Fear Itself #2 made its way to store shelves last week, and with it came the reveal of all but one of the hammer-wielding "Worthy," the Serpent and Sin's agents delivering copious amounts of chaos throughout the globe.
Juggernaut, Hulk, Titania and the rest of the crew were at the center of our second Facing Fear Q&A with writer Matt Fraction and series editor (and Marvel SVP of publishing) Tom Brevoort. This time around, discussion ranged from how much destruction of beloved American icons is too much, the balance between ensuring tie-ins matter and letting the main series stand alone, and the importance of making things like the Capitol building getting blown apart "count" in a fictional universe where things get blown apart all the time.
If you'd like your question answered in a future installment of Facing Fear, just tweet @Newsarama with the tag #RamaFear. Until then, read on below, for the revelation of which Marvel monsters were considered for Worthy-status, and a whole lot more, including hints that the events of Fear Itself #3 might attract some mainstream attention.
Newsarama: Matt, Tom, it's what CoinOperatedJay and Hutchimus wanted to know on Twitter, and it's what I'm most curious about — since Fear Itself #2 was all about the choosing of The Worthy, and finding out who was going to be picking up the hammers, what was the process of selecting the characters that made up that group?
Matt Fraction: I had a few different wish lists.
Tom Brevoort: We kept coming up with ideas, and people kept saying, "No, that's stupid. [Laughs.]
Fraction: There was the Mark Millar/Jeph Loeb list, there was the Secret Wars list, there was the "What if we went for spooky?" list. As the story was still percolating and everything was made of hot magma, there were a few different contenders. Eventually, as the story solidified it became clear strategically the kind of people the Serpent would need, and those were worldbreakers — and "Who would your inner 8-year-old completely freak out to see transformed into monsters that were here to destroy the world?" Once we settled on the worldbreaker list, it became very easy.
It was fun to play "What if?" for a long time. At one point it was like, Dracula, and Werewolf by Night.
Brevoort: At that point I think we were still talking about the idea that, like Mjolnir, each of the hammers would have an attribute. "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be... whatever."
Fraction: "If he be deceitful. If he be wicked."
Brevoort: "If he be cunning. If he be Greek. If he be left-handed."
Fraction: "If he be hungry."
Brevoort: We found it wasn't easy to come up with eight or nine really good attributes.
Fraction: Right. It was like a really crappy fantasy baseball team where you had your first two really great picks in a draft, and then they were all, like, scrubs.
Brevoort: So in the end, we circled around, and we stared at this, and picked away at it. We cut back to the simpler idea, which is, the Serpent really needs guys that are going to go out and break a lot of stuff, and cause a lot of chaos, and cause a lot of anxiety, and fear, and panic. Who were the best big guys we could get to give all these mallets to?
Nrama: So when something like this happens, how much navigating needs to be done with the characters that are already in ongoing titles? Like Juggernaut in Thunderbolts — obviously his status as one of The Worthy is a big part of the Thunderbolts tie-in to Fear Itself, but how involved is Jeff Parker in that kind of a decision?
Brevoort: Once we had a list of guys we wanted, that got discussed with the individual editors of those titles, and with the different creators who were involved in working on those books, most all of whom were on board with it, because tying in to something as big as Fear Itself can only help to draw attention to the books that they're working on.
Jeff knew about the stuff that was going to go on with Juggernaut, and will actually be dealing with a lot of that stuff in Thunderbolts over the next couple of issues, including the damage and destruction to the Raft, and the fallout from that, that will actually spill over into two or three other titles in their tie-ins. Those guys were all involved, the Hulk guys knew exactly what was going on. They didn't have a tie-in point as quickly, but as we get later on into the duration of Fear Itself, you'll see some of these things being picked up in the Hulk titles as well.
All of it was just a big coordination fest between everybody, and making sure that characters were in a place where we could actually do this to them. Even if they weren't, how awful would it be if we suddenly took one of these guys and hammered them up? And how would that throw the world of those titles into interesting chaos as part of the overall event?
Fraction: The editors for all of these books and characters were in the room, too, so as the candidates list came together live, and then later in email, they were in the loop from the first instant there WAS a loop. In the case of Hulk, it was one of those things, too, where they weren't going to be able to get to their tie-in window for a while, but that worked for the story we needed to tell anyway. So this is kind of where we start to get into happy accident territory, and hopefully not blowing up too many people's bridges.
Nrama: The designs of the Worthy-fied characters are really cool — was that all [Fear Itself series artist Stuart] Immonen?
Brevoort: Other than Sin, who was done by Stuart, all the rest of them were designed by Marko Djurdjević.
Fraction: With all of us giving notes. And Stuart gave, I think, a few breakthrough notes. We were kind of there, and nobody was quite satisfied 100% and it was Stuart who said, "Oh, I thought we were going to do this," and provided some sketches and some references, and everybody was immediately with him, and then, suddenly, Marko just nailed it the next day.
Brevoort: It has to be said, Marko worked his ass off on these. He did a lot of iterations and a lot of things where we would all kind of pick away at a design. Between the five or six people that were looking at these things not quite being able to crystallize what we were talking about or what we were thinking, I know that at a certain point it must have been pretty frustrating for him. Once Stuart was able to cut through the clutter and say, "How about this?" it all came together very quickly, and they all look pretty good, which is good because they're on a lot of covers coming up. [Laughs.]
Fraction: Exactly. You'll be sick of them in six months, everybody.
Nrama: That shot of the Worthy-fied Juggernaut holding up his hammer is especially striking.
Fraction: And the creepy eyes. It's all terrific.
Nrama: Speaking of The Worthy, I know there's a final reveal in the next issue, but we don't see a lot from a couple of them here. Grey Gargoyle only appears in two panels…
Fraction: It's ultimately about resisting the same beat being hit eight times. I still think we have one too many in the issue anyway. Of course, now that the issue is out, it's the worst thing I've ever written, and I hate it, and I'm embarrassed, so everything's wrong with it.
I went back and looked at it — on top of Sin, I feel like maybe we get it. We've seen it, we see it once, we see it twice, we see it three times. You get it. You can understand what happens from here. Someone's going to be drawn to a hammer, they're going to touch it and transform.
Part of it this, too, was wanting the tie-in guys to have red meat. Having done events before, where sometimes there's just no real red meat left and you have to kind of repeat beats or dance between raindrops. Throughout the series this continues. Things you would take as a given that you're going to see in the main book, you don't. You won't need to. The story moves fine without it. The reader can be caught up without necessarily having seen it, but if you go out and read Iron Man 2.0, you'll get Absorbing Man's story. Once you've seen it once, you've seen it, you get what happens. I trust everyone's intelligence enough to not feel that we need to show you and tell you everything every single moment.
Besides it would have also taken two issues to get through everybody. So, yeah. They're there, they're out there, you'll get the gist. We'll cut away to them, and you'll be updated, and kind of follow what's going on. In a war movie, you don't need to cut to each and every general.
Brevoort: We see Attuma transformed in one panel in issue #2, smacking his way through a pipeline. We saw the hammer crash in the ocean at the end of #1, we can kind of intuit, "Oh, he found it, he picked it up, he was changed like everybody else, and here he goes, smashing his way across the bottom of the ocean." There's enough connectivity there that even if you don't follow the Grey Gargoyle into Matt's issues of Iron Man — which would be a terrible mistake — once he shows up in later issues swinging a big stone hammer around, there's enough connectivity there. We see him, he's perched there on top of the parapets in Paris, the hammer's falling down, the connection is there. We've shown that bit enough times, that even if you're just reading the main Fear Itself book, you get what happens.
Fraction: And even then, I chose not to show it in Iron Man. The story's not about that, but rather, dealing with the fallout from a miraculous catastrophe. I figure even if you're just reading Iron Man, and not reading Fear Itself, something's happened in Paris, and Tony shows up in Paris and deals with it. The Iron Man story is about not being 100% sure just what the hell is going on.Hopefully we're avoiding redundancy and giving our tie-ins the chance to do cool stuff if and when they want to. Again, I trust and believe that our readers are bright enough and sharp enough and smart enough to not be lost by not seeing all of the hammer transformations in the pages of Fear Itself.
Nrama: That makes sense to me, though I can see some fans complaining either way — if the tie-ins don't have enough weight, then they're a waste of time, but if you do have important story beats in the tie-ins, then the main series isn't self-contained enough.
Brevoort That's the balancing act, though. You kind of want to have it both ways.
There'll be three fans in a group, and one of them will say, "I just want to read the main book and not have to worry about anything else." And then the other guy next to him will say, "I want to read all the tie-ins, but I want all the tie-ins to be important, because I'm spending time and money on them, otherwise why am I doing this?" Then you have the third guy there who's kind of somewhere in the middle. "I'm going to read some of the tie-ins, but not all of them, so I want some important stuff to happen there, but not every one to be so crucial that I have to buy them all." You kind of have to service all three guys. Sometimes that means you're splitting the baby a little bit. The guideline that I use, and the yardstick with which I measure this, is, "Once those seven issues of Fear Itself are in a collection by themselves, will it make sense? Can you read it? Can you follow it like any other comic?" At least in my judgment, in this instance, the answer is yes. You see the hammer falling and the Gargoyle there, you'll see him hammered up the next time he shows up. If there were no other tie-ins, if this was just the one and only book, nobody would question that. So moving that moment into another title means that tie-in can be a little more important, and can have a little more weight to it and a little more meaning to it, but it's not so essential that if you choose to bypass it — fool that you are — it will do you that much harm. It really is that tightrope walk that you try to walk every time you do one of these things.
Fear Itself #3 art. Nrama: Another thing I was curious about was the scene at the end when we see "Blitzkrieg U.S.A." and the Capitol building being destroyed. At this point, we've seen a lot of destruction in Marvel comics — it's part of the nature of superhero comics —so how do you make it count each time?
Fraction: I don't think it has counted each time. I think it was Dan Slott that named [the Marvel Universe] the "Legoverse." I kind of want to reject that with Fear Itself. At least within the pages of Fear Itself, which is, at this second, all I can control, I want the story to have ramifications. Fear Itself is on some level about not living in the Legoverse anymore and trying to deal with it. Midtown Manhattan gets knocked over half a dozen times before lunch in the Marvel Universe and we choose to merrily go along. Thematically, dealing with destruction as, actual destruction, and not as set-piece backdrop. It spoke to the theme of Fear Itself, and reinforced what the Serpent was up to.
You can take away every single one of our rights, you can absolutely revoke the Constitution and flush the Declaration of Independence down the toilet, but the minute people's cable isn't there and the mail doesn't show up, you're going to have rioting. When your day-to-day is disrupted, when infrastructure is disrupted, that's when the sh*t hits the fan.
Steve Rogers has my favorite line of the next issue. He turns to Sharon and he says, "It's our capitol." It might be meaningless to everyone in the United States but Steve Rogers, but goddammit, our capitol means something to him.It was weird, we were talking about what the promo images at the end of #1 were going to be, and at one point I wanted a burning flag, and that was problematic. The Capitol building cracked and on fire wasn't. The Capitol dome destroyed wasn't, but a burning flag was. I remember Stuart commenting on the peculiarity of Americans and their icons. We lost our Canadian associates on that decision. [Laughs.] I would also posit that a flag is probably easier to draw than the Capitol dome.
Nrama: Got a few more Twitter questions here — mrjinjin0 asks "Any chance of seeing MI13 in Fear Itself?" We had sort of a similar question after last issue, but maybe the answer has evolved somewhat in four weeks' time.
Brevoort: The answer's going to be the same sort of answer I gave last issue, which is, I don't think they've shown up yet in anything I've seen, but it's a big, global story, and not every single script has been written yet. I don't think they're going to play an enormous role, but it's not impossible that they might not sneak in an appearance here or there.
Fraction: You know what, I will find a place for MI-13 in Fear Itself #7. It'll be a single panel, of someone saying, "Cor blimey! MI-13 on the case, gov’nor," as they beat a bunch of fear-infected chimney sweeps. I'm pretty sure that's the way things are over there in England.
Fear Itself #3 art. Nrama: That sounds like an awesome panel. TheJoty asks, referencing Rahne Sinclair's pregnancy with Hrimhari, "Since Rahne is tied in to Asgard now (on a loose level) will she be in anyway involved?"
Brevoort: I don't think there are any Rahne plans. There are definitely Dani Moonstar plans going on in New Mutants, but I don't think there's any specific X-Factor tie-in that's going on.
Fraction: I thought Peter [David] had proudly declared the opposite, in fact, that there were zero tie-ins going on in X-Factor.
Brevoort: That's a case of choosing to opt out, which is entirely fine.
Fear Itself #3 art. Nrama: This question from ManuelWho, "Why this event it's spontaneous?there are others events where the roots are planted through the months step by step, clues, signs" got me thinking — I know it's sort of the perception that Fear Itself has kind of come out of nowhere compared to say, Secret Invasion, but that doesn't really seem to be the case — there are elements in this that have been building up for a while, albeit maybe not as directly.
Fraction: There has been. We've not been bearing hints to a planetary-wide conspiracy, but there's definitely been stuff leading to this, no doubt.
I wanted Fear Itself to be accessible. A Thor movie opens today. A Cap movie opens in 50 days. The book is getting a ton of attention and a lot of media exposure. There's going to be a lot of people that haven't looked at these books since ever, if ever. It's a terrible idea to immediately welcome new readers or lapsed readers with a wall of impenetrable continuity.
The idea that you greet someone into your home but insist that they know your entire patrilineal and matrilineal lines and are in fact must be well-versed in your personal genealogy to have a good time is weird to me. So, yeah. You can pick up the first issue and read it and should, largely, be able to get it. You don't need to have a PhD in our continuity. Those are the other guys. I didn't want to invite people into my home and then give them pop quizzes about my great nephew's parents or whatever before proceeding.
Nrama: So have either of you noticed that kind of reaction, from people who may be coming back to Marvel or stepping into it for the first time via Fear Itself?
Brevoort: I haven't actually had a lot of time, quite frankly, to go looking for a whole heck of a lot of feedback. I've seen the usual smattering of stuff. You kind of dip your toe into the water the day the book comes out, and just kind of get a sense of what people are talking about, but I honestly haven't had a chance to scrutinize it that thoroughly. So far, by and large, people seem to be liking it, so I can't be any happier about anything than that. In terms of exactly which people they are, they're people with $3.99, so they're good by me.
Fraction: I popped by a store in LA and signed copies for a few minutes. The people I talked to there were very excited, and were very into it, and the store owners were ordering big, and were enthused that it was so gettable, and said they were selling tons and getting people into it. So that was great. Mission accomplished. What can I do to empower retailers to sell this book for seven months, and not just for seven days? I think making it accessible is key. But that's been largely it.
Nrama: So the last thing I'll ask is any teases towards the next issue either of you would like to give, however oblique they may be.
Fraction: It's pretty big. The bloom's coming off the rose. [Laughs.]
Brevoort: It's got a pretty spectacular double-page spread right in the middle of it.
Fraction: There are two stunners in this next issue. Buckle up.
Brevoort: There's a great action scene at the end. There's a cool action sequence in the middle. Eh, the beginning isn't so good. [Laughs.] We start to get down to the nitty-gritty.
Fraction: The first act is done. We're in the second act. The story's on its way.
Brevoort: Our last hammer guy gets his hammer.
Fraction: The good guys are running to catch up with this threat that's demolishing the world all around them, and the price starts to get paid.
Brevoort: And the number of characters on the canvas starts to go up.
Fraction: And down.
Brevoort: Well, yeah. We have to keep things at a manageable level.Fraction: The "take a penny, leave a penny strategy." Nrama: Matt, we talked Invincible Iron Man back in February around the time you had finished writing Fear Itself #3, and you said something to the effect that you couldn't believe you were able to get away with what you were doing in this issue.
Fraction: Two of those moments happen in #3. It's a big one. It's a doozy. Hopefully this will get a buzz, and will be spoken about out and about in the world beyond the comics Internet, and people will come to shops looking for it, and there will be retailers who can give them Fear Itself #1 and #2, and these people who have heard about what happens, and are investigating, don’t feel gypped or robbed or stupid for not holding PhDs in continuity.<li> FACING FEAR: Q&A with Fraction & Brevoort on FEAR ITSELF #1 Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!