Saturday, June 29, 2013


I want to offer a belated thank you to Nasser Rodriguez, his amazing wife, Alicia, and all the folks at the Texas Comicon for taking such good care of us last weekend:  Nasser and Alicia were the perfect hosts—kindly, and generously, seeing to our every need.

My wife and I flew in a few days early to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary and see the sights in San Antonio (a wonderful city; and, yes, I made it to the Alamo, pleasing the ten year old in my soul beyond words), after which it was three full days of comics, comics and more comics.  

It was a pleasure spending quality time with my fellow pros:  finally encountering Steve Niles face-to-face (after a couple of years as Twitter buddies), hanging out with Hulk legend Herb Trimpe, seeing Bernie Wrightson for the first time in what seems like centuries, getting reacquainted with Sean McKeever and having some wonderful conversations with novelist/comics scripter David Liss (I'm currently devouring his book The Twelfth Enchantment).

And the fans!  What a warm, heartfelt and deeply appreciative group.  Since I spend most of my time alone in a room playing with my imaginary friends, it’s always a profoundly touching experience when I meet the people who have read, and been moved by, my work.  Deep thanks to everyone who stopped by the table to talk and have their comics signed.

Let’s all do it again some time.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


This past weekend, at the Texas Comicon, I had a conversation with Steve Niles about the work of the great writer, Richard Matheson.  We talked about the man’s incredible range and the Matheson stories that meant the most to us.  (Steve, a passionate Matheson fan, adapted his classic novel I Am Legend into comic book form.)  On the flight home from San Antonio, I found myself at a window seat, looking out on the wing of the plane and wondering if, perhaps, there was something...strange out there.  This was, of course, a reference to one of Matheson’s most memorable stories—and one of the all-time great episodes of The Twilight Zone—”Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”  If you were born on Mars and have never seen it, “Nightmare” features William Shatner, in a career-defining performance, as a passenger fighting for both his life and his sanity on an airplane:  an unforgettable tale of personal horror and personal triumph.    

When I got home, I turned on my computer and saw the news that Richard Matheson passed away.  I’d say that reading this after referencing Matheson not once but twice in the preceding days was an eerie coincidence right out of the Zone—but there was nothing eerie about it.  Matheson’s work is part of the fabric of not just my consciousness, but the collective consciousness.  I’m sure I reference his stories regularly without even thinking about it.  There’s a good chance you do, too.  Maybe it’s the image of The Incredible Shrinking Man fighting for his life against a towering spider...or the transcendent afterlife adventures of What Dreams May Come? (my favorite Matheson novel).  Maybe you’ve been forever touched by the time-travel romance, Bid Time Return (adapted for film as Somewhere In Time) or forever scarred by the naked horror of Karen Black being hunted by a Zuni fetish doll in the TV movie Trilogy of Terror.  And who can forget the cynical newspaper reporter, Carl Kolchak, in the TV movie The Night Stalker, face wide with amazement as he says, “This nut thinks he’s a vampire!”  (And, of course, he is.) 

These are just a few of the dreams, both dark and light, that Richard Matheson has shared with us over the decades (when you have a moment, head over to his Wikipedia page and be astonished by the man's incredible body of work).  Matheson’s worlds—peopled by recognizable human beings who’ve stepped inadvertently into magic, miracle and nightmare—spread across television, film and the printed page; but I’d argue that no work of his has had a wider impact than his contributions to The Twilight Zone.

Just a few weeks ago my daughter and I decided to have a Zone mini-marathon and the first episode I wanted to see was a Matheson gem, “A World of Difference”:  one of the very best of the Zones that question both personal identity and the nature of reality.  Howard Duff is perfectly cast as a man trying desperately to escape an existence he believes is a lie and return to a life that everyone else claims is a madman’s delusion.  The moment when Duff is sitting in his office at work and an offscreen voice yells, "Cut!"—revealing the world we've been watching to be a movie set—is one of the most thrilling and disturbing in the series.

In all, Matheson contributed fourteen episodes to the show, including “Little Girl Lost” (when I was a kid, I’d often feel the wall beside my bed to make sure it was solid.  I had no intention of ending up like the girl in the story and rolling into another dimension)...the hour-long ”Death Ship”:  a science fiction/horror mashup that sends a chill down your spine and pierces your heart at the same time...”The Invaders,” in which Agnes Moorehead gives a brilliant, wordless performance as an old woman battling small-but-deadly aliens...“A World of His Own,” where Keenan Wynn plays a writer whose imagination literally brings his characters to life...and Matheson's first collaboration with William Shatner, “Nick of Time”:  a tale that delicately, and brilliantly, walks a fine line between the supernatural and the psychological.  (And who could forget that bobbing devil-head?)  

I bow to no one in my respect for Rod Serling—he’s a god in my writers’ firmament, a force of nature who influenced, astounded and inspired me as a child and continues to do the same today—but it takes nothing away from Serling’s achievement to say that Matheson was an essential part of The Twilight Zone’s success.  If Serling was the captain of the ship, Richard Matheson was the first officer.  Together they sailed through uncharted waters of the imagination and changed our lives in the process.   

We've lost a wonderful writer, one of the greats in his field—but that astonishing body of work echoes on and will, I suspect, continue to echo long after we’re gone. 

My heartfelt sympathies to Richard Matheson’s family and friends.

©copyright 2013 J.M. DeMatteis

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Word is out about the new monthly I'm doing with my frequent collaborators Keith Giffen and Kevin Maguire.  It's called Justice League 3000 and you can read an interview with Mr. Giffen and myself, where we discuss the book (without actually saying anything specific!), right here.  There'll be more details as we get closer to the October release date, but for now all I'll say is that if our excitement levels are any indication, this is going to be a terrific book.  But we won't really know till you read it, will we?  (Check out a couple of the initial character designs, done by Howard Porter, below.)

Speaking of interviews:  here's one, focusing on my Phantom Stranger series, that I did with Comicvine.  If you haven't been reading the PS series, the current issue—#9 (and wouldn't John Lennon love that?)—is a great jumping on point.  

And now, time to finish packing:  tomorrow we hop on our horses and head for San Antonio.

Friday, June 14, 2013


This Sunday, June 16th, I'll be appearing at the Albany Comic Con—a wonderful one-day show that's as far from the crowds and madness of SDCC and other comics mega-shows as you can imagine.  (Not knocking those shows at all: there's something to be said for crowds and madness.)  It's an intimate day where fans and creators can mingle and talk about...well, just about anything they'd like.  I'll be doing a panel in the afternoon—along with Ron Marz and David Rodriguez—called "The Art of Story"; but mostly I'll be hanging out at my table talking to fans.  If you're in the area, come join us. Admission is—take a deep breath, please—$5.00.  If that's not a bargain, I don't know what is!

Next weekend (June 21st—23rd), I'll be in San Antonio for Texas Comicon—along with Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson, Herb Trimpe, Geoff Darrow and many others—for another three days of signing, chatting and celebrating the medium we all love. The folks at TC have been incredibly warm and welcoming and I'm looking forward to attending a Texas convention for the first time since the 1980's.  (Which was only five or ten minutes ago, right?)  I'm also looking forward to visiting the Alamo, a place that loomed large in my mind when I was a cowboy-worshippin' young 'un, wandering the plains of Brooklyn.  (I must have read this book at least six times when I was a kid.)  If you live in or near San Antonio, please come by—and bring lots of books for me to sign.

Before I go, a quick reminder that next week also brings the release (in comics shops, Amazon gets it a little later) of the Adventures of Augusta Wind collected edition, a beautiful hardcover from those fine folks at IDW Publishing.  I'm very proud of this story and the more people know about it, and buy the collection, the better the chance that we'll be back with another series next year.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


I was having a discussion recently with a talented young writer about being a "hack":  a “hack,” in this case, was defined as anyone who takes a paying assignment, as opposed to working on a passion project; the classic starving artist, slaving away alone in his or her garret.  “If writing work that pays makes someone a hack,” I offered, “then most successful writers are hacks—in which case it’s an honorable title.” From my perspective, there’s nothing more honorable than feeding your family and making sure the bills are paid.

That said, I understand the eternal battle between so-called art and so-called commerce, writing passion projects versus work-for-hire; in fact, years ago, that creative tug-of-war plunged me into a minor crisis.  I’d just written Moonshadow and Blood:  two projects that helped me find my voice as a writer, that came from the deeps of my soul and imagination.  Those stories had nothing to do with Batman or Spider-Man and the denizens of their over-populated universes; no editor approached me and asked me to create them:  they were mine and mine alone.  (Even that wasn’t completely true, of course:  they belonged as much to the artists—Jon J Muth and Kent Williams—as they did to me.  But, between us, we owned those worlds and no one else could lay claim to them.)  In my heart of hearts, what I wanted then—and, to be honest, what I still sometimes want—is to just go off and write “my” stories and not have to play in anyone else’s sandbox.

I said pretty much that when I was on a panel at a convention in England.  “If I could have a career, support my family and never write another superhero story...another story that didn’t originate with me...then I would.”  A few minutes later, during the question-and-answer period, a guy in the audience got up and said (essentially):  “You know, I don’t really care if it’s a creator-owned title like Moonshadow or if it’s an issue of Spider-Man.  All that really matters to me is if it’s a good story.”

My jaw dropped a little, and a tiny piece of my skull might have blown off and hit the ceiling, because what he said was incredibly obvious, incredibly true, and I’d been so lost in my “artistic crisis” that I’d missed it.  The fundamental law of writing is this:  It’s all about the story.

Yes, there's a part of me that would always prefer to write originals, but if I'd followed that instinct throughout my career then a) I wouldn't have been able to support my family and b) I would have missed out on wonderful creative projects, some of which turned out to be among my very best, and most gratifying, work.  Kraven’s Last Hunt wouldn’t exist, I’d never have collaborated with Keith Giffen or written for film and television.  My life—not just creatively, but personally—would have been far less fulfilling than it is today.  

The key for me—whether I'm writing established characters or doing more personal projects—is the the commitment, the passion, I bring to the table.  As long as I'm pouring heart and soul into a piece of work, it really doesn't matter whether it’s commercial or personal—because it all becomes personal in the end.  I can show you Spider-Man stories where I revealed as much about myself, the intimate details of my life, my hopes and aspirations, as I did in my autobiographical graphic novel Brooklyn Dreams.  Perhaps it wasn’t as obvious to the reader because I was talking through Peter Parker and his cast, but the intimacy, the honesty, the passion was all there on the page. 

Here’s an uncomfortable truth:  Sometimes you labor over a piece, your Precious Personal Project, for weeks, months, years—and it dies in your hands.  All the creative CPR in the universe can’t save it.  And sometimes you're pressured by a ridiculous deadline, working feverishly, rushing out the next issue of The Cataclysmic Camel-Man...and it's better than anything you've ever done.  

It’s all about the story—and, as writers, we often know less about what's brilliant, what's hackwork, than the story itself does.  (It's as if there are the stories I want to tell and stories that want me to tell them—and they're not always the same thing.)  I've come to realize over the years—and I’ve written about it at length here at Creation Point—that stories have lives of their own and, whatever the tale’s origin point, my job is to wholeheartedly surrender to it and let it tell itself as best it can.  Then all questions of "good" and "bad," "hackwork" vs. "art," go right out the window.

I’m sure there are hacks out there, people who don’t give a damn, who just hurl words at an editor and wait for a check to come flying back at them, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met one.  The vast majority of writers I know—whether they’re laboring over their “masterpiece” or getting that script in as fast as they can because the mortgage is due—care passionately. 

Once you sit down at the computer and engage with your story, surrender to it, it doesn’t matter what your motivation is—so let other people worry about who’s a hack and who’s an artist.  It’s all about the story—and the story will take you where it needs to go.

©copyright 2013 J.M. DeMatteis