Thursday, January 29, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOONSHADOW



In my early years in comics I blundered along, trying desperately to find my own voice as a writer and ending up sounding like a damaged clone, created from the badly-mixed DNA of Stan Lee, Steve Gerber, Len Wein, Roy Thomas and half-a-dozen other comic book writers I admired.  It’s not that my work was bad—well, actually, some of it was fairly horrendous—it’s just that I hadn’t found the way to fully express myself in the form.  Looking back, I think I was trapped by the super-hero genre itself.  As long as I was writing about the Defenders or Captain America, I would, in some way, be parroting stories, and styles, I’d been absorbing all my life.

Moonshadow changed that—and changed the course of my creative life in the process.

Someone (and for the life of me, I can’t remember who!) once said that whatever story you’re working on should be written as if it’s the only one you’ll ever tell—pouring all your thoughts, feelings, ideas, ideals, passions, philosophies, hopes and dreams...every iota of Who You Are...into it.  That’s what I did with Moonshadow.  It allowed me to step outside the Marvel-DC mindset and discover my own voice:  over the course of those twelve issues I stopped being a “comic book writer” and become a writer.

Of course it didn’t hurt that I was working with Jon J Muth, as brilliant an artist—and wonderful a collaborator—as the medium has ever seen.  His work always challenged me,  dared me to reach beyond my comfort zone and be better than I’d ever been.  I hope I did the same for him.  Jon J and I had three wonderful editors watching our backs—Laurie Sutton, Margaret Clark and 
the late, great Archie Goodwin—all of whom allowed us to tell our story in exactly the way we wanted, providing tremendous support and encouragement throughout our entire run. 

I also have to tip my hat to our extraordinary letterer, Kevin Nowlan, and two equally-extraordinary artists, Kent Williams and George Pratt, who pitched in  to help Jon J when deadlines got tight.  And let’s not forget Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, who gave my oddball pitch his approval, then sent me over to Archie G.  “This is an Epic comic,” Jim said.  And he was right.

According to this post, the first issue of Moonshadow came out on Janurary 29, 1985—which means that Moon, “Sunflower,” Ira, Frodo, the G’l-Doses, the Unkshuss family and all the rest are thirty years old today.  I wish them—and everyone who took that life-changing journey with me—a very happy birthday. 

Pop!  Poof!  Ping!




©copyright 2015 J.M. DeMatteis

64 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for Moonshadow.

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  2. Tip of the hat to the Moonshadow crew on this 30th birthday!! It remains a personal favourite for me and it's a book I try to reread every couple of years. A landmark work that gets far less attention than it should seeing as it was one of the most lovely, sophisticated, and touching pieces of graphic storytelling at the time and on this side of the pond (also preceding Watchmen and Dark Knight for those of you keeping track).

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    1. Thanks so much , Mike!

      There was something in the air in the mid-eighties, inspiring all of us to push the boundaries in new ways. An exhilarating time and a hugely creative one.

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  3. As odd and unusual a comic as I have ever read, and far better than just about anything else. Happy birthday to a masterpiece and its creator.

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  4. You already know this is my favorite book. Of course it being 30 years ago makes me feel a little old, but I don't care. I'll read it again this weekend. Happy Birthday, Moonshadow!

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    1. I suspect that MOON being thirty years old makes us ALL feel a little old, Douglas. That said, deep thanks for the good wishes.

      Here, let me cut you a slice of (cyber) birthday cake...!

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  5. Thank you, Scott. Coming from you, that means a LOT. Hope all's well!

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  6. Happy birthday! I didn't read Moonshadow until about ten or eleven years ago, but it's definitely one of my favorite comics by you. Any chance for an anniversary edition deluxe hardcover?

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    1. No plans at the moment, Dru, but I'd really love to see a nice hardcover reprinting. We may not make it in 2015, but I'm hoping for next year...

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    2. Wasn't Vertigo's "Compleat Moon Shadow" in Hardcover?


      Jack

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    3. Nope. Graphitti Designs did a signed, limited edition hardcover of the Epic Comics collection that's been long out of print. Never had a hardcover of the Vertigo collection.

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    4. I lent my old beat-up copy of the Epic trade (non-signed) to an associate of mine back in 2005 when we were doing some comic lending. He liked it so much that he gave a very interesting critique, which I have shared here before, and then about a year later ordered the Compleat Moonshadow from our local comic shop. i got a lot of jive about it since I was the one who brought him in, it was a specialty order, he was living out of town for a few months, and it was $40.00. I just assumed it was a hardcover, since it was only 12 issues and Farewell Moonshadow, so such a hefty price seemed odd to me. To be fair though I bought mine used and already beat to Hell, so it was considerably less.

      Also, I got the first issues signed by the writer last May, and to do that I tracked down an individual copy of the epic printing. Why? Because for real important comics I try to get an extra copy to be signed so I can (at some point) but it on display, and have one to read. It will be along side my signed reprints of almost all of MArvel's Silver age's first appearances and the reprint of the first appearance of Thanos signed by Mr. Starlin.

      Also, I remember you said it was originally going to be a superhero story. what would that have been like?

      Look, you wrote stories a lot of people really like and connect to, get over it. I know that you want to be the misunderstood artist, who is unappreciated in his own time, and gets to curse the great unwashed for not getting his brilliance, buit that isn't your place in the world. Just deal.

      Something about epic did keep things out of the public eye though. It's very strange.

      Jack.

      P.S. I still really love the sliding tales of Ira's origin. The constant lies were cool. I should reread that.

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    5. I loved the non-origin origin of Ira, too, Jack.

      I was just saying, in the answer below this, that my original, super-heroism conception was kind of Jim Starlin meets Kurt Vonnegut by way of CANDIDE. Ira certainly was born from Kirby's Oberon and Starlin's Pip—but went on to become his own man. If he was a man!

      I'm very glad I tossed out the superhero elements along the way.

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  7. I was wondering what was the genesis for Moonshadow? Was something you and Jon Muth dreamed up together or did he come in after the initial idea/script did you go to him to do the art?

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    1. MOON was an idea I started playing with when I was a teenager. In the early versions, the main character was calle Stardust, the Ira character was named Kilkker and it had a cosmic superhero element. Kind of Jim Starlin via Kurt Vonnegut. with a little CANDIDE thrown in for good measure. Obviously, it evolved as I got older and had changed considerably when I pitched it to Marvel.

      (Before I took it to Marvel, I pitched it to Karen Berger at DC. She loved it and wanted Dave Gibbons (pre-WATCHMEN) to draw it. In some parallel universe, that version exists.)

      I found Jon J through a mutual friend, inker Dan Green, and his artistic approach was one of the things that helped me find the tone and voice for my story. With a different artist at the helm, I don't know if we'd be talking about MOONSHADOW today.

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  8. Have you ever thought of putting a bibliography section on this site?

    Also, working with Giffen and McGuire on a project, in the usual sitcom style, but without the superhero element? There are a lot of genres out there...

    Jack

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    1. No, never thought of it. I think the Internet Comic Book Database has a pretty complete (though not completely accurate) listing of my work.

      I'd work with Keith and Kevin on pretty much ANYTHING. Maybe a Western...?

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  9. I am currently re-reading your Defenders and Captain America (up to issues 104 & 267 respectively- they are synched up for the crossover which I am getting to this weekend). There were a lot of your unique qualities in these series even before Moonshadow brought your career to new heights. You put so much humanity in your characters and the challenges that they faced in your stories served to emphasize what made each one who he or she was. When you evoked other writers, it made me like your work all the more, as it showed me that you admired the same works that I myself did. Moonshadow was an amazing leap forward and cemented me as a JMD reader for the next hundred years, but I really have a fondness for your pre-Moon output as well. Also a huge kudos to your artists in those first years: Zeck on Cap, Perlin/Sinnott on Defenders and Gammill on MTU- not to mention Dick G on Aquaman John B on Conan and the parade of greats including Ditko and Infantino on your earliest shorts. Count me in for a new edition of a hardcover Moonshadow--my Graphitti edition has been re-read about a dozen too many times!

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. I didn't mean to be dismissive of that early work...I poured heart and soul into it, after all...just pointing out that I hadn't quite FOUND myself yet. I'm very fond of the series you mention—especially DEFENDERS, which, in its weird way, was a kind of rehearsal for MOONSHADOW. It was a series that allowed me to put a personal spin on the stories, to push boundaries and play. If I hadn't experimented with DEFENDERS, I wouldn't have been hungry for (or able to write) something like MOON. And working with Don Perlin was a total delight. What a great guy and enthusiastic collaborator.

      And, yes, I have been blessed to work with some of the greatest artists in comics. I am in awe of everyone you mention.

      Okay, so if we all close our eyes and concentrate really hard, can we manifest that MOONSHADOW hardcover?

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    2. Now if we all chant that together...

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  10. Loved reading Moonshadow again in Meherabad few years back! Love from Myrtle where we be hangin with the "real" Ira :)

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    1. Say "hi" to Real Ira for me, Ken. I was supposed to be in MB this week (instead of home with all the snow), but some last-minute work-stuff forced me to cancel.

      Soon, I hope.

      Hope all's well in Kenville!

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  11. We had quite a bit of snow here in Kalamazoo so I stayed inside and reread Moonshadow. I decided to go with the individual, bagged issues as my Compleat Moonshadow is autographed now and I don;t want to put any additional wear and tear on it.

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    1. I was snowed in yesterday, too, Douglas. Winter has definitely arrived.

      Hope you enjoyed your time with MOON.

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    2. Always. Did you see there is a new Moonshadow? http://www.amazon.com/Moonshadow-Rise-Ninja-Simon-Higgins/dp/0316055328/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1422970713&sr=8-3&keywords=Moonshadow apparently he is a ninja.

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    3. Well, there goes our sequel! : )

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    4. wasn't there already a sequel called "Farewell MoonShadow?"



      Jack

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    5. Yep! I was making a joke. Unless of course you're making a joke, in which case me explaining the fact that I made a joke is...

      Never mind. : )

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  12. I'm just going to voice my concern here that I do not see any of your series continuing in June at DC. While the loss of Justice League 3000 doesn't bother me too much I am worried about Justice League Dark. I think I would have serious issues with spending my months Justice League Dark-less.

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    1. JUSTICE LEAGUE 3000 isn't gone, Douglas. We're just rebooting the next month with JUSTICE LEAGUE 3001. Same team, same lunacy.

      JLD is gone, though, and I'm really going to miss it. I've loved working the supernatural corners of the DCU. It's been a genuine pleasure.

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    2. This has made my day incredibly sad. Maybe Guillermo Del Toro's JLD movie will light a fire under DC to see the mistake they have made and we will get a new series from that.

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    3. Well, whatever may happen, my time on JLD is up. It was a great ride.

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    4. Bummer, any hints of future projects?

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    5. A bunch of interesting projects—comics, animation, etc.—brewing, but none that I can officially talk about right now.

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    6. Fair enough, I can be patient. Well, probably not patient, but at least I can not be bothersome about it. Have an excellent weekend, sir.

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    7. JLD ending? Well, at least JL3000 will still be around. A very small part of me wants that to end so I can say that I'm reading no DC books (excluding Vertigo). I will miss John Constantine though.

      Whatever happened to that western you were going talking about a little while ago? Or that stage production of Moonshadow that I suggested?

      Jack

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    8. DC is launching a new Constantine book, Jack, so John will still be out there.

      I've often thought that MOON would make a wonderful musical. BROOKLYN DREAMS, as well. But no Broadway producers have been knocking down my door.

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    9. Fair enough, but since I wasn't that crazy about the first post-Vertigo solo series, so whether I check out the new one is iffy to say the least.

      Look I think that we can all agree that the way the non-comic world is a bit strange. Of course Moonshadow screams stage adaption, but look at the rest of comic adaptions. In the new F.F. movie Johnny Storm is black and Sue Storm is White, so why not just cast a black actress to play Sue, instead of shoehorning in an adoption plot? Wouldn't that be easier? Who would have thought the worlds of giant world-devouring giants from space, gems that steal souls, a guy frozen for decades then thawed in perfect condition, and a paintbrush that can create monsters would have more internal logic behind the scenes than something else?

      The point is maybe its all for the best Moonshadow's virtues go overlooked. For that matter, who says having a comic adapted is the ultimate sign of success in the medium? That seriously bugs me. I'm not a Marvel or DC fan, or a superhero fan. I'm a comic fan. Moonshadow was written as a comic. I assume it was intended to be a comic. Adaption would add nothing, but other people monkeying around with it to make it more mainstream. I've seen enough comic properties lowered in quality to appease, and I sure as Hell don't want to see something as personal and well crafted as Moonshadow face that fate. You don't need it Dematteis. There are too many newer writers looking just to make that score by selling properties, sometimes before issue one even comes out. Not you though. You're from and older school. Hollywood has proven to get more wrong than right with comics. Hold strong.

      Comics aren't just a testing ground for movies, or in this case plays.

      Jack

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    10. Good points, Jack. When I was writing MOONSHADOW my only concern was the story...and making it as good as I possibly could. On the flip side, when you're a freelancer, that option money certainly helps pay the mortgage.

      And don't you want to see a guy in an furry Ira suit and a bowler hat, singing songs of sexual depravity? : )

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    11. Not really, but that has more to do with my lack of interest in musicals as a whole. Maybe a concept album though.

      With all the talk of MAn ion the High Castle floating around, here are some interesting facts...

      1) There was supposed to be a sequel, but Dick felt he couldn't delve back into that world. Largely because of the research he did on the Reich.
      2) The book directly influences maybe his most well-known work, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. PKD saw the acts as so inhuman he had trouble reconciling (and some say flat out rejecting) the idea that humans did this. This lead to the idea something else was posing as humans.

      Jack

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    12. I knew about the HIGH CASTLE sequel, Jack, but I'd never heard about this leading into ANDROIDS. Fascinating.

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  13. While I think Moonshadow would be fine as an animated film as long as the art style wasn't messed with, I don't know that I would want to see it as either a musical or stage play. I think I might be too attached to the source. Heck, I wasn't overly fond of the Farewell Moonshadow comic that came after.

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    1. That's interesting, Douglas, because, in many ways, I prefer FAREWELL MOONSHADOW to the original. The approach is very different and I think that threw a lot of people, but I think my writing and Muth's art are at a peak in FAREWELL. There's a level of craft, and art, in that sequel that I'm very proud of.

      That said, I do understand why some people, probably most people, prefer the original. Me? I love having them both together in one volume in THE COMPLEAT MOONSHADOW. For me, you can't have one without the other.

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  14. I love the writing and artwork in Farewell Moonshadow. I have zero problems with that. I just don't like how it ends.

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  15. Besides, I have been rereading my individual issues now that I have my Compleat Moonshadow signed and I never got Farewell Moonshadow as an individual issue. I didn't know of it's existence until I bought the collection. :)

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  16. We did it in, I think, 1996, right after Vertigo reprinted the original run.

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  17. When I was in on Wednesday, my local comic shop said that they are getting a collection in that has the very last issue of your Dr. Fate run that I need in it. So, start writing that intro, because in 6 months DC will be putting out a trade.

    By the by, are comic shows weird? I mean you walk into a place where a group of people look at you like many people look at movie stars. Forget good, bad, or grateful, that has to be a strange sensation. A group of people suddenly hanging on you every word, asking you a million questions, and treating your signature like it's a gold bar. That has to be a shock to the system.

    Jack


    P.S. I was great talking to you in person almost a year ago.

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    1. Is it a DOCTOR FATE collection...or is that story contained in some broader anthology?

      Are cons a shock to the system? Yes. As I often say, I spend a lot of time alone in a room playing with my imaginary friends, so the crowds alone are a little overwhelming.

      As for being looked at like a movie star: It doesn't feel that way, In fact there are always enough people there who have no clue who I am, so that keeps my head on straight. And most of the rest are just kind and appreciative and all that does is open my heart. But, sure, there's a contrast between sitting in my office and having someone pour their heart out, telling me how much a certain story meant to them. And it's a good contrast, not a shocking one. As noted, the shock is just in the crowds.

      It was great talking to you, as well, Jack...even if you were hiding in plain sight!

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    2. No, sorry, I wasn't clear. They are buying a collection of comics. Multiple titles. They just happened to see that the last issue I need was in the box. So I will pay them a dollar for it on Wed. At which point I assume DC will start putting together a collection of trades for the series, just to spite me. As I have stated will happen multiple times.

      And, I don't believe there is any contradiction. Be honest, when you imagine those friends they are fawning all over you. Treating you as a God-king.


      Jack

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    3. Ah, now I get it: Once you have that final issue, DC will put out a collected edition!

      And, yes, you're right: It's time I admitted it. I AM a God-King! : )

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  18. I discovered your work in 2014 through Justice League Dark and Trinity of Sin. Relative to other writers, I have noticed you bring your "A" game with every single issue, no matter the series or level of readership, masterfully weaving together numerous philosophical ideas and deep metaphors into an entertaining package. I could have sworn, for instance, you worked the main lesson from the ending of Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky into a recent issue of JLD, through the character of Deadman and his origin.

    Now I am interested in going back and reading Moonshadow. Do you have a preferred buying option? The only ones I know about are the major websites (I would ordinarily purchase it at the comic shop, to support local business, however they said they cannot order it there anymore).

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    1. Hi, Bill: Thanks so much for the kind words about JLD and ToS. I love the supernatural corners of the DC Universe and had a fantastic time with both books, especially JLD, which allowed me to use so many of those classic characters.

      As for MOONSHADOW: the edition I recommend is Vertigo's COMPLEAT MOONSHADOW, which features the original 12 issues (in a revised, final form) as well as the sequel, FAREWELL MOONSHDOW. For me, it's the definitive package.

      The Vertigo edition is a little hard to find these days (we're working to fix that), but this is a good place to start:

      http://www.amazon.com/Compleat-Moonshadow-John-Marc-DeMatteis/dp/1563893436/ref=sr_1_1/190-0354968-4500337?ie=UTF8&qid=1425906296&sr=8-1&keywords=compleat+moonshadow

      It's interesting that you mention Dostoyevsky and THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV in relation to JLD. I love Dostoyevsky and BROTHERS K is one of my absolute favorite novels. That said, I didn't
      consciously try to inject anything Dostoyevskian into that JLD story. Unconsciously? That's another story.

      Deep thanks for taking the time to contact me. Feel free to chime in here at Creation Point any time the spirit wills!

      All the best --

      JMD

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    2. Thanks for recommending a version of Moonshadow, and also thank you for a thought-provoking final issue of ToS. It was the best type of story: it had an ending I had not, yet should have, expected, and it was interesting throughout its entirety. For me, the series provides a compelling and authoritative look at the concept of Sin. I look forward to your future work!

      Bill

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    3. Glad you enjoyed the ToS finale, Bill. Sad as it is to see the book go, the limited nature of the series allowed me to tell a complete, self-contained story that still leaves the door open for more adventures.

      As for future work: At DC, I've got JUSTICE LEAGUE 3001 with Keith Giffen and Howard Porter as well as a new, and very interesting series that I can't talk about yet. I've also got several other in-the-works comics projects for other companies (including the return of my creator-owned series AUGUSTA WIND), animation (including BATMAN VS. ROBIN, which premieres at WonderCon) and other TV work. So it's a busy time and I'm grateful for that!

      Thanks again for checking in and your kind words re: TRINITY OF SIN.

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  19. I first read Moonshadow in 1989 when the original Epic trade came out. I think it is definitely time to reread it!

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    1. Hope you enjoy it, William—and I hope you have a copy of FAREWELL, MOONSHADOW, too, so you can have the complete experience.

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  20. Hello Mr DeMattteis,

    Moonshadow changed my life. Along with my beloved Ridley Walker, it is the one book I cherish most for having read. I have every version printed and even the signed edition by you and Jon J Muth.

    I wish to thank you for having created Moon and his world. The first issue I read was the one with the Brothers Karamazov quote. I have to thank you for introducing a fifteen year old to Fyodor and Blake, Keats and Shelley! I memorised all the opening poems and have read BK over 10 times and spread the gospel of that impassioned epileptic to anyone who will listen.

    I would like to ask one question if I may. I always preferred the original ending - why did you feel that a change was necessary? I felt the wordless ending better portrayed the ineffable experience that Moon underwent in his fall. I would be extremely interested in learning the reasons for the changed ending. Please don't be offended by my question; an artist need not explain his work but I would be grateful for some insight.

    Finally, is their any possibility of a reprint in some form of deluxe oversized hardcover edition - a Kickstarter even? Moonshadow deserves to be introduced to a new audience in a fitting manner.



    Hanif

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mohammed. That MOON touched your life—and that, through its doors, you found Dostoyevsky (and those wonderful poets)... Well, there are no words to convey my delight and gratitude.

      As for the ending: When the final Epic issue came out, the book was running so late I never had the chance to proofread it. When I finally saw the printed version, I found the ending very confusing. Something that I intended to by mystical became (through my eyes, anyway) borderline incomprehensible. So, when we had the chance to revisit the ending at Vertigo, I jumped at the chance.

      That said, I have no problem with anyone preferring the original ending. It's all subjective, right? And sometimes the author is the last person to fathom just what his story is about!

      Thanks again for taking the time to write. You made my day.

      All the best,

      JMD

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  21. Hey Mr. Dematteis, thanks for Moonshadow. I loved it when I was young. I always wanted to know, as I recall, Moonshadow received a letter of praise from Kurt Vonnegut at one point, right? How did that happen? I can't imagine he was reading many many comic books in the mid-1980s.

    Joe Wezorek

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    1. You're VERY welcome, Joe.

      Re: the Vonnegut letter and the story behind it, there's a post right here at Creation Point that tells the whole tale:

      http://www.jmdematteis.com/2011/02/buried-treasure.html

      Thanks for stopping by, Joe, and for your appreciation of MOONSHADOW.

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