Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Had an exhilarating, and exhausting, three days at the Baltimore Comic Con (as the photos below will attest).  I spent most of the con side-by-side with my long-time collaborators Keith Giffen and Kevin Maguire and we must have signed hundreds of JLI comics (covering all the League's various incarnations).  I also got to see old friends, meet an amazing group of fans, participate in some fascinating panels and spend a few evenings enjoying the Baltimore waterfront.  Big thanks to Marc Nathan, Brad Tree and all the fine folks at BCC for showing us a great time.

Next on the list?  Bangalore Comic Con in November.  My first time back in India in over ten years.

Saturday's writer's panel—with Amy Chu, Mark Waid, Bob Greenberger, Paul Storrie and Hope Larson
Building Fictional Words—with Walt Simonsson, Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen & Fabian Nicieza

The Three Stoogers reunited:  Giffen, DeMatteis & Maguire

Music and Comic Books—with Amy Chu, Charles Soule, James Tynion IV and Christy Blanch

The best part of the weekend?  I got to spend it with my beautiful wife.
Proof that hotshot artists aren't the only ones doing conventions sketches


  1. Did you know that Stan Lee and Get Smart star Don Adams were in the same graduating class at Dewitt Clinton High School?

    Also, Maryland was one of the few slave states not effected by the Emancipation Proclamation. These were the so called "Boarder States," or slave states that did not join the Confederacy.

    Just two interesting facts.


    1. Which I will file away in the "interesting facts" corner of Creation Point!

  2. One of the strengths comics have over every other medium is the ability to have clashing parts of story telling work hand in hand.

    You could have 22 pages of a visually impressive hero-villain fight, but thanks to the written word's ability to internalize also have amazing characterization.

    Through the magic of thought balloons and captions what would be distracting on film or television, is a beautiful chaos of conflict working out in spectacular melding of fantastic, mundane, and every stop in between. Why can't Peter Parker reflect on every minutia of problems in his personal life, while fighting the Rhino?

    The great strength of Superheroes is a strange almost clashing idea set. An sort of benchmark for al goings on.

    Stan Lee was brilliant to include personal ups and downs for superheroes. However, the constant need to save the day puts it all into perspective. Ben Grimm may complain about being the Thing, Steve Rogers about being lost out of time, and Peter Parker about needing rent, but end of the day there are bigger things to deal with.

    On the opposite side, it adds weight to the real problems of life. Either through metaphor that equates real social issues to world ending threats, or through injection into big events.

    "What Captain America is pals with a gay guy named Arnie and a black guy? I guess constantly saving the world puts things in perspective."

    or "Green Lantern wants to take on slum lords in the ghetto? And is thinking harder on his role to average people? He fights alien armadas. THIS must be important.

    Assuming of course you don't turn it into a lecture. God, I hate that.



    1. You're so right about the "clashing parts" aspect of comic book storytelling. When I write a plot or script and the artist nails all the visual beats, I'm free to dig down to levels 2, 3, 4, 5 thought interior monologue or other devices to add depth and tension to the story. KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT is a great illustration: Zeck captured everything I asked him for. I didn't have to explain any of the surface elements, so I could do a deep dive into the characters' heads, confident that Mike had sold the rest of the story visually.

      Thanks for the Serling link. I know I've seen that show, but it was some time ago.

    2. I don't think this peach is quite ripe.

      Anyway, I remember Gene Colan once said that the Marvel method was freeing, both to artists and Stan Lee, allowing more avenues to both that a normal script wouldn't.

      As such, I've always thought that the writer should be loose with descriptions of art.

      I have noticed an interesting change in comics art recently. Over the past 15 years or some of the best art ever in the medium's history has shown up... on a technical level.

      What has gone missing is some of the personality of previous generations. Hack Kirby, Jim Starlin, and Frank Miller each own a decade with their art style.

      However, none of them were the best from a technical standpoint. Kirby was behind Colan, Romita, andK ane, and Starlin was certainly no Neal Adams.

      What made them better was that they through more energy and personality into their work than anyone else... and those other guys through a lot in as well.

      Now, I think that many things have gone into this, but I wouldn't be surprised if part of it was that writers have gotten too specific as films become a bigger and bigger influence on their storytelling.


    3. I like to keep my plots pretty tight. The joy, for me, in plot-first is that I then get to react to the artwork and do things, in the scripting, that I might never do had I written the entire thing full-script. I think plots that are too loose can be unfair to the artist, putting too much of the burden on them. Unless the writer is actively co-plotting with the artist, the burden is on him (or her).

      There are lots of artists who loved working with Stan (who sometimes put the majority of the storytelling burden on the artists) and some really resented him for it (especially since they weren't paid for being part of the writing team). Still, Stan was Stan and was both the scripture AND the editor, so he had a level of freedom and creativity that was pretty much unprecedented. And I certainly can't argue that Stan's unique method resulted in some amazing comic books.

    4. I see that "scripter" was autocorrected to "scripture"—which, in Stan's case, may not be too far off, since those classic comics became scripture for generations of comics creators!

    5. I'm not talking about loose plots, I mean actually writing scripts, and putting incredibly distinct detail.

      It is more a point on an actual script. I've seen printings of script segments, where the details are so intense I can't imagine the artist would have very much creativity at all.

      As for your typo... I once got bored and tried to convince a guy that Captain America was an allegory fro Christianity. So... you know, its all a matter of perspective.


    6. Ah, I see what you're saying. Yes, you want to keep your plots or scripts tight and clear and visual BUT you don't want to put in so much detail that you suffocate your artist. You want them to have room to breathe and move and bring a real contribution to the story.

    7. BAck in the 00s they would occasionally reprint scripts in trades and such because... I was never really sure.

      Some of the script would have detail down to exactly how far apart characters should be, the size of the model, and other minutia.

      I understand it was probably a very vivid image in their head they wanted to get out. However, it often made the art look stiff. Good artists seemed sapped of all energy.

      Speaking of Lee, there is only one month left to be solicited this year, and no mention of Stan Lee doing anything for the Surfer's 50th anniversary. To make things worse, his 200th issue came and went, and nothing. No back up feature, not even a foreward or afterward on the character Lee called his personal favorite.

      Is it weird that I find that disappointing?

      This is so far the first decade since the character's creation that Stan has not produced a new story for him.


    8. Maybe they're waiting for the 50th anniversary of the Surfer's solo book, which would be 2018. Could be that, because of Stan's vision problems, he isn't writing anything these days. (Which wouldn't prevent him from plotting out a story for another writer to finish.)
      Bottom line is I'd love to see one more Surfer story from Stan.

    9. I didn't know about his vision problems. That may take a toll just signing his name over and over for long periods of time.

      Maybe that is why he is stopping doing shows outside the west coast after this year. If that is the case, and he is doing all these stops to give the fans a chance... that is quite the devotion to his fans.

      Your right he could plot, and depending on what he can do with his eye sight and the art, he might even be able to dictate the words. Of course, that would probably be a much longer process than the usual. And it would have to be only a short back up feature, again if it is even possible.

      There is also a chance could dictate some words on the silver surfer for an intro.

      It would be a shame if there was no Stan Lee written Silver Surfer this decade, after writing the original series in the 60s and early 70s, The original graphic novel in 1978, the epic piece in 1980, the one shot with Byrne, judgement day graphic novel, and parable in the rest of the 80s, The Enslavers and a Christmas special in the 90s, and Stan Lee meets the Silver Surfer in 2006, the streak should not be broken.

      It is an especially sad thing since he was Lee's favorite character to write.

      Of course it would be even bigger shame and sadder to push a 94 year old man to such problematic conditions, so there you go.

      Now here is an idea...

      You scripted a plot from Stan in Spider-man 400, he really enjoyed Kraven's last hunt, and Greenberg. You work in comics and have the idea. Why not suggest it to Marvel yourself? I'd read that.

      You might even be able to get a meeting with the man, and are you telling me that 17 year old JM Dematteis wouldn't burn the Earth itself for that chance? By the way, I hope you out grew that, it isn't a very Silver Surfer thing to do.

      Or not your life, your career.

      Hope this "floats your boat" as the college kids say, and I wonder if you can guess what the song is about:



    10. Great song! And, no, I'm not sure what it's about.

      Would I love to co-write a Surfer story with Stan? Absolutely! But it's not in the cards.

    11. It was the willingness to burn the Earth that took the project out of play, right? I told you not very Silver Surfer... and possibly in need of a good psychiatrist.

      I guess all you and I can do is hope that that next Lee Silver Surfer story comes along one way or the other.

      Hope springs eternal.

      As for the song, it is about Jews hiding in an attic during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

      I first heard the song a couple of years ago, then learned the fact a a month later. I was originally... unsure... in how I felt about the subject matter with such music accompanying it.

      Then I looked at the lyrics, saw them and realized it was talking about those nine hours of silence, and all that ran threw the most unfortunate of people's heads. A desire to fight back, even though it was suicide, fear of being found, a fantasy of making it out and going somewhere far away or even just a local bar, even just the need to break out and react and live a life full of emotions.

      The music's rapidity matches each one of those things and the mindset/heightened blood rate that goes along with it.

      It actually does what is often forgotten when this subject matter is addressed, the fact that this horrific event was happening to people, with real thoughts and complex thoughts as they suffered... not just victims.

      It may be the most depressing subject matter in pop culture history, but it was written buy Norwegians, and they are not known for being blinded by the bright side.

      Believe it or not, its just a good song and I believe in passing along knowledge of talented people.

      I tried to fight it, but I just can't not tell people facts.


  3. Dematteis... did you hear? Comic sales are up, and it is all DC's doing.

    No, in all honest, sales will probably go down as people who tried new things move away from them as they realize it isn't for them, or any number of other issues.

    But that will be small, and I'm staying optimistic.

    Most importantly, is that DC did it largely by doing what fans wanted. More importantly, it was simple. struggling industries dream of fixes this simple.

    Okay, yes, DC got a lot of bonus traction because it is the beginning of undoing the unpopular New 52, and the excitement for the return of the old DCU is fueling some of it.

    But it is also because they are focusing on characterization, and the basic elements of these characters, with cheaper books, and a stagger start with the most popular characters going first an B0lisers coming later so as not to overwhelm.

    What is saving comics is a back to basics mentality. That is amazing. It is the golden ticket of turning around a company. And its what fans have been saying that they wanted, so there is no friction between old and new.

    Comic books DO need to expand the market to get in new readers. So far all they are doing is pulling in readers they lost, and maybe a few Marvel zombies or INdie only readers who are curious.

    Yes there is more work to do. But for once, can fans and creators come together, and just be glad that their joint loved medium has a road map to survival after being on life support.

    For just one day, no twitter wars, or creators telling fans to f*** off on a major company's message board (yes, that did happen), no fans harping on creators they don't like and being needlessly insulting due to a difference in taste.

    Right now the only two groups of people who really care about comics as a medium have cause to celebrate.

    Spread the word.

    Of course Marvel isn't doing very well... but the road map is there, they can follow it when need be.


    1. I don't know much about the current state of Marvel, Jack. As to the rest of what you said: Amen!

    2. The easiest and least controvertial way to frame Marvel's issues is that in the past few months, DC has crushed Marvel in sales, with reprints of recent issues outselling most Marvel titles

      Good for DC, but it kind of negates the idea of competition.

      So, spread the word and you can just tell me when the day of joyous contemplation and peace is.

      Also, another good example of comics doing good thing are Ragnarok and what Archie comics is doing.

      Ragnarok is classic Walt Simonson mythological stories, but with a twist. Just a basic good foundation where you can expand out to new ideas. Its so good IDW's questionable tactics in packaging and how effects price can't enen stop me.

      As for Archie, I'm sure their flagship book is doing great under the pen of MArk Waid, but I never cared for the character. I hear good things about Afterlife with Archie... but, I'm so tired of zombies.

      Sabrina on the other hand is a great, creeping atmospheric horror comic, and with great characterization.

      Between that and DC's well received Hannah Barbara updates, comics seem to still not be perfect (again needs new readers) but I think f this keeps up there may e at least another decade for the medium.

      An idea I think would be good for Marvel would be to take a few of their harder to sell for long periods characters, and separate them.

      Still in continuity, just not as connected as they are now. Sort of like Swamp Thing under Vertigo.

      Keep those basic premise of the character and what teh book is i.e. horror, magic, sci-fi, whatever, and then let the freak flags fly. Get into the realms that maybe wouldn't be as quickly grasped as when chasing the lunch box crowd.

      From there they can expand to non-MarvelU associated works.

      It is sort of a combination of the DC, Archie, and Hannah-Barbara ideas. It could also take teh place of what Vertigo once was.

      Vertigo isn't bad really, it just doesn't have the feel. Its more like... an attempt to have their own version of Image. I just think if they could recapture something similar (obviously the original is an was, and that is just how it is) you would have a built in market and creativity base to work in.


    3. Not to take anything away from REBIRTH, which, by most accounts, is a resounding success; but these relaunches always gobble up the market. I'm sure Marvel could do the same thing. The real measure of its success will be where the sales are in a year.

      Your Marvel idea is reminiscent of the Marvel Knights line.

      And Vertigo, in some ways, was Image before Image. Just as Epic was Vertigo before Vertigo.

      Still, lots of good ideas to think about. Thanks, Jack.

    4. I don't really see the parallels between Vertigo and Image, so I'm afraid you would have to explain.

      Modern Image I would compare more today... First or Eclipse Comics. Maybe even a little bit of both.

      As for DC getting teh boost. Yeah. I pointed that out originally, these sales numbers will fall as life fgets in the way, money pay gets too be more than one can handle in a week, or just the thing you tries wasn't what you were looking for.

      However, Marvel's problem's are a tad more extensive than just lower sales. I just thought that you wouldn't aprreciate a rant against Marvel on your website.

      Let's just say that many readers are droping books left and right do to a large number of questionable decisions.

      A good example of ONE of these problems is that a December solicitation has Dr. Strange teaming up with the Punisher, and carrying a a mystically created gun. I think that sums up one of the problems.

      My Marvel idea is not that reminiscent of Marvel nights... at least in tin my head. MK was more bound to what was going on in the Marvel Universe than I was thinking. I'm thinking a bigger break from what is, and with the shared universe characters existing yet more closed off for team-ups and the like.

      MArvel actually once had the MAX line, which was touted as the Marvel Vertigo. It just ended up being the anti-Vertigo. a good example here is the use of sex and violence.

      In Vertigo it was almost always to serve the story. It had some point. In MAX it was just for titillation and cheap thrills. IN short, what they claimed was for "mature readers" was just painfully adolescent.

      There isn't anything inherently wrong with cheap adolescent thrills existing in some form... but it isn't the same thing.

      Now, lets say MArvel came up to you with this idea and wanted you to write a book and pick teh other three, maybe even edit. Who would you pick?

      To give an idea of what I have envisioned, my picks would be:

      Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, Man-0Thing, and I don't know. I'll think of a fourth one later.

      Point is, all of them have had and more importantly are open, to a wide array of stories with a less typical style. Hell, your an admitted fan of all three... I'm sure you can link all the dots.


    5. Vertigo, in the early days, was a place where a creator could go and do non-traditional, creator-owned work and share in the profits. There was a sense of real creative freedom and experimentation during Karen Berger's reign. And, unlike Image, you were paid well for your work, so you could make a living while you were nursing your series along. (Of course, under Image, you get a much bigger piece of the pie, but making a living while you're working really counts for something.)

      Re: your Marvel idea. I love the three you picked. (But I you knew that.) After that, I'd be interested in other Marvel supernatural characters, like Daimon Hellstrom and Devil Slayer (to name two).

      And you're right: No anti-Marvel rants. I appreciate it!

    6. Yeah, I got the connection between indie books and Vertigo. I'm just not sure why Image is viewed as an evolutionary step.

      The 80s saw Eclipse and First, the latter of which is where Starlin moved Dreadstar from Epic. Both of which had similar ideas to what Image has become. Then there are the whole host of other indie publishers.

      For that matter, Dark Horse startd almost a half decade earlier and still keeps going.

      In fact, I think Vertigo was a evolutionary jump that has not been surpassed. It allowed much of the freedom of indie books, but a more established editorial stance which was better nurturing talent.

      By Image's own admission, there primary goal has become in the past 10 years to make creators properties a reality. Which is what a lot of indie companies do, they just aren't as big, nor say it as flowery.

      That is why Image's greatest strength is also there greatest weakness, freedom. Creative teams have less of a guiding hand, which can be a problem for new talent.

      That is probably why Image has increasingly moved toward established writers, and why for every Walking Dead, there are 3 books that no one knows how they end.

      It's just a different model. Its just that Image's model is one that pre-dated Vertigo, and becomes more and more like it all the time.

      I just hope the nature of creator writes has become more smoothed out. The Malibu books still can't be reprinted, all because they gave without defining. And Englehart and Gerber's work, and certainly Robinson's FIREARM, deserve a reprint.

      Comics are like everything else, it is all perfectly orderly and logical, until you through in the chaos of the human element.

      IMAGE gets a lot of praise these, days, and rightfully do. Especially given that their first decade was spent as the joke of the industry and an example of what was wrong with the 90s.

      It is not however without its flaws. They have bad books like any company, and they have problems like another. And that bigger piece of the pie is great, but as you would expect, it comes with a price. No one has your back (at least not in the same way), a simple problem that could feasibly be corrected can tank a career, and the learning curve is without a teacher in some respects.

      Vertigo bridges the wild west mentality of indies and the (seemingly) more civilized city of mainstream books. I guess that makes Vertigo as it was as the suburb of comics. That doesn't sound right, but given how much the art school crowd loved SANDMAN... it also seems to fit.

      AS for your propositions for the Marvel Vertigo. I like Hellstorm and Devil Slayer, but with Doc on the team, that much mysticism could give too much of an over all impression.

      Also they tried to make Damien Constantine in the 90s... s well as Dr. Strange for a year... and that got weird.

      I guess it could work if they are on different levels, like Sandman and Hellblazer in the early days of Vertigo.

      I was thinking NAmor, or maybe Deathlok. Thought Deathlok is always complicated to do.

      You know, to really expand on the type of stories they can do. Think of it, Namor gets you all that political intrigue, and ancient mythology of Atlantis. With a completely untapped base.

      I think all we really did was prove I should be working at MArvel.


      PS Seriously, Ragnarok and Sabrina are really good.

    7. Love the idea of doing Namor that way, Jack. Back when we were doing MAN-THING, Liam Sharp and I did a two-part Namor story that, I thought, struck off into (ahem) new waters. We could have done an entire series that way and I think it would have been something very new for the character.

      Let me know when that Marvel job comes through!

    8. NAmor was the first Marvel hero, both chronologically, and thematically.

      You have a character who is brave and noble, but also obtuse and anti-social. He openly hates half of his heritage, and is portrayed as a villain almost as much as a hero. He doesn't really respect wedding vows... except his. That makes him angry.

      He fought the Nazis, and tried to drown New York. Not to mention the invasions and giant Monsters.

      Doesn't that sound like a Vertigo character?

      Then there is the story potential.

      He's half human in a society that hates humans. No one hates that about their monarch?

      There is the natural political intrigue of being a monarch. and who takes care of business when he is out questing, or heroing, or whatever?

      He hangs out with Doom, who he admittedly hates. And Doom hates.. and I always thought that it was at least a little because NAmor is what Doom only pretends to be, noble.

      Then there is the relation to every other monarchs.

      He's pals wit Captain America, and half American. Did he ever think of having some elected body? How would that go over?

      Then all those monsters he has access to. They have harnessed that, but what about what Atlanteans couldn't master?

      He references the Roman pantheon, but what about the uniquely atlantean ideas. They have magic. For that matter, he has met one of the sons of that greco-roman pantheon.

      What effect does being a half-breed have on his desire to produce an heir?

      And again the untapped Atlantean culture, magic, and whatever else you can think of?

      It could be Conan mixed with Game of Thrones, James Dean, BAnd of Brotehrs, the West Wing, Toklien, and the traditional superhero book.

      ONe day I'll tell you what I think they could do wit some of the characters I like even more.

      I think the very idea of separating these characters (or others) opens up possibilities for writers, but also the minds of readers. They will know it will be something different.


      If you want to squeak some wheels at the house of ideas, I could take a meeting.


    9. As you may have noticed, Jack, I'm not doing any work for Marvel these days, so wheel-squeaking isn't in my...wheelhouse. : ) Fun ideas, though!

  4. I'm still hoping that in the remaining months of the Surfer's 50th anniversary and Captain America's 75th, Creation Point will see a post about those two icons and what they meant to the author.

    And since it is the last day of summer:



    1. I was expecting a Beach Boys song, Jack, but that one was lovely.

      Re: Cap. I posted a Cap tribute way back in 2011. Maybe I'll re-post in honor of the anniversary. As for Norrin Radd, that's a good idea. But I still have to write that Star Trek 50th post!