Interview With J.M. DeMatteis
(February 1998)

J.M. DeMatteis, the current writer of Man-Thing, Silver Surfer and Spectacular Spider-Man, wrote DD #344-350. I asked him some questions about his short stint on the comic and the screenplay he wrote for the DD movie.

Kuljit Mithra: What kind of jobs did you have before you entered the comic industry?

J.M. DeMatteis: I was a working musician, performing in rock and roll bands and as a solo musician...and I was also a rock and roll journalist, writing reviews and doing interviews for a variety of rock music publications.

Mithra: How did you get started in the comics industry?

DeMatteis: Just kept submitting material till someone bought something. My first actual comics work was sold to Paul Levitz, who was editing DC's mystery line (House of Mystery, Weird War Tales, etc.). Before that, through the help of a friend who worked at Marvel, I had sold a few pieces to Marvel's Mad magazine knock- off Crazy. But it didn't exactly ignite my career. I went through quite a few rejections at DC before I started selling to them regularly. From there I jumped over to Marvel and the rest...is a career.

Mithra: What are some of the titles you have worked on, and which one do you think shows your best work?

DeMatteis: I've been doing this full-time for nearly nineteen years (!) so there's a lot of junk and, happily, some great stuff to choose from. My all-time favorites, in no particular order:

1) Moonshadow (and its sequel, Farewell, Moonshadow)
2) Dr. Fate
3) Blood: A Tale
4) Seekers Into The Mystery
5) A variety of Spider-Man tales: Kraven's Last Hunt, Soul of the Hunter, Spectacular Spider-Man #200, Amazing Spider-Man #400, Spider-Man: The Lost Years.
6) Brooklyn Dreams
7) The Gargoyle
8) Mercy
9) Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa
10) Greenberg, the Vampire
11) "Going Sane" which ran in Legends of the Dark Knight
12) And all that crazy Justice League stuff!

Right now I'm really enjoying Man-Thing, with Liam Sharp and editor Mark Bernardo. I have a feeling that, given some time, it'll be joining the above list.

Mithra: Is there a title or character that you haven't written that you hope you could write one day?

DeMatteis: I've had a crack at almost every character I'm enamored of. But I wouldn't mind doing some work on Superman or the Fantastic Four.

Mithra: How did your Daredevil stint happen?

DeMatteis: Bobbie Chase asked me to take over the book -- and I accepted.

Mithra: What was your take on the character on that time?

DeMatteis: What I liked -- and still like -- about Daredevil is his passion. He's a profoundly emotional, spiritual, and psychologically layered character. What I was hoping to do with my run (which was cut short after a disagreement with the editor over the book's tone and direction) was find a balance between the grim DD of the Miller years -- and the lighter DD of earlier years. Without sacrificing the strengths of either interpretation.

Mithra: Was the 'Jack Batlin' identity something you were consciously trying to 'fix'?

DeMatteis: Yes. Everyone was agreed that it was time to move away from that and put Matt Murdock back in the spotlight.

Mithra: Was there a plan on putting DD back in his yellow costume for good? Which costume do you think is the best one?

DeMatteis: My intention was to have DD in the yellow costume for quite a while -- as a sort of statement about the new direction. In fact, my plot for my final issue of Daredevil (which I only partially scripted) HAD him in the yellow costume. If you look at the issue, I think he's colored BOTH WAYS!

Mithra: What was the Sir character based on?

DeMatteis: Just an idea of doing another split psyche to mirror Matt's split psyche.

Mithra: How was it working with Ron Wagner and Cary Nord?

DeMatteis: Both are very talented artists who did first-rate work on the book. But I don't think we ever achieved that magical writer-artist chemistry that really makes a series. You can have a terrific writer and a terrific artist on a book, but if that ineffable CLICK doesn't happen -- there's nothing you can do about it.

Mithra: In one of your issues, Sister Maggie makes an appearance. You give the impression that Maggie is in some way involved with Matt's past, but you don't come right out and say she is Matt's mother. Every DD fan pretty much believes she is, but I'm wondering why DD writers never have flat out said it...

DeMatteis: I was told, by my editor, that I shouldn't directly address this issue, so I didn't.

Mithra: Is it true you are writing a Daredevil movie script? If so, can you tell me anything about the story?

DeMatteis: The DD movie is in limbo right now, for reasons too complex to detail here. But I was hired by Chris Columbus to rewrite the earlier scripts. (Which were quite good, by the way.) My story -- worked out with terrific input from Chris, his producing partners, and director Carlo Carlei --had Daredevil, Elektra, Bullseye, and the Kingpin in it. It was very true to the comic -- and yet, I think, would have been extrememly accesible to general audiences. It was a very honest, emotional story...free of the campy baggage of recent Batman films. It was a sort of super-heroic "Godfather" saga. Deep characters, a great love story, and lots of action.

Hollywood being Hollywood, this may still see the light of day -- or someone else might be writing a Daredevil screenplay right now.

And that's that!

All the best...

JMD

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(c) Kuljit Mithra 1998
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
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