After comics writer Matt Fraction saw the development catastrophe that Hurricane Sandy caused to the East Coast at the end of October, he had an idea to do a story about superhero working as a normal person trying to save people’s lives in that storm. To do it, he’d have to upend the schedule for Hawkeye and work with artists, editors and other Marvel personnel to craft an issue that’d be poignant and be out on comic shelves before Sandy was a distant memory for those outside Sandy’s devestating path. And do it for charity.
Hawkeye #7, which goes on sale January 6th of next year, tells the story of the two Hawkeyes — Clint Barton and Kate Bishop — as they each individually deal with the effects of Sandy as it comes ashore and how they, two unpowered superheroes, can be real heroes. For this unique project, Marvel enlisted artists Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm to illustrate this two stories, and do it in what is probably record time for a major company’s comic book. The issue was created, written, illustrated, inked and colored within roughly six weeks.And adding to the specialness of this story, Fraction has announced that he will be donating all the sales incentives he receives from the sales of Hawkeye #7 to the Red Cross, earmarked for Hurricane Sandy relief.
iFanboy: Let’s start at the beginning; when did the idea to do a comic based around the events of Hurricane Sandy come to you?
Matt Fraction: The night of October 29th as the hurricane was making landfall pretty much. I reached out to editor Stephen Wacker and asked if it was possible to do, and then the ball started rolling.
iF: Was it going to be a Hawkeye story from the get-go, or was there ever any thought to making it a story for another character and series?
MF: It was always going to be Hawkeye; it made the most sense as a Clint story. I think with other characters, generally, there’s the potential that when the high heroic fantasy of comics meet with real world catastrophes that it ends with superheros rending their garments in anguish. I wanted, instead ,for it to be a story about a regular person, in this case Hawkeye, helping regular people. The Hawkeye series is essentially about what Clint Barton does when he’s off the Avengers clock and he has a compulsive need to help people, and this dovetails into that perfectly. For Hurricane Sandy, after story after story came over the news about nurses doing compressions on infants in NICUs and doctors and hospital staff moving patients down nine flights of hospital stairs because the elevators are function, things like that. Regular people doing regular things.
I suppose I could have done this as a creator-owned story, but then we wouldn’t be talking. The reality of the Direct Market and the press is such that I wouldn’t be able to write the check I’m capable of doing if this weren’t at a place like Marvel.
iF: So getting into the twin stories in Hawkeye #7 itself… well, what are they?
MF: They’re about the two people that share the ‘Hawkeye’ name; Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. Because of the velocity of the production of this each, we have each artist — Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm– working individually on each 10 page story.
The first story is about Clint helping someone who lives in his building rescue their father from Far Rockaway, Queens. The second is about Kate being stuck in a high society formal function in Atlantic City near the boardwalk, and she has to figure out how to be a superhero in four inch heels and an evening dress.
iF: I’ve read that you lived in New York City for a time – can you explain your connection to the NYC and in general the area hit by Hurricane Sandy?
MF: Even if I didn’t live there once, it’s the center of the universe; New York, New York… so nice they named it twice. It’s the capital of the world and I’ve spent a lot of time there.
I’m from North Carolina, and I saw what hurricanes like Hugo, Andrew and Irene did. I remember after Hugo hit Charlotte, you could have built a wall of debris six foot tall to the Moon with the debris.
For Hawkeye #7, I’m lucky the comic takes place in New York City. Had there been a superhero comics set it New Orleans then that would have been a great time and place for a story about it. But as it so happens, Hawkeye happened to be set in a very real place hit by the storm and the theme of the series’ theme worked well to explore this kind of story.
iF: As you mentioned earlier, showing superheroes dealing with real tragedies is a touchy subject in comics. Did you have any of that weight on you when writing this about what to avoid and what to focus in on?
MF: I couldn’t think about that; I think as a writer, as a creator in general, you have to use your own tastes as a barometer.So I could only write about stuff I had seen and read, and which I had a distaste for and which I liked. It’s what I do with every story — use my own sense of what works and what doesn’t; you can’t write predicting what other people will like or hate, you’re pandering at that point.
My goal was to make a story that made sense for our book, work as an intro for people who haven’t read it yet, and to be a story that celebrated things regular people would do.
iF: At the beginning of our conversation it seemed like this story came together pretty quickly, relatively speaking in comics. You came up with the idea on October 29, you wrote the story over the Thanksgiving holiday, and I hear Steve Lieber and Jess Hamm are almost complete with the art for the story. How does this happen so quickly, to turn on a dime so to speak?
MF: Stephen Wacker didn’t have electrical power for awhile after the storm, and he couldn’t get into the office. When Hawkeye #5 went to press, Associate Editor Sana Amanat was one of only five people that were able to make it to the Marvel offices. When Steve was finally able to make it back to the office after Sandy, he immediately pulled the trigger on it. So a week after Sandy, we’re scrambling to find the right artists and luckily, thankfully, our top two picks were available: Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm. It helped that they lived close to me here in Portland if I need to go over and communicate the story verbally to them at Periscope Studio where they work. When we approached them they both jumped on it right away; they knew the specialness of this, and they were undaunted by the tight deadline we had to produce this in.
We already had story in the can for Hawkeye #7, but we pushed that back in order to do this special Hurricane Sandy story. That decision meant headaches, hassle, long hours and stress for everyone involved, but we pulled it off. Once I came up with the idea to give whatever sales incentives I receive to the Red Cross, it came together even better. For such a good cause and the work we all put in this, I didn’t feel any pain in committing that money for the rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.
Hawkeye #7 goes on sale January 16, 2013.