Monday, March 11, 2024


Just last week someone asked me to name four of my favorite projects. Given the fact that I’ve been writing professionally for more than 40 years, that’s an impossible task. But the request got me thinking and pushed me to put together the following lists.

Please note: This isn’t necessarily my best work—and, frankly, I’m the last person in the world who can see my work with enough objectivity to know what the “best” is—but they’re my favorites: projects that inspired me, helped me grow as a writer, or were just plain fun to create. And, yes, there are many other projects that could have made these lists, but I had to stop somewhere! 


The first two projects are interchangeable, I adore them both equally, so…

1A. Brooklyn Dreams

The most nakedly personal project I’ve ever done, a look back at my coming-of-age in 1960s and 70s Brooklyn, Brooklyn Dreams was both effortless to write (these were stories I’d told my friends many times) and absolutely terrifying (there were no fictional characters between me and the audience to filter these deeply personal experiences. Yes, I changed the names to protect the innocent, but every word was true). The icing on the cake was Glenn Barr’s art, which moved from surreal and cartoony to ultra-realistic, depending on the memory being explored. It was as if we mind-melded. As if all the images I saw in my head somehow flowed effortlessly from Glenn’s pen. There’s a new edition coming later in 2024 from Dark Horse.

1B. Moonshadow
This story simmered in my unconscious for years before it exploded out of me in the mid-1980s. Moonshadow was my first chance to step out of the Marvel-DC mindset (self-imposed, in many ways) and just write, as myself—not some clone of the many comic book writers I admired. To create a story with the freedom, the unique voice, of a novelist, building a deeply personal universe from the ground up. Moonshadow helped me find that voice, helped me find myself. And so did my brilliant collaborator, Jon J Muth, whose breathtaking painted art, unlike anything seen before in American comics, challenged me to be better than I’d ever been: I hope I did the same for him. Dark Horse produced a gorgeous “definitive” hardcover back in 2019. A softcover edition is coming later this year.

2. Seekers Into The Mystery
Glenn Barr. Jon J Muth. Michael Zulli. Jill Thompson. How lucky was I to have this lineup of brilliant artists bringing Seekers Into The Mystery to visual life? The series was just what the title implied: a spiritual journey that followed struggling screenwriter Lucas Hart as he probed the mysteries of past lives, astral travel, UFOs, angels, demons, saints who could be lunatics, lunatics who might be saints—and his own deep psychological trauma. I had years of Seekers stories bubbling in the back of my head—there’s one that still nags at me all these years later and I might have to write it—but low sales killed the book after 15 issues. Dover Books published the only complete collection of Seekers back in 2016.

The Life and Times of Savior 28
The basic idea for The Life and Times of Savior 28 was born in the early 1980s, when I was working on Captain America. I wanted to do a story that questioned the very foundations of the superhero mythos against the backdrop of contemporary politics and one man’s desire to make a positive difference in the world. Marvel turned me down—in retrospect, I’m grateful—but I kept developing the story for years, building my own characters and universe around the concept, till 2009 when, working with one of my all-time favorite collaborators (and one of the nicest guys in comics), Mike Cavallaro, I finally got to tell the tale. Of all the superhero stories I’ve written, this just might be my Number One.

4.  Hero Squared
One of the great joys of my career was my longtime creative partnership with the brilliant, and much-missed, Keith Giffen (more about Keith later), and one of the highlights of that partnership was our only creator-owned project, Hero Squared. H2 is a buddy comedy, a love story, a Seinfeldian farce, a multiversal adventure, a deconstruction of superheroes, and (most important) my absolute  favorite Giffen-DeMatteis collaboration. (We also explored our main character’s back story in a couple of Planetary Brigade spin-offs that are included in the Hero Squared Omnibus.)

  Blood: A Tale
Blood: A Tale was created on the heels of Moonshadow and it remains perhaps the oddest, most surreal and experimental, creative endeavor I’ve ever been involved in. I worked intimately with celebrated painter Kent Williams (who literally lived next door to me at the time) to create a vampiric fever-dream about pain, desire, and the need for absolution and spiritual renewal. There are some people who love Blood, some who find it too disturbing, even incomprehensible. For me, as a writer, the story provided the opportunity to explore new literary lands, to try a kind of storytelling I’d never attempted before. And working with Kent remains one of the most challenging (in all the best ways) and satisfying collaborations of my career.



1.  The Spider-Man Universe

One of the first gigs I had at Marvel was writing plots for Spider-Man stories that would then be drawn and dialogued in France: an odd beginning for a relationship with a character that has continued for many decades, right up to the April release of the Shadow of the Green Goblin mini-series (which is why I can’t pick just one Spidey story out of the dozens I’ve written). I don’t think there’s a character, in any super-hero universe, more psychologically nuanced, emotionally-compelling, and wonderfully-neurotic than Peter Parker. To this day I don’t think of Peter as a fictional character: I think of him as an old friend. Add in the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the greatest artists in comics history—including master storytellers Mike Zeck (Kraven’s Last Hunt) and Sal Buscema (Spectacular Spider-Man)—and you can understand why I feel truly blessed to be associated with Spidey all these years.

2.  The Giffen-DeMatteis Universe

Okay, so this one’s another cheat: I’m collapsing my entire collaboration with Keith Giffen into one, but it really feels as if all our work together, from Justice League International to Scooby Apocalypse, is one piece—and that piece exists in its own little universe, far, far away from everything else I’ve done. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Keith Giffen was as generous and gifted (well, gifted is too small a word. Someone once called Keith the Jack Kirby of my generation and I couldn’t agree more) a collaborator as I’ve ever worked with. When I teamed up with Giffen it wasn’t about the particular project, it was about the collaboration itself—and the tremendous fun we had together. I still can’t believe he’s gone. (I can’t mention Keith without acknowledging Kevin Maguire, who illustrated some of our best stories in a style that many have tried to imitate but no one has ever equalled: The guy is genre unto himself.)

3.  Batman: Going Sane
Many fans think my strongest mainstream superhero story is the Spider-Man saga Kraven’s Last Hunt—and I understand why they’ve taken KLH to heart—but my vote goes to "Going Sane," which originally ran in four issues of DC’s Legends of the Dark Knight. In the story, the Joker kills Batman—at least he believes he does—and, with the primary reason for his existence eliminated, the villain’s mind snaps. Of course the Joker is already insane, so when he snaps...he goes sane. “Joe Kerr” soon creates a new life for himself, complete with an office job and a loving fiancé. It’s a story that dives deep into the twin psyches of Joker and Batman and, I hope, illuminates both in new ways. No comic book story can succeed without great visual storytelling, and the amazing Joe Staton (aided by inker Steve Mitchell) turned in some of the finest work of his illustrious career.

  Dr. Fate
In l987, Keith Giffen and I revamped the character of Dr. Fate for a mini-series and then, some months later, I continued the story in an ongoing series, wonderfully illustrated, with both humor and humanity, by Shawn McManus. It’s a rare occasion when you can work on a preexisting DC or Marvel character and be allowed to completely stamp it with your own unique, and very personal, vision, but that’s what I got to do with Dr. Fate— weaving together the supernatural, sit-com silliness, superhero action, romance, Eastern philosophy, infantile toilet jokes and Serious Musings On The Nature Of Existence. Not an easy mix, but Shawn always met, and often transcended, whatever visual challenges I threw his way. If this was a combined list, Fate might be sitting right behind Moonshadow and Brooklyn Dreams at the top. 

The two projects below are another tie: I couldn’t pick one over the other.

5A.  Greenberg The Vampire
Okay, so Moonshadow wasn’t the first project that allowed me to find my own voice as a writer. A few years before Moon, I did a story for Marvel’s anthology magazine Bizarre Adventures, perfectly illustrated by Steve Leialoha: a supernatural tale, with a healthy helping of humor, about a reclusive Jewish horror writer who also happened to be a vampire. Four or so years later, I followed that up with an Oscar Greenberg graphic novel (which the late, great Dwayne McDuffie dubbed Portnoy’s Complaint meets Dracula), illustrated by my friend and frequent collaborator Mark Badger. Like Moonshadow, Greenberg the Vampire allowed me to shake off the constraints of superhero stories and just be myself, writing in a voice that was very much my own. (Note: Had I done the first Greenberg story just a little later, it would have been on the creator-owned list, but Oscar belongs to Marvel: lock, stock, and fangs.) Both Greenberg stories were collected in one volume in 2015. 

5B. Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa

The late Dan Green and I were friends before we were collaborators but, united in our common love of all things mystical, we finally came together creatively for a unique Doctor Strange story. Dan, known primarily as an inker at the time, painted the graphic novel, and each page was more beautiful than the one before. The fact that Dan and I were able to do so much work face to face—building the story together, feeding into each other’s work—and that we had the extended deadline that graphic novels afford, allowed us to collaborate in a way writers and artists working on monthly comics just can’t. All these years later, Into Shamballa remains a project I’m incredibly proud of—and a true testament to Dan’s brilliance as both an artist and storyteller. The book has been out of print for years, but it’s being featured in a Doctor Strange Marvel Masterworks edition that will be out later this year.


This one stands alone because the journey is more tortuous (and more than a little torturous):

The germ of the idea that eventually evolved into the all-ages fantasy Abadazad first appeared in my head in the mid-1980s, but it wasn’t until 2003 that a new company called CrossGen enthusiastically agreed to publish the book, recruiting Mike Ploog—one of the greatest fantasy illustrators on the planet—and gifted color artist Nick Bell to provide the visuals. (Mike and I split ownership with CG, so it began life as a creator-owned book)

Unfortunately, after only three issues of Abadazad had seen print, our publisher went bankrupt. We were eventually rescued from oblivion by Hyperion Books For Children and signed for a six book series—combining sequential comics and illustrated prose—with Hyperion’s parent company, Disney, purchasing all the rights and promising great things ahead. (Visions of Disneyland rides and animated films danced through our heads.) But, for complex reasons I won’t go into here, the book series died after the third volume came out: It remains the biggest heartbreak of my career. (The entire ‘Zad creative team reunited for another all-ages fantasy that’s dear to my heart, The Stardust Kid—featuring some of Ploog’s most stunning art—and, yes, we own that one.)

Considering all the work I’m doing at the moment—including the aforementioned Shadow of the Green Goblin, four (or is it five?) new creator-owned projects that are part of the Spellbound Comics/DeMultiverse Kickstarter (Phase II launching soon!) and a top-secret DC project, I’ll have to revisit this list in a few years. I’d also like to do a deep dive into my ongoing work in television, film, and prose—but, really, that’s enough listing for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed the journey.

©copyright 2024 J.M. DeMatteis


  1. Incorrect. Your favorite comic written by you was Avengers #218. It is not my favorite, I barely remember this fill-in issue, and had to look up the number on cover browser.

    However, it IS your favorite. Personally if I were going to pick a team book from that era, I would have chosen Defenders #101, still not one of my favorites, but very good. However, you are entitled to your own opinion about your work.

    Also, speaking of great but not favorite comics, I agree Dr. Fate is better than your Spectre run, but I have always felt it was spiritual (no pun intended) sequel to Dr. Fate.

    Also, if both your lists have a number with a/b designations, why not do a top 6 list? Or top 7? Seven is a lucky number. You could have been lucky.


    1. That Spectre run is a favorite of mine, Jack, and if the list had gone a bit longer it would have been on it. I'd love to see that run collected. And, yes, I've often said that it was the spiritual successor to Dr. Fate. A further expansion of those themes.

    2. I can't wait for your next top 5 (actually 6) list, your favorite comics published in an alternate reality, but not here.

      Fingers crossed the Power Man/Iron Fist pitch for a 12 issue story arc, where Heroes for Hire has a slow day and Luke Cage drinks a cup of coffee while reading a book, and Iron Fist takes a nap makes the list.

      Rumor has it when Jim Shooter saw the pitch he held the record for longest uninterrupted rage stare.

      Which of course as only broken three days later when you came into the office and said, "You gotta understand Daddy-o, it is conceptual, like ..real live livin' stuff! You dig what I am laying down, right my fellow starchild?"

      To which he responded. Oh yes, he responded. People in Jersey City heard him respond.


    3. Actually, I'd like to pop in to another universe and see my early 1980s runs on Swamp Thing and Justice League, which came very close to happening. And what if Tom DeFalco said yes to my Wonder Man pitch and there was never a Kraven's Last Hunt?

    4. Sounds like you have another list, "The ones that got Away: My Top 5 almost stories"

      You might even gt to do a Swamp Thing book, at least a mini series. Or not, since Marvel is increasingly shying away from books not related to Bats and Superman, but you know, the character still exists, and there does not seem to be any hard plan for him.


    5. I actually had two shots at writing Swamp Thing. The first in the early 80s (I turned it down and it went to some guy named Alan Moore) and then later in the 80s, I think after Rick Veitch wrapped up his run (almost said yes that time). It wasn't that I didn't want the gig, there were just other factors at play. But that run is out there somewhere, in some other universe, and I hope it was good!

  2. Not just a wonderful list but also an amazing checklist: I’ve missed some of these works and I’m definitely going after those books!

  3. All wonderful comics, with Brooklyn Dreams and Moonshadow in particular being as good as comics get. They're absolute masterpieces. Spookily enough, was just thinking about your incredible Dr Fate work - would love to see it get the lavish collection it truly deserves. A gorgeous comic in every sense. Karlos

    1. Thanks, Karlos. I too would LOVE to see a Dr. Fate collection. Don't know if that will ever happen, but we can dream, right?

  4. If you don't mind me asking... and feel free not to answer... is this list exclusively outcome, or is the creative process factor in as well.

    Like, I love the JLI, no argument it is on the list, but is part of the reason it is #2 instead of #3 because of the experience of collaborating with Giffen?

    Just curious.


    1. As I said in the intro, it's impossible for me to be objective so there's a good chance that factored in, especially where Keith is concerned. At the same time, it probably belongs right where it is (even if, in the end, numbering these things is fairly random).

  5. I would love for you to do a greatest hits on your television work. "Song of the Petalars" from the 2011 Thundercats was amazing. The scene of the elderly Petalar talking to the young one about life was amazing then, but it affects me in a different way since my Mom passed a couple of years ago. Just a beautiful story all around.

    You also know i'm a huge fan of the 80's Twilight Zone and would love to hear about your experiences "The Girl I married" and your thoughts about the revival overall.


    1. Thanks for your kind words about the "Petalars" story, Jose.
      That one seems to have really resonated with people. And, yes, maybe I will do a deep dive into my TV work later this year.