Wednesday, October 8, 2014

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

I'll be heading into New York City this week to participate in Marvel's 75th Anniversary celebration at the New York Comic Con.  For those of you who'll be attending, my schedule is below.

Friday

Marvel 75th Anniversary:
Crafting the Marvel Event
Time: 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. EDT
Room: 1A18
Sit down with Executive Editor Tom Brevoort for an inside look into how a major Marvel event is constructed, from the perspective of writers, artists, and editors. Hear first-hand accounts about the creative collaborations that brought you Marvel’s biggest stories! Panelists include Brian Michael Bendis (ALL-NEW X-MEN), Kurt Busiek (AVENGERS), Tom DeFalco (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN), J.M. DeMatteis (CAPTAIN AMERICA), Al Milgrom (WEST COAST AVENGERS), Fabian Nicieza (X-MEN), and Jim Starlin (INFINITY GAUNTLET).

Marvel 75th Anniversary:
Friendly Neighborhood Marvel
Time: 3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. EDT
Room: 1A18
Join Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada as he sits down with creators of past and present to shine the spotlight on Marvel’s street-level characters. This panel will include Spider-Man and Daredevil creators, as well as writers and artists who have contributed to the mythos of heroes like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Moon Knight, Luke Cage, and more! Panelists include Mark Bagley (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN), Gerry Conway (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN), Tom DeFalco (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN), J.M. DeMatteis (SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN), Ralph Macchio (DAREDEVIL), Doug Moench (MOON KNIGHT), and Ann Nocenti (DAREDEVIL).

From 4:00 pm—5:30 pm I'll be part of the Marvel 75th Anniversary Signing in the Galleria of the Javits Center.  It's a cornucopia of Marvel creators, past and present, including Mark Bagley, Brian Bendis, Kurt Busiek, Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, Peter David, Danny Fingeroth, Ron Garney, Klaus Janson, Ralph Macchio, Todd McFarlane, Doug Moench, Don McGregor, Ann Nocenti, Grek Pak, Jimmy Palmiotti, Dan Slott, Len Wein and many more.

Saturday

Signing at the Marvel Booth (booth #1354) from 3-4pm


And that's it.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

THROUGH A CHILD'S EYES

A while back, someone here at Creation Point (I’m looking at you, Jack) asked me how I would define “kid-friendly” entertainment.  Considering my passion for creating stories—especially comic books—for children, I thought it was a wonderful question.  So let’s move on to the answer... 

“If the book will be too difficult for grown-ups,” Madeleine L’Engle, author of the classic Wrinkle in Time series, once said, “then you write it for children.”  When I set out to write an “all ages” comic book like Abadazad or The Adventures of Augusta Wind—or a prose novel like ImaginalisI want to stimulate the imagination and explore deep themes, creating a story that a parent and child can enjoy together without fear of the content overwhelming or seriously disturbing the child.  I say seriously because a little bit of nightmare is good for the soul:  the Wicked Witch of the West and Monstro the Whale terrified my younger self, but it was an exhilarating kind of terror.  (It could be—as some have argued—that exorcising our demons through stories is, in the long run, psychically and emotionally therapeutic—but that’s another post for another time.)      
Of course there’s no such thing as a Generic Child:  they all react differently to the stories they encounter.  I remember a friend’s daughter who could watch all manner of violent movies—absorbing images far too unsettling for my own kids—yet the stepmother in Disney's Cinderella paralyzed her with fear.  Then there’s the age factor:  What's suitable for an eight or nine year old could traumatize a four or five year old.  There's a big leap from Winnie The Pooh and Doctor Seuss to the later Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. 

When my daughter was little, she would often come to us, without prompting, book in hand (a book we’d screened and declared acceptable) and announce, “This is not appropriate for me!”  We’d put the book away and Katie would try it again in six months or a year.  My son, on the other hand, would sometimes push for entertainment that crossed the border into edgier territory we didn’t think he was emotionally prepared for.  Sometimes we drew an uncrossable line in the sand, but, when we acquiesced and set Cody free to explore, his judgement was often correct.  We continued to carefully monitor our kids’ choices, but we also learned to have faith in their instincts—and to regularly question our own.  
All of which makes it seem like my answer to the question of what constitutes child-friendly entertainment comes down to Justice Stewart’s infamous definition of obscenity—"I know it when I see it"—and, in some ways, it does:  The line between Young Readers and Middle Grade, Middle Grade and Young Adult is fuzzy at best.  As parents, it’s our job to be constantly vigilant:  We don’t want our kids to grow up too fast, but we certainly don’t want to shut down their minds and imaginations.  Still, I think there’s one essential quality that defines all the best children’s literature:  innocence.  Not a juvenile point-of-view or some cultural/societal conception of innocence, but an innocence of the soul:  a primal sense of wonder, too-often discarded when we leave childhood behind, that allows us to view the world through eyes unclouded by cynicism or despair and see the miracles of creation that are all around us—if we would only look.  
The best children’s stories (some of which come to us disguised as stories for adults) expand and challenge the mind, heart and spirit but keep that innocence intact.  As a creator, I want the experience of writing these stories to keep my innocence intact, as well.  To remind me of who I truly am, and what reality is, beneath the sound and fury of the (so-called) adult world.
©copyright 2014 J.M. DeMatteis

Monday, September 22, 2014

HOPE

In an age that sometimes seems lost to violence and hatred, this short, profoundly moving, TED talk gets beneath the skin of the world, beyond the CNN Reality, and offers hope.  I urge you to watch it.

As Buddha said:  "That which is most needed is a loving heart."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

SHORTEST POST EVER?

After a long respite, my  IMAGINATION 201 writing workshop is coming to Kingston, New York in October.  Details are here.  Told you this was short!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

RECHARGING IN PROGRESS

If things have been quiet here at Creation Point lately it's because I've been quiet. It's good to periodically put work and the world behind and remember that Who We Are and What We Do aren't the same thing...and that's exactly what I've been up to. Once I'm fully recharged and revitalized, I'll be back and posting away.

Hope you're all enjoying these final days of summer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BATMAN!

Well, today is Batman Day (yes, there is such a thing) and the fact that all of Comicdom is celebrating the Dark Knight’s 75th Anniversary (he doesn’t look a day over thirty) got me thinking about my history with Bruce Wayne.  I’ve loved Batman since I was a kid.  One of my primal memories is being six or seven years old, sprawled out on the living room floor with crayons and a stack of drawing paper, trying to replicate a Dick Sprang Batman cover line for line.  In many ways, that square-jawed, slightly goofy (okay, more than slightly) version of Bats is the one I cherish more than any other.  I also remember the fangasms I had when, in the seventh grade, Batman came to television:  it may have been campy to the grown-ups, but to naive, overweight, just-turned-twelve year old me this was serious stuff:  comic books come to glorious life in a way they never had before.   

So, yes, JMD the fan has a long-standing, deep connection to Bats but I honestly didn’t think JMD the writer had much of a history with the character—after all, I’ve never written a Batman solo series—until I took a look back at my career and discovered that I've written more Batman tales than I ever realized.  Many more.  And it started with, of all things, a coloring book.





“The Mystery of the Million Dollar Joke” is probably the first superhero story I was paid to write.  And, yes, there’s a genuine kid-friendly story in there, waiting for you to bring it to life with your Crayolas.  Paul Levitz offered me the gig when I was first starting out at DC and I stayed up all night, hunched over the typewriter (remember those?), banging out the script.  If memory serves, I was paid a few hundred dollars for my efforts—which was just fine in 1979—and I still have a copy of the book tucked away on a shelf in my office.

The first comic book superhero story (y’know, the ones with the colors already provided) of mine that ever saw print was also a Batman adventure, in Detective Comics #489.  “Creatures of the Night”—also edited by Mr. Levitz—had Batman hunting vampires, mainly because most of my work in those days was for the DC horror anthologies and vampire stories were my stock-in-trade.  I don’t remember much about the script beyond the fact that it was illustrated by a Batman artist I admired, Irv Novick, who had nice things to say about it when I encountered him in Paul’s office one day.  Those kind words meant the world to a newbie writer.

My first full-length superhero story was also edited by Paul and also featured Batman:  Brave and the Bold #164, “The Mystery of the Mobile Museum,” teamed Bats and Hawkman (a character whose solo feature I wrote for a short time in World’s Finest) and the story was hardly classic.  What was classic was the artwork, by the great  Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  He took my script and raised it up to another level entirely.

I didn’t encounter Batman again for another seven years, when he joined the ranks of the Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League—but he was an integral part of that series throughout its five year run.  Of course our Batman was a little different from the grim ‘n’ gritty avenger that the brilliant Frank Miller unleashed on the world the year before JLI debuted.  Our Bats had a sense of humor—incredibly understated, true, but it was there—and, though he’d deny it to his dying day, he enjoyed the idiotic escapades of Beetle, Booster and the rest of our quirky, and wonderfully obnoxious, cast.



In 1993, I came at the Bat sideways, via the Superman mythos, for an Elseworlds story called Speeding Bullets (art by the hugely-talented Eduardo Barretto).  SB posited a universe where the rocket from Krypton was found not by the Kansas Kents but by the Gotham Waynes.  The baby was christened Bruce and, after being traumatized by his parents‘ murder, the boy grew up to be a flying, super-powered—and extremely angry—Batman.  And, if Kal-El was Batman, how could Lex Luthor not be the Joker? 

A few years later—tied to the release of the third Batman movie, Batman Forever—came Batman/Two Face:  Crime and Punishment:  a serious exploration of Harvey Dent’s split personality (building on a wonderful story written, a year or two previously, by Andy Helfer) and that was followed, in 1994, by a four-issue Legends of the Dark Knight arc, brilliantly brought to life by Joe Staton, that may be my absolute favorite of all the superhero stories I’ve written.  “Going Sane” featured a Joker who believes that he’s killed Batman.  With his mortal enemy gone he has no reason left to live—and his mind snaps.  Now, if we snap we go crazy—but if the Joker snaps...he goes sane.  What came next was a tender love story—a tragedy, really—about a gentle man who doesn’t know he was once a homicidal maniac with a permanent grin on his face.  At least he doesn’t until Batman returns to Gotham and all hell breaks loose.  The story also focused on Bruce Wayne’s relationship with the doctor who brought him back from the brink of death and, I hope, revealed a Batman whose greatest weapon was his compassion.




The next year, the amazing Mark Bagley and I had the pleasure of teaming up Batman with my old pal Peter Parker in Marvel’s Spider-Man/Batman:  Disordered Minds.  This was followed, two years later, by DC’S Batman/Spider-Man:  New Age Dawning (beautifully illustrated by Graham Nolan).  To say that it was a kick teaming up two of my all-time favorite characters—and doing it for both Marvel and DC—may be the Geek Understatement of the Century.

I didn’t return to Gotham until 2002, when I scripted another Legends of the Dark Knight arc—a Robin-centric tale, with art by the terrific Trevor Von Eden, called “Grimm”—and doing my first Batman graphic novel, Absolution (with rich, painted art by Brian Ashmore):  a gritty story of justice and redemption that found Batman traveling to India in search of a holy woman...who just might be the terrorist Bruce Wayne has been hunting for over a decade.

Around the same time, Bats appeared in an issue of Justice League that I wrote, during Grant Morrison’s run, along with the 2003 Justice League/Spectre mini-series Soul War.  More recently, Batman guest-starred in an issue of Phantom Stranger and, this year, Keith Giffen and I launched Justice League 3000which imagines a future Batman very different from the one we all know.  This is a Bruce Wayne who wasn't traumatized by the death of his parents—in fact he can't remember their murder at all—and that lack of a motivating tragedy has altered him in fundamental ways. 

I’ve also had the pleasure of writing Batman in animated form—first with multiple episodes of Justice League Unlimited and then with seven episodes of Batman:  The Brave and the Bold.  I’m genuinely honored to have been a part of both those classic shows, but I got a special kick out of writing for B & B because it was so reminiscent of the square-jawed, over-the-top Batman I adored as a kid.



I’ve got a couple more Batman-related projects in the pipeline, but I can’t say anything about them till they’re officially announced.  “Comic books?” you ask.  “Animation?”  I’d love to tell you, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy.   All I can say is that my dance with the Dark Knight isn’t over yet—and I hope we keep dancing for years to come.

Happy Birthday, Bruce—and many more!

©copyright 2014 J.M. DeMatteis
Batman and his pals ©copyright 2014 DC Entertainment 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

SILENCE DAY


“I have come to sow the seed of love in your hearts so that, in spite of all superficial diversity which your life in illusion must experience and endure, the feeling of oneness, through love, is brought about amongst all the nations, creeds, sects and castes of the world.

In order to bring this about, I am preparing to break my Silence. When I break my Silence, it will not be to fill your ears with spiritual lectures. I shall only speak One Word, and this Word will penetrate the hearts of all men and make even the sinner feel that he is meant to be a saint, while the saint will know that God is in the sinner as much as He is in himself."

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