Monday, September 27, 2010

THE STORY BEHIND THE HUNT—AGAIN

In response to a request from Creation Pointer Ken Fries, here—straight from the long-lost Amazon Blog Archives—is the story of how Kraven's Last Hunt came to be.  Enjoy!

***

Confession:  I didn’t write Kraven's Last Hunt.

Well, not in the way you think.

Writers like to to believe they’re in control of their material, but that’s just a comforting lie.  After more than twenty-five years of making my living as a storyteller, it’s become extremely—sometimes painfully—clear to me that I’m just a vehicle, a way for the story to get out into the world.  But it’s the story itself that does the telling.  If that sounds like I’m saying stories have lives of their own, well...that’s exactly right.  I’m convinced that stories are living creatures:  they move, they think, they breathe.  Maybe not in the way we flesh-and-blood humans do; but in some unfathomable fashion, in some unfathomable realm, these creatures we call Stories —I think the capital S is deserved—exist.  And so do the characters that populate them.  And the Stories—not the writers, artists, or editors—are very much in control.  Some of these Imaginal Worlds choose to emerge, fully formed, in a white heat of creation-energy.  Others—like the Kraven Saga—well, they like to take their time. 
   
It was a long road from the first glimmer of inspiration, somewhere around 1984 or ‘85, to the final, published work.  If it had been up to me—and thank goodness it wasn’t—the original idea would have seen print as, of all things, a Wonder Man mini-series (Simon Williams—defeated in battle by his brother, the Grim Reaper—awakens in a coffin, claws his way out and discovers that he’s been buried alive for months).  But the Story knew better.  It knew that it needed time to brew in my unconscious and find the proper form.  Tom DeFalco—then Marvel’s Executive Editor—agreed.  When I pitched him my Wonder Man idea, he promptly rejected it.  But there was something in that “return from the grave” concept that wouldn’t let go.
   
My next stop, some months later, was DC Comics, where I pitched what I thought was an incredible idea to editor Len Wein (who was then overseeing the Batman line):  the Joker kills Batman—at least he believes he does—and, with the primary reason for his existence eliminated, the villain’s mind snaps.  Of course the Joker is already insane, so when he snaps...he goes sane.  Batman, meanwhile, is buried and when, weeks later, he claws his way up from the grave—the Joker’s fragile new existence is tragically upended.  Len had another Batman-Joker story on his desk—something called The Killing Joke by a new British writer named Alan Moore (what ever happened to him, anyway?)—and thought that the Joker elements in my story overlapped certain elements in Alan’s.

Rejection.  Again.  (I managed to revive the "Going Sane" idea nearly a decade later—and it's gone on to become one of my all-time favorites.)
  
I was disappointed—but I suspect the Story was quite pleased with these events.  It knew the timing wasn’t right.  Knew what elements it needed for its emergence.  And so it waited patiently while I—
   
Well, I rewrote it again.  As a Spider-Man story?  No.  As yet another Batman story.  I dumped the Joker and replaced him with Hugo Strange.  I recalled a classic Steve Englehart-Marshall Rogers story where Strange—for all of two pages, I think—was wearing Batman’s costume.  And I thought:  Wouldn’t it be interesting if Hugo Strange is the one who apparently kills Batman and, in his arrogance and ego, decides to become Batman, putting on the costume, taking over the role, in order to prove his superiority?  I was convinced I now had a story no editor could turn down.
   
By this time, Len Wein had gone freelance and Denny O’Neil had replaced him as Batman editor.  Guess what?
   
Denny bounced it.
   
So now I’ve had this idea rejected three times, by three of the best editors in the business.  Maybe, I thought, I’m delusional.  Maybe I should just give up and move on.
   
But the Story wouldn’t let me.
   
I was frustrated, to say the least, by all the doors slamming in my face, but this seed of an idea—well, by this time it had pushed up through the soil and was sprouting branches and leaves—just kept growing, unfolding at its own pace, in its own time.  It knew, even if I clearly didn’t, that it would soon find the form, and, most important, the characters, it had been seeking all along.
   
Autumn, 1986.  I was visiting the Marvel office one day when Jim Owsley, editor of the Spider-Man line, and Tom DeFalco (what?  Him again?) invited me out to lunch.  They wanted me to pick up the writing duties on Spectacular Spider-Man but I was reluctant to commit to another monthly book.  Owsley and DeFalco were insistent.  I weakened.  They pushed harder.  I agreed.
   
And, by the time I got home, I realized what a stroke of good fortune this was:  I now had another chance, probably my last chance, to take a crack at this “back from the grave” idea.  More important:  I discovered, as I worked away on the proposal, that Spider-Man—recently married to Mary Jane—was a far better choice than either Wonder Man or Batman.  Peter Parker is perhaps the most emotionally and psychologically authentic protagonist in any super-hero universe.  Underneath that mask, he’s as confused, as flawed, as touchingly human, as the people who read—and write—about him:  the quintessential Everyman.  And that Everyman’s love for his new wife, for the new life they were building together, was the emotional fuel that ignited the story.  It was Mary Jane’s presence, her heart and soul, that reached down into the deeps of Peter’s heart and soul, forcing him up out of that coffin, out of the grave, into the light.
   
And that’s how Kraven’s Last Hunt was born.
   
Well, not really.  You see, Kraven wasn’t in the picture yet.  Genius that I am, I thought:  Okay, so I can’t use Hugo Strange.  Why not create my own villain—a new villain—to play that role in the story?  And that’s what I did.  (Don’t ask me the name of this brilliant new creation...or anything else about him...because, honestly, I don’t recall a thing!)  Off the outline went to Owsley.  He loved it.  “Let’s do it,” he said.  I was ecstatic.  The journey was finally done.
   
Well, it might have been done for me—but not for the Story.  There were a few final elements it needed to complete itself.
  
I was sitting in my office one afternoon, doing what all writers do best:  avoiding work, wasting time.  This was before the internet—the single greatest time-wasting tool in the history of humanity—so I was browsing through some comics that had piled up on the floor.  I picked up a Marvel Universe Handbook.  Stopped, for no particular reason, at the entry for Kraven the Hunter.
   
Please understand that I had no interest whatsoever in Kraven.  In fact, I always thought he was one of the most generic, uninteresting villains in the Spider-Man gallery.  Couldn’t hold a candle to Doc Ock or the Green Goblin.
   
But buried in this Marvel Universe entry was one intriguing fact:  Kraven—was Russian.  (To this day I don’t know if this was something that had been established in continuity or if the writer of that particular entry tossed it in on a whim.)
   
Russian?  Russian!
   
Why should that excite me so?  One word:  Dostoyevsky.  When I read Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamozov in high school, they seeped in through my brain, wormed their way down into my nervous system...and ripped me to shreds.  No other novelist has ever explored the staggering duality of existence, illuminated the mystical heights and the despicable depths of the human heart, with the brilliance of Dostoyevsky.  The Russian soul, as exposed in his novels, was really the Universal Soul.  It was my soul.
   
And Kraven was Russian.
   
In an instant, I understood Sergei Kravinov.  In an instant, the entire story changed focus.  In an instant, I called Owsley, told him to forget The New Villain.  This was a Kraven the Hunter story.
   
Jim wasn’t thrilled with the idea.  He liked the new villain.  But, God bless him, he let me have my way.
   
And now the story was complete, right?
   
Almost.  You see, Owsley had cajoled Mike Zeck into drawing Spectacular Spider-Man.  Mike and I had worked together, for several years, on Captain America.  I can think of a handful of super-hero artists as good as Zeck, but I can’t think of a single one who’s better.  Mike’s drawing is fluid, energetic, deeply emotional...and he tells a story with such apparent effortlessness that scripting from his pages feels equally effortless.  Mike left the Cap series (to draw the original Secret Wars) just as we were hitting our collaborative stride—and I was thrilled by the chance to pick up where we’d left off.       
    
I’ve been been playing this game long enough to know that writer/artist chemistry can’t be created or forced:  it’s either there or it’s not.  With Mike, it was there...and then some.  If any other artist had drawn this story—even if every single plot point, every single word, had been exactly the same—it wouldn’t have touched people in the same way or garnered the enthusiastic response that it’s still getting, more than twenty years after its creation.   It wouldn’t have been Kraven’s Last Hunt.  (Not my title, by the way.  I called it Fearful Symmetry—in honor of another of my literary heroes, William Blake.  Jim Salicrup, who took over the editing chores when Jim Owsley left staff, was the one who came up with KLH.  Salicrup was also the guy who had a genius idea that people have been copying ever since:  run the six-part story through all three Spider-books, over the course of two months.  We’re accustomed to seeing that today.  In 1987 it was revolutionary.)      
   
Because Zeck was on board, I decided to toss a Captain America villain we created together—the man-rat called Vermin—into the mix.  A casual decision (well, it seemed casual to me; but I suspect the Story knew otherwise) that proved extremely important:  Vermin turned out to be the pivotal element, providing the contrast between Peter Parker’s vision of Spider-Man and Kraven’s distorted mirror image.    
   
Now here’s the strangest part:  In the years that had passed from the time I pitched the original Wonder Man idea, my personal life had gone to hell in the proverbial hand basket.  I’ll spare you the sordid details:  Let’s just say I was in a period of my life where each day was a Herculean struggle.  I felt as buried alive as Peter Parker; as much a dweller in the depths as Vermin; as lost, as desperate, as shattered as Sergei Kravinov.
   
In short, it was a miserable time to be me—but the perfect time to write the story.  Had I created a version of Last Hunt a few years before, or a few years after (when my life had healed itself in miraculous ways), it wouldn’t have been the same.  My own personal struggles, mirrored in the struggles of our three main characters, were, I think, what gave the writing such urgency and emotional honesty.  (I don’t know what inspired Zeck’s brilliant work, but I hope it wasn’t anything as harrowing.)
   
So tell me:  Who, exactly, is in charge here?  Who really wrote that story?  I thought it was me—but, all along, there was something growing, evolving, emerging in its own time, when the creative conditions were absolutely perfect.  Oh, I’ll cash the checks.  I’ll even accept the praise.  But, in my heart, I know there’s Something Bigger out there, working its magic through me...and through all of us who call ourselves writers.
   
Stories have lives of their own.
   
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis

86 comments:

  1. I believe I've heard tell of this historic recollection of yours before, JM, and I am glad you recalled it so well once again for us. As you know, I've been at it for many years as a writer myself. I've succeeded in ways I never thought I would and have likewise fallen short where I was sure that 'they couldn't pass on this pitch.' It's tough to keep on going after so many rejections, but the heart and soul of the 'story' will only truly die once it's been given birth first. After your story was finally 'birthed' in the way we all know it, it would either live or die at the behest of the readers. Love it (like we all did) and it's become immortal to us. If we hated it, it would more than likely be just another tale in Spidey's past that was more filler than anything else. But KLH wasn't. The story remains a true gem in Spider-Man's history. And if Hollywood has any brains (ha, ha. Did I just say that?), they'll contact you about adapting it into one of the (endless number of) Spider-Man movies they plan on making. And one questions: any plans to work with Mike Zeck on anything? I haven't seen anything new from Mike in a while.

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  2. I'd work with Mike in a heartbeat, A. Jaye: He's as nice a guy as he is a fantastic artist. That said, from what I hear he's quite content doing his own thing over at MikeZeck.com. But if Mike ever wants to cook up a project with me, I'm there!

    Rejection is part of the game when you're a freelancer writer. Even a successful one. I was thinking recently of all the projects I've tried to get off the ground over the years that haven't made it. And then there are projects like STARDUST KID, ABADAZAD and KRAVEN that took years, sometimes decades, to make it out into the world.

    If you're going to play this game, you need to develop a tough skin. And you also need to believe in your work with all your heart. You need to be able to hear valid criticism when it comes your way and ignore the short-sighted nay-sayers. Lots of people are going to tell you you're not good enough, that your ideas aren't up to par, that you can't write. You've got to ignore them, have faith in yourself and your talent and keep pushing. The wall will give, eventually: take it from the guy who waited a quarter century to see THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 make it into print!

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  3. OK, haven't read this yet (can't view your site on my monitor too well, the white print on black background drives my eyes NUTZ, sorry, so I'll read it on my iPhone later), but thanks for posting it...Creation Pointer, huh? DeMatteis fans have a name now? Might just pull my HC of KLH out and read it again after reading your column here...haven't read it in a while, since it's pretty much committed to memory... :)

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  4. ah, the power of story. thanks for this post.

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  5. It is a bit astonishing that something as simple as the fact that Kraven is Russian can change who the villain is. I am glad that what inspired you about him being Russian is literature and not thinking that he's a villain just because he's Russian (way too many books have a villain called Vladimir).

    I have a bit of a connection to Russian culture through my wife. My wife is Ukrainian. I had taken some Russian language classes before meeting her and I think the fact that I knew a bit of the language helped in the courtship (although the main ingredient was dancing).

    In another entry I mentioned that a big reason of why I liked Dune was how well written the intelligent characters are. I think Dostoevsky is also great at this. I haven't read much from Dostoevsky, but I've read the first chapter of "Notes from the Underground" five times, and I always feel as if I am reading the thoughts of a genius (although a pessimistic genius).

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  6. Brilliant!! I love reading this kind of behind-the-scenes stuff! It reminds me of when Jim Starlin told me how he and Bernie Wrightson pitched a sequel to Batman: The Cult to DC which was rejected, so they merely changed Batman to The Punisher and Marvel bought it.

    Or Norm Breyfogle, whose first Batman story was rejected by DC but accepted by Marvel, where he merely cut out all the Batman figures and pasted in Captain America figures.

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  7. This is a fantastic intro, JMD, and one I've read several times over. It's been quite influential in my philosophy of Story. I agree that Stories take a life of their own, and think they sometimes toy with our emotions if only to make their consummation that much sweeter.

    I can't imagine the Wonder Man story would have been better than KLH, and SAVIOR 28 turned out better for both Jimmy and Steve Rogers. Jimmy is a character in his own right, and I'm glad he made it to the other side.

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  8. You owe it to yourself to read Dostoyevsky, Quique.
    The two absolute classics are THE BROTHERS KARAMOZOV (quite simply the greatest novel ever written -- not that I have opinions about these things) and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (which melted my brain when I first read it in high school), but I also love THE IDIOT, THE INSULTED AND INJURED, THE DOUBLE and...well, I guess you should read any of his work you can get your hands on.

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  9. I do plan on reading Dostoevsky. I read "The Gambler" which wasn't very good, but I plan on reading "The Idiot", "The Brothers Karamozov" and "Crime and Punishment". Specially "The Idiot" and "Crime and Punishment" since I own them.

    My wife doesn't like Dostoevsky that much, since she says his writings are too dark for her. She likes Pushkin and Tolstoy much more. Pushkin seems very popular among Russians, much more revered than any other writer.

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  10. THE BROTHERS KARAMOZOV and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT easily rank among the top 5 Western novels of all time.

    I haven't read NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND, but the novels I mentioned don't strike me as pessmistic. The circumstances surrounding his characters are oppressive, but somehow he manages to bring them to a place where spiritual light drowns out the darkness.

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  11. Let me know what you think when you read it, Ken.
    And, yes, you're now a Creation Pointer whether you like it or not! :)

    You have a hard time reading this on your monitor? Anyone else have the same problem? If so, maybe it's time for another design change.

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  12. The lesson is, Daniel, always hold on to your ideas: With time and nurturing they'll find their right mode of expression.

    Speaking of the Punisher, here's another one of these stories: back in the 90's, there was a Punisher editor at Marvel who REALLY wanted me to do a story for him. I'm not a fan of the character at all, but the guy was incredibly persistent and I finally came up with a story that excited me. A story the editor then rejected! It took a little time, but that idea eventually became my graphic novel BATMAN: ABSOLUTION.

    I repeat: always hold on to your ideas!

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  13. I agree, David: the final incarnations of those stories were much better than the first concepts. Both were well worth the wait (and the rejection)!

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  14. Dostoyevsky can be dark, Quique, but he's also a profoundly spiritual writer. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on THE IDIOT and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Even if you don't like them, you MUST read THE BROTHERS KARAMOZOV. That's an order! :)

    Sorry to say I've never read Pushkin. Perhaps it's time to educate myself.

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  15. Your assessment of Dostoyevsky dovetails perfectly with mine, David: Why am I not surprised?

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  16. OK, still haven't actually read the post, but I see you changed the design to black type on white background...thank you! My buddy DB's Unseen Films site on blogspot is also white type on black background...and I can't look at it for more than 30 seconds without it hurting and being burned into my retinas. One of the reasons I became editor is because I can view his posts in edit mode with dark type on a light background, so I can actually READ his stuff! Anyway, thanks for design change...I'll actually read it now...

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  17. After you told me how hard this was to read, I did a little research and discovered you're not the only one. I really do like the look of the white against black, but if it hurts the eyes, what's the point? You've got to be able to read this stuff! So thanks for pointing me in the right direction, Ken.

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  18. OK, now I've read it. It is basically what you talked about in that Comic Zone interview from 2006 (it's on my iPod, a part from it will pop up every few months or so), so therefore, it's a great story.

    I remember the first time I listened to that interview...I had to stop delivering mail for a few minutes so I could really listen to you tell it...and it still resonates well reading it here. Glad you shared this again JM, and I'm sure there are many fans of yours who are learning for the first time just what blood, sweat, and tears REALLY went into the making of this.

    I'm gonna e-mail the link of this to Mike Zeck, see if he's got anything to add; as you say, hopefully nothing as harrowing.

    Thanks for the great Story about the great Story.

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  19. I haven't read much Pushkin either, but it was evident from my travels in Ukraine and Russia that the people love him.

    I'll make your arguments about Dostoevsky known to my wife. She does admit that in the last couple of years because of reading Tolstoy and because of being exposed to stories that have their dark aspects, that she might think differently of Dostoevsky now. It is great that my college library has the books in Russian too.

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  20. I've often thought how incredible it would be to read Dostoyevsky in Russian, Quique; but foreign languages, I'm sad to say, have never been my forte.

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  21. I've thought the same myself. Fortunately, translating novels doesn't entail the same kind of complications as poetry, but still.

    Of course, it's always possible that translations bring new treasures from old storehouses, as the saying goes.

    For example, my translation of BROTHERS KARAMAZOV doesn't read "Good and evil are monstrously mixed up in man." I was looking for that line after I read BROOKLYN DREAMS, as I'm agreed it's fantastic. And if that's not how the original Russian reads, well, it should!

    This is my long-winded of way of saying, "You haven't experienced Shakespeare until you've read it in the original Klingon.":)

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  22. Where's Christopher Plummer when you need him, David?

    I wonder how that "good and evil" line actually plays in Russian, David. It's enough to make me want to learn the language. Almost.

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  23. Almost! Or as Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by that much!"

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  24. The trick to speaking with a Russian accent is to add a Y to the middle of most words. Hence, Spider-Man becomes "Spi-ye-der Ma-ye-n" It has to be done with precision or it will end up sounding like the backwards talking midget in Twin Peaks... this won't help in seeing how the "good and evil" quote works in its original language, but it might give insight into how a backwards talking midget would say it...

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  25. What an amazing coincidence, Jeff: your post arrived just I was just listening to the audiobook of THE BROTHERS KARAMOZOV, read by Leo, the Backwards Talking Midget! It's quite a tour de force. I'm sure you can track it down at Amazon or at Backwardstalkingmidget.com.

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  26. Iyi ayam wery pleased ayat thayat fortuitous occuryance

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  27. While on the subject of Spidey, if I can beg the indulgence of you and the other 'Pointers (how about a chorus of Neutron Dance?)- I came upon an interesting insight into Ditko and Spidey and would love to see what you think, seeing as you're my favorite contemporary Spidey writer-and have been for 20 years! I just started a thread on the Marvel Masterworks message board about this and through the magic of cut 'n' paste would like to share it with you: I re-read the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man run every other year or so. On the last re-reading, I was struck by what appears to be evidence of how Ditko planned to evolve the character. As we all know, #33 was the culmination of Pete's heroic progression, as he pushes himself beyond his limits and ends up saving Aunt May. Beyond just bringing her the needed serum, it looks like Ditko wanted to show that Peter, in Peter's own mind, finally "settled accounts" and would no longer have the compulsion to make up for his irresponsibility in letting the burgler run past the guard. What's my evidence? Two things: for the remainder of Ditko's run it seemed that Spidey went into action either for fun, to generate news pics or, as in #34, to clear his own name. Secondly, if you look at page 6 in #34, the issue immediately following his aforementioned triumph, the middle tier shows Pete consciously making the decision to not follow racing police cars and to focus on his studies instead. This, needless to say, is not how Stan would portray Pete once Ditko left. With that scene, Ditko's tale reaches completion. I know he told Marv Wolfman and others that Peter, if he was going to screw up all the time, shouldn't progress beyond 16 years of age, since (in Ditko's opinion) one is still learning at that age and, as the idealized hero that Ditko preferred, would become quite different once reaching maturity. With the decision to take Pete out of high school, it seems that Ditko wanted to make Peter something other than the guilt-ridden kid he'd been up til that point. I believe that Stan Lee most likely felt Ditko's intentions would take Peter away from the reader identification angle which was key to his popularity in Stan's mind. I think that Ditko would eventually have made Pete a cross between his Vic (Question) Sage and Jack (Creeper) Ryder, someone whose motivations would stem not from guilt but from both a drive to stand for Truth as well as the need to let loose. This is all just speculation, but those 3 panels in #34 really struck me as representing a deliberate move away from Stan's vision. In the Beach Boys, Mike Love resisted Brian Wilson's artistic leanings, telling him "Don't F*** with the formula". Ditko must've realized that though he was the plotter, Stan was the Editor and that the formula was there to stay. I came to this insight a few months ago, but reading Quesada's interview about making Pete single (on comicbookresources.com) brought it to the surface. Please tell me what you all think.

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  28. Dear Mr. DeMatteis,

    Do you plan on/willing to write a blog entry on October 8th, when your episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, "The Last Patrol!" airs on Cartoon Network? It'd be a fine opportunity for fans to ask you questions about the writing of this or in the least, they have a way to tell you what a genius you are and throw their money at you. ;)

    By the way, a whiles ago, you mentioning writing some episodes about Etrigan and Hal Jordan for The Brave and The Bold. Was that for this current season two or for next season (the third one) for next year?

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  29. Fascinating theory, Jeff; and, as you point out, given Ditko's later work, it's not far fetched at all.

    I'd say one thing about "formula," though: The idea that Peter would outgrow his guilt about Uncle Ben and the burglar, although a valid path, doesn't necessarily make Stan's decision to stay with it a submission to formula.

    A trauma like Uncle Ben's death isn't so easily dismissed; it can be a long, torturous haul to make peace with our psychological demons; and, even when we've finally made peace with them, they often pop up in our lives to throw us off balance again. I can't see a college freshman -- just a kid, really, however super-powerful -- making such a profound psychological breakthrough, especially without the help of a good therapist! (I explored another level of Peter's guilt -- connecting it to the death of his parents -- in "The Child Within": one of my favorites of all the Spidey stories I've written. The point was that Uncle Ben's death was part of a much deeper pattern, and one not so easily broken. I also GAVE Peter a therapist, Doctor Kafka, to help him sort through it.)

    Of course, on a simple story level, a guilty, tortured hero is far more interesting than one who's psychologically healthy.

    All that said, what your theory brings to mind is something I've mentioned in interviews over the years: a good therapist would probably be able to cut down the super heroic (and super villainous) population considerably. Bruce Wayne reliving the trauma of his parents' death can get awfully tiresome -- and the truth is if Bruce had gone to therapy, he'd eventually have reached a point where he realized that dressing like a bat and beating people up isn't the healthiest way to effect change in the world or work out his Mommy-Daddy issues. Same for Peter -- and lots of other characters in the Marvel-DC universes. But, of course, they can't REALLY get better because the franchise has to go on and on, decade after decade.

    And that, I guess, is where formula really DOES come into it. As Stan used to say, it's the ILLUSION of change that matters with mainstream super heroes, not real change.

    I've done stories that have brought Peter Parker to the brink of real change and, left to my own devices, I would have followed Ditko's lead and changed Peter, evolved him into something new. But that's not the way these things work. And, really, they shouldn't. You don't psychologically transform Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne any more than you can transform Sherlock Holmes, Captain Kirk or James Bond. You can DEEPEN them, yes, but you can't fundamentally change them. It's the nature of the beast.

    That's why I go off and write things like SAVIOR 28: creating my own universes where the main character really CAN evolve and grow and become something wholly new.

    Anyone else in there want to pipe in?

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  30. Hi, Yojimbo: Thanks for the kind words!

    I hadn't planned on writing a post about BRAVE AND THE BOLD, although I will certainly remind folks when the show is going to air. That said, it might be fun to do a post about animation writing at some point. BRAVE AND THE BOLD has been a great show to work on and I'm very sorry to see it go.

    I'm often the last one to know, but I believe the Green Lantern episode is for the final season...which I suspect will be following closely on the heels of the current one.

    I've got three episodes coming up after the Doom Patrol (I had a chance to preview the DP episode recently and I'm VERY happy with the way it turned out): the GL one (which also features Star Sapphire)...a Batman-JLI-Etrigan, the Demon episode...and another JLI episode that features Rip Hunter and lots of time-traveling.

    By the way, I'm happy to answer any questions you have re: my animation work (or any other work of mine) right here in the comments section, any time. Along with B & B, 2010 has seen me writing two episodes of the just-arrived SYM-BIONIC TITAN series and I'm just starting work on my second episode of the upcoming THUNDERCATS revival.

    Thanks for checking in! All the best -- JMD

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  31. I loved Thundercats when I was a kid. It should be cool to seeing them around. That said, I don't know how I will feel about seeing Thundercats in English, the voices in Spanish are stuck in my head. I have a similar problem with the Simpsons, which I grew up watching in Spanish and specially with Dragonball, where I think the Spanish voices were just better suited (Goku sounds naive and gullible in Spanish instead of heroic as in the English version).

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  32. Well, here's hoping you like the new TC voices, Quique. The show's in the very early stages, but, from what I've seen so far, it's going to be a lot of fun. The first episode I wrote (and keep in mind that, no matter what name appears on the credits, all television writing is collaborative) managed to be both a big, bold action-adventure -- and a thoughtful character piece. All in 22 minutes!

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  33. Fascinating theory, Jeff. I think you can look at ASM 1-33 as a novel unto itself. Peter does nothing and Uncle Ben dies. Peter does something (the blood transfusion) and saves Aunt May's life, but as it turns out, the very thing that's kept her alive is killing her. Peter finally triumphs over the odds and saves Aunt May's life once and for all. It's a beautiful redemption narrative.

    Looking back, a lot of my favorite Spider-Man stories give a similar sense of closure without actually closing anything.

    Marv Wolfman's "Burglar Saga" brings things full circle, as Pete comes face to face with the security guard and tracks down the burglar, all while thinking Aunt May is dead and without his powers! Track it down if you haven't read it already. I believe it begins around ASM 192 with ASM 200 as the double-sized finale.

    KLH does much the same thing. I could easily see Pete hanging up the webs and committing himself to his new life with MJ after all that. I could just as easily see him carrying on his work as Spider-Man with a new sense of freedom.

    I'm glad the franchise didn't end with any of these, but in my mind, it could have.

    I tend to take a more favorable view toward the decision to be a superhero, JMD, and I'm not sure being entirely free from psychological trappings would be a blessing in this life.

    For me it's about finding redemption. Peter is naturally self-absorbed and apathetic, so he finds his redemption through Spider-Man. Jimmy is naturally egomaniacal and violent, so he...I won't spoil how he finds his. Suffice to say it's brilliant, and if anyone here hasn't read SAVIOR 28, they're doing themselves a disservice until they do.

    BTW, JMD, I'm going to have the original Thundercats theme song running through my head all day now...should I thank you or ask for an apology?:)

    As an aside, a story about the repercussions of a psychologist who cures the superhero community is ripe for a BOOSTER GOLD treatment.

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  34. I didn't mean being free of ALL psychological trappings, David; just moving through -- or perhaps making peace with is the better way to put it -- the major traumas that can cripple us.

    And, yes, if you know my work, you know that I agree that many great stories are about finding some kind of redemption -- or perhaps finding, in the end, that we don't need to be redeemed at all (which just might be a kind of redemption in itself).

    I love the idea of a story where a therapist goes out curing both the super hero and super villain communities. But where would that leave the Marvel Universe and the DCU? Maybe that's a stand-alone story in another universe!

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  35. Yeah, I worded that poorly. Your work pretty much speaks for itself on psychological trappings, as you explore the concept that "good and evil are monstrously mixed up in man" wonderfully.

    I was thinking BOOSTER GOLD just because it's irreverent, and he could travel to alternate universes. Seeing Batman complaining about how he can't punch people when he's not angry would be comedy gold. It might even bring the "one punch" joke full circle!

    By that same token, I think a story where Booster runs into MJ's former boyfriend from the ASM wedding annual would be fantastic. He's the guy who was modeled after Bruce Wayne, though of course it's never said. Given Batman's ride through time, that would be hilarious! But I digress. You and Giffen doubtless have enough ideas to carry BOOSTER into the next century!

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  36. I'm gonna let that idea percolate, David. It might be too goo to pass up!

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  37. Whether you go with it or not, you just made my day!

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  38. The Idiot and Notes From The Underground are also up there with Crime and Punishment as some of the finest pieces of literature ever created.

    Ironic that I found your site because I just finished rereading Moonshadow and Farewell Moonshadow. I bought the signed hardcover when it first came out and just loved it. Every few years, I like to pick a few goodies off the shelf for rereading and this was my third time reading it.

    Thanks for writing it!

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  39. You're incredibly welcome, Brett!

    THE IDIOT is pretty extraordinary. I'm pretty sure I read NOTES back in the day, but, honestly, have no recollection of it!

    By the way: Kurosawa did a film version of THE IDIOT that's well worth checking out. Dostoyevsky filtered through a Japanese consciousness.

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  40. Thanks so much for your thoughtful response(and you as well, David)! Glad I was finally sble to articulate and ahare it! It's certainly rewarding that I could find something new in a run I've been reading over and over for nearly 35 years (starting with the pocket book reprints from the lase '70s). The Child Within (and its follow-ups in Spectacular 189 & 200) are pretty much my favorite Spider stories which have come out in my "adulthood". The fact that Pete's guilt predated the Burgler actually works well with the Ditko theory, as it gives a reason why Pete's triumph in #33 was ultimately not enough to keep his compulsion from resurfacing. Despite all the ridiculous hoaxes,retcons and backpedeling which have marred his history, Pete is one of the few characters in comics worth exploring to this extent -though I still feel a little goofy and cliche going on and on about him on a message board. And while we're throwing ideas for Booster around- how about a character called Rhet-Khan (related to Manga Khan?) who is able to change characters' histories?

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  41. OOO OOO!!! He can be a terapist who actually removes the source of the trauma!!

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  42. Thanks again for the stimulating theories, Jeff -- and if you can't share them here...where CAN you share them?

    Re: Rhet-Khan. I love the concept of Manga Khan having a brother who can change timelines and histories. This is a day for great ideas here at Creation Point. Thanks!

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  43. A cosmic therapist who removes the source of the trauma and thus erases the need for a hero's existence. Now we're getting somewhere!

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  44. Collaboration at Creation Point- someone get Giffen in here! How much do we owe for the consult?

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  45. Tell you what, Jeff and David: If these concepts actually make it into a comic book, I'll be sure to thank you in print. Good enough?

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  46. Awesome by me! And an action figure when they make one!

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  47. Awesome! I would LOVE that.

    Here's to a hero watching the root of his anger passing into nothing, screaming "RET-KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN" at the top of his lungs against the background of his fading existence.

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  48. He can be a little TOO helpful to his patients--following them invisibly and if he sees someone for example turn down the patient for a date, make it so her greandparents never met..

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  49. Maybe you and David should write this together, Jeff: I don't think you guys need me! :)

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  50. You're our guru! We'll always need you!

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  51. Last thing- It seems that as a therapist, his name should be Doctor Rhet Kahn-- the "Dr." makes it sound so much more impressive!

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  52. Today is awesome.

    BTW, I think I might have to revisit THUNDERCATS. I was a fan back in the day, but I don't recall many of the details. When and where will it air?

    And can a SILVERHAWKS revival be far behind?

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  53. THUNDERCATS will air some time next year, David -- but I can't say when exactly. The internet probably knows more than I do.

    I don't think I've ever heard of SILVERHAWKS. Is it another 80's action-adventure cartoon?

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  54. Yes, and I believe the same creative team that did THUNDERCATS was behind it. It was about a team of half robot, half human adventurers that had giant extendable wings. My aunt bought me the ship one time, which came with the guitar-toting pilot, none of which probably matters to anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about...

    But it was cool.

    I also threw a fit for a Lion-O toy at an Alberston's grocery store once.

    My aunt wasn't around.:(

    But I did eventually get that, too!:)

    The core concepts for these shows were really solid, so I'll be thrilled to see modern sensibilities applied. Because in terms of quality, I think it's a whole new ballgame even since then. I'm amazed by just how much goes into the modern cartoon.

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  55. One more reason for me to write a blog about animation writing, David. Soon, I hope.

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  56. Dear Mr. DeMatteis,

    Thank you! I'll definitely make a note to come back and ask some questions. For us the fans, it'll probably still take a year for us to watch the rest of The Brave and The Bold season 2 and all of season 3, so it doesn't feel like the end yet for us.

    I hope you're given the chance to write for Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series coming up in 2011. Have you thought about doing a pitch/script for those DC Universe animated movies (the most recent one Superman/Batman: Apocalypse that came out on Tuesday)?

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  57. "Karamazov" is my favorite book as well, as considering that you've written some of my all-time favorite comics (stories which still influence and move me to this day), it makes so much sense that Dostevsky's masterpiece influenced your writing in general, and KLH in particular.

    Have you seen the film? I saw it on TCM many years ago, not long after I read the book, and absolutely fell in love with it. I feel like I shouldn't, as the film did away with most of the explicit philosophy, focusing instead on the plot, character, and family dynamics, but I found it to be a worthy adaptation and a sweepingly moving film. Plus, the cast: Yul Brenner, Lee J. Cobb, Albert Salmi, Richard Baseheart, Maria Schell, Claire Bloom, and SHATNER as Alyosha! The SHATNER had to be in all caps. You understand.

    Problem is, the damn film is impossible to find. Only a couple days ago did I think to check eBay, and found a Korean (bootleg?) DVD. Huzzah! But I'm curious as to what you've made of it, if you've seen it. I know few who've read the book, fewer still who loved it like I did, and no one who's seen the film.

    I also adore "The Idiot," but I confess, I still have yet to finish "Crime and Punishment." I'm told it really improves after the first quarter, but there's none of the character spirit and engrossing lyricism of "Idiot" or "Karamazov."

    I'm so glad I discovered this blog of yours. Yours were some of the earliest comics I followed, and left a distinct impression on the kinds of stories I loved and followed since. To tie this all back to Spider-Man, I've finally tracked down back issues to your whole Spectacular Spider-Man run, from "The Child Within" to Harry's death. I'm downright shocked that "Child Within" hasn't been collected. I was just stunned by it (as well as "Funeral Arrangements," which actually made me care about the Vulture).

    Since KLH is such a seminal, oft-reprinted story, and Harry's later Goblin stuff has been collected, I'm so surprised that they've never done a KLH followup book collecting "Child" and "Soul of the Hunter."

    Enough rambling and gushing. Thanks for posting this!

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  58. I'd love a crack at the GREEN LANTERN series, Yojimbo...and the idea of writing one of those DCU animated movies is also very intriguing. So far, neither is in the cards, but time will tell.

    Looking forward to your questions, whenever you're ready. Best -- JMD

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  59. A collection of "Child Within" and "Soul of the Hunter" sounds good to me, Hefner. Let's see what Marvel says. As for "Funeral Arrangements," I think Sal Buscema -- one of my favorite collaborators ever -- did some of his very best work on that story: emotionally powerful and beautifully drawn.

    Yes, I've seen the movie of THE BROTHERS K several times. On the one hand, it's the book boiled down to plot, which can feel like soap opera instead of art; on the other, it's a great cast (Shatner indeed!) and it's done with intelligence and respect. Well worth seeing. I'm amazed it's not widely available.

    You MUST finish CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. That's an order. I remember reading it for the first time in High School. I couldn't get through more than a chapter at a time: it was too emotionally, and psychologically, overwhelming. What a book! Stick with it: I can't promise you'll love it, but I suspect there's a very good chance.

    Thanks for checking in! All the best -- JMD

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  60. Did you know the inspector in Crime and Punishment was a template for Columbo? The way he messed with Rashkolnikov's head was really fun to read. Dostoyevsky went to very dark places but also seemed to have a sharp sense of humor-- just like what you frequently say about reality and fantasy as two sides of the same coin...

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  61. Yes, Jeff, I was aware of the Columbo-Porfiry connection. (I was a big Columbo fan back in the day: my favorite episode is probably the one that featured Leonard Nimoy ALMOST getting away with murder.)

    I love the fact that the folks posting on this blog are equally comfortable talking about Russian literature and Spider-Man. Certainly keeps things interesting!

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  62. It was the references to FD that you slipped into Justice League and other comics which prompted me to read him back in the late '80s. I don't remember too many details, but the ones I do I'll never forget. I might do a re-read one of these days...

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  63. To think that "Bwah-ha-ha" led to CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Now that's amazing, Jeff...and very gratifying!

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  64. I wouldn't doubt we'll eventually see a DeMatteis/Buscema Omnibus. Lately, Marvel seems to line their collections up with the most recent movies. Next year, for instance, we'll be getting several Captain America and Thor collections. So here's hoping we'll see another surge of material around the time the new Spider-Man movie comes out. I'd love to buy that collaboration in oversized Omnibus format.

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  65. As my mother often observed, David: "From your mouth to God's ear"!

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  66. Very well, I shall put aside my current attempt to crack "War and Peace" (which I'd already been putting off in favor of rereading "Nine Princes in Amber") to restart "Crime and Punishment," and finish it this time.

    I might have gotten through it sooner had I the incentive of knowing that the BBC adaptation with John Simm and Ian McDiarmid was commonly available to watch, but damn it, it's nowhere to be found in the states. Either way, I'll read the book first, and soon. On your orders!

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  67. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on C AND P when you finish, Hefner.

    There's a great, if insanely truncated, Old Radio version of the story that I heard for the first time recently. I'll track down the link and post it soon.

    Speaking of Amber: I'm reading BLOOD OF AMBER right now. Reviews I've read have led me to believe that the second cycle of novels -- the ones featuring Corwin's son, -- were a huge letdown but, so far, I'm enjoying Merlin's adventures immensely.

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  68. Well, that's incentive right there. I shall report back! I adore "Brothers Karamazov" and "The Idiot," but have yet to read any more Dostoevsky. I've started "Demons" (the current translation of "The Possessed"/"The Devils" by the best Russian translators I know to date) and liked it quite a bit, but not enough to hook me for longer.

    "The Idiot" was my first love, ever since I saw a wonderful off-off-off-Broadway adaptation, followed by the Kurosawa film. I even spent a summer at age 20 writing a whole play adaptiation which I planned to stage with my community theatre troupe! Maybe I should consider dusting it off..

    And do let me know if you find that Old Radio version, as I'm always looking for good spoken word fodder while on the road.

    I'm also curious about the Peter Lorre film version. Any good? I've been making it a point to avoid any adaptations until I actually read the book, even the Sprang-tastic version in "Masterpiece Comics."

    I've heard similar about Amber myself, but have yet to get there. I only finished the first two books (and loved them both), then had to drop the series to focus reading other things for writing research, and never picked up the rest.

    So since you're ahead of me in that regard, I, in turn, look forward to hearing your thoughts on the rest of the series, should you read on.

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  69. I'll put up a link to the Old Radio version of C AND P tomorrow, Hefner. (The radio play stars Peter Lorre, as well. And, no, I've never seen the film, but I'll start hunting it down ASAP.) I've got some odds and ends I want to post about, and I'll be sure to include the link in that list.

    A stage adaptation of THE IDIOT sounds great. Get to it!

    So far, so good on the Corwin-less AMBER books. At this point, seven very enjoyable books into the series, the story's going to have to really crash and burn for me to give up on it. I have enough confidence in Zelazny to think all will be well, right to the end.

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  70. Mr. DeMatteis: A bit off topic (well, totally off topic) but did you happen to see the CBS Sunday Morning show yesterday. They did a piece on Julian Lennon and how he, Sean and Yoko were together at Julian's photography show. It was pretty darn cool to see the relationship between Sean and Julian today.

    Think you will get a kick out of it and a warm feeling deep inside. (I admit, I got a bit misty me self.)

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  71. John Lennon's NEVER off-topic for me! And, yes, quite by accident I did see the Julian Lennon piece yesterday and, like you, I was misty-eyed and deeply moved.

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  72. hello J.M., can i translate this post for my italian site about comics: http://conversazionisulfumetto.wordpress.com/
    i wil put the original link.
    let me know and thanks!

    andrea.

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  73. You can absolutely translate it, Andrea -- and thanks for asking! All the best -- JMD

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  74. thanks a lot J.M., i'll link to you the post.
    all the best,

    andrea.

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  75. Hi J.M...

    I read great stories from you in the past and (believe or not) Last Hunt is one that has been elusive but i expect to fix that in the near future. However, this tale about how that story come to life is something precious (as a diamond) by itself. Thanks for sharing!

    By the way, could i translate this for an spanish blog? It would be nice..

    Greetings!

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  76. Yes, John, you can translate this for your blog. And thanks for checking in and asking.

    I hope that, when you finally get a chance to read KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT you enjoy it. Check back here and let me know, okay?

    All the very best -- JMD

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  77. Hi J.M., i'm back. Thanks a lot, the article in spanish is online on ComicVerso ( http://cverso.blogspot.com/2010/10/revisitando-la-historia-detras-de-la.html ) and i have the hunt on my shopping car, right now. I'll tell you when i finally read it.

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  78. Please do, John. And thanks for the link!

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