J.M. DeMatteis’ long and eclectic writing career includes everything from the comic superheroes of Justice League International, the less-comic superheroics of “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” semiautobiographical tales like Brooklyn Dreams and fantasy like Moonshadow.Now he’s returning to the realm of all-ages fantasy he’s explored in such works as Abadazad and The Stardust Kid with The Adventures of Augusta Wind, a new miniseries from IDW with artist Vassilis Gogtzilas that premieres in November.. We spoke with DeMatteis about his new book, returning to all-ages fantasy, and much more. Newsarama: Tell us about The Adventures of Augusta Wind — the premise and the characters.
DeMatteis: At first there is no Augusta Wind, there’s only Augusta Webster—a normal twelve-year-old girl who lives in a Massachusetts suburb with her parents and two younger siblings.
Augusta’s been having disturbing, recurring dreams about another world—and a group of endangered children who are crying out for her help. But when a creature called Mr. Snabbithalf rabbit/half snake shows up outside her window one night, Augusta begins to remember that she’s not who she thinks she is and that the life she’s been living in so-called reality is more fragile than the life in her dreams.
Augusta then sets out on a journey across worlds, and between worlds, searching for the truth about herself, as well as for those children who’ve been asking for her help...all the while being pursued by a creature called The Terrible Something.
As for the characters: We’ve got a host of strange and magical creatures—from the hulking Omniphant to a cosmic librarian named Miss Information. There’s the aforementioned villain of the piece, The Terrible Something, and his henchmen—well, hench-creatures—the BaLLoonies and the Meeouches...Unk Conchuss, who lives in the deeps of Lake Innermost...an ancient god called The Sleeper on the Ocean of Story...and many, many more.Pinup Nrama: How did you initially come up with the idea for the series?
DeMatteis: This is the first time a story came to me in the form of a name. I was sitting on the back porch with my wife one morning, watching the wind whip through the trees, and, somehow, “a gust of wind” became “Augusta Wind.”
For the longest time, that’s all I had, just the name. Then, slowly, other characters names came. An image of Augusta began to form in my mind—a girl in a Victorian-era dress, holding an umbrella, living in an old half-ruined castle—and the story took shape around that.
Nrama: And let's say some nice things about Vassilis Gogtzilas!
DeMatteis: The most amazing part of all this is that Vassilis drew Augusta before he knew anything about the series. One day, when this new idea was at the forefront of my mind, I went to the mailbox and found a limited-edition sketchbook Vassilis had put together. I started flipping through it and came across an image of a girl in a Victorian dress, holding an umbrella, sitting in front of an old castle.Page 1 It was my main character, right there in front of me, exactly as I imagined her—and I’d never shared anything about The Adventures of Augusta Wind with Vassilis. It was like the Gods of Story wanted him to draw the series and put the image in his head. I immediately emailed Vassilis, told him what had happened and invited him to collaborate with me on the series.
I can’t say enough wonderful things about Vassilis. For one thing, he’s the fastest artist I’ve ever worked with. I send him a script, blink a few times, and the art appears, like magic, in my in-box. For another, he’s got an imagination as vast as the story we’re telling. An imagination that can’t be stopped: When he’s not working on the individual issues, Vassilis is busy designing the most extraordinary characters for our series.
Sometimes they’re creatures from the scripts—he’s done an uncanny job of bringing the worlds in my head to life—sometimes he’ll just send me half-a-dozen new designs that swam up from the depths of his unconscious. I’ll look the new creatures over and instantly get a sense of who they are and how they can fit into The Adventures of Augusta Wind. When your artist can inspire you like that, you know you’ve got a wonderful collaboration going.
Of course, that’s not surprising when you’ve got an artist who psychically drew your main character!
Nrama: How did the series come to be at IDW?Pinup 2 DeMatteis: I’ve had good experiences with Chris Ryall and the team at IDW on two projects near and dear to my heart: my 2009 mini-series The Life and Times of Savior 28 and the recent hardcover reissue of Brooklyn Dreams. Once I had my proposal together, IDW was the first place I sent it. Chris read it over, liked it...and we were off and running.
Nrama: How long do you see the storyline running, ultimately?
DeMatteis: I see The Adventures of Augusta Wind as a series of three or four interlocking mini-series.
Our first five issues comprise Book One of a much larger tale. I’ve tried to create a story that’s complete in itself and yet leaves plenty of unanswered questions, opening the door on the next phase of Augusta’s quest. We can't wait to continue Augusta's adventures. We're in this for the long haul.
Nrama: What are some things readers can anticipate in this initial miniseries?Page 2 DeMatteis: Whimsy, heart, crazy characters, big ideas. Things start small, but it quickly evolves into a huge metaphysical fantasy. Best of all, the story—as all good stories should—has taken on a life of its own. I’m holding the reins, but the horse is galloping off in surprising directions. And when I’m surprised, I think the readers will be surprised, too.
Nrama: You're known for writing in many different styles, but what draws you to more sense-of-wonder all-ages stories like this?
Dematteis: One of the joys of my career has been that I haven’t been limited to any one genre or medium—I’ve done comics, books, television – live-action and animation. Within the comic book business, I’ve been lucky enough to do super-heroes, comedy, dark fantasy and deeply personal stories like Moonshadow, Brooklyn Dreams and Blood: A Tale.
But I have a real soft spot for all-ages material. For one thing, I love fantasy. I love dreaming and manifesting entire universes from the ground up. And I love being able to tell a story that can appeal to both a nine-year-old and her parents.
The best children’s literature has a timeless, ageless appeal. And it allows the writer to go deep, play with big, sophisticated ideas in a very pure form. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from the great Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote the A Wrinkle in Time series. She said: “...if I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.” Brilliant...and true!Pinup 3 Nrama: What are some other all-ages stories you're currently enjoying, in comics and in other media?
DeMatteis: In comics, I’m a big fan of Mike Bullock’s Lions, Tigers and Bears. A writer I know, David Rodriguez, has a terrific new series from TH3RD World Studios called Finding Gossamyr. TH3RD World also has another wonderful all-ages project called The Stuff of Legend. I love that Marvel’s doing the Oz books with talent that really respects and understands the source material.
When it comes to children’s literature, I go for the classics: Narnia, Mary Poppins, Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Pan. Baum’s Oz, most of all. I also love Phillip Pullman’s older-skewing His Dark Materials trilogy—especially the first book, The Golden Compass, one of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read—and, of course, our old friend Harry Potter. So many more.
By the way, if you like kid-friendly fantasy, my 2010 novel Imaginalis is still available at Amazon.com and other fine sites. Sorry, couldn’t resist the plug!
Film-wise, I’m a total Disnoid. I adore the classic Disney animated films—especially Pinocchio, one of the greatest movies ever made—and the Pixar movies.Nrama: Any new news on possibly continuing the adventures of Abadazad? It seems like the property would fall under Marvel's purview now...
DeMatteis: There are few projects I’ve worked on that mean more to me than Abadazad. It's lodged very deep in my heart. I’ve tried, several times, to resurrect it.
There’s nothing that would make me—and my brilliant collaborator Mike Ploog—happier than to finish the story. So far we haven’t had any luck bringing it back, but I never give up hoping. If anybody out there can help us make this dream a reality, let me know!
Nrama: What else are you currently working on?
DeMatteis: Speaking of Mr. Ploog, we’ve co-created a new series filled with dark shadows, Ploogian monsters and rich characters called The Edward Gloom Mysteries. Can’t share much more about it as it’s still in the “top secret” stage, but we hope to have an announcement soon.
I’ve also got several other original comics series. one with Dan Sweetman, who worked with me on my Vertigo series, The Last One, that I’m developing, as well; but, again, I can’t provide details just yet.Along with those projects, I’ve got a story coming up in December’s massive Amazing Spider-Man #700. It’s a Spidey story very different than anything I’ve ever done and it was great fun returning to the character. I’m also writing for the upcoming Teen Titans Go! series on Cartoon Network...developing a television project with a screenwriter friend named David Tully...and other things!
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
DeMatteis: I’d also like folks to know that I recently launched Creation Point Story Consultation: a way for me to work one-on-one with both aspiring and established writers, developing and editing their material. I’ve also been continuing to evolve my Imagination 101 writing workshops.
The next weekend workshops will be in the spring of 2013, one in Kingston, New York and one in Northampton, Massachusetts. I’m also developing an online version of the workshop that I’m hoping to launch early next year.
You can find information about all this at my website: www.jmdematteis.com. And you can find me on Twitter, as well: @jmdematteis. The website and Twitter allow for a wonderful interaction with the people who read my work.
Experience The Adventures of Augusta Wind from J.M. Dematteis and IDW this November.