Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Over on his blog, the lovely and talented Dean Haspiel shares his favorite DC Comics cover of all time:  it's a weird and wonderful choice.  But I think my favorite DC cover is weirder and even more wonderful...  

I mean, really, how can you beat Jimmy Olsen as a Giant Turtle Man?  It's the entire Silver Age of DC Comics boiled down to one majestically absurd image (which looks like the work of the great Curt Swan to me).

At the other end of the spectrum is my favorite Marvel Comics cover, a work of drama and dignity, wonder and awe, illustrated by the incomparable Jack Kirby...

The first time I saw this image—in an ad, before I ever read the issue—my twelve year old mind created my own story to go with it (one I'd love to actually write some day)—and that's what a great cover should do:  stimulate the imagination.  Make you hungry to see what's between the covers. 

What are your favorites?

Monday, May 24, 2010


Don't read this if you're a Lost fan and, for some unfathomable reason,  you haven't watched the final episode.

I'm still digesting last night's Lost finale and I'm sure I'll have more to say about it as your comments come rolling in, but, for now (and I reserve the right to completely change my mind), let me say that it was an excellent ending for the show we've all been watching this year—let's call it Jacob's Island—but it had precious little to do with the Lost we were watching for those other five years.  As a guy who's written a number of stories that have explored similar themes in a similar way, I loved the Sideways World/Afterlife resolution (even though you could poke about a thousand holes in the story*), it was right up my spiritual alley, but the Island resolution was—

Well, let's just call it disappointing.  (Although Jack's final moments—watching the Ajira flight pass by overhead, the inevitable closing of the eye—were perfect.)

That said, nothing I saw last night changed my mind about what an extraordinary show Lost was.  Warts and all—and, yes, there were many warts—it was a challenging, thought-provoking, heart-tugging, absolutely amazing ride.  As a viewer, and as a writer, I salute Lindelof and Cuse for their achievement.  

So what did you think?

*For instance:  Sayid, in life, was a torturer, a stone-cold murderer, who struggled desperately to find atonement.  He goes to the Afterlife and what does he do there?  He commits murder again.  But, y'know, he's a good guy at heart, so he gets to pass on to the Next Level.  (And what's he doing with Shannon, a woman he probably knew all of two weeks?  Nadia was the love of his life!)  Michael kills two people because he thinks it's the only way to save his son, tries to atone for his sins by sacrificing his own life...and he's stuck on the Island (whatever that is, we still don't know) forever as a whispering voice.  And Kate's Heaven?  Tell me, what was she working out?  She was a fugitive on the run.  She helped Claire, sure, but she did that while she was alive; in fact she sacrificed everything to go back to the Island, get Claire out and reunite her with Aaron.  Her Afterlife served no purpose whatsoever.   Okay, okay, I'll shut up now and await your comments.

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Urged on by a number of folks who follow this blog, I’ve immersed myself in the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album and I’m enjoying the experience immensely.  “God Only Knows” is still light years beyond the rest of the material on the album, with ”Wouldn’t It Be Nice” close behind (don’t know if it’s because it’s really that good or because, having grown up with this song, it’s so deep in my pop cultural DNA that I’ve been programmed to adore it), but I’ve grown extremely fond of “Here Today,” “I Know There’s an Answer,” and, what’s fast becoming my favorite, “I Just Wasn’t Made for these Times.”  It’s a wonderful collection—well, with the exception of “Sloop John B,” which I can hardly listen to, and the two instrumentals, which sound like elevator music to these ears—but, I have to be honest, my feelings about the Beach Boys coming out of the experience are pretty much the same as going in.  The music is lush, creatively daring and, on occasion, genuinely moving—but Brian Wilson’s Spectorian production, with its layers of instruments and whole universes of gorgeous harmonies, can also bury the songs:  it often gets in the way of a direct emotional connection.   (My son gave me a rehearsal tape of “God Only Knows” so simple, so stripped down to bare essentials, that it’s almost heartbreaking.  I’d love to hear more of Wilson’s music presented this way.)  

I guess it all goes back to the reason I prefer, by however slim a margin, Lennon to McCartney (and yes I know that this next sentence is a massive simplification):  McCartney is like a soothing balm, Lennon is an open vein.  I’m just more of an open vein kind of guy.  Don’t get me wrong:  getting to know Pet Sounds has been a delight and I understand why so many people adore it and, taken in context of its time, consider it one of the best rock albums ever made.  Would I put it on the same level as my favorite Beatles albums?  No.  In fact, I find it hard to compare the two bands at all since, according to what I’ve read, the PS-era Beach Boys really weren’t a band:  Pet Sounds was Brian Wilson’s vision, with dozens of musicians brought in to realize it and the other Beach Boys providing Wilson-directed vocal support.  The Beatles were the real deal:  four guys who played together, wrote together, sang together, held each other’s excesses in check while sparking each other to new creative heights.

All that said, the sublime pleasures of Pet Sounds led me to downloading the terrific Beach Boys Classics collection—”Don’t Worry Baby” is a proto-”God Only Knows” and almost as good, “Good Vibrations” is like having all of PS boiled down to one extraordinary track—and stumbling into what may be my favorite Brian Wilson song of them all:  “'Til I Die.”  Everything exceptional about Wilson’s songwriting, and the Beach Boys as vocal artists, comes together in this gorgeous, deeply sad—and profoundly moving—piece.  So please, Beach Boys fans don’t hate me for not thinking Pet Sounds is one of the most staggeringly brilliant musical creations of the past century.  Instead, allow me to thank you for turning me on to some exceptional music that I’m sure I’ll be listening to for years to come. 

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My wife and I started watching Lost (and, if you don’t know what Lost is, you might as well skip this post, because it’ll put you right to sleep) on DVD not long after the first season ended—another great recommendation from our son, Cody, who rarely steers us wrong—and we were instantly addicted.  We’ve been loyal, enthusiastic viewers ever since.  Okay, so the third season—which rambled, wandered, stumbled and fell with alarming frequency—seriously tested that loyalty (all together class:  Nikki and Paulo):  I was pretty much ready to wash my hands of the show until the season-closing flash forward blew my mind apart and made me a born-again Lostie.  (I’m not sure if my wife would say the same, but she’s still right there with me every week, mainlining the latest episode.)  And now, as Jacob said to Hurley in last night’s episode, “We’re very close to the end.” 

I waited, with no small measure of excitement, for this final season of Lost to begin, anticipating an epic finale that would solidify the show’s reputation as one of the most memorable and daring one hour dramas in television history—but so far I’ve found this final chapter hugely frustrating.  Don’t get me wrong:  with the exception of last week’s Jacob/Man-in-Black origin story (which may have been the worst hour of Lost since the aforementioned Nikki and Paulo:  it came perilously close to totally jumping the shark), I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every episode.  The writing, the directing, the performances—especially Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson, whose Ben-centric episode earlier in the season was a series highlight—have been superb.  So why—with the two and a half hour finale just days away—do I feel like I’m headed for a massive disappointment?

The answer isn’t in the individual components of the show—which, as noted, have been uniformly excellent—but in the overall direction of the story.  For years now I thought I was watching a series part soap opera/part Rod Serling/part Philip K. Dick.  A mind-bending, heart-wrenching journey into strange metaphysical, and metaphorical, territory.  An exploration of the nature of reality, and humanity, with a group of memorable, multi-dimensional characters as our guides.  I still care about those characters—perhaps more deeply than one should care about fictional people—but what I haven’t cared for is watching the show go from PKD to Stephen King, from Twilight Zone to Star Wars.  (Fans of King and Lucas, please don’t storm the cyber-castle.  I’m not knocking either of these creative titans, just noting that they seem wildly out of place on the Island.)  How did a show that spent a good part of its run exploring psychic, spiritual and psychological subtleties—in a broad, bold pulp-culture context—get boiled down to “We’ve got to kill the Big Bad Smoke Monster before he destroys the world”?  Haven’t we seen this kind of bombastic Battle Against Ancient Evil a thousand times before?  (As my son pointed out to me, the Man-in-Black—who wasn’t even introduced until the end of last season—is now the show’s central character.  Think about it:  If MIB was being played by anyone but O'Quinn—if Smokey wasn’t inhabiting the body of one of the show’s most beloved characters—would you even care?)

And yet...  

One thing that I’ve absolutely loved this season, the element that’s kept me consistently intrigued and excited, is the so-called Sideways World, the parallel universe where our characters are playing out their lives in unexpected—and often deeply-moving—ways.  The Sideways saga of Desmond, the Bodhisattva, urging his illusion-bound friends to awaken from the dream they take to be reality, is firmly anchored in the show’s metaphysical traditions; it’s also a story guaranteed to delight the acolytes of Dick and Serling.  (I suspect Meher Baba would have gotten a kick out of it, too.)  I’m hoping that, when the Sideways World and the Island collide this Sunday, as they inevitably will, Lost’s enormously-talented writer-producers, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, will pull the rug out from under the audience, stuff several dozen sticks of dynamite in our heads and blow our minds all over gain.  Most of all, I’m hoping for a finale that will leave me feeling emotionally and intellectually satisfied.  No, they don’t have to answer every question—in fact, they shouldn’t—but I want to be moved and exhilarated, left with the same sense of awe and jaw-dropped wonder that the series began with.  (Is that asking too much?  Probably.  But Lost has always demanded much of its audience; it’s only fair that we demand as much from Lost.)

Even if Cuse and Lindelof fail miserably, it won’t change the fact that this oddball story about a plane crash on a mysterious island has brought me inordinate amounts of joy for six years (joy and, yes, head-scratching, too; but a little head-scratching is good for the soul):  It really is a ground-breaking classic.  The proof for me lies in the fact that every week, after we’ve digested the show, Cody and I—like two well-practiced surgeons—slice and dice the patient:  trading theories, pondering the turns of character, analyzing the broader Meaning Of It All.  Just this morning I was talking to a friend and we must have spent forty minutes dissecting the series, speculating on how the ending will play out.  

Not a lot of television can stimulate the mind like that, let alone inspire that level of passion.

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis


Thursday, May 13, 2010


Over at Comic Book Resources, there's an interview with Keith Giffen and some other guy about their run on DC's Booster Gold (the first issue of which came out yesterday).  And Jazma Online is running an interview with yours truly, focusing on Ardden Entertainment's Casper relaunch (the second issue of which—finally!—arrives in stores this month).  Okay, I've run out of hype.  We now return to our regularly-scheduled program.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I recently discovered that the wonderful Abadazad web site that Hyperion Books for Children put up, back in 2006, is still in existence.  It's strange—and, yes, sad—to watch the animated opening unfold, to see Kate's quest come alive on my computer screen; yet, at the same time, it fills me with a sense of limitless possibility.  If Kate, Matt, Wix, Professor Headstrong, Queen Ija and the rest are still out there, somewhere in cyberspace, then there's hope that I can reach them, rescue them from limbo, and bring their story back into the world.  And wouldn't that be wonderful?


Can someone explain to me how a decades-old song that you’ve heard dozens—perhaps hundreds—of times can suddenly come alive in a whole new way and completely capture your soul?

Yesterday I was driving along—on the way to pick my daughter up at school—when the 1966 Beach Boys single “God Only Knows” came on the radio:  it was as if I’d never heard it before.  The richness of the production, the plaintive, multi-layered vocals, the sheer heart—and heartbreak—of the piece:  absolute magic.  I’ve always enjoyed the Beach Boys—you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pop song than “Good Vibrations”—but I was never a major devotee, as I know many people are.  I find their best work technically breathtaking and musically adventurous—but it can also get a little syrupy and emotionally shallow.  (You could say that Brian Wilson was McCartney without Lennon:  he needed an earthy, soul-baring counterbalance.)  But this song.  This song...

I was twelve when “God Only Knows” came out.  It took me forty-four years to get it—but, wow, did I ever.   

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis