Wednesday, September 20, 2023


It's Steve Gerber's birthday. As I've said here before, I wouldn't be the writer I am today if I'd never encountered Gerber's work. Every Gerber story I read—the ones that soared and the ones that went down in flames—was evidence that mainstream comics could be so much more than I’d ever imagined. That there was no creative door that couldn’t be kicked in, no creative wall that couldn’t be torn down.

His voice is sorely missed.

Saturday, September 16, 2023


In honor of Batman Day (yes, there is such a thing), here’s an edited and updated version of a piece I posted a few years back, looking back at my history, both personal and professional, with the Dark Knight…

I’ve loved Batman since I was a kid.  One of my primal memories is being six or seven years old, sprawled out on the living room floor with crayons and a stack of drawing paper, trying to replicate a Dick Sprang era Batman cover line for line.  In many ways, that square-jawed, slightly goofy (okay, more than slightly) version of Bats is the one I cherish more than any other.  I also remember the fangasms I had when, in the seventh grade, Batman came to television:  it may have been campy to the grown-ups, but to naive, overweight, just-turned-twelve year old me this was serious stuff:  comic books come to glorious life in a way they never had before.    

So, yes, JMD the fan has a long-standing, deep connection to Bats but I honestly didn’t think JMD the writer had much of a history with the character—after all, I’ve never written a Batman solo series—until I took a look back at my career and discovered that I've written more Batman tales than I ever realized.  Many more.  And it started with, of all things, a coloring book.

“The Mystery of the Million Dollar Joke” is the first superhero story I was paid to write.  And, yes, there’s a genuine kid-friendly story in there, waiting for you to bring it to life with your Crayolas.  Paul Levitz offered me the gig when I was first starting out at DC and I stayed up all night, hunched over the typewriter (remember those?), banging out the script.  If memory serves, I was paid a few hundred dollars for my efforts—which was just fine in 1979—and I still have a copy of the book tucked away on a shelf in my office.

The first comic book superhero story (y’know, the ones with the colors already provided) of mine that ever saw print was also a Batman adventure, in Detective Comics #489.  “Creatures of the Night”—also edited by Mr. Levitz—had Batman hunting vampires, mainly because most of my work in those days was for the DC horror anthologies and vampire stories were my stock-in-trade.  I don’t remember much about the script beyond the fact that it was illustrated by a Batman artist I admired, Irv Novick, who had nice things to say about it when I encountered him in Paul’s office one day.  Those kind words meant the world to a newbie writer.

My first full-length superhero story was also edited by Paul and also featured Batman:  Brave and the Bold #164, “The Mystery of the Mobile Museum,” teamed Bats and Hawkman (a character whose solo feature I wrote for a short time in World’s Finest) and the story was hardly classic.  What was classic was the artwork, by the great  Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  He took my script and raised it up to another level entirely.

I didn’t encounter Batman again for another seven years, when he joined the ranks of the Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League—but he was an integral part of that series throughout its five year run.  Of course our Batman was a little different from the grim ‘n’ gritty avenger that the brilliant Frank Miller unleashed on the world the year before JLI debuted.  Our Bats had a sense of humor—incredibly understated, true, but it was there—and, though he’d deny it to his dying day, he enjoyed the idiotic escapades of Beetle, Booster and the rest of our quirky, and wonderfully obnoxious, cast.

In 1993, I came at the Bat sideways, via the Superman mythos, for an Elseworlds story called Speeding Bullets (art by the hugely-talented, and sorely-missed, Eduardo Barretto).  SB posited a universe where the rocket from Krypton was found not by the Kansas Kents but by the Gotham Waynes.  The baby was christened Bruce and, after being traumatized by his parents‘ murder, the boy grew up to be a flying, super-powered—and extremely angry—Batman.  And, if Kal-El was Batman, how could Lex Luthor not be the Joker? 

A few years later—tied to the release of the third Batman movie, Batman Forever—came Batman/Two Face:  Crime and Punishment:  a serious exploration of Harvey Dent’s split personality (building on a wonderful story written, a year or two previously, by Andy Helfer), featuring dynamic, emotional art by Scott McDaniel) and that was followed, in 1994, by a four-issue Legends of the Dark Knight arc, brilliantly brought to life by Joe Staton, that may be my absolute favorite of all the mainstream superhero stories I’ve written.  “Going Sane” featured a Joker who believes that he’s killed Batman.  With his mortal enemy gone he has no reason left to live—and his mind snaps.  Now, if we snap we go crazy—but if the Joker snaps...he goes sane.  What came next was a tender love story—a tragedy, really—about a gentle man who doesn’t know he was once a homicidal maniac with a permanent grin on his face.  At least he doesn’t until Batman returns to Gotham and all hell breaks loose.  The story also focused on Bruce Wayne’s relationship with the doctor who brought him back from the brink of death and, I hope, revealed a Batman whose greatest weapon was his compassion.

The next year, the amazing Mark Bagley and I had the pleasure of teaming up Batman with my old pal Peter Parker in Marvel’s Spider-Man/Batman:  Disordered Minds.  This was followed, two years later, by DC’S Batman/Spider-Man:  New Age Dawning (beautifully illustrated by Graham Nolan).  To say that it was a kick teaming up two of my all-time favorite characters—and doing it for both Marvel and DC—may be the Geek Understatement of the Century.

I didn’t return to Gotham until 2002, when I scripted another Legends of the Dark Knight arc—a Robin-centric tale, with art by the terrific Trevor Von Eden, called “Grimm”—and wrote my first Batman graphic novel, Absolution (with rich, painted art by Brian Ashmore):  a gritty story of justice and redemption that found Batman traveling to India in search of a holy woman...who just might be the terrorist Bruce Wayne has been hunting for over a decade.

Around the same time, Bats appeared in an issue of Justice League that I wrote, during Grant Morrison’s run, along with an issue of The Spectre and the 2003 Justice League/Spectre mini-series Soul War. Batman later guest-starred in an issue of Phantom Stranger and Keith Giffen and I sent Batman’s DNA into the far future in our Justice League 3000/3001 serieswhich imagined a Batman very different from the one we all know.  This is a Bruce Wayne who wasn't traumatized by the death of his parents—in fact he can't remember their murder at all—and that lack of a motivating tragedy has altered him in fundamental ways.

In 2021, I joined with Justice League Unlimited producer (and all-around great guy) James Tucker to write the Justice League Infinity mini-series, which built on and continued that classic television series.  Batman, of course, was a pivotal part of the story.

I’ve also had the pleasure of writing Batman in animated form—first with multiple episodes of the aforementioned Justice League Unlimited and then with eight episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  I’m genuinely honored to have been a part of both those wonderful shows, but I got a special kick out of writing for B & B because it was so reminiscent of the square-jawed, over-the-top Batman I adored as a kid.

2015 saw the release of the direct-to-video animated movie Batman vs. Robin—which explored Bruce Wayne’s relationship with his son, Damian—and the following year brought the sequel, Batman: Bad Blood, which shined a spotlight on the entire Bat family.  

Given my more than forty year history with the character, I suspect my dance with the Dark Knight isn't over yet—and I hope we keep dancing for years to come.

©copyright 2023 J.M. DeMatteis
Batman and his pals ©copyright 2023 DC Entertainment

Thursday, September 7, 2023


A gentle reminder that Magneto #2 is on sale now. Here's Marvel's hype:

ENTER: THE QUEEN OF WRATH! Years ago, MAGNETO battled the X-MEN on the island-nation of Santo Marco. Now, as Magneto attempts to turn over a new leaf, he will feel the wrath of IRAE! But what secret does that battle hide for Irae, and what shocking revelation is in store for the Master of Magnetism? Continuing the all-new adventure set during Magneto’s days as Headmaster of the NEW MUTANTS, and unearthing never-before-revealed aspects of his past and future!

Tuesday, September 5, 2023


My new novella—a supernatural thriller called The Witness—is on sale today, courtesy of the fine folks at Neotext Publishing

Featuring a cover and ten extraordinary illustrations by the brilliant J.H. Williams III, The Witness is the story of Jonah Blake, who finds the world literally crashing down on him when a 757 drops out of the sky. The subsequent explosion rips through Jonah's life in multiple ways, and opens the door to a terrifying, and perhaps soul-transforming, paranormal experience.

This is a story I've been living with for more than twenty years and I'm thrilled to finally see it in the world.  You can read a preview at the Neotext site and purchase the book (in either ebook or print form) at Amazon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Yesterday was Jack Kirby's birthday. Kirby's extraordinary work only gets better with time and my gratitude for his impact on our popular culture, and my life, can't be fully expressed in words. Jack was, and will always remain, the King.

My favorite Kirby work (probably my favorite comics ever) is his interlocking Fourth World saga and I recently took part in a celebration of those classic books. You can watch it below.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023


Dan Green has passed away.  Dan was one of our finest inkers, as well as a brilliant illustrator in his own right, as evidenced by his work on our Doctor Strange graphic novel, Into Shamballa.  Dan was also an old friend—his daughter, Galen, and my son, Cody, grew up together and remain friends to this day—and he will be profoundly missed by all of us who knew him.  

Back in 2018 I was interviewed about working with Dan on Shamballa.  Here’s what I said about that unique collaboration.

Keep in mind it’s been decades and memories are fragile things, so take everything that follows with the proverbial grain of salt.  That said, Dan saved my outlines and scripts and many of his layouts and notes, so, using that as a kind of archaeological guide, I’ve tried to reconstruct the way we created Into Shamballa.  

Since Dan and I lived in the same town and we saw each other regularly, that allowed us to work very closely every step of the way, bouncing things back and forth, building the story together, brick by brick.
  After we talked the story through and came up with a framework that excited us, we pitched it to Jim Shooter, who was editor-in-chief of Marvel at the time, and he had some very valuable insights that helped bring our story into deeper focus.  I then wrote up a five page story outline for our editor, Carl Potts, that we also shared with Roger Stern, who was writing the Strange monthly at the time.  We wanted to make sure that we weren’t stepping on Roger’s toes and that our story didn’t overlap with anything he was doing.

From there Dan and I worked out more details of the story, discussed layouts, tone, etc.
  Then, based on our conversations, I wrote up another outline, breaking the story down, which Dan used as a jumping off point, laying out the entire graphic novel and, I’m sure, adding new details along the way.

I wrote my script from Dan’s layouts, but I was free to change things, make shifts, as I went along.
  Dan recently unearthed lots of material that he’d saved and found some of my own layouts—and I use the term loosely!—that I’d do if, in the writing, my script deviated from what Dan had already done.  This way he had a sense of what I was seeing in my head as I was writing.  I also added some art notes to the script itself, something I’d forgotten until Dan showed me the old pages.

I’m sure Dan had feedback about the script that I then incorporated into a another draft and, with that in front of him, Dan worked out the final layouts.  I suspect we discussed that, making sure we were both happy, after which he went on to the finished art—which, all these years later, still stands as some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever seen in a comic book or graphic novel.

This kind of back and forth is
not the way the average comic book is done!  The fact that were were able to do so much work face to face, and that we had the extended deadline that graphic novels afford, allowed us to really collaborate in a way writers and artists in comics working on monthly comics just can’t.  It was a magical collaboration as befits such a magical character. 

Safe travels, Dan.  Say hello to the Lords of Shamballa for me.

Saturday, August 12, 2023


My new novella, a supernatural thriller called The Witness, with a cover and ten illustrations by the brilliant J.H. Williams III, will be out September 5th in ebook form, courtesy of the fine folks at Neotext Publishing. (A print edition will soon be available, as well.)

What’s it about?

On a sleepless night, Jonah Blake goes for a drive—and finds the world literally crashing down on him when a 757 drops out of the sky, exploding in the nearby woods.

Jonah, the lone witness to the event, soon finds himself engulfed in a maelstrom of voices and visions. Are these truly the souls of the 215 people who lost their lives aboard Flight 77—or is Jonah Blake losing his mind?

And if these are the spirits of the dead crying out to him—what do they want?

More info to come!  (And while you're waiting for The Witness, feel free to check out my 2022 Neotext novella, The Excavator.)

Friday, August 4, 2023


The amazing Todd Nauck and I take a deep dive into our Magneto mini-series with Jace of the Comic Source podcast.  You can watch, and listen, below:

Wednesday, August 2, 2023


Here's a just-released interview I did with the Dollar Bin Bandits podcast, discussing the Magneto mini-series, as well as the DeMultiverse and other things.  Enjoy!


Magneto #1—with art by the Todd Nauck, colors by Rochelle Rosenberg, and letters by Travis Lanham—is out today.  Join us for a deep dive into the Dostoyevskian depths of Erik Lehnsherr's soul as he attempts to rebuild his life, and his psyche, as leader of the New Mutants. We also introduce a brand-new villain, born in the fires of Magneto's villainous past:  Irae, Queen of Wrath. It's a four issue series with a 30 page kick-off.  Hope you come along for the ride!  (And, if you're interested, you can read our first reviews here and here.)


Friday, July 21, 2023


Superpowered, the DC Comics documentary, started streaming on MAX yesterday. I had a great time being interviewed for this, but we'll see if my pearls of comic book wisdom made the cut.  

(Someone sent me this screen shot, so I know I'm in there somewhere.)

Monday, July 17, 2023


I spent a wonderful 90 minutes on the Mundo Gonzo podcast, chatting with a warm, heartfelt—and very knowledgable—group of Brazilian comic book enthusiasts. I am always amazed, humbled—and profoundly grateful—when I realize that these stories impact hearts and minds all over the world. What a blessing.

You can view the interview below.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023


This week saw the publication of a Captain America Marvel Masterworks hardcover that collects the first part of my three-plus year run on the title.  I wrote an introduction to the collection and you can read it below.  Enjoy!


The first time I ever laid eyes on Captain America was on the cover of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #13. It’s a tribute to the character, and the man who drew that cover, Jack Kirby, that the image has remained lodged in my memory and imagination ever since. The Marvel covers of the era were—in contrast to their streamlined and sedate DC counterparts—gaudy and garish, crammed full of copy: simultaneously cheap, raw and incredibly vital. Cap’s costume—the stars and stripes, the fat A on his forehead—was equally garish, even by super hero standards; and the look in his eyes...well, the guy seemed a little crazy.

I had no idea who Captain America was. Despite the fact that the cover copy proclaimed Cap and his young partner, Bucky, “the overwhelming stars of the Golden Age of Comics,” I’d never heard of them. Even the phrase “Golden Age” was new to me. To my ten year old mind, any comics that existed before I was born were as ancient and unfathomable as an Egyptian tomb. Which, of course, made the character seem bizarre and appealing. Add in that dynamic Kirby artwork, with Cap—in an impossible, but somehow believable, pose—dominating the scene, and I just had to read that story. Read it? I devoured it.

I was a pretty loyal Captain America reader from then on, with a special fondness for anything Jack Kirby—who co-created Cap with Joe Simon back in the 1940s—touched, from his collaborations with Stan Lee to his solo return to the title in the latter 70s. Jack brought energy, emotion, power, and grace to the character. (You can say that about anything Jack did. He was one of a kind.) One Kirby book in particular stood out: a Marvel Treasury Edition—these were over-sized, extra-length monsters that have since vanished like the dinosaurs—celebrating America’s bicentennial that, among other things, introduced one of the King’s most wonderfully weird creations, and a character I have an inordinate amount of love for, Mr. Buda.

But perhaps my favorite Captain America run was by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema. Steve brought relevance (in a way that didn’t feel heavy-handed and obvious) and a new depth of character to the book and Sal—who, for my money, is just behind Kirby in the Cap artists sweepstakes—did some of his finest work on those stories. The Roger Stern-John Byrne run, however brief, is right up there with Steve and Sal. They got just about everything right.

Flash forward to 1979 (if my chronology is off, forgive me. It’s been a while). I’m new to the comics business, selling stories to DC for their various horror and superhero anthologies, and just sticking my toes in the door at Marvel. Jim Shooter—Marvel’s extremely tall, extremely talented editor-in-chief at the time—had taken an interest in my work (I look at those early days as my Comic Book College and, along with DC’s Len Wein and Paul Levitz, Jim was one of my most erudite professors) and would toss fill-in issues and other odd, interesting assignments my way. I wrote plots for short Spider-Man stories that would only see print in France, spent several days up at the Marvel offices writing biographies of all their main characters (for what purpose I don’t recall), and passed a surreal few weeks ensconced in Stan Lee’s office—Stan was in California—watching an animated television series and writing up notes on the lead character, a Spider-Man rip-off, to aid Marvel in a lawsuit. Yes, that’s right: I was paid to hang out in Stan Lee’s office and watch cartoons. If that sounds like Superhero Heaven, you’re correct.

One day Shooter called me in and told me that Marvel was planning a Captain America Treasury Edition—yes, the same brobdingnagian format that classic Mr. Buda story was in—that would tie in to an upcoming Cap TV movie. There had already been one—starring Reb Brown as a helmeted, motorcycle-riding version of Cap that didn’t have all that much to do with the character we knew and loved—and a sequel was on the way. The Treasury Edition story, Shooter informed me, would feature the Cap of the Marvel Universe going to Hollywood and interacting with the creators of the movie. Would I, he asked, be interested in writing it? I was, as noted, new to the business and any Marvel assignment—even one as weird as this one—was coveted, so I immediately said yes. (“Yes” is always the answer when you’re a young, hungry freelancer. You want to learn your craft, you want to work with editors who know theirs, and every assignment—even the ones that team up comic book characters with television actors—offers an opportunity to creatively grow.)

After much wrestling with the concept, I finally came up with an idea that worked. Shooter—who I’m sure had input into the story—approved it and I wrote up a detailed plot for a sprawling saga that featured Cap and Reb teaming up to fight the Red Skull and— Well, it was probably as lame as it sounds, but I worked extremely hard to make it the best Captain America meets Reb Brown story ever told. (It helped that it was the only Captain America meets Reb Brown story ever told.)

So why isn’t my first Captain America epic in this collection? For a good reason: Someone at Marvel, probably Shooter, woke up one day and realized that this awkward team-up wasn’t a good idea and the Treasury Edition was shelved. I was disappointed—sure, it would’ve been an oddball story, but it was Captain America and my name would’ve been on it—but I’d been paid for my work, and developing the project in tandem with Jim allowed me to slip a few more toes, maybe even an entire foot, in the Marvel door.

A year or so later—by this point, I’d jumped ship from DC and was full-time at Marvel, writing Defenders and Marvel Team-Up—Jim Salicrup, one of the the company’s most genial and creative editors, called me up and asked about that defunct Treasury Edition I’d written. He needed some fill-ins on the the Cap monthly and thought we could toss out the direct references to the TV movie, but keep the “Captain America goes to Hollywood” elements. Again, my answer was an immediate yes, and I set about excising Reb Brown and company (sorry, Reb) and rebuilding the story with a new cast of characters. Whether I succeeded or not I’ll leave to you, but Salicrup must have thought so, because—following a terrific two-parter written by the late, great Dave Kraft, which you’ll find in this edition—I was handed the book on a regular basis.

Looking back on the stories in this volume, I see a writer still finding his way, trying to understand Captain America and his world and discover the right tone, the right themes, the right voice for Marvel’s first superstar. I learned early on that reading about a character and writing that character are very different things: You see them in a very different light. Sometimes a character you’ve loved as a fan doesn’t resonate with you as a creator—you don’t have anything new to add, you can’t find new corners of their psyche to explore—other times you uncover levels and layers in a character that you never saw as a reader. That’s what happened with Cap.

As noted, I’d been a loyal Captain America reader, but I can’t say that Steve Rogers was a major god in my comic book pantheon: I enjoyed the stories immensely, but, to my mind, Cap was no Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, or Doctor Strange. But the deeper I submerged myself in Steve Rogers’ world—and hats off to Stern and Byrne for developing Steve’s private life so expertly—the more I appreciated Captain America: not so much the icon as the man. In costume, Rogers was larger-than-life: “the whole country—squeezed into one pair of pants.” (That line, spoken about theater legend George M. Cohan, is from Yankee Doodle Dandy—one of the great movie musicals—and it describes Cap The Icon better than I ever could.) I was more intrigued by the person behind the mask. Rogers—to dip into movie lore once more—was the George Bailey of super heroes: a simple, honest man who always struggled to do the right thing, no matter how difficult it was. He wasn’t concerned with ideologies or the politics of the moment. He was concerned with the American Dream. He believed, to the core of his being, in what America could be. Rogers was certainly well aware of the many times the United States had failed to live up to its own ideals—and those failures disheartened him—but he never gave up believing, because his faith and hope weren’t invested in any elected official or political party. They were invested in the spiritual core of America: something deep and true and unchanging that lay beneath world affairs and shifting political currents. The more I got to know Steve, the more I understood that Captain America’s greatest power wasn’t the strength he gained from the super-soldier formula: it was the depth of his compassion, his caring. His belief in the revolutionary power of human decency.

Of course it’s one thing to say that, another to translate it into compelling stories. I certainly had my stumbles along the way—I wasn’t just finding Cap’s voice, I was finding my own—but I was helped immeasurably by Mike Zeck, one of the most brilliant visual storytellers it’s ever been my honor to work with. I look back at our collaboration—on these Cap stories as well as Kraven’s Last Hunt, which we created, under Jim Salicrup’s watchful eye, six years later—with incredible fondness. The beauty of Zeck’s art lies in the fluidity, the power, the absolute clarity of his storytelling.

We worked in the so-called Marvel-style, starting with my detailed plot, which Mike then brought to visual life, leaving me to write the finished script with the art in front of me—and I never had to scratch my head trying to figure out what was happening in a panel, never had to over explain the art so the readers could follow the story. The action and emotions were all there, clear as a bell, in front of me, which meant I could dive deeper with the narrative, with the characters, than I could have had someone less-skilled drawn these stories. John Beatty soon joined the team and his stellar inks only added to the creative combustion: John always brought out the best in Mike’s pencils and his sharp, dynamic line work was perfect for Cap’s world.

And what a world it was. In that first story alone, I had a chance to write Cap’s ultimate antagonist, the Red Skull—I’d get to explore him in deeper and darker ways much later in my run—bring back the concept of Nomad (which would also return later in the run), and revisit one of Cap’s odder antagonists—not surprising, since he was created by the brilliant and iconoclastic Steve Gerber—the Ameridroid.

My second story, “American Dreamers,” was an attempt to pay tribute to two of my favorite writers, Philip K. Dick and Ursula LeGuin, and the kind of reality-bending stories they told so well, while also digging into that primal theme of American Reality vs. American Dream. That theme continued, perhaps a bit too heavy-handedly, with the Everyman story that followed. (A story that also featured the only Marvel Comics appearance of DC editor—and creator of the Vertigo line—Karen Berger, one of my oldest and dearest friends.)

The collection—which also features a terrific Captain America Annual written by superstar Spider-Man scribe David Michilinie and drawn by one of the all-time Marvel masters Gene Colan—wraps up with a story that, in its own way, is as odd as the movie crossover that kick-started my run. Marvel had licensed Team America, a toy line about a group of motorcycle-riding adventurers, and they were slated to launch in their own series. In order to give that series a strong send-off, Shooter, who helped develop the Team America concept for comics, decided that these super-bikers would appear in an issue of Captain America—perhaps because Cap rode a motorcycle, too?—and my job was to figure out a way to include them that didn’t seem forced or fake; a job that was made doubly difficult because, if I’m remembering correctly, the characters were just broad sketches at that point and there was no emotional or psychological hook to hang them on. Still, I did my best and I remain fond of the story I cooked up (this may be the only time you’ll ever encounter Friedrich Nieztsche as a character in a comic book), even if I would have preferred telling it without Team America.

I had a long, healthy run on the title—a little over three years—and I think the writing and art improved dramatically every month, as Zeck, Beatty, and I found our footing and developed a creative chemistry that resulted in stories that, to my eternal gratitude, fans still talk about and enjoy.

And it’s all because of Reb Brown!

©copyright 2023 J.M. DeMatteis


Had a wonderful talk about the writing life and the creative process with the brilliant Mark Waid and the fine folks at the Brazilian Fan of Heroes podcast. You can watch it below.

Monday, July 10, 2023


"God has been everlastingly working in silence, unobserved, unheard, except by those who experience his infinite silence. If my silence cannot speak, of what avail would be speeches made by the tongue?"
Avatar Meher Baba
Wishing a very happy Silence Day to my Meher Baba family around the world.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023


Captain America #750 is out now. Happy to have made a small contribution to this celebration of one of my favorite characters. Writing Steve Rogers again, after all these years, was like having a reunion with an old and dear friend. Sara Pichelli's gorgeous art was the icing on the birthday cake.

Thursday, June 29, 2023


I had an interesting chat with the fine folks from the Previously On X-Men podcast, discussing Iceman, X-Factor, creative collaboration, the value of great lettering, and other fun things. You can listen below. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023


The collected edition of Spider-Man: The Lost Hunt is on sale now...featuring a powerless Peter Parker. a very pregnant Mary Jane, a threat from Spider-Man's past, and the secret origin of Kraven the Hunter!  Art by Eder Messias & Belardino Brabo, Kyle Hotz, Marguerite Sauvage, and more.

Very happy with the way this one turned out.  Hope you all enjoy it!

Tuesday, June 27, 2023


I was delighted to participate in this epic, three-part documentary on the history of DC Comics—coming in July to MAX. You can watch the trailer below.

Sunday, June 25, 2023


My old friend Shelly Bond recently Kickstarted a wonderful book—Fast Times in Comic Book Editingthat looks back at her career working on DC'S classic Vertigo line.  She asked me to write an essay about my Vertigo experiences and you can read it below.


Vertigo Days

Comic book historians would have you believe that DC’s legendary Vertigo imprint was launched in 1993, but, for me, it began almost twenty years earlier, during the summer of 1975, when I met Karen Berger.

Karen was seventeen then, just out of high school. I was an ancient twenty-one, part of a rambunctious group of Brooklyn friends—imagine the Giffen-DeMatteis JLI without super powers—that had been together since…  Well, I first met them in high school, but some in the group had literally been together since nursery school.  A couple of my buddies had met Karen and two of her closest friends at a party and the three new recruits were effortlessly absorbed into our quirky confederation.  I could write an entire essay about that magical summer—among other things, Karen and I got to witness Bruce Springsteen’s jaw-dropping performance at New York’s Bottom Line, a week or so before Born to Run was unleashed on the world—but I’ll save that for my autobiography.

Karen quickly became a dear and treasured friend and, in the course of that friendship, I became her guide into the weird world of comics.  (I was the only one in our group addicted to superheroes and muck monsters and sorcerers supreme.  My friends tolerated, but really couldn’t fathom, my obsession.)  This was a period when I was playing music gigs both solo and in rock and roll bands at night and writing feverishly during the day, mailing out a stream of short stories to magazines (remember those?) and being rejected on a regular basis.  (Karen, even then, would read my work and critique it:  our shared destiny was clearly written in the stars.)  I was also writing music reviews and interviews for a variety of newspapers (remember those?)—but I also dreamed of a career writing comics.  That dream came true when I sold my first script to DC in December of 1977—it was purchased by an infuriatingly young, and infuriatingly brilliant, editor named Paul Levitz—and it came crashing down during the infamous DC Implosion in June of ‘78. 

But ten or so months later the doors to DC reopened and I started getting regular assignments, working with Paul, the always-enthusiastic Jack Harris, and the late, great Len Wein.  As I was gaining a foothold in the business, Karen was wrapping up a journalism degree at Brooklyn College (I’d attended BC as well, although I probably spent more time on the quad playing guitar than I did in class) and, soon after graduation, she was out in the Real World job hunting.  Around the same time, the aforementioned Mr. Levitz told me he was looking for an assistant to help him with his duties as DC’s editorial coordinator (that meant he was responsible for making sure the trains ran on time) and I instantly thought of Karen.  I sang her praises to Paul, he told me to send her up to meet him, and the rest is, quite literally, history.

This should be the part where I take credit for Karen’s success—but I can’t.  Yes, I opened a door for her, but the truth is she could have flamed out and been fired in a few months, or hated the job and quit, or stuck around and gone on to an utterly unremarkable career.  But Karen, being Karen, took the opportunity and ran with it, becoming, with alarming speed, an incredibly skilled editor with a voice unique in the industry.  And she did it all on her own.

About that unique voice:  It eventually led to a stable of equally-unique comic books that pretty much demanded its own imprint.  I clearly remember Karen bouncing around possible names for the imprint and how Vertigo seemed the absolute best of the bunch.  I was lucky enough to be a part of the Vertigo launch, in a wonderfully roundabout way.  Karen’s former assistant, Art Young, was working for Disney Publishing in L.A., tasked with creating Touchmark, a line of mature readers comics in the mold of the work he and Karen had been doing for DC.  Art put together a fairly stunning list of creators—including Grant Morrison, Duncan Fegredo, Peter Milligan, and many others—and all was going well until someone at Disney woke up one morning and decided this was a very bad idea:  How could the Mouse House publish this strange, disturbing stuff? Touchmark was quickly torched.

The timing, though, was perfect:  Karen was about to launch Vertigo, Art was welcomed back to the DC fold, and a number of the Touchmark books—including Mercy, a graphic novel I did in collaboration with artist Paul Johnson—became part of Vertigo’s first wave.

The next wave brought us Shelly Bond.

I was working on my second Vertigo project—a mini-series called The Last One, about an immortal, gender-fluid being, exhausted by their immortality—when I first encountered Shelly.  The experience was similar to meeting Karen, in that there didn’t seem to be any great transition:  one day Shelly wasn’t there, the next she was—and it felt as if she’d been there forever.  She wasn’t just a faceless assistant getting coffee and making copies, she was a smart, enthusiastic collaborator:  an integral part of the creative process from the start. 

It wasn’t long before Shelly, deservedly, became a full editor, and she was soon overseeing one of my all-time favorite projects, Seekers Into The Mystery, the two of us juggling multiple artists (Jon J Muth, Michael Zulli, Glenn Barr, Jill Thompson, John Bolton.  What a line-up!) and building an idiosyncratic, deeply personal storyline.  Shelly always gave me the creative freedom I needed to tell my story in my own way:  She wasn’t the kind of editor who sliced and diced every plot point and sentence, trying to leave her mark on the book.  But she was always there to offer wise counsel and, if she saw me going off the rails—and we all go off the rails periodically, no matter how talented we are (or think we are!)—she always pulled me back and got me on the right track.  If the phone rang and it was Shelly, telling me something in my script wasn’t working, I listened and, as soon as I hung up, I got to work fixing the problem.

(Shelly also oversaw the reprinting of Blood: a tale and Moonshadow—both of which had originally been done for Marvel’s groundbreaking Epic Comics line—and edited the Moonshadow sequel, Farewell, Moonshadow, which I still consider one of the finest pieces of writing in my entire career.  It also featured some Jon J Muth’s most beautiful art.)

Vertigo, for me, was very much a family affair—quite literally, since my son, Cody, did two memorable internships there, one for Karen and one for Shelly.  My wife, Diane, and I were married just a few months after Vertigo started and our daughter, Katie, was born in ‘94 (if memory serves, Neil Gaiman and his wife had a baby on the same day and Karen B gave birth on that date a year later.  That must have some profound cosmic significance, although I’m not sure what!).  These was the times before email and texting devoured most of our communications, when your editor would call you regularly, sometimes two or three times a day, and you developed a genuine relationship (or learned, early on, that you shouldn’t be working together).  Yes, we had endless discussions about story and art, but we also discussed the ups and downs of our lives.  We weren’t just business associates, we were all friends.

But all good things, as they say, and, by the late 90s—as the comic book business went through some brutal, seismic changes—my Vertigo days came to a close.  Nothing dramatic happened—no arguments, no creative disagreements:  work just led me in other directions and Vertigo, too, found new directions and new voices.  Despite the fact that Karen has remained one of my dearest friends, we didn’t actually work together again till the launch of Berger Books in 2019.  “Time is a jet plane,” as Bob Dylan observed, “it moves too fast.”  

Shelly and I kept in touch for a while but, as happens, life and business carried us off in different directions (in Shelly’s case, it carried her across the country).  But here we are, all these years later, uncorking a bottle of warm memories and toasting to the Vertigo days that were.  

And, I hope, the even better days ahead. 

©copyright 2023 J.M. DeMatteis

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


Just heard the heartbreaking news that John Romita Sr. has died. John was the artist who introduced me to Peter Parker's world with his classic Green Goblin story in Amazing Spider-Man #s 39 and 40 (still my favorite Spidey story of all time). I also adored his work on Daredevil, Captain America and, well, pretty much everything he touched.

One of the great joys of my career was working with John on a story called "The Kiss." He put such love and care into that story and it was clear he was an artist who never stopped challenging himself, never stopped evolving.

I remember John sitting in on a Spider-Man writer's meeting back in the 90s. We were all tossing ideas around for new stories and, time and again, the best ideas came from John. The man wasn't just an extraordinary artist, he was a storyteller of the first rank.

When Amazing Spider-Man #400 came out, John took the time to call me and tell me how much the story had moved him, that it had actually made him cry. Can you imagine what that meant to me? How deeply it touched me?

John Romita, Sr. was a giant of our industry and we all owe him so very much.

Heartfelt condolences to John Jr., John Sr.'s wife Virginia, and the entire Romita family.

Monday, May 15, 2023


Had a great time talking to Professor Terence Dollard for his PBS show Comic Culture and you can watch it below.

Thursday, May 11, 2023


Way back in 2010—seems like a century ago, doesn't it?—I wrote an essay for Rob Kelly's wonderful anthology, Hey Kids, Comics! and published an excerpt here.  Came across the essay this morning, and thought it would be fun to post the entire thing.  Enjoy!


Portals to Other Dimensions—Ten Cents Each!

I've said this before, and it's true:  I don't remember ever not reading comic books.  I can’t say for sure who first exposed me to them, but I do recall a married couple that lived in my apartment building (the kind of adults you’d expect to be reading comics in the late 50's and early 60's:  smiley, rotund, slightly odd people) and they had a treasure trove of comics—stacks and stacks of them—they’d often share with me.  I also remember a cousin giving me what must have been twenty or so comics (to my young eyes, they seemed more like twenty thousand).  There was something deeply satisfying in spreading them all out on the floor—like a four-color carpet—not to be read, but to be stared at, studied, absorbed to the deeps of my soul.  I enjoyed comic book covers as much as I enjoyed reading the stories.  I could sit there, in a quasi-hypnotic state, and study the illustrations for hours:  they were like cosmic portals, opening up doorways to other dimensions; colorful parallel universes far preferable to the one I inhabited.

The best covers communicated an entire story in one image and my mind would wander off and run the story in my head like a movie (which was often far different from the one that unfolded inside the books:  sometimes it was better).  Drawing was one of my great obsessions as a kid and I could spend an entire afternoon on the living room floor, with pencil and paper, studying a Batman cover—I’m talking about the Dick Sprang-era, square-jawed, fun-loving Bats, not the ultra-serious Dark Knight of today—and trying to replicate it, line-for-line, freehand.  (Tracing, of course, was verboten.)  

My family didn’t have much money—we were lower middle class, my father worked for the New York City Parks Department (he was the guy who raked the leaves and shoveled the snow) and my mother was a switchboard operator for the New York State Parole Board—but I never felt materially deprived.  My parents were always incredibly generous.  And they generously indulged my passion for comics.

I have very vivid memories of being six, seven years old and taking walks with my father on summer evenings after dinner:  We'd head for the local candy store, which—in Brooklyn, at least—was its own magic world, with a long soda fountain inevitably presided over by an elderly Jewish wizard who could magically conjure egg creams (if you’ve never had one, you have my sincere condolences); more comics, newspapers and magazines than you could count; every gloriously trashy candy bar in existence; and an odd assortment of toys, from Duncan Yo-Yos to that lost ancient artifact, the Pensy Pinky.  My father would buy a newspaper for himself and a comic book for me.   A comic was ten cents in those days—which was probably more than my dad’s New York Daily News cost—but it was still a bargain.  (When my best friend, Bob Izzo, was going to the hospital for minor surgery—I think he was having a mole removed—his mother gave him an entire dollar and he bought ten comic books.  I was paralyzed with envy.)

I was seven when, after three decades, the price jumped from ten to twelve cents:  I walked into the candy store with my mother one afternoon and Eva—the not-to-be-trifled-with wife of the egg cream making wizard—was in shock, ranting about this outrageous price hike.  My mother was equally irate.  “Twelve cents,” she gasped, “for a comic book?” 

To my immense relief, the extra two cents didn’t dissuade my parents from buying me comics—and I continued to consume them.  It didn’t matter what the comic book was, I read everything—from Hot Stuff and Casper to Sad Sack and Bob Hope (given the current comic book market, it’s astonishing to realize that the Bob Hope series ran for eighteen years.  The Adventures of Jerry Lewis lasted even longer).  Today the super hero dominates the mainstream market, but, back then, the variety of comic books—all of them kid-friendly—was astounding.  Still, to a boy raised on George Reeves flying across his black and white television screen, the DC super hero comics were the Holy Grail.

We took it for granted that every male under the age of twelve worshipped Superman and Batman—and most of them
did—but each of us had our special favorites.  Mine were Justice League (all the DC heroes together in one book?  How could you beat that?) and Green Lantern.  GL was the perfect vehicle to capture the mind of a child.  The concept was as elegant as it was simple:  the hero just thought of something—brought his will and imagination to bear—and he manifested it.  (Even as an adult the concept still works:  I think it’s a perfect metaphor for the way we should all live our lives.)   John Broome’s wonderful stories spanned the galaxies—his place in Comic Book Heaven is secure—but, for me, the the primal enchantment came from Gil Kane's extraordinary artwork.  Before I discovered the force of nature that was Jack Kirby, Kane was the artist whose work meant the most to me:  a mixture of elegance, power and crystal clear storytelling.  As noted, drawing was my childhood obsession and one of my absolute favorite things to draw was Kane’s flying figure of Green Lantern, ring-hand confidently outthrust, one leg cocked back (almost as if it was amputated).

When I was in Junior High School, I underwent a religious conversion.  No, I didn’t suddenly become a Hindu or a Born-Again Christian:  I converted from DC to Marvel.  Contemporary comic book readers can’t possibly understand how different Stan Lee’s Marvel books were in the 1960’s.  DC’s comics—for all their imagination and artistic flair—were pristine and sculpted, All-American and squeaky clean to the point of being nearly antiseptic:  no rough edges, no raw emotions, nothing messy at all.  If you looked at the Marvel books, especially in the early days of the line, it was all mess.  The covers said everything:  lurid colors.  Captions screaming for your attention.  Oversized word balloons with thick, black borders around them.  Artwork so primitive it was frightening.  Marvel Comics were dangerous.

A few years before my conversion, on a whim (or perhaps out of desperation), I’d picked up the first issue of
Marvel Tales, which reprinted the origin stories of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man and Ant Man.  Imagine a young mind accustomed to the gentle elegance of Curt Swan suddenly encountering the wonderful weirdness that was Steve Ditko and the dynamic lunacy of Jack Kirby.  Reading the Hulk origin, I was certain that General “Thunderbolt” Ross had to be the one who was going to turn into a monster because—the way Kirby drew him—he already looked like one.  There was a panel of Ross yelling at Bruce Banner and the old man’s mouth was so impossibly wide I was sure he was going to eat Banner alive.

At that point in my evolution I wasn’t ready for Marvel:  the stories were simply too intense for my tender psyche, so I put the books aside and returned to the more comforting confines of the DC Universe—until, in 1966, Marvelmania swept through the halls of Ditmas Junior High.  Among my crowd of comics cognoscenti, you were looked down upon if you still read Superman (which I, of course, did).  I resisted the tide—no way was I giving up on GL and the League—but by May or June of that year (and, yes, I’m sure peer pressure had something to do with it) I decided to once again investigate this strange Marvel phenomenon.  The first comics I picked up were Fantastic Four #54, Daredevil #19 and Spider-Man #40.  After reading those three issues—I still have a clear memory of sitting on the steps of the massive Catholic church across the street from my apartment house (the appropriate place for a religious conversion) and devouring the Daredevil story “Alone Against the Underworld!”, entranced by Stan Lee’s hyperbolic intensity and John Romita’s muscular grace—Marvel had me.  Peer pressure may have piqued my curiosity, but what sold me was the quality of the stories:  the creative audacity that exploded across every page.

There’s been much debate, down through the decades, about the relative contributions of Stan Lee and his collaborators.
  From my perspective, Stan’s contribution was incalculable.  Even if, hypothetically, Kirby and Ditko plotted every single one of those stories on their own, Stan created the vibe and the mythos of Marvel Comics.  He did it with cocky cover copy and the warmth of the Bullpen Bulletins pages, the hilarious footnotes and scripts that managed to be absurdly pseudo-Shakespearean and yet utterly down to earth at the same time.  Most important were the absolutely relatable (especially to a boy on the verge of adolescence) characters, constructed of equal parts angst and humor.   As others have said, with Stan at the door of the Marvel Universe, you really felt as if you were being welcomed into a unique club that was tailored just for you by the coolest uncle anyone ever had.  Add in the quirky individuality of Ditko and the cosmic genius of Kirby (if anyone in the history of comics can be called a genius, Jack’s the guy) and you had something new and vibrant that comics had never seen before.   (Here’s how much I loved those 60’s Marvel Comics:  In the ninth grade I had pneumonia, ordered by our doctor not to leave the house for three weeks.  One Sunday night, about two weeks into my sentence, I couldn’t take it any more:  my parents had gone out for dinner, so I threw on my winter coat—did I mention it was dead of winter?—and, risking my fragile lungs, raced the four blocks to the candy store and grabbed the latest issue of Fantastic Four.) 

I remained Marvel-exclusive until 1970 when Jack Kirby returned to DC:  hey, if Superman & Company were good enough for the King, they were certainly good enough for me.  Kirby’s brilliant New Gods, Forever People and Mister Miracle convinced me I’d made the right decision.  That same year I had my first encounter with the subversive genius of R. Crumb (“Meatball,” anyone?) and my idea of what a comic book could, and couldn’t, be was forever demolished.  Loyalty to any one company, or any one form of graphic storytelling, suddenly seemed ridiculous. 

As I grew older, as I fell prey to exploding hormones and the lunacy of teenage life, becoming immersed in rock and roll, “serious” literature, the spiritual search (and other, less savory, pursuits), I never let go of comic books.  Most of my contemporaries grew out of their obsession, but I didn't.  Why would I turn away from a cosmic portal that expanded my mind, deepened my soul and, most important, made me happy.   

You can’t put a cover price on that.

© copyright 2023 J.M. DeMatteis