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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #219

If you read yesterday’s entry, you can probably guess which excellent writer I’ll be talking about today. This clever comics wordsmith has written some of the best comic runs ever. (It’s my party, and I can archive if I want to.)

8/7/07

219. J.M. DeMatteis

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The ever-amazing John Marc DeMatteis is a very intriguing writer. Read his dialogue on Justice League International, and you’d never suspect he’s the same guy who’s written super-serious runs on Spider-Man and Dr. Fate and the like. The same is true in reverse. In the years before I bothered to look at credit boxes, I never thought the Spectacular Spidey guy was the same dude scripting the Bwahaha Justice League.

Clearly, he’s gifted. He’s excellent at comedic dialogue, as evidenced in every comic he’s written with Keith Giffen. I shall reiterate: The comedic era of the Justice League, from International to America to Europe, encompasses one of the best comic runs ever. The focus was on character interaction, and DeMatteis’ quick, excellently paced snappy patter sold us on the cast immediately. The book was loaded with terrific dynamics between the characters, from Beetle and Booster to Fire and Ice to Guy and Ice to Max and L-Ron and Oberon and all sorts of other set-ups. It’s not just that every character was funny– it’s that every character was funny in his or her own way. JLI wins the award for world’s greatest superhero sitcom, but it was one that could have its fair share of drama, as well. Just a damn fine comic. I can’t shut up about it, clearly.

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J.M. has also proven that he’s interested in the psychology and spirituality of the superhero, and has explored these themes throughout most of his solo works, including Dr. Fate (which Greg Burgas has written a great Comics You Should Own column about) and loads of others. It’s his run on Spider-Man, however, that’s my favorite. In fact, I’d say that Mr. DeMatteis is the best writer to work on a Spider-title outside of, say, Stan Lee. That means he’s darn good.

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From his terrific run on Spectacular Spider-Man with Sal Buscema in which he thoroughly explored the minds and souls of Peter Parker, Harry Osborn, and all sorts of others, even Vermin, for Pete’s sake, to his later run on Amazing with Mark Bagley, in which he deconstructed the Spider-Man/Peter Parker dynamic and killed off Aunt May (which never should’ve been retconned), he’s proven that he knows how to handle the Spider-mythos. And, of course, he wrote what’s probably the best Spider-Man story ever, Kraven’s Last Hunt, which showed that J.M. is truly master of the caption box monologue, and provided excellent characterizations for the entire cast. It also has gorgeous Mike Zeck art.

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What else has he done? Well, aside from big league books like Captain America, the Defenders (he totally changed the team, at one point), Marvel Team-Up, Silver Surfer, the Spectre (with Norm Breyfogle), and others, he’s also done indie, acclaimed works like Moonshadow (“a fairy tale for grown-ups” with Jon J. Muth), Brooklyn Dreams, Seekers Into the Mystery, and, most recently, the fantasy Abadazad, which has morphed into a series of young adult books. It features art by Mike Ploog, much like their recent comics collaboration, the Stardust Kid. And DeMatteis is still hanging out with Giffen on stuff like the recent Defenders mini-series, and on Hero Squared.

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J.M. DeMatteis is a great writer whose work traces the full spectrum of styles and stories. I’m glad to have him. Check out his blog on Amazon here.

Your turn, dear readers! What are your favorite J.M. DeMatteis works?

18 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 7, 2007 at 4:56 pm

AaaaAaaaH! Ah! Ah! AH!!!!

You forgot BLOOD: A Tale, beautifully drawn by Kent Williams.

And YOU call yourself a comic FAN!!!!

Hmmphf! ;-)

I hope when you get to JLAEIOU in this, you’ll remember to play up the drama aspects….Yes, it had the Bwhahahah, but that was the flavoring to the drama of caring about the characters (which is what I felt was missing in the supperbuddies minis).
Breakdowns worked because you cared about these people…until Jurgens came on and made you not.

“Breakdowns worked because you cared about these people…until Jurgens came on and made you not.”

Exactly.

I cared about characters I never cared for after those two were through with them.

Their JLAetc run was fun.

And DeMAtteis could write intense too.

I enjoy writers that do both well–(as opposed to ones who think they can, but can’t.)

DeMatteis is great when paired with Giffen. When he plots his own stuff, it can get pretty terrible (though I liked his Dr. Fate and Spider-Man). Have you ever tried to read Moonshadow? Ack.

These columns make me feel old. You say “JLI”, I say “Captain America” and “Defenders”! Wow, those are great runs. He is, as far as I’m concerned THE definitive Cap writer. And the six-fingered hand in Defenders warped my little mind. I always forget that he scripted the Giffen stuff. For me, DeMatteis is all about cathartic journeys to the dark depths of the human soul. When I was a kid, his stuff scared me, but I also knew he would never condescend to me.

Also, I’m currently enjoying his recent teleplays for “Justice League” on Cartoon Network.

“killed off Aunt May (which never should’ve been retconned)”

You’re half right. It never should have happened at all.

OK, I’ll go against the grain here. I agree that DeMatteis & Giffen’s Justice League is a fine comic. It’s just … not the Justice League. The JL A/E/I/O/U (good one, Scavenger) starts with the Big Seven (or at least a quorum thereof), as Morrison knew so well. That lack was the thing that was wrong with the comic all those years. Fire and Ice and Blue and Gold might make a fun team, along with J’Onn and his Oreos and Ralph and Sue and all (even — ugh — Guy), but it’s just not the Justice League. It should’ve been a different comic with a different team name. Why radically reinvent a perfectly fine concept and still pretend it’s its predecessor?

It bothered me so much, I stopped reading it and eventually stopped buying it too. Morrison brought me back to the fold — and now it’s the creators, along with the cast, that determine whether or not I’m on board with any given Justice League iteration.

Wasn’t Moon Shadow Mark Bagley’s first work for Marvel?

I think that I’d probably have to say that his run on ‘Doctor Fate’ was my favorite work of his–a perfect twenty-four issue story about faith, love, and eternal life, with one of the best Darkseid moments ever.

As I said in the comments yesterday, JLI is one of my favorite things ever.

He also wrote some terrific episodes of Justice League Unlimited, particularly “Ultimatum” and “The Return”.

SanctumSanctorumComix

August 8, 2007 at 7:47 am

First a brief comment for TOMER:
Bageys first Marvel work was NIGHTMASK for the New Universe line.

Moonshadow was a fully painted original graphic novel, which while beautiful, and wondrous, was a convoluted story that even I (a HUGE fan of DeMatteis) felt best to give away to a friend instead of keeping in my collection.

She was very appreciative and loved it.
For myself, it was one of the VERY FEW works by JMD that I just didn’t dig.

——–

DeMatteis “KRAVEN’s LAST HUNT” and the subsequent one-shot; “Soul Of The Hunter” were friggin’ AWESOME works that completely grip my shit every time I read them.

———

Also of note is the DOCTOR STRANGE ; INTO SHAMBALLA original graphic novel (with beautifully painted artwork by DAN “not just an inker” GREEN).

THAT is one of the BEST DOCTOR STRANGE stories ever.

J.M. DeMatteis is one of my all-time TOP reasons to love comics!

~P~
P-TOR

One of my favorite stories from DeMatteis’ run on Spectacular was the thre-part story where the Vulture learns that he has contracted cancer due to years of using those electric wings (predictably, this has since been retconned by other writers). Feeling regret for possibly the first time in his life, Toombs tries to make amends for his past deeds (in a fashion), including his part-reponsibility for the death of Nathan (Aunt May’s fiance).

It’s a moving story with terrific Sal Buscema pencils. You can argue that DeMatteis was retreading ground he’d already covered with Kraven’s Last Hunt (and you’d probably be right). But, God knows, compared to the endless Venom/Carnage/blah-blah stories running in the other Spider books near-constantly at the time, this story was gold. Buscema’s penciling of a distraught Vulture unable to get the forgiveness he wanted at the end of the third issue was an unforgettable image.

I was with you up until that last point. Breakdowns really didn’t work – except for the final issue or two that Kevin Maguire came back for.

Jeff Albertson

August 8, 2007 at 3:40 pm

I liked his Spider-Man work, except for the Kraven stuff, which I hated. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would consider that a good Spider-Man story, much less one of the greatest. Different strokes, I guess. To my mind, the Spectacular stuff was much more successful, especially the treatment of Harry Osborn.

The JLI stuff was entertaining, but the run varied too wildly from single issue fluff to things like the Despero story. Combine that with his concurrent Martian Manhunter mini and Dr. Fate stuff, and I never knew what to expect when I saw Mr. D’s byline — deadly serious and painfully sincere meditations on life, or crazy fluff.

Still don’t, actually. But I love that he writes about stuff he cares about, and that he’s willing to take risks, even if they don’t always pay off.

Moonshadow , all the way. A fantastic series, and I also have great affection for Blood:a Tale which I hated on origianl release but absolutely adored on rereads

DeMatteis work with Giffen is unparalleled. Even series that don’t interest me because of the characters like the Defenders gets my attention. And Hero Squared and Planetary Brigade still give me that fix of Bwa-ha-ha quite well.

But if I had to say my favourite thinkg DeMatteis did then I’d have to say Captain America. It’s probably my favourite run on the character (though I’m loving the Brubaker/Epting run happening now), probably because part and parcel of his time on the chracter he addressed the theme implicit in a character dressing as the symbol of a country, and not just a guy in red, white and blue tights. Great stuff.

I think my favorite work of his is his “Scarlet Redemption” storyline from Moon Knight…

Greenberg the Vampire. I may be one of five people on the face of the planet that remembers its existence, but I wouldn’t sell my copy for anything.

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