Wednesday, August 14, 2019

GALAXY TALK

Here are a couple of video clips from the recent GalaxyCon I attended in Raleigh.  In the first I talk about working with editors...



...and in the second I discuss writing for animation.



There are many more videos available on my YouTube channel, so click on over and subscribe!

Monday, August 5, 2019

IT'S ALL GEEK TO ME

I talk to the Geek Vibe Nations podcast about...lots of things.  Embedded below.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

SILENCE DAY 2019


"Things that are real are given and received in silence."—Avatar Meher Baba


BACK TO THE BAY

A gentle reminder that the collected edition of The Girl in the Bay will be on sale in August.  Here's an interview—from October's New York ComicCon—where my talented collaborator, Corin Howell, and I talk about our twisty tale of time travel, doppelgängers and murder.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A RISING MOON


Moonshadow: The Definitive Edition
hits comic book shops tomorrow, courtesy of Dark Horse and our devoted editor, Philip Simon.  The book is a beautiful hardcover, with lots of extras that showcase the development of the series.  I also wrote a new introduction for the collection and you can read it below.  Enjoy!


***

In my early years in comics I blundered along, trying desperately to find my own voice as a writer and ending up sounding like a damaged clone, created from the mixed DNA of Stan Lee, Steve Gerber, Len Wein, Roy Thomas and half-a-dozen other comic book writers I admired.  It’s not that my work was bad—I poured heart and soul into those stories and I’m gratified that my runs on Defenders and Captain America are still held in high regard—it’s just that I hadn’t found the way to fully express myself in the form.  Looking back, I think I was trapped by the super-hero genre itself; unconsciously—and sometimes consciously—parroting stories and styles I’d been absorbing all my life.

Moonshadow
changed that—and changed the course of my creative life in the process.

Someone (and for the life of me, I can’t remember who!) once said that whatever story you’re working on should be written as if it’s the only one you’ll ever tell:  pouring all your thoughts, feelings, ideas, ideals, passions, philosophies, hopes and dreams—every iota of Who You Are—into it.  That’s what I did with Moonshadow.  It allowed me to step outside the Marvel-DC mindset and discover my own voice. Over the course of those twelve issues I stopped being a “comic book writer” and became a writer.

Of course it didn’t hurt that I was working with Jon J Muth, as brilliant an artist as the medium has ever seen.  The magic of our collaboration became evident to me at our first face-to-face meeting.  A mutual friend had given Jon a copy of my original Moonshadow proposal and the two of us met to discuss the project.  He arrived at my house with some preliminary sketches based on what he’d read and, as I looked them over, profoundly impressed, I observed: “These are very Dickensian.” “Well,” Jon responded, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “that’s what you wrote.”  And, of course, it was—but the truth is that, despite the many Dickens-like touches in my outline, I never consciously realized the influence until Jon pointed it out!  (Moon evolved into a series that allowed me to pay tribute to just about all of my literary heroes—from Dickens to Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger to William Blake, Dostoyevsky to Bradbury to L. Frank Baum.  They were all standing over my shoulder as I wrote, encouraging me to find my own unique way of telling a story.) 

Muth and I worked very closely:  I have warm memories of going out to breakfast at a local diner, discussing the outline I’d just written; Jon doing layouts as we spoke, sometimes on napkins!  We worked in a variety of ways over the next two years—Moonshadow was an untraditional story that required an untraditional approach—but always with a mutual respect, and mutual enthusiasm, that I think suffused the project.  Jon’s painted pages—which ranged from brooding romanticism to delightful whimsy and back again—always challenged me, dared me to reach beyond my comfort zone and be better than I’d ever been.  I hope my scripts did the same for him. 

Some necessary acknowledgements:  Jon and I had three wonderful editors watching our backs on the original Epic Comics series—Laurie Sutton, Margaret Clark and the late, great Archie Goodwin—all of whom allowed us to tell our story in exactly the way we wanted, providing tremendous support and encouragement throughout our entire run. (And let’s not forget Marvel Comics’ then editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, who gave my oddball pitch his approval, then sent me over to Archie G.) We also have to tip our hats to our extraordinary letterer, Kevin Nowlan, and two equally-extraordinary artists, Kent Williams and George Pratt, who pitched in to help Jon on the original series when deadlines got tight.

When, a decade later, we jumped ship to my old friend Karen Berger’s DC imprint, Vertigo, we worked with incomparable editor Shelly Bond on our sequel story, Farewell, Moonshadow:  a challenging blend of comics and prose—we didn’t want to go back to the same well and tell our story in the same way—that featured some of the most breathtaking art of Jon’s career.
 
The first issue of Moonshadow came out in January of 1985, which means that Moon, “Sunflower,” Ira, Frodo, the G’l-Doses, the Unkshuss family and all the rest are nearly thirty-five years old now.  I thank them, the amazing Mr. Muth and all the readers who took that magical journey with us. Moonshadow transformed me as a writer, changing the course of my career, opening new doors of opportunity, and I am forever grateful.
Pop!  Poof!  Ping!

©copyright 2019 J.M. DeMatteis


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

IMPOSSIBLE GALAXIES

The collected edition of Impossible Incorporated is on sale today.  A friend described this as "Fantastic Four meets Doctor Who meets Doc Savage"—and I'll take that as a huge compliment.  I hope you'll join seventeen year old girl genius Number Horowitz and her team as they journey through time, space, dimensions—and the depths of the human heart. 

Here's hoping the great Mike Cavallaro and I get to tell many more tales of Number and Company in the future.





***

This past weekend was the Richmond, Virginia GalaxyCon and I had a very nice time meeting the fans and hanging out with fellow pros like Jim Salicrup, Mark Bagley and, of course, The Great Giffen (among many others).  Some photos and video below.  (You can find more videos over at my Youtube Channel.)



In the photos below:  The "Writing For Comics" panel with Gary Cohn and Jim Salicrup, the "Spiderverse" panel with Robbi Rodriguez, Mark Bagley and Salicrup, and the Giffen-DeMatteis panel with...whatsisname.










Next stop:  HeroesCon!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

RETURN TO SHAMBALLA



A brand new,  oversized edition of Doctor Strange:  Into Shamballa—the 1980s graphic novel I created with the great Dan Green—has just come out in Italy and I did an interview for the book.  Since most of you reading this don't live in Italy, or speak Italian, I thought I'd post the complete interview here.

And here's hoping Marvel gets around to publishing a new edition in English sooner than later.  The book has been out of print for a long time.

(By the way, some enterprising YouTuber has done a motion comic of Shamballa and you can watch it here.)


***


I know it's been a while... but do you remember the genesis of Into Shamballa and how it came to be?

I’ve always been a massive Doctor Strange fan.  I’d had the opportunity to write the character within the context of my run on the Defenders, but had never written a Strange solo tale.  Dan Green was a friend and neighbor and we were looking for the right project to work on together.  He shared my enthusiasm for Doc, we started bouncing around ideas…and we were off and running!  

One of the things that fascinates me about Strange is that his story is first and foremost a spiritual one.  It’s hidden behind magic spells, other dimensions and visual pyrotechnics, but Stephen Strange was a broken man who found redemption at the feet of an Eastern spiritual master.  You can't get more overtly spiritual than that!  That aspect of the character was sometimes lost and I wanted to do a story that put the emphasis squarely on the spiritual, while still giving the readers a big, cosmic adventure that addressed the mystical side of life and the inner journey that we’re all on, as individuals and as a planet.  Dan shared many of the same goals and had other elements that were important to him and the final story was a blend of our two visions.  As for how we put the book together…

Keep in mind it’s been decades and memories are fragile things, so take everything that follows with the proverbial grain of salt.  That said, Dan saved my outlines and scripts and many of his layouts and notes, so, using that as a kind of archaeological guide, I’ve tried to reconstruct the way we created Into Shamballa.  

Since Dan and I lived in the same town and we saw each other regularly, that allowed us to work very closely every step of the way, bouncing things back and forth, building the story together, brick by brick.  After we talked the story through and came up with a framework that excited us, we pitched it to Jim Shooter, who was editor in chief of Marvel at the time, and he had some very valuable insights that helped bring our story into deeper focus.  I then wrote up a five page story outline for our editor, Carl Potts, that we also shared with Roger Stern, who was writing the Strange monthly at the time.   We wanted to make sure that we weren’t stepping on Roger’s toes and that our story didn’t overlap with anything he was doing. 

From there Dan and I worked out more details of the story, discussed layouts, tone, etc.  Then, based on our conversations, I wrote up another outline, breaking the story down, which Dan used as a jumping off point, laying out the entire graphic novel and, I’m sure, adding new details along the way. 

I wrote my script from Dan’s layouts, but I was free to change things, make shifts, as I went along.  Dan recently unearthed lots of material that he’d saved and found some of my own layouts—and I use the term loosely!—that I’d do if, in the writing, my script deviated from what Dan had already done.  This way he had a sense of what I was seeing in my head as I was writing.  I also added some art notes to the script itself, something I’d forgotten until Dan showed me the old pages.

I’m sure Dan had feedback about the script that I then incorporated into a another draft and, with that in front of him, Dan worked out the final layouts.  I suspect we discussed that, making sure we were both happy, after which he went on to the finished art—which, all these years later, still stands as some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever seen in a comic book or graphic novel.  

This kind of back and forth is not the way the average comic book is done!  The fact that were were able to do so much work face to face, and that we had the extended deadline that graphic novels afford, allowed us to really collaborate in a way writers and artists in comics working on monthly comics just can’t.  It was a magical collaboration as befits such a magical character.


Into Shamballa is a perfect mix between a comic book and an illustrated novel. Where did this idea come from? Why did you choose not to use word balloons but only captions to tell the story?

Some people see comics as movies on paper.  I never have.  I think comics is a unique form that embraces film, poetry, music and prose.  The form can be anything we want it to be.  I especially wanted to explore the line between prose and comics:  telling a story with the pure visual impact we expect from the form, but also using prose to dive deeper, expand the storytelling out in ways that traditional comics storytelling can’t.  I was doing something similar with Moonshadow, which I was writing at the same time I was writing Shamballa. ( In fact Dan and Jon J Muth were sharing a studio at the time.) 

With Dan’s gorgeous art the graphic novel became a kind of mystical storybook.  A cosmic fairy tale.   

Dr. Strange, decades after his creation, keeps being an entertaining and fascinating character. What do you think is the secret of this success?

The magical characters—and Strange is foremost among them—allow us to tell stories that explore the personal and the cosmic, the psychological and the spiritual.  Reality itself can be bent back, folded, torn up and rearranged.  We get to ask the Big Questions:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  What is reality?  An incredible framework for investigating life on multiple layers and levels. 

But none of this would work if Strange himself wasn’t such a deep and fascinating character.  You can’t go big and cosmic unless it’s rooted in the human and Stephen Strange is a very human character.  Add to that the scope of his adventures—the endless dimensions, the cosmic grandeur, the otherworldly foes and allies—and you’ve got the perfect recipe for great comics.  Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created a perfect template.  All of us who’ve worked on the character are forever grateful to them.


What did you think of the cinematic version of Dr. Strange?

I really enjoyed it—Cumberbatch was perfect casting—and I hope they get cracking on a sequel ASAP.  I also loved the little nod to Into Shamballa that they threw into the mix!