Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A RISING MOON


Moonshadow: The Definitive Edition
hits comic book shops tomorrow, courtesy of Dark Horse and our devoted editor, Philip Simon.  The book is a beautiful hardcover, with lots of extras that showcase the development of the series.  I also wrote a new introduction for the collection and you can read it below.  Enjoy!


***

In my early years in comics I blundered along, trying desperately to find my own voice as a writer and ending up sounding like a damaged clone, created from the mixed DNA of Stan Lee, Steve Gerber, Len Wein, Roy Thomas and half-a-dozen other comic book writers I admired.  It’s not that my work was bad—I poured heart and soul into those stories and I’m gratified that my runs on Defenders and Captain America are still held in high regard—it’s just that I hadn’t found the way to fully express myself in the form.  Looking back, I think I was trapped by the super-hero genre itself; unconsciously—and sometimes consciously—parroting stories and styles I’d been absorbing all my life.

Moonshadow
changed that—and changed the course of my creative life in the process.

Someone (and for the life of me, I can’t remember who!) once said that whatever story you’re working on should be written as if it’s the only one you’ll ever tell:  pouring all your thoughts, feelings, ideas, ideals, passions, philosophies, hopes and dreams—every iota of Who You Are—into it.  That’s what I did with Moonshadow.  It allowed me to step outside the Marvel-DC mindset and discover my own voice. Over the course of those twelve issues I stopped being a “comic book writer” and became a writer.

Of course it didn’t hurt that I was working with Jon J Muth, as brilliant an artist as the medium has ever seen.  The magic of our collaboration became evident to me at our first face-to-face meeting.  A mutual friend had given Jon a copy of my original Moonshadow proposal and the two of us met to discuss the project.  He arrived at my house with some preliminary sketches based on what he’d read and, as I looked them over, profoundly impressed, I observed: “These are very Dickensian.” “Well,” Jon responded, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “that’s what you wrote.”  And, of course, it was—but the truth is that, despite the many Dickens-like touches in my outline, I never consciously realized the influence until Jon pointed it out!  (Moon evolved into a series that allowed me to pay tribute to just about all of my literary heroes—from Dickens to Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger to William Blake, Dostoyevsky to Bradbury to L. Frank Baum.  They were all standing over my shoulder as I wrote, encouraging me to find my own unique way of telling a story.) 

Muth and I worked very closely:  I have warm memories of going out to breakfast at a local diner, discussing the outline I’d just written; Jon doing layouts as we spoke, sometimes on napkins!  We worked in a variety of ways over the next two years—Moonshadow was an untraditional story that required an untraditional approach—but always with a mutual respect, and mutual enthusiasm, that I think suffused the project.  Jon’s painted pages—which ranged from brooding romanticism to delightful whimsy and back again—always challenged me, dared me to reach beyond my comfort zone and be better than I’d ever been.  I hope my scripts did the same for him. 

Some necessary acknowledgements:  Jon and I had three wonderful editors watching our backs on the original Epic Comics series—Laurie Sutton, Margaret Clark and the late, great Archie Goodwin—all of whom allowed us to tell our story in exactly the way we wanted, providing tremendous support and encouragement throughout our entire run. (And let’s not forget Marvel Comics’ then editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, who gave my oddball pitch his approval, then sent me over to Archie G.) We also have to tip our hats to our extraordinary letterer, Kevin Nowlan, and two equally-extraordinary artists, Kent Williams and George Pratt, who pitched in to help Jon on the original series when deadlines got tight.

When, a decade later, we jumped ship to my old friend Karen Berger’s DC imprint, Vertigo, we worked with incomparable editor Shelly Bond on our sequel story, Farewell, Moonshadow:  a challenging blend of comics and prose—we didn’t want to go back to the same well and tell our story in the same way—that featured some of the most breathtaking art of Jon’s career.
 
The first issue of Moonshadow came out in January of 1985, which means that Moon, “Sunflower,” Ira, Frodo, the G’l-Doses, the Unkshuss family and all the rest are nearly thirty-five years old now.  I thank them, the amazing Mr. Muth and all the readers who took that magical journey with us. Moonshadow transformed me as a writer, changing the course of my career, opening new doors of opportunity, and I am forever grateful.
Pop!  Poof!  Ping!

©copyright 2019 J.M. DeMatteis


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

IMPOSSIBLE GALAXIES

The collected edition of Impossible Incorporated is on sale today.  A friend described this as "Fantastic Four meets Doctor Who meets Doc Savage"—and I'll take that as a huge compliment.  I hope you'll join seventeen year old girl genius Number Horowitz and her team as they journey through time, space, dimensions—and the depths of the human heart. 

Here's hoping the great Mike Cavallaro and I get to tell many more tales of Number and Company in the future.





***

This past weekend was the Richmond, Virginia GalaxyCon and I had a very nice time meeting the fans and hanging out with fellow pros like Jim Salicrup, Mark Bagley and, of course, The Great Giffen (among many others).  Some photos and video below.  (You can find more videos over at my Youtube Channel.)



In the photos below:  The "Writing For Comics" panel with Gary Cohn and Jim Salicrup, the "Spiderverse" panel with Robbi Rodriguez, Mark Bagley and Salicrup, and the Giffen-DeMatteis panel with...whatsisname.










Next stop:  HeroesCon!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

RETURN TO SHAMBALLA



A brand new,  oversized edition of Doctor Strange:  Into Shamballa—the 1980s graphic novel I created with the great Dan Green—has just come out in Italy and I did an interview for the book.  Since most of you reading this don't live in Italy, or speak Italian, I thought I'd post the complete interview here.

And here's hoping Marvel gets around to publishing a new edition in English sooner than later.  The book has been out of print for a long time.

(By the way, some enterprising YouTuber has done a motion comic of Shamballa and you can watch it here.)


***


I know it's been a while... but do you remember the genesis of Into Shamballa and how it came to be?

I’ve always been a massive Doctor Strange fan.  I’d had the opportunity to write the character within the context of my run on the Defenders, but had never written a Strange solo tale.  Dan Green was a friend and neighbor and we were looking for the right project to work on together.  He shared my enthusiasm for Doc, we started bouncing around ideas…and we were off and running!  

One of the things that fascinates me about Strange is that his story is first and foremost a spiritual one.  It’s hidden behind magic spells, other dimensions and visual pyrotechnics, but Stephen Strange was a broken man who found redemption at the feet of an Eastern spiritual master.  You can't get more overtly spiritual than that!  That aspect of the character was sometimes lost and I wanted to do a story that put the emphasis squarely on the spiritual, while still giving the readers a big, cosmic adventure that addressed the mystical side of life and the inner journey that we’re all on, as individuals and as a planet.  Dan shared many of the same goals and had other elements that were important to him and the final story was a blend of our two visions.  As for how we put the book together…

Keep in mind it’s been decades and memories are fragile things, so take everything that follows with the proverbial grain of salt.  That said, Dan saved my outlines and scripts and many of his layouts and notes, so, using that as a kind of archaeological guide, I’ve tried to reconstruct the way we created Into Shamballa.  

Since Dan and I lived in the same town and we saw each other regularly, that allowed us to work very closely every step of the way, bouncing things back and forth, building the story together, brick by brick.  After we talked the story through and came up with a framework that excited us, we pitched it to Jim Shooter, who was editor in chief of Marvel at the time, and he had some very valuable insights that helped bring our story into deeper focus.  I then wrote up a five page story outline for our editor, Carl Potts, that we also shared with Roger Stern, who was writing the Strange monthly at the time.   We wanted to make sure that we weren’t stepping on Roger’s toes and that our story didn’t overlap with anything he was doing. 

From there Dan and I worked out more details of the story, discussed layouts, tone, etc.  Then, based on our conversations, I wrote up another outline, breaking the story down, which Dan used as a jumping off point, laying out the entire graphic novel and, I’m sure, adding new details along the way. 

I wrote my script from Dan’s layouts, but I was free to change things, make shifts, as I went along.  Dan recently unearthed lots of material that he’d saved and found some of my own layouts—and I use the term loosely!—that I’d do if, in the writing, my script deviated from what Dan had already done.  This way he had a sense of what I was seeing in my head as I was writing.  I also added some art notes to the script itself, something I’d forgotten until Dan showed me the old pages.

I’m sure Dan had feedback about the script that I then incorporated into a another draft and, with that in front of him, Dan worked out the final layouts.  I suspect we discussed that, making sure we were both happy, after which he went on to the finished art—which, all these years later, still stands as some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever seen in a comic book or graphic novel.  

This kind of back and forth is not the way the average comic book is done!  The fact that were were able to do so much work face to face, and that we had the extended deadline that graphic novels afford, allowed us to really collaborate in a way writers and artists in comics working on monthly comics just can’t.  It was a magical collaboration as befits such a magical character.


Into Shamballa is a perfect mix between a comic book and an illustrated novel. Where did this idea come from? Why did you choose not to use word balloons but only captions to tell the story?

Some people see comics as movies on paper.  I never have.  I think comics is a unique form that embraces film, poetry, music and prose.  The form can be anything we want it to be.  I especially wanted to explore the line between prose and comics:  telling a story with the pure visual impact we expect from the form, but also using prose to dive deeper, expand the storytelling out in ways that traditional comics storytelling can’t.  I was doing something similar with Moonshadow, which I was writing at the same time I was writing Shamballa. ( In fact Dan and Jon J Muth were sharing a studio at the time.) 

With Dan’s gorgeous art the graphic novel became a kind of mystical storybook.  A cosmic fairy tale.   

Dr. Strange, decades after his creation, keeps being an entertaining and fascinating character. What do you think is the secret of this success?

The magical characters—and Strange is foremost among them—allow us to tell stories that explore the personal and the cosmic, the psychological and the spiritual.  Reality itself can be bent back, folded, torn up and rearranged.  We get to ask the Big Questions:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  What is reality?  An incredible framework for investigating life on multiple layers and levels. 

But none of this would work if Strange himself wasn’t such a deep and fascinating character.  You can’t go big and cosmic unless it’s rooted in the human and Stephen Strange is a very human character.  Add to that the scope of his adventures—the endless dimensions, the cosmic grandeur, the otherworldly foes and allies—and you’ve got the perfect recipe for great comics.  Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created a perfect template.  All of us who’ve worked on the character are forever grateful to them.


What did you think of the cinematic version of Dr. Strange?

I really enjoyed it—Cumberbatch was perfect casting—and I hope they get cracking on a sequel ASAP.  I also loved the little nod to Into Shamballa that they threw into the mix!



Tuesday, May 28, 2019

GALACTIC

Friday kicks off GalaxyCon in Richmond, Virginia.  I'll be there all three days and doing  a panel each day.

FRIDAY MAY 31
Writing Comic Books
5 pm
Gary Cohn, J.M. DeMatteis, Matthew Rosenberg, Jim Salicrup
Hero Stage E-21 AC

SATURDAY JUNE 1
Giffen & DeMatteis
4 pm
J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen
Hero Stage E-21 AC

SUNDAY JUNE 2
Into The Spiderverse
Noon
Mark Bagley, J.M. DeMatteis, Robbi Rodriguez, Jim Salicrup
Hero Stage E-21 AC

If you're attending, stop by my table and say hello.

Looking forward to a fun weekend!


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

SPIDER TALK

I chat with the fine folks at The Amazing Spider-Talk podcast about...well, Spider-Man.  Specifically the tortured relationship between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 26, 2019

IMAGINING

Just a short one to let folks know that—for the first time in a couple of years—I'll be doing one of my three day Imagination 101 writing workshops.  The dates are November 8—10, 2019, and if this sounds like an early warning...it's not:  folks are already registering so, if you're interested in attending, it can't hurt to sign up ASAP.

Forewarned is forearmed.

For more info click on over to the workshops sections of this site.

And come join us!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

THE BIG WHY

I chat with Comic Pop's Sal Crivelli about The Girl in the Bay, Impossible Incorporated, my Imagination 101 writing workshop, "The Big Why," and many other things.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

RETURN TO SOLITUDE

I had another fascinating conversation with Eric Anthony of the Cave of Solitude podcast.  We talk about The Girl in the Bay, Impossible Incorporated, the nature of reality and other fun things.  You can listen to it below.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 22, 2019

COMING SOON

Here's a gentle reminder that The Girl in the Bay #3—with art by the wonderful Corin Howell—is out from Dark Horse/Berger Books on April 3rd.


And, on that very same day, you can pick up the cosmic conclusion of IDW's Impossible, Incorporated, with art by one of my all-time favorite collaborators, Mike Cavallaro.


I'm very proud of both these series and I hope you'll check them out.  (And, yes, there will be collected editions coming soon:  I.I. in May and Girl in August.)  

Friday, March 1, 2019

CONSTANTALK

Just came across this Constantine: City of Demons interview from October's New York Comic Con.

You can watch the abbreviated version of City for free (yes, I said free) on the CW Seed app or buy the DVD—which is a longer cut with more story—right here.  It's also available for streaming on Amazon, Google Play and other platforms.

City of Demons is one of the finest animated projects I've ever been involved in and, if you're a John Constantine fan, I think you'll enjoy it.  

Monday, February 25, 2019

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AVATAR MEHER BABA!


"To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others, by expressing, in the world of forms, truth, love, purity and beauty — this is the sole game which has intrinsic and absolute worth. All other happenings, incidents and attainments in themselves can have no lasting importance."

Avatar Meher Baba

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A STRANGE LETTER

A kind soul on Twitter brought this to my attention:  a letter teenage JMD wrote to the Sub-Mariner comic in 1970.




I have no memory of this but, man, that kid was obsessed with Doctor Strange. (Guess it paid off in the end!)





Wednesday, February 20, 2019

DEFENSIVE

Speaking of podcasts:  I had a great time talking to novelists, and all-around good guys, Brian Keene and Christopher Golden for their Defenders Dialogue podcast.  We talked about, no surprise!, my 80s run on The Defenders—as well as Moonshadow, Blood: a tale, Kraven's Last Hunt, The Girl in the Bay and other fun things.  You can listen to our conversation right here:

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

MORE RETRO

Here's part two of my interview with The Retro Project.  (You can find part one here.)  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

MORE GIRL, MORE BAY

It's been a little over a week since The Girl in the Bay debuted—I've been overwhelmed by the positive response the book has been getting—and I thought I'd share the essay I wrote for our first issue, which explores the origins of the story.

If you haven't read Girl, I hope this entices you to pick it up.  At the very least I hope you enjoy my musings on the creative process.


One thing I’ve learned in my years as a professional writer is that stories have lives of their own; that they exist independently, in another rarified sphere, and that some of us, for reasons that remain unfathomable to me, are chosen by those stories to be their vehicles, to share them with the world.  How many times have I found myself in bed or in the shower or just stretched out on my office floor, eyes closed, lost in a hypnogogic state, watching an entire movie play out in my head?  Images erupt, unbidden, dancing across the movie screen of my imagination.  It’s like a download from some cosmic computer:  worlds unfold, characters live and breathe, struggle, triumph and die, and I observe it all with curiosity, wonder and immense gratitude.

I don’t know where these mind-movies come from—some would say the unconscious, but I believe the unconscious is just a doorway to something bigger, more mysterious, and far more magical—and, really, I don’t want to know.  The fun is in the effort to translate that story-download into words, giving it life on the page.

A few years ago I was at a spiritual retreat center in South Carolina—a place I go regularly to slough off the world and sit in the silence—when the download started again.  This time it was the tale of a teenage girl, eighteen years old in 1969, who meets with a tragic death—and yet, impossibly, doesn’t die.  She’s resurrected, fifty years later (but mere minutes to her), in a world that is both familiar and terrifying:  the world of 2019.  I followed Kathy Sartori—the name came later—as she tried to solve the mystery of her own death and of the doppelgänger with her face and name who’d lived out Kathy’s life in the five decades that had passed.

Every day the download would begin again and every day I’d race back to my cabin, flip open my laptop, and, like a dutiful secretary, do my best to transcribe the information that had been dictated by the Story Gods.  By the time the retreat was over, I had pages and pages of notes.

Which I promptly forgot about.

That’s not unusual.  Ideas come and go in the writing life.  On occasion those ideas take root quickly and the stories find their way into the world with astonishing speed.  But, more often than not, they sit quietly in a file on my computer, gestating, evolving, waiting for me to periodically revisit them—adding details here, new characters there.  And that’s as it should be.  You see, another thing I’ve learned over the years is that stories don’t just have lives of their own, they have their own timing, as well; and, however anxious I may be to tell the story right now, I’ve learned to surrender and allow the tale unfold in its own way, on its own unique schedule.  It knows, even if I don’t, when all the elements are in place, when it’s exactly the right moment to be birthed, like Athena leaping from Zeus’s forehead.  That’s sometimes meant waiting years—on several occasions it’s been decades—till all the elements were in place. 

In the case of The Girl in the Bay, those elements were Karen Berger and Corin Howell.

Karen and I have a shared history that began on many of the same Brooklyn streets that Kathy Sartori walked.  My respect for KB, as both an editor and a friend, is boundless—and when she launched Berger Books, we both knew this was an opportunity to work together for the first time since the early, and creatively exhilarating, Vertigo days.  The first idea I pitched her didn’t resonate—she’s not an easy sell!—but when I shared Kathy’s tale, Karen responded enthusiastically, offering ideas and insights that helped me see my own story more clearly, the mark of a truly gifted editor. 

Karen also has a great eye for new talent and soon brought Corin Howell to my attention.  Corin’s relatively new to the business, but Karen had faith in her talent and, with each new character design, each stunning page Corin turned in, she proved that Karen’s faith wasn’t misplaced:  I can’t imagine The Girl in the Bay without her—or without the superb contributions of colorist James Devlin and letterer Clem Robins.  What was once my story alone is ours.  And now that you hold the book in your hands, it’s yours, too.

We hope you enjoy our tale of murder, time travel, personal identity and cosmic mystery.   And we look forward to more downloads, and more stories of Kathy Sartori, to come.

©copyright 2019 J.M. DeMatteis  

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

THE GIRL IN THE BAY

The first issue of The Girl in the Bay is on sale today, courtesy of the fine folks at Dark Horse/Berger Books.  It's a dark, twisty tale of time travel, doppelgängers, mysticism and murder. Very excited about this series—and so happy to be working with my old friend Karen Berger and the wonderful Corin Howell.  

Check out the trailer below.  And I hope you enjoy The Girl in the Bay.




Tuesday, February 5, 2019

RETRO

Here's an interesting (well, I hope it's interesting!) chat I had with The Retro Project podcast.  It's a very different kind of interview and I suspect you'll enjoy it.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

AMARTITHI 2019



"This whole universe, with all its vastness, grandeur and beauty, is nothing but sheer imagination."
Avatar Meher Baba 

TEXAS BOUND

This weekend I'll be in Dallas for the North Texas Comic Book Show—along with Mike Zeck, Bob McLeod, Neal Adams, Amy Chu and many more.  My son, Cody, will be manning the table with me and I'm looking forward to a fun weekend.

If you're in the area, come by and say hello!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAL BUSCEMA!



Today's the birthday of another all-time Marvel great, Sal Buscema!

Working with Sal on Spectacular Spider-Man remains one of the highlights of my career. The man can draw everything—from big action to quiet human moments— and weave it all together with grace and power.

You can't force creative chemistry, you can't make it happen. Working with Sal, the chemistry was there from the first page, first panel. We intuitively understood each other and the stories just flowed between us. The result, I think, was some of the best work either of us has ever done (I'm especially fond of this story).

So here's to a fantastic collaborator and a truly good person: A very happy birthday, Sal—and many more!



Thursday, January 24, 2019

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN ROMITA!

Today’s the birthday of the great John Romita, Sr.  I bow to no one in my respect for Steve Ditko—the man was off-the-charts brilliant—but Romita Sr's Spider-Man will always be my Spider-Man.  John's a true master—and an incredibly nice man—and I'm very grateful that I got to work with him on one memorable story:  “The Kiss” in Webspinners #1.

I remember talking to him on the phone when we were collaborating on that story and he was working so hard to get those pages the way he wanted them: drawing and redrawing, worrying over the art.  He could have just knocked them out and they would have looked beautiful; but, even after decades in the business, John wouldn't settle.  And the result was pretty damn brilliant.

I also remember being at a Spider-Man writer's conference in the 90s when Romita, Sr joined us for the day—and he kept throwing one fantastic idea after another on the table. The man's not just a consummate artist:  He's a consummate storyteller. 

Here's a taste of the "The Kiss," which tells the tale of the last night Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy spent together, before her tragic death…





Happy Birthday, John!  Here's to many more!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

SPIDEY SWEETNESS

Check out this screen-grab that a sharp-eyed Spidey fan over on Twitter just sent to me.  It's from the trailer for the new Spider-Man movie, Far From Home. Peter’s on a class trip to Europe, sailing the waterways of Venice.
Look at the name of the hotel.


What a sweet acknowledgement!