J.M. DeMatteis certainly needs no introduction, but
we'll give him one anyway. A star at Marvel
Comics for years, DeMatteis completed classic runs on
the Spider-Man books, as well as tackling Man-Thing
and Silver Surfer. Over at DC, however, is where
DeMatteis made his other big mark, on both Superman
and a Justice League book with collaborator Keith
Giffen, among many other projects. It is the
latter achievement that is most applicable for today's
interview, as DC has announced that both creators will
once again be joining forces for a brand new League
miniseries entitled, Formally Known as the Justice
League. See, the humor is still there.
Now let Slush hold your hand as we delve into the
mind of J.M. DeMatteis. We'll talk the League, Spider-Man, G'Nort, handlebar moustaches, and much, much more.
Dan Epstein: What made you and Keith Giffen decide
to do another Justice League book?
JM DeMatteis: Well, itís come up a few times over
the years but I donít know the actual
behind-the-scenes shenanigans. I had fun working with
Keith, so my feeling was that doing something else
would be fun and if it happened, great. This time Dan
Raspler [DC Group Editor] said that DC would really do
it. I donít know if there was big melodrama or not.
For me, they asked if I wanted to do another project
with Keith so I said, sure [laughs].
DE: Keith Giffen used to only plot his stories but
he moved on to writing in the early 1990ís. Why isnít
he writing this?
JD: I think because he wanted to get back to what
we used to do together. It was a very unique
collaboration in my many years of doing comics. We --
and in that ďweĒ I have to include our editor,
Andy Helfer -- created the feeling of that book
together. That said, I have to give the lionís share
of the credit to Keith and Andy because theyíre the
ones who really put the book together and decided on
the tone and direction. I came later, responded to
what theyíd done, and then made my contribution.
DE: How about short plot description of the new Justice
DE: Really short?
JD: Well, itís a lot of the old characters from
way back when in a new context. Itís five years
after our League. Maxwell Lord brings them back to
make them sort of populist heroes. Like
1-800-dial-a-superhero. You canít pick up the phone
and call the JLA, but you can call up our guys. The
characters have gone through their changes. But to me
whatever changes they have gone through, itís still
the same old idiocy weíve all come to know and love.
Iím only halfway through the first issue but itís
almost weird how quickly the old rhythms asserted
themselves. Suddenly Iím filling up more pages than
I ever would in any other book.
DE: Are you getting Bob Lappan to letter it again?
JD: Heís the only one who could fit it all in!
Whenever we had another letterer besides Bob, Andy
would have to have edit the scripts more. I just have
no sense of control when I work on these stories with
Keith. He sets up the character bits and the plot
structure and then I just take the script and go
crazy. I just go off at the mouth and do my vaudeville
It is fun but itís also bizarre coming back after
ten years.. Part of me thinks itís weird that weíre
doing it. Like itís part of this 1980ís nostalgia
boom. Itís like watching a really bad Facts Of
Life reunion movie and for the most part these
reunion things wind up pretty embarrassing. I keep
hoping Iím not in a bad reunion movie.
DE: That could be a joke for the series.
JD: I hadnít thought about it but Iím sure it
will get in there now.
In the first issue, itís just Maxwell Lord kind
of going to them individually and trying to convince
them to do this. So they donít really come together
until the second issue.
DE: Is Batman in the book?
JD: We will see the current day JLA in one of the
issues. But he canít be in it because heís in the
current League and heís busy being Batman. So heís
not going to join this storefront group. Keithís
brilliant idea is their name; it wonít be the cover
name but in the context of the book the name will be
The Superfriends. We got permission to use the
Superfriends logo from the cartoon show. My main
concern with this book is having fun. That was always
my criteria with the Justice League.
When I first started on the book years ago, I
almost quit after a few issues because it was too
easy. I was on the fourth or fifth issue. I figured I
should be sweating over it, it should be art -- but I
suddenly realized that I was having great fun and they
paid me nicely. What was I complaining about? And of
course it went on to be one of my favorite all-time
DE: You got Kevin Maguire again to pencil right?
JD: Yes, and Joe Rubinstein will be inking again.
So itís going to look really good. Someone from some
website or magazine asked me, ďWhat do you think the
contribution of this book will be to this industryĒ
and I said, ďNone I hope!Ē [laughs]. This is not
going to Change The Face Of Comics but itís going to
DE: That person never read the book.
JD: But yíknow when it came out originally it did
have a ripple effect on the industry because it was so
different from anything else going on then with
superheroes. We were never in it to make a statement
or anything, though. It was nice to go to a place
where I could leave the statements behind and get
goofy. These characters have always felt more real to
me than most of the other superheroes out there with
their angst and breast beating. Of course this is
coming from a guy whoís spent most of his career
doing angst and breast beating. But our Justice League
always reminded me of real people that I knew growing
up, hanging out with my friends in Brooklyn and
goofing on each other. To me, they are far more
realistic -- at least within the parameters of their
weird little world -- than most superheroes.
DE: When you and Keith started were you worried
about doing a humor book?
JD: The fun of this book for me is that I was
always on the tail end of things. They handed the
plots to me, I did whatever the hell I wanted and
handed it back. Andy and Keith might have worried
about that stuff. But within an issue there was no
question because it was a hit. It used to bother other
creators because when their characters would appear in
our book, they would freak out about what we did with
them. Keith would go tell Paul Levitz, ďLook, when
they appear in our book weíre going to twist them
all out of shape, but I promise to put them back at
the end.Ē I always liked half those characters
better in our book anyway.
DE: So how did you first meet Keith Giffen?
JD: Well, I met him just through working at DC
Comics. Before we did Justice League we worked
on a Dr. Fate mini-series together. I wrote and he
penciled. Even then, he was always adding interesting
things to the plot.
Then Andy got stuck because Gerry Conway had left
the old Justice League series...which was
coming to an end. So Andy needed someone to do the
last four or five issues. So I wrote those last
issues...which, frankly, were nothing special. When
the new League started up, Keith didnít feel
confident in himself as a writer and he wanted someone
to dialogue. Actually, he had written the first issue
of the new book and hadnít liked it. So I went in
and rewrote what he had written.
I think he was always more-than capable of writing
but never had the confidence. We didnít realize that
this chemical reaction [laughs] would happen between
us. Iíd co-plotted with people but I had never
co-written with anyone. Almost immediately we trusted
each other. Keith would lay out the book, set up the
situations and wonderful jokes but I was totally free
to do whatever I wanted. Keith has no ego with this
stuff and weíre working the same way with the new
There are times when I would stay really close
to what Keith wrote in the plot and there are other
times when I just went off and wrote something totally
different and neither one of us cared. We respect one
another. Itís not like we pal around with one
another. But on a creative level we did pal around in
the best sense. We did so much work together for five
years. Justice League, Justice League Europe
and those 80 page quarterlies. I finally freaked out
and got off Justice League Europe but Keith
kept piling it on himself.
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