FACING FEAR: Fraction and Brevoort Reflect on FEAR ITSELF


FEAR ITSELF Q&A w/ Fraction & Brevoort
FEAR ITSELF Q&A w/ Fraction & Brevoort
Fear Itself #1 cover.

It's now been 10 months since Marvel originally announced 2011 event Fear Itself, and though the effects will be felt in the Marvel Universe for quite some time, the series proper has wrapped after seven issues from writer Matt Fraction and artist Stuart Immonen.

In the latest installment of our Facing Fear Q&A, we look back at the series as whole with Fraction and editor/senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort, discussing broader issues like fan reaction to the series, the amount of follow-ups spinning out from the book, and the original working title the story had during its first month or so in development.

Read on for plenty of insight from Fraction and Brevoort, and check back in a month or so for the Facing Fear grand finale extravaganza, covering aftermath issues Fear Itself #7.1 (out next Wednesday, written by Ed Brubaker and focusing on Captain America), #7.2 (focusing on Thor) and #7.3 (focusing on Iron Man).

Newsarama: Fear Itself #7 ends with prologues for four new series spinning out of the story. Obviously there is always a degree of aftermath following these events — "Decimation" after House of M, "Dark Reign" after Secret Invasion — but it feels like there might be more than usual coming after Fear itself. Was it a matter of being pleased with the direction of things and wanting to keep that momentum going, or is my perception flawed and it's really the same amount of follow-ups as there always are?


Tom Brevoort: I don't feel like it's an extraordinary larger number of follow-ups. I think if you look at what came after Siege for example, which was pretty much all of "Heroic Age," it's comparable to that. It's sliced up slightly differently, we have the Point One, Point Two, Point Three, which is kind of a new thing, and then we have The Fearless coming out, which still does call itself "Fear Itself" — which wasn't really our first choice, but something that we had to do for a variety of reasons.

Matt Fraction: The early word is, the orders are super-strong. So we've basically come to the direct market and said, "please trust us. We can't tell you anything about it, but it's important." Seems like it worked.

Brevoort: The response I've seen to the first issue has been very, very good. People seem to really be on board with it, and it's going to come out twice a month, like a rocket.

But again, we split up the aftermath stuff into a couple of different places. There are all the books that are being labeled as "Shattered Heroes," there are individual things like Battle Scars, there's the launch of Incredible Hulk, there's Defenders. It's not that different, I think the one thing that it has that previous ones didn't was something like The Fearless, which rolls right out of it on a really aggressive schedule. So maybe that's the thing that makes it seem a little bit different, and certainly the fact that the Fear Itself name will now live on for another five or six months on that title, where usually we get to the end of one of these events, and you don't see a lot of "Siege aftermath" beyond a month or two. But we're going to be moving onto the next series of things. "Shattered Heroes" will be a banner for a while, then the next sort of major movement for the Marvel Universe will begin to roll out.

I don't expect that it's going to overstay it's welcome, it's just a slightly different thing than we've done before — which is the kind of thing we should be doing all the time.


Nrama: Last month, it came up in conversation that Fear Itself had a working title that that you both didn't want to talk about then, because it would spoil issue #7. Now that it's out, can we hear what it was?

Fraction: For a while, it was called "Planet Avengers." Specifically because of that ending where everybody is an Avenger now, and everybody rises up and fights alongside the Avengers.

Brevoort: For about the first month, it was "Planet Avengers," and we only moved off of that as the story developed in different areas, and it really seemed to be something that described the events of the last issue, but not necessarily the six leading up to it. Making your title "Rosebud is the Sled" was not the best idea, so we kind of moved away from that. But it's a good title, and don't be surprised if we come back around to something called "Planet Avengers" at some point, because we like the sound of it.

Nrama: One thing that's struck me personally is the amount of negativity that certain folks seem to have towards this story. While I've also encountered many people who love it, it seems to be polarizing in a way that I wouldn't expect. I haven't really monitored a big Marvel event this closely before — is that the case with all of them, for the most part?

Brevoort: Yeah. It literally happens with all of them. Take the most successful one there is, Civil War. I spent a really, really late night one night on the Newsarama boards answering questions about why Civil War was late all those months ago, and some people still haven't forgiven me for that.

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

Because these stories are so big, they're so encompassing, the expectation level is so high, they impact on so many titles, the chance that an individual fan isn't going to walk away satisfied is just magnified. It was really funny, because over the weekend  I got a question over on my Formspring page which was somebody saying, "Fear Itself was terrible, from now on, let Bendis write all of these." And I responded, "That's the most ironic statement ever," because literally three months ago what every fan — not necessarily this questioner — but every person, was saying, "Why does Brian write all of these? Won't they let somebody else do this?"

It has nothing to do with, necessarily, how good or bad Fear Itself was, there's always going to be some golden perfect that you can never quite reach with these things, and people are going to want the other thing. We're going to do the next one, and people are going to go, "Why was that not as good as Fear Itself? Couldn't Matt and Stuart do another one of these?" They're almost always better in hindsight, to a certain degree, partly because the expectation level is just so high.

There's no getting around it: As comic book readers now, we live in a fairly cynical age. Anything that we do, there's always somebody there to kind of go, "Eh. That again?" "Captain America picks up Thor's hammer? Eh. Saw him do that before. What else you got?" That's the old, jaded, "I've seen it all and I've now spent too much time trying to look behind the curtain" fan, and it's not like it's not a legitimate point of view, but I can't let myself be guided so much by that, because if I did, we just wouldn't publish comics anymore. There's a whole audience that hasn't seen any of these things before, and whether you have or not, that moment is cool. I'll go to my grave saying that page where Cap picks up the hammer, and goes, "Avengers Assemble," that's a cool, big, payoff moment for the story. If it didn't work for you as a reader, then it didn't work for you. I happen to think that moment works really, really well, but that's just my opinion, and as a reader, you pay your money, and you get to have your take on it. 


Fraction: I remember when I was — 12? 11? 13? — something like that, sitting around the comic shop, bitching about X-Men. And then I had one of those rare moments where the camera sort of leaves your head and goes around the room, and you kind of see everything that's going on, I realized that as vehemently and vigorously as I and my comic book store-going friends were arguing about X-Men, it remained the title that we read first. On a stack of books, it was always the "can't wait."

And that moment was what kept me sane writing X-Men. If you're not infuriating people, somewhere, you're not doing your job as a writer on X-Men, and the numbers back you up. We made Uncanny a top 10 book again.

When you get people riled up, it's like, OK, that's good. People are talking about it. I'd rather people be riled up about it than sort of passively accepting it as being nothing more than un-offensive or whatever.

Get them excited, talking, and arguing, and go out and write your own comics, and then come back in 10 years and do an event that's better. So apparently this was all born somewhere between my loving Secret Wars and hating Secret Wars II. [Laughs.]

Nrama: And it's interesting, because it seems like a lot of the negativity isn't even specific complaints or criticisms — there are people who are turned off simply because it's a Marvel event that exists.

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

Brevoort: That mantra of "we hate events, we have event fatigue, we're finished with this," I think that kind of almost drains you going into these things, or the event has be that much more utterly mind-blowing to even get past that resistance. "Well, it was good, but it was as good as it should have been?"

Fraction: Right. "It wasn't the last comic book I ever need to read." "It wasn't as good as my collective memory of every event." Which is what I was wrestling with the entire time as the guy writing it. I had a stack of the event books that I loved, the events that I was really looking at, trying to pick apart, next to me, basically for 16 months. Sitting at arm's reach, just looking at me in the face, every day. "You know what this book isn't better than? Secret Wars. And Crisis. And Final Crisis. And Secret Invasion. And Civil War." That was my metric, this giant f*ck you pile of great comics that mocked my giftless rage everyday. [Laughs.]

Nrama: So to end things on a positive note, Matt, Tom, are there any moments in the series that you're particularly proud of, or reflect back on fondly?

Fraction: It's all terrible. That's just the way my mind works. The worst comic I've ever written is the one that just came out; the best one I've ever written is the script I just turned in. The thing I can irrevocably take pride in is that it sold as well as it did, and continues to sell as well as it did. The industry is a little down right now and we needed a book that was going to move units all summer long.


That was important to do. That was, on some level, this book's job, and a lot of people put a lot of time and a lot of work, and Stuart and Wade and Laura, and their work deserved to be seen by as many people as possible, let alone so many people behind the scenes in the marketing, and the operations stuff that people don't think about. A lot of people had to wrestle with this book as long as I had to wrestle with this book, and that it's moving the numbers it's moving is incredibly gratifying.

Brevoort: There are lots of little moments and bits and bobs scattered throughout. The two things are, one, really Stuart, Wade [Von Grawbadger] and Laura [Martin] stepping up in a big way, quality-wise as well as quantity-wise. There are some astonishingly good graphics in the course of these seven issues, and it's a lot of pages, beyond the fact that it was seven issues. The first one was big, the last one was big, and these guys did it all, got it done on time, hit all of their marks, did beautiful work that will last the test of time, and I don't think we should lose sight of that.

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

And secondly, I like the underlying message, which is stupid and corny and ridiculous, but is also true. I like it when my superhero comics have some either hopeful or aspirational kind of message or theme woven into their DNA, and this did. Whether it worked for everybody or not, I liked the underlying sort of metaphoric idea of Fear Itself, even beyond just the particulars of punching and hitting, and a big Hulk/Thor/Thing fight and all of the pyrotechnics we did. I like the message of Fear Itself. I like the fact that it closes with a guy loaning his lawnmower to the guy next door. That's all stuff that really sings to me, and works for me. Maybe it doesn't work for anybody else, and that's fair, but it totally works for me, because I'm a sucker for that.

Fraction: And secretly, Tom and I are both Libertarians, and we've been looking for ways to further our agenda. [Laughs.] It's a big victory for Libertarians everywhere. Mow your own f*cking yards, people. 

Past installments of Newsarama's Facing Fear column:

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