Monday, August 17, 2015

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...?

This is a revised and updated version of a post from 2009.  Enjoy!

***

One of the questions writers often get—from both interviewers and fans—is “Of all the things you’ve worked on, what’s your favorite?”  Well, if you’ve only been a professional writer for a few years, that’s probably an easy question to answer.  If you’ve been doing it for more than thirty five years, as I have, it’s a little harder to winnow things down.

That said, I’ve decided to indulge myself and compile a Top Ten list.   (And, yes, I cheated by occasionally listing more than one story or series in an entry.)  Keep in mind these aren’t necessarily the best things I’ve ever done—I’ll leave that for other people to decide—these are the projects that brought me the most joy, the most creative challenges.  That stretched me—as both a craftsman and an artist.  That were just plain fun.  (I'm just focusing on comic books here:  perhaps I'll do a post about my work in other media another time.)

Here they are, in no particular order:

1)  ABADAZAD/THE STARDUST KID




Back in the mid-1980’s I had an idea for a story called “Silver Shoes.”  It was about a little girl, living with her abusive father, who’s befriended by an old woman named Dorothy.  Not just any Dorothy:  this old lady claims to be Dorothy Gale, from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz.  After Dorothy passes away, the girl finds a gift the old woman has left behind for her:  a pair of silver shoes (that’s what they were in Baum’s book.  MGM magically transformed them into technicolor-friendly ruby slippers for the 1939 film) that the girl uses to escape her father and live happily ever after in Oz.  It was, I thought, a wonderful idea, but I never did much with it.  I just filed the story away and forgot about it. 

For ten years.

In the mid-90’s I started toying with an idea about a mother who discovers that her abducted son has been taken to a magical world that—she’d assumed—only existed in books.  I named the world Abadazad and began developing the story, but it wasn’t until 2003 that a new company called CrossGen enthusiastically agreed to publish the book.   CrossGen head honcho Mark Alessi recruited Mike Ploog—one of the greatest fantasy illustrators on the planet—to do the art and so began one of the most magical collaborations of my career.  (I also have to acknowledge the extraordinary work of Nick Bell, one of the finest colorists I’ve ever worked with.)

Then, after only three issues of Abadazad—all of them very well-received—had seen print, our publisher crashed and burned:  CrossGen went bankrupt.  I don’t need to go into all the depressing details here but we were eventually rescued from oblivion by Brenda Bowen, who was then the vice-president and editor-in-chief of Hyperion Books For Children.  We signed for a six book series (combining sequential comics with illustrated prose)—with the aim of doing six more beyond that—but, again, by the time the first three books came out we were dead in the water.  The reasons were complex—it wasn’t just about sales—but the bottom line was that the Abadazad series was cancelled.  Again.

It was the biggest heartbreak of my career—I think I’m still in mourning—but I still hold tight to the belief that, some day, some way, Abadazad will be back.  Magical thinking?  Perhaps.  But it’s a magical story.

I can’t talk about  ‘Zad without mentioning another all-ages project:  The Stardust Kid, which reunited the entire Abadazad creative team, features  some of the finest work of Mike Ploog’s amazing career.  (He may have actually topped his work on Abadazad.)  I created the story when my son was four years old, sold it to DC in the 80’s, bought it back, and, by the time it finally saw print, Cody was one of the book’s editors.  (Yes, some tales take a very long time to find their way into the world.)  The final version evolved considerably from my original conception—thanks, in no small part, to Ploog’s contributions—and it’s a fantasy-adventure that I remain incredibly proud of.       

2)  THE COMPLEAT 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.

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.  And it allowed me to step outside the Marvel-DC mindset and discover my own voice.

Of course it didn’t hurt that I was working with Jon J Muth, as brilliant an artist as the medium has ever seen.  His work always challenged me.  Dared me to be better.  I hope I did the same for him.

Nearly ten years after the original Moonshadow series saw print, Muth and I reunited for a one-shot graphic novel called Farewell, Moonshadow that I think is, in some ways, even better than the original run. 

3)  BROOKLYN DREAMS


If I was forced to pick a single favorite on this list, it would probably be Brooklyn Dreams.  In an odd way it’s the same story as the one I told in Moonshadow, only it’s not presented as a fairy tale set in the far reaches of space, it’s a (very) thinly-disguised autobiography that takes place on the streets of Brooklyn.  I remember working on the script and feeling scared to death because BD was the single most personal piece I’d ever attempted.  The main character’s name may have been different, but it was my life I was writing about, in shameless, intimate detail.  I’ve learned, over the years, that being terrified is usually a sign that I’m on to something good.  It was certainly true in this case.  

When I was developing Brooklyn Dreams, I had a certain art style in my head.  In fact I knew exactly how I wanted the book to look, exactly how the drawing should interpret my elliptical, and time-jumping, story.  When I first laid eyes on Glenn Barr’s work, my head nearly exploded:  What was there on the page was what I’d been seeing in my mind all along.  And Glenn’s uncanny resonance with the story remained, and deepened, throughout our collaboration.

Chemistry between a writer and artist can’t be created.  It’s either there or it’s not. I’ve worked on projects where the script was strong, the art was strong, but that indefinable magic between writer and illustrator simply wasn’t there and the story just died on the page.  Not so with Glenn Barr.  Our collaboration was instant magic—and, for that, I am forever grateful.

4)  DR. FATE


Dr. Fate is a DC Comics character who’s been around since the l940’s.  In l987, I revamped the character—with considerable help from the frighteningly-creative Keith Giffen—for a mini-series and then, some months later, continued the story in an ongoing series, wonderfully illustrated, with both humor and humanity, by Shawn McManus.  I’d hazard a guess that most comics fans have never read our Dr. Fate run and that many who did were baffled by it.  I understand their confusion:  Our Fate series wove together mysticism, sit-com silliness, super-hero action, romance, Eastern philosophy, infantile toilet jokes and Serious Musings On The Nature Of Existence.  But that’s exactly why I loved working on it. 

It’s a rare occasion when you can work on a preexisting DC or Marvel character and be allowed to completely stamp it with your own unique, and very personal, vision.  It couldn’t have happened with one of the Major Icons, and I’m not sure it could happen at all in today’s comic book climate.  But the 80’s were the “anything goes” era in modern comics.  Writers, artists and editors were willing to push the boundaries to wonderful (and sometimes ludicrous) extremes.   It was an exciting time—and Dr. Fate was an exciting project.  My editors—Karen Berger and Art Young—gave me the freedom to follow my muse wherever it led me.  And, no matter what bizarre twists and turns the scripts took, Shawn was always there to bring them to vibrant life.

5) BATMAN:  GOING SANE


When people talk to me about my super-hero stories, they inevitably bring up Kraven’s Last Hunt as an example of my finest work—and who am I to argue?

Well, I guess I have to.

I think the best mainstream super-hero story I ever wrote was "Going Sane," which originally ran in four issues of DC’s Legends of the Dark Knight.   Here’s the premise:  The Joker kills Batman—at least he believes he does—and, with the primary reason for his existence eliminated, the villain’s mind snaps.  Of course the Joker is already insane, so when he snaps...he goes sane.  Joe Kerr soon creates a new life for himself, complete with an office job and a loving fiancé.  Batman, meanwhile, finds himself recuperating in a small town, far away from the madness of Gotham—and has to reassess his life and his identity.  When the two finally come back together at the story’s end, well...if you’re as sentimental as I am, you just might find yourself shedding a tear for the Joker.

Again, no comic book story can succeed without the artwork—and the amazing Joe Staton (the guy has drawn everything from Scooby-Doo to Green Lantern) turned in some of the finest work of his career.  

6)  SPIDER-MAN: 
      KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT
      “BEST OF ENEMIES”
      (SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #200)
      “THE GIFT” (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #400)
      “THE KISS” (WEBSPINNERS #1)

      “SPIDER DREAMS” (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700)


I’ve written more Spider-Man stories than I’d care to count.  No matter how many times I walk away from the character, I keep coming back, because he’s real to me.  I don’t think there’s a character, in any super-hero universe, more psychologically nuanced, emotionally-compelling and wonderfully-neurotic than Peter Parker.  To this day I don’t think of Peter as a fictional character:  I think of him as an old friend.

As you can see, I cheated here.  I didn’t select one story, I selected six.  (I could easily have added more:  Spider-Man:  the Lost Years comes immediately to mind.)  The multi-part story collected as Kraven's Last Hunt—illustrated by Mike Zeck, at the top of his form—was the first super-hero story I wrote that allowed me to bring the lessons I’d learned writing Moonshadow over to the Marvel/DC mainstream.  (I wrote a lengthy, and, I hope, interesting introduction for the collected edition, detailing the story’s genesis.)   “Best of Enemies” was the culmination of a two year storyline (and a two-year collaboration with one of my personal comic book heroes, Sal Buscema) exploring the relationship between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn—and it’s my single favorite Spidey tale.  “The Gift”—illustrated by one of the all-time great Spider-artists, Mark Bagley—featured the death of Aunt May (don’t worry, she got better) and its publication resulted in one of the highlights of my career:  a phone call from comics legend John Romita, Sr. telling me that the story had moved him to tears.  “The Kiss” topped that, because I actually got to collaborate with Romita, Sr—on a short, sweet story about the last night Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy spent together.  “Spider Dreams” was my chance to say thank you to Peter Parker for all he’s given me over the years, both as a reader and a writer, as well as an opportunity to pay tribute to his web-headed alter ego and the men who created him.

7)  SEEKERS INTO THE MYSTERY


In the 90’s I did a number of projects for DC’S Vertigo line, but I can’t think of one that means more to me than Seekers Into The Mystery.  This was another case where the comics industry—specifically, editors Karen Berger and Shelly Bond—gave me a chance to write exactly what I wanted, in exactly the way I wanted.  No constraints, no directives.  And I got to do it in collaboration with the cream of the Vertigo crop:  Glenn Barr, Jon J Muth, Sandman’s Michael Zulli and Scary Godmother’s Jill Thompson.  

The series—centered on a soul-sick, failed screenwriter named Lucas Hart—touched on everything from the toxic effects of sexual abuse to the omnijective reality of UFOs; from the pain of divorce to the descent of the God-Man.  If I was listing these projects in order of preference, Seekers would be very close to the top. 

8)  GREENBERG THE VAMPIRE


Remember when I said that Moonshadow was the first project that allowed me to find my own voice as a writer?  Well, I lied.  (Or, as Mr. Spock might say, I exaggerated.)  A couple of years before Moonshadow, I did a story for Marvel’s black and white anthology magazine, Bizarre Adventures, about a reclusive Jewish horror writer who also happened to be a vampire.  I’d toyed with the idea as both a short story and a screenplay, which may explain why the characters hit the page fully alive and acting like, well, real people.  There was none of the clunky dialogue that was littering my super-hero stories.  Folks around the Marvel office responded very nicely to the story (which was beautifully illustrated by Steve Leialoha) but it was a one-shot deal...and I quickly went back to scripting earnest-but-awkward super-hero stories.  (The problem certainly wasn’t my passion:  I was pouring my heart into those stories.  It’s just that my craft hadn't yet caught up to my aspirations.)

Then came Moonshadow and the breakthrough that saved me as a writer.

Around the same time, I was renegotiating my contract with Marvel and I asked then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter if I could do an Oscar Greenberg graphic novel.  He said yes (I’m sure he was just being nice.  He couldn’t have possibly believed that a story that was a cross between Portnoy’s Complaint and Dracula—I didn’t come up with that description, Dwayne McDuffie did—would sell).  I called up a young artist named Mark Badger (at the time, we were working together on a mini-series called The Gargoyle—which just missed making this list) and Mark happily signed on.  Badger went on to become one of my favorite collaborators ever.  He’s a unique talent, a brilliant storyteller and his work on Greenberg was superb.

Greenberg allowed me to get in my little boat and push out into uncharted waters.  To try new things, explore new voices.  I’m delighted that a new edition, collecting both the original black and white story and the entire graphic novel, will be out in the fall. 

9)  THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28/“THAT WHICH IS MOST NEEDED”



Back in the 1980’s, when I was writing Captain America, I hatched a story that would have seen a disgusted Cap turn his back on violence and begin a new life as a global peace activist.  Marvel, unsurprisingly (well, it’s unsurprising in retrospect, it shocked me at the time) said no and I filed the idea away; returning to it periodically over the years.  Freed from the confines of the Marvel Universe, the idea slowly—very slowly, it took twenty-five years!—evolved into a saga, spanning seven decades of American pop culture and politics, called The Life and Times of Savior 28.  Illustrated by the amazing Mike Cavallaro—an artist who was every bit as passionate about the story as I was—S-28 became one of the single most challenging, and rewarding, comic book projects of my career.

I think the story was far more relevant at the end of the Age of Bush than it would have been had it come out in the Reagan Era.  Comic books (and pop culture in general) had become far more violent.  The spandex mindset that, however much we struggle to disguise it, says “All problems are ultimately solved by dropping a building on a so-called bad guy’s head” had become even more dangerous—especially in a post-9/11 world where terrible damage had been done by global leaders who simplistically divided humanity into “true believers” and “infidels,” “good guys” and “evil-doers.”

In the end, though, The Life and Times of Savior 28 isn’t really a story about politics, it’s about one flawed man’s attempt to change himself and the way he sees the world. 

Mike C also drew “That Which Is Most Needed,” a short story that appeared in the first volume of the Occupy Comics anthology.  Well, it’s less a story than an illustrated essay:  an opportunity to talk directly about the value of, and need for, compassion; to bring to life Buddha’s wonderful words:  “That which is most needed is a loving heart.”  Cavallaro's art was everything I expected and far more:  he brought heart and hope to the page in equal measure.  This is probably the most obscure story on this list, but if you enjoy my work, I think you’ll find it worth seeking out.

10) THE GIFFEN-DeMATTEIS UNIVERSE



Okay, so this one’s another cheat:  I’m collapsing my entire collaboration with Keith Giffen into one, but it really feels as if all our work together—from the 80’s Justice League to Boom!’s Hero Squared and our current work on Justice League 3001 (with the hugely gifted Howard Porter)—is one piece.  And that piece exists in its own little universe, far, far away from everything else I’ve done.  

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating:  Keith Giffen is as generous and gifted (well, gifted is too small a word.  Someone once called Keith the Jack Kirby of my generation and I couldn’t agree more) a collaborator as I’ve ever worked with.  If he called me up tomorrow and asked me to co-write a Millie the Model revival, I’d say yes without hesitation.  When I work with Giffen, it’s not about the particular project, it’s about the collaboration itself—and the tremendous fun we have together.  We’ve been going at this, on and off, for more than twenty-five years.  I don’t see any reason to stop now.

I can’t mention Keith without acknowledging Kevin Maguire, who illustrated so many of our stories in a style that many have tried to imitate but no one has ever equalled:  The guy is genre unto himself.  I’d do a new project with Keith and Kevin in a heartbeat.  (And, yes, I still nurture fantasies of the three of us bringing our unique brand of lunacy to Fantastic Four.)

***

There are other projects that could have easily been on this list—Blood: a tale with Kent Williams, my truncated Man Thing run with Liam Sharp, Mercy: Shake the World with Paul Johnson, The Last One with Dan Sweetman, Doctor Strange:  Into Shamballa with Dan Green, The Adventures of Augusta Wind with Vassilis Gogtzilas:  so many more.  But if I kept adding titles this would be the longest post in Creation Point history.

***  

I don’t want to end this without mentioning a few of the genuine turkeys I’ve birthed over the years.  Like the Marvel Team-Up issue featuring Spider-Man and Robert E. Howard’s King Kull.  (“Hiya, Kingsy,” a time-traveling Spidey exclaims, “what’s the haps?”)  Or the Defenders-Squadron Supreme epic that made almost no sense.  Or the Spider-Man annual that tried to tie up loose ends from the aforementioned Man-Thing series and ended up making even less sense than the Squadron Supreme story.  Or...



Well, I think you get the idea.  

The good news is that the failures can be as important as the successes.  (Although they’re definitely not as much fun.)  When you try something new and fall on your face you exercise creative muscles you never knew you had.  And then you can use those muscles, with far more skill, on the next project.  Of course, sometimes a bad story’s just a bad story—but I have to believe that even the genuine stinkers help us to become better writers.

The truth is that—with rare, and miraculous, exceptions—it’s pretty much impossible to judge your own work objectively.  Some of the stories I’ve listed here might be the genuine turkeys...and some of those stinkers I’m trying to forget might be sitting at the top of someone else’s Top Ten List. 

©copyright 2015  J.M. DeMatteis

93 comments:

  1. First, I think that this list predates 2009 and goes back to the Amazon days.

    Second, I feel that a least favorite list would be as or more interesting. Give that some thought

    Jack

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    1. SAVIOR 28 was on the original list, Jack, and that came out in 2009.

      Least favorite list? I really don't want to dwell on that.

      Delete
    2. Come on, don't you want to have all of us defending works that you hated so that you then have to question our tastes?

      What about one of ones that aren't favorites, but have a special place in your heart?

      Or a list about comics that you hate? I know I already said that, but that would be an interesting list.


      Jack

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    3. If by comics I hate you mean comics by other people, I'd never do that. Criticizing other creators' work in public isn't my thing. As for my own work, I can think of stories that I find embarrassing, but none that I hate.

      Delete
    4. I would never ask you to bad mouth someone's work. How com you keep trying to make me into more a dick?

      Seriously, I would love to see you arguing with all of us and trying to persuade us that stories you don't like of yours really do deserve to be at the bottom of the list and that you aren't just trying to through a list together.

      Jack

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    5. One of the reasons I don't want to do that is that I've seen, over the years, that stories of mine that I have low opinions of are often stories that others cherish. My shining a spotlight on those stories, telling people that I think they're not worthy of their respect, would actually be hurtful to the people that appreciate those stories. It just doesn't feel right to me.

      Even though I get that it's a fun idea.

      Delete
  2. I liked that Defenders Squadron Supreme story! Now I have to go through my long boxes. Also, I'm going to need that Millie The Model comic...seriously.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Proving that the writer is often the worst judge of his work, Douglas. I just remember really struggling with that story and the sheer number of characters and thinking I'd blown it. Glad you remember it fondly!

      Could you imagine what an amazing job Kevin Maguire would do drawing Millie?

      Delete
    2. I agree, that whole run was pretty good, until those gene-trash X-men came in.

      Not ot mention, if nothing else it made Mark Gruenwald's seminal tale starring the squadron possible.. Take pride.

      Jack

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    3. I seem to recall that Mark consulted with me on that Squadron story. I remember him doing some costume designs and perhaps coming up with some new Squadron members. He loved those characters!

      Delete
    4. Mark Gruenwald... comic's nice guy ho finished last, or at the very least didn't get the credit he deserved. He was just one year too early.

      I had heard that when the corporate oddities happened at Marvel in the 90s he was forced to become a corporate hatchet-man, which he never wanted to be, signed up for or had the constitution for. IN the end that probably isn't the makings of a good corporate climber... but it is the makings of a good man, and which would you rather be? As I said in the talk of price, there just might not be enough of the good people in comics who believe in and care about all four aspects of teh industry anymore.

      So, why are you now trying to clim credit for his work? First Vertigo was all your idea, or so you claim, now Squadron Supreme. Does your ego know no ends?

      Jack

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    5. Mark was both my editor and my friend. A wonderful man, a great talent, and we all still miss him. What a loss.

      Delete
    6. I'm not going to pretend like I could have anywhere near the same connection as someone who met him, let alone knew him as a man.

      I can and will say that of the people I know who did meet him as a fan, have said that he was a nice guy who not only enjoyed but was enthusiastic about talking to fans. Surely a great thing to have in this business.

      It would seem that no matter how you want to interpret it, the phrase to describe him (coined by Simonson I believe), of him being the patron saint of Marvel fits.

      Jack

      P.S. just to be on the safe side, that ego thing was a joke.

      Delete
    7. I agree with Simonsson. And, yes, I knew it was a joke.

      Delete
    8. I figured you knew, but when it comes to emotions and friends that have...passed on... I find it is usually best to double check.


      It was always nice to know that someone in the higher-ups loved the industry THAT much, no matter what else happened.

      Jack

      Delete
    9. Finally the one Gruenwald complement that needs to be said but rarely if ever is... Dynamite Mustache.


      The end
      Jack

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    10. I wrote a letter to the Captain America comic in response to a letter someone wrote in about the level of violence in the comic book. I felt that Gruenwald kind of caved to the woman and called him on it. He printed my letter, explained his position and agreed with many points that I made. The following month I got this huge envelope in the mail from Marvel. Mark sent me the original paste up of the letters page that my letter appeared in. The man had class and was an awesome writer. Writing that kind of choked me up a little.

      Delete
    11. It was the 80's. We ALL had dynamite mustaches! : )

      Delete
    12. Great story, Douglas, and very indicative of the man Mark was. Thanks for sharing that.

      Delete
    13. A) Just because you all had moustaches didn't mean that they were all dynamite.

      B) He kept his into the 90s

      C) I actually have a vague memory of that letter, though violence in comics was big subject for him, So I may be getting it gunked up in my head.

      D) It seems we all like Gruenwald, that means he very well be the one thing on the internet no one will attack. I can't help but wonder if he would have eventually become Marvels EIC, if he had lived.

      E )Gruenwald was directly connected to Captain America for over a decade, to a lot of people he was Cap. Which is why it was great that (if this old failing memory serves) he was listed in the credits for The Winter Soldier.

      Jack

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    14. Take my word for it, Jack: my mustache was dynamite.

      If Mark G was credited in the CAP movie, it was well-deserved.

      Delete
    15. I would have to re-watch the credits to be sure, but I remember thinking of him when those names rolled, so it was either that or anger he wasn't. I think it was the previous.

      On the back of Shamballa there is a picture of you with a beard, I have no proof you were ever down to just a mustache in the 80s, but let's say hypothetically you did and that hypothetically it WAS dynamite. The mere fact that you said it was dynamite takes at the least a M-80 away from it. You can't call your own stache dynamite, it simply isn't done.

      I like to think the Marvl offices of the 80s were filled with epic angry debates about whose stache was better Gruenwald or Milgrom. Come to think of it Starlin had a pretty dynamite mustache in the 70s. Hopefully you all learned the best staches come out of the Midwest.

      Take pride, this may be the dumbest conversation ever had at Creation Point. you must be proud.

      Jack

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    16. Yes, truly dumb. And it was a GREAT mustache.

      By the way, after years of you recommending it, I finally watched MASK OF THE PHANTASM and really enjoyed it. How nice to see an emotionally vulnerable, human Batman. It was clearly influenced by the Burton movies in look and tone, but they made it their own and delivered a terrific story.

      Delete
    17. After the lengthy conversation about the price of comics and the issues in the industry, a dumb conversation may not be the worst thing in the world.

      Now, are you praising your mustache, Milgrom;'s or Grunewald's? If it was yours your just lost another 1/4 stick of dynamite.

      I can't help but feel sorry that Mark didn't get to this era of fandom. I think he would have really enjoyed the digital response with fans. Of course, I never met him so who knows.

      I'm glad you enjoyed Mask of the Phantasm. It may be my favorite comic book movie and is certainly my favorite Batman one. I'm not sure comparing this to Burton is fair, since it came out of the TV show, which did have certain influence from the Burton movies... but it wasn't necessarily for this film.

      Honestly, I wish Hollywood would take a page from this. I like the small story aspect of it. I think it was actually much more mature than that media darling, Dark Knight. In the comic Dark Knight is based off of, Dark Detective (an Englehart min0series which is well worth your time if you haven't read it) the mere act of being makes it more mature than the one trying to be mature. Personally I think the way the relationship ends in phantasm (or Dark Detective, where the realize there is a greater good than their own love/happiness) is much more adult than what Dark Knight gave us. Also how the villains are portrayed in both is more adult.

      But in the end what I really like about it is the fact that the city of Gotham is not at stake. It is about 2 to 3 humans and how life has effected them. Something lost in superhero films, and even many comics these days.


      Again, glad you dug it.

      Jack

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    18. I loved the original Englehart-Rogers Batman run (and don't forget that Walt Simonson was the first artist on the run, albeit for only an issue), but never read DARK DETECTIVE.

      Has the love interest from the movie ever been used in the comics?

      Delete
    19. The love interest from which, Dark Knight or Mask of the Phantasm?

      IN Dark Knight's basis, Dark Detective and it is Silver St. Cloud, and it isn't Harvey Dent, but another politician. It is really a powerful ending. Here is a link to a review.. if you don't mind spoilers, it's by the same guy who gave the glowing review of going sane you enjoyed so much:

      http://www.pulpanddagger.com/maskedbookwyrm/bat_d.html


      As for Mask of the Phantasm.... If I remember correctly it was based off of Batman Year Two, which came out in the late 80s, with a whole Hell of a lot changes. So... sort of, but not enough to give a definitive yes. It is sort of more complex in the comics if I remember correctly. One of the few better adaptions.

      Dana Delany really did a great job as Andrea Beaumont though. No wonder they tapped her to be Lois Lane.'


      Jack

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    20. Maybe she did so well because her name sounds kind of like a Silver Age DC comic character. She had returned to voice characters from the DCU over and over though.

      Am I the only one that would like to see more superhero movies on a smaller and personal scale like this one? Or more comics like that these days or that matter.

      JAck

      Delete
    21. I wonder if the lack of smaller stories in the films is related to the rise of events at Marvel and DC. Sort of an attempt to replicate the bigness of the films. Since Superhero movies seem resigned to be big budget action movies, the idea is that the source has to match it.

      Think about it from 1997 -2004 there were not a lot of truly BIG big events. Around the time the movies start making some bucks and we see it isn't outliers, events are back in a big way.

      Strange. If you look past the comics that we are "supposed to like" most peoples favorites tend to be more personal stores that focus in on the characters. Isn't that why Legends of the Dark Knight was such a hit?

      Of course if you really look at those stories we are all supposed to like, Kraven's Last Hunt is not particularly big ouside of Peter PArker and MJs life in terms of Damage, Daredevil: Born Again is pretty low-key, as is Batman Year One. Even Starlin t in his epics tend to zero in on the character in the middle of the big event Warlock may have fought a giant evil empire... but it was very much a personal story. Comic readers love character.

      Jack.

      P.S. I don't care how good of an actor Cumberbatch is, if his Doc Strange doesn't have facial hair, then I'm sorry, but I'm out.

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    22. KLH was a very intimate story, with stakes only for the main players. The world wasn't going to end, the city wasn't going to blow up, it was all about Spidey, MJ, Kraven and Vermin...and that's it. As much as I like Going Big—I LOVE Kosmic Komics—I think it's clear that my preference is for Going In: intimate stories of the psyche and soul. Doesn't mean there isn't lots of action and movement and super heroic fun, but the core of the story is deeply personal.

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    23. Marvel's Netflix series are a smaller scale. Sure, I did not like Daredevil, but it was more intimate in scope. It referenced the blockbuster films to make it feel like old school Marvel where everything interconnects with everything else. I also vote for the facial hair on Doc Strange. It would look...strange without it.

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    24. Agreed, Douglas: TV makes for more intimate stories. Big budget movies seem to cry out for "end of the world" chaos, even if the end of the world can get tiresome after a while.

      And, yes, facial hair for Doctor Strange. (I'm sure he'll have it at some point in the movie!)

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    25. I'm sure there is a reason for it, but why did you Spell Kosmic Komics with a "K"?

      I think of KLH as a more of psychological thriller.

      Also,I to a degree reject the idea of Daredevil being intimate. Sure there were more character building moments, but the plot was about a city at stake. I appreciated it being closer to a thriller, but there was still a sense of large scale apocalypse looming for New York. That was probably largely due to the interlinked nature of the story from episode to episode.


      JAck

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    26. I only saw the early episodes of DD, Jack, so I don't know where the story went.

      Spelling Kosmic with a "K" is a very 60's/70's thing to do. (For instance: Janis Joplin's album I GOT DEM OL' KOSMIC BLUES AGAIN, MAMA). And of course referencing Kosmic Kirby. Speaking of which...

      Today is Jack K's birthday. Which, for comics fans at least, should be a national holiday.

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    27. It never felt like a city at stake. It felt like about four or five people to me. Of course the 12th episode made me so angry I didn't finish the series so, maybe in the last episode? It never felt apocalyptic to me and certainly not to the degree that the films do.

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  3. NOW I really want this Millie The Model comic!!!

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    1. Somewhere, in some parallel universe, it already exists!

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  4. Of course I am also still waiting for my Inferior Five comic.

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    1. We've actually discussed that over the years, but it hasn't happened yet.

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    2. Of the two that's the one I really want. Since Bat-Mite and Bizarro will be ending their run soon there is a desperate need for some more humor comics in the DC Universe. The Inferior Five would be perfect!

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  5. I'm going to have to hunt down this Seekers Into The Mystery. Look pretty cool.

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    1. First five issues were collected by Boom! Studios a few years back. You can find the tpb pretty cheap, I think.

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    2. Did the series end? Was it completed?

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    3. We had enough warning that I was able to come up with something resembling an ending; but the truth is I had YEARS of stories mapped out when they pulled the plug at issue #15. But that's life in the publishing world!

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  6. JM, is there any chance we'll see more of Seekers Into the Mystery some day? Needless to say, I hope the answer is "Yes!" Like Mercy, it was a Vertigo tale that, while certainly going into some very dark places, was ultimately about affirming life & joy & wonder. Frankly, we need a lot more of that these days!

    As for Brooklyn Dreams, I can pick that up at almost any time, in any mood, and be utterly captivated by it all over again.

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    1. Thank you, Tim. BROOKLYN DREAMS, as you know, is deeply personal in so many ways and the fact that you, and other people, have taken it into their hearts really means something to me. I don't take it lightly.

      As for SEEKERS: I think the ship may have sailed on that one, but the universe is nothing if not surprising. I had many more tales of Lucas Hart to tell and if the opportunity ever came up, it would be very hard to say no.

      Thanks so much for checking in, Tim. Always a genuine pleasure to hear from you.

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  7. Great list, JMD, thanks for giving us the opportunity to revisit it.

    I definitely think GOING SANE is underrated. If I hadn't read the story, I'd never have believed anyone could humanize the Joker without losing his edge. Your solution is, quite frankly, brilliant. I vastly prefer GOING SANE to THE KILLING JOKE (and the latter isn't a bad story by any stretch). I'm still holding out hope for an animated version...

    As far as the Giffen/DeMatteis-verse goes, it really seems like your influence is deeply felt across all of pop culture now. Movies like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and ANT-MAN seem to follow along that track. In the same vein, shows like PSYCH and SCRUBS always makes me think of your work with Giffen. Just that idea of buddies embracing the absurdity of the human condition along with all the drama, but not in a cynical way. Sheer joy.

    (Fun fact: In the Harry Dresden novels, Harry drives a Volkswagen he dubs "The Blue Beetle," which I don't think is a coincidence given the author's appreciation of comics.)

    As far as your Spider-Man work goes...well, it's no secret that I love it as much as any human possibily could. (But I admittedly haven't read the Kull story...)

    In fact, I haven't read any of the turkies you've listed (or if I did, they didn't make an impression.)

    My favorite JMD 'turkey'--if you could even call it that--is the drunken Steve Rogers bit. I know you're not especially fond of it, but I love it unironically, and here's why. I really enjoy the way Steve has a normal side throughout the course of your run.

    There really isn't anything else like it in Cap's history. Stern kicked things off, but didn't have as much time to delve into it as you did. Gruenwald's run was great for other reasons, but he pretty much killed off Steve Rogers' social side.

    I'm not arguing it was a great moment, but there's something fun there, something special that shows your soft spot for the human side of a larger than life character. I wish that had carried over more into other Cap runs. He'll be around for another thousand years, so it's bound to happen eventually!

    --David

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    1. As I think you know, David, I'd LOVE to see an animated "Going Sane"—and I'd love to write it, too!

      I agree about the Giffen-DeMatteis influence on those movies. I've seen it in AVENGERS, too. That diner scene at the end of the first AVENGERS movie could have come straight out of one of our stories.

      You don't have to read the KULL story. But, who knows? Maybe it's better than I remember. (Or maybe it's worse!)

      Drunk Steve Rogers still haunts me, but, you're right, he is human and who's to say that, once in a rare while, he doesn't share a couple of beers with his friends.

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  8. Great list. Your list is pretty close to mine! There are a few things of yours I haven't been able to track down. My new quests are to find Webspinners #1, Amazing Spidey #700, and of course that MTU: Spidey/Kull comic. I didn't even know that existed. Someone needs to update your Wikipedia entry so it's common knowledge. The other Spidey story I love a lot is Spectacular #189, the one that ends with Harry getting arrested. Love that issue, still holds up so well today. Marvel's gotta get off their butts and do a hardcover or at least paperback collection of your Spectacular run with Sal Buscema. They sitting on a gold mine there.

    Moonshadow and Brooklyn Dreams - I'm glad you pointed out the similarity between those. I remember the first time I read those two, I read them in quick succession after another. Thematically, they're almost like bookends or spiritual brothers. I like them a lot.

    Dr. Fate, I'm a big fan of your Dr. Fate. I got super lucky when I was in college. The local comics shop sold the full run (including the annual) for five bucks. One of the best deals I've ever gotten in my life. That's up there for me with Spectacular in terms of my favorite Marvel/DC superhero run that you wrote. And last year, on Black Friday, I found the entire run of your Dr. Fate in a quarter bin, so I got them for my buddy's birthday. He finally read the whole thing a couple months ago and he liked it a lot.

    I think the only things I haven't bought/read are Abadazad v.3, Augusta Wind (I'm still looking for issue 5!), Greenberg, Into Shamballa, and a lot of your older work (Defenders, Captain America, Spidey/Kull).

    I think my pick for underrated gem is the Realworlds: Justice League of America prestige format one-shot. At least until I can obtain Spidey/Kull!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Dru.

      The REALWORLDS story was a lot of fun, as I recall...and I got to reunite with my BROOKLYN DREAMS collaborator, Glenn Barr.

      I would love to see both the SPEC SPIDEY run with Sal and all of DR. FATE collected. I know the four issue mini will be part of a Fate collection that's coming out in the spring. But the mini, the 24 issues I did with Shawn and the Fate annual were all of a piece and really should be read together (or at least in a couple of back to back trades).

      I think the Spidey-Kull team up is destined to be a kind of reverse classic. Now that I've mentioned it, everyone is going to want to read it!

      As mentioned, there's a new edition of GREENBERG THE VAMPIRE (including both stories) coming out at the end of September, complete with a new introduction by yours truly. That will give you the complete Jewish vampire experience!

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    2. I remember that Realworlds. Still have it. A great story. I reread the Spidey/Kull last night. Nothing to be ashamed of there, sir.

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    3. Dru, Good luck with that Dr. Strange story. That thing needs to be reprinted. It costs a fortune. Greenberg is so good I'm buying the new version and I still own the old one. Augusta Wind is collected at a reasonable price. His Defenders run can be had in the Essentials by Marvel. That's how I have them. Maybe the new Dr. Fate series will do well, I doubt it, and they will release the Dr. Fate run. I would get that in collected form. Finally, MTU are all collected as Essentials so that is a pretty inexpensive option for Spidey/Kull.

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    4. Wait. All the TEAM-UP issues have been collected? How could I not have known that?

      I would LOVE to see the entire FATE run collected. I've been waiting many years for that.

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    5. Also, glad you found the Kull story readable. Guess I'll have to go back and give it another shot!

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    6. My goof, Marvel-Team Up Essentials is only up to Volume 4. Volume 5 will have your story in it. I have them all as single issues.

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    7. No worries, Douglas. Now I've got something to look forward to! (Despite my problems with that Kull story, there are lots of my TEAM-UP stories that I like quite a bit.)

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    8. Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two In One are two of my favorite comic book series.

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    9. Both series were old-fashioned, in the best sense of the word. You had the fun of seeing the Thing and Spidey teaming up with a wonderful array of characters in stories that didn't have to go on for six months. Fun to read, fun to write.

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    10. Nice. Yeah, I'm gonna have to check out more of those old MTU issues. Talking about the Spidey/Kull issue reminds me of this one What If comic where Conan ends up in the Marvel Universe. I forgot who wrote it... Might have been Peter B. Gillis (whatever happened to him?). That was a pretty good one, too... There was a scene where Conan dresses up as a pimp and has a pet leopard on a leash as he goes to try to pick up a potential sexual partner.

      I should have mentioned this in my earlier post, but a couple of other underrated gems you wrote are the Superman stories you did. I really liked The Kansas Sighting and Where Is They Sting. Were there any other Superman stories you wrote?

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    11. CONAN THE PIMP. There's a whole series there! (Peter Gillis was a terrific writer, by the way. Don't know what he's up to these days.)

      I really enjoyed working on those two Superman projects, but they both flew under the radar when they came out. As for other Super-work: I wrote ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN for a while...but not very long.
      And lots of animated Superman in JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED.

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    12. I loved Conan The Pimp! Didn't you write the one where there was that bizarre flower that gives you your heart's desire? Such a great story!

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    13. Sounds familiar. Maybe one of the CONAN stories I did with Gil Kane...?

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    14. Sorry, the flower thing was referring to a Justice League Unlimited story. It has that large, yellow faced villain in it.

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    15. No worries. The story you're referring to is my adaptation of Alan Moore's "For The Man Who Has Everything."

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    16. That's it. And with just Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman and the effects of the flower that grants your hearts desire it comes across as super claustrophobic and creepy. I don't think I read the original source material.

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    17. If I remember correctly, that JLU adaptation of "For the Man Who Has Everything" is one of the only adaptations of his work that Alan Moore liked.

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    18. That's what I've heard. High praise indeed!

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  9. Thanks for the list, Marc. It perfectly illustrates the breadth of your work and helps explain why you've long been a top comic book writer. I've been around long enough to remember when you were the new boy on the block and all I knew of you was your frequent presence on letters pages. It was great to see you grow as a writer.
    I can understand your preference for your later work but you should also be proud of the early stuff. Your arrival at Marvel coincided with the Shooter-inspired exodus of all the great writers I'd grown up with. You helped rescue some titles from the doldrums -- the once-great Defenders had been a basket case until you started writing the Six-Fingered Hand story, and you and Kerry produced some fun stories for the floundering MTU -- and in some cases you had the unenviable task of following classic runs (Roy on Conan, Rog/JB on Cap). But regardless of the situation, there was always an integrity to your scripts and they were never less than eminently readable, especially for the long-time Marvelites among us who shared your love of Gerber's Defenders, Englehart's Cap and all things Spidey.
    Of the titles on your list, my personal favourites would be Moonshadow, the Spidey titles and the JLA romps (bwa-ha-ha!). I'll check out those I haven't read, particularly Brooklyn Dreams.
    Cheers from England, Neil

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    1. Cheers right back at you, Neil, and thanks for your very kind words, especially you assessment of my early work.

      It's inevitable that I'd look back at the earliest work and see how far I had to go as a writer, but, at the same time, I poured heart and soul into those stories, none moreso than my run on DEFENDERS. That was the book that, because of its iconoclastic traditions, allowed me to experiment, push the boundaries a little (sometimes successfully, sometimes not). And I have to give public thanks to Don Perlin, one of the nicest men I've ever worked with and a passionate, hardworking collaborator. He was a joy from first issue to last.

      Thanks for checking in, Neil. Much appreciated!

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    2. And I have to add this: It was TOTALLY INTIMIDATING following Roy Thomas on CONAN. I had such incredible respect for his work on that book (and everything else he did) that I was like a deer in the headlights, measuring every word, wondering if it was Thomasworthy!

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  10. You know what's missing from this list? The mini series for The Gargoyle. Such a great mini series and character.

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    1. I actually mention the Gargoyle series in the GREENSBURG THE VAMPIRE entry. It's another favorite of mine that could've made the list!

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    2. Sorry, must have missed it. I found a wikia Marvel Database page that actually shows the cover of every Marvel comic you have ever written. Pretty cool stuff!

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    3. Send a link when you have a chance, Douglas!

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  11. http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Category:J.M._DeMatteis/Writer

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    1. I tend to think of LOST YEARS as the second part of a Ben Reilly trilogy which also includes "The Parker Legacy" and REDEMPTION. I enjoy them all, though LOST YEARS is probably my favorite of the three. That's the story that really sold me on Ben Reilly and Kaine's potential.

      It's unfortunate that the core Clone Saga books never hit quite the same note with regard to Ben and Kaine's tortured relationship: it felt diluted by comparison (there was just too much going on for it to get the same kind of focus).

      I'd love to see you collaborate with JR, Jr. again, and he shared that sentiment when I spoke with him at a comic-con a few years back. Since Marvel is still treating Ben Reilly like the plague and JR, Jr. is a DC guy now, maybe you guys should team up on a Phantom Stranger one-shot or something. Just a suggestion, but his noir style would probably fit a broody guy in a fedora hat quite nicely.

      REDEMPTION doesn't get enough love, mostly because everyone knew Ben Reilly's days were numbered by the time it hit the stands. But it caps off Ben and Kaine's relationship nicely, since it was (sadly) the last time they met.

      And, you know, it's MIKE ZECK.

      I've never read the story with Conan the Pimp, but there's a really funny retro-story in DEADPOOL where he teams up with HEROES FOR HIRE in the 70s style. And calls himself DEADPIMP.

      I really can't recommend the most recent DEADPOOL run highly enough. Lots of zany concepts that have some substance. There's one issue where Deadpool is hired by Roxxon to sell a coloring book to kids that praises the virtues of fracking. And you also have stuff like a well-intentioned conservative zealot who resurrects dead presidents to restore America to her original glory...but of course, the zombified POTUS have other ideas. A nice commentary on romanticizing the past at the expense of the present.

      As a fan of 70s comics, I think you'd enjoy it, JMD, because it has that subversive quality. But there's also some fantastic character work. At its core, it's the story of a broken man trying to do right by his friends the best way he knows how.

      Best,

      David

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    2. Thanks for the recommendation, David, but you know I don't like comics that are funny. Humor has no place in superhero stories. : )

      As for Romita: I'd work with him again in a heartbeat.

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    3. Apologies, JMD, I'd totally forgotten that you're the kind of guy who finds CNN a bit too whimsical.

      BTW, I'd watch Giffen--I think he might have snuck several thousand jokes into your scripts when you weren't looking. Worse yet, they're really funny!

      --David

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    4. He did WHAT?!?! "Hey, Giffen—get over here! I wanna talk to you!!"

      This concludes today's vaudeville routine.

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  12. You should be able to pitch a Spidey story in the current Marvel Universe. Aren't there like seventy-five spider types roaming around?

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    1. I'm not up on current Marvel mythology, but if Spidey came calling, it would be hard to say no.

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  13. Sorry your Phantom Stranger series didn't make your list, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I had a sense that you, as the writer, were being constrained from ways that you wanted the series to go by overarching themes. As for turkeys, honestly, Trinity of Sin was not too hot.

    I do like your new JL 3001 series, by the way. I wasn't taken by the earlier issues in JL 3000, but the last of the JL 3000 issues, and the new stuff is a lot more fun.

    I don't know if you have been reading Airboy, particularly issue no. 1, but it's the darkest, most brutally funny thing I have seen since the days of the underground comics.

    Rick

    Rick

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    1. Just because something wasn't on the list, Rick, doesn't mean I didn't enjoy working on it or consider it good work. PHANTOM STRANGER was probably my favorite series out of all my recent DC work. I could have kept writing it for a few more years (at least) and was very sorry to see it end.

      Glad you're enjoying JL 3001.

      And, no, I haven't read AIRBOY. Sounds good.

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    2. I agree, each number it gets better.
      From the cover of the last one I was wondering if Supergirl would fit with an already crowded team, now I want more of it. And to add something new to the pile, the JL3001 have to deal with Starro as some sort of member.
      I really love when you guys do buddy talk. The conversation between Bruce and Clark was great.
      And you probably predicted I was totally going to ask but, are those two Ralph and Sue non-clones behind Bruce and Clark?? Why would Cadmus non-clone Sue! Is the Bar & Grill going to be the Cheers of Takron-Galtos for the JL and the Super Buddies? This has been a great year for Dibny fans with what Gail and you guys have done.
      I totally missed the reintroduction of Barry. I thought he was compromised with the Teri's material.

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    3. We have no plans (at the moment) to follow up with Ralph and Sue. That doesn't mean we won't do it some time in the future.

      So glad you've been enjoying the book. We've got some MAJOR twists and turns ahead that will really shake things up in the 3001 universe. The Big Changes kick in with #6. Don't say I didn't warn you!

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    4. I'm really enjoying the twists and turns I've seen so far.
      I'm just there for the ride, seeing the non-clones of Ralph and Sue was just the icing on top. I find it interesting that after being non-cloned (I forgot the word for the process in the book) they decided to take a different path. That panel, kind of allow us fans to speculate that a number of heroes and supporting characters have been non-cloned. If they have done it with Guy, Ralph and Sue, it's easy to suspect that other people like Aquaman, Hawkman, Captain Atom, Power Girl, Catwoman or Zatanna are also around. And here is a funny thought: this time you guys get to include any character you want as part of the league. I'm really hoping for a long, long series!

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