Friday, December 20, 2013


Long-time readers of this blog know that the two Christmas stories I love and cherish above all others are Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (especially the extraordinary 1951 movie version starring Alastair Sim) and Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (which may be my favorite movie of all time).  But I was recently reminded—thanks, Jack!—of another Christmas tale near and dear to my heart: the classic Twilight Zone episode, "Night of the Meek"—which features an honest and magical Rod Serling script, matched by an equally-honest and magical lead performance by the great Art Carney.  Since this is the time of giving, I present it here in its entirety.  No need to wait until December 25th—you can unwrap it right now.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013


On television they’re trotting out Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life and seemingly-infinite variations on A Christmas Carol.  

Here at Creation Point we have our own Yuletide tradition.  A few years ago—born out of my inordinate love for this heart-filling, soul-transforming, sacred and transcendent season—I wrote a short Christmas tale called The Truth About Santa Claus.  Since then, I’ve been offering it annually as a kind of cyber Christmas present:  my way of wishing all of you who visit this site the happiest of holidays and the most magical of Christmases.  I offer it again this year—along with a trio of illustrations whipped up last year by my friend and collaborator Vassilis Gogtzilas.  So grab a plate of Christmas cookies, pull a chair up close to the fireplace and enjoy.



He’d been thinking about it for days—ever since he heard Big Mouth Jenny Rizzo announce it on the school bus—and he didn’t believe a word of it, not one word.  (Well, maybe ONE.)  But Cody had to be sure, absolutely, positively sure—

—and that’s why he was hiding behind the couch at midnight on Christmas Eve.

His mother was there, asleep in his dad’s old easy chair, the reds and blues of the Christmas tree lights making her look peaceful and happy and impossibly young.

The tree, by the way, had not ONE SINGLE PRESENT underneath it.

That didn’t make sense.  If there WAS no Santa Claus, if his mother was the one who bought the presents, wrapped the presents, stacked them under the tree, then how come she hadn’t done it?  How come she wasn’t awake RIGHT NOW arranging them all?

He got scared.  Maybe there wasn’t going to BE a Christmas this year.  Maybe Mom had lost her job and they didn’t have any money and so she COULDN’T buy him any presents and—

And then Cody glanced over at the windows and noticed that it was snowing.

Or was it?

If that was snow, it was the WHITEST snow he’d ever seen.  It was snow as bright as moonbeams, as bright as sunlight, as bright as...


Quickly, but quietly (he didn’t want to wake his mother), he scurried to the window and looked out.

It was coming down and coming down and COMING DOWN all across town, whirling and whipping, spinning and gyrating, out of the night sky.  Glowing so brightly that it almost hurt his eyes to look at it.  And Cody saw that it certainly wasn’t snow, and it absolutely wasn’t rain, it wasn’t ANYTHING he’d ever seen before.  But each drop, no...each flake, no... each BALL of glowing WHATEVER IT WAS, seemed to pulse and spin, soar and vibrate, as if it were alive.

And the stuff, the magical WHATEVER IT WAS (and he knew now that it was magic.  He just KNEW), wasn’t collecting on the streets, wasn’t piling up on the rooftops.  It was MELTING INTO (that’s the only way he could put it:  MELTING INTO) every house (no matter how small) and apartment building (no matter how big).

EVERY house and apartment building.


He looked up.

And there it was:  coming RIGHT THROUGH THE CEILING of Apartment 3F, HIS apartment, swirling, like a tornado of light, around the chandelier and then down, down, down—


At first he almost yelled out a warning, “Mom!  Wake up!  MOM!”  But something made him stop.

Instead of yelling he ducked back behind the couch and watched, eyes peering over the top.

Watched as the light-tornado wheeled around his mother, so fast, so bright, that he could hardly even SEE her.  But he COULD see her.  Most of her, anyway.

And what he SAW...

The light poured in through the top of her head, through her eyes, through her chest, through her toes.  It lifted her up—still sleeping!—and carried her out of her chair and across the room.  And as she floated—

—she started to change:

Her hair became white, her nose became red, her belly ballooned like the most pregnant woman in the history of the world.  Her feet grew boots, her head grew a hat, her nightgown grew fur.  An overstuffed sack sprouted, like a lumpy angel’s wing, from her shoulder.  And then—

AndthenandthenandTHEN, it wasn’t his mother there at all, it was him, it was SANTA CLAUS!  STANDING RIGHT THERE IN CODY’S LIVING ROOM!  Santa Claus who, with a laugh (exactly like the laugh Cody always knew he had, only better) and a twinkle in his eyes (exactly like the twinkle he’d always imagined, ONLY BETTER) reached into his sack and pulled out package after package, present after present, and placed them, carefully, like some  Great Artist contemplating his masterpiece, under the tree.

When he was done, Santa Claus stood there, grinning and shaking his head, as if he couldn’t BELIEVE what a beautiful tree this was, how wonderful the presents looked beneath it.  As if this moment was the greatest moment in the history of Christmas, as if this apartment was the only place in all the universes that such a Christmas could ever POSSIBLY happen.

And then the MOST amazing thing happened:

Santa Claus turned.

He turned slowly.  So slowly Cody couldn’t even tell at first that he was moving at all.  And—slowly, SLOWLY—those twinkling eyes, that Smile of smiles, fixed itself on the two boy-eyes peering, in wonder, over the top of the couch.

And what Cody felt then he could never really say:  only that it was better than any present anyone could ever get.  Only that it made his heart so warm it melted like magical WHATEVER IT WAS, trickling down through his whole body.  Only that it made him want to reach out his arms and hug Santa Claus, hug his mother, hug his father (and FORGIVE him too, for running out on them) and his aunts and uncles and cousins (even his Cousin Erskine who was SUCH a pain) and Big Mouth Jenny Rizzo (who really wasn’t so bad most of the time) and all his  friends and teachers and the kid in his karate class who always smelled SO BAD and, embarrassing as it sounds, it made him want to hug everyone and everything in the whole world including rabbits and snakes and trees and lizards and grass and lions and mountains and, yes, the EARTH HERSELF.

Cody wanted to hold that gaze, to keep his eyes locked on Santa’s, forever. (Or longer, if he could.)  Wanted to swim in that incredible feeling, drown in it, till GOD HIMSELF came down to say:  “Enough!”

Except that he blinked.  Just once.  But in that wink of an eye, Santa was gone.  Cody’s mother was asleep in the chair again and, for one terrible moment, the boy thought that the whole thing must have been a dream.

Except, under the tree:  THERE WERE THE PRESENTS.

Except, out the window:  THERE WAS THE SNOW, the rain, the magical WHATEVER IT WAS, shooting up, like a blizzard in reverse, from every house, every apartment building.  Shooting up into the heavens, gathering together like a fireball, like a white-hot comet—

—and fading away into the night:  going, going...


Without so much as a tinkling sleigh-bell or a “Ho-ho-ho.”

Not that it mattered.

Cody looked at his mom.

Cody kissed her.

“I love you,” he said.  And he was crying.  Happy tears.  Christmas tears.  Like moonbeams, like sunlight.  Like stardust.

Mom stirred in the chair, smiled the softest sweetest smile Cody had ever seen. “I love you, too,” she said.

And then she drifted back to sleep.

Cody sat at her feet, warming himself, warming his SOUL, by the lights of the tree.

And soon, he, too, was drifting off to sleep.  And as he drifted, a wonderful thought rose up, like a balloon, inside him.  Rose, then POPPED—spreading the thought to every corner of his mind.  Giving him great comfort.  Great delight:

“One day,” the thought whispered, “when you’re all grown-up, when you have children of your own.  ONE DAY,” the thought went on...

“It will be YOUR TURN.”

Merry Christmas.

Story ©copyright 2013 J.M. DeMatteis
Art ©copyright 2013 Vassilis Gogtzilas

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I've written about my love of All Things Sinatra here before, but there's nothing I could say that this wonderful television special, from the mid-1960's, doesn't say far more eloquently.  The magic is in the Voice.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I recently had the honor, and pleasure, of writing the introduction to the newest Mice Templar hardcover collection—the Harvey Award winning epic fantasy from the talented team of Bryan J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming and Victor Santos—and I'd like to share it with you.  If, after reading my essay, you feel an irresistible urge to order the book, just click here:  I don't think you'll regret it.  Onward!


Worlds Within Worlds

I was a teenager when I discovered Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I’d been a fan of fantasy and science-fiction, and a comic book obsessive, as far back as I could remember (blame Dr. Seuss, Rod Serling and Superman)—but I’d never encountered anything quite like The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King.  Working my way—slowly, deliciously—through those three massive volumes, I encountered a fictional world that was not only utterly different than the world around me, but, in so many ways, more real.  More true.  All fiction is make-believe, of course—J.D. Salinger is as much a fantasist as Ray Bradbury, they just come at the work from different angles—but Tolkien’s achievement was, to my young eyes, unparalleled:  He created an entire world—a rich, fertile universe filled with multiple races and cultures, a detailed history, unforgettable characters—from the ground up.  I remember being stretched out on the living room couch, stunned and heartbroken as I turned the final page.  The experience was such a unique and memorable one that I haven’t returned to the trilogy since:  I don’t think any rereading could possibly match the magic of that first journey.

I had a similar experience, years later, reading the Narnia series—written by Tolkien’s friend and fellow Oxford professor,  C.S. Lewis—aloud to my son.  When we reached the end—after a memorable voyage through seven books—there was absolute silence in the room.  After a few moments I asked Cody, “Are you sad that it’s over?”  He could hardly answer, just nodded his head.  “I am, too,” I replied.  And I was.  

That’s the power of great fantasy (whether it’s Baum’s Oz or Zelazny’s Amber, Bradbury’s Mars or Serling’s Twilight Zone):  it transports you, alters your consciousness, peels apart the (so-called) reality we know and—most important—reassembles it in a form that serves not just as an escape, but as a way to see our own world with new, and more wonder-filled, eyes.  I’ve long maintained that writing fantasy (and, yes, that’s a broad term, covering a wide range of stories) is, perhaps, the best way to capture the truth about the universe around us.  In my experience, once you peel back the Skin of the World and look, really look, you’ll see that we’re all living in a universe as filled with magic and miracles as any found within the pages of a book.  Our lives are fantasy—of the highest order.

Of course creating the world-building kind of fantasy that Tolkien specialized in isn’t easy.  The bookstore shelves are filled with attempts that, however enthusiastic their creators may have been, just don’t convince.  We may be initially intrigued, but we’re not transported; the alternate reality just doesn’t stick, doesn’t take root in the heart.  I’ve tried my hand at it on several occasions and I’ll leave it up to my readers whether I’ve succeeded or not.  What I do know is that there are few pleasures in the writing life more exhilarating, more intoxicating, than unlocking that door in the unconscious that connects to worlds undreamed of, voices unheard, stories untold.  When I was writing the children’s fantasy Abadazad, it felt to me (no, it didn’t just feel that way, I absolutely believed it) that ‘Zad was a very real place, located on the far side of Forever, and that its inhabitants had somehow chosen me to tell their tale.  I imagined someone hunched over a kind of magical teletype machine, click-clacking away, transmitting the details of the story across time and space into my head.

I imagine that Bryan J.L. Glass feels that way when he’s working on Mice Templar, because the tales he’s woven over the past ten years—abetted by fellow dreamers Michael Avon Oeming (who received the first transmissions from Karic’s world and set this spectacular story in motion) and Victor Santos—don’t feel “created.”  You don’t get the sense of a writer sitting at his computer trying to fit together pieces of a puzzle, figuring out clever bits for this character or that, wracking his brain for a twist in the plot or a surprise ending.  When you read Bryan’s stories it feels as if you’ve had a veil between dimensions pulled back, as if you’ve been yanked, body and soul, into a world that—like Tolkien’s—becomes somehow more real than the one around us.  Bryan’s not a writer:  he’s a channeler.

When I first encountered Mice Templar, several years ago, I had my reservations.  Talking mice?  Hey, I love Mickey Mouse as much as the next person—maybe more—but a fantasy story about heroic, sword-wielding rodents wasn’t a concept that got my heart beating or excited my imagination.  Which just goes to prove the fruitlessness of approaching art, and life, with preconceived notions.  To my surprise, Mice Templar wasn’t some fairy tale romp through magical forests—although you will find your share of magical forests in these pages—it’s a complex and fascinating epic about complex and fascinating characters, battling their way through a richly-imagined, and utterly convincing, universe.  Strangely, the fact that we’re immersing ourselves in the adventures of talking animals doesn’t pull us out of the story, it somehow pulls us in deeper, makes it all-the-more believable.  (I can’t explain that, but it’s true.)  Of course, channeling a story is one thing—but taking the raw material teletyped across Creation and crafting it into a coherent and engaging tale is quite another.  To successfully mold a fantasy world as powerful and persuasive as the one in Mice Templar, you need to be both a dreamer and a craftsman.  Page after page, Bryan proves himself an expert at both.

But this is comics, after all, and words can only take us so far.  Someone has to sit down and translate visions into images.  Someone has to take a world that exists in the ethers and give it life on the printed page.  Michael Oeming was the first to do that—and he did it brilliantly.  The volume you hold in your hands was brought into being by the astonishingly-gifted Victor Santos (aided and abetted by the vibrant color work of the equally gifted Serena Guerra).  Drawing comic books is fun, no doubt, but it’s also a difficult and challenging profession.  Just being able to draw isn’t enough.  (I’m sure we’ve all read comics that were beautiful to look at but utterly confusing.  Worse:  they were lifeless.  Pretty pictures, I’m sorry to say, just aren’t enough.)  An artist needs, first and foremost, to tell a visual story, to move the eye (and heart!) fluidly, effortlessly, from panel to panel, creating the perfect gesture, the ideal expression—eliciting awe and wonder in the big moments and a range of complex emotions in the quieter ones.  Victor does all that and so much more.  In the end, prose and pictures, Glass and Santos, fuse into one, creating something unique that neither could have achieved alone.  And that is the magic of the best comic books.   

That is the magic of Mice Templar.

©copyright 2013 J.M. DeMatteis 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Last year I wrote about my memories of December 8, 1980, the night John Lennon died—and, as that dark anniversary approaches again, I don’t see any need to repeat myself.  Instead, let’s remember Lennon, and welcome the Christmas season, in the best possible way:  by listening to, and celebrating, the man's extraordinary music.

Back in 1971, John and his wife, Yoko Ono, took the bare bones of a traditional folk song called "Stewball" and transformed it into a Christmas classic.  "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" is a heartfelt mix of clear-eyed Lennon honesty and starry-eyed Lennon idealism.  It's also—in my hyperbolic opinion—one of the greatest Christmas songs ever written.