Saturday, June 10, 2017

THE STORY BEHIND THE HUNT—2017

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Kraven's Last Hunt, so I thought it would be a good time to re-post this essay from a few years back that details the creation of the story.  Enjoy!  (Update:  Just found out the first chapter came out in July, not June, but let's pretend it's June for the sake of this post!)




Confession:  I didn’t write Kraven's Last Hunt.

Well, not in the way you think.

Writers like to to believe they’re in control of their material, but that’s just a comforting lie.  After more than twenty-five years of making my living as a storyteller, it’s become extremely—sometimes painfully—clear to me that I’m just a vehicle, a way for the story to get out into the world.  But it’s the story itself that does the telling.  If that sounds like I’m saying stories have lives of their own, well...that’s exactly right.  I’m convinced that stories are living creatures:  they move, they think, they breathe.  Maybe not in the way we flesh-and-blood humans do; but in some unfathomable fashion, in some unfathomable realm, these creatures we call Stories —I think the capital S is deserved—exist.  And so do the characters that populate them.  And the Stories—not the writers, artists, or editors—are very much in control.  Some of these Imaginal Worlds choose to emerge, fully formed, in a white heat of creation-energy.  Others—like the Kraven Saga—well, they like to take their time.
  
It was a long road from the first glimmer of inspiration, somewhere around 1984 or ‘85, to the final, published work.  If it had been up to me—and thank goodness it wasn’t—the original idea would have seen print as, of all things, a Wonder Man mini-series (Simon Williams—defeated in battle by his brother, the Grim Reaper—awakens in a coffin, claws his way out and discovers that he’s been buried alive for months).  But the Story knew better.  It knew that it needed time to brew in my unconscious and find the proper form.  Tom DeFalco—then Marvel’s Executive Editor—agreed.  When I pitched him my Wonder Man idea, he promptly rejected it.  But there was something in that “return from the grave” concept that wouldn’t let go.
  
My next stop, some months later, was DC Comics, where I pitched what I thought was an incredible idea to editor Len Wein (who was then overseeing the Batman line):  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.  Batman, meanwhile, is buried and when, weeks later, he claws his way up from the grave—the Joker’s fragile new existence is tragically upended.  Len had another Batman-Joker story on his desk—something called The Killing Joke by a new British writer named Alan Moore (what ever happened to him, anyway?)—and thought that the Joker elements in my story overlapped certain elements in Alan’s.

Rejection.  Again.  (I managed to revive the "Going Sane" idea nearly a decade later—and it's gone on to become one of my all-time favorites.)
 
I was disappointed—but I suspect the Story was quite pleased with these events.  It knew the timing wasn’t right.  Knew what elements it needed for its emergence.  And so it waited patiently while I—
  
Well, I rewrote it again.  As a Spider-Man story?  No.  As yet another Batman story.  I dumped the Joker and replaced him with Hugo Strange.  I recalled a classic Steve Englehart-Marshall Rogers story where Strange—for all of two pages, I think—was wearing Batman’s costume.  And I thought:  Wouldn’t it be interesting if Hugo Strange is the one who apparently kills Batman and, in his arrogance and ego, decides to become Batman, putting on the costume, taking over the role, in order to prove his superiority?  I was convinced I now had a story no editor could turn down.
  
By this time, Len Wein had gone freelance and Denny O’Neil had replaced him as Batman editor.  Guess what?
  
Denny bounced it.
  
So now I’ve had this idea rejected three times, by three of the best editors in the business.  Maybe, I thought, I’m delusional.  Maybe I should just give up and move on.
  
But the Story wouldn’t let me.
  
I was frustrated, to say the least, by all the doors slamming in my face, but this seed of an idea—well, by this time it had pushed up through the soil and was sprouting branches and leaves—just kept growing, unfolding at its own pace, in its own time.  It knew, even if I clearly didn’t, that it would soon find the form, and, most important, the characters, it had been seeking all along.
  
Autumn, 1986.  I was visiting the Marvel office one day when Jim Owsley, editor of the Spider-Man line, and Tom DeFalco (what?  Him again?) invited me out to lunch.  They wanted me to pick up the writing duties on Spectacular Spider-Man but I was reluctant to commit to another monthly book.  Owsley and DeFalco were insistent.  I weakened.  They pushed harder.  I agreed.
  
And, by the time I got home, I realized what a stroke of good fortune this was:  I now had another chance, probably my last chance, to take a crack at this “back from the grave” idea.  More important:  I discovered, as I worked away on the proposal, that Spider-Man—recently married to Mary Jane—was a far better choice than either Wonder Man or Batman.  Peter Parker is perhaps the most emotionally and psychologically authentic protagonist in any super-hero universe.  Underneath that mask, he’s as confused, as flawed, as touchingly human, as the people who read—and write—about him:  the quintessential Everyman.  And that Everyman’s love for his new wife, for the new life they were building together, was the emotional fuel that ignited the story.  It was Mary Jane’s presence, her heart and soul, that reached down into the deeps of Peter’s heart and soul, forcing him up out of that coffin, out of the grave, into the light.
  
And that’s how Kraven’s Last Hunt was born.
  
Well, not really.  You see, Kraven wasn’t in the picture yet.  Genius that I am, I thought:  Okay, so I can’t use Hugo Strange.  Why not create my own villain—a new villain—to play that role in the story?  And that’s what I did.  (Don’t ask me the name of this brilliant new creation...or anything else about him...because, honestly, I don’t recall a thing!)  Off the outline went to Owsley.  He loved it.  “Let’s do it,” he said.  I was ecstatic.  The journey was finally done.
  
Well, it might have been done for me—but not for the Story.  There were a few final elements it needed to complete itself.
 
I was sitting in my office one afternoon, doing what all writers do best:  avoiding work, wasting time.  This was before the internet—the single greatest time-wasting tool in the history of humanity—so I was browsing through some comics that had piled up on the floor.  I picked up a Marvel Universe Handbook.  Stopped, for no particular reason, at the entry for Kraven the Hunter.
  
Please understand that I had no interest whatsoever in Kraven.  In fact, I always thought he was one of the most generic, uninteresting villains in the Spider-Man gallery.  Couldn’t hold a candle to Doc Ock or the Green Goblin.
  
But buried in this Marvel Universe entry was one intriguing fact:  Kraven—was Russian.  (To this day I don’t know if this was something that had been established in continuity or if the writer of that particular entry tossed it in on a whim.)
  
Russian?  Russian!
  
Why should that excite me so?  One word:  Dostoyevsky.  When I read Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov in high school, they seeped in through my brain, wormed their way down into my nervous system...and ripped me to shreds.  No other novelist has ever explored the staggering duality of existence, illuminated the mystical heights and the despicable depths of the human heart, with the brilliance of Dostoyevsky.  The Russian soul, as exposed in his novels, was really the Universal Soul.  It was my soul.
  
And Kraven was Russian.
  
In an instant, I understood Sergei Kravinov.  In an instant, the entire story changed focus.  In an instant, I called Owsley, told him to forget The New Villain.  This was a Kraven the Hunter story.
  
Jim wasn’t thrilled with the idea.  He liked the new villain.  But, God bless him, he let me have my way.
  
And now the story was complete, right?
  
Almost.  You see, Owsley had cajoled Mike Zeck into drawing Spectacular Spider-Man.  Mike and I had worked together, for several years, on Captain America.  I can think of a handful of super-hero artists as good as Zeck, but I can’t think of a single one who’s better.  Mike’s drawing is fluid, energetic, deeply emotional...and he tells a story with such apparent effortlessness that scripting from his pages feels equally effortless.  Mike left the Cap series (to draw the original Secret Wars) just as we were hitting our collaborative stride—and I was thrilled by the chance to pick up where we’d left off.      
   
I’ve been been playing this game long enough to know that writer/artist chemistry can’t be created or forced:  it’s either there or it’s not.  With Mike, it was there...and then some.  If any other artist had drawn this story—even if every single plot point, every single word, had been exactly the same—it wouldn’t have touched people in the same way or garnered the enthusiastic response that it’s still getting, more than twenty years after its creation.   It wouldn’t have been Kraven’s Last Hunt.  (Not my title, by the way.  I called it Fearful Symmetry—in honor of another of my literary heroes, William Blake.  Jim Salicrup, who took over the editing chores when Jim Owsley left staff, was the one who came up with KLH.  Salicrup was also the guy who had a genius idea that people have been copying ever since:  run the six-part story through all three Spider-books, over the course of two months.  We’re accustomed to seeing that today.  In 1987 it was revolutionary.)     
  
Because Zeck was on board, I decided to toss a Captain America villain we created together—the man-rat called Vermin—into the mix.  A casual decision (well, it seemed casual to me; but I suspect the Story knew otherwise) that proved extremely important:  Vermin turned out to be the pivotal element, providing the contrast between Peter Parker’s vision of Spider-Man and Kraven’s distorted mirror image.   
  
Now here’s the strangest part:  In the years that had passed from the time I pitched the original Wonder Man idea, my personal life had gone to hell in the proverbial hand basket.  I’ll spare you the sordid details:  Let’s just say I was in a period of my life where each day was a Herculean struggle.  I felt as buried alive as Peter Parker; as much a dweller in the depths as Vermin; as lost, as desperate, as shattered as Sergei Kravinov.
  
In short, it was a miserable time to be me—but the perfect time to write the story.  Had I created a version of Last Hunt a few years before, or a few years after (when my life had healed itself in miraculous ways), it wouldn’t have been the same.  My own personal struggles, mirrored in the struggles of our three main characters, were, I think, what gave the writing such urgency and emotional honesty.  (I don’t know what inspired Zeck’s brilliant work, but I hope it wasn’t anything as harrowing.)
  
So tell me:  Who, exactly, is in charge here?  Who really wrote that story?  I thought it was me—but, all along, there was something growing, evolving, emerging in its own time, when the creative conditions were absolutely perfect.  Oh, I’ll cash the checks.  I’ll even accept the praise.  But, in my heart, I know there’s Something Bigger out there, working its magic through me...and through all of us who call ourselves writers.
  
Stories have lives of their own.
  
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.





© copyright 2017 J.M. DeMatteis

59 comments:

  1. I don't know how many times I've said to my family, friends, co-workers, folks at comic book stores, conventions, whatever, that this story is the reason I still read comic books today. I bought the issues as they were released in 1987 (I was in middle school).
    It's still to this day the greatest: (1) Spider-Man story of all-time (2) cross over of all time.

    In reading your essay, I realize that the story evolved over time. Only now though, as I look at the pictures that you have posted with this essay, has this thought crossed my mind. Was the story also enhanced (along with all the other amazing things you listed) by the fact that Spider-Man was wearing his black costume at the time?

    I know it would've still worked if he was in his classic blue and red, but having him in black as he emerges from the grave (and when he utters "Mary Jane" is one of my all time favorite panels in comic book history) seems to enhance the story even more. Everything seemed to fall into place perfectly, including the artistic team, editor, everything. But only now did it just hit me, was even the costume change somehow an enhancement to the entire greatness of this classic?

    Thoughts?

    George

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    1. I think the black costume was hugely important, George. Not that the story wouldn't have worked with the red and blue, but the black suited the tone and mood of the story perfectly and added, in subtle but important ways, to the totality of the reading experience. It was a dark story and the dark costume echoed so many elements.

      It's rare that a total redesign of an iconic costume works, but that black costume—which I believe was designed by Mike Zeck, but don't quote me—was one of the best ever. And further proof that the Story knew exactly what it was doing when pulling KLH together!

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    2. The costume was designed by a fan and then purchased by Marvel under orders of Jim Shooter.

      And I would say it was important to the entire tone of the majority of the 80s.

      Jack

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    3. From what I understand, the basic idea came from a fan—a detail I'd forgotten, so thanks for that—and then the costume was developed further by Zeck. (Other artists may have had input, as well.) I don't know any of this for sure, but I think Zeck mentioned it at the KLH panel we did last month.

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    4. According to Ron Frenz, the costume was designed by Mike Zeck and tweaked a bit by Rick Leonardi (who altered the look of the spider legs on the side.)

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    5. So from fan to Zeck to Leonardi. Thanks for the information!

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  2. I suppose this means no essay on the Spider-Mariage for IT'S 30th anniversary, since this story came out directly after. Drag.

    That does bring me to my next point.I hate to be "that guy," but I believe that Kraven's Last Hunt(or at least the first half) came out in JULY 1987, not June.

    The Marriage annual came out on June 21... same day as the comic strip. And s previously mentioned was the story (along with the honeymoon annual)directly before KLH.

    Also, all three of the first three issues have Oct. dated on them. This is because of when they could be returned, until it was shortened in the 90s it was three months. And three months before October is June.

    You were just a bit too anxious, Dematteis.

    I would say, you have posted this piece several times, and its great. No doubt. But there is more to know. What was it like to have Stan Lee praising your story in the first trade? To be the person who wrote the story that solidified the marriage in many people's eyes? What is the feel in each of the four characters in your mind? Do you view them each as equally valuable to the story? How different would it have been without Zeck (obviously a lot, but how)? And much, much more.

    Don't respond now, save it for a later piece. Its just that its all about the cration of the story, and not teh story itself...if you dig.

    If it makes you feel any better, I know the perfect way to make a KLH film that would blow the doors off of every other comic movie. True.


    Jack

    PS I think we can all agree that teh greatest Spider-Man story ever is NOT Kraven's Last Hunt, but rather certainly IS...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brs12-QSMQA

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    1. Spider-Man vs. Blue Beetle?! It's the crossover we've all been waiting for! (Get Ditko to draw it!)

      I think you're right about the release date (I'll change that in the post) because I just read something that said chapter one came out three weeks after the wedding issue.

      I just did a podcast interview, focusing on KLH, that answers some of your questions. I'll post it here when it's up.

      Spider-Man vs. BLUE BEETLE?!

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    2. I'm sorry Dematteis. I didn't mean to embarrass you with a clearly superior Spider-man story. But, I think that we can all agree that there is no competing with that. It just can't be done.

      Reruns of that (And similar) on PBS were among my first introductions to the web-slinger. Good golly, he's creepy in that.

      I look forward to listening to your podcastification.

      And, will we get a Spider-marriage essay?

      Jack

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    3. Re: the Spider-Marriage. I can't say for sure. But it's a good topic, nonetheless.

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    4. Well, it is just shy of a week and a half until the anniversary. so... you know.

      I DO hope you get around to it by the 21st, but if not, I'll just expect it around the time the one about violence in comics.

      Jack

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    5. KLH gets a lot of credit for being one of the first truly dark Spider-Man stories, but I feel like commentators often leave out the most important point: it ends in daylight.

      If you read KLH in one sitting, that final sequence hits you like that moment when you first step out of a dark theater and into the sun. It's visually and emotionally striking.

      Off the top of my head, I can't think of a comparable experience in comics, by which I mean one that's so dimly lit throughout but ends with an inescapable light.

      --David

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    6. You're right on the money, David. Peter's journey back to the light is the heart and soul of the story. There's no point to it, without that "inescapable light."

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  3. Also, I'm pretty sure Kraven's first appearance declared him as Russian.


    Jack

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    1. Don't have that issue on hand. Can anyone out there verify that?

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    2. Skimmed it very quickly and didn't see any explicit reference to him being Russian. We only know he's an old friend of Chameleon's, which makes it likely, but it's never actually said (unless I missed it).

      At the end of the issue Kraven and Chameleon are deported to South America.

      --David

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    3. That' sounds right. And I just remembered that I wrote a revamped version of this story, called "Kraven's First Hunt," for a Spider-Man Annual back in the 90's.

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    4. Yep, Sensational Spider-Man Annual 1996.

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    5. Thanks for the memory jog, George! : )

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    6. I think I read that annual, but I wouldn't swear by it. Some of the Kraven/Chameleon backstory from that era blends together in my mind.

      I really enjoyed the way you fleshed out their history around the time of the Clone Saga and the post-saga relaunch. One of the advantages of dead villains was the opportunity to explore how they still haunted the characters they left behind.

      I'm not terribly interested in the idea of Peter venting his rage on Osborn or Kraven every few years by beating them up. I am fascinated by the cycles that their friends and family are caught up in (and Peter as well).

      --David

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    7. I loved writing the Kraven-Chameleon dynamic, which I also explored via Kraven's son in my second Spec. Spidey run. It was so beautifully, horribly dysfunctional! And I loved the fact that they turned out to be brothers, just deepening the dysfunction. (If I'm not mistaken, that was my invention. A chance to turn the Kravinovs into the Karamozovs.)

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    8. I read THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV around 98-99, so for me it was like, "Wow, these guys are almost as crazy as the Kravinoffs!" :)

      --David

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    9. My influence on Dostoyevsky was quite profound. : )

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    10. Clearly! I tried to write a college paper about your impact on his work, but there were timing issues. :)

      --David

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    11. I tracked down a copy of Sensational Spider-Man '96 (Kraven's First Hunt). It was great. Kraven was just as psychotic as I remember him being in KLH. There's a few images in the story that foreshadow KLH (Kraven eating spiders) and he even references putting the gun in his mouth. Kraven was seriously crazy. You seriously own that character, just like Frank Miller owns Kingpin. Those were two long-standing Spider-Man villains that were nothing special until a new writer took them over!

      Here's something I didn't know; there's a follow-up short story at the end of the Sensational Spider-Man '96 issue "The Return of Spider-Woman". It's by Mark Gruenwald and Pat Broderick. As far as I can tell, I believe it's the last published written work by Gruenwald. When I review his bibliography the story is listed as being published in November 1996. He died August 1996, and the only other credits I see to his name (in 1997) have him listed as Editor. I can't be sure, but I think it's his last published written work.
      I've always loved Mark's writing. In fact, I tell folks that my two favorite Captain America writers are you and Gruenwald. I recently picked up "Captain America: Justice is Served" TPB by Mark and yourself. I know he's probably most famous for his Squadron Supreme series, but I always loved DP7. It was one of only two New Universe titles I enjoyed (that and Star Brand).

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    12. Glad you enjoyed that old annual, George. I don't remember it that well, so now I might just pull it off the shelf and reread it!

      Funny that you mention Mark Greenwald because I was just thinking about him today. Didn't realize that was his last story. Mark G was a wonderful writer/editor and a good friend and he's still missed. And I don't know if there was anybody in the business who loved comics more than he did.

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  4. I'm pretty sure Mrs. Dinkly's statements in the first few pages of Scoobs Apocs, and the somewhat clear points of reference on her husband, shows it was a political parable. intended? Dematteis will never tell.

    JAck

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    1. At least not until Giffen's tell all book comes out.


      Jack

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  5. And, in honor of the 30th anniversary that occurs THIS week (and hopefully prod some comic writer...not naming any names...into writing an essay on it)...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0iUa7aXWeM

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v302/darkyugioh85/WebofSpider-Man090-39.jpg

    http://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?piece=558996

    Look, if no comic writer takes the opportunity (and who know what one even would. remember, I named no names) that's fine. We all have our lives to live. But, if nothing else it can be a reminder of better times.

    Besides, I'm a comic fan. We are terrible and incredibly annoying people. I'm just kidding, we aren't people. Terrible and annoying? Yeas. People? No.

    Jack

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    1. Not terrible, not annoying. But I do have one question...

      30th anniversary of WHAT?

      (See? THAT was annoying!)

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    2. No it wasn't. More tedious, and I just go by what the comic industry views us as.

      You can't deny that those links stirred something inside of you. A reminder of what was. What could be again. What should be.

      I'll wait and see what occurs (but you can'r deny it had an effect).

      Now for two of the big questions...

      American or Lafayette? The Stooges or MC5?


      Jack

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    3. Don't understand the first question and, as for the second, I was never into either of those bands. Sorry!

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    4. Well, those questions were just to lighten things after my prodding, but now that I get the answers I can just shake my head in disappointment.

      Also, I noticed that in Scoobs Apocs Shaggy (who looks a lot like Green Arrow) is interested in a woman that looks a whole lot like Black Canary. Complete with leather jacket.

      Finally, I think you may have been one of the first mainstream comic writers to write about PTSD.


      Jack

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    5. Hmmm, interesting observation.

      So, JMD, will Shaggy take up archery in the future? Maybe he could use a dog-toy arrow to take Scrappy down...

      But who am I kidding? The blurb says they ain't got a future! :)

      --David

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    6. Don't believe everything you read, David! : )

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    7. Waaaaaait a second. Are you implying that you toyed with our emotions to get us to buy the next issue?

      I should have known the guy who had us all convinced that Spidey was dead wouldn't play fair!

      --David

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    8. Hmmmm. It appears that Jim Sarlicup might have made some minor revisions to your original script without running them by you...

      Look at the bright side--now you can write the controversial 30th anniversary special where it's revealed that Peter IS dead and the Chameleon replaced him all these years!

      --David

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    9. It wasn't the chameleon, David: It was a clone!

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    10. LOL. Naturally!

      --David

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    11. Well, Dematteis... that is where it gets complicated. Dave Cox was a character created by Steve Englehart (had to look that up), who was a Vietnam Vet turned pacifist.

      If I remember correctly you brought him back (you did, that isn't the question) and delved more into why he became a pacifist. That is why I said MAY have been first.

      Also, Scrappy is clearly secretly Oberon in a mutated form, Velma and Daphne are a mixed up genetically Fir and ICE (with a lot more intelligence), and Fred is the cause of the whole problem, Booster Gold. HE is the only one that remembers their past and more true personalities... he is just too embarrassed to say. Scooby is a transformed Ted Kord.

      It was a time-dimensional adventure gone awry.

      Sorry for the spoilers fellow readers, but Giffen and Dematteis weren't exactly subtle about their plans. It is very obvious.

      Green Arrow, Black Canary, Fire, Ice, Ted, Oberon, and Boost... just looking to get home. It is all actually a prelude to Rebirth. It will all come together next April... just in time for the final tale that resets the multiverse to what it one was. Scooby Snacks are integral to the defeat of the big, blue villain. They are the missing part of the Anti-Life Equation.

      Again, sorry for ruining your series, Dematteis. Like I said though, WAAAAAAAAAAY to obvious.

      Jack

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    12. I'm amazed that you're the only one who realized this, Jack. It's so obvious! : )

      Joking aside, a JLI-SCOOBY crossover would be a thing of beauty, wouldn't it?

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    13. Yes it would, I have not been shy about how much I want someone... anyone... to point out hoe much Shags-Apocs looks like Green arrow. I don't care how or why, I just want to see it in print.

      Also, Happy belated Spider-Weds-anniversary. It was yesterday. Acording to the comics strip, Pete and MJ spent it fighting Mole Man with their Aunts not far away.


      Jack

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    14. The real question... Dematteis... is since the 30th anniversary has come and gone with no post (because of lack of time, couldn't find the muse, were busy building an army of killer robots, what have you) is it off the table for good? For another 5 years minimum? Still possible? Your getting sick of me mentioning it?


      Just wondering if it needs to join all the other dreams that I have let die.

      Jack

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    15. Probably no post, Jack. Although I may give it a Twitter or Facebook mention. Check back with me for the 35th!

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    16. Well, there is another dream dead. And I had so few left. Fortunately, I foresaw this coming and prepared something myslef. It should be edited and posted by Sunday (even if it was submitted well before). Someone had to take the bull by the reigns.


      Jack

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    17. Please share it here if you can, Jack!

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    18. I will make you a deal Dematteis, I will post a link here IF you do the following:

      -Tell me what you think of it no matter what (preferably in the designated comment section on the bottom of the page). Seriously, honest truth, good, bad, and ugly. Even if you think that it is reprehensible garbage.

      and/or

      -If you do like it to some large degree and don't find it objectionable, you twitterfy it out across the inter webs.

      Deal? Keep me in the loop.

      Jack

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    19. I'm not sure that an exclamation point was necessary.

      Now, before I do this. Go back and re-read to make sure you remember what you agreed to. Now...

      http://gobacktothepast.com/the-ballad-of-the-marriage-of-peter-parker-and-mary-jane-watson/




      Jack

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    20. Actually read the piece earlier today, Jack, and really liked it. Great job. That said, because the tone occasionally gets negative about certain Spidey creators, I don't feel right tweeting it out into the wider world. That could look like me endorsing those negative views and I try to stay away from criticizing other people and their work. You, as a journalist, are, of course, free to do that.

      But you did a terrific job and it was an excellent piece.

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  6. I finally read "The Life and Times of Savior 28". It was great reading it, knowing how proud you were of the story. I enjoyed seeing all of the things you injected into the story that I knew meant a lot to you (ie: Orson Welles, The Brothers Karamazov). Did I miss the references to the Beatles and Star Trek, or did they just not make it? Also, was it coincidence that some of your all-time best collaborators guested on variant covers (Sal Buscema, and Kevin Maguire) or did you have some influence in getting them on board?

    George

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. George. Re: pop culture references. I'm sure, if I'd had a few more issues, S-28 would have flashed back to a wild 1970s weekend in L.A. with John Lennon and William Shatner!

      No coincidence on the covers. I was very much involved in getting Sal and Kevin and Don Perlin and Shawn McManus involved.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the story. Much appreciated!

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  7. Dear Mr. DeMatteis,

    thank you for sharing this deeply personal and inspirational storytelling experience.
    Fearful Symmetry is one of my absolute favorite comic book stories, mostly because it is so rich in detail and it pushes sooo many buttons on so many levels – it makes me think and feel on such a deep level, and I keep coming back to it over and over through the years.

    My favorite scene has to be the one where Kraven's twisted version of "Spider-Man" saves Mary Jane from guys who attempt to assault her. In my opinion, you masterfully show how while Kraven technically did a good thing, he did it in a sadistic and brutal way, for all the wrong reasons. Ultimate irony; instead of MJ's embrace and cheer (which I am sure Kraven would like, as any guy would, unhinged as he is at this point), all he gets is her shocked and terrified screaming to stop.

    And I love how you tend to incorporate the motifs of children in your stories. Because Kraven – for all his great strength, intelligence, wealth and experience – still has a downright childish idea of Spider-Man, as a web-slinging boogeyman who preys on criminals. Last image of Kraven is a picture of a cute little boy, covered in blood. Heart wrenching stuff.

    I would have two questions, as an interested reader and a wannabe writer:
    1) I always wondered did Kraven took Peter's mask off while he had him in captivity? Or was he interested in seeing him only as the "Spider", therefore never wanting to take the mask off?

    2) was KLH your conscious attempt at deconstruction of Spider-Man? Similar to, let's say, Alan Moore's "Watchmen"? The story is very grounded, with some real-life consequences; it is quite obvious (idea also expanded upon by other great writers later) that Peter was going to have nightmares for a very long time after this ordeal. As anyone would. You just don't usually see that kind of stuff in mainstream continuity - an event actually having a long-lasting effect, as it would in real life.

    For what it's worth, before I read this story, I never took Spider-Man very seriously (shame on me). :) I thought that as a character, he couldn't hold a candle to Batman or Daredevil or Crow.

    Thank you for proving me so very wrong.

    *On a complete side-note, I also love some of your early Conan The Barbarian stories. ^^

    All the best to one of my favorite storytellers,

    Axel

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    1. Thanks for you kind words, Axel. Truly appreciated. In answer to your questions:

      1) No. He's not interested in the man, he's interested in The Spider.

      2) I had no conscious idea about deconstructing anything. I was just following the story, following the characters. And believe me: I had no clue that this story would have such an impact and would have been stunned if someone told me we'd still be talking about it all these years later.

      Re: Conan. I was a young writer, new to Marvel, still learning my craft when I wrote those stories. Also very intimidated to step into Roy Thomas's shoes. If you love some of those stories, well, that makes me very happy.

      Thanks again for taking the time to write, Axel. Come back again!

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    2. Dear Mr. DeMatteis,

      thank you for your fast reply, respect! :)

      Just one more thing - there is one particular Conan story that was very memorable for me - Conan The Barbarian #119, "The Voice of One Long Gone". Written by you, and drawn masterfully by John Buscema. It featured the brief appearance of Conan's grandfather, and it was really unexpectedly emotional. I understand it was one of your early works, but this story was still great.

      For a character (Conan) who is usually taken from one adventure/battle/woman to the next, with "continuity plausability syndrome" taken to the very extreme, this story was refreshing and unexpected. I felt like some previous events in Conan's history really mattered, and even Conan was not being his typical self, much more contemplative than usual. Similar as Peter Parker in KLH.

      As a reader, over time I have become very selective and loose with continuity - sometimes the only way stories can make sense for me. Maybe that is the problem with every long-running continuity...? Risk of events not being taken seriously, as if the previous stories don't have any consequences whatsoever. In any case, I believe your stories are strong enough to stand on their own.

      Thank you very much for taking the time to reply.

      *My real name is actually Slaven (Slavic name, maybe it sounds strange), so sometimes I use the Axel pseudonym. :)

      Best regards from one of your faithful European readers,

      Slaven

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    3. Out of all the CONAN stories I wrote, Slaven, the one you mention, about Conan's grandfather, is the one I'm proudest of. I was trying to reach a kind of emotional texture that was different for Conan. I'm glad that, as far as you're concerned, I succeeded.

      Thanks again for checking in. All the best to you!

      JMD

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