Monday, May 22, 2017

NERDERY

While I was at Houston's Comicpalooza last week, I did an interview with the Nerdery podcast.  The sound's a little wonky, but if you crank it up, you should be able to hear it all.  Enjoy!

(And, while you're at it, you might enjoy this interview I did with Tinker, Tailor, Comics, Writer.  You can read it right here.)

Friday, May 19, 2017

SIGNING FOR SPIDEY

My two year run on Spectacular Spider-Man, with the brilliant Sal Buscema, is one of my all-time favorite projects.  My creative chemistry with Sal was there from the first page, first panel, and I think we brought out the best in each other—and in Peter Parker.  

The Spec run has never been collected in its entirety, but an enterprising fan has started a petition in an attempt to make it so.  If you're so inclined, you can sign it here.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

JOURNEYS TO PODLANDIA

I've done a wave of podcast interviews the past couple of months and this is the most recent:  an interesting (well, I hope it's interesting) conversation with The Non Breaking Space Show.  The interview is embedded below.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 1, 2017

COASTING

Had a wonderful weekend at the East Coast Comicon, spending time with old friends (everyone from Bob Budiansky to Marv Wolfman, Ann Nocenti to Danny Fingeroth), meeting many wonderful fans and generally having a fine time.  

The highlights of the weekend were the two anniversary panels celebrating the 30th of both Kraven's Last Hunt and Justice League International.  For Kraven, we had just about the entire creative team together for the first time ever and for JLI—well, I never get tired of spending time with Giffen and Maguire.   

There'll be more JLI and Kraven anniversary fun in August at Terrificon and I'm looking forward to continuing the celebrations.

With my fellow Stooges, "Moe" Giffen and "Curly" Maguire


These guys looked so familiar, but I couldn't quite place them.


The Kraven Crew: Bob McLeod, JMD, Mike Zeck, Rick Parker and Jim Salicrup


Kraven conversations


My dear pal, and longtime Spider-editor, Danny Fingeroth.  (Maguire looks askance in the background)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

STORYCRAFT

Had a really wonderful conversation with Kraig Rasmussen of the Storycraft Podcast: one of the most interesting interviews I've ever done—covering the art of writing, and of life, from a variety of illuminating angles.  Click here if you'd like to give it a listen.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

PALOOZATALK

A lengthy interview, which was conducted at Houston's Comicpalooza convention back in 2015, just made its way online.  I'd forgotten all about it, so it was like having a piece of the past magically reappear.  You can listen to it right here.

I'll be back at Comicpalooza in May.  It's a great convention and I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

HEART AND SOUL

There’s been a lot of talk about diversity in comics lately. My feeling is, the more diversity the better. How best to do that is the question. An excellent example is the Berlanti/DCTV universe, which has done a superb job of bringing a broader cultural lens to these characters.

I think the key is remaining true to the essence of the the characters. Spider-Man could be black, white, Asian, Latino, as long as he's that same working class kid from Queens we’ve come to know and love. (As current Spider-writer Dan Slott once observed: "There's nothing inherently white about Peter Parker.") Superman could be any race (I mean, the guy’s an alien. Why can’t Kryptonians be black?) as long as he embodies the spirit—that magical balance of otherworldy power and simple human decency—that Kal-El has come to stand for.

In the end, it’s the heart and soul of the characters that matters. And heart and soul belong to all people, of all races. So, yes: The more diversity, the better.


©copyright 2017 J.M. DeMatteis

Friday, April 7, 2017

WAR AND PEACE


Last night's missile attack on Syria, and the horrific actions that precipitated it, got me thinking about war and peace and our collective vision for humanity's future, which in turn led me to this post I wrote back in 2009, provoked by Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in which he said that that peace should always be the ultimate goal, but that war is sometimes not just “necessary” but “morally justified.”


***

“Necessary”  “Morally justified”?  When I listen to the president—when I listen to any political leader—talk about “just” and “necessary” wars, my hackles go up.  To me, this thinking reflects an incredibly limited mind-set; one locked in the past.  “We must begin,” Obama stated, “by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes.”  Hard to argue with that when you view life through the lens of what I call the CNN Reality.  If we focus exclusively on the way things have always been, if we lock ourselves into the vision of a world where hideous violence is an acceptable form of problem solving, then that’s the world we’re going to get.  But experience has shown me that there is a deeper, a truer, reality beneath the skin of the world.  One that has the potential to transform both the individual soul and the entire planet. 

Looking through the lens of that Deeper Reality has shown me that the universe begins inside our own heads, hearts and souls; that we’re all living in a dream, projected from both the personal and collective unconscious.  (In the end, I don’t think there’s any difference between the personal and the collective, but that’s another discussion for another time.)  The microcosm, as they say, is the macrocosm:  The smallest acts of kindness and compassion can act as a bridge between those inner and outer universes, rippling out and transforming the world.  The old model—the one that clings to the concept of war as just and necessary—can collapse in the time it takes us to change our minds.  To change our dreams.

Compassion, it seems to  me, is the key:  seeing people—however despicable their actions may be—not as “enemies” or “evil,” but as flawed human beings, worthy, at the very least, of an attempt to understand what made them that way.  “Make no mistake,” the president explained, “evil does exist in the world.”  But evil, as we all know, is in the eye of the beholder.  To Muslim extremists, we’re evil.  George W. Bush saw the Iraqis, the Koreans and the Iranians as an “axis of evil.”  When we (and when I say “we,” I mean humanity as a whole, not just the United States) define our opponents as one-dimensional villains out of a 1940's comic book, we transform them into caricatures that can be obliterated without guilt or shame.  If we continue to paint them as evil, war as just and necessary, then those opponents will continue do the same—and the cycle of violence will go on and on, till the end of the world.

“The nonviolence practiced by men like Gandhi and King,” the president stated, “may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached—their faith in human progress—must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.”  But how can anyone follow the North Star of King and Gandhi while justifying conflicts that brutalize and demean humanity?  I wonder how many men told Gandhi that violence was “just” in the name of a free India, how many urged King on to “necessary” violence in the name of civil rights for African Americans.   “A nonviolent movement,” Obama went on, “could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms.”  No, but who’s to say what acts of wisdom and compassion could have prevented Hitler’s rise to power or transformed the twisted, fundamentalist rage of men who thought blowing up innocents—and themselves with them—was some kind of doorway to Heaven?

Look:  I’m not a politician or a diplomat whose job is to deal with the so-called harsh realities of life.  I am, by trade and nature, a dreamer, and it’s my job to ask:  Why do we have to accept the Harsh Reality?  Why can’t we manifest a new, a better, one?  We can keep regurgitating the old models—from a thousand years ago, seven decades ago or the recent past—and hold them up as examples of the way things have always been, the way things have to be, or we can refuse to buy into those myths.  December 13, 2009 isn’t December 7, 1941, it isn’t September 11, 2001, it isn’t even yesterday:  it’s a new world right now.

Maybe our political leaders will never embrace the idea that peace is possible, that war isn’t a viable option—maybe, given the harrowing issues they have to deal with on a daily basis, they simply can’t—but we can dream that dream into being today.  You can call this unrealistic—starry-eyed idealism or crackpot mysticism—and, viewed from the realist’s perspective, it absolutely is.  But why not aim for the stars?  Why not project—and believe, to the bottom of our souls—that peace, both personal and global, is possible this very moment?

And if I’m wrong?  If I really am nothing but a starry-eyed, crackpot dreamer?  Well, I still think my life, and the lives of those around me, will be better for having chosen to believe.



©copyright 2017  J.M. DeMatteis

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

ANNIVERSARY PARTIES

At the end of this month, I'll be appearing at the East Coast Comic Con where, along with signing comics and meeting fans, I'll be taking part in two very special panels.  

For the first—celebrating 30 years of Justice League International—I'll be joined by those Kings of Comedy, those Monarchs of Mirth, Keith Giffen and Kevin Maguire. 


For the second, celebrating the 30th birthday of Kraven's Last Hunt (my, how our little boy has grown), I'll be joined by one of the greatest superhero artists in the history of comics, Mike Zeck, inker extraordinaire Bob McLeod and editor, and all-around swell guy, Jim Salicrup.



It's going to be a great weekend and I hope to see some of you there.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

SHATNERDAY

Happy 86th birthday to the great William Shatner. In celebration, here's a classic Denny Crane scene from Boston Legal (a show I still miss).
And if you're in the mood, you can jump back a year and read my list of all-time favorite Shatner performances.
Live longer and continue to prosper, Captain.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

VIVA MEXICO

Got back very late last night from La Mole Comic Con, exhausted but grateful for a wonderful experience. 

Thanks to everyone at the convention for taking such good care of us, for treating us with tremendous warmth, affection and respect. What a wonderful group of people working at the show and what an amazing group of fans.

Viva Mexico!

I think I signed more comics in a single day
than I have at other cons in an entire weekend.

"Going Sane" was a story that came across my table again and again.
That's Jorge, one of the convention organizers, along with
a sweet little fan who'd just finished chemo.
(The good news:  he's doing fine.) 
Irais was a superb translator who was with us all through the con,
seeing to our every need with grace and humor.

In the age of the cell phone, I posed for pictures almost as often a
s I signed comics.

Kraven's Last Hunt was everywhere...

...in a variety of editions.

I repeat:  Viva Mexico!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

REMEMBERING WRIGHTSON

So very sorry to hear that Bernie Wrightson has passed away. Not just a towering talent (one of the greatest our industry has every seen) but a very nice man. I think back to the 1980s and the legendary Halloween parties Bernie had every year and it fills me with both a warm nostalgia and a deep sorrow. 
The art below is the cover to the Gargoyle mini-series I did for Marvel in 1985. We asked Bernie to do a cover for us and this is the amazing piece he contributed. No reproduction could do justice to the original painting which was massive.

My heartfelt condolences to Bernie's family.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

IN ANCIENT MEXICO

We arrived in Mexico City yesterday and this morning, at 7 am, our warm, wonderful hosts at the La Mole Comic Con loaded us in a bus and took us out to visit the pre-Aztec world of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.  An amazing day.  Here are some photos.

The Pyramid of the Sun
The Pyramid of the Moon
With my beautiful wife, Diane
Surveying the amazing landscape

With fellow convention guest, the great Steve Englehart

A street snack:  crickets!
With some of our amazing hosts



Monday, March 6, 2017

EISNER'S 100TH


Some thoughts, first posted here some years back, in celebration of what would have been Will Eisner's 100th birthday:

I had the honor of sitting on a panel beside Eisner—one of few comic book creators who crossed, then utterly erased, the line between pop culture entertainment and genuine literature—many years ago, but we never had the opportunity to really talk, really connect.  And yet we did connect, through his work, and he spoke to me, via words and pictures, in eloquent, unforgettable—and deeply personal—ways.     

There have been times, in a career that’s lasted over thirty-five years, when I’ve grown tired of comics, when I’ve felt that there’s nothing left for me to say; when I’ve looked at the form with a cynical, dismissive eye.  Better, I thought, to just focus on my television and film work, on novels, on anything but those damn comic books. 

And then, I’d pick up some Eisner graphic novel—Dropsie Avenue, To the Heart of the Storm, or my absolute favorite, one of the single most brilliant works this medium has ever seen, A Contract With God—and the scales would fall from my eyes, the cynical words would dissolve on my lips, the innocence and enthusiasm of a kid reading his first comic book would burn bright in my heart. 

Will Eisner didn’t traffic in costumes and super-powers:  He looked at the (apparently) mundane, everyday world and revealed the infinite universes within each person’s heart.  His work, unfailingly, inspired me and taught me, again and again, that the true potential of comics has only begun to be tapped; that we, as writers and artists in this medium, can, and must, tell stories of intelligence, emotion—and heartbreaking, uplifting humanity.  

Eisner inspired me in another way, as well:  He never stopped.  The man kept  working, producing graphic novels of unparalleled quality—producing art—till the day he died.  May we all follow his example and keep creating new worlds of imagination into our eighties and beyond.  Aspiring, as Will Eisner clearly did, to always be better at our craft.

©copyright 2017 J.M. DeMatteis

Thursday, March 2, 2017

DR. SEUSS DAY!

Yes, there really is a Dr. Seuss Day and it's today.  
I remember being very young, going to the library with my parents, and discovering Seuss's magical mix of whimsical, poetic text and brilliantly fanciful art.  (I wonder if my love of Seuss is what led me to seek out the equally-magical word/picture blend of comic books?) 
The man was a true genius of the imagination and his work enchants me as much now as it did when I was four years old, sitting in the children's section of the Avenue J library in Brooklyn, my eyes wide with wonder.  

So thank you Theodor Geisel for igniting my imagination and filling my heart.

Monday, February 27, 2017

MISSION TO MARS


I had a very enjoyable talk with Kevin Volo of the Heroes, Villains and Sidekicks podcast, discussing the life and times of J'onn J'onzz—with a focus on the 1988 Martian Manhunter mini-series I did with Mark Badger.  You can listen to it below.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEHER BABA!

"Love has to spring spontaneously from within; it is in no way amenable to any form of inner or outer force. Love and coercion can never go together; but while love cannot be forced upon anyone, it can be awakened through love itself.
Love is essentially self-communicative; those who do not have it catch it from those who have it. Those who receive love from others cannot be its recipients without giving a response that, in itself, is the nature of love.
True love is unconquerable and irresistible. It goes on gathering power and spreading itself until eventually it transforms everyone it touches. Humanity will attain a new mode of being and life through the free and unhampered interplay of pure love from heart to heart."
                                              Avatar Meher Baba

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A REMINDER

I was looking through some old Creation Point posts and came across this one from seven years ago that, given the current lunacy in our country and our world, was just what I needed to read today: a reminder to myself about what's really important, what's really possible, stuffed in a bottle and tossed out to sea in 2010, found and opened in 2017.  Here it is, in a slightly edited version:


***

While reading Ellen J. Langer’s book Counter Clockwise (which details a 1979 experiment in mind-body connection, in which Langer, in essence, mentally time-traveled a group of men in their seventies and eighties decades into the past, resulting in significant, positive changes in their physical health),  I came across a quote that went straight to the center of my soul:

The fact that something has not happened doesn’t mean it cannot happen; it only means the way to make it happen is as yet unknown.

As someone who believes that the (apparent) limits of the possible exist only to be exploded—as that quote over there on the left attests—I was delighted to come across such  a powerful reminder of a truth I already know, but still, for all my efforts, sometimes forget.

In my novel Imaginalis, the main character, Mehera Crosby, is guided on her adventure by words that many would dismiss as childish imagination:  “Because it’s impossible, I’ll do it.  Because it’s unbelievable, I’ll believe.”  To me this isn’t an immature world view, this is the essence of our existence.  For all the strangeness and suffering life can offer, it’s been my experience that we truly inhabit a universe of magic and miracles—one universe in a simultaneity of universes that we step into and out of with more frequency than we realize—and the more we acknowledge that, the more we realize that the sky isn’t the limit, that the only real limits are in our own heads, the more that magic will come alive for us.  Respond to us.  Transform the world within and around us.  

Just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it can’t.  If we keep our eyes wide, open to the endless impossibilities the universe has to offer, the miracles will come.

Feel free to remind me of that if I forget again.  And I hope, in some small way, I’ve reminded you.




 
©copyright 2017  J.M. DeMatteis

Sunday, February 12, 2017

BEETLE, BOOSTER, PETER AND SERGEI

I recently did two podcast interviews directly related to the aforementioned Justice League International 30th anniversary.  The first was with the JLI Podcast (yes, there is such a thing and they analyze, and celebrate, a different Justice League issue each month) and for the second I traveled all the way to Australia (well, via Skype) for a chat with the Saturday Detention Podcast.  You can listen to the JLI Podcast here and Saturday Detention right here.  Enjoy!  And speaking of anniversaries:

This year is also the 30th anniversary of Kraven's Last Hunt.  As part of the celebration, I'll be attending New Jersey's East Coast Comic Con in April and participating in a panel that will reunite pretty much the entire KLH team.  I haven't been in the same room with Mike Zeck since the nineties and I look forward to spending time with Mike and the rest of the crew.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

IT WAS THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY


I tip my hat to my brilliant co-writer Keith Giffen, to the amazing Kevin Maguire, whose one-of-a-kind art set the tone for the talented crew of artists that followed, to our truly extraordinary editor, Andy Helfer, who made the whole thing possible and to letterer Bob Lappan who fit all that damn dialogue in with style and grace.  We had no clue what we were getting into but, thirty years on, I'm profoundly grateful I climbed aboard the good ship JLI.

P.S.  Here's an anniversary interview I did with the JLI Podcast (and, yes, there really is such a thing).

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

AMARTITHI 2017

"Love is the only religion."—Avatar Meher Baba


Happy Amartithi to my Baba family around the world.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

GOING DARK

There's a new Justice League Dark animated movie out from Warner Home Video.  I co-wrote the story and the screenplay is by Ernie Altbacker.  From the clips I've seen, it's a good one.  (I'll see the whole thing at the premiere next week in New York City.)  If you've enjoyed the other DC animated features and you've got a taste for the supernatural corners of the DCU, I think you're really going to enjoy this one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

2017 is the 30th anniversary year for both Justice League International and Kraven's Last Hunt. As a way to kick off the celebrations, I offer two videos from a few years back. The first is from an Canadian documentary series called Ink: Alter Egos Exposed. The embedded episode is called "Villains" and it concludes with a discussion of KLH, where I talk about the story and how it evolved.



The second video is part of a documentary called Out of Print.  It's a short, but informative, chat about JLI.



So break out the cake, pop the champagne and let's get those anniversary parties started!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

ONCE MORE INTO THE MYSTERY

Next week will see the release of Seekers Into The Mystery: The Complete Collection from Dover Books.  This is the first time all fifteen issues of Seekers—a series I'm very proud of—have been collected in one volume.  The book contains lots of extras, including a brand new introduction by your truly—which you can read below.  Enjoy!

***


In November of 1990 I was in India, sitting inside the Tomb-Shrine of Avatar Meher Baba, when an interesting thing happened:  a story came to me—a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end.  I didn’t think about it.  My wandering mind didn’t dream it up.  The story was just…there.  No details.  No characters.  But a complete framework for a tale that—

Well, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, so I dutifully wrote the outline down in my journal, trusting that my unconscious would get to work sorting things out.  Shortly after I returned home, I had a dream that, amazingly, filled in some of the details of the tale and I began to understand that what I had on my hands was a novel.  A big novel, at that.  A story about my favorite theme:  humanity’s search for meaning, for the answer to the mystery of our souls.  I began to compile notes, shape characters, find things in my own life that would play into the story, and—

Then I forgot about it.  Not surprising.  I think almost every writer has stories he or she gets wildly excited about and then files away and forgets.  But I knew this one would be back.  I just wasn’t sure when.

In 1994, I was on retreat at the Meher Center in South Carolina when the story started popping up again—and this time there was no stopping it.  I began to see that the framework that had appeared in my head four years earlier would allow me to tackle all my passions, all the issues in life that excite, agitate, illuminate and consume me.  My tale would start with one man:  a pilgrim, a seeker, whose life unravels, opening first into unbearable mental agony—then ineffable spiritual wonder.  And through him we would encounter other seekers, other worlds, all unfolding onto a new world, a new Age.  I saw how this novel—I was still thinking of it as a book roughly the size of War and Peace—could encompass all the strange, disturbing and miraculous things happening—psychologically and spiritually—on the planet.  

I was excited.  I had to write this tale.  And it had to be a tale:  an involving, satisfying story with involving, satisfying characters, not some spiritual treatise in fictional form.  I didn’t want to lecture anybody.  I wanted to go on a voyage of personal discovery with burned-out screenwriter Lucas Hart and take the readers along.  What I didn’t want to do was spend ten years crafting a novel that might or might not see print.  Seekers—the title that eventually emerged—was a story I was desperate to tell immediately.  And when it comes to immediacy, and impact, the comic book is hard to beat.  (Yes, I know I should use the term graphic novel, but they’ve always been comics to me.)

I pitched the project to my old friend Karen Berger, the visionary behind DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, and she immediately, and enthusiastically, approved it as a monthly series.  Before long I was working with Shelly Roeberg (these days she’s Shelly Bond—and still one of the best editors, and nicest people, in the business) and, together, we came up with the idea of using not one, but a roster of artists to bring Seekers Into The Mystery (the title got significantly longer, for reasons too complex to get into here) to life.  The first two we signed up were favorite collaborators of mine:  the brilliant Jon J Muth, who illustrated Moonshadow—the project that helped me find my voice as a writer—and the equally-brilliant Glenn Barr, who illustrated my thinly-veiled autobiography, Brooklyn Dreams.  

Master storyteller Michael Zulli, best known for his justifiably-celebrated collaborations with Neil Gaiman on Sandman, soon joined us for a romp across the universe aboard a UFO, as did Jill Thompson, who, with great artistry, tackled what was, in some ways, the most difficult arc of the series.  (As a cherry on top, Shelly corralled John Bolton to contribute memorable covers for Jill’s four issues.) 

But that, I thought, was just the beginning:  I had ideas for another three years of Lucas Hart’s journey.  There were many more themes to strike, characters to explore, ideas to develop.  But publishing, like life, takes unexpected turns and Seekers Into The Mystery ended with its fifteenth issue.  We had enough warning that I was able to write something resembling a finale, but it wasn’t the ending I had in mind. 

When a series ends, a writer (well, this writer) tends to go into mourning; but then you move on to the next story, and the next, trying not to look back with regret.  (You try, but it doesn’t always work.)  What helped me with the death of Seekers was the fact that many people who read the series took it deep into their hearts.  It mattered to them.  In some cases it changed them, in profound ways.  And, as the years have passed, I continue to hear from readers who embraced Lucas Hart’s journey and found in it a reflection of their own.  A writer (well, this writer) can’t ask for anything more.

I’ve waited a long time to have all fifteen issues of Seekers Into The Mystery collected in a single volume and words can’t express how delighted I am that it’s finally come to pass.  Whether you’re revisiting these stories or encountering them for the first time, I hope you enjoy this long, strange trip into the mystery.

©copyright 2017 J.M. DeMatteis