SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
This actually reminded me of a question I always had about Staten Island Hallucinations... or whatever it was called. In it Vincent's mother said she didn't want her son to be a "Vinnie" in Hebrew School. Does that mean J.M. Dematteis' mother didn't want a Marc in Hebrew school?Now, to shift gears, I would like to bring something up from a past post.Secret Empire (technically Secret Empire II) is upon us. Whether you think Nick Spencer is the second coming of Stan Lee or the bane of the medium, one thing is for sure Bernie Rosenthal would not have allowed this to happen... nice Jewish girl and all.Yes, I'm on that again.So mow is a perfect time to introduce my new comic book parlor game... "How Could a Dark epic Comic Story, be averted through a sitcom?"Cap: All praises to HYDRA!Bernie: HYDRA!? I don't recall HYDRA giving you the best years of their life.Cap: Bernie, honey, I didn't see you the...Bernie: Don't "honey" me. I just hope HYDRA can make up the couch for you, because you won't be in MY bed tonight.Cap: Whoa, whoa...Bernie (storming out): And I hope they can also cook you dinner tonight!Cap: Of course she walks in on Brisket and pirogi night. (the next day at Avengers Mansion)Thor: Steven, my friend, I dost know not what you did to aggravate your maiden, but I must ask, why do you not say to her, "I am the lord of this realm, you whilst honor me?"Cap: Thor... there-there aren't a lot of Jewish women on Asgard, are there?Come on Dematteis, try it, its fun. Jack
It was interesting that you talked about being a character writer.As I see it, there are three types of writer of fiction.Character writers-who want to focus on characters, your Peter David and Chris ClaremontPlot writers, who focus on plots, Dan Slott is a good example of thisIdea writers- Alan Moore and Nick Spencer are examples of this, the ideas they are tapping into are what matters most.It isn't to say that you can't do the other two ell, but you focus and build off of one. You can even get combinations of them, Philip K. Dick, and almost every Sci-Fi writer can do this based off of the nature of the beast.I do think that character based, is usually the best for stuff like comics and other ongoing work, especially for long runs.Jack
Re: character vs. plot vs. idea. It's like our previous discussion of light vs. dark. In the best of all possible worlds, you want a balance of all those elements. But I'll always err on the side of character.
As I said, it isn't that a person from one group can't do the other two, just about where a writer starts their thought process.Jack
In my personal reading preferences, I lean toward character, especially when it comes to mainstream comics. Put simply, I think the question, "Wouldn't it be cool if Character X did THIS?" is less important than "WOULD Character X do this?" --David
Or "WHY does character X do the things he does?" Thanks, David!
Agreed. No question is more important for a character than "why?"--David
I don't know if the other two didn't g through or what, but I'm not re-typing them so it doesn't matter. Except for the one about Steve Rogers raising 12 year old Bucky in a full grown Winter Soldier body, I'll talk about all day and twice on Sunday.I don't know why you two are bad mouthing character X so much, he's doing the best he can.but I will say, I think that characterization is a more important element than ever in comics.Comics have always reflected the real world threats in some way. From the Nazis and corrupt politicians and industrialists in the golden age, to fears of what science might doom us all with in the silver age, to teh sense of nihilism and skyrocketing crime rates of the 70s and 80s (and 90s as far as crime ... well not sky rocketing, but still pretty high for most o teh decade.The problem is everyone is going after symptoms. The problem with our society isn't trump or his supporters or the democratic party, or kids policing language, or old lamenting this or that.The true threat has been building for years, decades, and we just have reached a fever pitch of it. As a society we lack a common identity, a common value, or any deep thought at all. political and social views become increasingly shallow and knee jerk. We drift further from each other with our personal statements becoming lines in the sand. large numbers of people are saying that they wouldn't marry (or even associate) with people with different views.It is less of a feeling of society or culture as a lot of people sharing a land mass.What is the best way to combat this (in comics at least)? Characterization. To show characters not as mouthpieces for ideologies or pieces to progress the plot, but as reflections of real people.To show realistic thoughts and emotions that could lead to said action. Preferably a wide range of them to reflect the diversity of IDEAS. Using fiction to create empathy for real people.Now your thinking that is is just good writing. And that is true, but it is needed now more than ever. It isn't about the groups being divisive, but the willingness to even be divided. That is the new Red Skull, not Trump and not Senator Schumer.The problem was really started by Baby Boomers in the 70s and 80s, but Gen X and Gen Y ran with and exacerbated it. If you want more proof, the say social media creates a bubble, it doesn't, it creates godhood. And can you name one comic or sci-fi story where playing God ended well?Jack
That's why I think the most important quality we can cultivate, in life and in art, is compassion. It melts divisions and reaches the heart that unites us all.
I think the best example of this is Archie Bunker.Norman Lear created a character that was almost his complete opposite (okay, technically it was "borrowed" from a British sitcom, but still)and made him a hero of the show. An incredibly flawed character in some cases, but still the hero.Jack
I love ALL IN THE FAMILY, but I wouldn't call Archie a hero. He was the protagonist, yes, but not a hero.That said, what I think you're getting at is that, viewed three-dimensionally, with eyes of compassion, Archie became far more than his warped political views. He became a real person that we cared about. And that's called great write (and acting! Carol O'Connor was brilliant).
Well, if I am being honest, I just used hero as a shorthand for protagonist, but now that you have me thinking about it, I suppose that depends on what you call heroic.TRUE, his racial views were anything BUT heroic in the beginning of the show. And we'll get back to that.That isn't all he was. He was also very protective of his family, including his the son-in-law he bickered with, his niece, border, and young girl he raised as a daughter.As for his racial and ethnic views... well, that is where it gets complicated.AS I said in the beginning, they are horrible. But he bonded with Lionel Jefferson, even considering himself to be the young man's role model. Lionel himself had a fondness for Archie... even preferring him to ultra-liberal Mike at times.There was also a fondness for Louise Jefferson.Then in Archie Bunker's Place he became friends with a black woman. He defended her at the end in an episode, after feeling shame about not doing it earlier.Then there is Stephanie, who he brought in, the Jewish girl he raised. After pretty stereotypical views in the first few season, he even celebrated Hanukah with her.I can't speak for anyone else, but I think the willingness to admit your failings were wrong and grow to become a better you is pretty heroic. Especially these days, when no one seems to be willing to admit thy are wrong.However, as for his actual political views, as a Conservative, they weren't really touched at all.Sure, Archie's personal reasoning or articulation on the subject may be off, but they were usually viewed as at least somewhat legitimate views.In fact, Archie's views on crime and the changing social moires were actually shown to be MORE than valid, especially crime which had Mike Stivic quieted in debates.Jack
The character definitely evolved over time. Whether that was realistic or not, I don't know. But it was an admirable journey.For the record: the episode that dealt with Edith's death made me cry more than just about any other TV show I've ever seen. Beautiful, touching stuff.
Great insights as always, Jack. I do think one of our greatest problems moving forward is the loss of a common culture. There was a time when Americans largely listened to the same music, watched the same shows and even read the same books. A show like "All in the Family" was able to open a friendly dialogue. There was a time when everyone was talking about who shot JR the day after it happened. These days, there is so much variety that no one is even watching the same shows, or if they are, they're on a different timetable (due to DVRs and streaming). For all the talk about how tv was rotting our brains, it was probably bonding us in ways we never imagined until the landscape changed. There are, of course, advantages to the increasingly personalized experience. More voices than ever are getting out there, it's just a question of how to keep them from getting lost in the crowd.--David
I agree, David, that the communal quality of popular culture has been lost as we've fragmented into smaller groups. As you say, there are advantages, we've gained quite a bit, but lost something special.
Is a decade+ slow evolution on the views of other groups as you come into more and more contact , but still being ignorant in many respects realistic. Yeah, yeah it is.My favorite All in the Family moments are1. When Edith tells Mike Why he and Archie both bicker 2. When Edith's cousin dies, and her... well wife, even if it wasn't officially so... wants to keep a tea set, and Archie has a very small come around on the subject3. When Archie's best friend Stretch Cunningham dies, Archie finds out he's Jewish, and tells Edith it doesn't make sense because Jews can't even have ham in their name.Oh whatever, that might be a stupid joke, but it it a FUNNY stupid joke.As for the loss of culture, you two are right about the problem, but wrong about the origin.It has nothing to do with technology, entertainment comes from the culture, not the other way around.It actually has more to do with the fact that the three post-war generations that have come to adulthood haw been bad at... I don't know, society.Carter got pretty close with his Crisis of Confidence speech.It is actually a very interesting, and depressing social decline.Jack
You amuse me, sir. You amuse me.
I do recommend... Hell, encourage even request... trying it. It is fun. All Earth-shattering events must bow before... sitcom logic.Jack
JM - Completely off-topic, but you might like to know that "Coronet Blue" will soon be released on DVD. It'll include two episodes never aired during its truncated run, and an interview with creator Larry Cohen. I just stumbled upon it at Amazon & immediately pre-ordered it. In many ways an existential mystery series about identity & authenticity -- remember when those things were important concerns of the prevailing culture? :)
Thanks, Tim! I remember watching, and being intrigued by, CORONET BLUE when I was a kid. (Even the title was intriguing.) A re-watch would be interesting!
Just out of curiosity, JMD, have you ever read Joe Kelly's Superman story "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?" (ACTION COMICS #775) or seen the DCAU film SUPERMAN VS. THE ELITE? Highly recommended. I think the film is an improvement because it's able to flesh things out a bit more, but you can't go wrong with either one (or both). --David
No, David, I'm not familiar with either of those stories. But if you recommend them, they must be good!
If you ever get the free time (I know, what's THAT?) the film is worth a watch. A group of mass-murdering vigilantes confront Superman with the idea that his values are outdated, and he's forced to ask whether he must become everything he hates to stop them (or if he even can). No spoilers, but the visuals in the climatic sequence are fantastic.--David
As Captain Kirk would say: Noted and logged. Thanks, David!
That is seriously one of my three favorite Superman stories ever.The story is almost like a western, with Superman getting called out by the newer heroes.The only real problem with the story is when it came out, January 2001.It was a little too late to have as much as an impact as it could on the era of angry do-whatever-it-takes anti-heroes. And a little early to comment on post-9/11 America's view on how to fight terrorism.Instead, it is just a commentary on Superman and eh nature of heroism. Which is still pretty a good thing.However, I think the comic is superior to the film.Jack
It is very much like a Western, right down to the showdown at sunrise. The timing strikes me as one of its strengths, as it's not bound to any particular time or place. And Lex Luthor was more interesting, from a storytelling standpoint, than a stand-in for President Bush (or Gore, had he won). Also, a great usage of the Clark/Lois marriage (which I'm a fan of). I'm going to win JMD over to the virtues of the Super-marriage and then he'll pitch a funny, insightful and at times poignant backup about it for ACTION COMICS #1,000. I know, I know. Clock is ticking!--David
I was never qite sold on the Clark-Lois marriage in the same way I was sold on Peter-Mary Jane. I think it has less to do with the marriage issue and more to do with the depth of the Spider-Man world vs. the depth of the Superman world. Peter and MJ are very real to me whereas Superman and Lois are more iconic, and a little more distant.Not that I don't love Superman. I do. The Chris Reeve movie remains my favorite superhero movie ever.
Well, the plan was to make Luthor president no matter what, I would assume since it came out in November. So, I'm not sure how much of a stand in he ever REALLY was, Dematteis fel free to chime in.The timing for the story just seems odd given it is sandwiched into two points where the questioning of traditional heroism made sense.I have a feeling that Joe Kelly planned on writing it a decade or si before, but didn't get a change until then.It may work anytime but... and this might just be the long history as a comic fan here...it seems some what reactionary.As for the Super v. Spider marriages, I have a thought.I like Clark and Lois married, and I am admittedly much more of a Slider-Man fan, only recently REALLY starting to read the man of Tomorrow, but I also think the Spider-one is better.Despite the decades of flirting and foreplay, I guess it always just seemed like they would get together. It was assumed, it seemed planned, even if it never happened... it was going to happen. You feel me?Peter earned his relationship. He and MJ were friends for a long time before they REALLy became a relationship.MJ left, after they broke and came back and was Peter's friend again for a while before they were married.I never really bought Harry, Flash and whoever REALLY were Pete's friends. Peter is too much the loner, MJ is the onlyone whose friendship seemed truly authentic.That's right Dematteis, as much as I love the Harry Death saga, you were wrong... Harry was NOT Peter's best friend, Mj was and always was.That is why the relationship seemed o believable.Also, where as Supes and Lois seemed planned, Pete and MJ seemed destined.According to Conway Marvel tried to push Gwen on Peter, but the fans wouldn't have it. They... hell, it doesn't matter if I wasn't born, WE... wouldn't have it like. Like aunt May, or the friends in the crowd who see what those two are too close to the situation to see, we pushed for it.Peer and MJ were the same in all the right ways, and different in all the ways that balanced them out. They could draw strength from each other.Even the marriage seemed perfect in how it was planned. Stan Lee (yeah THE Stan Lee) was planning to Marry the two off in the strip and consulted Shooter at a comic show about syncing up a story. Shooter polled the fans at that very comic show and the crowd roared in applause.The creator, the head and the company, and the fans all knew this was a good idea.I think that is why undoing the marriage is still so despised. Not just because they were better together, but it seemed like an attack on US the fans. Like we didn't matter. That is for another comment... which I believe that I have been putting off writing for a while about the breakdown of the fan/creator contract.Never mind that for now.Really, its all Conways's fault. That scene at the end of the Death of Gwen Stacy sold every comic fan on that relationship.This one:https://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/0/3133/148830-31693-mary-jane.jpgJack
Classic panel. And a man can be best friends with his wife (I certainly am) and still have a best male pal. So, no, I wasn't "wrong." : )
First of it was panelS, multiple.Well, we won't get into my views on friendship right now, but...I said that I didn't really buy anyone but Mj ever really being Pete's friend.And even if I were wrong (which is just preposterous an the face of it) on that... and I'm not... In both cases they were friends before being a couple (a couple of whats, beat you to the punch line) and before marriage, as in sns relationship. So when when they were not romantically linked, she still would have been his best friend when the, lets say benefits, of both Harry and Mj's friendships were more equitable.Check and mate Dematteis.Jack
In case you were wondering what the author of that page, Mr. Gerry Conway said of the relationship and why MJ is superior to Gwen, when at Motor City he wrote for me on that question..."Mary Jane - She saw the Tiger in Peter before he did.'Jack
I totally get what you're saying about the Superman marriage, JMD. I agree that Peter's relationship with MJ is fleshed out in greater depth, but I tend to really enjoy the Super-marriage on its own terms. I don't think it needs to be as deep to be as valid. (But that's just my very subjective opinion and I understand the counterpoint.) Interestingly, the pendulum has swung the other direction in the past few years. Peter's relationship with MJ has been largely superficial since the marriage was erased, while Superman's connection with Lois has deepened post-Rebirth. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have done some incredible work with the Superman family dynamic and they make it feel authentic. (One of the highlights is a one-shot where Clark takes his family to the Hamilton County Fair for a day and tries to avoid any superheroics.) It's interesting that Marvel and DC were both contemplating ways to erase the respective marriages around the same time. Marvel ended up pulling the trigger first with BRAND NEW DAY, and DC eventually followed with the New 52. And now DC has come back around to the marriage and even added a child while Marvel is sticking with the idea that Peter and MJ don't work as a couple. Since Peter's romantic connection with MJ has been severed, Spider-Man's world has grown increasingly 'super' and less grounded. MJ had become Peter's emotional anchor. (Off the top of my head, I'm thinking the only consistent relationship left in the Marvel universe now is Reed and Sue Richards.) --David
As noted, it's not that I'm against the Clark-Lois marriage, just that I'm more emotionally connected to the Peter-MJ marriage, probably because, having written dozens of stories with Pete and MJ, I know them in a very real way.That said, I just remembered that I wrote a Superman gn called "Where Is Thy Sting?" which hinged on the love between Superman and Lois. And it ran pretty deep. So maybe if I'd written more of Lois and Clark I'd feel the same way about them as I do about MJ and Pete.
So that ACTION #1,000 backup is pretty much inevitable now, right? I mean as soon as I start my letter writing campaign to DC...--David
I'll leave that up to you and DC!
But, Reed and Sue aren't even in the Marvel Universe right now.Marvel can't have MJ and Peter in a good relationship, of any kind. Even if they are just friends (like say around the like after Gwen dies or when Hogoblin shows up) people will start pressuring them to bring the marriage back.The Super-marriage and DC Rebirth came from Convergence stories from previous continuities selling better than any other DC books that year... other than BatmanDidio seemingly gave the fans what tehy wanted, which is admittedly insane and illogical.Oddly, Spider-Man Renew Your Vows had more consistently high sales than any of Dan Slott's other Spider-Man stories. And mArvel still only cared enough to form a new Conway written series, which is good and certainly better than nothing, but not as good as prime continuity restoring.In fact Slott wrote RYV as a "Now shut the hell up, already" story.Which brings up the other problem with Peter and MJ having any type of good relationship. Dan Slott hates the Spider-marriage. He loathes fans who like the Spider-marriage (which according to a lot of polls is most).But this is NOT an insult of Slott, rather just to point pout that as long as he's writing the book... MJ won't be able to anchor Peter in any way.The funny thing is that with Marvel getting such flack from fans, and the poor creator-reader relationships, cancelling books left and right, and an ever shrinking share of the top 50, bringing back the marriage is the best possible sign of good faith they can give fans.But it was never REALLY about the "true spirit of the character." It was based off of the personal preference of a few people and a stereotype that comic readers are all socially awkward and can't get chicks (or dudes).I mean, Peter Parker is currently an incredibly wealthy man who is using a personal army to topple the regime of a sovereign nation based on a personal vendetta. I guess he's more G.W. Bush than Luthor ever was.Point is, I'm not making a judgement call on whether that is good or bad for a story, okay I am, just not here, my point is only that this current idea is far more removed than the Lee era books than a marriage. It couldn't have been that as the reason.Wow, that was a lot of babbling. Apologies.Jack
No need to apologize. And, as you know, I'm definitely in the pro-marriage camp (in real life and in Peter's life!). And I have to believe that, eventually, it will come back. Because it's comics and, eventually, everything comes back.
If you are ever on a panel with Dan Slott again, could you say that? Id be interested in seeing if he has the same response to the writer of Kraven's Last Hunt as he does fans.Jack
Demateis. Two-gun Kid comic. Get on it. Chip-chop-chip.Jack
Chip-chop-chip. Wasn't that a 1950's monster story by Lee and Kirby?
CHIP-CHOP-CHIP, THE NICE, BUT NOT TOO NICE SHRUBBERY THAT WALKS LIKE A MAN! I think Ditko drew that one, though.
It's very possible.
I see a joke that only a comic fan would get. You know what I don't see? A TWO-GUN KID COMIC GETTING FINISHED!Its odd, last week Chris Cornell died in Detroit while on tour. I liked his music, not loved.Now the very first comic creator from Detroit has died. His work, I did love. Fandom in Detroit just got a serious hit. RIP BucklerJack.
I hadn't heard about Buckler, Jack. So sorry to hear that. Remember really liking his work on FF. And of course his breakthrough work on Deathlok (way ahead of its time). Very sad.
Wait, you liked Buckler? I never would have guessed. All you did was use his creation Devil-Slayer as a major player in the Avengers (wonder what he thought of it) and Deathlok in Captain America.And yes, he drew the perfect 70s Thing. That didn't sound quite right, but I'm not elaborating.And Yes, Deathlok is amazing. HE was certainly part of that 70s expansionn of just what a superhero is.I actually had to take pictures of my own issues for the feature I wrote about his death.But he did more than you know.Detroit Triple Fanfare was one of if not the first fan show to include comic books, it was put together by Shel Dorf.Buckler attended, eventually he helped organize.At the show he met Jim Starlin, Arvell Jones, Al Milgrom, Keith Pollard, Terry Austin, Mike Vosburg, and a few others. They helped develop each others skills.Once Buckler made it in the industry, he brought the others in. HE also got the big names from the industry in the 70s to come to Detroit. This gave Shel Dorf his contacts, thus getting the comic con/show ball rolling.If you enjoyed any of those Detroit artists, or Hell, know then from the job, or enjoyed being at a comic show Buckler can be thanked.Jack
I'd forgotten Buckler was a creator of Devil Slayer. One more reason to celebrate his life and mourn his passing.It seems he left comics in the 80s. Do you know what he did after that?
I know he got into doing surreal art. But he actually kept doing comic work afterwards at Dynamite and Archie... which I admittedly just learned today.If you are ever at a show with, say Arvell Jones, he could probably tell you. The Detroit guys all kept in touch over the years. It was Jones who told me Buckler was having trouble last year, albeit in casual conversation.For a more complete look at my thoughts...http://blog.thedetroithub.com/2017/05/22/detroits-first-comic-book-creator-and-marvel-dc-talent-rich-buckler-dies-at-68/sadly, I think I was the only person in Detroit media who took notice.Jack
Beautiful piece, Jack. Thanks for sharing it.
Dematteis, and his bitter sarcasm.
Shouldn't that be: Jack and his inability to take a sincere compliment? : )
It can be more than one thing.Jack