Tuesday, May 31, 2011


With signed contracts now in hand, I can happily announce that there's going to be a new, hardcover edition of Brooklyn Dreams coming out in the fall from those fine folks at IDW.  Seems like a good time to share the following piece that was written two years ago for a French edition of BD


In the mid-1980’s, I was writing a very strange, and deeply personal, space saga called Moonshadow for Marvel Comics’ groundbreaking Epic imprint.  Moonshadow was the project that cracked me open as a writer, allowing me to step outside the confines of the Marvel and DC universes and be myself.  For the first time I wasn’t “writing comic books,” I was just writing, exactly the way I wanted to, telling exactly the story I wanted to.

Moonshadow was, in many ways, an autobiographical work, but the autobiography was filtered through the phantasmagoria of Moon’s adventures.  It was my life, shoved into the deepest waters of my unconscious and then yanked up from the depths:  flapping like a fish, dripping with imagination and allegory.  One of the reasons I re-cast my life as a work of fantasy was because I always viewed existence itself as a work of fantasy.  I believed then—and believe even more now—that the best way to truly capture this fathomless, hallucinatory, profound, absurd and joyfully sacred thing we call Life is through stories of the fantastic.  So-called “realistic fiction” often spends so much time dwelling on the details of the “real world” (something I maintain doesn’t even exist), studying that ashtray in the corner of the room or that childhood trauma in the corner of the mind, that it misses the infinite layers and levels of psychic and spiritual wonder we walk through, and interact with, every day.  Put simply:  If life is a dream—and I believe it is—you’d better write a dream.  If life is a fairy tale—and, again, I believe it is—then you’d better write a fairy tale. 

So why, then, did I write Brooklyn Dreams?  It, after all, presents itself as the true-life adventures of a thinly-veiled version of myself, struggling through adolescence amidst the chaos and euphoria of an extraordinarily dysfunctional Brooklyn family:  not a spaceship, ghost, magic book or super-hero in sight.

Despite my belief that tales of the fantastic are often the best doorways into the truth of our lives, I’m a great admirer of authors who can create stories about the allegedly real and then push so deep into the soil of that world that they come out the other end in Wonderland.  Henry Miller could do that.  My literary hero, Dostoyevsky.  J.D. Salinger.  Isaac Bashevis Singer.  And, of course, my other literary hero, Ray Bradbury.  What?  You say Bradbury is a science-fiction writer?  Well, yes, he’s been justifiably celebrated for his extraordinary, and extraordinarily poetic, tales of outer and inner space; but my favorite Bradbury book, one of my favorite books of all time, is Dandelion Wine:  a simple novel that tells the simple tale of a single summer in the life of a twelve year old boy named Douglas Spaulding.  Only it’s not simple:  Bradbury fixes his X-ray eyes on the mundane aspects of Doug’s life, sees right through them and exposes the magic and wonder, the cosmic terror and cosmic joy, hiding beneath the surface.

As I finished work on the final issue of Moonshadow, I wondered if I could do the same with a coming-of-age saga of my own. 

Of course I didn’t grow up in the well-scrubbed, All American Green Town of Bradbury’s youth.  I grew up in the far noisier, messier and wildly unstable terrain of Brooklyn, New York, in an era—the late 1960’s and early 1970’s—when questioning the nature of reality was the order of the day.  As much as I adore Dandelion Wine—it’s forever imprinted on my consciousness, swimming in my bloodstream—I saw my gestating story as a fusion of Woody Allen’s Radio Days and Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha.  Mel Brooks meets Be Here Now.

I’d already attempted something like it, albeit on a small scale, with Moonshadow.  Every issue included sequences that I referred to as “Brooklyn Interludes”:  stories—some fabricated, some pulled directly from my own experiences, most of them a collision of the two—that detailed the life of Moon’s mother, Sheila Fay “Sunflower” Bernbaum.  I loved writing those sequences, loved exploring the world of Sheila’s Brooklyn childhood, conjuring the spirits of her lunatic relatives.  With Brooklyn Dreams I wanted to bring my own childhood, my own lunatic relatives, directly onto the stage, turning those interludes into the main act.  Using the eyes of youth to expose the miracles hidden beneath the Brooklyn streets.   

Whether I succeeded or failed is up to the reader to decide.  One thing I think is beyond dispute, though, is the brilliance of Glenn Barr’s illustrations.  I remember the book’s original editor, Mark Nevelow (who later turned the project over to Andy Helfer and Margaret Clark) showing me Glenn’s samples and my astonishment as I realized that this was the style I’d been envisioning for Brooklyn Dreams all along.  I’d been seeing pictures in my head and there they were, in front of me:  I knew immediately that I’d found my artist. 

No matter what I asked of Glenn—and I asked plenty—he always rose to the challenge and, more often than not, not only met it but transcended it.  His work was a breathtaking mixture of realism and cartoon, New York apartment buildings and surreal inner landscapes.  Somehow—and in the end, it’s the will of the gods, we really had nothing to do with it—Glenn and I fused our visions seamlessly and the result was one of the most satisfying collaborations of my career.  (A fellow writer once told me he’d always believed that the best graphic novels were birthed by a single creator, that a writer-artist team could never approach that kind of unified vision.  Brooklyn Dreams changed his mind.  And that’s a compliment I still treasure.)  Writing the original four-volume series was both exhilarating and terrifying:  I’d never exposed myself so nakedly in my work and I often felt like I was tottering on a high-wire, one trembling step away from falling.  But, with a little luck and grace—and the safety net of Glenn’s illustrations—I made it across to the other side.

Every writer has favorite literary children.  Looking back over a thirty year career, I can think of two or three other works that mean as much to me as Brooklyn Dreams.  I can’t think of any that mean more. 

© copyright 2011 J.M. DeMatteis

Friday, May 27, 2011


If you tuned in earlier tonight to watch "Scorn of the Star Sapphire" on Batman:  the Brave and the Bold, you might have noticed that my episode...wasn't there.  Someone—a member of Batman's infamous rogue's gallery, perhaps—swapped it out for a rerun of an earlier episode.  Who did it?  And for what cryptic purpose?  This is surely a mystery for the world's greatest detective, but, until Bruce Wayne himself calls me to explain, the best I can do is scratch my head and wonder why Cartoon Network would promote the episode with multiple preview clips and then pull it at the last moment.  I'm sure there's some logical reason and I hope the episode will be rescheduled soon.  Till then, my apologies for hyping The Show That Wasn't There.


My next episode of Batman:  the Brave and the Bold airs tonight at 6:30 pm on Cartoon Network.  As previously mentioned, this one—titled "Scorn of the Star Sapphire"—features Bats teamed with hero-of-the-moment Green Lantern.  It also features Wonder Woman, in what I believe is her first B & B appearance.  Here's a preview:

I've got another episode—my final one—coming up next week.  It's a fairly epic story that teams Bats with the Justice League International and the king of time travel, Rip Hunter.  It's one of my favorite scripts of the eight I've written for the show.  (Having a chance to write the animated versions of the Giffen-DeMatteis JLI might have something to do with it.) 

Check back tomorrow, if you're so inclined, and let me know what you thought of the GL story.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Contrary to Harold Camping’s prediction, the world didn’t end today.  That, of course, didn’t stop the media from covering this alleged story ad nauseam, nor did it stop the internet from spreading it like a particularly virulent disease (to be fair, a good percentage of the net-chatter was mockery, but we often mock that which we fear).  

We’re all, it seems, obsessed with Doomsday.  Just turn on your TV and watch Nostradamus predict the end of the world on the History Channel while the Weather Channel does its best to terrify us by predicting disasters that “could happen tomorrow.”

The news broadcasts—from NBC to CNN, NPR to Fox—are all about throwing mountains of coal into our collective furnace of fear.  Disaster looms around every corner, from the recalled headache pills in our medicine chests to the terrorists swarming our shores to annihilate us.  Some of these fears are rooted in reality, of course, but our mass media loves to put it all under a magnifying glass till these events are hideously distorted:  the better to scare you into raising their ratings.  Abandon hope, all ye who watch this channel.    

Our pop culture has become fear culture:  the action movie blockbuster has, more and more, become a gruesome parade of endless wreckage and loss of life, often on a global, if not a galactic, scale.  End of the world scenarios play out with such regularity in films and video games and, yes, comic books (my hands are far from clean:  I’ve destroyed my share of universes over the years) and it’s no wonder that, when some operatic preacher begins predicting that we’re all going down in a ball of fire (well, some of us:  the lucky few will be lifted up to Heaven by a God who apparently enjoys playing favorites), everyone stops and takes notice.  

But what if Camping was right?  What if the world did end today and some of us just didn’t notice?  (A moment while you scratch your head and wonder if my last brain cells have parachuted out on a suicide mission.)

I’ve written before about the idea—explored, in differing fashions, by both mystics and scientists—that the universe is just dreamstuff:  an infinite ocean of primal energy that’s only given form by our perceptions.  In other words, it’s all an illusion, tailored to, created by, the individual consciousness:  every one projecting our  dream-universes into the Void.  From my perspective, I’m manifesting the entire Creation, including you; from your perspective, you’re manifesting it all, including me.  (Which means, essentially, that right now you’re reading your own words, not mine.)  And with each choice we make, each mental step we take, each thought we send vibrating out into that ocean of energy, we birth new universes, an infinite stream of shimmering bubbles blown through the wand of our minds.  (Of course, in the end, it's all God dreaming through us and as us, but that's another essay for another time.)

So imagine Camping and his followers, all profoundly invested in this idea of Judgment Day and the Rapture, focusing their collective will and imagination (just like our old friend Green Lantern) on that ocean of energy and manifesting it.  Today, this very morning, they all found themselves raised up by the hand of God, soaring off into the Heaven they’ve always longed for.  Because that’s the dream they chose to manifest.

For those of us who didn’t buy into this dream, well—we’re still here, and we’ve dreamed up a Harold Camping who’s a failed prophet.  (I don't think this invalidates the faith of Camping and his followers—but it is further proof that God is far bigger than any one belief system.)  But where do we go from here?  Perhaps Camping has done us a valuable service.  Perhaps this mass focus on the End Times is a reminder for all of us to step back and ask a fundamental question:  What kind of world are we dreaming into being?  A world of suffering, where war never ends, where famine and disease and natural disasters dog us till it all really does “happen tomorrow”?  Or will we dream something better:  a world, a time, when peace and abundance, cooperation and compassion, flower across the planet?

The Golden Age, it’s been called.

Yes, doomsday scenarios have been around for as long as the human race has existed—they echo through all religions and spiritual paths—but they’re usually connected to paradise scenarios:  humanity reborn, either on Earth or in Heaven, into a new and glorious order.  From suffering comes redemption, from the ashes the Phoenix rises.  My problem is I've never had much faith in a God whose method of redeeming us is through annihilating us.  Why destroy the planet just to raise it up again?  Why inflict all that suffering?   

Back in the mid-eighties I wrote a Doctor Strange graphic novel—co-plotted and illustrated by my old friend Dan Green—called Into Shamballa that explored that question.  In it, Doctor Strange is ordered, by a group of spiritual sages called the Lords of Shamballa, to weave a spell that will obliterate three-fourths of mankind and usher in a new Golden Age.  “A cataclysm beyond imagining,” they tell Strange, “will leave the world a ravaged wasteland, burying the Old Humanity and birthing the New.”  Doc is resistant but, at first, simply assumes that these Cosmic Sages know more than he does; so he travels the globe assembling the multi-part spell.  In the end, though, he can’t do it; he refuses to do it—until he has an inner realization (prompted, he believes, by the inner voice of his guru, the Ancient One) that transforms his perspective completely.  The spell is completed and, to the astonishment of the Shamballese Lords, the world remains intact.  No Apocalypse, just another morning on Planet Earth.  “I saw,” Strange tells the bewildered Lords, “that your ultimate cataclysm will take place, not without...but within.  The purge you foretold will occur in every heart.  The fires you foresaw will burn in every soul.  The Golden Age you predicted will come to each man in his own time.

An interpretation that made far more sense to me.  But something still didn’t sit right:  Why, I eventually came to wonder, is this inner purge even necessary?  Why does every soul have to burn in fire, even if it’s only an internal one?  I saw how attached I’d been to the old model, the old belief that we’ve got to pay the price if we want to get the glory; but the universe (via the inner voice my own master, Meher Baba, who, strangely, was known as the Ancient One long before Dr. Strange creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko coined the name) finally dragged me, kicking and screaming, toward a more positive view; a perspective that said we can unfold through joy as easily as we can grow through suffering.  More easily.  (I don't claim to have mastered this path—not by a long shot—but just walking it has been transformative.)

Ten or so years ago I read a book by Gregg Braden, The Isaiah Effect, that explored a similar idea.  What if, Braden wrote—and I’m totally paraphrasing here (and, I hope, not distorting his point)—the ancient prophecies weren’t talking about a sequence of events (destruction, then rebirth; End of Days, then New Beginning)?  What if they were talking about a choice?  An opportunity to step over Harold Camping’s Apocalypse and walk straight through the gates of the Golden Age?  Braden talked about the power of our collective consciousness to initiate global transformation—a valid and valuable goal—but I think it goes even further than that.  If this world is literally a dream (and I believe, to the core of my being that it is), then isn’t it up to each of us to become lucid dreamers and choose the most beautiful dream we can?  To manifest the Golden Age—not in some distant future, not in some faraway Heaven, but here and now?

In concert with God (in whatever form you see Him, Her or It), we make a choice, every hour, every minute, every instant, about which cosmos we want to dream into being.  And each choice spins out a chain of events, a new world, a virgin universe.

Which means that today actually is Judgment Day.  

So what’s it going to be:  the Apocalypse or the Golden Age?  Heaven-on-Earth or endless Hell?  Which newscast are you going to anchor, what story are you going to tell, what movie are you going to direct?  Judgement Day is in your hands.  You can take everything I've written literally or metaphorically, but, either way, it's up to you to make your choice, create your cosmos, dream your dream.  I’ll go off and dream mine and, with a little luck and grace, perhaps our dreams will intertwine and manifest an even larger dream, a greater dream than we can individually imagine.  

As Into Shamballa's narrator observed at the end of Doctor Strange's adventure:  “Remember:  the Golden Age is now.  Remember:  We are all, each and every one of us, the Lords of Shamballa.”

©copyright 2011 J.M. DeMatteis

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Art and cover by KEVIN MAGUIRE
It’s time to “Bwah Ha Ha” all over again as this classic JLA team tells a lost tale from one of the JLA’s most popular eras. The Injustice Gang is back! Not the truly menacing, more recent incarnation, but their not-so competent predecessors. Still, when they stumble upon a device they should never be allowed to have, the results might prove more disastrous than if they actually knew what they were doing! A previously released story from the era rounds out the issue.
ONE-SHOT • On sale AUGUST 24 • 56 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T


Last night’s Masterclass at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art was an absolute pleasure:  My old and dear friend Danny Fingeroth—MoCCA’S Sr. VP of Education (Danny also co-curated the current Will Eisner exhibit, which you should go see right now)—poked and prodded me with fascinating questions and we spent two immensely enjoyable hours discussing the craft, and art, of writing for comics, television, film and novels.  I’m profoundly grateful to everyone who attended the class (especially those two guys who came all the way from Toronto):  As I’ve said before, spending a good part of my life alone in a room playing with my imaginary friends is an amazing way to make a living, but it’s nice to get out in the world occasionally and meet those living, breathing humans who read, and appreciate, my work.

I was surprised, and delighted, to find writer and producer John Semper in the crowd.  I worked for John years ago when he was producing the 90’s Spider-Man animated series at Fox.  (Among his many other credits, John wrote the English language script for Hayao Miyazaki’s classic animated film Kiki's Delivery Service—a movie my daughter and I watched over and over when she was younger.)  These days John is directing a live-action film based on his web series Creeporia:  here's hoping it’s a huge success for him.

Before the class, I had a mini Marvel Comics reunion with Danny (who was the Spider-Man Group Editor for many years), former Editor-in-Chief—and all around swell guy—Tom DeFalco, Alien Legion mastermind Carl Potts and writer/editor Glenn Greenberg.  It was wonderful catching up over dinner with this group of old friends I have so much respect and affection for.

Deep thanks to Danny—and the entire MoCCA staff—for making the evening so memorable. 

And now the bear returns to his cave to dream and write and dream some more.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


My MoCCA Masterclass—"Oh, the Humanity:  Writing Successfully Across Genres and Media"—is this coming Tuesday, May 17th, from 7—9 pm.  For more details, and to register, call 212-254-3511 or click right here.  

How's that for a soft sell?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


My next episode of Batman:  The Brave and the Bold is coming up in a few weeks on Cartoon Network and you can watch a couple of preview clips here.   The episode, called "Scorn of the Star Sapphire," features one of my all-time favorite comic book characters, Green Lantern.  (As I've said before, GL's formula—will plus imagination equals manifestation—doesn't just make for cool stories, it's a wonderful recipe for living our lives.)  The episode, of course, is timed to help build anticipation for the new Green Lantern movie that's coming out in June—and that's also the reason why DC Comics is re-releasing a favorite project of mine, Green Lantern: Willworld:  a surreal, and  fairly whimsical, tale about about the multi-dimensional nature of reality.  (The link above will take you to the original edition, still available over at Amazon.  You can find the new edition here.) 

is one of those stories where, within the context of a cosmic fantasy—it's really more like a children's book than a super hero story—I was able to share my views on life, the universe and everything.  But, as happy as I am with the story, it's the art—by the late, great Seth Fisher—that steals the show.  Seth was a massive, major talent:  the kind of artist who would take the script, funnel it through his outsized imagination and create a visual world that was both completely true to the story's intentions and yet utterly unique—and constantly surprising. 

Seth's death, at the age of thirty-three, was a genuine tragedy:  I suspect that, had he lived, he would have become one of the most celebrated fantasy artists around.  If you're a connoisseur of great comic book artwork—and I know you are—check out Willworld.  It's astonishing what Seth manifested with pen, ink, will and imagination.

©copyright 2011 J.M. DeMatteis

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Spent a few wonderful days at the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival and I have to thank Artistic Director Sean Wilson, Founding Director Neil Wilson, Program Coordinator Kira Harris and everyone on the festival staff for making my time in Ottawa an absolute delight, both personally and professionally.   One of the highlights of the trip was meeting Mike Carey—author of Vertigo’s The Unwritten, as well as the Felix Castor novels—and his wife Lin (who, under the pseudonym A.J. Lake, has written a fantasy adventure series for young readers called The Darkest Age).  Mike and I did a Masterclass on comics and graphic novels that lasted about an hour but could have gone on for several more.  (The picture below was taken by photographer Jowan Gauthier during the class.  I love that backdrop.)  I also had the pleasure of doing talks—and Imaginalis readings—at two local schools:  When you’re a writer of kids’ fantasy fiction, you just can’t beat the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a couple of hundred nine and ten year olds.

As a guy who, perhaps, spends too much time alone in a room playing with his imaginary friends, it was a real treat to get out into the world and interact with the folks who read my work—as well as fellow authors and literary enthusiasts.  The Ottawa festival goes on twice a year, every year, and if you’re a lover of books—as I suspect most of you reading this are—I urge you to attend.