FACING FEAR: Q&A with Fraction & Brevoort on FEAR ITSELF #1

FACING FEAR: Q&A w/ Fraction & Brevoort

FEAR ITSELF Q&A w/ Fraction & Brevoort
FEAR ITSELF Q&A w/ Fraction & Brevoort

**SPOILER ALERT: Plenty of discussion on the events of Fear Itself #1 follows!**

Following more than three months of pre-release hype — the story was originally announced on Dec. 21, 2010 — writer Matt Fraction and artist Stuart Immonen’s Fear Itself #1 was released last week, officially kicking off (following March's Fear Itself: Book of the Skull one-shot prologue) the first far-reaching Marvel “event” series in a couple of years.

In the first installment, which Newsarama’s Best Shots column said “accomplishes everything a first issue should and more,” Steve Rogers feels the brunt end of a riot, the discovery of a hammer leads to Sin’s rechristening as the powered-up Skadi, Thor and Odin have a heck of a father/son disagreement, and the mysterious Serpent is seen for the first time.

As befitting a first issue of a series as wide in scope as this one, plenty of questions were raised with Fear Itself #1. Luckily, Newsarama is talking with series writer Fraction and Fear Itself editor (and Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing) Tom Brevoort following all seven issues of the series, asking your questions submitted on Twitter and a few of our own.

To ask a question for a future edition of our Facing Fear column, which will also include chats with art teams and creators working on tie-in books, tweet us @Newsarama with the tag #RamaFear. And for talk on how last week’s Captain America news may affect Fear Itself, a lengthy discussion on the positive and negatives of advance solicitations, and some brief rumination on the role winter sports might play in the story — and plenty more — read on.

Newsarama: Matt, in the months leading up to Fear Itself, you talked about how eager you were for the story to start coming out…

Tom Brevoort: That’s all changed now. We’re now eager for it to be done. [Laughs.]

Matt Fraction: That literally could not be more true. I have gone from giddy anticipation to completely over it cynicism in the shake of a lamb’s tail. I just want to get done. [Laughs.]

I just think it’s been saturated at this point for so long. The last peak that we’re going to hit is the finish line.

Brevoort: There’s a lot of trepidation now, because people have seen the first issue, and by and large they’ve liked the first issue, which means that we can’t screw up the remaining six issues.

Fraction: It’s out, and people seem very happy. There was an event here in town, and it was very well received. It was all hypothetical, it was all potential, before it came out. And now it’s out, and now it exists, so now there’s nothing to do but blow it. [Laughs.] I am a Cubs fan, let me tell you all you need to know about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Interior page

from Fear Itself #1.

Nrama: There has obviously been a lot of online reaction and reviews to it — Matt, I think it’s fair to say that it’s probably one of the most reviewed single issues you’ve written up to this point. How closely have you monitored that stuff?

Fraction: I haven’t looked at the reviews at all, sort of as a matter of policy. I started to, and started to catch myself not paying attention to my son so I could look at my phone. I put my forehead to his, and I said, “Henry, I need you to say, ‘Daddy, knock it off.’” He looked at me, in the eyes, and he went, “Daddy, knock it off.” So now whenever I’ve gotten curious to go scope a review, I feel like I can’t. I told my kid I’d knock it off. Who wants to lie to my son? I don’t want to do that.

So, no, I started to catch myself looking around for one or two, rather than focus on the important stuff. I’ve interacted with people more on Twitter than I have before, and I did a release party out here, so that’s been kind of my exposure to it. Which has been resoundingly positive, but then I suppose no one’s going to come up to your face at a book release party, and go, like, “Meh!”

The personal responses I’ve gotten have been very cool, and that’s the stuff I’ve looked for. I’ve not read any reviews, or anything like that, and ultimately, I don’t know if that helps anyone.

I hope people like it. I hope people enjoy it. I hope people felt that they got their money’s worth, and are excited to see what comes next, don’t know what’s going to come next, and are asking questions, and are excited and curious to see where we’re going, and feel like there are storm clouds on the horizon — all that good stuff. I want people excited for the next issue, and curious to see what happens.

Nrama: Moving to the comic book itself (rather than just the perceptions around it), obviously a lot of the pre-release discussions of Fear Itself talked about how an undercurrent of real-world fears and anxieties was relevant to the story, and sequences like the riot scene in #1 make that connection pretty overt. Can we expect to see more scenes like that as the series progresses, or was it more just to set the tone for the first issue?

Fraction: We are constantly taking small breaths to refocus on how regular people are reacting to suddenly finding themselves living in the Lego-verse. I suspect at the end as we kind of close the chapter on our scenes, it will perhaps get a bit more explicit. It was really about setting the tone for that first issue. I think it’ll hopefully permeate the rest of the book, regardless of how specific we get.

Captain America #1

variant cover.

Nrama: In early discussion of Fear Itself, there was a lot of talk about how Steve Rogers would be particularly frustrated due to essentially being on “desk duty” during the conflict. But as of last week, we now know that he’s going to be back as Captain America starting in July. Obviously just because a comic comes out in the same month doesn’t mean it takes place at the same time, but since Fear Itself will only be at issue #4 in July, will that change be reflected at all in the series?

Brevoort: I think you’ve got to wait and see. There’s absolutely no advantage to me to tell you that now. Read the future comics.

Fraction: I want people wondering that: “Will we see Steve Rogers as Captain America in the pages of Fear Itself? And will that mean anything to anyone other than Steve Rogers, if it happens?” What could compel him to do it? What would keep him from not doing it? Also, you’re presuming that Ed [Brubaker]’s new book takes place in the current timeline.

I’ve come back to Kingdom Come a lot. When I was working retail, Kingdom Come was coming out, and I remember long days at the shop spent just speculating. I miss that.

Solicits aren’t really meant for readers, they’re sort of meant for retailers. Just the nature of the way this business works, where we have to tip our hands four months before books come out, so retailers can be better informed. We’re often times trying to play against the nature of our solicitation stuff. I hope people speculate and wonder. There have been seeds I planted a long time ago that are starting to sprout, and people are wondering about. I’m happy, I’m excited. That’s the kind of stuff that I love as a reader, where I can’t wait for my questions to be answered, and I keep thinking of more questions.

Fear Itself: Hulk vs.

Dracula #1 cover.

Nrama: On that same note, there have been some fairly major developments in Fear Itself that have been disclosed by Marvel, in press or solicitations, before they’ve happened in the comic. The announcement articles for Fear Itself: Hulk vs. Dracula revealed that the Hulk was one of The Worthy, and the letter column of Uncanny X-Men #534.1 confirmed that Juggernaut was one, too — before any of that could actually be seen by readers in a comic book. Is that frustrating for you?

Fraction: Oh, of course Absolutely. Without a doubt. And Tom, I would imagine for you, even more so.

Brevoort: It is an enormous pain in the ass. [Laughs.]

Fraction: It’s the nature of the beast. And I think it comes down to a personal choice that you have to make as a reader. I have a friend who goes into whole media blackouts around the work of certain filmmakers, like, won’t even watch trailers. This director’s biggest fan in the world, and he doesn’t want to hear casting. They just come to it completely cold.

It’s the nature of the beast, and it’s a bummer. Like I said, Tom, it’s got to feel like you have to just leave your Christmas receipts out on the kitchen table every night.

Brevoort: You absolutely do. Also, I’m old enough, sadly, that I remember a day when you didn’t know anything until the books were in the 7-11, or in the candy store. You’d go every week; you didn’t know exactly what was coming out. You could kind of figure after a while, “Yeah, this is the week that Spider-Man comes out,” but you wouldn’t know what was in it. A new book would show up and it would just show up, and a book would be canceled, and it would just stop showing up. Every week, you would kind of go, “Wow, it’s been a long time an issue of Nova came out. I wonder what’s going on with that. They were right in the middle of a continuing story.”

Uncanny X-Men

#540 cover.

To me, that’s the natural experience, and it puts the emphasis on the actual content of the issues and the stories. You could never get away with doing the death of Gwen Stacy today. Not only would you have to conceal that she dies in #121, but then you’d be soliciting all the way up until like #124, before that issue even came out. It would just get more and more difficult, because how do you describe the follow-up stories? “It’s the funeral of Gwen Stacy!” Well, y’know, we can redact it, we do all the same tricks that we do —we’ll black out figures, we won’t tell you that much. The double-edged sword is, the better we inform retailers, particularly when something important is going on, the more likely they are to get on board and order up, and be able to sell it.

Fraction: We refer to them as our retail “partners.” We have to inform, and educate, and arm them. Ideally, there would be no solicits. We would just be sending things to retailers directly, retailers would understand that there was sort of a sacred covenant there, in the way that we don’t go around talking about how many copies any individual retailer sells, they wouldn’t go around talking about what the books are going to be, and only the retailers would be specially armed with knowledge, and everything would remain secret, and everyone would be surprised and delighted and entertained. It would save ourselves from having to rewrite the same 17 clichés every month, and everything would be beautiful and nothing would hurt, and comics would still cost a quarter, and blah-da-blah.

Brevoort: It’s very difficult in this day and age to surprise the fans in that way. We’ve said that Steve Rogers will be Captain America in Captain America #1 in July, and it’s now April. In my heart, I wish we could have held that until July, because that raises a whole bunch of questions, like the one you asked earlier in the interview, Albert — “What’s going to happen with him? What does it mean for Bucky? What’s going to happen with the main book? How does the Cap story fit together with Fear Itself? How does it fit together with Avengers?”

Interior page from

Fear Itself #1.

The real answer to all of those questions is, by the time you get to July or August, you’re going to understand it. It’s all going to be there. In April, it’s a non-issue. But it weighs on the mind. It preys on our fans, in a way that I would rather they be focusing on, “Hey! Bucky’s in a Russian gulag! How about that?” It almost steals focus from the story you’re telling now; you’ve teased them with the story that you’re going to tell three months from now. By the time we get to there, they’re going to be reading the solicits for Cap #4, Cap #5, and going, “Oh my god! What’s going to happen when Cap punches the Red Skull?” and they’re not even worrying about the actual story you’re telling.

Fraction: So the Red Skull’s coming back?

Brevoort: [Laughs.] Say no more! Say no more!

Nrama: To that point, though, it seems still possible to legitimately surprise people — in January, though everyone knew someone was dying in Fantastic Four, up until the moment the news broke in the mainstream press, people weren’t 100% sure exactly who it would be.

Fraction: David Uzumeri put it together. And put it together very well. Even [Jonathan] Hickman was like, “Well done, sir.”

Interior pages from Fear Itself #1.

That’s great. You want people poring over your stuff. Obsessing about it, worrying about it, and wondering about it. You want that to happen. That’s like, mission accomplished, when you’ve got somebody that’s breaking the spines of your book to read it and re-read it and re-read it, that’s perfect.

Nrama: So would you say that all this information out there is a net benefit, or just simply the natural way things have evolved; neither good nor bad?

Fraction: Ultimately, I think it’s a benefit, because it gets people excited. Anytime you’ve got people talking in April about a comic that comes out in July, that’s great.

Nrama: We’ve got some Twitter questions here, and the first one is from Blankzilla: “Events usually have a lesser-known character rise to prominence. Ms. Marvel in House of M, Noh-Varr in Secret Invasion, etc. Anyone we should watch in FI?”

Fraction: I hope this [prompts people to] stop thinking of Sin as the daughter of the Red Skull and as “the Red Skull.”

Brevoort: That’s a good answer. The first place my mind went is, we’ve got all the characters that make up The Worthy, and clearly the hope is by the time we’re done here, all of them will have made a bigger splash, and be in a better place, than where we started with them.

FEAR ITSELF Teaser: Who Are The Worthy
FEAR ITSELF Teaser: Who Are The Worthy

Fraction: Starting with Sin and radiating outwards. When you see them all, when there’s no more mystery as to who they all are — when the Serpent is the first, and the Red Skull is the second, and then you see who the remaining seven are, and you get a picture of that army of nine — I think it’ll be clear why they were chosen. Why they are “The Worthy.” When you see them all, and there’s no more silhouettes, and no more guessing — that’ll be exciting. It’ll be exciting to come out of Fear Itself and to move forward with this.

Nrama: On a similar note, bignerdynerd asks, “Will there be new characters introduced that will continue in the Marvel U beyond FI?”

Brevoort: I think always during the course of events like this, certainly we try to add things to the Marvel Universe. If nothing else, the Serpent is new. He is a villain you have not seen before, and will be a new, major force in the Marvel Universe. So at least on that level, I can immediately say, “yes.”

Will there be others along the way? Probably. There will certainly be stuff that comes out the other side of this that we’ve already set up, and are working on quite diligently, even at the moment; a number of titles.

Fraction: [Laughs.] “Fraction knowingly chuckled.”

Brevoort: So you’ll definitely seen an outgrowth of those things that you haven’t seen before.

I’m dancing around it, but I guess the answer is really “yes.”


Fraction: We set about coming to this as the first time we, as a creative body, had thought about doing an event in a while. We were looking to do something that would set the tempo and the tone and the timbre of the Universe for the next while, in the way that Civil War really kicked off, three, four, five years of story. This is the start of what comes next; this is the start of our next half-decade of stories, in a lot of ways.

Nrama: Next query is from perennial champion question-asker TDSpidey616, who wants to know, “Using my knowledge of Norse myth aka Wikipedia, wondered if Skadi is meant to be the Norse Giant with the same name... associated with skiing and torturing Loki with a snake?”

Fraction: I took the name. Others of The Worthy have “real names,” and others have real-ish sounding names. It’s sort of like, Marvel Norse.

As the story progresses, we’ll maybe be seeing some of the source material from which the Norse myth came, but it’s not the Skadi that appears in the Prose Edda, but rather a good sounding name. I liked the connotation, I liked the connections of somebody who finds a snake in a cave — not to put too fine a point on it.

Brevoort: I am very taken with the notion of Sin as the god of skiing. We should do more with that. We should get a skiing scene in before we get to issue #7.

Alpha Flight #1


Fraction: I did give Northstar’s boyfriend the extreme action sports career, so maybe that can tie in to Greg [Pak] and Fred [Van Lente]’s Alpha Flight somehow.

Brevoort: There we go. It’s perfect! It writes itself.

Nrama: Next question, same source: “Odin's rant against man has me curious if Don Blake has a role in Fear Itself?”

Fraction: No. Not particularly.

Nrama: We’ve got a couple of the “does blank appear in Fear Itself” variety of questions, including MartGray asking, “Will we see how the Marvel UK heroes are dealing with Fear Itself?”

Brevoort: Honestly, it’s too soon to say with absolute certainty. Fear Itself is going to permeate throughout any number of titles, and some of that stuff is still being squared up in terms of getting scripts written and so forth. I don’t think you’ll see the UK heroes play a major role, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t show up somewhere. It is a global conflict, so at any given point we could cut to somewhere in the United Kingdom, see what’s going on there. They don’t really have a book that’s their book, there’s no Captain Britain and MI: 13 at the moment that you would dedicate a tie-in, but it’s not impossible that somewhere along the way, they could show up, or we could see what was going on.

Nrama: And ManuelWho asks, “will Kelda play some role in Fear Itself?

Fraction: No, but we’ll see her in Thor sooner rather than later, and what her destiny is. I believe The Mighty Thor #3 or #4 she pops up again. She’s the gun on the mantle.


Nrama: Another, this time from doordoor123: “Will we see anything from Thunderstrike or Beta Ray Bill at any time during Fear Itself?”

Brevoort: I don’t think so.

Fraction: I’m not done yet, and we need an awful lot of pieces on the board for that last issue. That’s a pretty great moment of the cavalry coming for Thor, and I love — as is previously established — Beta Ray Bill. Mark that one down for “definite maybe.” There are going to be an awful lot of folks in the last two issues, so hopefully fellow hammer-wielders will be included.

Nrama: ManuelWho goes for two with this timeline question: “So, the new series The Mighty Thor, the arc about Galactus is before Fear Itself?”

Fraction: Yes. It takes place before. There is something profound that happens there that is important in Fear Itself, but you will be finding them out in the same month. There’s something that happens during “The Galactus Seed” that is very important to Fear Itself, but you won’t know it, or need to know it, until it happens, and it happens close to simultaneously. You will see how one feeds to the other, and was true all along.


Nrama: And warmachine15 closes the Twitter questions this month, with, “Is Fear Itself the disaster Steve Rogers saw in Captain America: Reborn?”

Fraction: Nope.

Brevoort: No.

Fraction: And like I said, we’ve got a big road map ahead of us. 

Brevoort: The disaster he saw in Cap Reborn, he was Captain America at that point, and he’s not Captain America now, so right there, that tells you something. Further down the line.

Fraction: Go back and re-read the [Invincible] Iron Man Annual.

Marvel Teaser - FEAR ITSELF Book Two
Marvel Teaser - FEAR ITSELF Book Two

Nrama: Any teases towards issue #2 to end things with?

Fraction: We get a reminder of how powerful Odin really is. We get some hints as to why he’s been so cantankerous since his return. We get our first tastes of Blitzkrieg USA. And a bunch of The Worthy pop out.

There will be one final reveal for Fear Itself #3, and at that point, everybody else will have had [hammers], if not in Fear Itself #2, than in other places.

Nrama: My friend asked me after reading Fear Itself #1, “Is Odin always such a dick?”

Fraction: It’s kind of interesting to me that two JMS issues have made everyone forget 400 issues that came before it. Here’s the question: why was he so happy to be dead, and why is he so pissed off to be alive? I’ve been building towards that for a very long time. It struck me as a Thor reader: “Boy, he sure seemed happy to be dead.” As a father, I don’t buy it. So there’s a reason for it, and that reason is in Fear Itself. Why was he so happy to be dead, and why is he so pissed off to be alive? More will be revealed.

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For our initial three-part chat with Matt Fraction and Tom Brevoort on Fear Itself:

<li> Matt Fraction and Tom Brevoort Face FEAR ITSELF, Part 1

<li> Matt Fraction and Tom Brevoort Face FEAR ITSELF, Part 2

<li> Matt Fraction and Tom Brevoort Face FEAR ITSELF, Part 3

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