Writer J.M. DeMatteis has been doing some great things on the series PHANTOM STRANGER. He's got a good grasp on the supernatural side of things in the DC universe. The big news for him is that starting with issue #24, he will be the writer for JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK after Jeff Lemire's run. J.M. took the time to answer some questions about his upcoming run on JLD as well as his work on PHANTOM STRANGER.
Comic Vine: You'll be jumping on as the writer of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, starting with issue #24, taking over after writer Jeff Lemire's departure. How did you get this sweet gig?
J.M. DEMATTEIS: It pretty much arrived with a bow tied around it. Brian Cunningham called me up, offered it to me. I’m a huge fan of Jeff Lemire’s run on the book—I think he did brilliant work—and so I was very flattered when I was asked to come aboard after him. Big shoes to fill! Add in the chance to work with Mikel Janin, one of the very best artists working in the business right now, and you can understand why my answer was an immediate yes.
CV: What, to you, is the most exciting thing about this series and its characters?
JD: I’m in love with the supernatural corners of the DC Universe—there are so many incredible characters, from Swamp Thing to the Demon to Phantom Stranger to Constantine (to name just a few). These characters open themselves to a kind of storytelling that I feel very at home with: mystical, philosophical, and eerie tales that explore the Big Questions about life, the universe and everything—and do it in the context of wildly surreal adventures. Justice League Dark brings all these characters and themes together under one roof. It’s a challenging, and fun, book to write.
CV: How will JLD tie-in to Forever Evil?
JD: In a big way: JLD, Phantom Stranger, Constantine and Pandora will all be weaving together to form an arc called Forever Evil: Blight that will be running across all four titles through March. The story will be directly related to the main FE arc, but come at it from a supernatural perspective and stand on its own. You won’t have to read the other Forever Evil books to follow what’s happening in our books (although you should!). The seeds are all planted in JLD #24—which deals with the immediate aftermath of the Crime Syndicate’s invasion of our dimension and the emotional toll its taken on John Constantine—and then the story builds from there.
I’ve been working closely with Ray Fawkes (who writes Pandora and Constantine) and our editors, Brian Cunningham and Wil Moss, putting this together (and we’ve had wonderful input from Geoff Johns, as well) and the collaboration has been great fun. If that fun translates to the printed page—and I hope it does—it’s going to be a very good story.
CV: JLD had two Villains Month books: Eclipso and Creeper. What plans do you have for these characters in the future?
JD: They won’t be appearing in the beginning of the Blight arc but by the time we get to the end of it...well, let’s just say that you’ll be seeing a host of DCU supernatural characters and there’s a chance Eclipso and the Creeper will be in the mix.
CV: This is more of a personal, fanboy question, but will we see the return of Nick Necro? Please? Pretty please?
JD: I shouldn’t tell you this but, since it means so much to you: Yes. In a big way.
CV: This series has had a bit of crossover from classic DC characters as well as Vertigo characters. Will we see any more of this?
CV: If you could, what classic DC character or Vertigo character would you put into JLD and why?
JD: One of my all-time favorite DC characters is Jack Kirby’s Demon. He’ll play a role in Forever Evil: Blight—but I’m hoping to get him into JLD on a regular basis down the line. I’m also getting a chance to write Swamp Thing—another character that’s been a favorite since the classic Len Wein-Bernie Wrightson era—and I’m hoping to keep him around, as well.
CV: What does the future hold for the JLD?
JD: The driving force behind the upcoming storyline will be Constantine and his desperate desire to find Zatanna. After the events of Trinity War, and the invasion of the Crime Syndicate, he doesn’t know if Zee and the rest of the team are alive or dead. John’s less concerned with saving the world and more concerned with saving the woman he loves—that’s what motivates him to put together a new team (which includes Nightmare Nurse, Swamp Thing, Phantom Stranger and Pandora). But how far will John go to save Zatanna? What compromises will he make? What sacrifices? It’s going to be an interesting journey.
CV: For those who may have missed out, what's going on in PHANTOM STRANGER?
JD: The events of Trinity War had a massive impact on the Stranger...not the least of which was the fact that he sacrificed his very existence in attempt to help Superman and save Doctor Light. PS #12 picks up right after that—and begins a journey that leads the Stranger straight into the heart of the Forever Evil: Blight arc. But what’s most important is that, in the course of this story, we’re going to see PS go through a major evolution. The Blight storyline will be important to the Stranger—and to Pandora and Constantine, as well. Everyone involved in this crossover wants the story to matter not just to the overall Forever Evil arc, but to the individual characters. We want to see the Stranger, Pandora and Constantine change and grow through this ordeal. And they will.
CV: The Question and The Phantom Stranger have had a really rocky relationship, and by rocky, I mean "murderous." The solicit for issue #13 has these two clashing again. What can we expect to see in this issue and what makes their relationship so interesting?
JD: It’s a major clash that will carry over into PS #14. What makes the relationship interesting to me is that, although the Question is viewed as part of the Trinity of Sin, he doesn’t see himself as evil. He sees himself as a victim. To the Question, the Stranger and Pandora are the sinners—and he blames them for his situation. All of this, and more, comes to a boil in Phantom Stranger #14.
CV: What's going on in the upcoming Forever Evil tie-in?
JD: I don’t want to give too much away, but here’s the (very) short version: The Stranger—for his own reasons—gets involved in John Constantine’s quest to find Zatanna and the rest of the JLD. In the process, they come up against a new villain, Blight (beautifully designed by Mikel Janin), and the mission gets deeply personal for the Stranger. We’ll also be learning things about PS’s past that even he didn’t know and introducing an old Phantom Stranger cast member—Cassandra Craft—to the new DCU.
CV: Will we see the return of Sin Eater and Spectre?
JD: Yes. You’ll see Sin Eater again in PS #s 12 and 13 and he will absolutely be back after that, because SE is hugely important to the Stranger’s story. (We’ll also meet an entity called Non, who’s intimately, and mysteriously, involved with Sin Eater.) The Spectre will turn up in the Forever Evil: Blight arc—and, given his loathing for the Stranger, there’s very little chance that will turn out well.
CV: How can Phantom Stranger come back from non-existence?
JD: Good question! (And I’m not going to answer it.)
CV: Do you have any challenges writing a character who has been alive for centuries and essentially "seen it all?"
JD: He may have “seen it all,” but, in many ways, he’s just starting to understand himself and his place in the world. There’s so much mystery to this character. So much we don’t know (and, as we’ll soon discover, so much he doesn’t know) about his past and who he really is. We’re just getting started.
CV: What does the future hold for Phantom Stranger?
JD: For now it’s his involvement in Forever Evil: Blight. After that, expect to see (among other things) the return of Sin Eater and Non (who, no surprise, are up to no good) and the blossoming of new (or is it old?) love. The main goal is to deepen and evolve this fascinating character and to have some strange and wonderful adventures along the way.
Here's a checklist for Forever Evil: Blight, an 18 part story, which runs through the supernatural DC books:
PART 1 – JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #24
PART 2 – JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #25
PART 3 – TRINITY OF SIN: THE PHANTOM STRANGER #14
PART 4 – CONSTANTINE #9
PART 5 – TRINITY OF SIN: PANDORA #6
PART 6 – JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #26
PART 7 – TRINITY OF SIN: THE PHANTOM STRANGER #15
PART 8 – CONSTANTINE #10
PART 9 – PANDORA #7
PART 10 – JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #27
PART 11 – TRINITY OF SIN: THE PHANTOM STRANGER #16
PART 12 – CONSTANTINE #11
PART 13 – TRINITY OF SIN: PANDORA #8
PART 14 – JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #28
PART 15 – TRINITY OF SIN: THE PHANTOM STRANGER #17
PART 16 – CONSTANTINE #12
PART 17 – TRINITY OF SIN: PANDORA #9
PART 18 – JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #29 -
Big thanks to J.M. Demateis for answering our questions and make sure to check out issue #24 of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, on sale October 23rd, and PHANTOM STRANGER #12, which came out October 9th. Also, check out Forever Evil: Blight!