The fifth, and final, issue of The Life and Times of Savior 28 came out last week. As some of you know, this was a story that evolved over twenty-five years. Savior 28 started life as a rejected Captain America concept, back in the 80’s when I was writing that series, and then grew into something very much its own: a saga that spanned seventy years of American pop culture and politics. The story follows a man named James Smith—also known as the world’s first and greatest superhero, Savior 28—through his life from the 1930’s to today, with the primary focus on the Bush Years, when Smith finally realizes that the way he’s been living his life has been completely out of balance. He seeks a better way and ends up becoming a global peace activist...much to the chagrin of the government and his fellow super-heroes.
I can only think of one other comic book project that I’ve worked on in the past decade—that would be Abadazad—that has creatively challenged and energized me the way S-28 has. The series was designed and illustrated by the amazing Mike Cavallaro—one reviewer said that if Jack Kirby had drawn post-modern superhero comics they might have looked like The Life and Times of Savior 28—and our collaboration was a joy, personally and professionally. Mike and I both poured our hearts into this series and to say I’m sad to see it end is a massive understatement. The Savior 28 universe was rich and vast: there were so many stories I wanted to tell that couldn’t fit into our five issue format. Maybe one day.
Three reviews of our final issue really seemed to grok (as Heinlein’s Valentine Michael Smith might have said) the series, one from Russ Burlingame at Newsarama, one from Matt Adler at Ain’t It Cool News and one from Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool. Give them a read if you’re so inclined.
IDW will be putting out a collected edition of the series in December. It will be nice to have it all together under one roof—but I’m going to miss Jimmy, Dennis and all the rest of our characters. Here’s hoping we meet again.
©copyright 2009 J.M. DeMatteis
I haven't read the last issue yet. I'm getting to it later this week.ReplyDelete
When you read it, Nicholas, please let me know what you think: pro, con or indifferent.ReplyDelete
Will do. I've been working so much it takes me two days just to read a 22 page comic!ReplyDelete
In your discussion about this topic on Amazaon ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/post/PLNKHWJZ30QC2K90 ), you mention that you used the pen name "Michael Ellis" for Captain America #300. The only other credit at GCD for that name is Justice League of America #255 (see http://www.comics.org/details.lasso?id=41897 ). Did you also help on that issue? What's the scoop?ReplyDelete
Well, whenever you get around to it, please check back in.ReplyDelete
Yes, Allen, that was me, dialoguing JLA #255 over a Gerry Conway plot. As I recall (and keep in mind it's been a long time), having just finished Moonshadow and Blood—two very personal and creatively life-changing projects—I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep writing super hero comics and so I was reluctant to use my name. (Sounds pretty dumb in retrospect.) Whatever the case, I remember Paul Levitz saying. "No pseudonyms" and, with the next issue, I was back to being me.ReplyDelete
This wasn't the same as Cap #300, where I took my name off because my story had been turned inside out (and sideways) by The Powers That Be. Conway's plot was fine, my dialogue was as I wrote it. I was just going through some kind of creative crisis that, happily, passed. In fact, a few months later I'd find myself working on Justice League with mad genius (and all-around great guy) Keith Giffen and embarking on one of the most wonderful gigs of my career. All the best -- JMD
Thanks! I've added that credit to the GCD for that issue.ReplyDelete
It's always interesting to hear the behind-the-scenes stories!
My pleasure, Allen!ReplyDelete
The speech by President Obama this week at the United Nations had me flipping through THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 #5 for Jimmy's UN speech. It was very encouraging to me to see that those present did not respond as envisioned in the comics... not quite, anyway.ReplyDelete
To hear "For the most powerful weapon in our arsenal is the hope of human beings - the belief that the future belongs to those who would build, and not destroy; the confidence that conflicts can end, and a new day can begin." was truly moving for me.
It's funny, Tim: a few days after I wrote 28's U.N. speech, I heard a speech by Obama where he said many of the same things, hitting the same themes. I, too, am very glad the President's speech at the United Nations went better than Jimmy's.ReplyDelete
It's a rare treat in my comics reading to be surprised and energized by the time I close the book. Savior 28 was one such read, that left me feeling a mix of pleasant melancholy and hope all at once. The last page was just so earnest I had to smile. I reviewed the series a little more in-depth over on my own blog, but I had to stop by and thank you (and Mr. Cavallaro should you speak to him) for this wonderful series. I know I wouldn't mind seeing a bit more of Jimmy and Dennis in their prime, though perhaps that would defeat the purpose. Still, you have attained the goal of leaving at least one member of yoru audience wanting more. Thanks again!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the kind words, Stacy. (I'll pass them on to Mike C.) S-28 is, on many levels, a fairly dark story, but it was extremely important to us to leave the readers with hope. With the idea that the microcosm IS the macrocosm; that the smallest kindness can literally change the world.ReplyDelete
I'd love to see your review. Can you post a link to it?
LIFE AND TIMES was a great series, but there are still two questions I have. I'm guessing they are a result of the series being 5 issues instead of 6.ReplyDelete
1. When Savior 28 confronts the Superior Squad and their enemies over the futility of fighting, he says "every comforting lie." Dennis' boss says to Dennis that means Savior 28 knows something he shouldn't... but we don't learn what that thing was, and if it is the reason he was assassinated. What was it?
2. Issue #3, Julia says how her father committed suicide when she was 8 months old. But nothing on why her father did that, if he knew Samantha was James' girlfriend, or how it affected Samantha afterward. Was that supposed to be in the series?
Finally, I was wrong about one thing in this very good series. I thought the attacks on September 11 happened on September 12 for important reasons the story would reveal. No, they happened on September 11 in this story.
You're a perceptive reader, Bobby: both your questions are right on the money. The comment from Dennis's superior was supposed to be a hint regarding a pivotal back story that was squeezed out due to space limitations, when IDW cut us from six issues to five. I think the series worked without it, but it certainly would have injected another level of weirdness and paranoia to the story.ReplyDelete
As for Julia's father, I actually wrote a lengthy sequence about him—and his suicide—that had to removed due to those same space limitations. Of all the things I cut, this one hurt the most. It wasn't essential to the main story, but it added a powerful, and moving, layer to the 28/Julia/Samantha back story.
To say that leaving both those things out of the story frustrated me no end would be an understatement. Maybe I'll share some more details about both sequences here on the blog.
And, finally: you weren't the only one confused about how the September 11th attacks played in the story. To be clear: S-28, in a drunken stupor, slept through September 11th and woke up on the 12th, to see a videotaped replay of the attacks. I may add a line to the collected edition to clarify that.
Thanks for checking in! JMD
Forgive the lateness of my reply; real life kept me busy. My review may be found here:
I hope you enjoy it. :)
Turns out I'd seen your review, Stacy (thanks to the miracle of Google alerts), and hadn't realized it was you. It's always nice when someone appreciates the work, but your review was also smart and insightful -- so thanks for taking the time to write about S-28. Very much appreciated.ReplyDelete
Why thank you sir, that means a great deal. The book was thought-provoking and I wanted to do my best to convey both my enthusiasm for the material and the insight it provided. Knowing you enjoyed it so is gratifying to hear, particularly when the blogging scene sometimes feels like yodelling into a wind tunnel. Again, my deepest thanks.ReplyDelete
You're incredibly welcome, Stacy. One of the things I've appreciated about the response to S-28—good and bad—is that it's made people think and question. That's incredibly gratifying.ReplyDelete
"Yodelling into a wind tunnel": now there's a great phrase!
So, why DID IDW end up cutting the book down to five issues? I would have loved to see the whole story as you originally intended it.ReplyDelete
I was finished with the second issue, Drew, starting up on the third, when word came down from The Powers That Be that the advance sales on SAVIOR #1 were below expectations. As a result, the Powers decided to cut the series from six issues to five. It's not a decision I agreed with -- I could spend several paragraphs explaining why, but I won't -- but it's the decision we were handed; so I did my best to tell a story that could easily have been TWELVE issues in five. That's life in the publishing world!ReplyDelete
Yeah, but it still sucks. Maybe you have no such illusions about your place in the comics world, but I would have thought publishers (especially a smaller one like IDW) would give a bit more sales leeway to a writer like you who I, at least, consider something of a "big name" creator. But what do I know?ReplyDelete
In these perilous economic times, I think publishers are more cautious -- and more frightened -- than ever. And I really can't blame them. That said, yeah...it sucks. But I'm still very happy with the way the book turned out. The collected edition will be out later this month and I'm looking forward to having all the chapters together, under one roof.ReplyDelete