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