Tuesday, February 13, 2018

MARITAL BLISS

Someone on Twitter brought this page from my Spectacular Spider-Man run to my attention this morning. It's my favorite Peter-MJ scene out of the many I wrote, perhaps because the dialogue came straight from life with my amazing wife.  I even bought, and framed, the original Sal Buscema art.

By the way:  The song that's playing in the background is Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin"—performed, most famously, by Francis Albert Sinatra.  (I suspect it's Mary Jane, not Peter, who's the Sinatra fan.  I'll ask next time I see them!)

Friday, February 2, 2018

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, VERTIGO!

Way back in the Before Time, my friend Karen Berger was just out of college, clutching a newly-minted journalism degree, and looking for a job.  One day while I was up at DC (I was still fairly new to the business, just getting my feet wet writing stories for the horror and superhero anthology books), Paul Levitz, the man who bought my first comic book script, mentioned that he was looking for an assistant.  I told him about my smart, talented friend, he asked me to send her up for an interview and the rest is, quite literally, comic book history.
I can take credit for opening the door for KB, but it was her own brilliant creative instincts that made her one of the best editors in the business and, eventually, the architect of the ground-breaking Vertigo line of comics, which debuted in January 1993—twenty-five years ago this month.  (Okay, I'm off by a couple of days!)  I was happy to be part of that launch with the graphic novel Mercy, illustrated by the great Paul Johnson.  (Mercy came out recently in a new edition, from Dover Books, with lots of great extras. If you're interested, you can order it right here.)
So here we are an alarmingly-fast quarter century later and Karen is launching a new line—Berger Books—at Dark Horse.  Looking back, I wish Vertigo a very happy anniversary and, looking ahead, I wish Karen all the luck in the world with the new line.  Here's to more historic success!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

AMARTITHI 2018

“The book that I shall make people read
is the book of the heart,
which holds the key
to the mystery of life.” 
Avatar Meher Baba

Happy Amartithi to my Baba family around the world.

Friday, January 19, 2018

SLUGGING IT OUT


I’ve written more than my share of superhero slugfests (in both comics and animation) and thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  I adore these larger-than-life characters and there’s much to be said about the mythic qualities Superman, Spider-Man and their brethren bring to the page and screen and the resonance of the symbolic conflicts that play out in their battles.  But there’s an inherent flaw in the capes-and-masks genre that was underscored—and I suspect it was intentional—in the first episode of the CW’s Black Lightning (which got off to a terrific start this past Tuesday.  If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to check it out).  Early in the episode, lead character Jefferson Pierce—who, some years earlier, turned his back on his career as a costumed crime-fighter—says that he’s done more to change lives in his time as a high school principal than he ever did in his time as a superhero:  a valuable insight about the power of focused compassion, of individual effort by average human beings, to change the world.  But, by the end of the episode, Pierce is back in costume zapping “bad guys” left and right, leaving a trail of bodies, some of them dead, in his wake.  The message appears to be:  This is the way you really change the world.  Compassion and kindness ultimately don’t work.  Violence, in the end, is the most effective solution.  

I’m sure this wasn’t the message the producers intended.  BL is an extremely thoughtful show, grappling with serious issues, and I look forward to seeing where things go from here.  Perhaps a major part of the ongoing story will be an exploration of this contradiction, examining the massive crack in the foundation of the entire superhero genre:  No matter how much these characters talk about high ideals, non-violence or the power of love, in the end it often comes down to two people in costumes dropping buildings on each other’s heads.  (And the more street level, the more realistic, your story is, the more difficult those scenes become:  A space battle against aliens plays out very differently than, say, Batman beating the hell out of a common criminal.)

I’ve wrestled with the question of superhero violence throughout my career, trying to find new ways to circumvent it and addressing it very directly in stories like The Life and Times of Savior 28.  There will always be a wide-eyed kid inside me who gets a primal thrill watching self-sacrificing heroes and crazed villains knocking each other across the city:  it’s exhilarating, it’s cathartic, it’s fun.  But there’s another part of me that would love to see Jefferson Pierce, after a few seasons of hard lessons, realize that he truly can impact the world more positively as an educator.  That violence is never a viable answer.

And, perhaps, ultimately, that’s the story Black Lightning will unfold.



©copyright 2018 J.M. DeMatteis 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy new year—filled with joy, creativity, abundance and love above all.  Here's to a magical 2018!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

IT'S STAN LEE'S BIRTHDAY!

Today a genuine living legend, the great Stan Lee, turns 95.

Contemporary comic book readers can’t possibly understand how different the 1960’s Marvel Comics were from everything else on the stands.  DC’s comics—for all their imagination and artistic flair—were pristine and sculpted, All-American and squeaky clean to the point of being nearly antiseptic:  no rough edges, no raw emotions, nothing messy at all.  If you looked at the Marvel books, especially in the early days of the line, it was all mess.  The covers said it all:  lurid colors.  Captions screaming for your attention.  Oversized word balloons with thick, black borders around them.  Artwork so primitive it was frightening.  The Marvel Universe was everything a twelve year old in love with super-heroes and science-fiction could ever ask for.  It exploded my imagination—and I’ve been picking up the pieces ever since.

There’s been much debate, down through the decades, about the relative contributions of Stan Lee (who was Marvel’s editor, art director, and head writer in that formative era) and his collaborators.  From my perspective, Stan’s contribution was incalculable.  Even if, hypothetically, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko (both of whom were absolutely essential to the company’s success, it couldn’t have happened without them) plotted every single one of those stories on their own, Stan created the vibe and the mythos of Marvel Comics.  He did it with cocky cover copy and the warmth of the Bullpen Bulletins pages, the hilarious footnotes and scripts that managed to be absurdly pseudo-Shakespearean and yet utterly down to earth at the same time.  Most important were the absolutely relatable (especially to a boy on the verge of adolescence) characters, constructed of equal parts angst and humor and, most important, heart.  Stan put his passion into those pages.  They clearly mattered to him, and so they mattered to us, as well. 


If Marvel hadn't cast its magic spell over the comic book industry, changing the creative rules of the game, there's a very good chance I would have left comics behind in junior high school (for the record, the first Marvels that hooked me were F.F. #54 and Spider-Man #40, at the tail end of the seventh grade) and never even considered writing them.  And I'm sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of comic book creators who would say something similar.  You simply can't underestimate the impact that Stan had—and still has, all these years later. 

Happy birthday, Stan...and thanks for everything!


©copyright 2017 J.M. DeMatteis

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA CLAUS 2017

On television they're trotting out the Christmas classics, from The Grinch (he's a mean one, isn't he? Until he's not) to It's A Wonderful Life (yes, I still cry every time I see it) to seemingly-infinite versions of A Christmas Carol (my favorite, as you probably know by now, is the 1951 version starring the incomparable Alastair Sim).  

Here at Creation Point we have a long-standing Yuletide tradition, a short Christmas tale of mine called The Truth About Santa Claus—offered annually as a kind of cyber Christmas gift, my way of wishing all of you who visit this site the happiest of holidays and the most magical of Christmases.  I offer it again this year, along with three wonderful illustrations by my friend and Augusta Wind collaborator Vassilis Gogtzilas.  So grab a plate of Christmas cookies, pull a chair up close to the fireplace and enjoy.

Here's to a new year filled with health, happiness, prosperity, abundance, creativity, magic—and love above all.

See you all in 2018!

THE TRUTH ABOUT
SANTA CLAUS

“THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS!”

He’d been thinking about it for days—ever since he heard Big Mouth Jenny Rizzo announce it on the school bus—and he didn’t believe a word of it, not one word.  (Well, maybe ONE.)  But Cody had to be sure, absolutely, positively sure—

—and that’s why he was hiding behind the couch at midnight on Christmas Eve.



His mother was there, asleep in his dad’s old easy chair, the reds and blues of the Christmas tree lights making her look peaceful and happy and impossibly young.

The tree, by the way, had not ONE SINGLE PRESENT underneath it.

That didn’t make sense.  If there WAS no Santa Claus, if his mother was the one who bought the presents, wrapped the presents, stacked them under the tree, then how come she hadn’t done it?  How come she wasn’t awake RIGHT NOW arranging them all?

He got scared.  Maybe there wasn’t going to BE a Christmas this year.  Maybe Mom had lost her job and they didn’t have any money and so she COULDN’T buy him any presents and—

And then Cody glanced over at the windows and noticed that it was snowing.

Or was it?

If that was snow, it was the WHITEST snow he’d ever seen.  It was snow as bright as moonbeams, as bright as sunlight, as bright as...

Stardust.

Quickly, but quietly (he didn’t want to wake his mother), he scurried to the window and looked out.

It was coming down and coming down and COMING DOWN all across town, whirling and whipping, spinning and gyrating, out of the night sky.  Glowing so brightly that it almost hurt his eyes to look at it.  And Cody saw that it certainly wasn’t snow, and it absolutely wasn’t rain, it wasn’t ANYTHING he’d ever seen before.  But each drop, no...each flake, no... each BALL of glowing WHATEVER IT WAS, seemed to pulse and spin, soar and vibrate, as if it were alive.

And the stuff, the magical WHATEVER IT WAS (and he knew now that it was magic.  He just KNEW), wasn’t collecting on the streets, wasn’t piling up on the rooftops.  It was MELTING INTO (that’s the only way he could put it:  MELTING INTO) every house (no matter how small) and apartment building (no matter how big).




EVERY house and apartment building.

EVERY.

He looked up.

And there it was:  coming RIGHT THROUGH THE CEILING of Apartment 3F, HIS apartment, swirling, like a tornado of light, around the chandelier and then down, down, down—

—STRAIGHT FOR HIS MOTHER.

At first he almost yelled out a warning, “Mom!  Wake up!  MOM!”  But something made him stop.

Instead of yelling he ducked back behind the couch and watched, eyes peering over the top.

Watched as the light-tornado wheeled around his mother, so fast, so bright, that he could hardly even SEE her.  But he COULD see her.  Most of her, anyway.

And what he SAW...

The light poured in through the top of her head, through her eyes, through her chest, through her toes.  It lifted her up—still sleeping!—and carried her out of her chair and across the room.  And as she floated—

—she started to change:

Her hair became white, her nose became red, her belly ballooned like the most pregnant woman in the history of the world.  Her feet grew boots, her head grew a hat, her nightgown grew fur.  An overstuffed sack sprouted, like a lumpy angel’s wing, from her shoulder.  And then—

AndthenandthenandTHEN, it wasn’t his mother there at all, it was him, it was SANTA CLAUS!  STANDING RIGHT THERE IN CODY’S LIVING ROOM!  Santa Claus who, with a laugh (exactly like the laugh Cody always knew he had, only better) and a twinkle in his eyes (exactly like the twinkle he’d always imagined, ONLY BETTER) reached into his sack and pulled out package after package, present after present, and placed them, carefully, like some  Great Artist contemplating his masterpiece, under the tree.

When he was done, Santa Claus stood there, grinning and shaking his head, as if he couldn’t BELIEVE what a beautiful tree this was, how wonderful the presents looked beneath it.  As if this moment was the greatest moment in the history of Christmas, as if this apartment was the only place in all the universes that such a Christmas could ever POSSIBLY happen.

And then the MOST amazing thing happened:

Santa Claus turned.

He turned slowly.  So slowly Cody couldn’t even tell at first that he was moving at all.  And—slowly, SLOWLY—those twinkling eyes, that Smile of smiles, fixed itself on the two boy-eyes peering, in wonder, over the top of the couch.


And what Cody felt then he could never really say:  only that it was better than any present anyone could ever get.  Only that it made his heart so warm it melted like magical WHATEVER IT WAS, trickling down through his whole body.  Only that it made him want to reach out his arms and hug Santa Claus, hug his mother, hug his father (and FORGIVE him too, for running out on them) and his aunts and uncles and cousins (even his Cousin Erskine who was SUCH a pain) and Big Mouth Jenny Rizzo (who really wasn’t so bad most of the time) and all his  friends and teachers and the kid in his karate class who always smelled SO BAD and, embarrassing as it sounds, it made him want to hug everyone and everything in the whole world including rabbits and snakes and trees and lizards and grass and lions and mountains and, yes, the EARTH HERSELF.

Cody wanted to hold that gaze, to keep his eyes locked on Santa’s, forever. (Or longer, if he could.)  Wanted to swim in that incredible feeling, drown in it, till GOD HIMSELF came down to say:  “Enough!”

Except that he blinked.  Just once.  But in that wink of an eye, Santa was gone.  Cody’s mother was asleep in the chair again and, for one terrible moment, the boy thought that the whole thing must have been a dream.

Except, under the tree:  THERE WERE THE PRESENTS.

Except, out the window:  THERE WAS THE SNOW, the rain, the magical WHATEVER IT WAS, shooting up, like a blizzard in reverse, from every house, every apartment building.  Shooting up into the heavens, gathering together like a fireball, like a white-hot comet—

—and fading away into the night:  going, going...

Gone.

Without so much as a tinkling sleigh-bell or a “Ho-ho-ho.”

Not that it mattered.

Cody looked at his mom.

Cody kissed her.

“I love you,” he said.  And he was crying.  Happy tears.  Christmas tears.  Like moonbeams, like sunlight.  Like stardust.

Mom stirred in the chair, smiled the softest sweetest smile Cody had ever seen. “I love you, too,” she said.

And then she drifted back to sleep.

Cody sat at her feet, warming himself, warming his SOUL, by the lights of the tree.

And soon, he, too, was drifting off to sleep.  And as he drifted, a wonderful thought rose up, like a balloon, inside him.  Rose, then POPPED—spreading the thought to every corner of his mind.  Giving him great comfort.  Great delight:

“One day,” the thought whispered, “when you’re all grown-up, when you have children of your own.  ONE DAY,” the thought went on...

“It will be YOUR TURN.”

Merry Christmas.

Story ©copyright 2017 J.M. DeMatteis
Art ©copyright 2017 Vassilis Gogtzilas