So, yes, JMD the fan has a long-standing, deep connection to Bats but I honestly didn’t think JMD the writer had much of a history with the character—after all, I’ve never written a Batman solo series—until I took a look back at my career and discovered that I've written more Batman tales than I ever realized. Many more. And it started with, of all things, a coloring book.
“The Mystery of the Million Dollar Joke” is probably the first superhero story I was paid to write. And, yes, there’s a genuine kid-friendly story in there, waiting for you to bring it to life with your Crayolas. Paul Levitz offered me the gig when I was first starting out at DC and I stayed up all night, hunched over the typewriter (remember those?), banging out the script. If memory serves, I was paid a few hundred dollars for my efforts—which was just fine in 1979—and I still have a copy of the book tucked away on a shelf in my office.
In 1993, I came at the Bat sideways, via the Superman mythos, for an Elseworlds story called Speeding Bullets (art by the hugely-talented Eduardo Barretto). SB posited a universe where the rocket from Krypton was found not by the Kansas Kents but by the Gotham Waynes. The baby was christened Bruce and, after being traumatized by his parents‘ murder, the boy grew up to be a flying, super-powered—and extremely angry—Batman. And, if Kal-El was Batman, how could Lex Luthor not be the Joker?
The next year, the amazing Mark Bagley and I had the pleasure of teaming up Batman with my old pal Peter Parker in Marvel’s Spider-Man/Batman: Disordered Minds. This was followed, two years later, by DC’S Batman/Spider-Man: New Age Dawning (beautifully illustrated by Graham Nolan). To say that it was a kick teaming up two of my all-time favorite characters—and doing it for both Marvel and DC—may be the Geek Understatement of the Century.
I’ve also had the pleasure of writing Batman in animated form—first with multiple episodes of Justice League Unlimited and then with seven episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I’m genuinely honored to have been a part of both those classic shows, but I got a special kick out of writing for B & B because it was so reminiscent of the square-jawed, over-the-top Batman I adored as a kid.
I’ve got a couple more Batman-related projects in the pipeline, but I can’t say anything about them till they’re officially announced. “Comic books?” you ask. “Animation?” I’d love to tell you, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. All I can say is that my dance with the Dark Knight isn’t over yet—and I hope we keep dancing for years to come.
Happy Birthday, Bruce—and many more!
©copyright 2014 J.M. DeMatteis
Batman and his pals ©copyright 2014 DC Entertainment