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A comic book writer's secret identity revealed

HOW I MADE IT: MATT FRACTION

The college dropout's dialogue is popping up Marvel Entertainment's 'Iron Man' and 'X-Men' titles, as well as the Iron Man 2 video game.

September 06, 2009|Alex Pham

The gig: Professional comic book writer.

Matt Fraction, the 33-year-old author of "Invincible Iron Man" and "Uncanny X-Men" comics for Marvel Entertainment Inc., has a job that's coveted by thousands of boys, not to mention grown men who daydream at their desks.

Lately, Fraction's ratcheted his career up a notch by landing a gig to write the script for the upcoming Iron Man 2 video game. It will be published next year by Sega Corp. alongside the debut of the movie sequel. That means his dialogue is very likely to be read by Robert Downey Jr., who plays the title character in the upcoming movie and who also provided the voice talent for Sega's first Iron Man game, released in May 2008.

Now that Marvel will be purchased by Walt Disney Co. in Burbank, Fraction is about to go from college dropout to one of the star writers for the House of Mouse.

We asked Fraction about his unorthodox career path at July's Comic-Con convention in San Diego, where he has earned his minor cult status among comic fans for his graphic novel, "Last of the Independents." His work with Marvel artist Salvador Larocca for "Invincible Iron Man" won the 2009 Eisner Award for best new series.

How he got started in comics: In 1983, when Fraction was 7 years old and growing up in Kansas City, Mo., he became fascinated by the U.S. invasion of Grenada and created his own newspaper to explain the event. "I've always been story-driven, telling stories with pictures and words," he said.

Education and first job: Fraction never graduated from college. He stopped half a semester short of an art degree at Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri in 1998 to take a job as a Web designer and managing editor of a magazine about Internet culture.

"My mother was not happy about that," he said.

But that gig led Fraction and his co-workers to split off and launch MK12, a boutique graphic design and production firm in Kansas City that created the opening credits for the James Bond film "Quantum of Solace."

Big break: While writing and directing live-action shoots at MK12, Fraction spent his spare time writing comics and pitching his books each year to publishers at Comic-Con. Two books sold: "The Last of the Independents," published in 2003 by AiT/Planet Lar, and "Casanova," published in 2006 by Image Comics.

Fraction traveled extensively on commercial shoots. Then his wife got pregnant. So Fraction did what any rational man in his position would do -- he quit his job at MK12 to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time comic book writer.

Say what? "It was terrifying," said Fraction, who now lives in Portland, Ore. "I was married. We had a house. We had a baby coming. And I just quit my job."

Marvel hired Fraction in June 2006, thanks largely to the success of his other two comics. "I got very lucky," he half-joked. "If it hadn't worked out, I would have had to move back in with my parents."

How writing for video games is different from writing for comics: "There's a difference with written versus spoken dialogue. In a game, a lot of it is spoken. So I end up talking to myself a lot to hear how my lines sound. I have to find an artful way to explain everything the gamer needs to know without making it so unengaging that they just skip through the dialogue, which is what a lot of gamers do."

Advice to aspiring comic writers: "Read as much as you can. Write what you know. Write what you love."

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alex.pham@latimes.com

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