Matt Fraction knows that some fans, after following their favorite characters for years or decades, read the latest issues with the stern intensity of a fact-checker looking for canonical lapses. Those aren’t the fans the writer aims to please with the new Marvel series The Mighty Thor — although he does invite them to relax and take a look for fun. “It shouldn’t be homework, it should be entertainment,” the star writer says. “I don’t have to prove to anybody how deep my long box goes.”
Issue No. 1 of The Mighty Thor hits stores in April — featuring art by Olivier Coipel — as a synergy project keyed to the release of the Marvel Studios film “Thor” in May, and Fraction is candid in saying the goal is to present a wide and welcoming adventure that will satisfy curious new readers and lapsed old fans as well as the picky loyalists who make the weekly trek to the comics shop. It may not be easy to satisfy all of those constituencies, but Fraction said the upside is great considering the ”powerful opportunity” to draft off of a Hollywood franchise taking flight.
Fraction knows that comics and films have stepped on each others’ toes or danced different rhythms in the past. Some were just wrongheaded waltzes too. Fraction recalled a comic-book insert in TV Guide that was keyed to one of the “X-Men” films that he says was “just impenetrable” for anyone who was coming to the characters for the first time. “What a failure, what a missed chance that was,” Fraction said. “It was a lesson in what not to do. If someone read that they wouldn’t want to read the comics and they might not even want to see the movie. It’s sending the message, ‘This isn’t for you.’”
Fraction took over the existing thunder-god series — which is called simply Thor — last year. That series will be taken over by writer Kieron Gillen and continue its numbering but as of issue No. 622 it will go old school by changing its name to Journey Into Mystery, which was its title for the first 125 issues before switching in 1966 to put Thor at the top of the cover.
So what’s Fraction’s approach with The Mighty Thor? There’s a sense that he’s clearing away distractions for a distilled version of the hero that will live up to what has come before but also be freed up from the constraints of historic story lines.
Fraction calls it a story and approach that are “invested in clarity” and starts with his favorite core attributes of the Marvel version of the Norse god of thunder. “I went cherry-picking,” the writer said. For fans, Fraction’s work will be judged against the J. Michael Straczynski work on the character that not only won over a wider audience and critics but also set the tone and template for the Hollywood adaptation of the hero.
If you’re curious, the proud prince of Asgard won’t have that “clumsy, faux Shakespearean thing” when he speaks, but there is a formal language and “a weird meter when he speaks, because he does need to sound other,” Fraction said. The stories will be colossal in size, with melodrama played on a cosmic scale with the clang of swords, royal-court intrigue and entire planets hanging in the balance.
In a Marvel universe that was made famous by characters who have an everyman appeal or all-too-human foibles and failures in their lives, Thor is a guy who can juggle cargo ships and expects to inherit a crown.
“In a world of magic mythologies, this is the most magical of them,” Fraction said of Thor’s place in the Marvel universe. “You have to be true to that and find the right tone or the wheels can tear off the car really easily. Thor is the most DC-like character of the Marvel characters, in a way. He’s not the teenager who gets bit by a spider and gets a chance to prove himself. You have to think big with Thor. And that’s a lot of fun.”
How big? To whet your appetite, Fraction had a tasty answer to that question: “Galactus-big.”
– Geoff Boucher
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