Tuesday, February 13, 2018

MARITAL BLISS

Someone on Twitter brought this page from my Spectacular Spider-Man run to my attention this morning. It's my favorite Peter-MJ scene out of the many I wrote, perhaps because the dialogue came straight from life with my amazing wife.  I even bought, and framed, the original Sal Buscema art.

By the way:  The song that's playing in the background is Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin"—performed, most famously, by Francis Albert Sinatra.  (I suspect it's Mary Jane, not Peter, who's the Sinatra fan.  I'll ask next time I see them!)

Friday, February 2, 2018

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, VERTIGO!

Way back in the Before Time, my friend Karen Berger was just out of college, clutching a newly-minted journalism degree, and looking for a job.  One day while I was up at DC (I was still fairly new to the business, just getting my feet wet writing stories for the horror and superhero anthology books), Paul Levitz, the man who bought my first comic book script, mentioned that he was looking for an assistant.  I told him about my smart, talented friend, he asked me to send her up for an interview and the rest is, quite literally, comic book history.
I can take credit for opening the door for KB, but it was her own brilliant creative instincts that made her one of the best editors in the business and, eventually, the architect of the ground-breaking Vertigo line of comics, which debuted in January 1993—twenty-five years ago this month.  (Okay, I'm off by a couple of days!)  I was happy to be part of that launch with the graphic novel Mercy, illustrated by the great Paul Johnson.  (Mercy came out recently in a new edition, from Dover Books, with lots of great extras. If you're interested, you can order it right here.)
So here we are an alarmingly-fast quarter century later and Karen is launching a new line—Berger Books—at Dark Horse.  Looking back, I wish Vertigo a very happy anniversary and, looking ahead, I wish Karen all the luck in the world with the new line.  Here's to more historic success!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

AMARTITHI 2018

“The book that I shall make people read
is the book of the heart,
which holds the key
to the mystery of life.” 
Avatar Meher Baba

Happy Amartithi to my Baba family around the world.

Friday, January 19, 2018

SLUGGING IT OUT


I’ve written more than my share of superhero slugfests (in both comics and animation) and thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  I adore these larger-than-life characters and there’s much to be said about the mythic qualities Superman, Spider-Man and their brethren bring to the page and screen and the resonance of the symbolic conflicts that play out in their battles.  But there’s an inherent flaw in the capes-and-masks genre that was underscored—and I suspect it was intentional—in the first episode of the CW’s Black Lightning (which got off to a terrific start this past Tuesday.  If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to check it out).  Early in the episode, lead character Jefferson Pierce—who, some years earlier, turned his back on his career as a costumed crime-fighter—says that he’s done more to change lives in his time as a high school principal than he ever did in his time as a superhero:  a valuable insight about the power of focused compassion, of individual effort by average human beings, to change the world.  But, by the end of the episode, Pierce is back in costume zapping “bad guys” left and right, leaving a trail of bodies, some of them dead, in his wake.  The message appears to be:  This is the way you really change the world.  Compassion and kindness ultimately don’t work.  Violence, in the end, is the most effective solution.  

I’m sure this wasn’t the message the producers intended.  BL is an extremely thoughtful show, grappling with serious issues, and I look forward to seeing where things go from here.  Perhaps a major part of the ongoing story will be an exploration of this contradiction, examining the massive crack in the foundation of the entire superhero genre:  No matter how much these characters talk about high ideals, non-violence or the power of love, in the end it often comes down to two people in costumes dropping buildings on each other’s heads.  (And the more street level, the more realistic, your story is, the more difficult those scenes become:  A space battle against aliens plays out very differently than, say, Batman beating the hell out of a common criminal.)

I’ve wrestled with the question of superhero violence throughout my career, trying to find new ways to circumvent it and addressing it very directly in stories like The Life and Times of Savior 28.  There will always be a wide-eyed kid inside me who gets a primal thrill watching self-sacrificing heroes and crazed villains knocking each other across the city:  it’s exhilarating, it’s cathartic, it’s fun.  But there’s another part of me that would love to see Jefferson Pierce, after a few seasons of hard lessons, realize that he truly can impact the world more positively as an educator.  That violence is never a viable answer.

And, perhaps, ultimately, that’s the story Black Lightning will unfold.



©copyright 2018 J.M. DeMatteis