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The Greatest J.M. DeMatteis Stories Ever Told!

Every day in November we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!

Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).

Today’s list is the Greatest J.M. DeMatteis Stories Ever Told!


Sorry for the delay in getting this up!

10. Brooklyn Dreams #1-4

Clearly his most personal work, Brooklyn Dreams tells the semi-autobiographical story of a teenager growing up in the 1960s. Glenn Barr did the artwork.

9. Justice League America #38-40 “Justice League versus Despero”

Working from a Keith Giffen plot, DeMatteis scripted this emotionally charged confrontation between the Justice League and Despero. Despero’s attempt at revenge on the former members of the League (the last team to defeat him) is chilling. Adam Hughes and Joe Rubinstein did the artwork.

8. Amazing Spider-Man #400 “The Gift”

In this poignant issue, Peter Parker says goodbye to an actress pretending to be Aunt May (of course Peter did not know that at the time – it is just funnier to say it like that). It is really sweet and sad. Mark Bagley and Larry Mahlstedt did the artwork.

7. The Defenders #92-100 “The Six Fingered Hand Saga”

This sprawling story featured six demons (the Six Fingered Hand) being manipulated by Mephisto into a confrontation with the Defenders. They first tried to merge Earth and Hell. Don Perlin did the artwork.

6. Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #66-69 “Going Sane:

DeMatteis explores the relationship between Batman and Joker in this storyline where the Joker believes Batman is dead. With his nemesis gone, what will Joker do? Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell did the artwork.

5. Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7 “A New Beginning”

Working from a Keith Giffen plot, DeMatteis scripted the return of the Justice League and institution of the Justice League International. Kevin Maguire, Terry Austin and Al Gordon did the artwork.

4. Captain America #293-300

J.M. DeMatteis finished his run on Captain America with this epic tale involving the Red Skull tormenting Captain America until a final confrontation between the two ends with one of them dead. Paul Neary did the artwork with a variety of inkers.

3. Spectacular Spider-Man #178-184, 189, 199-200 “The Harry Osborn Saga”

Spectacular Spider-Man #200 would not have made the list, so I just figured I’d lump it all together into one big story. In any event, this shows the degradation of Harry Obsorn’s sanity as he slowly turns into every bit of the Green Goblin his father was. Touching, gripping stuff. Sal Buscema did the art.

2. Moonshadow #1-12

Jon J. Muth painted this heartfelt epic fantasy tale. It is the story of Moonshadow, looking back upon his life (he is 120 years old) and seeing the fantastical life he has enjoyed.

1. Kraven’s Last Hunt

One of the most famous Spider-Man stories of all-time, DeMatteis (working with artists Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod) tells the story of Kraven the Hunter, who has become so depressed over his failure to defeat Spider-Man finally comes up with one final (extremely twisted) plan to truly and utterly defeat his Spider-nemesis. A chilling tale with great art, this became a monumental part of DeMatteis’ comic book career (he’s revisited aspects of it a number of times in the years since).

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!


Meaningless Albert

November 21, 2011 at 8:00 pm

7 out of 10. Excellent list, excellent writer.

These are all great stories.
I might add that his and Giffen’s Dr. Fate run is criminally under-rated…

6 out of 10 for me, really like this list!

I was sort of hoping for some DeMatteis/Zeck Captain America (with Vermin, Deathlok, etc.) but not too surprised or disappointed, as there was so much great stuff to choose from.

Definitely one of my favourite writers of the 80’s.

For the record, the Dr. Fate mini-series came in at #12.

wait…..Moonshadow was #2!?! SERIOUSLY?!? This story had such a profound impact on my youth, it seemed so obvious to me it would be at the top….sigh. oh, well, good list.

An actress pretending to be Aunt May? What was that all about?

Moonshadow was #2?!?

Heroes Squared didn’t make the list?!?

Otherwise, a solid list!

Kraven’s Last Hunt was #14 on our countdown of the top 100 comic book storylines of ALL-TIME, so it is really not too surprising to see it come out on top here.

I like DeMatteis’ Realworlds:Justice League of America. As a fan of Spider-Man, I think “Krave last hunt” is one of the most overratedstories ever. Aside from the ending, it is poorly written. I love ASM 400. It’s a shame its place in history wll be always “the death of an actress pretending to be Aunt May”. stupid continuity.

The Crazed Spruce

November 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm

@Mr. M: In the issue itself, it was billed as the death of Aunt May. Only later on, it turned out that it was really an actress Norman Osborne hired to pose as Aunt May, pretty much just to screw with Spidey. The real Aunt May turned out to be his prisoner.

I’m a little surprised that “Formerly Known As the Justice League” and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League” didn’t make the cut, but all in all, good list.

Gaaah! So far there have been just two “Greatest Stories Ever Told” entries that A) I know at least ten full story arcs of to make a solid top ten list, and B) I care enough about the work to rank it, and they just happen to be the two that I didn’t see until the voting had already taken place for. (This and Matt Fraction).

Shedge and Firebringer: Surely the only reason Moonshadow is #2 is that far more people have read Kraven’s Last Hunt than Moonshadow. But Moonshadow is far and away the greatest thing DeMatteis has ever written; it’s actually my favorite graphic novel ever. It’s the kind of story that you read and think “Wow, that’s MY story!” and then you hand it to your friend, who’s lived a completely different life, and they’re like “That’s MY story!” So beautiful, so touching, so full of love and truth and wisdom.

Two major JMD favorites of mine that didn’t make the list are:

Mercy (from Epic in the late 80s), which I’d say is the most concise embodiment of JMD’s voice…

And the stellar, cut-half-way-through cosmic history of the Marvel Universe he did with Liam Sharpe back in 1998. It started out as a Man-Thing series, then moved into Strange Tales, and then when that series was prematurely cancelled after two issues (with at least two fully scripted and pencilled issues never published), they sort of prematurely capped it off as best they could with a Spectacular Spider-Man annual a few months later. Sharpe was amazing on that book too.

Brooklyn Dreams was awesome, it’s just sort of Moonshadow-but-a-bit-less-mystified-and-more-fleshed-out. But there are many specific scenes and images from that story that’ll never leave me.

I did love all of JMD’s Spidey stuff, he’s still probably my favorite Spider-Man writer, and the Justice League stuff with Giffen was fantastic, so those stories do deserve mention… but he’s got so much wonderfully imaginative, moving non-superhero stories that go deeper, they shouldn’t monopolize the list.

Blood: A Tale and Greenberg The Vampire were wonderful too although honestly it’s been so long since I read them that I can’t entirely remember why.

This list surprises me a little bit. I thought if any Captain America showed up, it would be Zeck issues, and I thought any Defenders would be from the New Defenders era with Gargoyle and the weird lineup. I also thought there would be more Justice League (No Kooey Kooey Kooey? For shame, internets!), and I held out hope that some Dr. Fate would turn up, but I figured it would be the ongoing series with McManus on art.

I had no idea any Spidey would be on here besides Kraven’s Last Hunt, and I’m unfamiliar with the other stories that are here. I might try to track them down.

Brian- Any chance that a few of these lists by particularly prolific creators like Dematteis and Ostrander that we might at least get #s11-15 revealed to us? You’ll be supporting the back issue business in the comic shops of America by doing so, I assure you!

Peter Parker says goodbye to an actress pretending to be Aunt May.”

Burn! To be fair no one knew it was an actress at the time. That was a retcon.

Instead of saying “no one knew it was an actress at the time,” it feels more appropriate to say “it wasn’t an actress at the time.” After all, it’s not like Dematteis wrote the story with it NOT being Aunt May.

Yeah, “Peter Parker says goodbye to an actress pretending to be Aunt May” makes it sound horrible. I think this is the retcon i hate the most, mainly because it basically invalidates that story and all the great moments it has (specially Aunt May revealing to Peter that she knew he was Spider-Man all along and Ben Reilly crying at May’s rooftop)

For the record, #11-15…

11. Justice League Europe #6
12. Dr. Fate mini-series
13. Cap and Deathlok (Cap #286-288, I think)
14. Justice League: The Secret Gospel of Maxwell Lord (Justice League International #8-12, I guess)
15. Cap versus Baron Zemo (Cap #275-279, I think)

As far as I’m concerned ASM 400 still stands as THE death of Aunt May no matter what happened afterwards. Like the Wedding etc…

“It’s an imaginary story but aren’t they all”

DeMatteis’s run on ASM (save from ASM 400) was a bit of a ltedown for me (I’m a Starn & Michelinie guy) but his Spectacular stuff was outstanding.

Great list !

What a range, huh?

Great list. But any list of JMD work is a great list.

Two MAJOR omissions – work that could easily bump any of the non “Kraven’s Last Hunt” mainstream Marvel books from the list, I reckon – are:

Blood: A Tale – Beautiful art from Kent Williams, and a literate, human and surreal story about love, loss and lots of other stuff. Easily comparable to Moonshadow from a similar time, but more mind-blowing, to my mind.

Greenberg The Vampire – a genuinely funny and heartfelt comic, and one of the first OGNs out of Marvel, or out of anywhere, that showed what the medium could be. Bored To Death by way of Buffy, well before either existed.

Also, I’d be sad not to find a place for Abadazad or Seekers in that list, when both are brilliant in their way, but maybe that’s just because I think the other Spidey issues are way eclipsed by Kraven’s Last Hunt, and Justice League was pretty much a continuum of Giffen and JMD awesome from 1 to somewhere a little after 38.

Blood is a nice story but for me the draw of that book is on Kent Williams’ art which is gorgeous.
But yeah, it figures that his superhero stories simply has more readers going for them than books like Blood and Moonshadow (and as such, I am pleasantly surprised the latter showed up at #2). Or Seekers or Mercy or those other books…

randypan the goatboy

November 22, 2011 at 5:55 am

Kraven’s last hunt was the first comic I ever read that made me emotional… Not that there hasn’t been great comics in the years previous to 1987. But something about this story got to me. Watching Spiderman dig himself out of his grave using mary jane as his motivation…very emotional story telling…beautiful story. It almost makes me think of the Crow movie with its dark and moody pacing. One of the best comic stories ever and in my opinion the best Spiderman story ever. Joe quesada should read this and then bring the much maligned Spiderman Mary jane marriage back with an apology and 500 sentences saying ” I WILL NEVER TOUCH SPIDERMAN AGAIN”

AMS #400 is one of my favourite Spider-Man stories of all-time, and I generally pretend that they stopped publishing Spider-Man for several years after that, then came back with JMS’s stuff and Aunt May is simply a different Aunt May… or something. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful tool.

“AMS #400 is one of my favourite Spider-Man stories of all-time, and I generally pretend that they stopped publishing Spider-Man for several years after that, then came back with JMS’s stuff and Aunt May is simply a different Aunt May… or something.”

I do the same. I still cannot understand how is possible that Marvel is reprinting the Byrne-Mackie run. Those comics are a total waste of paper and ink and I’m not sure if anyone is fond of these. ASM 400 and the story of Straczinsky wit Aunt May and Peter having the “talk” are both my favorite Aunt May stories.

Hard to disagree with such fine selections. But no Stardust Kid? Or my personal favorite, Captain America #264? Ah well!

A fine tribute to one of comicdom’s greatest writers. Still the definitive Captain America writer for me. (Finally saw the movie over this past weekend – when Stanley Tucci first showed up, I thought it was JMD for a minute. Wishful thinking, on my part, but the DeMatteis/ Zeck run is so emblazoned on my grey matter.)

I’m really surprised jl wasn’t in the number 2 spot. His JL was what brought me into the JL when I could have cared less previously. The character interaction was great. The humor was perfect. I don’t think I have ever read another big team book with it’s charisma.

Just wanted to recommend Marc’s Imagination 101 Workshop which will be in MA and other areas in 2012. A great exploration of creativity by someone who really knows all the ins-and-outs. One of the best weekends I ever spent! He’ll share details of upcoming classes on his blog, jmdematteis.com. (unsolicited testimonial).

Ahh, most of mine were in the Top 15, anyway. I had some favorite single stories that didn’t make the cut, but that’s to be expected: A Very Wrong Turn (Defenders #115); A Date with Density (Justice League America #28); Old Soldiers (Marvel Team-Up #120).

Ed (A Different One)

November 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm

For some reason, it’s easy for me to forget what a great writer DeMatteis is.

I was watching a great episode of the new Thundercats show the other day. Great emotional stuff. I turned to my wife and said, “what a great story!”.

The writer, I should not have been surprised to find out later, was Dematteis.

The man can tell a story . . .

I love Kraven’s Last Hunt. But, dammit William Blake eye and symmetry don’t rhyme.

Also, how badass was it when Spidey punched his way out of his grave?

Meaningless Albert

November 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I voted for A Date with Density too.

I would like to see a Gifffen/DeMatteis/Maguire take on the ‘big six’ JL.

I’m glad both Moonshadow & Brooklyn Dreams made the list. BD is one of my favorite comics, one of the few autobio (or semi autobio) comics I’ve read that was as entertaining as it was heartfelt. Man-Thing blew me away in the late ’90s. I’m surprised it never found the audience it deserved. I’ve only read a few DeMatteis Spectacular Spider-man issues. I hope Marvel puts out a trade or two, as I’ve always wanted to read more.

i really like just about everything on this list. The things i don’t like are things that i haven’t read…yet.

Hard to believe but DeMatteis for all his success & writing skill is underrated as a writter. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of heat to his name, but man what a writer!

i also pretend that Aunt May never came back. i worked at a comics shop during the Clone Saga, and the only book of that era from Spidey that i bought was that one.

Also, DeMatteis is my Captain America writer along with Waid. DeMatteis’ Cap made speeches & Waid’s didn’t but at their core they are very similar. Great list!

@ The Crazed Spruce: Thanks for the explanation. This was published in a time when I was turned off by a lot of comics (never really recovered!)

Has any supporting character had as many fake deaths as Aunt May?

I’ve never really gotten on the Kraven’s Last Hunt bandwagon. I don’t think it’s bad, it just didn’t strike me as being nearly as impactful and moving as most people seem to think. Capt. America 300, on the other hand, featured one of the most effective and moving character death’s I’d seen in a comic up to that point, an even more impressive feat, since the character in question was the epitome of evil. I was seriously pissed when Gruenwald brought the Skull back, the first (and only, really) time I’ve ever had that reaction to a character returning from the dead.

I agree w/ others that Moonshadow is the best collected Graphic of all time(yes, better than Watchmen).Beautiful story.Blood: A Tale is great too,but more due to the artwork.If you havent read them,FIND THEM! Surprised no ones mentioned J.M.’s Hal Jordan Spectre,great run. J.M. redeemed a character that i(along w/ one of its creators) couldnt stand thru bonding him w/ a character that had (except under Moench) been pretty 1 dimensional. Due to Moonshadow alone,J.M. is one of the best story tellers ever.

You know a writer is great when you can put up 10 great stories and people clamor to add more to the list, and those stories are all great too. Hats off to JM DeMatteis!

I love how all three of those death stories (Aunt May, Harry and Kraven) have since been undone.

Wait, did I say “love?” I meant “hate.”

I always consider (possibly unfairly) JLI more Giffen’s baby that J M Dematteis’s, so the only JLI story I voted for was the Despero story where Dematteis did some excellent dialogue at the end.

Going Sane was my #1 – I’m surprised it didn’t rate higher.

Oh and I have read Moonshadow, but it only made #5 for me – still above Kraven’s Last Hunt though.

It’s funny, I’ve read 8/10 of these as they were published and in retrospect, all except the JL ones (Giffen plotted) are the same, a LOOOOOOONG and painfully SLOOOOOOOOOW exploration of someone’s psyche with barely any action at all. As a consequence, the Ingmar Bergman of comics deeply disappointed me as a teenager. Still not convinced though :))

Great to see such underrated stories of this underrated writer made this list. The Captain America run mentioned is one of my all-time favorites. The Spectacular Spider-Man stories with Harry Osborn and Vermin really pushed the envelope in a subtle way. And kudos to the Defenders issues, which introduced the Gargoyle! Terrific list!

Solid list. They’re in the wrong order and I’m surprised Moonshadow made the cut instead of any number of better things he’s done but it’s still a solid list.

I feel like ASM#400 would be #1 if not for that stupid retcon.

Glad to see the Green Goblin stuff from spectacular on this list…As the years pass by I really think that wonderful work is being lost to many fans…I know there’s probably not a huge market for it but I would shell out the 30 bucks to get that all in hardcover form…

also this list got me to revisit my ASM 400…solid book…wish things would have stayed that way…why do comic fans fight so hard against progress?

There are so many great J.M. DeMatteis stories out there that ten just isn’t enough! J.M. is one of the very first writers I encountered when I began reading comics whose work made him an instant favorite. His runs on Captain America, Defenders, and Justice League International (and any other collaboration with Keith Giffen) have always stood out for me. Easily the most versatile writer of the last three decades.

I didn’t start reading comics because of J.M.Dematties, but his work on Spectacular Spidey and JLI hooked me into comics and I’ve been reading ever since. I owe him quite a bit of gratitude.

Is ASM #400 the one where Aunt May pointblank asks Peter how it feels to leap above the city, and, when he’s completely dumbfounded, just says something to the effect of “Of course I’ve known you’re Spider-Man for years”? Definitely one of the high points in the character’s history. Resurrecting Aunt May again after that issue was a mistake.

Glad to also see the Harry story arc placed so high in the esteem of other fans as well. That may be my favorite Spider-Man arc ever, particularly “The Child Within,” which disturbed the hell out of me as a youngster (in a good way, of course). That was probably one of the most truly mature comic book stories I’ve ever read, yet I’d not hesitate for a minute to let a 10-year-old read it.

That said, I’ve never actually read “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” since the back issues were so steep when I started reading Spider-Man. I’m going to have to get the paperback of that; I’m sick of hearing for two decades how amazing it is.

I’m glad to see in the comments that I’m not the only one that feels Kraven’s Last Hunt is a bit overrated. All I can think of is that line in Family Guy where Peter is talking about not liking The Godfather: “It insists upon itself.”

That said, maybe some of Zeck’s best work, and Spidey punching his way out of the grave is still pretty fricking cool.

Ed (A Different One)

November 29, 2011 at 6:50 am

While DeMatteis was probably the best thing going on with Spidey when he was writing Spectacular back in the early-to-mid 90’s, I had (and still have) a hard time warming up to that run because Sal Buscema’s art during that time period just did not click with me (in fact, it downright put me off).

I grit my teeth whenever I find myself saying something disparaging about one of the industry giants like Buscema – that man’s done a lot of great things in comics over the decades, but there was just something about how he drew Spectacular that overshadowed the writing (in a bad way). While I’ve always preferred John’s art overall, there is a lot of Sal’s work out there that I also like. This just wasn’t it though.

I’m sure, however, that Sal is not losing any sleep on my account . . .

Sal Buscema during the early 1990s, though, is a far cry from Sal Buscema throughout most of his career. I don’t think many folks would argue too much that Spectacular Spider-Man was far from the high point of Buscema’s career, style-wise.

Sal Buscema worked with DeMatteis as a penciler/inker, which to me was very good, and as a penciler inked by Bill Sienkiewicz. I feel that Sienkiewicz is like Klaus Janson: he has a style so defined that it is hard for him not to overcome the penciler’s work.

I like Buscema when he inks his own work (or other’s), but is hard to see Buscema through the inks of Bill Sienkiewicz.

I’m spewing I missed these columns for the month. I’m going back through the month of November to catch up!! :)

Loved the JLI despero Story and I’ve been meaning to reading Kravens last hunt.

I really enjoyed his run on Spectacular Spiderman from #241 with Luke Ross that lasted for about 15 or so issues. Thats right, the first issue after the clone saga finished!! haha…. It had lots of action and comedy and great villians, like chameleon (a personal favorite) and Green Goblin and saw him dealing with Kraven again!! The only down side, was when he left!! … which seemed to be out of the blue…. :(

Great list — I’d include his Dr Fate and Forever People stuff and of course Blood

It’s too bad most people haven’t read his Dr. Fate run. It’s probably the best run he ever did.

Well, groovy: I’ve owned all ten of these. Marvel Team-Up #110 (and ROM #24): my first two purchases. (I took money from maybe the worst possible place, to buy a comic book celebrating a Devil person, Devil Slayer, fighting a Spider God.)

His Marvel Team up stories were fantabulous, even if he was just getting his start. Remember the Reed Richards/ Spider-Man team up? That was, when I found it a couple of years after the fact, such an edgy story, my favorite Reed Richards tale. Remember all the historical figure androids in the Vision team up? They’re a loose end I believe from his Cap run, and man do I now desire about six years of Captain America, between Stern, Byrne, and DeMatteis/ Zeck, that came out back then! Frog Man and the White Rabbit suggested shades of things to come. Kooey Kooey Kooey and “A Date With Density” probably have the healthiest treasure trove of in-jokes with my best comic book friend. I wrote (and a huge gang of us recorded, in college) a political satire for radio based on Giffen/ DeMatteis in 2001; they gave us hours of laughs. This, from the Kraven suicide guy, yes! (My wife LOVES that story, too) His Spectre run with Ryan Sook was solid, too, the first Hal Jordan that really grabbed me.

I really miss my collection, though, hearing about Moonshadow. He also wrote a cool perspective on Octus in an episode of Symbionic Titan! I believe he got me to read Dostoevsky, too. I think the lovely nature of J.M.’s stories brought a lot of positive fan support to this thread. When I see he’s writing, I know it’s going to be insightful, witty, and thoughtful work.

[…] is the first issue of his fan-favorite “Six Fingered Hand” […]

JM DeMatteis, at one time, was my all time favorite comic book writer. Now, he is definitely my all time favorite Spider-Man writer. His work on Spectacular Spider-Man is amazing, coupled with Sal Buscema’s sweet art, such a great era of the title, and he got two good runs on it!

I know he is beloved for his Justice League run, and it is fun to read a lighter side of his work as Spectacular ran the gauntlet of heavy emotions.

Glad his Spider-Man work came in at three and one. Richly deserved!

I haven’t read all of the comics in this list, but currently I’m discovering his run on DEFENDERS and each issue just blows me away. While his SIX FINGERED HAND saga made the list, I find his other DEFENDERS stories to be much more poignant and thought provoking. FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS (Defenders #111), THE GIFT (Defenders #117), TWO BY TWO (Defenders #116) embedded such philosophies that stand out through time.

I’ll definitely be checking out some of the comics making this list. Thanks.

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