[UPDATE: I began responding to reader comments, and when my comment block started filling with text I decided instead to put it up top here. For about two seconds I felt really bad about Aaron Poehler's insinuation that I was asking stupid, shallow questions--but then I remembered the function this column serves and wanted to really explore that a little in this space.]
I see this column (and the similar work I’ve done with Savage Dragon, Young Liars, Echo and The Life and Times of Savior 28) as a kind of running commentary for the individual issues, not unlike what you get on a DVD. Occasionally, especially around big, landmark issues, the commentary might reach out into the deeper, more profound and important thematic elements of the series–but for the most part this is a visceral, immediate opportunity for me to ask the questions that occur to me about the issue and for the writers to clarify some points, tease some upcoming beats and elaborate on where an individual issue falls in the grand scheme of the title and the character’s history.
Honestly, the “director’s commentary” nature of The Gold Exchange column doesn’t always allow or demand a lot of answers from the subject or for me to be too very clever. I used to be a lot more in-depth and analytical when doing commentaries for the trades, but DC recently stopped providing me comp copies and so I now tend to pick them up whenever I pick them up, rendering those interviews rather moot.
A source of real frustration, if there is one, when dealing with DeMatteis isn’t what he won’t or can’t answer but what he doesn’t know. Because his scripts happen over Keith’s outlines, he’s often only an issue or two ahead of us (if that). It makes for a strange and exciting writing process for him, but it also makes it harder for the pair of us to look at the long-term ramifications of the individual issues and to assess where any 21-page tale might play into the grander scheme. Additionally, the Giffen/DeMatteis team have a lot less affection for subtle references, in-jokes and continuity porn than the Johns/Katz/Jurgens/Rapmund gang did. It makes the commentary-track nature of these things come off a little flat at times, I think, because we’re more used to Jurgens, who has a Grand Master Plan in place for Booster. Honestly I think the biggest issue at play is that DeMatteis doesn’t have a ton to say about Booster that isn’t there on the page…and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
Certainly there is an element of showing a creator the respect he’s due, too. I try to broach topics like a silly, campy villain in Hit Point in such a way that it doesn’t alienate J.M., make him feel attacked or hurt. Because frankly you never can be certain when someone’s writing is intentionally or unintentionally campy. And the recurring, monthly nature of this column means that the writers’ feelings are something I have to consider. I can’t just say whatever I want or ask whatever I want in the service of a single story. And while DeMatteis and I get along very well, I’ve been friends with Jurgens for ten years (I met him over the phone for the first time on the very first day of my internship at the late Wizard magazine in 1999). Every so often I’ll say that something in the art reminds me of some old story from the ’80s or something and instead of engaging, J.M. will ask, “Can we remove that? I don’t want the artists to misinterpret it as a dig.” That wouldn’t ever happen with Jurgens because over the course of the time we’ve known each other I think I can safely say that he’s learned the strange way that my brain works to some degree.
Booster Gold has been a title where Ted Kord and the characters’ history with the Justice League International has played a big role ever since the title started, but since Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis took over, that relationship has been on full display, on the covers and pages of the book. This month’s Booster Gold #40 is the first issue in quite some time that doesn’t revel in the past—and it takes little time in sending Booster back to the future. What went into that decision? We talked to co-writer J.M. DeMatteis about the issue and what to look forward to for the rest of the story that started two weeks ago.
Gold Exchange: So, first thing’s first–what’s the deal with the green noggin?
J.M. DeMatteis: Ask the colorist! (more…)