Scifipulse recently had the privilege of interviewing J. M. DeMatteis one of the greatest writers of comics and television of all time. DeMatteis has written arguably the greatest Spider-Man story ever told, Kraven’s Last Hunt, which he discusses fan reaction to here in this interview. Additionally, fans can purchase DeMatteis’s Spider-Man mini series, Spider-Man: The Lost Hunt from marvel.com. Moreover, DeMatteis has written for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League, Green Lantern, Mister Miracle and House of Mystery. As well as for Captain America, Doctor Strange, Conan the Barbarian and Spider-Woman. His television credits include Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Justice League Unlimited, Superboy, Teen Titans Go and DC Showcase: Death (which we reviewed ). His most recent work is available for purchase at Spellbound Comics and his latest novel, The Excavator , is available from Amazon.com. During this interview, Mr. DeMatteis talks about how the comics and TV industry has changed. As well as some common mistakes that young writers make.
SFP: What made you want to be a writer?
J. M. DeMatteis: I’ve always been creative. Spent a good part of my childhood sprawled out on the floor, drawing. Performed in rock and roll bands for years. And writing was always a part of that, too; it was something that came naturally to me. At a certain point, writing became the primary focus and that’s what I decided to pursue.
SFP: How does writing for TV differ from writing for comics?
J.M. DeMatteis: Comics—even when you’re working on classic characters like Spider-Man and Batman—allows a level of freedom, an ability to put your unique and very personal stamp on the stories. You’re generally collaborating with an editor and an artist and there’s not a lot of interference. And, of course, with creator-owned books, it’s a pure vision—just you and the artist—from the imagination to the page.
In TV and film, you have to understand that you’re part of a team. (In TV in particular, you’re dealing with a writing staff that has an entire season mapped out and, as a freelancer, you’re being hired to help them execute that very specific vision.) So I take off my “personal vision” hat and put on my “team player” hat. And that has its unique pleasures, too. I spend most of my time alone in a room with my imaginary friends, so working with people like Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, James Tucker, Jim Krieg, and all the other immensely talented writer/producers I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with has allowed for a deeply satisfying creative give and take.
SFP: Do you think that the comics and TV industries have changed since you first started out?
J. M. DeMatteis: I think storytelling styles have changed…and will always change…but the essence of a great story will always remain the same. And that essence (for me, anyway) is to create memorable characters that the readers can hook into and relate to. All the clever plotting in the world won’t help if it’s not grounded in psychologically real, relatable, characters. Those characters could be Martians or Hobbits, it doesn’t matter, but they have to be real and relatable.
SFP: What does it mean to you that your Spider-Man story, Kraven’s Last Hunt, is considered one of the best if not the best Spider-Man comic of all time?
J. M. DeMatteis: I am constantly amazed and constantly grateful. That story could just as well have vanished into the mists of time and never been heard from again. That it’s still being reprinted and discovered—I regularly hear from people who are reading it for the first time—all these years later is something I don’t take for granted.
SFP: What are some common mistakes you see young writers making?
J. M. DeMatteis: I think the biggest mistake a young writer can make is thinking they already know it all. When I started out in the business, my mantra was “The editor is always right.” Even when he or she wasn’t right, following their lead provided an opportunity to learn and grow, to challenge myself and master my craft.
I’ve sometimes encountered neo-writers who clearly don’t want to learn. What they want is to be told that their work is perfect as it is. They want validation, not education. And that’s a huge mistake.
That said, the majority of the writers I work with through my story consulting business, Creation Point, are open and eager to learn and I inevitably learn from them, as well, as we collaborate on their stories.
SFP: Your original comics Mercy and Moonshadow are very much fantasy and supernatural oriented. What is it about this genre and storytelling style that attracts you?
J. M. DeMatteis: I find those genres allow me to move into story spaces where I can explore the metaphysical, the spiritual, and ask primal questions about our lives, from the psychological to the cosmic: “Why am I here? What’s the purpose of it all? Does the universe have meaning?” etc. And those are the Big Questions that have always obsessed me and run through most of my work.
SFP: What do you think hasn’t been done in the comics medium that could be done?
J. M. DeMatteis: If I knew that, I’d be doing it!
The wonderful thing about comics is that it’s not a genre, it is a medium, which means we can tell any kind of story, in any style or genre. There’s no one set of rules for what a comic book is, it’s whatever combination of words and pictures we choose to tell our story. And the choices are limitless. In some ways, we’ve barely scratched the surface.
SFP: And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
J. M. DeMatteis: The best advice I could give to any writer—aspiring or otherwise—is simple: follow your bliss. I know we’ve all heard the old Joseph Campbell cliche a thousand times, but it’s a cliche because it’s true. Let your passion guide you and you can never go wrong. It may not lead you exactly where you want to go, but it will always lead you someplace good; and sometimes your final destination will be far better than the one you originally had in mind.
Scifipulse would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks and warmest best wishes to Mr. DeMatteis for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
The DeMultiverse is here!
The Excavator is on sale now from Neotext!
Spider-Man: The Lost Hunt is out now!
The Witness, a new novella, coming later this year!
Mr. DeMatteis’s Twitter: twitter.com/jmdematteis
His website: www.jmdematteis.com
Mr DeMatteis’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/jmdematteis
His Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jm.dematteis/
Mr DeMatteis’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/c/JMDeMatteis1
His Hive Social: Hive Social: @jmdematteis