Casanova Is Comics for Music Lovers: An Interview With Matt Fraction

If you don't think music plays a big role in Matt Fraction's writing, you're not reading closely enough. Or the last album you bought was Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet.

Let's present the case:
  • He titled an issue of Uncanny X-Men “All Tomorrow's Parties” and used Velvet Underground references as caption character descriptors.
  • Lyrics from “No Children” by the Mountain Goats appeared in an issue of Invincible Iron Man, which led to a friendship with the band's singer John Darnielle. 
  • The last issue of the second volume of his creator-owned super-spy series Casanova featured tracks for each scene, his way of putting a soundtrack to the story.
So yeah, Matt Fraction likes his music, and it's an interesting lens to look at Casanova, which is being re-released in full color this week. So, taking a piece of advice from Fraction, I put on the new M.I.A. (“It's fucking stellar!”) to write about how Casanova is like a mixtape for Fraction, the way music references can be a secret language and what Casanova the super-spy uses instead of Barry White to get it on.  


And it's an approach that has worked on him when he would read Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol and Invisibles series, both bursting at the staples with cultural references that Fraction would decipher then search out. Same with the comics of Warren Ellis. Using art to spread the word about other art is just another way, Fraction says, to propagate, um, art.

“The act of loving art engenders art,” he said. “Ultimately, it's an obsession of mine. There are people with far better taste than me, but when I find something I like, I want to tell people about it. … I'm not much of a seeker but I'm a curator.” 

Making the references organic
This doesn't mean Fraction is quick to do call outs to whatever musical act is playing through his headphones. It needs to fit his stories.

“It's never that forced,” he said. “It's pretty organic. I think I kinda
know where that line is. A lot of times it's not even deliberate.”

And sometimes, the musical influences are much subtler than dropped-in lyrics. Sometimes the music creates a vibe or works as an influence. The genesis of Casanova owes itself to Fraction listening to the New Pornogrphers' Twin Cinema while riding a recumbent bike. After listening to M.I.A.'s “Paper Planes,” the entirety of the last issue of Casanova's second volume fell into his head. And when Fraction describes his upcoming run on Thor, he invokes the names of Page and Plant. 

“(Thor) is very much Zeppelin III,” he said. “Thor is very much metal. Thor is very much 'Immigrant Song'.”

So what about Casanova, a dimension-hopping, super-cool, super-libidinous, super spy? What does he listen to when he's ready score with a woman?

“He would put on a numbers station and go from there.”

Other comics to check out this week
  • Avengers: Children's Crusade #1 Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung return to their beloved creations, the Young Avengers, in this bi-monthly miniseries. Welcome them with open arms–and wallets.
  • Batman and Robin #13 Grant Morrison keeps sucking me into this story more and more, even with its outlandish twists and turns featuring a Batman who isn't Bruce Wayne. And all you Damien-as-Robin haters, it makes me sad for the way you see the world.
  • Scarlet #1 Former Daredevil duo Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev team up again, this time on a creator-owned series about a woman who starts her own revolution.
  • Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1 While he's letting his old partner carry the Captain America shield, Steve Rogers hasn't decided to take a vacation. Neither has writer Ed Brubaker, who is back writing a character he's defined for the 21st century.
  • Werewolves of Montpielier Technically, this came out last week, and it slipped my mind. Which is criminal, because a new graphic novel by prolific Norwegian cartoonist Jason is always a must-read.