounds, well, "intimidating" might not be the right word, but…

Fraction: Oh, it's completely intimidating. Intimidating is absolutely the right word.

I had been reading it since it's been coming out, and a couple of days ago re-read it all, soup to nuts. The worst thing you can do is be a bad copy of that, so don't do that.

 

The thing that John did, the reason it works, is... You know why people love peanut butter and jelly? Because it's peanut butter and jelly. You don't need to add olives and asiago to it. It's all taken care of, man. It's peanut butter and jelly. It works. John understood the root of those four people — six people, however many if you want to count all the kids — he understood the core, and grew his story out from there. That's certainly been my philosophy: Build, build, build and stay true.

Nrama: In interviews on the series, you've discussed The Incredibles as a source of inspiration, and that you're going for a similar Pixar-esque territory.

Fraction: Yeah. That's so arrogant, and so presumptuous, and I don't mean it like that but... wasn't it, on some level, infuriating that Pixar made the best superhero movie of all time, and not us? And by "us," I mean anybody involved in comics; I don't mean Marvel Studios. The best FF movie and story was The Incredibles, and it wasn't us!

Nrama: This is such a cheeseball, obvious observation to make, but when invoking things like Pixar movies, since you've got young kids yourself, are you partly motivated to write comics that they can check out themselves sooner rather than later?

Fraction: Oh, of course. Absolutely. There's a reason why books like Astro Boy or Tintin are popular all over the world. It would be great to write something that my kids could read.

Nrama: So given the Pixar comparison, it sounds like this might be your first foray into "all-ages" material?

Fraction: No, don't say that. That means something different to people in comics, something bad.

FF variant covers,

originally appearing on ComicsAlliance.

These movies are hugely popular, and everybody goes to see them and all that, but you don't need to say it's all ages. It ghettoizes things in comics so easily. I would love to avoid using that phrase. I want to write a book that is mass market in the way that Pixar's films appeal to a mass market.

If I get to write something that I would enjoy as much as a young reader, who'd enjoy it on entirely different levels, for entirely different reasons, like a Pixar film, or like the Muppets, or Looney Tunes... I think that's a pretty great goal for comics to have, if we could actually appeal to more than 35-year-old dudes.

I want as many people to read this and enjoy it as possible, and I think it's possible to do these things in a way that you can appeal to a lot of different people, from a lot of different age groups and demographics. After something like what John has done, where it is as complicated a science-fiction novel as comics have ever seen, it's a different take than that.

Nrama: So not all-ages, but aimed at a broader audience than your past work?

Fraction: Absolutely. I finally have a book that I can give to everybody. I've never written something like this before.

 

Nrama: So at the start of Fantastic Four the main four, plus Franklin and Valeria, are essentially off the board, exploring time and space?

Fraction: Yeah, that's the big story. And the gag is, it's like a space-time machine, so they should be able to come back in four minutes, and it'll have been a year for them. So they'll have this grand family adventure for a year, and it'll be four minutes for us on Earth, because that's how long it takes to allow for a safe passage. But they don't come back.

In Fantastic Four we deal with, what happens on this family adventure? What cool stuff happens? And, over the macro arc, why don't they come back at the end of the year? In FF, we deal with these people who are picked to be a replacement Fantastic Four in case of a force majeure or a hand of god kind of catastrophic accident, which clearly has happened. It's one thing to say to your friends, "Oh, sure, sure, if anything happens, I'll take care of your kids." It's another thing for something to actually happen and then you have to take care of the kids. We've got this new Fantastic Four/Future Foundation, and the kids are still in the book.

Nrama: Right, people were curious about that.

Fraction: I just didn't know how to explain that for USA Today in a way that would make sense. Don't worry — they're sticking around.

 

Nrama: It seems that quite a few Marvel NOW! titles are taking Marvel characters and putting them somewhere else, away from the settings we’re more used to seeing them in. Not that it's unusual for the Fantastic Four to be off on a space-time adventure, but is just a natural instinct when wanting to explore a new aspect of a character or characters, to remove them from their typical surroundings?

Fraction: I don't really feel qualified to speak for anyone else. I read about [former Governor of Maine] Angus King doing this with his family, and just thought it was a great idea, just as a parent. When it came to Fantastic Four, it was, "Oh, that'd be fun. What would the Fantastic Four equivalent of home schooling look like?" It wasn't until later that I realized, "Oh wait, this means if somebody needs Reed Richards, he's going to be gone."

And two, I thought, "Well, this is great, everybody's locked in a room together." They're all in this space truck; they're all in the RV. There's nowhere to go, there's nowhere to hide, no one can quit, no one can leave. It's a chance to really spend time with this family.

Nrama: And over in FF, it's notable that except for the new character Miss Thing, the replacement members all have a lot of history with the Fantastic Four.

Fraction: Right. It was a big discussion for a long time, trying to figure it out in a way that made sense. Except for Johnny, who we kind of got right away — that Johnny would blow it, and ask the girl he was with the night before to fill in for him. [Laughs.] Which I believe was actually Brian Bendis's joke.

There's a reason for everybody to be there.

 

Nrama: How important is it that the gender balance in FF is switched from the original team, with three females and one male?

Fraction: It's important. It's all deliberate. It's an inversion of stuff. Everything you think, yes, I thought. [Laughs.] As the father of a daughter, that kind of stuff, it's important to me. Sue got a bad rap for an awful long time in the Fantastic Four, so a chance to kind of claw at some karma from the other column is welcome.

And it fits with the theme of that book, which is orphans, and building a family out of what you've got, rather than what you were given. A maternal presence is important in that book, parental presence is important — aside from all the kids at the Future Foundation, with where Scott Lang is, and what he's up to, and what he's going through.

Nrama: And what he's going through will directly involve Doctor Doom, given what happened in Avengers: The Children's Crusade, right?

 

Fraction: Yeah. Doom killed Scott's daughter. There's no other way to put it, there's no other way to phrase it, there's no skirting around the issue. Because of his actions, Doctor Doom killed Cassie Lang. What this book is going to be about is Scott and his replacement Four, and the Future Foundation, aiming their resources right at Doctor Doom. The premise he presents to the Future Foundation is "End Doom." And not just kill him, but eliminate him from human memory. That would be worse for Doom than dying. And that's the payback that Scott ultimately wants.

This is their macro arc, this is their reason to being, this is their constant through line: "Let's remove Doom from the equation of life on Earth, and see what happens." But concurrent to that, every FF villain that ever was comes out of the woodwork, gunning for these imposters, thinking now's their time to take their shot. So you've got these people who have not been the Fantastic Four longer than 10 minutes having to fight off all of the latest and greatest versions of the characters you know and love the most. Whereas Fantastic Four is constant new stuff and new places we've not been before, FF is the greatest hits performed by a brand-new band.

Keep reading Newsarama for more with Matt Fraction on Fantastic Four and FF, plus his thoughts on wrapping up Invincible Iron Man, The Mighty Thor and Defenders.

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