SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
I had a deep-dive conversation with the Never Gets Old podcast—talking about comics (of course!), as well as learning disabilities, the need for compassion, the creative process, and other things.Enjoy!
Hello, Mr. DeMatteis! I want to ask you about something I have never seen you address before. Back in the early 2000s, you scripted part of the first arc of Jimenez's Wonder Woman (Gods of Gotham), but as the arc went on, it seemed like you were involved less and less. My question is: Were you initially meant to stay on for longer or was Jimenez always intended to be the sole writer by the end?
The initial plan was for me to dialogue that entire storyline, but Phil, who I think wasn't fully confident in his scripting ability at the start, grew more confident and I backed off so he could tell his story his way. And Phil did a great job.
Your point about reading complexity is a good one. You would not start off someone reading. If someone just learned English you would not start them of on Infinite Jest.I think comic readers have trouble accepting that, because most of us have read them at a young age, not understanding them is like someone struggling to read "see spot run." But even doctors use "see spot run" to start when the only language they speak is Arabic.Jack
I think I meant "go dog go" not "see spot run." I hope that did not ruin the meaning for youJack
I managed to muddle through, despite my great disappointment. ; )
I like the part where you said people would say you were the first to write funny comics.Why do those people think they are called COMIC books?Jack
I think JLI stood out so much not just because of the humor, but because the humor was such a contrast with what was going on in comics at the time, which was so dark. But Stan and company laid the groundwork. Stan could be a hilarious writer. Spidey's banter, the Thing and Torch going at each other—that stuff was truly funny. We took that and turned up the volume. I'm not saying it was conscious, I certainly wasn't thinking of Spidey or FF when I was writing JLI, but it was there, floating around in our collective comic book consciousness.
Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm could have been one of the great comedic duos, had Reed not always broken them up to go fight Galactus...or whatever.However, even excluding those comics there was Howard the Duck, some of the Defenders, Patsy Walker, Looney Tunes comics, Patsy Walker, and before Superman comedic comics were the dominant type are what created the industry..Jack
There were tons of "funny" comics when I was growing up (I was a loyal reader of BOB HOPE and JERRY LEWIS, to name two), but what Stan and Company pioneered was injecting humor into otherwise straight adventure/superhero comics. That was unique.
Stan, you know I love me some Stan Lee, but didn't Will Eisner beat him to the punch with the Spirit?Jack
Maybe...? But the humor in the Spirit—from what I remember of it— wasn't as sharp and genuinely funny as Stan's. (Sacrilege, I know, but I'm not a huge Spirit fan. I much prefer Eisner's later graphic novels, starting with the brilliant CONTRACT WITH GOD.)
JLI has such a unique brand of humor. Hard to describe, but I'd say it's like Looney Tunes meets Cheers meets Seinfeld (and yes, I know it predates Seinfeld but there's a similar vibe in places). I think what really makes it work is that it never pushes too far in one direction--there is madcap hilarity, but the humor and character moments always have time to breathe. At its core it's about human relationships and the characters are very much alive (and we recognize ourselves and others in the ways they interact). Also, it's "reverent irreverence." There are jokes about the superhero genre but they all come from a place of love, not a snarky attempt to poke holes in something people cherish from a distance. --David
You nailed it with that last thought, David: We were NEVER making fun of the characters, we were always having fun WITH them. Even someone as ridiculous as G'nort was written with love. And I think the readers understood that.
Well, I am not sure unique is the right word.for the humor.It seemed to have some roots in the 70s Defenders and Howard the duck.No offense Dematties, but your influences were showing. Also, I believe Giffen worked on the Defenders in that era.Speaking of 70s humor. Norman Lear turned 100 today, Dematties. Deal with it.Jack
May we all live to be that age and remain creative and dynamic!
An eye-opening interview. I appreciated you opening up about learning difficulties and how we can be stumped by little things, yet be able to think in grander, more complex ways also. A lot of that resonated with me and my own difficulties in life, so it's good to know noone's alone.
Definitely not alone. I think these learning disabilities are far more common than people realize. When I was a kid, no one really knew about them, but now—thank God—a kid with these challenges can get the help they need.