C2E2 2012: Jamie McKelvie Meets Matt Fraction's DEFENDERS

Marvel’s Defenders series already has a colorful cast — Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor, Red She-Hulk and Iron Fist — and the latest addition to the book is Phonogram artist Jamie McKelvie, starting with July’s issue #8.

McKelvie, most recently of the X-Men: Season One original graphic novel, is replacing Terry Dodson as the new Defenders regular series artist, as announced Sunday afternoon during Marvel’s “Next Big Thing” panel at the C2E2 convention in Chicago. He’s joining series writer Matt Fraction, who he previously worked with on several short projects including 2010’s Uncanny X-Men: The Heroic Age one-shot. (Dodson fans, don’t fret; Terry and Rachel are illustrating July’s Avenging Spider-Man #9 written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and co-starring the new Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers.)

McKelvie and Fraction are clearly enthused by the partnership, and we talked to them both, about the "fun meta elements" of Defenders, how the new volume of Phonogram fits into McKelvie’s schedule and where Fraction is planning on taking the team next.

Interior art from

Defenders #8.

Newsarama: Jamie, you've worked with Matt Fraction in the past, but not as a regular stint on an ongoing series. What has you excited about the new gig?

Jamie McKelvie: Working with Matt is a blast — the ideas in his scripts are always so exciting, I can't wait to get to draw them. Like you say, we've only done short gigs together before, so it's a great chance to properly work on the collaboration. I've had so much fun just throwing ideas back and forth already.

Nrama: This is also your first time as the regular artist on an ongoing series at Marvel. (Though X-Men: Season One was the equivalent of five issues, page-wise.) Another Phonogram volume, "The Immaterial Girl," is coming this year, too, seemingly keeping you quite busy — are you working on both simultaneously, or am I completely off on how the timing of things is working out?

McKelvie: Simultaneously! Which on the surface looks kinda crazy, but I've got Mike Norton onboard again (as I did with the second half of X-Men: Season One). We've developed a kind of "digital studio" where we both use Manga Studio and Dropbox and can work on pages together. It speeds things up considerably, and Mike does an amazing job on the background elements in the pages.

Nrama: Matt, in its short history, Defenders has already had an impressive artistic legacy, and Jamie McKelvie is the latest on that list. What makes him uniquely suited for the book?

Matt Fraction: I've never seen him shy away from drawing anything — and I mean anything — and homeboy has worked for Kieron Gillen far more than is healthy. Anything I, or Defenders, throws at him, he'll not only add to it he'll make it better than I'd imagined. We've lost a Terry but gained a Jamie.

Nrama: Are you writing in the plot first, art, then full script "Marvel style" with Jamie, as has been the rule on Defenders?

Fraction: Yes! We are all-in with this completely insane experiment and Jamie's as game as you could hope for. And he's absolutely excelling thus far.

Defenders #8

cover by Terry

Dodson.

Nrama: On the subject of experimenting, Defenders has been deliberately presented as a very different type of Marvel superhero book, down to embracing old-school elements like the text at the bottom of pages — while also subverting them and incorporating them into the narrative of the book. Jamie, are you looking to help contribute to that element of the series?

McKelvie: Oh yeah, we've got lots of fun meta elements to play with. You know that bit where Null gets literally erased from the comic's world? You see white panel gutter where he was? Stuff like that. I don't want to spoil it too much, though.

Nrama: Also, Defenders contains a lot of very vibrant main characters — which are you most looking forward to illustrating?

McKelvie: All of them, really, for different reasons. Iron Fist is kind of goofy, which is fun to show through his body language and so on. Silver Surfer's more zen — and shiny! Which is weirdly a new challenge, I've never drawn a shiny character before. That's what I love about comics, every book I do has some new thing for me to draw I've never drawn before. It never gets old.

Nrama: Matt, it sound like readers will learn much more about the Concordance engine very soon. Does that signify the beginning of resolving that particular mystery, or the start of much more?

Fraction: Even if I told you, you wouldn't believe me. So: yes, we learn more about the engine and it's history, who's found them before and who's tried to keep them hidden for a hundred years or more now...

Nrama: Traversing the Marvel Universe is a major part of Defenders — where in the Marvel Universe is the series headed in the near future?

Fraction: Wakanda! And… Z'Gambo! And the past! And… 

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