Robot 6

Quote of the Day | ‘Comics need to get better at not being so … comic-y’

Hawkeye #7

“Comics can do a lot to be more accessible. A whole lot of that is — well, there’s this sort of weird arc over the last 20 years of thinking that these things would never be collected, and that we were writing exclusively for 36-year-old men who read comics every week. At this point, I think the price point is at such a place and the content is at such a place that we can’t afford to do that anymore. I think Issue 788 of whatever book wouldn’t be a problem at all if Issue No. 788 was written in a way that was satisfying to new and old readers alike. I think it’s really difficult to do, but I think it’s possible. I think we as an industry fell into this pattern of not caring about new readers anymore. There’s a way that you can do it that isn’t the clumsy, awkward way that it used to be done where characters refer to themselves in the third person, thinking back on who they are and how they came to be. You don’t have to write every comic as if it’s the first comic someone’s ever read, but you do have to write as though you would like new people to read your comic — which is kind of what Hawkeye is all about. How clean can I make this? How much like The Rockford Files can you go? It’s not a show like Lost where you have to see it every week, or a show like The Wire where you really have to watch and pay attention closely every week. Rockford had a setup, then a riff, and that is very much how superhero comics are nowadays. So there’s no reason that we should be exclusionary. People love it. I mean, Avengers is the third biggest movie of all time. It hits a cultural sweet spot. It’s just that comics need to get better at not being so … comic-y.”

Hawkeye writer Matt Fraction in an interview with the Los Angeles Times ahead of his signing this evening
at House of Secrets in Burbank, Calif.

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25 Comments

Trying to get away from it’s “comic-y” nature is something that is more complicated than Fraction makes it out to be. When there are only two players in the “mainstream” comics that being Marvel and DC, both having a corporate hierarchy, many editors, mandates, and writers summits, writing a story that can appeal to former, current, and possible readers, make editorial happy, and most importantly, sell, is a overwhelming task.

Writing comics when it’s characters that are owned by a corporation, that people may have heard of is a lot different then striking out on your own telling the story just the way you want, without editorial interference, but not making any money until it’s the back end of the project.

I get what Fraction is talking about, but he is a bit too optimistic.

I mean, Avengers is the third biggest movie of all time. It hits a cultural sweet spot. It’s just that comics need to get better at not being so … comic-y.

Yeah, I suppose.

That, plus the majority of people prefer having their entertainment performed for them, with full sound and motion and real simulated explosions and 3D, in a format they can just sit in front of passively, or else interact with other people with whom they are sharing that entertainment as it plays out (as opposed to conversations outside of the experience itself) if they have any kind of interactive role in the entertainment at all.

i.e., lots of people like going to movies; paying per-installment for serialized entertainment that they have to READ, not so much.

Fraction makes a good point, but he also wrote the shittiest Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men runs in Marvel’s history (and I’ve read Austen and Kavanagh; he’s STILL shittier). He’s basically their JT Krul, only Fraction has three things he can use as examples of not sucking or not being mediocre at best – Casanova and his current Hawkeye and FF comics (not Fantastic Four. God no…..) and even the latter two’s total output combined don’t even equal a year’s worth of issues. Hard to take anything he says seriously. Plus, as the first commentator pointed out,he’s being way too optimistic, and failing to take into account subplots.

My theory of comics goes as such: have an interesting hook for each issue that can draw a new reader in, introduce and resolve something within the same issue so they can see SOMETHING happen (which is something that Fraction is notorious for NOT doing), while also doing some slow burn character arc and subplot stuff to keep the longterm reader interested instead of bored.

The best seasons of the X-Men cartoon from the 90s are ones that had overarching seasonal subplots because it gave you an incentive to get invested in a season., while also introducing and settling main plots each episode. The “bad” seasons are ones with episodes just like Fraction describes – RF stuff where you introduce the set-up and then do a riff. Some of those episodes can be entertaining fun, but you can get bored pretty quickly and it’s hard to feel like any one episode has an big significance to the characters, so why get invested in the characters.

Basically, always be skeptical of advice coming from guys who have written so much FAIL (seriously, someone tell me again why he’s an “architect”?)

Yeah,I mean he only works in the industry,has worked in a comic shop, has wrote a Iron man book that was so good they cancelled the other Iron man book that was out at the time,is currently writing one of the best books out right now in Hawkeye . What does he know??

Hickman could do more along these lines. He’s writing the flagship book of the Avengers coming off the huge 2012 successes of the movie, and he makes Captain Universe the star of his first arc without explaining, introducing, or really saying anything about the character except to include an infographic. Uh, thanks?

@ Mike T.

Read Kaminski and Michelini’s runs on the book, and then tell me how good his Iron Man is; not only did Tony never do jack with the armor, but he never acted like Tony and Fraction would spend pages every issue on pointless dialogue scene that were not only big failures in their attempt to be Bendis style scenes (something you probably shouldn’t attempt anyways because even Bendis is like 60% successful at pulling those scenes off), but they could have been condensed down into a third as many pages without the story feeling compressed. Hell, then maybe Fraction actually could have had IRON MAN DOING STUFF IN AN IRON MAN COMIC. Plus, that whole repulsor-powered car subplot was just plain boring as fuck. No, that run was pure crap, the only reason he can use it on his resume is by citing the sales figures, which had a whole hell of a lot more to do with incredibly successful Iron Man movies coming out during his run than the actual writing on the book. Just look at the way sales spiked on the Batman books during the 60s show and the Burton movies; same effect.

Guy may be in the industry, but there’s also a lot of other shmucks working in it that probably shouldn’t be. Like JT Krul. And working in a shop doesn’t suddenly make you an expert on what sells since all shops are different. It is informing, but doesn’t make you an expert. I said the guy had some points, but he also doesn’t address a lot of the problems with his own “solution.”

So basically your saying that because you didn’t care for his run,he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Guy doesn’t even know his craft, that’s why he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Even Howard Mackie got praise for his Ghost Rider and parts of his Spider-man runs. Doesn’t mean we should take advice from him.

Also, a lot of your argument was based on the quality of his run, which in reality sucked (also, Marvel didn’t cancel Iron Man Legacy because they were like “Damn, Fraction is KILLING it, lets not have another book that could interfere,” it was because they thought the movie success would support two Iron Man books, but the sales showed that it didn’t, especially since Fraction’s run SUCKED and wasn’t fully exploiting the movie buzz. By sucking.) So you were basically saying because you liked his run, he DID know what he was talking about. Make up your mind.

The problem, as I see it, is that if Fraction (who I have met, real nice guy) says that comics should be less ‘comic-y’, that’s trying to make the medium of comic books something they’re not. Newsflash, Matt, comics are NOT movies or TV shows. The heck with the stupid “widescreening” of comic panels, they never needed that! If the stinking speculator boom didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have comics that take six issues to finish a story, we’d have the whole story in a SINGLE issue. Movies can adapt the stories of comics, but they can’t duplicate the format or style functions of comics, and vice-versa. Each entertainment medium, be it stage, screen, or the printed page, shouldn’t try to act like the other on a physical level or a storytelling level.

At the same time, though, there is considerable overlap between prose, drama, comics, and cinema in what makes good writing. Osamu Tezuka got considerable leverage combining techniques from all sorts of different media. No reason Joe Comicbookartist can’t do the same.

Besides that, I’ll just say, I’ve been reading Walt Simonson’s Thor for the first time, and while I’m enjoying the story, I find most of the writing quirks–the narration style, the exposition–completely distracting and unnecessary.

@ Alan Scott : Simonson’s run is pretty darn good. The writing quirks that you mentioned are pretty much just from that era. His run is almost 30 years old. Claremonts style is kind of the same way.

Numbering a book issue #788 isn’t the problem for new readers.

It’s getting to the shop, and finding shelves dominated by the same character in multiple titles.

It’s picking up issue #788 of an ongoing series, only to see on the cover that it is part 4 of 6 of a larger story arc.

If you want to get new readers to pick up a new title, start with the cover. Instead of going with flashy poster art, go old school and have the cover sum up what is happening on the inside.

Each issue should have it’s own hook, be it an interesting plot twist, character development or a cliffhanger ending.

Don’t underestimate the intelligence of a reader, thinking that they cannot comprehend big numbers in the issue count or remember what has happened in previous issues.

@ Rob Franklin

And Fraction’s runs on books at Marvel have been VERY guilty of a LOT of the “bad comics” stuff you mentioned. Hell, he did pretty much all of those things every month during his Iron Man run. It’s just another hit to the ethos of his argument, and he didn’t have much to begin with, plus the logos of it is pretty weak and pathos non-existent.

Hmmmm. What do the Three Musketeers have to do with this…?

They’re latin terms for the rhetorical aspects of an argument, and Fraction doesn’t use them well here.

Matt Fraction writes great comics but he’s a creator that uses characters to tell the stories that he wants to tell. His Iron Man had too many issues without actually having Iron Man in the armor and his Hawkeye is a great Jeremy Renner comic. He has alot of good ideas but I don’t feel alot of sincerity in his work for hire titles.

I’ve read this back and forth and I respect him – but in a nutshell this is what I get from this written piece:

“The way books are written have to change, and the method that should be used is being used by me – in my new book HAWKEYE, sold in comics shops EVERYWHERE. Go get one!”

It feels like a salesman is pitching me his product after giving me a bit of wisdom about the industry. It’s different if someone ELSE had written, “Fraction’s HAWKEVE is doing things differently so give it a shot!” but when it comes straight from the writer, it’s just an infomercial.

I’m totally agreeing with what Rob Franklin and Acer said. Seems like common sense to me — having grown up on comic books.

But somehow the knuckleheads are in control of the comics — publishers, editors, writers, artists who don’t understand what makes comics great. They’d rather try to make comics into something else. Like movies, or sales pitches for movies. I bet very few up them actually read comics other than what they’re required to read.

oh, and also, I grew up reading in the mid 80′s and fell in love with Classic X-Men. I loved those characters and had no idea it was a reprint book, so when I got Uncanny, imagine my shock when more than half of those characters were not in the book, they were in AUSTRALIA of all places, and they were basically getting their asses kicked around not even having a stable home. I had no idea what happened in the time between Classic and Uncanny. I sought out a comic store, pieced it all together and the rest is history.

You have the internet now. It’s easier now than its ever been to jump into a continuing story.

Mike T: It’s Alex, and yeah, that’s basically what I’m getting at. I honestly find early-80′s Claremont hard to read, too. That’s the sort of thing that comes to mind when I see the word “comic-y.” It can have a certain charm–Lee and Kirby certainly made it work–but there are so many ways to write comics, and so many ways other media can inform comics.

But hey, I didn’t say I wasn’t enjoying it.

Yeah sorry for the “alan” It was late when i wrote that :) Im in the minority but i think Fraction is on to something. He’s wrote comics where he introduced characters without going the Claremont route,using the small panels to describe them like in Defenders and Uncanny X-men.

@anonymous

Accusing the guy who wrote Cassanova of not knowing his craft is so ridiculous I feel foolish responding to your post. That book and the commentary in the back of the new volumes shows that, despite some missteps, he’s a guy who knows his craft. “Cassanova”, “Immortal Iron Fist”, “the Order”, “Thor ages of Thunder”, “Thor Secret Invasion” and “Hawkeye” more than makes up for his terrible X-men run and a few other missteps. But Christ, everyone has some bad runs, but this isn’t someone who speaking to the wind and doesn’t know his craft. His Iron !an run was pretty good as well. Sorry you didn’t like it, but it was the best the titles been since heroes return.

Also, a lot of your argument was based on the quality of his run, which in reality sucked (also, Marvel didn’t cancel Iron Man Legacy because they were like “Damn, Fraction is KILLING it, lets not have another book that could interfere,” it was because they thought the movie success would support two Iron Man books, but the sales showed that it didn’t, especially since Fraction’s run SUCKED and wasn’t fully exploiting the movie buzz. By sucking.) So you were basically saying because you liked his run, he DID know what he was talking about. Make up your mind.

_____________________________

Quoted partly for the truth (why IRON MAN LEGACY was launched and canceled) and partly because I agree with him about Fraction’s IRON MAN run being terrible.

The problem, as I see it, is that if Fraction (who I have met, real nice guy) says that comics should be less ‘comic-y’, that’s trying to make the medium of comic books something they’re not. Newsflash, Matt, comics are NOT movies or TV shows. The heck with the stupid “widescreening” of comic panels, they never needed that! If the stinking speculator boom didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have comics that take six issues to finish a story, we’d have the whole story in a SINGLE issue. Movies can adapt the stories of comics, but they can’t duplicate the format or style functions of comics, and vice-versa. Each entertainment medium, be it stage, screen, or the printed page, shouldn’t try to act like the other on a physical level or a storytelling level.

_____________________________

Quoted for the truth.

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