Wednesday, June 8, 2022

BEN'S GOODBYE

The final issue of Ben Reilly: Spider-Man—wrapping up our four part exploration of Ben's life and psyche—is on sale one week from today.  It's been a genuine pleasure immersing myself in this unique, unforgettable character again—and doing it in the fine company of David Baldeon, Israel Silva, Joe Caramagna, and Danny Khazem.

Hope you've all enjoyed the ride.  And here's to the possibility of more untold tales of Spider-Man in the future!



20 comments:

  1. I like a lot see you again with Ben, I hope new Spidey stories come in the future. Saludos.

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  2. Dematteis, you are missing the bigger picture... They printed my letter. That means the term Spider-Kerouac is out there in the world!

    Your greatest dream in life is that much closer to being accomplished now!

    Jack

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    1. Isn't that just like me to always miss the Big Picture? Spider-Kerouac, Spider-Kerouac, Spider-Kerouac. There. Now I'll never forget...

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    2. Well, it seems like the mini series was a hit. I assume it is because of my letter they published...which also made you believe life was worth living again. You are welcome for both.

      Personally, I have no opinion on the last issue, since mine has not arrived in the mail yet.

      However, I have been thinking about something near and dear to your heart... Marvel comics of the 70s.

      Neil Gaiman wrote a book, recently turned to three comic series, In which, he attempts to take the whole of Norse mythology,and turn it into a singular story. It is actually not ta very radical idea if you know much about Norse mythology. With Ragnarok an ever present threat that could come sooner or later depending on the actions of the gods... it is meeting him half way.

      Any way, I propose the 70s Marvel comics does the same as a type of single story. A volume in the Marvel's Great American novel.

      It is a story with a beginning, end, and epilogue.

      The end is probably what you find most hard to believe, so we will start there.

      How is it possible, Marvel comics just roll into each other? Month in month out. A lot of times the same creative team.

      A friend of mine owns a small store. I would sometimes stop in on slow days, and chat. Once he was listening to an XM radio station playing the biggest songs every month. He noted that whenever it turned over a new decade, the music had a notable change.

      I don;t think anyone can argue that the 70s and 80s were very different decades in many ways, and that it started early. Whatever someone is pro or con Reagan, he was a big pat of the cultural change, and he was elected in 1980.

      Most major Marvel comics had a similar turn over.

      Captain America - The Stern/Byrne run, which has captain America courted to run for office, He refuses saying he must stand for all people...the dream, symbolically ending the previous decade of political meditations on the true nature of America,an darker elements of the American psyche.

      Spider-man - In November 1979, Mary Jane leaves the book until early 1983. IN January 1980, Harry Osborn and Flash Thompson make their last appearances for two years, and as regulars characters for even longer. this kicks off a two or so year stretch where Pete lacks firm direction in his books. He is in grad school, but newly introduced characters don;t stick, and he opts to leave. The exit of his supporting cast in 79-80 is the end of Peter being able to work as a college student. An iconic part of his 70s life.

      Mar-Vell - He is attempted to be brought back in Marvel Spotlight vol. 2. Four issues are printed in 1979. The fifth story, after a several issue hiatus, comes out in 1980, and his his last solo appearance until his death.

      Man-Thing - In 1979, the character appears in volume 2. It does not make it a year, cancelled in 1980.

      Thor - Not many people talk about Thor in the 70s. It is seemingly a lost decade for him. However, in 1980, the Celestial saga comes out, which also links directly to actual Norse mythology. Both things that would be connected to the decade's late Walt Simonson run. Also, a big cosmic story, following a decade that seemed to lack them

      continued...

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    3. Iron Man - In 1979 Demon in a Bottle is published. Stark's alcoholism , and inability to be Iron Man would become a major theme in the 1980s.

      Fantastic Four - John Byrne's first issue. Byrne would not only become the name most associated with the foursome in the 80s, but he does it in an important way. Byrne tries to reconnect with the wonder of the early 60s books, Not only does that work well with the outlook of "Morning on America, " it changes the style of the F.F. from what it was in the 70s.
      The F.|F. in the 70s could be cynical. stories focused on gender warts, the team breaking up, potential divorce, alternate takes where the team members were worse for wear, former heroes turning evil,and Be' friend trapped in the form of a demon.
      It reflected both the sci-of the day, while drawing inspiration form All in the Family. Byrne changed that course.

      Daredevil - The first appearance of Elektra. Miller's first issue. Not only one a change for Daredevil's stories, but Miller also would become one of the biggest names of the 80s, and this would begin to set much of the tone for the decade as a whole. All starting in 1980.

      X-Men. The Dark Phoenix saga begins in late 79 and ends in 80. The story startles the two decades perfectly. It is very Star Wars inspired, a movie that came out in the 70s, but would help define the landscape of the 80s. Dark Phoenix Saga a very 70s story and atmosphere, but sets up elements that would be used in the 80s. Cyclops leaves the team in the next issue, which leads to Days of Future past. A different type of Sci-Fi story, that would dominate the tone of the rest of the decade. Also, Kitty Pryde takes center stage,

      continued...

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    4. It should also be noted that the Dark Phoenix Saga is usually cited as what propelled the X-Men to being the biggest book in comics, and also is where the team went from a group of friends working for a common goal, to a surrogate family.

      But where is the beginning? The printing of Conan #1 of course.

      I have said before that Conan in the 70s was something you had to be there for to get why it has such a huge fandom. Somethings you just have to experience to really get the scene.

      I stand by that, but that influence is pretty obvious. Every fanzine after has some kind of vague Conan-ish system. By the end of the decade, there had been five companion series.

      But what was the REAL influence on the decade?

      You once said Conan was not a superhero... I disagree. I think he rather expanded just what falls into that camp. He has no powers. Neither does Batman. He is more of an adventurer. So are the F.F. He fights creatures of Fantasy. So does Thor . and the F.F. stories are only not magic because Stan and Jack said so. Change the words science to magic in most stories, and you don't miss a step.

      Conan opened the doors for what could be, and since it was a break out his allowed more risks.

      There was also the tone. Conan is a more cynical look at westerns and fantasy. Traveling from place to place is not that different from Have gone will travel and countless others. Tolkien, and other fantasy were big among the hippies....but this time it is not a glorious place to be defended. It is a world filled with peril.

      It also sent a tone of reflection. While it is true Conan is tight limited about his inner thoughts. The people he interacts with and the narration shed light on how he interacts with the world and how it interacts with him.

      Co-co may not have talked about it, but it was clear that the world around him and he experiences forged him.

      It was the next step of Marvel's feel-of-clay heroes. A character whose life and choices are bound up. He is living in them, not compartmentalized, but fully.

      which brings us of course, continued...

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    5. HEY.....this is taking longer than I thought to get it done. Feel free to review.


      So, if it is a singular story, what is it about? Stories have...story. Unless they are 90s gen X, non-genre novels. Yet, I digress.

      It is about the heroes of the Marvel Universe seeking out just what it means to them personally to be heroes. In the metaphorical wilderness. Think of it like Siddhartha... Or On the Road, or Dharma Bums filtered through the fantastical.

      is in the wilderness questioning and experimenting, moving towards a more self-assured, and
      We already discussed the endpoints, as you may recall. However, each one of them by 198-0nis more defined in who they want to be as a hero.

      Spider-Man's spin-offs is first a team-up book...interesting choice for the ultimate loner. Then a book specifically designed to focus on Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. It is also the decade that sees him literally fighting himself with a clone saga, and three times testing his morals against the Punisher. Even in the main book there is a focus on his relationships with friends...something that does not happen much in the decade after., and only as a plot point in the one previous.
      It is the decade where he actually develops a friendship with Flash Thompson, a character who would eventually be his best man... but not be in many stories in the 80s. While int he 60s he was a tormentor, then rival, then a person in the friend group he has an uneasy truce with.
      This of course is highlighted by having his relationship with Harry tested.
      Also, MJ becomes more of a part of Pete's life than Gwen had been. I fairness, this probably has something to do with Conway, Wein, and Wolfman being either in or closer to dating age than Stan had been,
      Of course there was also Cap's political meditations, Daredevil having a live in girlfriend in San Fran, Hulk hanging out with the Defenders while ditching most of his supporting cast, Dr. Strange stories being more questing than villains as well as philosophical elements,
      We of course, already discussed the Fantastic Four

      continued...

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    6. Then of course...Dematteis... there are the characters created and re-crated after Conan's first appearance.

      Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock could not sell a book if you begged them until Starlin turned them questioning wanderers. Warlock of course questioning his own sensibilities a villain, before finally defeating Thanos...after teaming up with him.
      Captain Marvel... in one of the finest pieces of comic art ever... switches from a warrior to an agent of peace.

      The of course there are the characters created in the decade...

      Deathlok - a man literally trying to rediscover himself after death, arguing with a computer.

      Luke Cage - A man who was sent to prison, escaped, and took on a new name in part to hide that fact. A loner, who not only cones to terms with all that at the end of the decade, but winds up with a partner and a close circle of friends.

      Shang Chi - A character whose whole thing is discovering his identity after rejecting his father's villainous way of life. Also, on a meta-textual level, a more rounded character than the racist caricature of the same character...literally created to stoke racist sentiment.

      That is not even getting into the horror books. It was the last decade when a major publisher could have a successful horror book. Okay..yes...swamp thing in the 80s...but I have never been sure if that was a nitch book that got acclaim, or an actual big seller. Either way, it was at best, an outlier.

      Frankenstein is a character wondering and looking for meaning, often being taken advantage.

      Then there are the the most widely remembered, Dracula and Man-Thing. Both of which actually got endings.

      Dracula is really the story of average people, fighting a supervillain. Don't kid yourself for one second...Wolfman explored that.
      Frank Drake was a man at the end of his rope who found meaning in fighting the vampire. Rachael and Quincy were forging their own identity after Drac destroyed their family. I know, created by Goodwin, but I think it is fair to say Wolfman is the one that really explored it.
      Harold H. Harold explored being a vampire and fame. Blade and Hannibal King are trying to find lives within the curse.
      The idea of what a person thrown into this world is explored in great detail.
      Even Drac gets in on it, with a wife and child. The series even ends with Quincy sacrificing his life, and them seemingly getting a chance to have a happy life where they get to chose.


      Man-thing is a backdoor anthology, often more in the style of the Twilight Zone. Richard Rory is trying to get over the 60s being over, and much of the rest of the town is trying to get over that they happened at all.
      the Nexus of all realities allowed for that wide arrange of ways to explore these ideas.
      Even the Man-Thing himself...Ted Sallis... was an unchanging, and emotionally unattached man. Well...except when he dated the hippie chick, but fell back into the groove after they broke up. He was cursed to live as a creature devoid of intellect, and solely emotion. A massive change in personality, AND forcing him to experience new things, since he is drawn to emotions.
      It even ends with Gerber saying he has witnessed the end of teh story..or something similar.

      Speaking of curses, Ghost Rider, Son of Satan and Werewolf by night, the horror/hero fence straddlers.

      Son of Satan is defining himself defiant of his father, and the other two... well, they are cursed. One from family, and the other by their own making,

      Curses are an interesting literary device, because they force characters to explore themselves, in opposition to the curse. Especially in the case of Ghost Rider where he brought it on himself, seemingly for a greater good...something he laments frequently.

      COntinued....

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    7. the Conan books have an interesting element to the whole thing. The exploration and living of things echo the rest of the Marvel U.
      However, most of the stories are in opposition Conan was defined by circumstance. It is made pretty clear his life made him, not choice. It is almost like a warning to the Marvel heroes, or justification. A fight against fate leading them to a more harsh outlook on life.

      Of course a story needs an ending and these are sort of scatter shot. Yes, The Dark Phoenix Saga, with its cosmic element, and original possession plan seems to incorporate many of the elements...but the X-Men are the only ones involved.

      That, is where the epilogue come in.

      Dracula has one...also in the X-Men, where that happy ending Frank Drake and Rachel Van Helsing, further pushed by Roger Stern in Dr. Strange getting rid of all teh vampires...for a while.

      Then there was this guy... I think his name was G.N. Demarcus. He wrote Captain America, and closed off the Deatlok story. However, before that...or maybe at the same tie, I don't remember... he wrote his first Defenders story.

      The Defenders were sort of the flagship book of the 70s in some ways. It brought in a lot of 70s characters, and the books non-team status and chaotic nature lent itself to the exploration I mentioned. It was everything.

      Well, DeMarcus' first story used a lot of 70s characters, in a seemingly epic final showdown...complete with epilogue issue...for the epilogue.

      He would even push that further developing a few 70s characters, lead them to an seeming ending... Devil-Slayer and Son of Satan come to mind. Devil-Slayer even has him connecting with shattered ex-hippie named Sunshine...who sort of feels like the whole of the 70s rolled into one man. Or at least, some of the rougher truths decade held.

      By the end of the run, he even sort of turned them into a more traditional superhero team. Which may not have been the intention...but it is fitting for a team so steeped in the 70s to have to change in the new decade.


      THERE... my nonsensical ramblings on the subject are finally done.


      Jack

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    8. That DeMarcus guy was a genius! Whatever happened to him?

      But, seriously: Thanks for another thoughtful exploration into a comics era that's near and dear to my heart. You really should be writing books on the subject, Jack!

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    9. I don;t know if you have been paying attention the past few years, but this terrible plague has beset the whole of the Earth. Its called...podcasts. Also, Youtube channels.

      The world does not anybody else trying to dissect pop culture, let alone comics specifically. Is 80% of the population not enough

      As for the 70s... you may wonder if the decades around have the same story structure.

      Well, when it comes to the 80s...not really. The X-Men shift in '91, when Claremont leaves. DeMarcus' run flows into Gruenwald's run pretty well, but THAT run is pretty consistent in structure well into the 90s.
      Spider-Man is a pretty consistent story, ending with Venom's intro in early '88, which becomes another chapter that leads up to the Clone Saga.

      I do actually feel that individual books do, but not them as a whole. Which is interesting, since the 70s always seemed a little more anarchic than the more corporate-minded 80s.

      Even when Marvel tried to create a singular story for their characters in the 2000s, with the endless events and tie-ins, did not capture the same effect.

      I still think your theory of Marvel being the true Great American Novel makes sense, it just becomes more complicated after the 70s.

      However, the 60s do work...if you think of it like Mad Men. Less about the characters changing, as in the 70s, but rather adapting and reacting to the notably changing times of the 1960s.

      I actually think this was captured pretty well in the series MARVELS...the first one, from '94. Similar to JSA Golden Age and the post-war years, The Marvels Project did to the run-up to WWII, and DC: New Frontier did the 50s and becoming the Kennedy/Jet Age era.

      There WAS a sequel to MARVELS the Busiek did with Roger Stern, however it included the 70s, more of it was centered on the 80s. While I did enjoy it, it did not have the same connection to the era and how the comics intertwined with it that the original had. It is admittedly harder, since the sliding timescale was more in effect in the 70s than 60s.

      I think those kinds of series, that look back on an era, and use the comics as a guide to write about an era are a great idea, and almost uniquely a comic book convention.

      Maybe the 70s will get their due one day.

      AS for Demarcus....
      I remeber he wrote an Autobiography called Bronx Naps or something, and wrote a Spider-Man comic about some C-list villain getting dark and psychological... Hypno-Hustler's Final Groove if memory serves.
      There was also some DC comedy series... Justice Society Without Borders?

      Who knows, guy fell off the face of the Earth. Probably hanging out with that go-nowhere Stephen King guy, who had some story called "Lawnmower Man" in Bizarre Adventures.

      Two writers who never went on to do anything.


      Jack

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    10. "Hypno-Hustler's Final Groove" remains DeMarcus's greatest work. But Stephen King? I mean, really, what did he ever do?

      (Just kidding, Steve!)

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  3. I have just finished reading this wonderful issue and my hat is off to you sir, once again you deliver on the promise and potential of these great characters and took a few in directions I was not prepared for. The future is left hopeful and open and judging from the surprise announcement at the close of the book, I am intrigued as to what possibly comes next from you and your teams. I'm sure you'll reveal all sooner than later, but for now, congratulations on a job well done, as our favourite potential t-shirt slogan reads...let's all bank on Ben, because Ben makes bank!

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    1. He does indeed! Thanks for the kind words, Zarius and here's to more Ben Reilly in the future!

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  4. Best read of 2022 by far and I don't think anything else will top it! Kudos to you and the entire creative team, JMD!!! You guys rock!!!

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  5. Dear Mr. DeMatteis, I'm a big fan of your work and you're my favourite comic writer. I've been a fan since I since I first read Amazing Spider-man 400 and your run with Luke Ross on Spectacular Spider-man in the late 90's. I was very excited when I first read that you would be returning to write Ben Reilly again and I've enjoyed the miniseries. I must say that I wish it wasn't coming to an end and that Ben Riley would get his own regular series. I can't be the only one wondering what would have happened had been not died during Revelations.

    Is there a chance that could happen? Do you think you'll ever work with Luke Ross again?

    Thanks for all the great stories!

    Amin
    Toronto, Ontario

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    1. I'd love to continue Ben's story, Amin, and I'd love to work with Luke again. No plans for either at the moment, but you never know what the future will bring. And thanks so much for the kind words!

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