SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
December 8, 1980. If you want to read my memories of that night, click here. Or you can listen to the real-time radio broadcasts below to get a sense of the shock and sorrow that enveloped not just New York City, but the entire world.
A date I always remember & always wish I could forget. But the spirit of the man lives on, not just in those of us who grew up with him, but in those who weren't even born until after his death & have discovered his life & his work. And in a very real way, those two things are one for him. Not a plaster saint, but a wounded man always striving to become better, to grow --and in doing so, creating some of the finest songs to ever grace our lives. Another year over, always a new one begun ...
Tim!Haven't heard from you in a long time. Hope you and yours are safe and healthy as we continue to navigate these strange times.I agree completely with everything you say re: Lennon. (But you knew I would, didn't you?) "Not a plaster saint, but a wounded man, always striving to become better." That's the core of Lennon and, in many ways, the core of ALL of us.
Well Dematteis, if you have interest in one of Lennon's concerts, and the subject of it, there is this...https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2021/12/09/john-sinclair-white-panther-party-how-old-is-john-sinclair-marijuana-pot-michigan-detroit/8814801002/Also, there is mustard on your shirt.Oh my God! You need to be less gullible, Dematteis. You did not even eat anything with mustard today.Jack
Unfortunately, there's a pay wall, so I can't read the article. But I know all about the Sinclair concert.And, HA!, I never eat mustard so you can't fool me!
You don;t eat mustard, and yet you still checked your shirt for the stain? Never let anyone tell you that you are not an innovator in the world of gullibility, Dematties.Sorry for the pay way, I am subscribed to the Free Press, so I sould not notice. If you are interested, I think you can get in if you have an account with partnering websites, like Google, or whatchamacallit-book.By the way, you and Giffen are responsible for the Killing Joke and A death in the Family, and it turns out you wrote Going Sane almost a decade early... after a fashion... possibly without knowing it.Jack
Well, I DID come up with "Going Sane" long before it saw print. Even before KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT. But go on...
Okay, so....You and Giffen wrote Justice League International annual #2. I this story, the Joker takes on the Justice League, however, they are so...well, the reason why we all love them, Joker quits.In his brief few appearances post-Crisis before this, he is not the brutal sadist he later became, That is true for this issue too. He is a villain He is crazy. But he seems to be part of a game.ON the last page of the story, Joker says, "I want to go back to Arkham!"On the last page of the comic, is an add for The Killing Joke, shipping in March. The very story that premieres the sadistic, brutal Joker. It is not a game anymore, he just wants to hurt people, and thinks that is a joke.Where does the book begin? Arkham. Except, the Joker is not actually there he escaped. Logically, one of two things had to happen.a) Joker escaped before JLI annual #2b) the brea out is after he goes back.Either way, that means that the inciting incident could only be, dealing wit the JLI. Going Sane is the story of if Joker snapped after killing Batman, and became sane. Here, you accidentally wrote what of the Joker was so frustrated by the changing world, he became a sadist.A few months later, A death in the Family comes out, same year though. Yes, the Joker is brutal again, but your influence is actually more in-depth than that.Everyone wonders why Starlin made Joker an ambassador for Iran. Saying it was just to put in some political commentary. Yes that is probably the reasonHowever, in the annual, Joker is working for a fictional Middle Eastern Country, as their assassin. The country is right next to Iran. So, word could have gotten there, and the relationship of he country, good OR ill could have made it happen.One comic, in the sitcom era of the Justice League is the only thing that makes those to classic stories work in full, and does in really weirdly perfect ways.Also, without YOU knowing caused you to make your favorite superhero story by you happen, in reverse, without you even knowing.Comics are weird, deal with it.Bonus points.... The character of Spoiler, is a Batman-ish character. More Robin (you probably know that). Because it was mostly Robin, Bats never developed a really close relationship to her. Even being kind of dismissive, even for Bats.She got her name from spoiling her dad's crimes. The Cluemaster. Cluemaster was in the JLI era Injustice Gang.Perhaps Bruce kept even more of a distance because of her even thinking he needed her. Most likely Bats thought,"your fatehr...was an idiot. He was defeated by a French teacher once. Not even an evil French teacher. Just some broad who wanted him to shut the help up in her class. Could not even recognize Metamorpho in the same class as him. You think so little of me that you believe I need help with that? B Guy Gardner is more clever than that bozo. I hope you fake your have to fake your death in a gang war for having such low opinion of me.Jack
hopefully the other went through, or this will make no sense..He was tricked into joining a team with G'Nort, and she thought Batman would need help thwarting him.His deductive reasoning skills are on par with G'Nort. And you figured he could outsmart the World;s Greatest detective.You know you are deep in the comic well when you are name checking G'Nort.Jack
So you're saying Keith and I were accidental geniuses?
So Dematteis, Last time I saw Jim (he is a guy I know from a comic shop I used to shop at, before they pivoted away), he said that J.M. Dematteis is writing a Ben Reilly book... this was last week...I and "I like his work, but its a shame he has to take what he can get."I informed him that you liked Ben.There you go, praise for you and a slight for Ben.I am personally anxious to see if you wrote the series as if Pete and MJ were married, avoiding any worse that would break the illusion when referring to Pete, MJ, or Oregon.Also, I finally read Conan #1. I facsimile edition came out this week.After I read it, I thought about your post about how it was one of the 70s comics that seemed so different than the superheroes.I gotta say, I did not see it. I got a similar vibe to Sub-mariner and Hulk stories. Even Dr Strange and a bit of teh Lee-Kirby Fantastic Four.I enjoyed it. It did not make me a crazy fa n now. It is about the same as before, if I see an issue that looks good I will pick it up, but I enjoyed it. Lust did not see it as some huge departure.That having been said, I think it is one of the comics that current Marvel writers should read. There are a few. I'm sure you don;t remember the specifics, but it set up a world, made you understand Conan's place in it, took you on a journey, and told a complete story i one issue.I know that was not a rarity at the time, but this comic was huge they say (let me know if I have been misinformed), and this issue emerged you in one issue. Now every writer wants to do five to six issues to sell people. There also has not been a break out hit character, bot attached to an already big character or creator n quite some time from Marvel or DC.While I do not see this great divide you did, and I did not suddenly feel a need to collect every issue... though I ma sure more are in my future... I do get why this character who became a relic Marvel published only for the hardcore when I started reading. was so big. I do get that.It is the kind of thing you don't get when you have to wait multiple issues to know a character or world.In one issue it established enough that I, even as a fan of 70s comics, would have thought would take 20 issues... then.While I don;t see this drastic departure you apparently did, I will say, there is something interesting I noticed. This was a facsimile edition, so everything was reprinted. The ads, the Marvel writing, the solicitations, everything. I did notice it came out the month AFTER F.F. #102. The issue Kirby left Marvel.I al know however curious about how Conan and Tolkien worked in your brain. Both Fantasy, with a lot of cosmetic similarities, but in ways clearly very different. How did that work in your head brain? Obviously, you like both, but... you know.Jack
I don't think I made any kind of Howard-Tolkien connection, Jack. If I did, it was unconscious.It wasn't the first issue alone that got me, it was the cumulative impact of all those early issues...the poetry of the writing...the eerie otherworldliness of the Hyborian Age...the evolving artistry of the brilliant Barry Smith. You may not see it, but CONAN was, for me, mind-blowingly different from anything that had come before. (At least anything I'D read.) I'll say the same for the Wein-Wrightson SWAMP THING, which came along a little later. I remember reading ST #1 and it was unlike any comic book I'd come across.
I was not making the point that you being blown a way was odd. Hel, Savage Sword of Conan was the Big Two's first attempt in earnest to make adult only comic. Like... actually saying it.And, Swamp Thing ? Forget about. Okay, so issue one gets points for Wein's master of atmosphere, but in many ways it is an origin. The Clock-work people issue, that bent my mind... and I first read it over 30 years after it came out. I just remember thinking, "this is like a Twilight Zone episode, but a....this."I was convince when it came to comics Len Wein was an American genius.My point was that I don;t really get why a superhero book can't blow your mind, because I can see where the mind blowing comes in...even if it did not for me... I just don't get what makes it different than Namor. Or the New Gods from Thor for that matter. Swamp Thing from Ben Grimm. More experimental? Exploring other elements? Taking risks? Sure, no question. But that is just innovation. I don't see how it is completely something else form the superhero genre. Bob Dylan, the Beatles, MC5, and the Rolling Stones are not completely different genres than Chubby Checker or Chuck Berry.The thing about understanding how issue #1 effected other things was something different.You have to understand Dematteis, you road the Conan wave from the beginning, so you may not see how much of a weird mystery he is.IN the 70s, he was huge. Only a few years after his creation, he got a second book. It took Spidey a decade, and he needed a guest star. Not to mention, they are yet to say "let's have a book aimed at adults" with him.In 1980, he had three books, all starring him, COnan, Savage Sword, and King Conan. There had been two spin offs, Kull and Red Sonja. Kull was only one year later.His popularity was probably why Marvel got to the rights of another pulp character, Fu Manchu, and thus SHang-Chi was born, Probably why DC got the Shadow.But... if your collecting was hitting prime years in the 80s...you might be along for the ride, and you might not. If you started after 1990, he was little more than something old timers occasionally talked about, and more likely something that infested dollar bins when they got high enough in numbers.It is so weird that kind of fall off happened. His stories clearly influenced Dungeons and Dragons. The popularity did not inspire Star Wars, but was part of the wave fantasy that made the world ready for the biggest movie event ever.A lot more people have reverence for the Shadow, and he never had a 275 issue run of anything past 1950. His last pulp was in summer 1949. Isreal turned two, my dad turned 1, and most comic fans now were not even born.Even books about Marvel, including those written while they had the rights. Unless maybe mentioning the printing of Black and White magazines.continued....
BUt he appeased in ads with all the Marvel gang. Kull and Red Sonja teamed up with Thor. He even had a What if where he fought Wolverine.I t is just so weird, that in an industry that loves nostalgia so much, this super popular character, that had so much influence fell through the cracks.To us it is strange that it was such a big thing, and I was raised on Tolkien, before I was 10, pre-LOTR movies.Not even remotely as strange for Dracula to have been a big seller in the 70s.After that issue, I get how it became a thing. A big thing. Still not my favorite, but even for Thomas' high quality, that was an issue that put you in the world of Conan. One issue. ANd I assume it got less ough, IN fact, I know it did, because i have read later issues of COnan by Thomas.Quite frankly, a skill I think should be encouraged for first issues of characters now. Six issues is probably a bit of a gamble, if it is not a mini series.Hope that cleared things up.A little disappointed there were o hippie musings about Tolkien being essentially a story about the deep wounds of combat on the land and mind, while Conan just views it as a necessity of living.Maybe sung to the tune of Bob Dylan's "Hurricane,"Oh well, next pop culture revelation.Jack
The Thomas-Smith Conans were the ones that really enchanted me. Smith was only on the book for a short time, but he created an entire universe of magic and mystery that no one else could capture. Buscema's world was much more concrete, less ethereal. (Not a knock: I now to none in my admiration for JB.) I would have liked to have seen Buscema's Conan walking through Smith's world. That would have been something!
A guy I know read a book about Conan... which I am sure you read... he told me that for all the talk about Buscema being this golden age for the character, there was a notable backlash from fans. Not like hate, or dropping the books, but like letters wondering what was up, and saying they wanted Smtih back.I still think there is some connection between Tolkien and COnan's popularity.Like I said, I grew up on Tolkien. My mother, like so many Baby Boomers, read Tolkien in college. In the 60s.My Father never read them, but his two best friends reread it every year for a while, and the one who had kids actually would verbally tell it to his children.I once read a book called the "Hippie Handbook" mentioned TOlkien quotes on Bumper-stickers as a necessity.Jackson did not have anywhere near the uphill climb people wanted to believe... but that is not the point.The point is, Tolkien, much like Heinlein, had his work beloved by a movement he did not actually like... hippies, Yippies, and socially concise young people.Tolkien was the climate writer of the Merry Olde England mindset. That per-industrial and per-colonial England was a paradise. Bilbo as the purest hero because he enjoys the adventure, but shuns war and wants to return home. Frodo the youngster, scarred by mentally by war that tears apart the land, only to rerun home to a transformed shire.No wonder the optimistic 60s loved it. The 70s though... well , the revolution failed. The decade long hangover began. The cynicism pessimism of torn apart urban centers was a constant reminder that that after being told they were the future, the very generation encouraged them slapped down the Baby Boomers' new world. Conan was a barbarian, whose life was fighting, and created in the depths of the depression, by a man in a still somewhat wild Texas, who met a bitter end.Since comics were starting to slowly gain an older fan base, especially Conan, I think it makes perfect sense.If fiction... at least what is popular... is truly a mirror of society, doesn't it make sense?The warning from LOTR was proven unchangeable.Just a series of nonsensical thoughts.Jack
I read LOTR when I was 15 (the year before I discovered Conan) and it was my first taste of epic fantasy: I'd never read anything like it. I still remember the feeling when I finished it. I was heartbroken that it was over.I've never returned to it because I don't know if grown-up me would feel the same way about the story. I'd rather leave the warm memories of being a teenager, sprawled out on the couch, devouring that magical tale.
I think you just made history, Dematteis.That is the first time I have ever experienced someone wanting to hold onto a memory from their teenage years, especially at 15.Be careful, the government might end up dissecting you to figure out just what is up.Spooky.Jack
My favorite fantasy novels are The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, which I read when I was 12. (The golden age of everything is 12.) They were so magical and funny. I hated the movie version of The Black Cauldron because it was so dumbed down. It was like their attitude was "Well, these books were written for children, so lets make it stupid." Even though the books were anything but stupid. Alexander never wrote down to his audience.
I read a number of the Lloyd Alexander books to my son when he was little, William, and we both really enjoyed them. And I have affection for the Disney movie. It's far from perfect, but it was a good try, and something very different for the Mouse House.
J.M., the funny thing about me and Disney movies is that I like them more now as an adult than I ever did as a child. Perhaps I was too cold hearted as a child to enjoy them. I recently watched the live action version of Beauty and the Beast and liked it a lot. Lady and the Tramp is next in my queue. I guess it's never too late to warm up your heart!
Truly great "children's" entertainment tends to get better as we get older: Disney's PINOCCHIO and PETER PAN remain two of my favorite movies of all time.