Matt Fraction is one of the most respected writers working in mainstream comics today. He’s written great runs on Iron Man, Thor and, yeah, The Defenders. But, as good as The Five Nightmares arc in Iron Man is or, say, his Casanova stuff is, Fraction’s lifetime-best writing is a poignant response to a question from a depressed fan. Have a seat. Get the Kleenex. You’re going to need it.
In his response to a note from a Tumblr user, Fraction relates his own struggles with emotional turmoil and how he found something to hang on to:
As i started to cut, as the corner touched my skin and that jolt of pain fired into my head, i stopped and thought — y’know, last chance. Are you SURE?
And i was tired. I sounded like you, that i knew there’d be ups again and downs but i was just so fucking TIRED i couldn’t stand the thought of having to get there. I felt this… this never-ending crush of days that were grey and tepid but for some reason i was supposed to greet each one with a smile. the constant pressure of having to keep my shit in all the time was just exhausting.
I wondered, then — well, is there anything you’re curious about. Anything you want to see play out. And i thought of a comic i was reading and i’d not figured out the end of the current storyline. And i realized I had curiosity. And that was the hook i’d hang my hat on. that by wanting to see how something played out I wasn’t really ready. That little sprout of a thing poking up through all that black earth kept me around a little longer.
I realized then that it had been so long since i’d laughed. I was numbed out and shut down and just… i missed laughing. maybe if i laughed a little i could get moving again. so i’d wait for my comic to conclude, try to find a few laughs, and then reevaluate.
One of the reasons I like Fraction’s writing is he manages to invest the characters he works on with driving existential tensions that feel really real. Tong’s boy-to-girl change in FF, his take on Tony Stark’s alcoholism… they’re probably not all mirrors to real-life happenings but there’s an honesty there that makes them more than just another comic-book issue.
And I have to be honest here, as well: the suffocating shadow-place where whiskeyjack is (hopefully, was), where Fraction was… I’ve been there, too. It was in college, when the pressure and seeming meaninglessness of what I’d been doing seemed all too much to bear. I got help from friends first and professionals later. And when I look at the things I moved on to since—a person and a career I love, an amazing daughter—I’m glad I held on. I really, really hope that whiskeyjack holds on, too. It’s worth it. You just don’t know how/why yet.