DeMatteis, J.M. 1953- (John Marc DeMatteis)
DeMatteis, J.M. 1953- (John Marc DeMatteis)
Born December 15, 1953, in Brooklyn, NY; married; children: one son, one daughter. Religion: Hindu. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, playing guitar and piano, spending time with family.
Home—Upstate New York.
Comic-book writer and musician. Formerly worked as a music critic; DC Comics, New York, NY, writer, c. 1970s, late 1980s-91; Marvel Comics, New York, NY, writer for The Defenders and Captain America series, 1980s, c. 1991—. Musician, performing on How Many Lifetimes?, produced 1997.
American Library Association Ten Best Graphic Novels designation, for Brooklyn Dreams; Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication (with others), 2004, for Formerly Known as the Justice League.
Greenberg the Vampire, illustrated by Mark Badger, Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1986.
Stan Lee Presents Spider Man: Fearful Symmetry—Kraven's Last Hunt (originally published in comic-book format), illustrated by Mike Zeck and others, Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1989.
Moonshadow (originally published in comic-book format), illustrated by Jon J. Muth and others, Marvel/Epic Comics (New York, NY), 1989, published as The Compleat Moonshadow, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.
Blood (originally published in comic-book format), illustrated by Kent Williams, Marvel/Epic Comics (New York, NY), 1989, reprinted, 2004.
(With Keith Giffen) Justice League International: The Secret Gospel of Maxwell Lord, illustrated by Bill Willingham and others, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1992.
Mercy, illustrated by Paul Johnson, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1993.
Brooklyn Dreams (originally published in comic-book format by Paradox, 1994-95), illustrated by Glenn Barr, Vertigo/DC Comics (New York, NY), 2003.
(With Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh) Wings, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2001.
Green Lantern: Willworld, illustrated by Seth Fisher, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2001.
Batman: Absolution, illustrated by Brian Ashmore, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Phil Jimenez and Joe Kelly) Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost (originally published in comic-book format), illustrated by Jimenez and others, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2002.
(With others) Superman: President Lex, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2003.
(With Keith Giffen) Formerly Known as the Justice League (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Keith Giffen) I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 2005.
"ABADAZAD" GRAPHIC-NOVEL SERIES; FOR CHILDREN
The Road to Inconceivable (originally published in comic-book form by CrossGen), illustrated by Mike Ploog, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2006.
The Dream Thief (originally published in comic-book form by CrossGen), illustrated by Mike Ploog, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2006.
The Puppet, the Professor, and the Prophet (originally published in comic-book form by CrossGen), illustrated by Mike Ploog, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2007.
Author of original comic-book series "Abadazad" (also see below), illustrated by Mike Ploog, CrossGen, 2004; and Stardust Kid, illustrated by Mike Ploog, Boom! Studios, 2005. Author, with Keith Giffen, of comic-book series Hero Squared, for Atomeka Press, and Planetary Brigade for Boom! Studios, 2006. Author of graphic miniseries Into Shambhala, 1986; Farewell, The Last One, and Seekers into the Mystery. Writer for ongoing comic-book series, including The Amazing Spider-Man, The Defenders, Superman, Captain America, Justice League, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Man-Thing, The Silver Surfer, Wonder Woman, Doctor Fate, Spectre, and Batman.
Also author of episodes for television series, including The Twilight Zone, The Adventures of Superboy, Earth: Final Conflict, The Real Ghostbusters, Justice League Unlimited, and Legion of Super-Heroes. Also author of unproduced screenplays and of installments in Justice League (animated television program), for Cartoon Network. Contributor of reviews to periodicals, including Rolling Stone.
Considered among the most versatile writers working in contemporary comics, J.M. DeMatteis is noted for creating compelling characters and plots involving complex themes. Starting as a music critic, the Brooklyn-born DeMatteis moved into writing for comic books in the late 1970s. In the years since, he has contributed to numerous well-known comic-book series as well as creating acclaimed original stories that have been published in graphic-novel format. In his work for well-known publishers DC Comics and Marvel Comics, he has made his creative mark on such series as The Defenders, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and the superhero spoof Justice League International, while in Brooklyn Dreams, Moonshadow, and Abadazad he presents original stories that appeal to both teens and adult fans of the graphic-novel medium. He has also worked for
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indie comics publishers such as Boom! Studios, which began publishing DeMatteis' children's comic Stardust Kid in 2005.
DeMatteis played a significant role in founding DC's Vertigo imprint, which began publishing horror comics during the 1970s. He then went on to collaborate with artist Mike Zeck on Marvel's Captain America series, as well as on "Kraven's Last Hunt," a story arc that ran in the Spider-Man series before appearing in graphic-novel format as 1989's Stan Lee Presents Spider Man: Fearful Symmetry—Kraven's Last Hunt. DeMatteis also worked with artist Jon J. Muth to produce Moonshadow, a work published in book form by Marvel that was noted for being the first fully painted comic series.
Remaining with Marvel throughout much of the 1980s, DeMatteis followed Moonshadow with Blood: A Tale, a vampire story with mythic undertones that features art by Kent Williams. Returning to DC by the time Blood hit bookstores, he took over the reins of the long-running Justice League of America superhero saga. When characters from that series, such as G'nort, Mr. Nebula, and Mister Miracle, were recast in the more-humorous Justice League International, he worked with coauthor Keith Giffen on developing both the series and its various spin-offs. In 2003 DeMatteis joined with Giffen to receive an Eisner award recognizing the story arc published in book form as Formerly Known as the Justice League. After five years, he returned to Marvel and shepherded the Spider-Man series down a darker path in story arcs such as "The Child Within," working with artist Sal Buscema.
In DeMatteis' autobiographical miniseries Brooklyn Dreams, a collaboration with artist Glenn Bart that was issued by DC Comics in 1994, forty-something narrator Carl Santini looks back on his high-school years in the late 1960s. Issues in the teen's tumultuous multicultural family, his questions of faith, his friendships, experimental drug use, and romantic entanglements highlight his memoir, bubbling to the story's surface in the form of what Booklist contributor Ray Olson described as "richly detailed" and humorous "digressions." Against Santini's teen reality is the narrator's memory of meeting with his guardian angel, a scruffy, stray hound, and this memory also resonates throughout DeMatteis's story. Praising Brooklyn Dreams as "a classic of the [comic-book] form," Olson deemed the work "as graphically distinguished and creatively novelistic a graphic novel as has ever been." In Publishers Weekly a critic called DeMatteis' tale "hypnotic," adding that Barr's illustrations follow "the plot's twists, … captur[ing] … the wild enthusiasms and fears of Carl's world." First published by DC Comics' Paradox Press imprint, Brooklyn Dreams was reissued in one volume by Vertigo in 2003.
In 2004 DeMatteis teamed with veteran British artist Mike Ploog to create "Abadazad," a fantasy comic published by Florida-based publisher CrossGen. Two installments appeared in soft-cover editions before CrossGen went bankrupt, leaving both author and illustrator in a quandary. Fortunately, the series was acquired by Walt Disney Corporation, and the media giant allowed DeMatteis and Ploog to return to the proverbial drawing table and reconfigure their story as a hybrid melding picture book and comic book. The "Abadazad" series resurfaced in 2006 as the illustrated novels The Road to Inconceivable, The Dream Thief, and The Puppet, the Professor, and the Prophet. The saga is an amalgam of The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and the Arabian Nights, with nine-year-old Katie Jameson its Shaharazad. In the story, Katie is a fan of the book series "Martha in Abadazad," and she shares these books with her younger brother Matt. The two have a close relationship until Matt mysteriously vanishes while on a ride at a local carnival. Guilt over Matt's fate transforms Katie's nature, and by her early teens she has be- come glum and taciturn. A meeting with a quirky neighbor who claims that Martha's Abadazadian adventures were, in fact, real rekindles Katie's fascination with the fantasy world. When the woman provides the teen with the means by which she can enter Abadazad, fourteen-year-old Katie willingly takes a chance, propelled by the belief that there she will discover Matt's fate. Discussing the initial comic-book version of the saga in a Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction review, Charles De Lint noted that "Abadazad" is engaging due to DeMatteis' "inventiveness" and "attention to real world detail and problems [which] … slightly subvert everything in the magical land." Calling the series "kid-friendly," De Lint also noted that DeMatteis' story contains "enough meat and sly asides and bits of humor that adults will enjoy it as well."
The "Abadazad" saga's first book-length installment, The Road to Inconceivable, follows Katie into the fantasy world, where the Brooklyn teen confirms that Matt
is being held hostage there. DeMatteis' text is multilevel; it alternates between Katie's diary entries and the overarching story line and is cemented by Ploog's animé-style art. Although her search proves fruitless, by the end of the book Katie has started down the path she will follow in The Dream Thief. Helped by the benevolent Little Martha in the saga's second installment, the teen learns that her little brother is being held captive by the sinister Lanky Man. While Sharon R. Pearce wrote in School Library Journal that the format of the "Abadazad" books might be "too confusing" for some readers, a Publishers Weekly reviewer maintained that the series "expertly blends art and text" and "Katie's emotionally messy but honest diary" is enhanced by Ploog's "deft brushwork." Writing that the book's "black-and-white art is an appealing mix of realism and exaggeration," Jesse Karp added in Booklist that DeMatteis' heroine "makes the story shine," resulting in a "thoughtful read with surprising psychological nuance."
Discussing his "Abadazad" series with Mike Jozic in an online interview for Silver Bullet Comics, DeMatteis noted: "When I look at fantasy books I've enjoyed—from Alice in Wonderland to Oz, from [J.M.M.] Tolkien to Ray Bradbury—I think it comes down to one essential ingredient: the sense of wonder. Whether you're seven years old or a jaded adult, if your sense of wonder is blown open, if you're drawn into a world that intrigues and excites you and if you believe in that world, then the story is going to appeal. Which is why the best fantasy seems to work on so many levels, for so many age groups." Noting the growing popularity of the fantasy genre in the wake of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" books, DeMatteis told Comicon.com interviewer Jennifer M. Contino that when an idea for a story comes to mind, "I have to trust it … let it lead me on a journey … and reveal the events, and the characters, to me as we go along." According to DeMatteis, "writing is ultimately an act of channeling: it's as if you're opening yourself up to—and transcribing the events in—a world that ALREADY EXISTS. A writer's job … is to honor that world and represent it as faithfully as possible. I think if you can do that, your story … and your characters … will have uniqueness and life."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 2003, Ray Olson, review of Brooklyn Dreams, p. 1855; July 1, 2006, Jesse Karp, review of The Road to Inconceivable, p. 55.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of The Road to Inconceivable, p. 516.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September, 2004, Charles De Lint, review of Abadazad, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, September 29, 2003, review of Superman: President Lex, p. 45; August 11, 2003, review of Brooklyn Dreams, p. 259; June 12, 2005, review of The Road to Inconceivable, p. 53.
School Library Journal, November, 2006, Sharon R. Pearce, review of The Road to Inconceivable and The Dream Thief, p. 166.
Wilson Library Bulletin, October, 1993, review of Moonshadow, p. 136.
ComicFanatic.com, http://www.comicfanatic.com/ (December 9, 2004), interview with DeMatteis.
Comicon.com,http://www.comicon.com/ (May 5, 2005), Jennifer M. Contino, interview with DeMatteis.
Silver Bullet Comics Web site,http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/ (January 14, 2004), Mike Jozic, interview with DeMatteis.