John Marc DeMatteis
WRITER OF COMIC BOOKS
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Sunday, October 24, 2010
The Man Behind the Magician: Meher Baba and His Influence On The Works of J.M. DeMatties
Does the man in the picture to your left look familiar to you?
If you've read J. M. DeMatteis' Dr. Fate or Seekers Into The Mystery he should.
In the former, he shows up as the Guide, a.k.a. the Old Man, who leads the souls of Eric and Linda Strauss to their ultimate destiny. In Seekers, he is seen in the form of the Magician, the enigmatic guru who holds the key to Lukas Hart's redemption.
In real life, he was Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual leader who believed himself to be the latest manifestation of the Avatar, or the incarnation of God in human form. According to Baba, the Avatar shows up on Earth every 700 to 1400 years or so and past incarnations have included Jesus, the Buddha and Muhammed. Baba taught that all major religions were equally true and valid and that the true path to salvation was faith and devotion to God. As the article "Who Is Meher Baba" from the web-site The New Humanity Times states it, "To truly love God requires that we love and embrace everyone and everything as a dimension of God."
The influence of Baba's teachings are obvious in most of J.M. DeMatteis' work, and in Dr. Fate and Seekers Into The Mystery he makes it explicit. Both works concern the evolution and perfection of the human soul through reincarnation and both feature Baba as a character in the story.
At the end of his Dr. Fate run, in his farewell message on the letters page of #24, J.M. DeMatteis sums up the philosophy behind the story and essentially dedicates the tale to Meher Baba:
In a comics universe that seems to be getting progressively more cynical and down beat, we tried to do stories that looked the darkness square in the face and said, "No. This life is worth living, this world is a rare and wonderful place, and the God that rules over it is compassionate, loving, and sitting on a throne in our very hearts." That vision would not have been possible without the love and guidance of Avatar Mehar Baba. Jai Baba!
You know, I may not buy into the stuff he says about God, but there's certainly something to be said for the notion that not all
super-hero comics have to be dark, cynical and downbeat, or, as they were often referred to in the 80's and 90's, "grim and gritty." Look it up in your thesaurus; "violence" and "pessimism"
are not synonyms for "realism." The idea of embracing your fellow humans with love and respect, God or no God, appeals to me as well, despite the way I behave and the things I say
You'll notice as you read Dr. Fate and Seekers Into The Mystery that the Guide/Magician never speaks. That seems to be a reflection of the vow of silence Meher Baba took in real life and stuck to for nearly half a century. From July 10, 1925 to his death in 1969, he reportedly spoke not one word, communicating instead through writing and gestures. His silence was supposedly part of what he termed his "universal work." In his own words, "Because man been deaf to the principles and precepts laid down by God in the past...I observe silence."
In recognition of this, many of Meher Baba's followers, including DeMatteis, observe Silence Day every July 10.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
J. M. DeMatteis's earliest aspirations were to be a rock musician and comic book
artist. He began playing in bands starting in the sixth grade, generally in the role of lead singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist, and also wrote music reviews for a number of publications. He began drawing at a young age, and was
accepted into the School of the Visual Arts. DeMatteis recalled, "...for some
reason, I think it was financial, I ended up not going. Somewhere after that what little drawing skills I had began to atrophy."
DeMatteis then turned from drawing to writing. He got his start in comic books at
DC Comics in the late 1970s. After a number of rejected submissions, his first accepted story was "The Lady-Killer Craves Blood", but it would not be published until
years later, in House of Mystery #282. His first published story for the company was "The Blood Boat!" in Weird War
Tales #70 (Dec. 1978). He contributed to the company's line of
horror comics notably with the creation of the Creature Commandos in Weird War Tales #93 (Nov.
1980) and I…Vampire
in House of Mystery #290 (March 1981). He briefly wrote the Aquaman
feature in Adventure Comics as well. DeMatteis and artist Brian Bolland produced a backup story titled "Falling Down to Heaven" in
Madame Xanadu, DC's first attempt at marketing comics specifically to the "direct market" of
fans and collectors. Dematteis had long been eager to work for Marvel Comics, and following roughly a year in which editor-in-chief Jim Shooter kept him busy with odd jobs and fill-ins, in 1980 he began writing for Marvel on The Defenders, and had lengthy runs on Captain America, paired with penciler Mike Zeck and Marvel
After writing a negative review of the Grateful Dead's
1980 album Go to Heaven which was published in Rolling Stone, DeMatteis ended his career as a music critic. He
explained, "Grateful Dead fans are like hardcore comic book fans, you know... and I know that when I sit down to write a review that I'm just some shmuck sitting down at a typewriter with an
opinion - but then it's in print in something like Rolling Stone. I got all these letters, which I saved, from all these hardcore Grateful Dead fans - wounded. ... I said if I'm gonna
review at all I'm not gonna write negative reviews anymore..." Around this time he also
surrendered his professional career as a rock musician, after years of playing in New York City-based bands.
In 1984, DeMatteis and artist Bob Budiansky
produced a Prince Namor limited series. DeMatteis and illustrator Jon J. Muth created the graphic novel Moonshadow, for Marvel's Epic line: the groundbreaking story was the first fully painted series in
American comics. DeMatteis followed this with the 1986 Doctor Strange graphic novel Into Shamballa drawn by
Dan Green and Blood: A Tale, a hallucinatory vampire story drawn by Kent Williams. In 1987, DeMatteis and Zeck
re-teamed for the "Kraven's Last Hunt" arc that ran throughout Marvel's then three
Spider-Man titles. The arc has been collected in multiple editions and remains one of the most popular, and respected, stories in Spider-Man's history.
Moving back to DC, DeMatteis succeeded Gerry Conway as writer of the superhero-team title Justice League of America. When that series was cancelled in the wake of the company-wide crossover Legends, DeMatteis stayed through its relaunch as Justice League International, scripting over the plots of Keith Giffen.
JLI took such lesser-known DC characters as Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold,
Mister Miracle, Captain Atom, and Power Girl and turned
the then-current preoccupation with "grim 'n' gritty" superheroes on its head. The lighthearted series emphasized the absurd aspects of people with strange powers, wearing colorful costumes,
volunteering to fight evildoers. While the League had its serious side and often faced world-threatening villains, it also featured such characters as the lovably inept
G'Nort, the worst Green Lantern in the Corps; Mr. Nebula, the
interplanetary decorator; the Injustice League, a bunch of bumbling losers; and a flock of homicidal
penguins who had been hybridized with piranhas. The success of Justice League International led to a spinoff in
1989 titled Justice League Europe also co-written with Giffen and featuring
art by Bart Sears.
The Giffen/DeMatteis team worked on Justice League for five years and closed
out their run with the "Breakdowns" storyline in 1991 and 1992. DeMatteis scripted Justice
League spin-offs such as solo series for Mister Miracle and Doctor Fate.
Back at Marvel, DeMatteis again succeeded Conway, this time as writer of
The Spectacular Spider-Man in 1991, taking the series in a
grimmer, more psychologically oriented direction. In collaboration with regular artist Sal Buscema, DeMatteis' story arc "The Child Within" (#178-184) featured the
return of the Harry Osborn Green Goblin. Spider-Man's battle with the Goblin continued in "The Osborn Legacy" in #189 and came to an end when Harry died in "The Best Of Enemies!" (#200).
In 1994, DeMatteis took over from David Michelinie as writer of The Amazing Spider-Man #390-406 for a run that included the apparent death of Peter Parker's Aunt May and the beginnings of the "Clone Saga" arc. DeMatteis as well worked on such characters as Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Man-Thing, and the Silver Surfer.
DeMatteis' story "The Awakened" for the 1997 Silver Surfer annual presented the reader with an ethical challenge on the order of the biblical Abraham and Isaac story, as the surfer is challenged by the god-like being Scrier to abduct the child of heroin addicted mother in inner city Chicago.
DeMatteis helped launch DC's mature-audience Vertigo imprint, writing the graphic novels Mercy and Farewell, Moonshadow (a sequel to the Epic Comics series), the miniseries The Last One, and the 15-issue series Seekers Into The Mystery, the story of a Hollywood screenwriter on a journey of self-discovery and the search for universal truths.
DeMatteis wrote an autobiographical, digest-sized miniseries Brooklyn Dreams, published by DC's Paradox Press imprint. DeMatteis' most personal work, it was later collected in one volume under the Vertigo imprint.
In the 2000s, DeMatteis redefined the Spectre, through the character of Hal Jordan, as a spirit of redemption rather than of vengeance. DeMatteis co-scripted the "Gods of Gotham" storyline in Wonder Woman #164-166 (Jan-March 2001) with Phil Jimenez. In 2003, with Giffen, he revived the Justice League International for the mini-series Formerly Known as the Justice League. The series won Giffen, DeMatteis and artist Kevin Maguire an Eisner Award. The team followed this with "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League" arc in JLA Classified and, at Marvel, a five-issue run of The Defenders. In 2006, DeMatteis and Giffen began work on two original superhero comedy series, Hero Squared and Planetary Brigade for Boom! Studios. DeMatteis teamed with veteran artist Mike Ploog to create the CrossGen fantasy comic Abadazad (May 2004). The following year, Ploog and DeMatteis announced they were collaborating on a five-issue miniseries, Stardust Kid, from the Image Comics imprint Desperado Publishing. The series moved to Boom! Studios in 2006.
The Walt Disney corporation acquired Abadazad for its Hyperion Books for Children imprint. The first two books in the series — Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable and Abadazad: The Dream Thief — were released June 2006. The third book — Abadazad: The Puppet, The Professor and The Prophet — was released in the United Kingdom in 2007.
In 2008, DeMatteis became editor-in-chief of Ardden Entertainment, guiding the launch of a new Flash Gordon comic book series. In 2009, he wrote a five-issue comic book limited series, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro, The Life and Times of Savior 28, which was released by IDW Publishing in 2009. He also wrote the Metal Men back-up story in the new Doom Patrol  and returned to Marvel Comics for a number of new Spider-Man stories. In 2010, DeMatteis reunited once again with frequent collaborator Keith Giffen for a run on the comic book series Booster Gold. The two teamed on the DC Retroactive: JLA - The '90s one-shot in October 2011. Also in 2011, DeMatteis created the all-ages fantasy, The Adventures of Augusta Wind for IDW Publishing. In 2013, he took over DC Comics' Phantom Stranger and launched the ongoing Larfleeze series with Giffen. DeMatteis became the writer of Justice League Dark in October 2013 and, again with Giffen, is launching Justice League 3000 in December.
In June 2010 DeMatteis's children's fantasy novel, Imaginalis, was published
by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.
DeMatteis has also written for television, having scripted episodes of the 1980s incarnation of The Twilight Zone, the syndicated series The Adventures of Superboy and Earth: Final Conflict, as well as for the animated series The Real Ghostbusters, Justice League Unlimited, Legion of Super-Heroes, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Sym-Bionic Titan, ThunderCats and Teen Titans Go!
Also a musician, DeMatteis released one album in the late 1990s, How Many Lifetimes?.