SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
I had a great conversation with Jace of the Comic Source podcast—talking about Ben Reilly, The Brothers Karamozov, William Blake, the power of story, the magic of the unconscious, and other fun things. You can watch it below. Enjoy!
I have two questions.1. O eo fAvios 27's multiple choice origins was Uncle Sam waving some kind of crazy flag over his head. That seems similar to General Glory's origin in your JLI days. Way that intentional, a coincidence. me reading too much in, or some kind of vague memory clawing its way forward in your mind?Jack
I'm assuming "O eo fAvios 27" is a typo, Jack, and you mean Savior 28. My memory is that we never had a defined origin for S-28; that we hypothesized multiple origins...and I don't recall what they were. If there were similarities, it was because both characters came from the same original idea, one I had back in the 80s called THE LIE AND TIMES OF COMMANDER FREEDOM, and then branched off in different directions. I believe the General Glory origin was a direct lift from my Commander Freedom origin.
Actually Dematteis, that was Alpha Centaurian for Savior 289... as you know they do not have the number eight in their culture. For a hippie, you are not very tolerant of other cultures.And I spoke so highly of you to them. However, you are correct. Like I said, multiple choice origins. His ex-sidekick claimed he always came up with new ones for what was the better story.The reason I remember it so well is the panel. It has Uncle Sam and an Alien both standing over our man. Not an easy image to forget.The reason I was thinking about it is that I am ...sadly... only three issues of your Mr. Miracle and a few of JLA Classified away from finishing my Giffen_Dematteis JLI comics. As much as I like William Messner-Loebs writing, and I do (he is also usually a nice guy at shows), his Justice League Europe issues have a different feel. Same with the post-Dematteis Mr, Miracle.ANYWAY...I also wanted to look into two plot points mthat were not really addressed again. The Conglomerate and Geberal GLory...both of whcih git their final story in JL QUarterly. I recently bought them. That is why it was on my mind.As for Question #2....Jack"Lie and Ties" EH? I assume this Commander Freedom was not an honorable fella.
Question #2, if you will be so kind...POst-Crisis at DC (for the sale of making a point, that is everything from Man of Steel to Death of Superman) was a magic time.A lot of great stories, with creators kind of...at least from the outside...seemingly given a lot of freedom. Obviously, talent was a huge reason DC was able to save itself.However, you had to get people interested in characters they had been ignoring for years.Do you think the norm of it being one or two issue stories (yes, there WERE outliers) helped with that? For the record, those stories were packed with story and character, but did most being more bite-sized help?After six months, you saw this character in 3-6 stories, that is more interactions and more sides to the character. Also, not having to remember things over long periods of time that may be in issue #1, but relate to the end.Also, with Batman '89 pushing comic sales, it was less intimidating.I am not asking if longer form stories are good or bad, the answer to that is obvious...it depends on the story. I am asking if you think in that specific moment, shorter stories, that were still packed with quality writing and art helped people rediscover DC.Thank you for your American time,Jack
I can't say for sure, but it makes sense. All I know is that I like shorter stories. In fact, I really love one issue stories with a definitive beginning, middle and end. Often, when I've worked on an ongoing, I like to have a few one-offs in between the bigger arcs. The readers don't need to know anything beyond what they're reading and you can pack a LOT of story in one issue.
Agreed.However, it is not just a full issue. IN issues of Eeire and Creepy did so in a matter of 7 pages.Spider-Man was not a full issue, and I think Doc Strange only had like five pages for an origin.A new comic usually takes me...MAYBE... five minutes to read. When I was first reading Stan's work in MArvel Essentials and Masterworks it was like 20 minutes. These times were happening concurrently.Funny thing, if you look at, say.. the Elektra Saga... that is not one long story. It is several small stories that have continuous threads, with a shared ending.After I got your response, I started thinking.However, I think single issues are harder to do now. There is less use of thought balloons or captions, and when they are used it is more sparse. And third person omniscient narrators are almost unheard of now.Without them, you can't literally read characters minds like before. So, for any character development you have to set up conversations or such, and do it in a natural way.I think it is a shift in viewing comics as being more cinematic. Ir would be able to blame the MCU, or comic movies in general, but it predates that.Writers of the past viewed it more like righting a short story or novella, but with pictures. So, going deep on character did not seem weird.Since around 2000, it is more like a still movie.This is why conversations in comics will have same number of words as in older comics, but in more panels, and show all the different movements.Being more focused on that visual element means more panels, which takes up space, and needs more pages.Also, how many movies have narration?I also think it has changed the way stories in comics work.I remember seeing The Mist with my brothers in theaters... both o them being big Stephen King fans... one of them commenting on the end of the movie being different than the car just driving off in the novella.Obviously, that is a great ending in its original format, but bad for a movie.Think of Infinity Gauntlet. Ending with Thanos realizing he has a mental block from using the gems fully, and wants to lose on some level. a BRILLIANT ending by Starlin. Never would have worked in a movie..Even Thanos' original origin could only work in a movie if it was in the GoG, and they mocked it all the time.Compare that to say... the Civil War event a decade later. There is a big fight. Captain America surrenders, because he realized he just wanted to fight, shows all the things done to be popular, and Iron Man looking out triumphant as head of SHIELD, talking to a mother of a child who died in Stamford.It is a very cinematic ending.Now, there seems to be another happening to match streaming. You may have heard about Tom King's run, which was supposed to be, essentially, a 100 issue story.Nick Spencer's Spider-man was about like a 70 issue story. Plus tie-ins.It is worth noting, both those runs were controversial, in ways that somewhat related to the length.but another interesting thing is how this is all conditioning readers.Going back to the amount of words thing, it is not uncommon on reviews found inline to have compliant about the number of words. New comics and old.not that the words are repetitive, or unneeded, just too many. With the number often being less than the an average Marvel comic from 1961-2000.Weirdly, many of the people also praise Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, J.M. Dematteis, and/or Peter David. All of whom are writers who have never seen panel they did not think could use some more words.That might just be a grandfathered in thing, without the reputation, those four might not be able to get into comics now for that same thing.Jack
Those four guys are SO WORDY! : )I think any writer who decides comics are only, as I've heard them described, "movies on paper" is really missing the vast potential of the medium. Comics can be anything and told any way. There's nothing wrong with a purely cinematic comic...just as there's nothing wrong with a comic that feels like illustrated prose. And everything in between.
Hey, I finally got a chance to respond.Which is good, because I had some time to think about it.I agree with you, comics are words and pictures, and nothing more. You should be able to do anything that is possible.I mentioned the Elektra saga, and how it is not actually one long story.However, Miller was very cinematic. Especially the death of Elekta. That is a movie ending.It is not an inherently bad element to have. It is all about how it is demand the importance of variety.However...Like I said, it is largely a generational issue. Not in the usual terms, but in when they started writing comics. With to some degree ED Brubaker as an exception, it seems that those who started writing mainstream comics in 2000 or after, sees it more as the movie angle.Before I go further, I should say, many of these stories are good. I enjoy many of them.Since that point it has become even more dominant.I don't necessarily think Marvel and DC are pushing it, but I do think that they entourage it.It is a lot easier to sell the idea of one story in a a trade than three or six.... unless you can pin the idea of classic on it.The movie element leads to more specific movements drawn, and fewer words. Which leads to more comics for one story.And comics IS a business.But it is not been just mainstream comics.Very rarely does Image have a single issue story. Which seems logical, you are taking less of a risk committing to one issue than a mini series, than a one-shot. I have more on why later.There is another element in this as well. Comics don't matter to the world of comics anymore.You might think I am just talking about Marvel and DC, who are see everything as a property to adapt, but I am not.IN all places there has been in increase in people who don;t seem to have a history of of even reading comics.This take will probably shock you, but... While not ideal, I don;t actually think that is a problem in and of itself. Ann Nocenti did not have much history with comics before she started working at Marvel, and she did pretty well.That is going to be the price of the MCU, and all the rest. Even for the vast minority of people who DO pick up comics, even back issues, after seeing movies will still see them as a movie or TV show first.continued...
Great thoughts, as usual, Jack. And there's a lot of truth in what you say. (I read your follow-up comments, too, but didn't post it because of an unfortunate typo.)All that said, I will continue to champion comics as any combination of words and picture that a creator wants to use. But on to more important things...My BEN REILLY #3 comps arrived just the other day and I did indeed read your letter. Thanks so much for the kind, insightful words. VERY much appreciated!Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Ramadan! (And if you don't celebrate any of those, Happy Sunday!)
Well, I am not going to go back and check, but a typo DOES sound like me. Even an unfortunate one. I once misspelled the word can;t to a female friend of mine.That was rough the next time I saw her.I think Marvel and DC need to relearn the lesson of one issue stories myself. Personally, I think the five to six issue story structure is why new characters and concepts have trouble getting off the groundAs for the letter...I subscribed to the comics, but since it takes 2 to 4 weeks to get a subscription from Marvel these days, I also bought on at the store after I saw my letter.So, I have an extra one to sign for you at an extra already to be signed for you if you ever make it to a convention I am at again.You and Gerry Conway can gush about it together.But understand this, the autograph will be so chalked full of ham, you may need to hide it on the high holidays.Also Ramadan's traditional greeting is a "Blessed Ramadan" or "Kareem Ramadan" which translates to a generous Ramadan.Happy is not really wrong, and I have never known a Muslim to be angry about it, but those are the more...apt.Jack
I look forward to signing that book whenever the universe decrees, Jack!
You misunderstand Dematteis, I sign the extra comic and give it to you.Jack
Great! Then I'll be able to sell it and pay off my mortgage!