For comic book aficionados, Matt Fraction needs no introduction. For everyone else, including this nerd in-the-making editor, he is the scribe behind The Invincible Iron Man, for which he received an Eisner Award in 2009, and probably one of the most knowledgeable people of fictional billionaire war toymaker Tony Stark. Which is why Marvel Studios brought him on to consult for the upcoming Iron Man 2 film, eventually leading to Sega also signing Fraction to do the same for the video game tie-in. The writer recently sat down with us to give us the lowdown on both and what makes his Stark Sense tingle.
MAXIM: Video games made from movies are often quite...
MATT FRACTION: Shitty? Oh, can I swear?
Absolutely not. There are children reading!
Well, then: farts and tits! Check. But, yeah, games based on movies tend to suck.
I was, weirdly enough, the only kid in America that liked E.T. on the Atari. Have you ever heard of the story behind that game?
Why do you think that's so?
Why do you think that's so?
Oh, how it caused the video game crash of 1983?
Yeah, that one. I loved it. I hadn't told anyone at Sega that when they signed me on for Iron Man 2. Turns out a faithful adaptation of a film done on the Atari 2600 is not a good game and you shouldn't put millions and millions of dollars on it. There's literally a landfill with nothing but E.T. games somewhere.
The Nicaraguans play it while wearing their New England Patriots 19-0 championship jerseys.
[Laughs] As a kid, the game made no sense. It vexed me, I was haunted by that game—I had to figure it out. Yeah, that's not a great game to tell a videogame development company like Sega you like. We were all greatly invested in creating a parallel narrative experience; something that was familiar to fans of the first movie, to people who had seen the movie or who knew the comic book, but wasn't a chapter and verse adaptation of the film. My little corner of the blanket is that I just wanted it to feel like Tony Stark. I wanted him to sound like Tony and I wanted Tony to behave like Tony. That's all I could control, little mannerisms that I know from using my Stark Sense.
What's the difference between Stark Sense and Spidey Sense?
Stark Sense gets you laid way more...and you look better in a tuxedo.
So, basically you're saying that many video games based on movies commit less time to authenticating the subject matter?
Yeah, pretty much. The idea for Iron Man 2 was to create an experience, not try to adapt the film to consoles. Production cycles are a bitch and movie cycles are merciless. Look at the Superman game...[Turns to a Sega PR person and asks if Sega published it, getting a negative response] It came out nine months after the movie bombed and got nothing. There's that sort of feeling that games must be released date and date alongside the movie.
And, awesome superhero games like Batman Arkham Asylum, which was released a year after a wholly separate film, are sure to change that paradigm going forward.
So, other than E.T., what games do you enjoy?
I like murdering my buddies in the face and making fun of them. I have a lot of work to do and I have a kid, so I don't really have time for RPG-type games, even though long quest-laded games are my thing. I like to show up, fuck my buddies up and then run away again. That, or alien cinematic experiences like God Hand, Bayonetta and No More Heroes. Also, I like the alieness of Katamari and Shadow of the Colossus. Then, sort of big chaos, carnage games like God of War and Darksiders.
How did you get involved with the Iron Man 2 game because, let's face it, the first one was a pile of dung.
The makers of the film were fans of the comic and had me out to consult on the sequel.
Anything you can tell us?
Oh, you know, stuff. They used me for my Stark Sense. The video game was handled out of the West Coast office too and Sega called me up when I was in town.
Since you are essentially Tony Stark's puppetmaster, gives us a few quintessential characteristics that are required to make him "authentic."
He's Chuck Yeager meets James Bond. Suave, billionaire playboy by day and a multi-billion dollar super hero by night at the cutting edge of science and technology. He's not only the guy who is designing the future, he's testing it on himself. He's a pioneer, he's astronaut crazy. If he builds a missile, he wouldn't hesitate to strap it to his ass and fly to the moon.
So, he's Richard Branson?
Kind of, but American. A self-made man of destiny. He's destined for great things and makes it happen.
What happens when there's a recession in Tony Stark's world?
Actually, there has been! In the comics, the last two years have been about taking things away from him. He doesn't have a company. He doesn't have a fortune. He actually has a line in an issue, "I never had to invent a fortune for myself before, so it'll be fun to try."
We're seeing comic books seep into mainstream entertainment more often nowadays. What do you think is the future of comics in general?
I think comics are about to be liberated from their physical selves. They're about to become astral plane projections of pure imagination. We're about to lose the requirement that it can only exist on page. There's already a vibrant Web comics community, but things like the iPad and all of the other tablet solutions coming online in the next five years, comics as a paper-stapled experience are going to become optional. The comic book store will be in your pocket. Comics aren't going anywhere, they're going everywhere. The idea of being liberated from that prison, that sinking ship, is exciting.
Yeah, and being free from that comic book store smell must be good times, too.
The Android's Dungeon of it all, I'm not going to miss.