Matt Fraction On ‘Hawkeye’ #7 And Sandy Hitting The Marvel Universe [Interview]
Over the past few months in the pages of Hawkeye, Matt Fraction, David Aja and Javier Pulido have been telling smaller stories about what the Avengers’ resident archer does on his days off, focusing on smaller scale stories that emphasize Clint Barton’s role as the regular person on a team of super-soldiers and gods. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York at the end of October, causing billions of dollars of damage and profoundly affecting the lives of a lot of regular people, the connection to Hawkeye’s world and its characters was obvious.
The result: The upcoming Hawkeye #7, in which Fraction, along with artists Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm, tell the story of how Hawkeye weathered the storm — and for which Fraction will donate all of his royalties towards relief efforts for Sandy’s victims. We spoke to Fraction to find out how he approached the story and what he hoped to accomplish with it.ComicsAlliance: Why did you want to deal with Sandy in the book itself and make it part of the story, as opposed to just acknowledging it and continuing with what you were doing otherwise?
Matt Fraction: It hits a lot of the neighborhoods the book is in, and I mean that literally and metaphorically. This is a book about the regular guy doing anything but regular deeds. This is about the regular dude on the Avengers, and him being a superhero. This is the place for those kinds of stories. I came up with the story as the hurricane was making landfall, and you just heard story after story about regular people doing amazing things to help one another.
It was nice. It was inspiring. It seemed like the kind of story that we could do in Hawkeye, and it seemed like the kind of crazy thing that we could do before people forget. People still don’t have power, for f**k’s sake. Before people forget, before it got lost in the holidays, it seemed like the kind of thing we could move on as a chance to tell a Hawkeye-Saves-A-Dude story that’s also a larger story that restates the purpose of our book. I wrote it as if it were a first issue, and by the stunty nature of offering to give away whatever incentives I receive from sales of the book, hopefully it’s win-win all around.
CA: What was the turnaround on it?
MF: What did you do for Thanksgiving?
CA: [Laughs] I had some turkey and I slept for 17 hours.
MF: I wrote Hawkeye.
That was my Thanksgiving. I was writing. I was with my family, but I had my notebooks, staying up late. It was written very quickly once we decided to do it, because we had to reach out to people very quickly. Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm were literally the first two people we asked, and they both jumped on it with rapidity, so that was cool. That was it. I just worked the logistics out and started to write for each of them, and banged it out basically over the break.
It helped that everyone at Marvel was gone, so the phones weren’t ringing. The books had all gone out before the holiday, so the week had been compressed. But that was my Thanksgiving memory: T-Day 2012 was cranking out Hawkeye.
CA: What’s that like compared to the usual amount of time you spend on an issue?
MF: I like to average about a week an issue, so it was tough. And that’s a break where I’ve got kids, and people in town, and stuff like that. That’s not just normal days by any stretch; two of them are the weekend so there’s no child care at all. It was wildly accelerated. It was a lot of work in little time, on top of everything else you have to do in life.
We volunteered, that was the thing. We voluntarily did this to ourselves. We told Steve and Jesse that we needed ten pages in X days, and they were like “great, on it!” Steve’s already on page three, and he’s boarded through five. Everybody knew what this was about, and was more than willing to volunteer for it. They knew the gig was fast. It’s not an easy book.
CA: How does it fit in with the ongoing story that you’re telling? You’re doing a lot of stand-alone stories. The first three issues were very self-contained.
MF: The goal is that there’ll never be more than a two-parter, I think. I’m on eight and nine now, and those are kind of the story gathering steam, you start to see what the arc of the book is. The biggest thing was that I’d planned a Valentine’s Day issue that has now been bumped to March. That’s the only bummer, that what was supposed to be our February issue is out in March, so it’s a little late.
Other than that, it was just finding the right standalone for it to plug in. Chronologically, it doesn’t fit, because obviously it takes place over October 29 and 30, but you’ll have just read in Hawkeye #6 our Christmas issue. So forgive me for the narrative aberration. The temporal lacuna created by the hurricane benefit book.
CA: That’s obviously going to be the most unbelievable thing in your book about a superhero archer.
MF: If you believe that a guy can fall out of a building shooting arrows at bad guys, crash into a car, break every bone in his body, and be walking around a month later going back to the Avengers, I think this will be just fine.
CA: That does raise a question, though. You do see stories that are based on real-life disasters every now and then. As a writer working in a superhero universe where there are always high stakes, and stuff’s always getting destroyed and blown up all the time, how do you approach it so that it doesn’t come off as disingenuous?
MF: I think you be genuine. It’s about the scale of the story. It’s one thing to write Fear Itself and have the destruction of the Washington Monument and the Capitol as backdrop to the big, broad action stuff. Not that that was cynical or glib or disingenuous, that was a big conversation like “can we do this?” But to me, it’s always got to be rooted in the story. This is the story about a girl trapped at a function that she can’t get out of when the hurricane comes, and about a guy helping his buddy move his infirm dad to safe ground. Those are the stakes.
Nobody punches the flood, you know what I mean? At one point, I don’t know if this is going to make it to final or not, but there’s a note to myself in the script that says “I don’t know how to shoot the flood with an arrow.” There’s water literally racing towards them down the street. It’s not about the disaster, it’s about the recovery. It’s not about the destruction, it’s a story about the people who survived it and how they survived it and rose above it all.
Ultimately, I suppose it’s for readers to decide.
CA: Do you think it’s easier to do that with a character like Hawkeye? The premise of the book is that he’s an Avenger on his days off from saving the world from Kang the Conqueror, so it seems like that would lend itself better to a smaller story than if you were doing it in Fantastic Four.
MF: Yeah. You run into the bad versions of this story, which are very easy to do. The bad version of this stuff is, you know, superheroes crying and rending their garments. This is the kind of light in which power fantasies, and superpower fantasies most especially, look the worst.
I think there are always ways to tell whatever story you want to tell, but it’s not necessarily being written with the appropriate tool, sure. Having a story about a guy whose superpower is basically that he wants to help people lends itself to stories about people helping people, as opposed to “If I fly around the sun backwards I can reverse the polarity and blah blah blah. The tide will change!”
Bad things happen in a world where bad things happen all the time, and there aren’t superheroes to save us. We are all we have. That’s the punchline, isn’t it? This is a book that’s just about one of us, and that made a lot of sense for this story.
CA: How did you come to the decision to donate your profits from this issue to charity?
MF: I wanted to put my money where my mouth was and do good. It’s a chance to raise profile on the book and have people look at it and maybe give it a shot, which is good for the book. It’s great for that particular outcome. If we have high numbers and people stick around, that’d be great. But it seemed like it takes the sting out of it, not wanting to appear crass and exploitative, but hopefully it’s an opportunity to get a lot of attention and to keep the book healthy.
Rather than profit on this story while so many people, like I said, don’t have power today, still, their lives have been completely destroyed. Rather than keeping that money, I’d rather put it to good use. It felt like the right thing to do.
CA: Is there a particular charity that you’re looking at?
MF: I think the Red Cross is the one that I don’t really need to vet. Things have happened so fast that I haven’t had time to research, between the holidays and having to write the book on top of having to write Fantastic Four. That was as deep as my research went, but it’s the Red Cross. They do good work and they’re pretty much on the level. I don’t know if they earmark things specifically for Sandy relief or what, but I’ll contact somebody and get it set up.
CA: One of the things that’s really interesting to me and how you talk about Sandy affecting the book on both a literal and metaphorical level is that it’s a book set in New York, like most Marvel books, but you’re a Portland guy now. You’re as geographically far from that area as you can be. Obviously you go to Marvel, you go to cons –
MF: I used to live there. When I lived in New York, I lived on Wall Street on the water. I lived at, like, 63 Wall Street, and my place was gone. I would’ve been evacuated if I was still there. I’ve seen pictures of the place where I used to stay for prolonged periods of time doing work on commercials and music videos and stuff. I got to be quite fond of that neighborhood, and the water went past it. The water went right past it.
So there’s some sense of familiarity. Six years ago, I was there until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, weirdly enough. I’ve certainly been there enough and have friends there that were evacuated. One friend still lived in that tower. People are scattered to the winds and looking for places to plug their phones in. Their lives were upended by this thing. There’s certainly geographic familiarity.
It’s a comic book, so you just have to imagine stuff, but ultimately it’s not necessarily about “where in Far Rockaway is this happening.” It all happens inside the house that’s important.
Hawkeye #7 (NOV120725) is on sale in January, with a final order cutoff of December 17.