Saturday, March 27, 2010


I glanced over at my book shelf the other day and my eye fell on a book my wife gave me many years ago,  If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland:  probably the best work on the art and craft of writing it’s ever been my pleasure to read.   I grabbed IYWTW off the shelf and started flipping through it, instantly remembering the delight I felt when I first devoured it.  Ueland, who passed away in 1985, was the kind of teacher we all wish we’d had in school:  she didn’t teach through criticism or tearing down, but through inspiration, enthusiasm and encouragement.  Her belief was that “Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.”  In short, anyone can be a writer—or an artist or an actor or whatever creative expression the heart cries for—if we'd just put aside fear and limitation (both society’s and our own) and embrace the naked joy of the creative act.  If You Want to Write is the kind of book that will inspire someone who’s never written a word and do the same for someone (like me) who’s been at this game for decades.  If you have any interest in following the Writer’s Path, do yourself a favor and buy this book.  I plan on re-reading it immediately. 


Google Alerts recently led me to a music site that, without my knowledge or permission, is offering one of the songs from my CD, How Many Lifetimes?, as a free download.  No, I’m not upset:  I’m delighted.  If you’re interested, click here and take a listen to “Baba Rain.”  If you like the song you might want to head over to the iTunes Store or CD Baby and check out the rest of the album.  And, no, I won’t complain if you buy it.


They say you can’t go home again, but, recently, I have.  Home to Justice League International:  the series Keith Giffen and I launched—with inestimable contributions from editorial genius Andy Helfer and the amazing Kevin Maguire—for DC Comics twenty-three years ago.  My first reunion with the JLI came a few weeks back when I was working on an episode of Batman:  The Brave and the Bold
that featured Bats and the DCAU (that’s DC Animated Universe, in case you don’t know) incarnation of our League.  Okay, so they’re not exactly our team—the new Blue Beetle has replaced Ted Kord—but they’re awfully close and it was tremendous fun writing that script, which also features one of my all-time favorite characters, Jack Kirby’s classic monster, the Demon.  

My second reunion with the old gang came this week, co-writing an upcoming issue of the monthly Booster Gold series that finds BG traveling back in time to the heyday of the JLI.  Giffen’s plot was pitch-perfect (so what else is new?) and I couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to slip into the old rhythms, filling up the pages with an endless stream of banter and (alleged) witticisms.  The good news is that there’ll be more JLI in upcoming BG stories—with a focus on Booster’s relationship with the Blue Beetle—and, frankly, I can’t wait.  Writing these characters is so much fun I’d do it for free.  But don’t tell DC, okay?


I’m going to be journeying through an Internet-free Zone for the next week, so if you post a comment here and don’t get a reply, be sure that I’ll catch up with everyone once I emerge from the I-F Z.  And in case I don’t get a chance to do that catching-up before next weekend, let me wish you all a happy Easter.  It's been my experience that a little resurrection—creative and spiritual, personal and cosmic—is very good for the soul. 

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis


Just heard that Dick Giordano, a truly legendary comic book creator, has passed away.  I didn't know Dick well—and I haven't seen him in many years—but he was certainly a presence, and a power, at DC Comics when he was Executive Editor during an extraordinarily-creative period in the 1980's.  I remember him as a man of great talent, intelligence, and—unusual in an executive—gentleness.  He wasn't the kind of Higher Up you had to be nervous about talking to.  Intimidation wasn't in his vocabulary:  He always put you at ease and treated you with respect.

I was also a huge fan of Giordano the artist.  As an inker he was, quite simply, one of the best ever, with that magical ability to make any penciler's work look better by virtue of having put his brush to it.  But he was a wonderful illustrator in his own right.  One of the first regular series I ever landed in comics was an Aquaman feature in Adventure Comics and Dick drew my first batch of stories.  What an honor for a new kid to have his work brought to life, and to a higher level, by an artist of Dick Giordano's caliber. 

My heartfelt condolences to Dick's family.

Monday, March 22, 2010


In honor of William Shatner's 79th birthday, here's a link—one of the few still working—to a post from my old Amazon blog, in which I share my unabashed admiration for the man who gave us (among many other memorable roles) Twilight Zone's Robert Wilson, Star Trek's Captain Kirk, Third Rock's Big Giant Head and, best of all, Boston Legal's Denny Crane.  Pushing eighty and he's still at it:  hosting his own talk show, starring in the pilot for the first sit-com based on a Twitter feed, launching a new social networking site and, of course, negotiating for Priceline.  Happy birthday, Mr. S...and many more.    

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I enjoy reading books about psychology and spirituality, books that explore the shadowed caverns of our psyches and the luminous castles of our souls.  But I often find myself bristling when I encounter authors that—however fascinating or genuinely insightful—insist on passing their insights off not as reflections of Truth, but as THE WHOLE TRUTH.

I understand it.  There are times in life when the the universe really does open itself to us, when life-changing revelations flood our very being and transform our perceptions of ourselves and our world.  When that happens, when we’ve been so irrevocably altered by our encounter with the Ineffable, the impulse is to run through the streets screaming, “This is IT!  This is IT!  This is IT!”  (Believe me, I’ve done it myself on too many occasions...and, I’m sure, irritated the heck out of people in the process.)  And, really, it is IT.  For you.  In that moment.

I knew a remarkable man named Eruch Jessawalla:  one of the most genuinely spiritual people I’ve ever been blessed to meet.  No, Eruch didn't indulge in astral travel, he wasn't one for meditation or chanting and, as far as I know, he never had visions of the future:  His spirituality was rooted in his simple, honest humanity.  And he once said—I’m totally paraphrasing here, so if I mangle it blame me, not Eruch—that the Truth is so huge, so unfathomable, so beyond our ability to actually apprehend it, that any truth we touch in our spiritual unfolding can only be one aspect of that Greater Truth. Please note that Eruch wasn’t in any way invalidating our individual truths, just observing their inherent limitations.

My own solution to this problem is simple:  I imagine, on the first page of any book that presents A Ground-Breaking New Theory Of Existence (spiritual, psychological, scientific, political, whatever), the following words:


And then, on the next page:


Or imagine it’s the first morning of the latest workshop that Guarantees Enlightenment In Three Days Or Your Money Back.  The Wise One leading the group steps up to the microphone and says:


A slight pause while that sinks in.


If people would just write that, speak that, embrace that, I’d be able to relax and absorb their insights, their ancient wisdom and modern epiphanies.  I’d let their truths settle into my soul, keep the ones that resonate, throw out the ones that don’t and walk away enriched and remarkably unirritated.  (For the record:  I’m well aware that my irritation says more about my own limitations than it does about anyone else’s.)

So why, exactly, am I going on about this?  Well, in  the course of writing this blog, I've vented my feelngs, expressed my opinions, about everything from the last movie I rented from Netflix to The Meaning Of Life As I Understand It.   And, being a passionate person, I like to express myself as forcefully, as vehemently, as definitively (or, let’s be honest, as obnoxiously) as the subject demands.

But, just to insure that any opinion or alleged insight I express here is taken in the right spirit (and that I always remember that my personal truth is merely part of Eruch's much larger, cosmic tapestry), I want these words inscribed on your eyeballs...and mine, too:


All together:


We now return to our regularly-scheduled pontification.

©copyright 2010  J.M. DeMatteis

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Advance warning:  This time next month, I'll be in Southern California (yes, my keepers are letting me out of the tower again) for the Anaheim Comic Con.  I'm looking forward to meeting my readers and signing as many comic books as humanly possible.  I'll also have some Imaginalis post cards (provided by the good folks at HarperCollins) to give away—so if you're in the area, please stop by and say hello.  It's shaping up to be an interesting show:  Where else can you find William Shatner, Ed Asner, Micky Dolenz and me under the same roof?  (Y'know, aside from our weekly poker games.)

See you there, I hope.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Here's a sneak peek at the cover of my upcoming children's fantasy novel, Imaginalis—designed by Amy Ryan and illustrated by Dominic Harman.  Enjoy!  (And if you're gripped by an unrelenting urge to pre-order the book at Amazon, I certainly won't stop you.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I’ve got this old corkboard that I’ve been dragging around with me for decades:  every time I’ve moved to a new house, it’s moved—eventually settling in to a comfortable place in a corner of my office.  In the science fiction world of 2010, the idea of a corkboard—covered with pushpinned family photos, ancient New Yorker cartoons and quotes cut out of magazines or copied to index cards—is decidedly retro:  I’ve got plenty of other family photos in my office—they’re everywhere—nicely framed.  And the quotes could easily be digitized or, for that matter, discarded.  There’s really no reason for the board to be there.  It’s more for the history of it, the comfort.  In many ways it’s visual white noise:  the thing might as well be invisible.  

But there are  moments when something long-cherished but forgotten suddenly pops out at me, like this quote, from science-fiction writer David Gerrold (best known for his novel The Martian Child and his Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”), torn out of an issue of Starlog magazine (remember that?) back in the 1970’s:

“I taught a class in writing once.  I told them that a good story is about pain and hope and the transition from one to the other.  Most important, it is about what we learn in the process of that transition.  The essential quality is hope.”

Reading that, more than thirty years ago, Gerrold’s words resonated with me because they reflected something I believed, knew, to the bottom of my soul, but—as a young writer at the beginning of his career—had never articulated.  “The essential quality is hope.”  It’s so much easier to create stories that damn the universe as meaningless chaos, that dismiss existence as an endless chain of suffering.  But to look pain in the eyes and find hope reflected there?  To journey down to the depths of Hell and discover Heaven?  That, to me, is the essence of a great story.  And a wonderful life.

Here’s another corkboard quote—this one typed on a now-yellowed index card—from my literary god, Ray Bradbury:

“A day without writing, I often said, and said it so many times my friends sighed and rolled their eyeballs, a day without writing was a little death.  I did not intend to pitch me over the graveyard wall.”

Honesty first:  I don’t write every single day, if writing is defined by sitting at a keyboard producing pages.  Never have.  Never will.  But I’m always writing.  Time away from the computer allows my unconscious mind to breathe and play, uncork dreams and visions, and then surprise me with the results.  (Sometimes I’ll be in the shower or resting on the couch or on a walk and I’ll start seeing movies in my head:  a new story playing out—characters, action, dialogue—on a screen in my mind.)  Writer’s block, I’ve learned, isn’t a block at all:  it’s an opportunity.  

That said, few things in life can compare with the days when you do put those erupting ideas on paper, when the words take on meaning, when the meaning becomes an honest-to-God story.  Death himself
couldn’t pitch you over the graveyard wall then, because you’re fully, vibrantly alive.  That Bradbury quote is there to remind me to keep nurturing my creative self.  To keep dreaming—and bring those dreams out into this larger dream we all inhabit.

Finally, some corkboard wisdom from Meher Baba, hand-written, by a friend, on a small rectangle of lined paper:

“Do not keep the door of your heart closed.”

I think that one speaks for itself.

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis