One of Marvel Comics' brightest stars takes on the original Marvel Universe book when Fraction becomes the writer on the relaunched Fantastic Four in the fall, as well as the spinoff sister series FF , as part of the company's Marvel NOW! initiative.
"This is the family car. Don't scratch it," says Fraction, who takes on the two books while moving on from The Mighty Thor and Invincible Iron Man.
He's doing some detailing on the old classic, though. HisFantastic Four, which teams Fraction with artist Mark Bagley (Ultimate Spider-Man, Thunderbolts), will take the whole family of superheroes —Reed Richards and wife Sue (aka Mister Fantastic and Invisible Woman), their two kids Franklin and Valeria, plus teammates Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) and Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin' Thing — on a journey through time and space.
Illustrated by Mike Allred (Madman) in his trademark pop-art style, FF will get a new look and a new replacement Fantastic Four squad, with Ant-Man heading up Reed's Future Foundation and teaming with She-Hulk, the Inhumans' Medusa and Miss Thing, an all-new female character clad in a Thing suit of armor.
For the main Fantastic Four book, Fraction says, "it's the first family, and we're putting family first."
The story line to kick off both of his new books, which share a definite road map, is actually inspired by, of all people, Gov. Angus King of Maine. When he left office in 2003, he, his wife and his two kids hopped in a 40-foot RV and for six months, saw America by driving 15,000 miles over 34 states.
"It was this intensive road-trip home-school experience," Fraction says. "I don't really know any parent who wouldn't want to do that with the time and money available."
The story stuck with Fraction, and it became the root of his idea for the Richards clan: Reed builds a ship that will take his team and his children across time and space for an epic historical lesson, the writer says. "If they're studying ancient Rome, then by God let's go have lunch with Caesar on the Ides of March. If they're looking at the Big Bang, they're going to watch it from the front row."
They'll be gone for a year — which will only be four minutes in regular Earth time — and while there will be continuing plot threads, each issue will be a new adventure and new situation.
"It's very easy to say, 'I want to stay true to what Stan and Jack did.' Well, what Stan and Jack did was invent the entirety of the Marvel Universe in 104 issues," Fraction says of the original Fantastic Four comic that launched in 1961.
"This is the place to be wildly inventive, and I would like to put as many things down on the page as humanly possible and offer up another dose next issue."
The Big Bang happened in less than a second, though, so four minutes is an eternity for the big brain of Reed Richards. He makes it a point for them to choose the people they want to carry on their legacy just in case something goes awry since the Earth will still need protection.
Ant-Man and his group stand guard for the four minutes, but nothing happens. Three weeks later, a one-eyed, one-legged, long-haired, half-insane, bearded Johnny Storm walks through the time gateway, shuts it behind him and says, "We can never open this door again."
The new crew of FF were carefully chosen by the old team as well as Fraction.
Reed Richards reaches out to Scott Lang because as Ant-Man, he's scientific, he has things to prove, he's a family man and, because he recently lost his daughter Cassie, Reed feels putting this brokenhearted hero in charge of the kids in the Future Foundation will help him.
Sue wants a woman like Medusa who has a link to the Fantastic Four through the Inhumans but could also be a mother, a hero, a friend, a wife and "seemingly have eight arms to handle all these jobs at once," Fraction says.
She-Hulk has a pedigree with the team since she has been a member of the Fantastic Four, plus she'd be Ben's pick because she's "the one person he knew he could never lick," says Fraction, who writes Red She-Hulk in Defenders, which ends its run at issue 12 in November.
"Strong guys are easy but you need more than just a strong guy."
Miss Thing is the most interesting choice because, as Fraction puts it, "Johnny spaces it because he's Johnny." She just happens to be a "Lohan-esque celebutante blonde" he's with the night before he leaves and she's thrown into the middle of this situation.
"She's the regular person, she's the human, she's the overwhelmed 'Whaaa?' of it all," Fraction says.
For Fantastic Four, Bagley takes his first crack at the group and brings both warmth as well as big-time action sequences to the book, according to Marvel executive editor Tom Bervroot. And with Allred, he says, FF will have a tone and a flavor that will make it different from anything else on comic shelves.
"My hope is that it will be quirky in the same way that the Fantastic Four were quirky when they first appeared in the early '60s," Brevoort explains. "We know who they are, we know what they're about, but when they first showed up, it was like a bomb going off in comics.
"These were remarkable characters who were doing unexpected things and had a real element of danger to it and excitement and unpredictability. The hope is we'll be able to tap into something akin to that."
Ant-Man has been one of Allred's all-time favorite characters since he was a kid, and when Marvel editor in chief Axel Alonso told him he'd be doing the superhero with Fraction, "I did a back flip," the artist says. "He's always in touch with the deepest part of my brain."
Allred "melted" when he learned Medusa was on the new team — "She was my first and favorite costumed comic-book crush," he says — and is falling for the other two women, too.
He almost pushed to replace She-Hulk, "but then my brain cracked open, and like many 'arranged marriages,' I saw her soul and opened my heart to her," says Allred, adding that Miss Thing "is so weird and wild."
He digs the chemistry between the four and is giving them all matching uniforms — "except the 'new kid' who has the most 'traditional' look for obvious reasons," Allred says.
Brevoort reports that the new FF artist is "the happiest man on the face of the Earth. His enthusiasm is electrifying. He enjoys getting to play with all this stuff. It has such a nice bounce and spark to it because of that."
At meetings discussing the changes of Marvel NOW!, Fantastic Four received a good amount of interest from different writers because it's one of "the mini-crown jewels of Marvel," according to Brevoort.
Fraction, though, was perfect for it and FF in a couple of ways, the editor says, starting with the cutting-edge, technological aspect of Fantastic Four. "Matt's obviously got something of a crazy science brain."
Plus, like Reed Richards, he's a big family man — Fraction has two young children with wife (and Captain Marvel writer) Kelly Sue DeConnick, and part of the Fantastic Fourappeal for him, he says, was "a chance for me to tell stories about my family through the lens of the cornerstone of the Marvel Universe."
In doing so, Fraction aims for the title to be entertaining for all ages, from his kids to the older comic fan.
"I feel that one of the best Fantastic Four stories was The Incredibles, and I want to take that back. It's so arrogant to say but it should have been us. We should have done that," Fraction says, laughing.
"If this could be the Pixar version of the Fantastic Four, something that everyone can enjoy, not just our medium 30-year-old white-dude reader, I'd be happy."
Whereas the Fantastic Four is about the Richards family having all-new adventures, FFis about an all-new Fantastic Four getting to meet the team's greatest hits, Fraction teases. "Suddenly, there are imposters to the throne and they come out of the woodwork for these guys."
Ant-Man has an agenda of his own, too, in addition to protecting the world. He blames Doctor Doom for the death of his daughter and, with the power of the Fantastic Four and the Future Foundation, wonders what would happen if they declared war on Latveria and devoted all their time and resources to eliminating Doom once and for all.
"It's a dark twist on what the Fantastic Four is about — it's the other side of the coin," Fraction says. "We have this Fantastic Four with a specific mission in FF and how can he direct and bring these people along with him?"
His favorite Fantastic Four run of all time is still Lee and Kirby's first issues in the '60s, and Fraction feels the pure raw inventive power of them is unmatched.
Reading those, "you watch an idiom get invented, and when they really hit their stride, just page after page after page is remarkable," Fraction says. "I can't actually read Kirby for too long. I can only go a handful of pages and I have to take a break and chew things over.
"It's so imaginative, it just sends me spinning. I have to put it down and daydream for a little while and go back to it."
Fraction admits he's "terrified" he's going to screw up Fantastic Four, but he feeds off that fear and to be true to the spirit of the book, he says, "you've got to invent, invent, invent.
"That's an all-too-rare occurrence in comics these days but I'm excited to get started."
Source: Matt Fraction takes on 'first family' of 'Fantastic Four,' 'FF' – USATODAY.com