DeMatteis & Galvan on The Scrapyard Detectives

The Scrapyard Detectives #4, McManus cover

As we all know, sometimes comics are about more than super heroes and super villains. The Scrapyard Detectives, published and distributed by The Diversity Foundation is about kids, mysteries, exploring the nature of diversity and acceptance and personal growth.

Writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Bill Galvan stopped by Newsarama to chat with us about the new issue, #4 entitled, “And Forget,” which will be debuting at this weekend’s WonderCon.

Newarama: First off guys, why promote a comic in the direct market if it is primarily for schools and libraries?

Bill Galvan: There are a lot of comic book fans who are educators and vice versa, so it seems like a good idea to let educators know that these comics are available.

NRAMA: For people who are not familiar with the characters, who are they and what is Scrapyard Detectives all about?

BG: The Scrapyard Detectives are a group of kids from different backgrounds that solve mysteries in their community. The series is a throwback to the old school detectives that I grew up reading, like Encyclopedia Brown and Scooby-Doo. The kids operate out of a scrapyard, and Robert makes the inventions that help solve the case. Jinn is the clue finder of the group, and Raymond does most of the legwork. They also have other detectives that are honorary members, Lisan, who moved to the neighborhood from India, in the first issue, and Katie, Raymond’s cousin.

page 1

NRAMA: I understand that both of you have a daughter and the character of Katie is based on your daughters. How is Katie in the story similar to your own daughter Katie?

J.M. DeMatteis: She's not, really. But I never pass up a chance to name a character after my daughter, as readers of Abadazad may already know.

BG: J.M. created the character of Katie, and she is a great addition to the “Scrapyard universe”. When I read the script, I noticed that she had the same name as my youngest daughter, so I modeled her appearance after her, but a couple years older. She’s similar to my daughter in that she always wants to be included with the big kids, and she also loves to play “spy”. In fact, she has about the same relationship with her older brother as her counterpart does with Raymond in the book.

NRAMA: Bill, does this mean that The Diversity Foundation now owns the trademark on your daughter's likeness?

BG: My Katie is 5, so we’ll see what she looks like when she’s 9!

NRAMA: Lisan wasn't a featured character before, what made you bring him to the forefront of the group?

JMD: I tried to give everyone a moment in the spotlight.

page 2

BG: I’m really glad that J.M. included Lisan in the mystery. He and Robert have a great back and forth that I think is reminiscent of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle from my favorite Justice League stories by J.M.

NRAMA: For a group that fosters understanding and acceptance, Raymond is rather hostile towards his cousin Katie.

BG: I think that’s another aspect of the story that I appreciate, is that J.M. wrote the characters to act like real kids. I also think kids can relate to characters that they read about when they’re not perfect, and have the same attitudes and problems as everyone else. What is important is that Raymond learns from his mistake and ultimately asks for forgiveness for his behavior. Raymond is like an older brother who doesn’t want the squirt hanging around, but deep down still loves her.

page 3

JMD: That's really the point. All of us, no matter our high intentions and noble aspirations, can be cruel, sometimes. And we're often not even aware of it. I think it's very rare when the average person goes out of his or her way to be hurtful to someone else. We usually do it in an unconscious, blundering way. Robert certainly doesn't realize that he's being mean to Katie, it's a reflex. It doesn't make him a bad person, it makes him human.

NRAMA: Part of the diversity of the group was Jinn's wheelchair. How did you decide it was time to remove her from the wheelchair?

JMD: That was Bill's call.

BG: I thought a long time about it, but decided it was that it fit with the larger storyline we had been working on. In issue #3, we showed Jinn learning to walk again through physical therapy, and so I felt it was a natural progression for Jinn’s character.

NRAMA: Does this eliminate some of the group’s diversity when you eliminate the disabled from the group?

page 4

BG: I don’t think so. While our stories still have a purpose and a constant theme of acceptance running through them, we always remember that story and character development has to come first. We also don’t want the message to be too heavy handed so that the book loses its entertainment value either.

NRAMA: The main theme of the story is forgiveness. Ultimately do you think that David deserves forgiveness?

JMD: Yes, I do—because he's absolutely sincere in his desire to make amends. I think it's incredibly important for us to forgive, if only to free ourselves to live our lives unburdened by the past. At the same time, I don't think it's something that can be forced. Saying "I forgive you" when it's not the truth of your heart isn't really forgiveness, is it? And that's Jinn's journey here. She has to find the place inside herself where she really does forgive.

BG: Yes, absolutely. He made a mistake, driving carelessly while distraught. It was easy for Jinn to think that he was a spoiled rich kid that didn’t care about the damage he had done, but she learns that wasn’t the case at all. He felt guilty about what happened, and really wanted to tell his side of the story.

NRAMA: Do you think Jinn forgives more easily that the average person would?

JMD: Probably. But then we had to finish the story in one issue!

page 5

BG: I don’t know, that’s a tough question. I think that it was certainly a shock to see Jinn so angry in the story. She’s usually the sunniest of the three, and to see her so distraught was indicative of how deeply this affected her.

NRAMA: JM, were you familiar with the character prior to starting work on this story?

JMD: Yes, I was. In fact I wrote the introduction to the Scrapyard Detectives trade paperback collection. I've known about the book for a few years now and I've been very impressed with Bill's efforts.

NRAMA: What do you find most appealing these characters?

JMD: What I really like about them is the fact that they're clearly a very diverse, contemporary group of kids...but there's something refreshingly old-fashioned about them, too. Scrapyard Detectives is a comic book you can hand to an eight or nine year old without a second thought. And there aren't many comics out there you can say that about.

NRAMA: Is Katie now a permanent member of the group?

JMD: That's up to Bill—but I'd love to see her stick around.

BG: I’d like to think she is, she adds a lot to the group! After this issue, she’s definitely a full fledged Scrapyard Detective, as is Lisan.

NRAMA: If fans can't make it to WonderCon or the San Diego Comic Con, how can fans get copies of the comic sent to their local school or library?

BG: We have an application form on our website, www.smilesfordiversity.org/scrapyard.php, that educators or fans can download to order a quantity for their local school or library. The only stipulation we have is that the books be used by or in conjunction with a school or library.

Joe Staton cover

NRAMA: Will both of you be at WonderCon and the San Diego Comic Con to sign copies for fans?

JMD: I won't be. My brain cells are still recovering from the New York Con!

BG: I will be at WonderCon in San Francisco on Sunday, March 1st at 12:30-2:00pm as part of the Secret Origin of Good Readers panel about comics and literacy. We will be giving out 100 of the books to fans who show up for the panel. Besides the regular cover by myself and inker Trevor Nielson, this issue also comes with two special alternate guest covers by legendary comic book artists Joe Staton and Shawn McManus. We will bring a quantity of those to hand out as well. The Diversity Foundation will also have a booth at San Diego Comic Con, more details as the convention gets closer.

The Scrapyard Detectives series is published and distributed by The Diversity Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to educating children and adults about diversity. These educational comics are given free of charge to schools and libraries. If you are an educator or librarian and would like to acquire a quantity of the books to use for educational purposes, please fill out the form at http://www.smilesfordiversity.org/pd...pplication.pdf and send it in to the Diversity Foundation. Comics will be given out as supplies last.

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