One of the best aspects of DC’s recent push to reissue old material has been Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ Justice League International, which has now seen four hardcover collections (with the first recently released in paperback, and more of both formats to come). With the recent release of the Volume Four hardcover, I sat down with co-writer J.M. DeMatteis to do a quick interview about the experience of writing what many fans still think of as the best period in Justice League comics.
Blog@Newsarama: So the “recruitment story” has long been a Justice League standby. What motivated the “too many guys in a room to be effective” variation?
J. M. DeMatteis: It worked for the Marx Brothers, why wouldn’t it work for us? But, really, the idea was Keitho’s.
BLOG@: Is it just me, by the way, or do the badguys trying to avenge their ridiculous defeat kind of remind you of the subsection of Skrulls who, during Marvel’s Secret Invasion event, were griping about having been turned into cows?
JMD: I haven’t read Secret Invasion, but I’d gripe about being turned into a cow, too. Keith actually was turned into a cow once—by Andy Helfer—and he still hasn’t gotten over it.
BLOG@: It’s interesting that the Beetle & Booster solo story (the vampire one) in this collection is the most action-packed of the book. Obviously among the critics of your run, there are those who complained that it was too much talking, not enough punching–and meanwhile Beetle and Booster are the most representational of your book.
JMD: Action? There was action in one of our stories? How did that happen? I hope there were a lot of word balloons covering up most of the art. If there weren’t, we failed. Miserably.
BLOG@: Max reaches out to Ted mentally during this collection, and it’s the first time he uses his powers, right? It’s interesting to me, given Ted’s destiny.
JMD: Destiny? You mean getting his brains blown out by Max? Never happened. Those were evil doppelgangers and the Ted and Max we know and love are still alive in the parallel universe we saw in I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League. (Okay, so maybe I’m delusional. But I’m a writer and they pay me to be delusional. And if Bucky Barnes and Barry Allen can come back, so can Ted and Max.)
BLOG@: At this point in the series, Kevin was gone a lot–how much, if any, input did you and Giffen get into the selection process?
JMD: As I recall, Andy Helfer was the chief artist hunter, but Keith and I were certainly allowed to voice our opinions. Andy would never listen to those opinions, but we were certainly allowed to voice them.
BLOG@: Guy & Ice have their first date here–whose idea was it to put these two diametrical opposites together?
JMD: I suspect it just evolved out of the character interplay. Those JLI characters were very much alive to us, still are (in fact, J’onn J’onzz is in my office right now, with a carton of milk and a box of Oreos), and we let them lead us wherever they needed to go.
What’s that? Oh. J’onn says hi. And he wants you to know that he’s not dead, either.
BLOG@: Guy’s head trauma, Bea’s injuries–these things seem to play out in real time to heal. NOT common in superhero fiction, but Jurgens’ JLA actually carried through with it the next time Ted ended up in a coma. Was this a conscious decision?
JMD: Conscious decision? We were always flying by the seat of our pants. Most of the time I never even knew what was going to be in the next issue till Keith’s plot arrived and he never knew what I was going to do till the dialogue was finished. It’s amazing these stories ever made sense at all.
BLOG@: Black Hand! Are you guys expecting a Blackest Night bump on the sales of this HC?
JMD: You mean Black Hand is a major character now? BWAH-HA-HA-HAAAAA!!!!
BLOG@: Funny that you guys got tagged for having subpar villains in this run, but Darkseid and Black Hand are here, and they’re headliners in big event crossovers these days!
JMD: Darkseid was a major league villain from the instant he popped out of Jack Kirby’s genius imagination. Even we couldn’t ruin a character that brilliant. As for Black Hand… BWAH-HA-HA-HAAAAA!!!!