This week has published separate interviews with writer Matt Fraction and artist John Romita Jr. on their Free Comic Book Day 2010 collaboration Iron Man/Thor. Those interviews follow, courtesy

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Matt Fraction

On May 1, Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) Gold Sponsor Marvel Comics brings together fan-favorite creators Matt Fraction and John Romita Jr. for Iron Man/Thor.

Superstar writer Matt Fraction has helped Invincible Iron Man become one of the best-selling books on stands and has now been confirmed as the new Thor scribe as well. With Iron Man/Thor, he has the opportunity to bring the Armored Avenger and God of Thunder together. The writer recently discussed his FCBD book and the day as a whole with, presented in the exclusive interview below. Set your project up for those that might not know much about it. What can we expect to see in terms of story and art?

Matt Fraction: A self-contained, done-in-one, Iron Man and Thor romp that sees the two of ‘em teaming up to face down a strange threat that effects each of them in a unique way. If you’re a reader already it fits right in to where each character is right now; if you’re coming in from off the street it’s a great intro to who both characters are and what they do. And then a bunch of robots get punched on the moon. What’s your favorite part about being able to work in comics?

Fraction: I get to make the craziest stuff in the world up and get paid for it. I’ve been a fan all my life and that I get to be a part of it is just beyond my wildest dreams. Why do you think FCBD is so vital to the industry?

Fraction: Anything we can do to introduce our medium to new readers is vital. That the entire herd of cats move in the direction of FCBD is a major accomplishment and everything that can be done to take advantage of it should be done. Since FCBD has now been a yearly event since 2002, do you, your creator friends and/or your family have any annual FCBD traditions?

Fraction: Not really – for any number of weird reasons, that weekend has historically been a bad one for me. I think I maybe did one signing, once... weird, weird, weird... Matt, what’s the biggest challenge when creating a FCBD book as opposed to a standard comic? Do you have to approach it differently knowing you might have a broader audience?

Fraction: Personally, not freaking out because John Romita Jr. is drawing it – talk about pressure – but professionally, trying to write a story that’s fulfilling to longtime fans and readers and new readers as well. It’s not the breadth of the audience but their relative level of familiarity that I tried keeping in mind. Knowing that so many readers are sure to pick up the issue, does that put more pressure on you, or is that something that gets you more excited about what you’re working on? 

Fraction: Not really. In fact I kind of like that so many people are going to associate my words and ideas with Johnny’s art...! In the spirit of potential newcomers picking up comics, what was the first comic you remember reading or that inspired you to get involved in the industry?

Fraction: The first comic I remember having bought for me was Batman #316. The first comic I remember buying with my own money was Amazing Spider-Man #237. What inspired me to get involved in the industry is my sheer love of the medium and its endless possibilities.

John Romita Jr.

"With the Kick-Ass film based on his and Mark Millar's comic set to debut in April, and Marvel's new Avengers #1 landing in shops on May 19, John Romita Jr. remains one of the busiest artists in the industry. Just weeks before the Avengers series begins, however, Romita's work will be showcased on Free Comic Book Day with Marvel Comics' Gold-sponsored title Iron Man/Thor, written by Matt Fraction.

The artist recently gave an exclusive interview, during which he discussed the appeal of Iron Man and Thor, changes the characters have undergone, his thoughts on FCBD itself, and much more! With this FCBD book, you’re focusing on two of Marvel’s most popular and powerful characters, Iron Man and Thor. Both are heroes you've drawn extensively before. What's it like coming back to these characters?

John Romita Jr.: It seems completely different, because the costumes are completely different. I had to adjust to Iron Man’s costume, but actually Thor’s costume was more of a drastic adjustment than Iron Man’s. Now I’m doing the Avengers, and I’m kind of getting used to it.

I actually just got off the phone with my father, who is doing an alternate cover for Avengers #1, and he was chuckling about the costumes. He was saying, “Who’s costumes are these?!” Speaking of costumes, one subtle change I’m sure many fans will notice is that Thor is now sporting gloves. Why the wardrobe change? Is that something that you came up with, or was it an editorial thing?

JRJR: I completely decided to do that myself, and I’ll tell you what my logic was. All of a sudden Thor had chainmail on his arms and legs. He’s immortal; he’s impervious. So I asked rhetorically, “Why in God’s name would an immortal god need chainmail?” The reasoning was that he doesn’t always battle Earthly villains. He’ll battle immortals of his own ilk – villains of his own size, weight, and strength – so he needs armor for protection.

Okay, fair enough. But than why, in God’s name, are his hands left unprotected? It just didn’t make sense to me. So I said, “I’m throwing gloves on him. I don’t care.” If he’s going to have a warrior look to him, ala The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I just figured he might as well have gloves on. The only part of his body that wasn’t protected, other than his face, were his hands? That didn’t make sense. As mentioned, both Iron Man and Thor are characters you’ve drawn before, but with this FCBD book you’re drawing them together in the same book. What do you find compelling about these two characters, particularly as a duo in a comic?

JRJR: Iron Man was never compelling the same way Thor is to me, mostly because I think the compelling part of the character is Tony Stark. So I’m more a fan of the Tony Stark character than the Iron Man character. Plus, the costume to me can be such a pain to draw. It’s illogical sometimes, and I’d rather have a costume that makes sense logistically – joints, and hinges, and so on – but a lot fans don’t want to see all that. But so the fascination for me was never the armor.

I like the character because of Tony Stark, and what he can do, and the reality of that part of it. You know, we get carried away with the Iron Man aspect of the character, thinking he can do anything and everything. The movie made that part more fun for people. But for me, the costume is the costume, but Tony Stark was the best thing about the movie, just like he’s the best thing about the comics.

So Iron Man’s fun to do, it’s a great homecoming, but I’m a big Thor fan. With that character, I imagine Thor the way I saw him when I was a kid, the way it was done by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and I love it. When I did Thor regularly I tried – and probably didn’t succeed – to give the book that same kind of flavor to it. With Iron Man, I think he’s probably a better character now than when I was doing his book, because there’s so much history and so much more to the character than when I was doing him. He has his failings and so much going on. But still, I’m just a bigger fan of Thor. How long does it usually take you to complete a comic from start to finish?

JRJR: Most times, under normal circumstances, it takes two to three weeks for each book. The Free Comic Book Day book took a lot longer. It was very labor intensive. There were a lot of details, a lot of crowded scenes and backgrounds, so it took a lot longer. But on average, about three weeks. What was your favorite setting or sequence to illustrate? Was there any one particular scene that you couldn’t wait to draw from the script?

JRJR: The scenes on the moon. I enjoyed those. Battle scenes with robots on the moon really make it fun. Why do you think FCBD is so vital to the industry?

JRJR: Well, Free Comic Book Day is a literal term, and anybody that gets anything for free has to be happy. Because comics are tangible objects, and people are getting something for free that they can read, it’s just the perfect advertisement for the industry. I think when it was first devised as a way of helping the image of the industry, it began something that could only happen this way. You’re giving something away for free, and it helps you establish a market that you didn’t have before. Now it’s also an avenue for people to see the quality of your stories. It had to work.

Now, maybe we aren’t always reaching the audience intended when Free Comic Book Day was first devised. Everyone wants that all-elusive new reader, people that never picked up a comic before. When it first started, that may have happened in dribs and drabs, but I think that Free Comic Book Day works exceptionally well now on top of the success of movies, as comic book movies help establish our super-heroes. So on top of that success, you have Free Comic Book Day.

“Comic books” is no longer a misnomer or derisive term. So with Free Comic Book Day, what began as a good idea is confirmed to be a great idea, supported now by a variety of other sources – meaning movies, graphic novels, merchandising. It ended up being a brilliant idea that works in tandem with everything else. In the spirit of potential newcomers picking up comics, what was the first comic you remember reading or that inspired you to get involved in the industry?

JRJR: First book I ever looked at and attempted to read was Metal Men when I was a very, very, very young kid. It was at a barbershop in Queens, New York, and it didn’t have a cover. I picked up this comic book and started looking through it. That was the first time I learned what a comic book was. A short time later, my father began working for Marvel. I never really took to DC’s characters, but after my father started for Marvel, I found that those characters were a lot more interesting for me, and that’s when things were cemented for me. But the first comic I picked up was Metal Men. That’s a very fateful haircut. I promised when we were setting this up that I’d ask this question at least once: what are you working on right now as we’re talking?

JRJR: I’m on page 21 of Avengers #1. Not going to ask for a teaser….

JRJR: We can probably tease this. Not going to give away the villain, but right now we’re on top of a building in Manhattan, and there’s all sorts of energy crackling as the Avengers discuss who just disappeared in front of them. It’s a great story. Bendis is brilliant. It looks like they’re giving you a big cast to work with.

JRJR: (Laughs.) Oh, you have no idea. Back to Free Comic Book Day, do you have any annual traditions? Do you do signings? Do you have to work through it?

JRJR: I’m usually invited to do signings at various places, but, generally, my work schedule won’t allow it. That’s true this year especially, with the Kick-Ass screenings. I’m going to about five of them, and I’m going to be out of the house more than I’m in it for the next month. Unfortunately, that means I won’t be able to do anymore traveling when I get back at the end of April. I’ve already had to turn down two Free Comic Book Day invites, which is a shame, because I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve been able to do. Anything else you’d like to share about the Free Comic Book Day book, Avengers, or your other projects?

JRJR: Actually, Avengers is the book that everyone knows about, but I’m also very excited about my next creator-owned project, which is with Howard Chaykin. It’s called Shmuggy and Bimbo. It’s about two leg-breakers that grew up with my parents in the 40s that I fashioned a story around. It actually takes place in the 70s, but different timeframes play into the characters. These two leg-breakers are more than what they seem. I haven’t begun the pencils just yet, but it’s coming soon.

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