Monday, January 31, 2011


"This whole universe, with all its vastness, grandeur and beauty, is nothing but sheer imagination."
Avatar Meher Baba 


  1. Beautfiul. Thanks again for sharing some of your experience of Avatar Meher Baba. Since I first noticed him winking at me from 'Seekers Into the Mystery' he seems to keep popping up to nod-n-smile from the side of my road, encouraging me to take the next step. This quote coming on this day is another one of those nods.
    With Much Gratitude,
    Tim James

  2. Have you ever seen WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, with Robin Williams, JMD? This post reminds me of it (possibly my all time favorite movie), as Heaven and Hell are what we make it, imagination manifest, even if we aren't aware we're doing it.

    And the ending song in the credits has always stuck with me, and again, was reminded of it by this entry.

    It begins;
    "We follow the river down into the stream
    That's where my dream began
    I left my worries to the people who stare
    And dream without a care"

    The song is called BESIDE YOU, by Simply Red.

    And I do love that statement, everything, is imagination. Everything is but God's dreaming...

    ...merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily...

  3. Yes, I've seen WHAT DREAMS MAY COME and I've also read the Richard Matheson book on which it's based. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

    I've written a number of times on this blog -- and many times in my stories -- about the idea that the universe is quite literally a dream; and it's been my experience that this isn't metaphor but truth. I had an experience a few years back where a layer of the veil was pulled away and I got to experience just HOW INSUBSTANTIAL this allegedly physical universe really is. And how God's Love -- expressed through all of us -- is the one thing that gives form and meaning to all this insubstantiality.

    My feeling is: If life is a dream, let's all become lucid dreamers and make this the most beautiful dream ever dreamed.

    Merrily, merrily, merrily indeed...

  4. That is a wonderful feeling to have.

    I have read the book, been meaning to reread it for some time now. As a story, I like the movie a lot more. As insights into the actual nature of things, I really enjoy the book.

  5. I think, Kyle, that WHAT DREAMS is one of those rare stories where the movie and the book combine to create the best version of the tale. Alone, neither one completely satisfies...but each one complements the other.

    Richard Matheson is an amazing writer. From TWILIGHT ZONE to WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, he's been entertaining me, and expanding my mind, since I was a kid.

  6. Dematteis... mocking my need for extra space (way back in the last subject). Can you believe there was actually more to that post before I tried to make it fit through editing. Don't worry, you didn't miss much. It was just my usual nonsense, adding weirdo phrases and explaining that those links where just because I believe in spreading talent around. You know just yadda yadda stuff I know choose to bore you with.

    As far as this new subject matter goes, what's next? claiming that your a first century christian living simultaneously in both times, and that the empire never ended? Anybody get the PKD reference? No? Well anyway, ad a little modern angst and I can see it. Being that ol' Philly K. was constantly studying philosophies and religions other than his own Episcopalian beliefs, I wonder if he ever ran across Meher Baba. Certain subject matter does support it.

    Crap, it happened again. to be continued...

  7. Now, if you don't mind i would like to return to our discussion on Mature comics. First I'd like to say I absolutely agree with you about Mr. Englehart's Doc Strange run. Like I said, the reason why he and Mr. Starlin were mentioned as honorable was just as you and I said, it was too inclusive. Usually that is a virtue, but in this case the extra weight of a larger readership makes it too slow to reach the mature finish line. You and I may read those tales and see a genuine attempt to talk about the issues of life, death and depression, but a twelve year old could just see a cool cosmic battle, also I think that it is written in such away that our 12 year old example could understand it however as we grow older our understanding becomes as a snowball rolling down a frosted winter hill. I just felt because it was sort of the next step in maturing tales they should get a mention for adding such ideas. I feel comics are like a never ending staircase, each upward step is important and necessary to the journey.
    As for Mr. Gerber? Well, as I'm sure you could tell about my rambling on how unsure I was putting it on the list I was just that... unsure. I even went back and looked at the covers of those man-thing issues. In the end I couldn't decide, so I just did it. After your persuasive statement I see, it was close, perhaps closer than we realize even now, but in the end, no, it is not a mature title. Though in the end I do believe that if it was even one decade later Man-thing would have been true "mature title." Unfortunately it also would have been completely different stories and probably a different feel as well due to the zeitgeist nature of the tale. So let's just be glad it is what it is, a smart, well crafted story that can be appreciated in a multitude of age brackets. And yes I am aware I broke my own rule of not including all smart stories as mature , but come on; it was so close.

    (Good God I'm a Loud mouth, still didn't fit)

  8. As for Starman and Mr. Ostrander's Spectre stories. I don't know if you didn't comment on them because you agreed or where just unfamiliar with the works, but any way I'd like to elaborate. As for Starman, it's a superhero tale, but I remember very few superhero plot devices they used. Don't get me wrong there where superhero battles, there where super vilians to thwart and ticking clocks to beat to avoid catastrophe, but it was all so secondary. Starman was about Jack knight's life and relationships. The conversations and deep pathos are what mattered. "Who is Jack Knight?" That is the question the book wanted to ask in almost every issue, not "How are we going to stop this villian?" I think Starman however resides in an odd limbo however. It almost feels as if it is pulling on your mature sensibilities as well as keeping your adolescent fantasies burning, but in the end maybe that is the nature of all such books, forever cast from either realm. And that comes from a guy who even as a teenager didn't read comics for adolescent fantasy.
    Now on to Ostrander's Spectre, yes it is a mature tale. The earlier issues don't really fit our new definition, but the later ones do. In the end it comes from Ostranders then very well thought out views on faith, God, and justice, both divine and earthly. In truth it's always smart, but it is not always mature. The issues dealing with homosexuality, gender politics, and role of mental illness in guilt where very much for the mature reader. and the final story "the search for God" is brilliant. Perhaps it is a bit of a watered mature, perhaps it is a bit inclusive for a pure mature rating in terms of story content, and perhaps I'm just equating it with my own life when I first read it and how it made me feel, but until an argument is made against it I stand by this choice. And even if you don't agree with mature, it is still a good smart read.
    Boy this is harder than I thought. Not one choice of mine have I second guessed.
    Well, here are to new mature picks. Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, a tale of the very mid-century angst that birthed the famous foursome. This tale is a mature look at flawed people, and in the end it also makes you realize just how great, and messed up the F.F. was, even from the beginning. Second is one I'm not sure about, and in the end I just want to know what you'll say, the pick is YOUR run on the Spectre. I actually don't have an opinion on this just yet, which is weird for me. But this certainly isn't mainstream, and it is defiantly smart, and for sure not in the cards for most people to love at thirteen. Hey, look at that I only had one pick.

    Wishing you nothing but good will and hipness from here to the Stars,

  9. Indeed, Jack, I got the reference.

    I've never heard of any connection between PKD and Meher Baba...but that would certainly be an interesting link.

  10. Interesting thought re: MAN-THING, Jack. If it had been done in the 80's, as a "mature labeled" title, would it have been as good? Would "adult" indulgence have derailed the series? Was the fact that, in the 70's, Gerber had to work within certain constrictions of the day one of the elements that made those stories so wonderful? Was the push-pull between current convention and Gerber's iconoclastic tendencies the key to MT's success?

    No clear answers here, but it's fun to ponder.

  11. Believe it or not, Jack, I never read STARMAN, so I can't comment. I've read bits and pieces of Ostrander's SPECTRE and enjoyed them very much (he's a wonderful, and often underrated, writer and I love Tom Mandrake's art). Was it "mature"? Well, it certainly dealt with intelligent adult themes...but, of course, like most mainstream comics, it dealt with them in the context of a pulp sensibility. (As did my own run on SPECTRE. A run I'm very proud of, by the way.)

    So the next question is this: Can ANY pulp-rooted stories about costumed heroes and villains ever be considered truly "mature" no matter how deep the matieral may run? (Okay, okay, I think the answer is yes...but it's worth pondering.)

    In the end, I think, "maturity" is in the eyes of the beholder. There are acclaimed works of so-called "adult" fiction out there that run as deep as a thimble. And there are Y/A fantasies that, without ever getting into anything that would offend a child's sensibilities, explore genuinely mature themes with skill and grace.

    I think it was Madeleine L'Engle who said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that whenever she wanted to tell a truly mature story, she wrote a children's book.

  12. I tend to think of Stan Lee's best work as "mature." He successfully balanced adolescent power fantasies with the more tragic side of heroism. And it seems to me that every superhero work that examines mature themes, from WATCHMEN to SAVIOR 28, has some precedent in Lee's work.

    To my mind, it all comes down to characterization. Lee's best creations were always ripe for more complex treatment. Take Flash Thompson, who might have been a one-note bully in anyone else's hands. But he often reached out to Peter (at the most inopportune times), and Spider-Man inspired him to be a better person.

    I was re-reading SAVIOR 28 the other night, and the characters jumped out at me in the same way. I love how Jimmy's monster egotism is wed to his incorruptible idealism--"good and evil are monstrously mixed up in man," right?

    But the most telling moment for me was when we find out that Samantha's daughter didn't get along with her. Here we have someone who's set up as something of an angel in her dealings with Jimmy and the world, and then we find out her family life wasn't as ideal. That struck me as so beautiful, so tragic, and so true. And I really appreciated the fact that all the characters were trying to live the best they knew how, and none of them were on a pedestal.

    Stan Lee, incidentally, is coming to Dallas Comic-Con this May (and Leonard Nimoy). Any chance you'll drop by, JMD? :)

  13. I'd say that almost EVERTHING in mainstream super hero comics has some precedent in Stan's wonderful work, David. I also think it's important, when talking about Stan's 60's Marvel period, to not forget his collaborators -- especially Kirby and Ditko -- who didn't just draw the stories but contributed significantly to the plots.

    Glad your re-read of S-28 was satisfying. As you know, it's a piece of work I'm incredibly proud of.

    Nope. No Dallas Comic-Con for me. But, if they invite me, maybe next year...?

  14. Yeah, it would be hard to overestimate the importance of Lee's collaborators. That's evident in the way Lee's style transitions from artist to artist--like the way ASM went from quirky to romantic when Romita replaced Ditko.

    I'll have to email the Dallas Comic-Con and let them know I'd love to see you there next year!

  15. SPIDER-MAN is a perfect example, David. Each collaborator brought out something a little different in Stan; his approach to the character shifted dramatically when things went from Ditko to Romita.

    Ditko -- as both artist and, eventually, full plotter (and the man knew how to construct a clever, intricate plot) -- really defined the character. That said, the first year or so of the Lee-Romita Spidey is my favorite AMAZING SPIDER-MAN period. The Ditko flavor was still very much there -- but there was a new vibrancy, an unleashed energy, that Stan hadn't had before. It was if he wanted to prove that Spider-Man was as much his as it was Ditko's...and he certainly did that. The Lee-Romita collaboration seemed more energetic, more playful. And more wildly melodramatic.

    In the end, what Stan always brought to the table -- even when the artist was doing the vast majority of the plotting (although, being the editor, Stan was often changing story elements around, adding new layers, in the dialogue-stage) -- was a wonderful sense of humor (the man could have been a professional comedy writer) combined with genuine, heart-tugging emotion that made all his stories utterly unique for that time.

  16. I'm agreed on all counts.

    Incindentally, what's your favorite Lee/Romita Spider-Man issue/arc?

    I'd go with ASM 87-90, the Spider-Man/Ock throwdown that climaxes with George Stacy's death. I tend to think it's a better story than ASM 121-22 even though Gwen's death overshadowed her father's.

    While Gwen's death was a new experience for Spider-Man, it wasn't a new life lesson. George's death brought things full circle. With Uncle Ben, he learned that people can die when you do nothing. But with George, he learned that people can die when you act. I also enjoy that Peter's involvement in George's death is more deliberate.

    This isn't to say, incidentally, that I don't appreciate Gwen's death. I just think Conway's best work on ASM was the original Clone Saga, and perhaps his best Spider-Man came during his stint on WOS and SSM during the late 80s-early 90s, with Sal Buscema.

  17. Stan's style seems to have spread itself all over the entertainment realm as well-- the irony, layered plotting and action/melodrama combo which were once more-or-less unique to Marvel comics have penetrated especially to mainstream television, most likely thanks to writers/producers who grew up on Stan's work. I don't think anyone's life has displayed more "manifest destiny" than his. He had an eye on Hollywood all along and now he practically owns it!

  18. You only need to look elsewhere on this page, David, to find my favorite Lee-Romita Spidey story: it's JR's first two issues. The classic story that revealed Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin.

    I remember the death of George Stacy being very powerful; but (I don't own the issues) didn't Gil Kane draw that? Hang on...

    Yes. A quick online search reveals that Kane drew #s 89 and 90...with Romita providing inks (and, I'll bet, a plot assist, as well).

    I always thought Kane -- one of my all-time favorites -- was an extraordinary Spidey artist. He had Romita's dynamism and a little of Ditko's quirkiness, too. And when you had him inked by Romita, it was a perfect blend.

  19. I agree, Jeff: the Marvel template has had a big effect on pop culture storytelling. It's too bad that Jack Kirby didn't live to see the day when his fingerprints were all over TV and movies.
    Very happy that Stan, at least, is getting to enjoy it.

  20. Yes, my mistake! I meant no disservice to Kane, who's ASM work is fantastic. I have "The Death of the Stacys" in a Marvel Premiere Hardcover, with the classic ASM 90 cover on the back. That image of Spider-Man carrying Stacy's body up the wall while the crowd jeers him is great.

  21. Didn't realize that story had been collected in hardcover, David: I may have to pick it up!

  22. It's a great buy, JMD, collecting ASM 88-92, and 121-22. So it not only has the death of George Stacy, but the followup issues where Sam Bullit tries to use Gwen's grief to his advantage. Throw in an introduction by Gerry Conway and afterword by John Romita, Sr., it's a steal.

  23. Okay Dematteis, two can play at this game.

    Well, I am glad the reference was got, Valis is a great book, or maybe toy saw it in that R. Crumb comic where he mentioned that odd little episode, or maybe PKD's biography. I don't Know dematteis,it's your life.

    Here's hoping the new PKD movie is a good a representation as "A Scanner Darkly" was.

    wishing you nothing but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,

  24. As far as Man-thing goes, I definitely think it was the right place and right time. And let us not forget that Gerber's Man-thing was a huge influence Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run, so the potential is certainly there for an 80's mature run, but still, I don't know. Guys like Gerber, Starlin, and Englehart had such mature themes behind a tissue thin veil, in the 70's perhaps BECAUSE it rebellious. When they all started doing creator owned stuff it was usually good, but the mature themes were not quite as pressed as it was a decade, or even 5 years earlier. Perhaps the reason for that lies in there comic past. Remember Englehart, Starlin, and Gerber along with the rest of the era (Wein and Wolfman anyone?) were treading new water. These guys were the ones Stan Lee talks about when he says that he was "no longer receiving letters from elementary schools, but rather High schools an then colleges. Not to mention that most of them were admittedly former protesters, hippies an heads. They started that what is currently known as an older reading community be reading, discussing, and almost definitely over analyzing these stories. I wouldn't be surprised to learn when of the 70's era artists was the one to draw that obviously Kirby inspired Thor on the outside of the electric kool-aide tests. So what is my point? well... wait what was it? Damn my rambling! I swear I should jus... oh yeah, now I remember rebellion was part of there inspiration and passion, take off the chains and they can't rebel. But in the end who as you said, who can really be sure.

    Wishing you nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,

  25. Well, first I'd like to say you should be proud of your Spectre run, it was very good.

    But I think that the real question is, can any pulp story not be at least on some level mature? Think about it, The Shadow was a direct reference to that exploding crime in the 20's and then later the 30's followed by the following decade by a fear of the Axis powers. Often even using newspapers as research, I think. Superman's earliest adventures read more like a political cartoon. Okay so it isn't Eisner, but it is there on some level. And if you look at the such things as lullaby's there is always another meaning. Stephen King said it best in the book "IT," that all stories involve some level of politics, religion, human behavior and so on,. just because that is part of telling a good story, if the story is good it has to have it, those things can't be escaped. Now, that is not a quote and I don't love Stephen King, nor do I hate him, I think he is competent but to me he just is, for when I am in that mood where I want a story like his, but I do think he got that part absolutly right.

    And as far as Shallow, but well praised "mature work," there is one story always loved by people whose praise I just don't get. I won't name it unless asked(and then prepare for a long rant), but I always describe it as the comic that you right in your head in English class when you are 15 years old and you hate the world. And every time I so much as say that it isn't for me people just rabidly insult me, that is right just for saying it wasn't for me. So yeah, you didn't make that up.

    Wishing you nothing but goodwill and hipness, from here to the stars,

  26. I.m glad Stan was added to this conversation on maturity in comics. Okay so the plots early on could be a tad on the hokey side, but even then, Hell especially then, the human interactions really got you. The F.F. are called Marvel's first family, but they were comics first dysfunctional one. Reed is cold and distant, even though he doesn't want to be and he struggles with this. Sue is engaged, but still eyes any monarch that walks by, all the while Reed says nothing for fear of losing this woman a decade or two (probably 2 orininally) younger than he. And let's not forget Sue always playing mother to Ben and Johnny, even though she hates it. Johnny, always trying to build a life of his own and become his own man. Ben is trapped and constantly feared and takes out all his aggression on people closest to him for no reason, and his family refuses to see how much pain he is truly in. It's easy to forget that before they became the warm fuzzy group they are now that family people claim is so much the idealistic was never not on the edge of ruin. Wile we are suggesting comics, you should pick up a copy of "Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules" a story set in 1957 about a makeshift family that "inspired" the F.F. it really makes you realize how revolutionary that kooky quartet was. But any way on to the rest of the silver Marvel age. Hulk is constantly containing every possible thing that could be negative, but eventually he will always loose. The metaphors are endless. Captain America is man out of time wondering if he even matters anymore, caught between his still young man's mind, but older mindset. And contrary to popular beleif he backed protesters, not attacked. Spider-man is d constantly depressed, almost verging on suicidal, yet always hiding it behind a grin, a far too realistic portrayal. DAredevil dresses up to calm his mind that's going to war over a promise he made to his father and his true self. Doc Strange is a man trying to redeem himself through a new philosophy, and trying to fight his natural ways. Sub-mariner literally hates half of his heritage so much he wants to destroy it. Talk about a self hater, hard to believe he was created by a New England W.A.S.P., well hard at first glance anyway. I could go on forever, but I am tired.

    one last thing though, even though Stan should get credit, and a lot of it, so should Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Jerry Seigel, the pulp predecessors, and the oft forgotten Bill Everett. Read those early Everett stories again, they may have been a lot more rough and certainly the editors had more of a hand, but those sub-mariners rival Eisner in content.

    wishing you nothing but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,

  27. There's a new PKD movie coming out, Jack? What? What? Tell me!

  28. Fantastic point, Jack, about the way creative constraints can sometimes provoke rebellion, which leads to creative breakthroughs. It's the pushing against enforced limits that does the trick. And I guess there are some people that thrive on that pushing...and aren't as inspired when they're told they can pretty much do whatever they want. (I'm not saying that's the case with the people you mentioned, just that it's something worth pondering.)

    At the same time, the lack of constraints can be the most liberating thing of all. It certainly worked that way for me with MOONSHADOW. As I've said -- perhaps too many times before -- by stepping outside the Superhero Mindset and writing something wholly original, wholly mine, I was able to break free of limitation and, finally, find myself as a writer.

    Of course you could argue that some of those limits I was breaking free of were self-imposed. I was working under a belief system that said, "This is what you can, and cannot, do within the context of a superhero story." So round and round we go.

    But it's all so interesting to think about...

  29. Well, Jack, your final point goes back to what I was saying about children's literature being quite capable of handling mature themes; and that sometimes it can handle those themes better than so-called adult literature.

    And that's another level of the discussion: mature versus adult. Not adult in the sense of X-rated entertainment, but adult in the sense of stories that would not appeal to a child's sensibilities. That speak directly to the issues of adulthood. (A CONTRACT WITH GOD would not appeal to most nine year olds: thus we can call it an adult graphic novel. But pulp, fantasy, science-fiction and fairy tales -- most of which wouldn't be called adult -- can easily grapple with mature themes.)

    But adult isn't necessarily mature. And round and round we go!

  30. I bow to no one in my admiration of Stan Lee, Jack -- he will always be a hero of mine -- but you're right: You can't talk about Stan's work without heaping equal praise on Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Colan, etc. Kirby, especially, is on a plane by himself. The man was a true genius.

    And you're right: Stan's Cap of the 60's was a liberal, no doubt about it.