SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
Fun interview! I was kind of surprised you hadn't read "For the Man Who Has Everything" until you were tasked with adapting it for JLU, but I'm guessing you were probably balls deep into writing Moonshadow or something when that Superman annual came out.The fact that you weren't daunted by its reputation paid off, because I think that episode is a highlight of the entire JLU series and it's definitely the best film adaptation of any Alan Moore comic (by far).Granted, all I know of Alan Moore the person is simply based on various interviews, and even though (at this point in time) he's got a... curmudgeonly reputation, I like to imagine that if he ever watched that episode, he wouldn't roll over in his grave.Or, who knows, maybe he'd call upon his ancient Macedonian snake god to cast a pox upon all of us. Either one.
I think I heard through the grapevine that Moore was actually pleased with the episode, Dru...but don't quote me! I only met Alan once, years ago—and very briefly—and he didn't seem like the kind of cut who'd cast a pox upon anyone. : )And, yes, I must have been otherwise engaged when that Annual came out.I remember reading Moore's "last" Superman story and really enjoying it, but not "For the Man..."
I actually didn't read "For the Man Who Has Everything" until many years after I saw the JLU adaptation. And I just got around to reading "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" last year. Reading the source material gave me an even deeper appreciation for how well you adapted the story, JMD. As far as Alan Moore's temprament goes, I prefer to think he's just having fun with interviewers, and sometimes the humor gets lost in translation in text. But honestly, I don't know, I just doubt that he takes himself as seriously as some would suggest. In fact, if I understand him correctly, he thinks DC took him TOO seriously, and used WATCHMEN and SWAMP THING as templates for their approach to superheroes when it was never intended that way. I'd agree with him (paraphrasing) that superhero comics were originally intended to expand kids' imaginations, and it's gotten problematic as they've moved further away from that understanding. I firmly believe that comics can cater to any audience and any subject, but the pros of aiming mainstream heroes like Superman and Batman at a larger audience outweigh the perceived limitations. I can see why fans react to Alan Moore so strongly, though I wasn't a DC fan in the 80s so it's harder for me to say what his work meant at that point in time. I think it's great that he put out such rich, sophisticated work, and it's problematic that well-intentioned comics lovers used that to increasingly marginalize kids in the name of 'legitimizing' comics. In hindsight, "comics aren't just for kids anymore" was a horrible message, because comics were never JUST for kids. If you write a great superhero narrative for a six year old, you'll win over the adults, too. Maybe the difference between BROOKLYN DREAMS and ASM 700's "Spider-Dreams" would serve as a good point of comparison.They both express similar philosophical concepts, but one is written for an adult audience, and the other for all ages. And they both benefit from knowing their audience and how best to get the message across to them. Proof that we can all have our cake and eat it, too!--David
Interesting thoughts, as always, David. Moore seems to be a fascinating character and his contributions to our medium have insured him a place in comics history. (His SWAMP THING remains my favorite of all his work.)
I just read the following from an interview with Len Wein about PS's book:LW: I helped bring back back The Phantom Stranger (created in the 50s) in the 70s hoping to work on the book. I just finished dialoguing the next issue of plot for the current Phantom Stranger with J.M. DeMatteis. I was supposed to do a couple of upcoming issues which doesn’t look like its going to happen, since I think the book is not long for this world.Is my favorite character's book getting the axe? Or is it just "on the bubble", where it usually is?The comment is at: http://comicsbeat.com/wondercon-i-didnt-know-that-about-len-wein-also-phantom-stranger-may-end/Rick
I'm not at liberty to comment on that, Rick. But I can say that the Stranger still has some life in him yet. And there are still some very interesting stories to come.
Since you will be working with Len Wein on some upcoming Phantom Stranger issues, I was hoping you could do a small favor for me. It's at the end of this comment. I still remember when I first encountered PS. The cover has what appeared to be a strangely shaped Swamp Thing, with some odd goings-on under The Phantom Stranger logo. I started reading. The story involved our hero who had his heart cut out, but was still alive, and he showed the miscreants what happened to those who did evil by talkjng them through the effects of their actions. I was enthralled by the story. Years later, I learned it was the first one by Len Wein.Naturally, I kept reading PS. For good measure, I bought the old back issues, and then, all the First Series issues (which were always hard to find). Even after I stopped regularly buying comics for 15 years, I would still sometimes see an issue with PS on the cover on some rack and buy it. With the return of PS, I came back to comics, if only to continue reading these stories. As you know, I am a dedicated fan; and I really appreciate how you have continued his tradition.So the favor I would ask of you is this: please give him my heartfelt thank you for his writing. I'm now an adult, who has gone on to raise a family and become a pretty successful attorney, but I have never forgotten the pleasures his writing gave me. Rick Baron.
Consider your message passed along, Rick!
BTW, JMD, have you ever read the Doug Moench/ Kelly Jones run on BATMAN from the 90s? If not, I suspect you'd love it, as they bring in a lot of supernatural characters into Batman's world, including Ragman, the Spectre, and Etrigan (who teams up with Joker). There is a new hardcover that collects the first half of their run. Or check out the singles on comixology, starting around BATMAN 517 (the first issue that isn't part of a larger crossover). Best,David
Y'know, I don't think I did, which is odd, because I'm a fan of both those guys! Sounds like it's right up my alley.
It is also very much the man over the bat... even if he is rarely out of costume. Character stuff. And issue (let me check cover brower) 5s7 is an interesting look at Mr. Wayne's view of Depression.Jack
Sounds great. Thanks, Jack!
sorry that was issue 547Jack
Your accuracy is appreciated, Jack!
Well, given how crazy the numbering system is these days, I don't doubt we could see an issue #5s7 in the near future! :)I'm not surprised you missed out on the Moench/Jones run, JMD, because it was a well kept secret at a time when the big story was still the fallout from Knightfall. But they wisely backed off from big crossovers for a while and let the creative teams carve out their own niche after two to three straight years of pass-the-baton chapters. The stuff holds up remarkably well, basically limited to one-shots or two-and-three parters, but nothing too vast. They know the story they want to tell, they tell it, and move on. So the upshot is that you don't need to be plugged into the continuity of the time, and you can pretty much pick up any storyline that piques your interest. I love that approach. Best,David
I love that approach, as well, David. I understand the need for Big Crossovers, but I've always preferred (both as a reader and a writer) to see creators follow their own unique vision in more self-contained stories.
It would have been interesting if The Clone Saga had utilized a format similar to BRAND NEW DAY, where rotating teams tell a complete story arc instead of sharing it. I love the Clone Saga, warts and all, but the stories that really blew me away were the Parker Legacy backups, THE LOST YEARS, and REDEMPTION, where Ben Reilly had the benefit of a strong authorial voice behind him. It's next to impossible to build up to a iconic moment like Ben Reilly slumped in the rain, realizing he's the clone, when more than one person is cooking up the story beats. And that's why, on the other hand, a guy like Judas Traveller got shorted, because it seemed like maybe the other writers didn't know what to do with him. And that's not their fault, anymore than you getting handed symbiote-heavy plots when you're not invested in Venom and Carnage. It just works best when writers get to stick with what excites them the most. --David
I couldn't agree more, David! (But you already knew that!)
Just this past weekend, I watched that one episode of JLU, the one about Mr. Miracle and Big Barda teaming up with Flash. I hadn't seen it in a while, but man, that episode is so good. Mr. Miracle and Barda are two of my favorite DC characters. Now I gotta dig through my boxes and find those issues of Mr. Miracle you wrote back in the day.
Glad the episode holds up, Dru. That's one of my absolute favorites. (Of course, being a massive Kirby fan, it had to be.)Let me know what you think when you read those old MR. MIRACLE issues.