Matt Fraction skyped in to celebrate Iron Man’s 50th anniversary at a Comic Book Round Table event held at John Ordover’s Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York on Wednesday night, and provided some heartfelt insights into the way in which the armored playboy has drastically changed Fraction’s own life. Along the way, he gave his thoughts on the past Iron Man films and gushed about the preview of Iron Man 3 which he had just seen the previous evening. Fraction and Salvador Larocca’s INVINCIBLE IRON MAN comics title, which had some close affinities to the characterization and ethos of the Iron Man films, also displays some of Fraction’s most personal feelings about the character, he said. He had “empathy” and “fascination” with the character for many reasons, not least of which was his own battle with addiction and alcoholism and living “in recovery”, he said frankly. Fraction explained that writing Tony Stark felt like “my own history”. Another motive was at work, as well, in luring him to writing the Iron Man title. “I love getting characters people hate, finding a reason to love them, and making people love them”, he declared, and considers his “mission accomplished”.
A group of New York City inspired comics creators descended on the Soho Gallery for Digital Art on the 17th of April to discuss the good, the bad, and the strange elements of the city that have influenced their lives and works, including Al Jaffee of MAD Magazine fame, Peter Kuper of Spy vs. Spy and the upcoming DRAWN TO NEW YORK, Dean Haspiel of CUBA: MY REVOLUTION and BILLY DOGMA, R. Sikoryak of MASTERPIECE COMICS, Bob Fingerman who created MAXIMUM MINIMUM WAGE, and Miriam Katin of WE ARE ON OUR OWN and LETTING IT GO. The evening was hosted and moderated by former Marvel editor, author, and educator Danny Fingeroth, who, like Haspiel, is a Manhattan native.
The event’s first “victim” was godfather of New York comics Al Jaffee, who conversed with Fingeroth about his life in comics accompanied by slides, many of which were biographical illustrations Jaffee created as original content for his biography Al Jaffee’s Mad Life. Jaffee described his wanderings, from early life in New York, followed by several years with his mother’s family in a Jewish enclave in Lithuania, to his all-American return to the city at age 12, before taking up his place in the first graduating class of New York’s High School of Music and Art. “The only thing that I had going for me throughout my life”, he said spryly, was, “the ability to draw funny pictures”. His “constant competition” with childhood friend and classmate Will Elder kept him on his toes, Jaffee narrated, often relating very humorous anecdotes about their antics.
As the first of several “Comic Book Roundtable” events to be held at the Soho Gallery of Digital Art under the auspices of gallery owner John Ordover and former Marvel editor, author, and educator Danny Fingeroth, this event exploring the life and legacy of Dr. Frederic Wertham was planned for the occasion of Wertham’s 118th birthday, but in the lead up to the event, recent developments in scholarship about the controversial comic reformer shed new light on the evening’s subject matter. In November 2012, librarian, professor, and scholar Carol Tilley published her findings that after examining Wertham’s papers held by the Library of Congress, some of Wertham’s methods and reports were questionable, sparking debate in comics scholarship and among comics fans, particularly after the story was picked up by major media sources in February of 2013.