Thursday, October 1, 2020


I had a great conversation with James Enstall of Geek To Me Radio—covering everything from my first TV sale to Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons and my Imagination 101 writing workshop—and you can listen to it right here.


  1. Also., I should assume this graces your comic book collection...


    1. You seem pretty excited to not own it anymore.

      I like to think that it is what inspired you a few short years later to write the absolute classic, Defenders #96.


    2. My assumption comes from the fact that the Beatles starring Super Special apparently has a scene that takes place in Detroit.

      Let me tell you a story Dematteis...

      Picture it, my Junior year of High School. I had been a life long comic fan, for the first time I am starting to really pay attention to those names at the beginning.... you know, the writers and artists. Sad it in its way, the characters took a little bet less of a lead.

      I was engulfed by back issues from the 70s and 80s. But there was something about the 70s, Starlin was still a year or two from grabbing my notice... unwilling to let go.

      Englehart and Gerber were just grabbing my brain. But there was also this character, Ghost Rider. I had known him for a while, but shockingly, it took being a teenager to really love a hellbound rock n' roll type character who had a problem with authority. Go figure.

      He was interesting, but it was a little hard to believe he was spawned in the same era as Man-Thing and Sise-Neg. Not to mention, the 90s issues were most prevalent... they were not even of that era.

      Then, I find out there is a a Defenders issue where Ghost Rider is in Detroit, AND acting as a roadie oft a Rock band. Now, like many no-good teens, I was all about the Devil's music... or the rock n' roll if you will.

      ow, I had only read two Defenders issues before. One was a Gerber issue, and it was okay, but the first was issue #101. It seemed to be right after something big happened, but the character development was really interesting.

      Still, liked it or not, I hadn't given it that much thought. Until now, I really needed to read that comic. I mean, I was from Detroit, it had the Rock n' Roll, superheroes... what wasn't to love.

      Only one problem, the only issue I could find required my to also by ever other issue from #90-100. It was still a good price (you would be surprised how cheap 70s comics would get pre-MCU jacking everything up), you can never have too many comics, right?

      In those issues was a story about the six-finger hand. And a letter asking if the writer of said story was the same guy who had written for the Rolling Stone.

      That story was what made me add said writer into the list of creators that... I don;lt know something.

      Strangely, as a life long Spider-Man fan, I had already read Spec. Spider-man #200 (I think, and many more stories by him (including the fist one I bought... well, a backup), but this is what pulled me in. And I would argue Spec. 200 is better.

      Not long after that, I found his Amazon blog.

      So, whatever positive ... or more likely negative... experiences you have had with my on your various blogs trace back to that story.

      The moral of this story?

      Marvel has been completely moronic having all their characters live in New York.

      People get interested when things happen it happens near them in fiction. As long as it isn't an insult or joke at their expense.


    3. I would also argue that SPEC #200 is better!

      That's a great story, Jack. Thanks for sharing it. FYI:
      Those DEFENDERS issues came out in the 80s, not the 70s. My run went from 1980 to 1983. In this age of disinformation, we must be accurate!

    4. Um... O know when the comic came out Dematteis. I never said it didn't come out in the 80s. I only said that I had a pension for 70s comics, which was in reference to Gerber and Englehart got into my brain. ANd to where my headspace was at.

      And if we really want to be accurate, your run ended in 1984... not 1983.

      HOWEVER, I guess one could make the argument that your Defenders run, along with the Death of Captain Marvel and the X-Men's Dracula story, was the swan song of the 1970s storytelling.

      After all the six-finger hand was a very 70s type of story, and you used a lot of iconicly 70s characters, your Ghost Riders, Man-things, and Draculi. Not to mention the return of of Son of Satan and Devil-slayer to the ranks.

      Then attempting to give an ending to Nighthawk, Devil-slayer, Hellcat, and Son of Satan... 70s mainstays all! SO it did feel like a grand finale to the decade, even if most of the endings were undone. Even if one was undone by Hellstorm driving Hellcat to suicide.

      Even the story of Sunshine was a part of it. SO much of 70s Marvel was, well... drug-fueled, and hippies and ex-hippies as the hero, Sunshine was an ex-hippie with a mind and life shattered by drugs.

      As for Spec. #200, if I were an editor at Marvel, I would have all the writers read that issue. Have them notice the thriller-style tension, emotional depth, and character development, and that it is all in one issue.

      There is nothing wrong with a longer story if it is warranted... but it is not a necessity. And with shrinking attention spans, and comics needing to be monthly, or twice monthly at best... it probably should not be the goal. Economics of space.

      Also, seriously, Expand to the rest of the country Marvel. But NOT like the Great Lakes Avengers. Of the six states that make up the Great Lakes, none of us like it, and it was originally based in Wisconsin.


    5. You're right, my DEFENDERS run didn't end till early in 84. I was on the book longer than I realized!

      Interesting thought about that being a kind of summation of 70s comics. It certainly wasn't conscious.

      And thanks for the kind words re: SPEC #200!

    6. You might want to use that cache from your Defenders run to write the fourth Spider-man MCU film.

      Just walk into Disney offices, bursting the doors open unannounced and saying, "I'll be taking over that next Spider-man film. Before you ask, yes... I AM the creator for Sunshine. That is right , Devil-slayer's friend from Defenders in the early 80s."

      You could probably get that Moonshadow stage play financed off that, after the 12 picture deal at Disney.

      By the way, and come to think of it, you also ended Deathlok's story around the same time in Captain America. For a guy who claims to love 70s comics, you sure seemed to like putting a period on the end of their sentences.

      Wait... Both Devil-Slayer and Deathlok were created by Rich Buckler, who was from Detroit. You wrote about the Justice League Detroit (which it is called, despite most issues taking place in New York). You had a Defenders issue take place in Detroit VERY early in your run. That Beatles Comic partially took place here. The most important person in your life (me) is from Detroit. It is like the Motor City is following you, through your whole career.

      Perhaps it is a sign that if you wrote a story that takes place in and/or around Detroit it will be your finest work. Your Magnum Opus.

      ...or, given that you ended one and half of their stories and killed Vibe, that you might end up killing me.

      Anyway, more important than my life or the future of your career and success, Defenders comics written and published before I was born.

      Remember Dematteis, you killed Nighthawk, the symbol of the Defenders. And you did it back in 1982, when at Marvel, Death meant death. yeah people forget that was the case until Busiek thought of a way to bring Jean Grey, characters who died on panel very rarely came back.

      So, I guess we could see your blood lust, that would eventually take shape in your Spider-man run.

      Speaking of which. While I am glad you enjoyed them, those words about Spec. #200 were only facts. And before you make a "just the facts ma'am" joke (I know that is where you are going), much like "beam up Scotty" on Star Trek, those words were never said on Dragnet.


    7. I'll keep you in mind for an assistant's position when I get my twelve picture deal. First up is what critics will soon be calling The "Sunshine" Trilogy.

    8. Hey Dematteis, I don't want to freak you out here, but in that weird Twitter feed thing on the side of the website, you retweeted a thing-a-ma-jig by my governor.

      I like to think all this time associating with me now just has curious about anything even remotely connected to me. I know it isn't, but I like to think it.

      Now before you start going on some crazy journey about "the road of the universe and all the crazy on and off ramps connect us"... or whatever weird hippie crap you'll go with it, I'm going to talk about the Defenders.

      The Defenders is an interesting book, because it is the longest running comic book to be so associated with one era of comics/American life. This is of course done retroactively.

      I believe this shows an important lesson to comic book folk. Even in that one era it represents in so many minds, it played many roles. The problem is that it was cancelled It shows the power of momentum in comics.

      Logically, the F.F. should have ceased to be in 1970. It is such an early 60s idea and execution. However, it wasn't and got to affirm itself as a mainstay in the Marvel Universe.

      Conversely, there have been many attempts to resurrect the Defenders. First was Secret Defenders, which was kind of similar in concept, but no matter what anyone thinks of the series it didn't really distinguish itself from the avalanche of 90s comics.

      Before there was a story in the annuals of the Defenders big four, that was probably a backdoor pilot, but didn't take off (not bad though).

      Kurt Busiek tried to make it work in 2001, came up with a clever reason to keep four loners coming together, ended the run with a very interesting story... but couldn't keep it going. The writer of Marvels couldn't keep it going. IN part... and remember, I enjoy this series, and the original... he really tried to capture the 70s charm. And it was not eh 70s.

      There are at least three other attempts, none of which made it past a year.

      I think it is just too associated with the 70s. Not unlike how Luke Cage and SHang-Chi had to start working with the Avengers for people to remember how cool they are, Nova had to be given a completely new status quo and put on a team, Deathlok needed to become a new character entirely, and countless other great characters can't seem to catch back on.

      Still... I would argue that both Marvel and DC have had their share of comics that are like spirtual successors to the Defenders.

      Maybe there is a lesson there.

      Either way, and this is a bit of a 180, I think the legacy of the Defenders is too quickly forgotten.

      People forget that only a few months before the All-New All-Different X-Men made their debut Len Wein wrote A Prof. X v. Magneto story in Defenders. Keeping in mind the kind of kooky array of personalities and powers, it is really east to argue that the Defenders were a path to teh resurrection of the X-Men... which became one of Marvel's biggest hits.

      It saved Dr. Strange from oblivion, Saved the Guardians of the Galaxy from being a forgotten one off, Kept the memory of the Silver Surfer alive, gave Namor and Hulk a way to interact with other heroes without losing their edge, told stories that might not work anywhere, acted as nexus point for the diverse type of stories coming out int he era, and of course the most important... gave us the classic character Sunshine. Who could forget that?

      I guess, the point is I get both the apprehension and desire to bring back the. After all, what status quo could be crazier than what they had, and allow a new fresh page?

      But the series has gotten a raw deal in history of Marvel, and should be remembered for how special it was...even if that means acknowledging it can not come back easily.


    9. You'll get no argument from me, Jack. DEFENDERS was a unique book, one of a kind really, and it certainly had a powerful impact on me, both as a reader and a writer.

      That said, I think the non-team format could play today if handled correctly.

    10. I'm not sure how much of a "non-team" they were for their run. Certainly not in the last 27 issues.

      In fact, I have a vague memory of of reading once that Valkyrie and Nighthawk were put in because they were having trouble with that concept. You know, explaining why three to four loners keep getting together, without getting boring. Though I may be misremembering.

      I also remember Gerber giving them a meeting place.

      The thing I always thought the Defenders brought to the table were an openness to weird things, less traditional interactions among heroes, and

      In that sense I think it has had spiritual successors. The JLI comes to mind, New Avengers (after a fashion) , as does Peter David's return to X-Factor in 2005.

      The later of which has the scraps of the X-teams coming together to, not outright act as superheroes, but as a detective agency.

      The run has a therapy session taking up a whole issue (admittedly a plot recycled from his first run), attempts to kill a wolf child being hunted so the killer can become ruler of hell, a custody case over two little girls singing bigoted songs, a power to resurrect people from the dead... but they return without souls and therefore wrong, one character dimension-hopping through death in a story, a character becoming a Celtic goddess, Multiple Man hunting down his dupes who are living independent lives and learning about himself, and the craziest thing to happen to a superhero offspring ever. Most importantly, since they are actually holding down a job, that comes up, and there is an actual debate about Xavier dream, and if the X-Men are secret self-segregationists... or at least there actions unwillingly are

      Sounds pretty Defenders to me.

      Especially when you look at the characters.

      AS for it being able to play today... probably not at Marvel.

      This is just my observation, not anything said by anyone, so it may not be fully accurate. However, it seems to me Marvel has takes quite a turn in style because of the MCU.

      I think most comic fans are a little surprised that in the movies the JLA are the ones brooding, and the Marvel heroes are the bright shiny ones in a world of adulation.

      Such decisions have seemingly migrated to the four-color world as well.

      Not to mention, with the the success of eh Avengers at the Box Office, and Defenders mini series (which was a rather different line-up and take) not doing so well... let's just say there is an idea at the company of what should be tried.


    11. Definitely a line from DEFENDERS to JLI. I had my long of Giffen's first big gigs was drawing DEFENDERS when (I think) Dave Kraft was writing it. And, of course, we did our DEFENDERS mini some years after our JLI gigs.

      Writing DEFENDERS meant permission to break any and all rules, something we tried to do with JLI.

    12. ANd that mini series gave us one of the greatest Silver Surfer lines ever...

      Last panel of this page:

      Maybe you can use that Sunshine creator clout to get a more accurate depiction of the Defenders in some form.. I am going to suggest ice-skating extravaganza/saucy puppet show. The prequel tie-in can be a story told through fireworks and a parade.

      Guaranteed Money maker.


    13. Pretty sure that last line about letting Galactus eat them was there in Keith's plot. So credit to him.

      Puppet shows? As long as they're marionettes, I'm in!

    14. I don't care who came up with the line, I just like it. Like the series as a whole.

      Marionettes? Don't they have an Inc.?

      I am however not sure that marionette shows can even be saucy. Even if they can, isn't that a little on the hipster side? Is that really the market you want? Have you been dreaming in Brooklyn again? Only... like... modern Brooklyn.


    15. I love marionettes. When I was a kid, our grade school would have a show for the students once a year and they'd often bring in a marionette show, usually doing a fairy tale. I always found them magical.

      And I loved the Supermarionation TV shows. Supercar. Fireball XL5. Oddly compelling!

    16. I always found marionettes creepy myself.4

      Bit if you think marionettes are the best way to preform a saucy puppet show that fully realizes the Defenders I will defer to you.

      However, I will have to insist the puppets be at least one and a half times the size of a human being.