Last year, Matt Fraction set out to relaunch a much beloved legacy title at Marvel Comics in a new incarnation of The Defenders. Brining together Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Silver Surfer, Red She-Hulk and Namor, Fraction introduced us to a new mystery in the Marvel Universe, the Concordance Engine. Today at C2E2 in Chicago, Marvel announced at the Next Big Thing panel that fan favorite artist Jamie McKelvie would be joining Fraction with The Defenders #8 as the regular artist.
We caught up with McKelvie and Fraction to get the lowdown on what to expect and we even got a glimpse at some of the first art produced by McKelvie for The Defenders #8, due out this July.
iFanboy: Jamie, we recently saw you tackle a team book with the excellent X-Men: Season One GN, how has your approach to to handling a group of characters like The Defenders changed after that X-Men experience?
Jamie McKelvie: You really have to think about what makes each character different, so they don’t end up looking like the same doll dressed in a different outfit. Personality, body language, and so on. It’s especially important with a team like X-Men where they all wore the same uniform, but it applies to the The Defenders too.
iF: On X-Men: Season One, you collaborated with Mike Norton on art, will you be teaming up again?
JM: We’ll be collaborating in the same way we did on X-Men: Season One. He’s finishing backgrounds again, and once again doing a fantastic job of it.
iF: Now, you worked with Matt in the past on the Iron Man back up stories a while back, how is it to be working together again?
JM: Excellent! Matt writes the most inspirational scripts for an artist. He’s also really great to throw ideas around with, lots of back and forth emails as we plan story and design and so on.
iF: Of all the characters in The Defenders, which one are you most excited about getting to draw? Which one is going to be the most challenging?
JM: I think the answer to a) is all of them and b) all of them. They’re all distinct individuals, with their own looks, personality etc. Of course that’s not even getting into the supporting characters. There’s one Matt and I have come up with that is already a favourite of mine, even though she’s only appeared in two panels so far.
iF: Let’s get to the important question: You’ve been a strong supporter of mustaches in comics, and now you get to draw one of the most famous mustaches of all with Dr. Strange. How would you characterize Dr. Strange’s mustache artistically?
JM: It’s a proto-Lemmy. I wonder if he’s got the guts to go full Lemmy. I think he should, it shows commitment to facial hair, and also rock ‘n’ roll.
iF: Matt, in launching The Defenders, you brought together some characters who had relationships already, while bringing new characters to the mix. How has the team come together for you now that we’re 8 issues in?
Matt Fraction: They’re bound by this mysterious thing none of them can tell the outside world about. The events of 4, 5, and 6 have made them not just question who they are and where they come from but what the very nature of the mystery they’ve accidentally uncovered may be. They are bound by blood and catastrophe now to defend us all from the impossible.
iF: Much of The Defenders story to this point has centered around the Concordance Engine, with a very Kirby-esque design – will we see more of it and how much fun is it it to draw the engine?
JM: Oh, you’ll see a bit more of it, yeah. It’s a fun design to work with. I spent a few hours making a 3-D model of it so I could get my head round its shape from all angles. Saves a lot of headaches in the long run!
iF: What can readers look forward to as you go into the history of the Concordance Engine?
MF: The universe will break. Everyone you love dying. Shutting the engines down. And the Defenders fighting to save everything, just as we promised.
iF: Matt, when we spoke when The Defenders launched, you told me how you were working Marvel style with Dodson. How has that worked out for you? Will you be continuing that approach with McKelvie? Jamie, how is that different for you in terms of the standard approach to getting a full script?
MF: Yeah, because, Marvel style! At this point it’s the way I think about the book. It’s made me feel like a partner with the various folks that’ve drawn the book and… and now I just like being surprised by what comes back. I suspect that my “Marvel style” is that in name only anyway. It’s just finding different ways to work, different ways to think, trusting your artist and really getting into the meat of collaborating.
JM: There’s more work involved, of course – more of the technical decisions are down to me. Number of panels, which moments and images need to be pulled out of the story, how to pace, choosing the beats – but the challenge is the fun of it. In many ways it feels like more of a collaboration? In that what each of us does then goes on to influence the other.