Thursday, April 16, 2015

REMEMBERING TRIMPE

I was so very sorry to hear that one of Marvel’s most important artists, Herb Trimpe, passed away this week.  I didn’t know Herb well, but our paths crossed with some regularity back in the 1980's.  We shared mutual friends, attended some of the same gatherings and parties, and he always struck me as a down-to-earth, sincere and genuinely good person.


Herb, as many of you know, drew what may be the definitive version of the Hulk, illustrating classic stories by Stan Lee and Len Wein, among others.  I was lucky enough to work with him, early in my career, during my run on Marvel Team-Up.  My stories were a little wobbly at that stage of the game (maybe more-than-a-little) but Herb always took my plots and turned them into honest-to-God comic books—exploding with energy, drawn impeccably and told with crystal clarity.


A few years ago, my wife and I were out to dinner at a local restaurant and I noticed an original Trimpe drawing of the Hulk on the wall.  A few minutes later—the timing couldn't have been better—a couple got up from a nearby table:  Herb and his wife, Patricia.  (It turned out her brother owned the restaurant.) I hadn’t seen Herb in years, wasn’t even sure he remembered me, but I went over and said hello.  We had a nice talk, catching up a little, then said our goodbyes.  I saw him at a convention or two after that, but we never really had the opportunity to sit down for a lengthy chat.  And now we never will.

My heartfelt condolences to Herb Trimpe’s family and friends.

Update:  Ron Marz has written a heartfelt, and insightful, tribute to Herb that is well worth your time. You can read it here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

END OF AN ERA

As many of you know, this is the month that DC Comics moves from New York City out to Burbank, California.  DC has been in NYC since its inception, so it's no exaggeration saying that this is the End of an Era—and one that has great meaning for me.   I sold my first comic book script to DC—back when Jenette Kahn and Dick Giordano were running things—and I've continued to work for the company, in its various incarnations, ever since.  DC has been a huge part of my professional life (and, when you include the many friends I've made there over the years, my personal life, as well).

My old buddy, and former DC editor, Bob Greenberger, has put together a special "DC Memories" section for the current issue of Back Issue magazine (on sale this week).  I was among the many people who contributed and I thought I'd share my short essay with you here.

***

The thing I remember most about my time starting out as a freelancer at DC is the quiet:  there wasn’t a lot of hustle and bustle in the halls.  DC was a ship sailing on very even waters and editorial co-ordinator Paul Levitz (the world’s oldest young person) had most, probably all, of the books six months ahead of schedule.  (Never happen today.  Never!) 

Paul was a superb editor—he taught me so much in those early days—and I also had the pleasure of working with Jack Harris (one of the nicest men to ever sit behind an editorial desk) and Len Wein, who became not just my editor, but my mentor and life-long friend. 

That was the era when I sent another life-long friend, Karen Berger, up to the office to meet Paul.  He was looking for an assistant and Karen, who’d just graduated from Brooklyn College with a journalism degree, was looking for a job.  They hit it off—and the rest is comic book history.   

Jump ahead eight or so years:  Andy Helfer—as talented an editor as the company has ever employed—has put me together with some guy named Giffen and a new artist named Maguire on an offbeat revamp of the Justice League.  We worked on that book, and its many spin-offs, for half a decade—and some of my most cherished DC memories are of hanging around Andy’s office on a Friday afternoon (the day the checks arrived) with Keith, Kevin and, it seemed, half the freelance community.  I’d arrive at DC in the late morning, make my rounds, visiting Karen, Art Young, Bob Greenberger and other editors, then plop myself down in a chair beside Andy’s desk and hang out for the rest of the day.  The quiet of those early years was gone by the late 80’s:  it was creative chaos, in the best possible way.  More than twenty-five years later, Keith G and I are still collaborating, still working for DC—and on a book with Justice League in the title—and I’m astonished by the swift passage of time (as well as the swift loss of hair that accompanied it).

So many memories—enough to literally fill a book—but I think the brightest is the earliest:  December, 1977, selling my first comic book script to Paul L, an eight page House of Mystery story with the deathless title “The Lady Killer Craves Blood.”  After approving the script, Paul shook my hand, looked me square in the eye and said, "Welcome to the business." 

It doesn’t get better than that.  Thanks, Paul.  And thanks, DC.  Here’s to the past and, I hope, a very bright future.  

***

If you want to read more reminiscences, from folks like Len Wein, Denny O'Neil, Dave Gibbons, Cary Bates and many more, you can click right here and order the book.  



©copyright 2015 J.M. DeMatteis

Friday, April 10, 2015

A LITTLE MORE BATMAN

Here's (just about) the entire Batman vs. Robin panel we did at WonderCon last week.



And here's another just-released clip from the movie, this one featuring Jeremy Sisto as Talon.



Update:  And one more clip that goes right to the heart of the conflict.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

AFTER THE WONDER

My plane from Anaheim got in very late last night and by the time I reached home it was two in the morning.  Translation:  I’m fairly toasty at the moment and I’m not sure how many coherent sentences I can string together.  That said, the Batman vs. Robin premiere at WonderCon went extremely well:  over four thousand enthusiastic fans showed up for the screening and the panel that followed.  (My son, Cody, flew out for the festivities and it was great having him along for the ride.  We even snuck in a trip to Disneyland!)

I may write more about the experience later, but, till then, I want to share the video below, which features B v R interviews with actors Jason (Batman) O’Mara and Stuart (Robin) Allan, producer James Tucker and yours truly.


And here’s a photo of the whole Batman vs. Robin crew after our Friday night panel. Top Row:  Tiffany Smith, JMD, Andrea Romano, James Tucker, Phil Bourassa and Jay Oliva. Bottom Row:  Sean Maher, Stuart Allan and Jason O'Mara.



More later, I hope—right now I need to cool down these burning brain cells—but before I go, I have to thank Warner Bros PR guru Gary Mieranu for treating us all like gold and making it a truly memorable weekend.

Update:  Warner Bros. just released another clip from the movie, this one featuring Nightwing and Robin going head-to-head.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

DAYS OF WONDER

This weekend the good folks at Warner Brothers Animation will be flying me out to WonderCon in Anaheim, California for the premiere of Batman vs. Robin.  I won’t have a table in artist’s alley, but you can find me at the following events.  Hope to see you there! 

World Premiere Batman vs. Robin
Friday April 3, 2015 6:00pm - 8:00pm 
Arena
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation welcome WonderCon Anaheim attendees to the World Premiere of Batman vs. Robin; the latest entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Original Movies. In the film, Damian Wayne, now bearing the mantle of Robin, blazes a headstrong and sometimes reckless trail alongside his father, Batman. While investigating a crime scene, Robin encounters a mysterious figure, Talon, who leads him on a life-altering course through the depths of Gotham's secret society, known as The Court of Owls. It's a dangerous journey that will force Batman and Robin to face their most dangerous adversary: each other! Be among the first to see this new film, then stay for a star-studded panel led by the voices of Batman, Jason O'Mara (Terra Nova, Complications), Robin, Stuart Allan (Son of Batman), and Sean Maher (Firefly/Serenity, Much Ado About Nothing), respectively, alongside producer James Tucker (Justice League: Throne of Atlantis), director Jay Oliva (Batman: Assault on Arkham), Eisner Award-winning writer J.M. DeMatteis (Justice League, Teen Titans Go!), character designer Phil Bourassa (Justice League: Throne of Atlantis), dialogue director Andrea Romano (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), and some special guests. DC All-Access host Tiffany Smith will moderate the fun, including the awarding of a few exclusive prizes. Inspired by the storyline from the bestselling graphic novel, Batman: Court of Owls, Batman vs. Robin arrives April 14 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD.

The Nerdist Comics Panel
Saturday April 4, 2015 7:30pm - 8:20pm 
Room 208 
Bwah-ha-ha!  J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire talk shop with Ben Blacker and Heath Corson in a special edition of their Nerdist Comics Panel podcast—with a focus on the classic Giffen-DeMatteis-Maguire run on Justice League International.  

More Than Sidekicks
Sunday April 5, 2015 1:00pm - 2:00pm 
Room 300AB
Superheroes may get the glory, but it's their "sidekicks" that do all the real heavy lifting...and steal your heart. Join the definitive voice of Robin, Loren Lester (Batman: The Animated Series), Eisner Award-winning writer J.M. DeMatteis, Warner Archive Collection podcasters D. W. Ferranti and Matthew Patterson, and a myriad of special guests for an engaging look at some of the most endearing sidekicks to grace popular DC-based TV series; from Burt Ward in the 1966 Batman series and Legends of the Superheroes TV special and the early TV cartoon incarnations of Teen Titans and Batman & Robin to modern high-def presentations of Young Justice, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Beware the Batman, and the popular Teen Titans Go!.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FAREWELL TO THE DARK

The final issue of Justice League Dark is on sale today and I can’t let it vanish into the mists of comic book history without noting what a joy it was playing in the supernatural corners of the DC Universe.  

One of the reasons I eagerly accepted the JLD assignment was because I wanted to work with the brilliant Mikel Janin, one of the very best artists working in the business today:  his collaboration with my predecessors on the book, Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes (my co-conspirator on the Forever Evil arc), was what made me a JLD fan in the first place.  Mikel eventually left the series, but his replacement, Andres Guinaldo, was every bit as good.  It was a genuine pleasure watching Andres’ work—usually embellished by the equally-superb Walden Wong—evolve from issue to issue. 

My editors—Brian Cunningham, Frank Pittarese and Chris Conroy—were always there to watch my back and they gave me all the room I needed, and more, to tell the kinds of stories I wanted to tell, in exactly the way I wanted to tell them.  Add in our expert colorists—Chris Sotomayor and Jeromy Cox—and letterers—chief among them Rob Leigh, Taylor Esposito and Travis Lanham—and we had a book I’m very proud of.  (If I’ve forgotten anyone, please forgive me!)

In some ways, the deepest connection a writer makes is with the characters—and the Justice League Dark crew featured some of the best characters in the entire DCU.  Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Nightmare Nurse, Swamp Thing and the rest are all rich, multi-layered creations, each one adding immeasurably to the stories.  (It was a special kick getting to reunite with Andrew Bennett, the star of I…Vampire—a series I created at the very beginning of my career.)  Over time, they stopped being “characters” and started being friends. 

With JLD (and its sister book, Trinity of Sin) gone, what’s next for me?  Well, there’s the ongoing (and slightly retitled) Justice League 3001 with Keith Giffen and Howard Porter, a new (and top-secret) DC project that I’m very excited about, the return of Augusta Wind at IDW, another (top secret) project for new kid on the block Lion Forge Comics, several animation projects (including multiple episodes of the upcoming Be Cool, Scooby Doo and another DC-related direct-to-video project, following up next month’s Batman vs. Robin), the script for a live-action television pilot—and more.  So things are busy and life is good.

But I’m sure going to miss flying across the universe in the House of Mystery.



  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

SHATNERDAY

Today is William Shatner's 84th birthday.  (If you want to know why I love the guy, read this.)  With the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy, Shatner seems more of a national treasure than ever (well, considering he's Canadian, I guess he's an international treasure).

Captain Kirk has been a part of the pop cultural zeitgeist for nearly fifty years now, but, for me, Shatner's greatest performance, and most memorable character, is Boston Legal's Denny Crane.  But why do we have to choose?

Here's a terrific tribute to Denny Crane:



And here's one of Captain Kirk's greatest moments:



One of these days I'll do a full-out Shatner Top Ten (which would undoubtedly include extraordinary performances in The Andersonville Trial, The Intruder and The Twilight Zone), but for now, let's end with Shatner and Ben Folds performing a fantastic track from their 2004 collaboration, Has Been: 



Happy birthday, Mr. S:  Here's to many more.