I had another kind of transcendent experience in the IFZ: a new story appeared in my mind, powerfully and unexpectedly. Day after day, completely unbidden, images, characters and scenes were beamed into my head from the Land of Story: I couldn’t turn off the spigot (not that I wanted to). I wrote pages and pages of notes, furiously trying to keep up with the information download. The story is a fairly epic piece: I see it as a novel—a big, fat one; maybe more than one—that encompasses just about everything I think, feel and believe, all within the context of a cosmic adventure that stretches from the streets of Brooklyn to the edges of Creation. I don’t know if this is one of those stories that will end up sitting in a folder for years, perhaps forever, or if it will come bursting out into being with force and urgency. Part of me isn't even sure I’m capable of writing it; but I suppose I have to trust the gods of Story and see what unfolds.
One of the things that greeted me on my return home—aside from masses of mail, both cyber and three-dimensional—was a box from Marvel Comics containing copies of Essential Defenders, Volume 5—reprinting nearly four hundred pages of my Defenders stories (along with issues of Marvel Team-Up and Captain America that tied into my work on that series). I was still very new to comics when I wrote Defenders, working with artist Don Perlin—one of the flat-out nicest guys in the business—and two excellent editors, Al Milgrom and Carl Potts. It was my first truly personal project at Marvel: a series that I poured heart and soul into. It was very early in my career, so my skill-set wasn’t quite there yet—some of the stories are painfully clumsy, a few are flat-out embarrassing—but God knows there was plenty of passion. I liken my Defenders work to 1970’s punk rock: sure, some of those bands could only play three or four chords, and awkwardly at that, but they did it with such energy and commitment that, occasionally, they transcended themselves and created something unforgettable.
I don’t know if any of my Defenders work is unforgettable, but I’m happy to see it back in print. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t spent three years experimenting, trying to find my voice; seeing what it is I really wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. The folks over at The Onion’s A.V. Club reviewed this collection and I pretty much agree with every word.
And now back to sorting mail, paying bills and—oh, yeah—catching up on those deadlines.
© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis
My family moved to a new town when I was seven years old, and I soon found a nearby newsstand and stationery store that sold comics. I was already into comics by then, but hadn't yet discovered a place where I could by them with any consistency. My meager collection up to that point was littered with unresolved story lines.ReplyDelete
One of the comics I picked up at this newsstand was The Defenders #98, written by you, of course, where the team encounters a possessed Man-Thing. I was familiar with Man-Thing from an old Power Records comic that I had (and quite literally worn to pieces), and was blown away by the idea of seeing him appearing with super heroes.
J.M., I have to tell you that I LOVED that comic, and I eagerly waited for and purchased issue #99. Sadly, I was left with a cliffhanger for almost 30 years as I never found issue #100 at this beloved newsstand.
Your Defenders work, among other (predominately Marvel) comics of that year, helped get me hooked on comics, and helped a young boy in a new, unfamiliar setting find a personal refuge. I look forward to buying this Essential volume so I can finally read the ending to the Six-Fingered Hand storyline. I admit that I haven't read those comics in years, but I still have fond memories of them and what they meant to me at that point in my life. So, thank you.
Richard, I can't tell you how much your post touched me. Thanks so much for taking the time to write. And I hope you keep checking in here at Creation Point. All the best -- JMDReplyDelete
Condolences on the loss of your dear friend--also: welcome back (for real this time)!ReplyDelete
Thanks, on both counts, Jeff. Much appreciated.ReplyDelete
Glad to see there's potential for another novel on the horizon.ReplyDelete
I'm very curious about this story, David. I have no idea how it will evolve or what form it will take. But, as noted, time will certainly tell!ReplyDelete
Not to gloss over the beginning parts of your post, JMD, but all I can say is when I was 18 I had a comics collection in excess of 15,000 books.ReplyDelete
I eventually sold almost all of them to help pay for art school, but I held on to about one longbox full of ones that I loved too much to sell. In that box are Defenders #s 97-101.
Thanks for sharing that, Rob: it's very much appreciated.ReplyDelete
It's funny: when those DEFENDERS stories first came out, I remember getting a lot of flack from reviewers; but, as the years have passed, I've heard from more and more people who really enjoyed that run. The other day I was talking to an editor at Marvel who told me he'd recently read through the ESSENTIALS collection and how much he'd enjoyed it.
I think, over the years, I've looked back at those issues and mostly seen the flaws of a young writer, the places where the captions or dialogue are awkward or wince-inducing; but, as noted in the post, there's no denying the passion, the conviction, that went into those stories. Perhaps, in the end, that's what gave them some measure of staying power.
Thanks again, Rob. Nice to know those issues are still in that longbox!
I remember those stories came at a time when Marvel was losing me as a reader. I was in my mid to late teens, and all of the more challenging writers (Gerber, Moench, McGregor) seemed to have faded away, leaving me with stuff that didn't appeal to me.ReplyDelete
I was outgrowing comics, I thought, and I'd dropped Defenders when Gerber left...
...then one of my friends said I should pick up the Defenders because it was getting strange again. And it was. When I read the stories now, I can see how they were so out of step with what Marvel was producing then, but they SPOKE to me. Now, they read like anyone first work, a bit clumsy, wearing your influences on your sleeve (your love of Steve Gerber still shines) but full of passion and a felling that you just had to get these stories OUT or you would burst.
Defenders 101 was a comic that shouldn't have seen print, as it wasn't like anything else they were publishing at the time, but that's when I said "I MUST read what this man writes". Since then, I've learned from your writings about Meher Baba, and am still reading and learning from his writings, so thank you for that.
The best thing is, and maybe the highest compliment I can give, is that your work has gone beyond the promise you showed so long ago. And I still read your stuff and say, "I MUST read what this man writes".
From the very bottom of my heart, Cory: thank you.ReplyDelete
And very glad to hear you've developed an interest in Meher Baba. What have you been reading?
Lately, I've been reading this:ReplyDelete
Of course, if you have more suggestions, I'd love to hear them. One of the things I liked about Denny O'Neil's Question run was that he had recommended reading...and if someone whose writing I admire recommends something, I add it to my stack of books...
My favorite Meher Baba-related books are the reminiscences of people that knew, and lived, with Him. Books like Darwin Shaw's AS ONLY GOD CAN LOVE, Jean Adriel's AVATAR, Margaret Craske's DANCING WITH LOVE, Kitty Davy's LOVE ALONE PREVAILS and a personal, somewhat offbeat, favorite, MEMOIRS OF A ZETETIC by Professor A.K. Hazra. Some of these can be found on Amazon.com, most can be tracked down at Sheriar Books...ReplyDelete
...and the Love Street Book Store.
All that said, the longer I'm with Meher Baba, the less relevance the books seem to have for me. It's the INNER connection that holds the key. From my perspective, the wonderful thing about Baba is that the connection is DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE. Unique to each individual. There's no one set path, no set way; just the way you create, day to day, with Him.
So my biggest piece of advice re: MB is this: Don't listen to what ANYONE -- including me! -- has to say about Meher Baba. Find your own answers in your own heart. If the connection to Baba resonates, keep exploring. If it doesn't, then move on.
That may have been a longer reply than you needed, Cory, but I couldn't help myself!
Hi,JM. It's my first time to comment and I would like you to know that you are an inspiration. Yor theme has always been about hope. My favorite is Seekers Into The Mystery. I hope we'll get to see other adventures of that very enigmatic character.ReplyDelete
Aris Lim, Philippines
Thanks for checking in, Aris. And thanks so much for the kind words about my work.ReplyDelete
SEEKERS is near and dear to my heart. Boom Studios put out a collection of the first five issues a couple of years back, but the sales weren't great: I suspect we won't be seeing future volumes, at least not from Boom. I'd love to see the entire series collected in one volume and I wouldn't mind checking back in with Lucas Hart for new stories.
Hope you continue to comment here at Creation Point. New voices are always welcome!
All the best -- JMD
Hi, JM. Thank you for making my week by replying. I was supposed to reply a few days ago but encountered some connection problem.ReplyDelete
I recently acquired Man-Thing # 5. I am still searching for # 8. I know I will find this issue just like I was able to come across with the others.
I read from a previous entry that Blood, A Tale is being optioned as a movie? That would be great.
Whenever I watch Californication starring David Duchovny, I can't help but think that it would be amazing if SEEKERS will be turned into a TV Series. I remember that SEEKERS came across to me as a spiritual, X-Files kind of tale.
I wish you more power. You are really a great writer/ storyteller. Even your blog responses are gems.
Hope you can track down all those MAN-THING issues, Aris. It's a series I'm very proud of -- despite the fact that we were cut off just as we were hitting our stride.ReplyDelete
Yes, BLOOD has been optioned as a film: I was just talking to the director yesterday. Of course optioning something for film and getting the movie made are two different things. We'll see how it turns out. I've read the script and it's terrific. Fingers crossed.
Thanks so much for you good wishes. Very much appreciated!
All my fingers crossed and my wife's as well. I told her that after Brooklyn Dreams she should be reading BLOOD, A TALE. She loved your REAL WORLD: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.ReplyDelete
A few months ago I acquired Superman: Kansas Sightings. I loved the works you did with Jaime Tolagson. Supergirl: Wings is terrific.
I am also tracking the JLA issues you did with Keith Giffen, Adam Hughes and Kevin Maguire.
I am just 2 issues away from completing Dr. Fate. Issue # 6 and Annual.
I am a fanboy and I cannot stop telling my wife sometimes how good your works are. I introduced her to your works when she asked, " If I will read comics, where will I start?". I automatically told her SEEKERS but gave her a pre-requisite of reading BROOKLYN DREAMS first. She loved it.
She was also very happy when I told her that I get to correspond with you.
Thanks JMD! You are the best!
Thank YOU, Aris, for your heartfelt enthusiasm for my work. I can't tell you how much it means to me.ReplyDelete
KANSAS SIGHTING and WINGS were two stories of mine that sort of vanished without a trace after they came out. I enjoyed them both, especially KANSAS SIGHTING -- because it allowed me to indulge my fascination with UFOs. Jamie was -- and is -- an amazing artist.
REALWORLDS was another one that seemed to disappear after publication -- but I loved working with Glenn Barr again and it was a fun story.
All the best -- JMD
Hi, JM. I promised myself that I will give a gift to myself for getting to correspond with my favorite writer.ReplyDelete
I already reserved a copy of STARDUST KID. Will let you know once I got.
I would also like to know if ABADAZAD was collected as a tradepaperback or was it part of the collections published by Disney? I have the #1 publsihed by Crossgen but never got to get a hold of the others. The Abadazad series will be part of my next goals.
After its life as a short-lived Crossgen comic book -- three issues were published, although we completed a fourth -- ABADAZAD was reborn as a book series published by Hyperion Books for Children. Three books were published -- THE ROAD TO INCONCEIVABLE, THE DREAM THIEF and THE PUPPET, THE PROFESSOR AND THE PROPHET. They're out of print now, but if you poke around on Amazon and AmazonUK (the third book was only published in Englad for reasons I still don't understand), you can sometimes find them.ReplyDelete
The original comics were never collected, but with Marvel getting its hands on the CrossGen library, I still have hope for the future.
Hope you enjoy STARDUST KID, Aris! All the best -- JMD
Thanks for the info about ABADAZAD. Will let you know once I get the STARDUST KID. And what I think about it.ReplyDelete
A good thing happened while I was in the comic shop. I got to chance upon an issue of X-FACTOR published during the 90's and found out you wrote it and the art was by Jan Duursema. I reserved a couple of issues and will get them after I get STARDUST KID.
I noticed that in your blog, nothing much touched on this X-Factor issues. Will also tell you what I think about them when I get to read them.
I had a fairly short run on X-FACTOR, Aris: first scripting over Scott Lobdell's plots, then writing the book on my own. Although I enjoyed the gig, I never really connected with the X-Men universe; something never clicked for me -- which is why I left the book. I'm sure they're solid, enjoyable stories but, for the most part, don't expect anything spectacular.ReplyDelete
Ooo, Jan Duursema recalled working with you on these! That sounds worth finding one day. I love these Defenders issues you referenced; I bought them to connect with a dear friend of mine (an Emmy-winning film editor, at that) and, on the bus from California to Georgia, loaned a curious little boy the Ghost Rider guest spot. He said he really enjoyed it! Certainly helped with one "hell" of a four day trip!Delete
That friend, Joe, loves Devil-Slayer; from your stories, it looked like you might, too! You also teamed him up with Spidey in one of the very first three comics I ever bought. Well- kind of him, as you recall! I would guess he and Daimon were among your very favorites to write (along with Beast)?
Both Daimon Hellstrom and Devil Slayer were great characters to write for two reasons, Cecil: 1) They were interesting, multi-leveled characters with built-in conflict and 2) They were fringe characters that other writers weren't using, which gave me room to make them my own.Delete
Hi, JM. Will the ESSENTIAL DEFENDERS 5 contain all your works. I am looking at acquiring this after the X-FACTOR issues. Please advise as I found out I have a couple and I want to complete them.ReplyDelete
All the best.
It has the first part of my run, Aris -- along with tie-in issues of MARVEL TEAM-UP and CAPTAIN AMERICA that I wrote. The next volume will complete my stint on the series. (I wrote the book for more than three years: there are lots of JMD DEFENDERS stories!)ReplyDelete