A Story With Maximum Wonder: Exploring Impossible Incorporated With J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Cavallaro

by Gary Catig

Comicon.com first spoke with J.M. DeMatteis at this year’s New York Comic Con, where his new series from Berger Books was announced. Not uncommon in comics, the writer keeps himself busy by juggling several projects including his IDW title, Impossible Incorporated. We had so much fun talking with him the first time, he came back to discuss his current Sci-Fi adventure and this time he was joined by artist, Mike Cavallaro.
Gary Catig: You guys have a current series called Impossible Incorporated from IDW.  For our readers unfamiliar with the title, could you describe it?
J.M. DeMatteis: When Mike and I started talking about this series, we decided that we wanted to do something with the charm and imagination of classic Silver Age comics, but with a modern sensibility. A story with memorable characters, high adventure, a minimum of violence, a maximum of wonder. And Jack Kirby – who possessed one of the greatest imaginations of the 20th century – was always a touchstone.
Those discussions grew into Impossible Incorporated:  the tale of seventeen-year-old genius Number Horowitz and her team as they journey across the Infinite Spiral at the heart of the cosmos, exploring time, space and other universes in the Non-Local Express, a quantum subway car. Number’s also trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of her father, genius-adventurer Goliath Horowitz, who vanished ten years before.

GC: This isn’t the first time you have collaborated together. Why did you guys feel this comic in particular was a good project to team up again?  Why do you think you two work so well with each other?
JMD: You never know why a collaboration will work. It’s chemistry, it’s magic. I’ve done projects where I thought my script was strong, the art was excellent, and yet, somehow, the finished project fell flat. The ineffable spark was missing. Mike and I just have that spark when we work together, whether it’s on a big project like The Life and Times of Savior 28 or something smaller like our contribution to the recent Where We Live anthology. The guy pencils, inks, letters, colors and does it all masterfully. Just as important, he’s a truly good person. It’s always a joy working with Mike.
Mike Cavallaro: As a fan of comics, there are those stories that you read that make an impression and stay with you. For anyone who goes on to make comics, those stories have literally changed your life, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be doing this. You can’t help but want to capture in your own work some of what inspired you to begin with. It’s part of your creative DNA. For me that’s a stew of everything from Kirby, John Buscema, the Hernandez Brothers, Tezuka, Miyazaki, and JM is also one of those. It fits for me because his comics were among the ones that made me want to make comics to begin with.
Part of that has to do with trust. I’ve seen collaborations break down when people lose faith in each other’s creative instincts. I could write an essay on what happens when you receive a script like one of JM’s and you allow it to guide and inform the mechanics of what happens on the page. Not all writers, even great ones, can do that. There’s an invisible structure there that’ll support what you build on it without ever making you feel restrained or restricted.

GC: JM, a lot of your stories have different layers to them. On one level, in Impossible Inc., there is a huge sci-fi element pertaining to interdimensional travel. How much research did you do in the area or is it more based out of your imagination? If it’s all made up, some of the terminology you use seems legit.
JMD: I’ve read a number of books about quantum physics over the years – I’m especially fascinated by the point where science and spirituality meet – and that certainly feeds into the story. That said, my job is to take a nugget of real science, run it through my imagination and then create something big and fun. I’m not worrying about the scientific accuracy here!
GC: Another layer is a philosophical one about existence and reality.  Do you share these views or did you think they were interesting ideas to play around with in a story?
JMD: Exploring the meaning of existence, the nature of reality, is something very important to me, in both life and fiction, and it’s been reflected in most of my work—from Moonshdow to Doctor Fate to Impossible, Incorporated. “Why am I here? Who created this? What’s the purpose of it all?” These are fundamental questions that we’re all seeking the answers to, in one way or another, even if we don’t realize it.

GC: Mike, the characters visit exotic areas and even the process of interdimensional travel is interesting. How much of these scenes come from your own ideas? Were they more than JM’s descriptions in the scripts?
MC: Everything starts with the script. JM’s great about communicating how he visualizes something, and every script comes with some amount of visual reference and research. The next step is to run all that through the filter of my own sensibilities so that it meshes with the look of the story. I mean, if you compare IMPOSSIBLE to SAVIOR 28, or really any of my books, they all look different. I always try to come up with an approach that expresses each individual project. It’s still me, there are plenty of similarities, but each has its own rules about shapes and rendering, color, and lettering. Something that might fly in one project doesn’t belong in another, and that all stems from the vibe I get from the script.

GC: Lastly, I like the tagline, “The impossible isn’t a limitation, it’s an invitation”.  What does this phrase mean to the two of you and how do you think it is relevant to the series?
JMD: I came up with that phrase some years back; it just popped out in the middle of a conversation. The word impossible is often used as a negative, a wall that stops us from moving forward; but I see it differently: We can achieve the impossible, vault that wall, if we have the will and the faith and the belief to do it. If we see the impossible as an invitation to transcend ourselves, to reach beyond our limitations. And that, of course, is what our series is about: exploring all the impossibilities of (to borrow the phrase) Life, the Universe and Everything.
MC: For me it relates directly to my deadlines.
We are thankful that J.M. could join us again along with Mike. Impossible Incorporated is a five-issue miniseries and you can catch up on the first two, which are out right now from IDW.  It’s a fun all ages book worth picking up. 

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