Here's what I like about Stephen King's Hard Case Crime books: They're Stephen King books, so they're well-written and enjoyable, and they make Hard Case Crime a ton of money, which is good and helpful and positive and makes good stuff happen.
Here's what I don't like about Stephen King's Hard Case Crime books: Good as they are, they're not hard-boiled crime, or the sort of thing Gold Medal would have published in the 50s. So the covers and package design are cool-but-wrong, like having the Peter Gunn theme as the overture for a Thornton Wilder play.
I'm glad they exist, and I'm glad they help keep Hard Case Crime around. But I kinda want a new Richard Bachman book when I crack open a cover like that. BLAZE, that would have been a great Hard Case Crime book. But with THE COLORADO KID and JOYLAND, I have to keep reminding myself that it's not the kind of book it's packaged as. It's thoughtful and reflective, not lurid and driving.
And I like what they are. I just don't think the wrapping fits so well. Not that that stops me buying and devouring 'em...
My favorite part about Wednesdays. Getting feedback on stories.
Here are a few early reviews on ASTRO CITY 1:
"...absolutely worth the wait." —Greg McElhatton, CBR
"A great read and a wonderful introduction..." —My Geeky Geeky Ways
"A great return for an iconic series." —Aaron Long, Comicosity
Nice to return to that kind of reception!
Happy Astro City Day, everyone!
Not only is the new ASTRO CITY 1, from Vertigo, out in all fine comics stores and on Comixology today, but Comixology also has the first six issues of the series available in digital form, as well—the first issue is free, and the others are a mere $1.99!
That means that if you've never read the series before (or even if you have!), you can sample it for free, and/or pick up the entire award-winning first volume for around ten bucks.
Ain't we nice?
So here I am, back at the blog, and hopefully I'll be posting more often from now on.
Here's what's been going on:
As you probably know, I got pretty sick for quite a while, and even after having gall bladder surgery last summer, it's been a long, slow, recovery process. I'm still not back to 100% (or 100% of whatever percent I functioned at, back when things were clicking), but I've recovered enough to get work done more steadily, at least. Not fast, mind you, but faster than the near-standstill I've been at the last few years.
The first evidence of that is that ASTRO CITY returns to publication tomorrow, and I've done enough interviews around the 'net about that that I won't go over the details again (there's a link to one of those interviews in the previous entry), and I couldn't be happier about it. Brent and I have been slowly shambling forward on the book the whole time we've been "gone," but it's great to be back trading e-mails and phone calls with Alex Ross, John G. Roshell and Alex Sinclair as we get issues lettered, colored and cover-arted. Everyone's got new energy and new ideas, so we're working as a familiar, friendly group, and everyone's bringing new stuff to the mix.
[I should take note, here, that Brent's son, Bryce Anderson, has just graduated from high school as we launch the new #1. He was just being born as we started the first series, so that's quite a reminder of the inexorable passage of time, but one to be proud of—and a double reason to celebrate. Congrats to Bryce and his parents!]
Beyond ASTRO CITY: I'm still working on BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT with artist John Paul Leon, and while I can't judge the story, I can say that the art's just stunning. Hopefully we'll get going a tad bit faster now that I'm not quite so dysfunctional, and you'll eventually get to see it.
Beyond that, I have other projects in the works, some of which you've heard of and some you haven't, and we'll be launching them as they're ready to go and as my improving health allows. Hope you'll enjoy what's coming.
We will be making a few changes at the blog, here, as we update the software and hopefully make it easier for me to post new entries. Maybe that way I won't just post stuff to Facebook and Twitter and leave in unblogged, like the lazy bum I am.
But hey, speaking of which, J.G. talked me into starting up a Facebook page for ASTRO CITY, and you can find it here: Astro City
Brent, JG, Alex Sinclair and I are all "managers" of the page, and we'll be adding links, previews and other bits of this and that as the spirit moves us and opportunity arises, so you might want to check it out.
And we do intend to get the old AstroCity.com website back up, either as its own site or as part of Busiek.com, and to find a way to resurrect the Herocopia.com project. But give us some time—first priority is getting the books coming out regularly, and providing new stuff for those sites to be about.
Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go proofread the lettercol to ASTRO CITY 2, and then hop in the shower. It's sweaty work, creating new characters like Doctor Sarchophagus, and he's just one of the new characters I outlined today...!
The fine folks at USA TODAY have put up an interview with yours truly, including a 5-page preview of ASTRO CITY#1.
So if you want to get an early look at the Broken Man, American Chibi and some of what's going on in the book, click on over and take a look:
You can see the rest tomorrow, at finer comics store evvawhere...!
Out tomorrow. The "regular cover" is the one with Samaritan on it. The "variant cover" is the one with the Ambassador on it. I don't know what difference it makes—they're both Alex Ross paintings, they're both gorgeous, and they both have spiffy design work by John Roshell.
And inside, both have the same story, which kicks off a new era for ASTRO CITY featuring old favorites, new faces, a complete-in-one-issue story and the seeds of lots of cool stuff to come.
I hope you like it!
For those of you attending Wizard World Portland next month, thanks to the generosity of the Wizard World folks, I’ll be signing and giving away this lithograph at the show, while supplies last. Come by and get one!
[click the image to see it larger]
As I crawl fitfully back to productivity, I should update my blog more often. So, for the moment at least, here's an announcement of a few conventions I'll be at in the next couple of months...
February 22-24, 2013
Wizard World Portland
Panels/Signings: details to come.
March 1-3, 2013
Emerald City Comicon
Panels/Signings: details to come.
March 22-24, 2013
Fabletown & Beyond
Panels/Signings: details to come.
Hope to see you at one of these fine shows!
So, where were we? What, mail to answer? Okay, mail to answer.
First up, from CALVIN:
Hey, Kurt, we met at the Portland show and I bought SUPERSTAR and thought it was great. Any more of this coming out? Thanks and I am looking for more of Superstar.
Not soon, at least. But more Superstar is definitely something I want to get to—if nothing else, I came up with a big sprawling epic story for the character and haven't been able to tell even that one, much less all the others. So someday, I really want to get to that one, at least.
And, uh, sorry for taking over a year (!) to respond...
Who's next? Ah, DEAN:
I really hope this isn't the end of Superstar! What can we do to revive his career? He has so much potential, not only to fight evil, but really change to world for the better by inspiring his fans to volunteerism and activism.
Captain Amazing, at one point in the movie, violently rips the Pepsi logo off his costume from among the many others festooning it. Does he wear the pink ribbon of breast cancer, the multi-colored one of autism awareness, the black one in memory of MIAs and POWs? Does he go on talk shows to defend against drinking and driving, teen pregnancy, racism, or illiteracy?
If it's revealed that he can only take the life force of willing givers, that goes a long way to alleviating my former apprehension of his soul vampirism. Superstar is the first hero I know of who has the responsibility to use his power to support itself. Remembering that he uses life force, he has to use it in a way that his fans feel is appropriate or he will lose his fans. With great power comes great responsibility and that is no more true for any superhero than it is for Superstar.
Yes, Superstar's energy donors are all volunteers. And Superstar's not devouring their souls, just absorbing some sort of bio-chemical energy, or something along those lines. It's science, not spiritualism, and he doesn't take it by force, like a vampire.
But that big epic story I mentioned above? It's very much about the idea that if he doesn't do what his supporters feel is appropriate, he loses his support—and thus, his power. What happens when his supporters feel he's unworthy? Similarly, what happens if he doesn't want to kowtow to popular prejudices? He's something of a politician-hero, or needs to be, and that's very much a two-edged sword.
I had the pleasure, not long ago, of reading an advance copy of PALISADES PARK, by Alan Brennert. The novel will be coming out from St. Martin’s Press next April, and I recommend it highly.
Let me say up front that I’m a big Brennert fan. I have been since I first saw his work in issues of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD from DC Comics, teaming Batman with other DC heroes. Brennert didn’t tell straightforward adventure stories, he told character stories—of teen heroes Hawk & Dove as maturing adults, thinking back on what their lives had been, of the courtship and marriage of the Batman and Catwoman of DC’s Golden Age, of the repercussions of Batman’s efforts to save the young Bruce Wayne of an alternate timeline from the same tragedy that had haunted and shaped Batman’s life. And whatever else Brennert wrote, whether it was TV series like L.A. LAW or novels like KINDRED SPIRITS, a romance between two disembodied spirits discovering on the verge of death that life is perhaps worth living after all, I sought out his work and couldn’t get enough of it. Everything he writes is imaginative and human, creating richly textured worlds full of engaging, believable characters that don’t so much suck the reader in as welcome him in, enveloping him in story for as long as it takes.
And then, a couple of books back, he took what felt like a quantum leap forward, abandoning the fantasy of his previous work for history, in MOLOKA’I, which I can only describe as the most positive, uplifting, heartwarming novel about decades of life in a leper colony that you’ll ever read. As with all of Brennert’s work, it found a great depth of humanity in its characters, but it did so in a world so outwardly horrific and unsettling that the impact of the book was all the richer for it, mixing tragedy, sweetness, endurance, emotion and hope into a powerful and compelling story. Much as I like fantasy, and much as I liked what Brennert had done before, MOLOKA’I showed that historical fiction was what he should be doing, ushering us into worlds and times that we simply could never see or experience in any other way.
Anderson, Sherwood - WINESBURG, OHIO
Bacigalupi, Pauklo - THE ALCHEMIST
Block, Lawrence - GENERALLY SPEAKING
Buckell, Tobias S. - THE EXECUTIONESS
Chesterton, G.K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
de Lint, Charles - ANGEL OF DARKNESS
Dean, Pamela - THE SECRET COUNTRY
Lord Dunsany - TALES OF THREE HEMISPHERES
Lord Dunsany - TIME AND THE GODS
Lord Dunsany - THE SWORD OF WELLERAN AND OTHER STORIES
Flynn, Michael - EIFELHEIM (sample)
Frost, Gregory - LORD TOPHET
Gaiman, Neil - AMERICAN GODS
Gischler, Victor - THE DEPUTY
Harris, Mark - THE SOUTHPAW (sample)
Hartwell, David (ed.) - YEAR'S BEST FANTASY 3
Headley, Maria Dahvana - QUEEN OF KINGS (sample)
Hobb, Robin - ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE
Hodgson, William Hope - THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND
Hughes, Matthew - THE DAMNED BUSTERS
Jensen, Carsten - WE, THE DROWNED
Kostova, Elizabeth - THE HISTORIAN
Kowal, Mary Robinette - SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY
Link, Kelly (ed) - THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR 2008
Lynch, Jim - THE HIGHEST TIDE
MacDonald, George - PHANTASTES: A FAERIE ROMANCE FOR MEN AND WOMEN
McCammon, Robert - SWAN SONG
McKillip, Patricia - ALPHABET OF THORN (sample)
McKinley, Robin - SPINDLE'S END (sample)
Mieville, China - PERDIDO STREET STATION
Morris, William - THE WELL AT WORLD'S END
Morris, William - THE WOOD BEYOND THE WORLD
Morrow, James - THE LAST WITCHFINDER
Novik, Naomi - VICTORY OF EAGLES
Powell, Anthony - A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING
Powers, Tim - THE STRESS OF HER REGARD (sample)
Pratchett, Terry - NATION
Priest, Cheri - BONESHAKER
Schilling, Peter - THE END OF BASEBALL (sample)
Seger, Linda - WRITING SUBTEXT (sample)
Shute, Nevil - MARAZAN
Stephenson, Neal - CRYPTONOMICON
Tarkington, Booth - PENROD
Valente, Catherynne M. - THE HABITATION OF THE BLESSED (sample)
Watt-Evans, Lawrence, ONE-EYED JACK
Westlake, Donald E. - GOD SAVE THE MARK
Whates, Ian (ed.) - FABLES FROM THE FOUNTAIN
The difference between GRIMM and ONCE UPON A TIME:
The one that was created by ex-BUFFY personnel is the one about a hero who discovers they're the latest in a long line of monster-killers and has to take on the role relatively unprepared, but with the help of an aged mentor and a quirky helper.
And the one created by ex-LOST personnel is the one where everyone's stuck in a location that's pleasant on the surface, only there's a complex mystery going on they have to unravel and lots of flashbacks to their earlier lives before they got stuck in this place.
As for tone, the one created by the Buffyistas feels like BUFFY and ANGEL but at least so far, thinner, and the one created by the Lostians feels like LOST but at least so far, much thinner.
We're following both, here at Casa Busiek, to see what they develop into. They're both watchable, though I'm used to Jennifer Morrison from HOUSE, so I keep wanting her to have snappier, faster-paced, smarter dialogue. Or at least be quicker on the uptake.
[On the great FABLES question: I can readily believe that GRIMM isn't terribly influenced by FABLES, since there aren't that many similarities and there's been a spate of fairy-tale movies that could certainly have gotten the genre some notice. ONCE UPON A TIME has more similarities, though, and in the pilot, the fairy tale characters are referred to as "fables" once, which is odd because, well, they're not. Hard to believe they didn't pick that (and other things) up from Willingham.]
As I've noted before, I try to avoid e-mails that fall into the category of "Can you answer these questions for my school report." I'm not in school any more, and despite that, I seem to have plenty of my own homework to do.
But every now and then, someone finds a way around me on this. Julio, here, tells me:
Hello my name is Julio. I'm a high school student. We have an assignment on interviewing a comic writer. I chose you because you're very talented and we are reading your comic MARVELS. It's very good. by the way.
They're actually reading MARVELS? For class? Well, okay, I guess since I haven't done this in a year and a half, I can do another one. But I'm answering here on the blog, so anyone else who's interested can read it.
On to the questions:
1. What is the work that you are planning on or that you are working on?
At the moment, what I'm working on is ASTRO CITY, the series I do with Brent Anderson and Alex Ross, and KIRBY: GENESIS, which I'm doing with Jackson Herbert and (again) Alex Ross. On top of those two, I also have a series called BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT to write, a novel featuring ARROWSMITH, a character I co-created with Carlos Pacheco, and a new series called THE WITCHLANDS.
2. What was your first work?
My first professional comics work was a 7-page "Tales of the Green Lantern Corps" story that appeared in GREEN LANTERN #162, back in 1982. That same day, POWER MAN & IRON FIST #90, which I also wrote, came out as well, but I didn't actually write that story until about a month after the Green Lantern story, so I count GREEN LANTERN #162 as my first.
3. What was your proudest moment?
In comics? It was probably when the first reviews and reader reactions started coming in for ASTRO CITY #1. Alex Ross and I had won a lot of awards and gotten great reaction for MARVELS, but getting that same kind of response to something that I'd created from scratch (with the help of Brent, Alex and others, but not any pre-existing characters or publisher's universe) was a real thrill, and really made us feel like we'd accomplished something worthwhile.
4. What is the most challenging aspect of working in comics?
For me, it's the deadlines. Comics are usually monthly, so if you're writing a series, you need to write a new issue every month, month after month, for as long as it lasts. If you're writing more than one series, that just means more deadlines. It can be exhausting—writing one good script is a lot of work, but doing it time after time after time requires a lot of stamina.
I used to be able to write a script a week, but the longer I do this, the harder it gets to maintain that kind of speed.
5. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in comics?
It's hard to say which is better: Getting to collaborate with talented artists, letterers, colorists and editors, so you're all working together to make a comics story that's the best it can be—or get to reach a large audience of readers, who want you to tell them a story in the first place. The idea that an audience is out there that wants to read what I write is what keeps me doing it, both because telling stories to people is why I write in the first place, and because it's the fact that those readers buy the comics that allows me to keep writing them.
6. What does it feel on having an amazing gift such as writing?
It doesn't feel like a "gift," it feels like a skill. Something I learned by practicing it and getting better at it over time, just like someone who practices piano, or practices at playing baseball, will get better and better. It can be a lot of work, but it's worth the effort.
7. How was it like working with Ross on MARVELS?
Alex is one of the most thoughtful and dedicated artists I've ever worked with. Doing MARVELS with him was a lot of fun, because we both put a lot of thought into how best to tell the story, and we each had a lot of input into what the other guy did. He had suggestions and ideas on the story, and I had suggestions and ideas on the art. We'd go back and forth, talking over even the smallest details—sometimes we'd be on the phone for hours, talking about stuff that most readers would never notice. But even if a reader doesn't consciously notice it, it made the story better, and helped us make the stuff the readers did notice all the more real and effective.
I still work with Alex, on ASTRO CITY covers, and on the KIRBY: GENESIS series, and it's still a rewarding and enjoyable experience, because of the attention and thought Alex puts into what he does.
8. Do you have new ideas?
Tons of them. I have more ideas than I could use up in a lifetime—and I come up with new ones all the time!
The better you get at writing, the more easily ideas come, I think. It's one of the best parts of the job, coming up with new things, new stories and new ways to tell them.
Hope that helps!
Here's an e-mail I figured I'd deal with separately, so it doesn't get lost amid the others.
Eric Sellers asks...
Did the forums linked at your website and the Astro City homepage get deleted or moved? I tried accessing them from your website but it said it didn't exist and then the Astro City homepage link wouldn't connect with anything.
Yeah, they don't exist any more.
I'm not 100% sure what happened—it was while I was dealing with some pretty severe fatigue issues, so I wasn't listening as well as I might when it was explained to me. But I think it had something to do with the forums generating exponentially-growing spam attacks or something, meaning it was taking up more and more server time, and eventually it got too much to handle, and the guys at Comicraft didn't have the resources to keep running them.
The forum was never quite what I wanted it to be, in any case. There was always a spam problem, so anyone who wanted to register for the boards had to be manually approved by the webmaster, which I think prevented people from signing up and joining in.
What I'm planning to do is, sometime between now and when we're ready for ASTRO CITY to start coming out again, I'm going to line up another message board for discussions. For now, those "Comment on this in our forum" links are probably still going to hang around, even though they don't lead anywhere, so that when we have a new forum, we can just slot that in and have the links direct there.
In the meantime, if you're looking to respond to something, or want to keep up on whatever I'm babbling about at the moment, the best places to find me are:
• on Twitter, where I'm @KurtBusiek
• on Facebook, at The Official Kurt Busiek Page
Since spouting off on Twitter or Facebook is easier than writing a blog entry, even, I'm a lot more active there than here. I hope to change that, in time, but for now, theyr'e good places to find me and/or keep up on what's new.
Also, in case anyone's wondering why they signed up for the newsletter and haven't gotten any, the answer is simple:
There isn't any newsletter.
Again, there should be one someday,so when this site was being put together, Design Wizard John Roshell put in a sign-up option, and I've been dutifully saving e-mail addresses for that happy day when I'll have a newsletter to send. For now, though, all that exists of it is that list of e-mail addresses.
So don't let that stop you from signing up for it, but don't be surprised if you don't get anything for a while.
And that's the story of all the stuff that doesn't exist around here!
Hey, folks. I've been under the weather for much of the last six months, and trying vainly to keep up with deadlines, so there hasn't been much time/energy left over to blog. But I've built up a bunch of e-mails to answer, so let me take advantage of a quiet Sunday afternoon to deal with some of them.
Starting off, from JAMES:
Since you ended up revealing that Kang may never become Immortus in AVENGERS FOREVER, do you have any personal theories about the true identity of each character might be?
Did you intend to leave things open to the possibility that Tony Stark would become Kang? There’s certainly a precedent as outlined in my theory on Kang's origin here:
Or Vance Astro being Rama-Tut given both were living in the same time period of 3,000 and both retained docu-chips of the Heroic Age?
I’m not sure if you’ve written any clues since due to having lost my sight in the interim:( but would love to know your thoughts:)
To be honest, James, I didn't think there was any mystery as to who Kang really is—even when Stan was floating the idea that Kang and Dr. Doom could be the same person, it didn't make much sense. Kang, at least as I write him, is just what we saw when his history was first explained: A guy living in a future so well-run that there's no adventure any more, so he creates a time machine and goes off in search of it, becoming the greatest conqueror the universe has ever known.
His motivation is dead simple: He was bored, and he wanted a challenge, wanted to forge a grand legend. So he did.
That's all I need to know. I don't much care who his 20th (or, now, 21st) century forebears are—particularly because over a thousand years, family trees branch out so much that he could be descended from von Doom, Richards, Stark and a dozen other figures. Or none of them. It doesn't seem to affect, to my mind, who he is or why he does what he does, so I was always more concerned with what he'd do next more than where he came from.
As for what happened in AVENGERS FOREVER, that wasn't meant as a revelation that there are unknown secrets to Kang's or Immortus's origins—merely that Kang, by sheer force of will (and with the ambient aid of the Forever Crystal, no doubt), wrenched himself away from his destiny, forging a new track. Immortus was still Kang, but via a different time-branch than this Kang is now following. They have the same pasts they always did; they just now have divergent futures.
But of course, it's up to Marvel to say what's so and what ain't—this is simply how I viewed it at the time.
Since you were a friend of McDuffie's and the Milestone crew, I just wanted to ask, what's DC going to do with Static?
This character and his book already had problems before it was even published:
Rozum leaving has added even more problems (also, there's some good discussions in that thread that apply to why an excellent book like XOMBI failed).
I'm not sure Robert L. Washington III is a big enough name to keep the book from sinking. I'm a fan of RLW, but can't you push for Geoff Johns or Morrison to write it? Maybe you could suggest that to DC?
DC usually has a habit of killing characters off (especially in big events) when their solo series crash and burn. And if Static manages to escape that sort of fate, it's still more than likely the character will never receive another book again if this one tanks this badly.
Sorry, Rick, but being a friend of Dwayne's doesn't give me any inside information of DC's plans, or any influence over them. I have no idea what their plans for STATIC are, nor can I push them to put the already-hugely-busy Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison onto the book. If Geoff or Grant wanted to write it and had the time, they'd probably have been writing it right from the start, and if they don't, me suggesting it isn't going to make them change their minds or open up their schedule.
Were I editing the book, I'd probably have given it to Bob Washington, because he co-created the series and is a good writer with a great sensibility for that sort of story. But I'm not, and that doesn't mean that whoever they tapped to replace John—Marc Bernardin, I believe—won't do a good job. And Scott McDaniel's a terrific artist who brings a ton of energy to whatever he does. I worked with him on TRINITY and loved it.
So at this point, I'd just see what comes.
Kurt, I'm desperate for some good news about the return of ASTRO CITY. I keep checking your site periodically (no pun intended), but of course you haven't posted there since April. I know you got caught in the demise of Wildstorm, and then probably further delayed because of all the attention focused on the big relaunch this month--but please tell me that DC isn't stupid enough to let it languish indefinitely!
What would really make my day is if you told me you and Brent have worked so far ahead during this interregnum that A.C. will publish weekly for a while when it finally does come out. But I know I shouldn't be greedy... ;-)
Am also wondering about that "American Gothic" kind of book you announced...any plans for that to see the light of day, or is it a dead letter now?
Taking it in order:
No, ASTRO CITY's not going to languish indefinitely, and yes, Brent and I have been plugging away at it, piling up pages to make sure we can have the book run monthly when it does come back. And yes AMERICAN GOTHIC (now called THE WITCHLANDS) is still in the works. It's just all taken a lot longer than we originally expected.
Part of it was the demise of Wildstorm and the reorganization and relaunch of DC, yes, but part of it happened even earlier, during the business reorganization that happened when Paul Levitz left the company and DC went for a long stretch without a publisher. During that time, we made big plans to relaunch ASTRO CITY as a monthly and to launch AMERICAN GOTHIC alongside it, so I'd have two monthly books standing side-by-side at Wildstorm, and that'd be the core of my writing career for the foreseeable future. But the business details of all that took forever to work out, because it was happening while DC was working out bigger and more complex business issues themselves. Just the sort of thing that happens, from time to time.
Trouble was, while I was waiting for all this stuff to work out, I still needed to stay busy, so I wound up reviving BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT, which had been put on the back burner a few years earlier, and agreeing to do KIRBY: GENESIS with Alex Ross at Dynamite.
And once I was committed to those, naturally, the business deals all worked out and presto!, I suddenly had twice as much work as I could comfortably handle.
And on top of that, I got sick—a resurgence of the detox-related fatigue problems that stem from my bout with mercury poisoning, and the assorted side effects that come with it.
So I spent months trying to meet too many deadlines, and if I was fully healthy, I might have managed it, but since I wasn't, things just went really slow.
And finally, we decided this just wasn't working, and reorganized things a little.
We put THE WITCHLANDS on the back burner for now—it would have been nice to have it debut the same month as ASTRO CITY, but I just can't feet four sets of deadlines at once, not right now. Used to be I could, but I was younger and healthier, and these are more challenging books.
And I've got enough done on CREATURE OF THE NIGHT that Jean Paul Leon can keep drawing for a while without me needing to turn in the next script.
So right now, I'm working on ASTRO CITY and KIRBY: GENESIS, and that's going to be my main workload until K:G is finished. Once that's done, I'll finish off CREATURE OF THE NIGHT. And once that's done, we'll get THE WITCHLANDS up and rolling again, so I'm only trying to meet two sets of deadlines at any one time.
We're far enough ahead on ASTRO CITY at this point that we should be able to make an announcement in the not-too-distant future about when it'll be back (but the word "weekly" won't be in it, I can tell you that!), and the rest will come along as time and schedules permit. I hope that counts as good news—and I'll stick in one of Alex's gorgeous upcoming covers to sweeten the pot!
This is getting a little long, so click on the link below, for more...
DEFENDERS: FROM THE MARVEL VAULT #1 Written by FABIAN NICIEZA & KURT BUSIEK Pencils & Cover by MARK BAGLEY A Marvel Masterpiece from deep inside the treasure vaults can now be told! The original team of Doctor Strange, The Hulk, Silver Surfer and Namor are together again for a hidden adventure! But why was this tale lost? What happens in other dimensions stays in other dimensions, so what unspeakable secrets of the The Defenders are to be revealed? Find out at last in these pages with the illustrious words of Kurt Busiek (THE DEFENDERS, MARVELS) and the incomparable artwork of artist Mark Bagley (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN)! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
This may be one of the greatest Defenders stories ever told. Or it may be a total trainwreck. Or, just possibly, both.
Or, you know, somewhere in between, there, but who sells comics with wishy-washy statements like "somewhere in between, there"?
Here's what happened:
Back when Erik Larsen and I were doing Defenders, editor Tom Brevoort had a fill-in prepared, just in case. Mark Bagley had some time in his schedule, so Tom had Fabian Nicieza write up a plot—apparently very quickly, from what Fabian remembers—and then Mark drew it up, and it got put in a drawer. And then it was never used.
As part of their whole "From the Marvel Vault" program, they've resurrected this story and finished it up. But there were a few problems along the way.
First off, Fabian couldn't script it, because he's currently under contract at DC.
So they asked me. I like writing the Defenders, I had a blast on that run with Erik, here's a chance to revisit it, and it's Mark Bagley art to boot, so why not? I agreed. Just send me the art and the plot.
Well, they could send me the art. They don't have a copy of the plot.
No problem, I'll just ask Fabian.
No, he doesn't have one either. Lost in a hard-drive crash, years ago.
And to make matters worse, Fabian doesn't even remember what the story was. He remembers that he wrote it—probably got the job on Friday and had a plot in by Monday or Tuesday—but he doesn't have a clue what the details of the story are. Even the art doesn't jog his memory beyond, "Yeah, Mark sure did a nice job, didn't he?"
Mark doesn't remember much more. It was years ago.
So I look over the art, and Mark Bagley did indeed do a very nice job. And he's a good enough storyteller that I can piece together an outline of what the story must be, at least in the basics. But the bits where explanations happen, where the texture and detail go that make it more than just a simple structure?
Haven't a clue.
So I have to come up with a story to fit the art. A new story. One that might bear some resemblance to what Fabian intended, at least at the big structural moments, but other than that, it's wide open.
And as I keep looking through the art, I get an idea. A pretty demented idea, really, based on one cryptic panel late in the book (You'll know it when you see it. The script for that panel is "HTNN--!"). But it's an idea that, demented as it is, won't go away. And actually, I'm thinking, it could be kinda fun...
I tell Fabian the idea, mostly as a joke. But he laughs, and says that it sounds like a hoot, and it might even be better than whatever his original story was.
And I tell Rachel Pinnelas, who's editing it, and she cracks up, and says "Do it, do it."
So I do it.
It's not what Fabian plotted, not by any means. It's very strange. It has a very old, very dumb joke about a hot dog vendor in it. It has the Hulk building sandcastles. A near-pointless cameo by Empress Lilandra. And I had a blast writing it.
I think readers are going to have just as much fun with it. The Lady Dorma scene alone should be worth the price of admission.
[Note: Lady Dorma was not even in the original version.]
So be warned. And order up!
Ain't it purty?
Brilliant design work!
Cracking story and art!
A gallery of sketches by Stuart Immonen, Alan Davis, Paul Ryan and (ulp) me!
More nifty design!
Dogs love it!
SUPERSTAR: AS SEEN ON TV
Kurt Busiek (w) Stuart Immonen (a & c)
Meet Superstar, a hero for the media age: the more popular he is, the more powerful he is. With the public behind him, he can work miracles—without them, he's nothing. Superstar's made a deal with his father, an international media tycoon, to promote him and keep him powerful enough to save the world. But now he walks a fine line between staying famous enough to do the most good, and becoming just another "property" in his father's portfolio.
HC FC $14.99 80 Pages ISBN: 978-1-60010-889-1
Contains the complete saga of Superstar, and behind-the-scenes text and art detailing the development of the character with never-before seen art, including character designs from Paul Ryan and Alan Davis.
All the action, suspense and characterization you expect from Kurt Busiek (Astro City) and Stuart Immonen (Fear Itself) plus, an incisive look at superheroes and celebrity in a world where fame literally is power.
In your grocer's freezer—er, on the shelves at finer comics shops—this Wednesday!
Don't miss out!
Checking in on the e-mail...
Would love it if at some point you wrote a few things about Conan: Born on the Battlefield...the writing process, the goals you wanted to achieve and how you went about achieving them! For me Born on the Battlefield is like a Terrence Malick film, difference being that unlike Malick nature offers no sanctuary to the characters.
Also I'm loving your Facebook page, thanks!
My pleasure. Anyone who hasn't checked it out can find me on Facebook at The Official Kurt Busiek Page.
As for Born on the Battlefield...I'm not sure what to say. We set out to do two things, really. First was to tell the story of Conan's youth, based on the various hints and snippets and references made by Robert E. Howard in both his Conan stories and his letters. We dug up all the information we could—from the information that he was in fact born on a battlefield to things like his father being a blacksmith, his grandfather telling stories of raiding into the civilized lands in his youth, the bit about breaking a bull's neck with his bare hands and so on—and tried to shape it into a set of stories that would show Conan growing into the person we meet in "The Frost-Giant's Daughter," a wanderer driven to see new things, unable to stay in one place, distrusting of authority but strong enough to lead, smart but moody, someone with so primal a core he stood out even among his own people and so on.
The second thing was that we wanted to use the arc as a way to save Cary Nord some schedule time. So it was done as a series of single-issue stories (except for the two-part finale), to be dropped in in-between the main story arcs. A way of doing fill-ins that wouldn't feel like fill-ins, but as an event readers could look forward to. It was a little tricky, sometimes, to write it so that it'd work as standalone issues and still read well when collected into book form, but it was worth it. Readers liked it, and it's gotten equally good reaction in book form.
Howard never really showed us Cimmeria, so building it from his references was fun, making it a relatively cheerless, almost Calvinistic place, full of grim purpose and unending work, building a culture that was primitive enough to be considered barbaric but developed enough to have blacksmiths, and so on. And Greg Ruth did an amazing job with the artwork. I think I drove him crazy sometimes with nitpicks obsessions about swords and terrain and kilts. But he really made it all come to life beautifully.
I understand a lot of writers don't like to comment on writer's block, but I know that it is a real problem sometimes. When you have a deadline, and have yet to nail something down, what do you do to get yourself inspired to write?
Who would be some of your dream actors for Astro City the movie?
Since I'm a producer on the Astro City movie, currently in development (knock wood), I'll hold off on revealing my top choices, because I wouldn't want to deal with people saying later, "You wanted Hartley Thrushlocks for that role and had to settle for Craigston Hardwick! Why don't you like Hardwick?" when ol' Craigston is in fact perfectly good for the role.
Also, these things tend to be about casting every role with familiar stars who look just like the character even if they can't act the part, and I'd be perfectly happy with unknowns who can act the essence of the character even if they don't resemble what Brent and Alex drew. I've said for years that someone like Denzel Washington could project what I see in Samaritan, so I'm not that worried about appearance. [Er, not that Denzel is an unknown, or anything.]
As for writer's block, I'm not sure I've ever had it. There are times I find it hard to get going, but that's usually physical—fatigue, allergies, sinus infections, whatever. So deal with the physical stuff and let the brain work. Or if I'm having a hard time making a story work, I'll talk to my wife or call a friend and bat it around. I often find that just explaining the story to someone else lets me solve the problems I'm having, that my brain's chasing things round and round fruitlessly, by forcing myself to articulate the problems out loud brings along the solution pretty easily.
Karl Kesel occasionally mocks me for calling him up for story help, explaining the problem and figuring out the solution without him having to say anything more than, "Uh-huh. Uh-huh. That sounds good." But I wouldn't get to the solution without the process of talking to him. Whatever works.
From [Name Deleted]:
My name is [deleted again] and I am seeking a penciler,colourist/inker and a writer for my own comic book. Could you please send me an email to [deleted] with a quote for the following:
2 page origin story
22 page comic book &
88 page graphic novel like (example movie 300).
[here, a link was given to a YouTube slideshow of what seemed to be the entirety of Frank Miller's 300 graphic novel, which is an interesting form of online piracy I hadn't seen before]
Looking forward to doing business with you.
I'm deleting the identifying info because I'm not posting this in order to hold this person up to criticism, just using this as an opportunity to publicly respond to this kind of query, which I get every now and then.
The thing is, I'm not actually looking for work, and when I am I'm not just looking for someone to meet my rates, and will produce origin stories and graphic novels like yard goods. I'm plenty busy, and when and if I am looking for assignments, I'm going to seek them out from established publishers. Writing for a living isn't just about getting paid a certain amount—everyone who writes for the public wants the material to reach an audience and be presented well, so we want to know that just as we bring talent, craft and creativity to the table, the publisher brings the ability to do their side of the job well, too. Can they produce a well-made book, promote it well, get it distributed to stores, and more? Will they be able to team me up with good collaborators for the art, the lettering and so on? Are they well-established enough that I can be confident they'll pay their bills, and pay royalties on a steady schedule?
So I'm just not going to be available to be hired over the internet by an individual. Sorry. On top of that, I'm trying to concentrate on material I create myself these days, rather than working on someone else's ideas. [I'll make an exception when it's Jack Kirby's ideas and I get to work with Alex Ross, but that's a special case, I think you'll agree.]
I'm also forced to wonder: If other creators are going to be writing, penciling, inking, coloring and lettering the comic, what's left?
In any case, no offense is meant to the person who e-mailed. I'm just not available on that kind of basis.
Are DC and yourself still going to follow up on the end of Trinity? Is there any timeframe if yes?
As I understand it, you've already seen a follow-up, though I'm not entirely sure which one. At one point, the "Earth-One" created at the end of Trinity was going to be the setting of the DCU Online roleplaying game, in which case the follow-up is the DC Universe Online Legends series that Marv Wolfman and Tony Bedard are writing.
Of course, it's possible that plans changed, and the Earth-One you saw at the end of Trinity is the setting for J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Earth-One graphic novel. Or maybe it's something else.
But when I finished Trinity, it wasn't with the idea that I'd be following up that thread—it was put in at DC's request, so they could take things onward as they chose. So it's entirely up to them.
It would be nice to see someone pick up the Dreambound or Tomorrow Woman or Warhound and do something with them, but since I'm currently not writing anything set in the DCU, it won't be me, at least not at present. Maybe someday.
I just wanted to say that I first read Astro City when I was 15. I'm 25 now and I've just started to gather all the paperback collections so that I can read them over and over again. I have volumes I-III and I've probably already read them five, six times over (this is considering I've only had them for a month!)
Thanks again for creating the best comic books that have ever existed.
My pleasure, Dan, and it's Brent's, Alex's and the rest of the team's, as well. We're delighted you like it so much.
I don't think I've ever written to you before, but I just wanted to stop buy and saying thank you for Thunderbolts. It's my favourite comic ever published, and owes everything to your idea and groundwork. In fact, it was the comic that got me into comics in the first place, which is a hobby I have loved (and still do) for 10+ years.
I know it must be odd, getting a message like this after so long, but it occurred to me I have never expressed to your how much enjoyment and pleasure I have gotten from Thunderbolts. I truly hope it gets made into a film (trilogy) one day. Your work deserves it!
I don't have much to say in response but thanks—it's great getting mail like this, but hard to respond to.
I'm quite proud of the Thunderbolts, and glad of the time Mark Bagley, Tom Brevoort and I spent working on the book, and I'm very happy it's still going today. Not sure it'll ever make a movie property (so much background and context to explain), but it'd be fun to see someone try it...
On page 188 of the trade paperback of Superman: Secret Identity (this would be in the 4th issue) Clark is contemplating what to do with his two daughters when he notices a Post-It by the phone. I was just wondering what was written on that Post-It or what the significance of that note was.
I know it's been a while since Superman: Secret Identity was finished and released but this has been something that's really been at the back of head for quite some time now.
Still waiting for the possibility of a Shockrockets Vol. 2 and even Superstar. :) Thanks so much.
I didn't remember a Post-It in the story, so I had to go check. No, there's nothing important on that Post-It (or at least, not important to the story; it may well be important to Clark. It's just part of the general clutter of his office. What he's reacting to is the sound of the train derailing, as he notes on the next page. Sorry that was confusing!
And more Shockrockets or Superstar would be nice, someday. In the meantime, I'm just happy both are back in print and available for new readers to try 'em out!
Speaking of Secret Identity, here's MATT:
I just finished reading all 4 Superman: Secret Identitys and I just wanted to say it's a piece that really spoke to me. It just made me feel better about my own life. A lot of the things Clark dealt with I could absolutely relate to, I think a few times my thoughts matched his on the page. The books just left me with a very good feeling about life in general, and that for the first time in a long time I'm looking forward to what's down the road for me. I'm ready to live my life and have my own adventure.
Thank you again for your wonderful work.
You keep writing them, I'll keep reading them.
It's a deal. Thanks for the note.
Is Astro City ever gonna come back out?
Yes, it is. We've been working on it steadily, but haven't firmly scheduled its return yet, because (a) there've been a couple of waves of business upheaval that delayed things, and (b) we want to make sure both Astro City and the new book, The Witchlands, will be on a monthly schedule when we do return, something we haven't exactly been great at the last few, uh, forever.
So we want to make sure everything's going to work smoothly and stay working smoothly, rather than come back with promises of being monthly and then immediately fall off the rails. But we should be ready to make an announcement fairly soon.
And that's another batch of mail answered!
Here I am again to recommend another book!
I've worked with Neil Vokes a time or three—not nearly often enough, given his energetic storytelling, charming drawing and fantastic character designs—but after an abortive plan for us to work together on Vampirella, we managed to collaborate on Jack Kirby's Teenagents, Jonny Demon, Ninjak and Untold Tales of Spider-Man: Strange Encounter, and we keep making plans to do something else together someday.
Now one of Neil's earliest works is coming back into print: A collection of the first batch of issues of Eagle, a series he did with Jack Herman (writer of a mess of Robotech and other comics) and fellow artist Rich Rankin. Informed equally by Hong Kong action movies and classic American horror films, with a strong dash of superhero storytelling, it's an involving series about a mysterious swordsman on a desperate quest into murky and dangerous territories. And it's a ton of fun.
Here's a description I stole from the Westfield catalog. Sorry, guys!
Eagle Original Adventures Vol. 01 SC
(W) Jack Herman (A) Neil Vokes, Rich Rankin
Out of print for over two decades, one of the original 1980's black and white independent comic book classics returns in a deluxe edition trade paperback! Described as Lone Wolf and Cub meets Blade Runner, the series follows the supernatural laced adventure of a man seeking justice along the edge of a sword. Eagle: The Original Adventures collects the first six issues of the groundbreaking series and includes a preview of the new comic book series in development. Packed with special features including an original cover gallery, concept sketches, and editorial pieces from the creative team and artists that were inspired by the series, this collection is an essential for classic comic book fans.
Anyway, if you're already a Neil Vokes fan, you already know you want this. And if you're not, it's a great place to start. Get your pre-orders in now—it's likely to be hard to find, but it's worth the effort!
Look for this cover in your local comics store in March, because that's when IDW's new Superstar: As Seen on TV hardcover hits the shelves!
Or, if you're in one of those shops that displays books spread-eagled, you'd be looking for this:
And as a Special Added Super-Bonus, click here for an 8-page preview! Are we nice to you, or what?
The new Superstar HC is another gorgeous, gorgeous book from the fine folks at IDW. Like their recent Shockrockets HC, it's designed by the affable and ingenious Bill Tortoloni, with me looking over his shoulder and saying, "No, wait, let's change page 80 again!"
And it's full of pretty much all the Superstar stuff there's ever been. Here's how IDW describes the book:
SUPERSTAR: AS SEEN ON TV
Kurt Busiek (w) Stuart Immonen (a & c)
Meet Superstar, a hero for the media age: the more popular he is, the more powerful he is. With the public behind him, he can work miracles—without them, he's nothing. Superstar's made a deal with his father, an international media tycoon, to promote him and keep him powerful enough to save the world. But now he walks a fine line between staying famous enough to do the most good, and becoming just another "property" in his father's portfolio.
HC FC $14.99 80 Pages ISBN: 978-1-60010-889-1
Contains the complete saga of Superstar, and behind-the-scenes text and art detailing the development of the character with never-before seen art, including character designs from Paul Ryan and Alan Davis.
All the action, suspense and characterization you expect from Kurt Busiek (Avengers) and Stuart Immonen (Superman) plus, an incisive look at superheroes and celebrity in a world where fame literally is power.
Special note to online sites, blogs and what-have-you: If you'd like to showcase any of this art (including the preview) on your site, feel free—Stuart, IDW and I would be glad to have you spread the word!
A couple-three more e-mails...
I was wondering what your policy on sketches and autographs at conventions was:
1) Do you charge for autographs, if so how much and after how many, and do you have a limit?
2) Do you charge for any type of sketch, and how much and for what do you charge for (e.g. head sketches, mini bust type sketches, full body sketches: what would you charge per different one)?
3) Last one being, would you sketch anything or do you want me to ask you to do something you know pretty well and is it better to ask you ahead of convention time or wait til I get there and ask?
That's all I think that I am wondering, if you could get back to me that would be great cause I would like to know before Emerald City Comicon.
I'm pretty sure I've answered this before—this very e-mail, not just the general questions—but just in case:
1. I don't charge for autographs. I don't have a set limit, either, with the following two caveats: (a) if you have a big stack and there's a line, I may say I'll sign some of them but you'll have to get back in line after that, because I don't want to keep the people behind you waiting, and (b) if you bring an entire longbox full of my stuff I may say hey, let's not be ridiculous. I'm willing to sign a lot of books, but let's not try to have me sign my entire output.
2. I'm a writer, not an artist, so you don't really want to get sketches from me. I occasionally do sketches, but they're very bad, so I don't charge for them. But I'd rather not do them at all and you wouldn't be impressed by the results. Generally I do them for sad-looking children who don't really get the idea that not everyone sitting on the other side of those tables can draw, but I fear I don't make them very happy.
3. Even bad sketches have their limits. I can do a few crappy-looking head shots I have some practice at, but if I try to draw something other than those, it looks even worse.
Here's one of my sketches:
And that's after years of practice, too. You really don't want to pay me to draw.
Have you checked this out on YouTube? Tim reviews your book Superman: Secret Identity. check it out!
Thanks, Diane. I'm crossing my fingers that the video will embed properly; I've never tried to do this before.
[Side-note to Tim: Glad you like the book, and happy to have made you cry. It's actually 'BYOO-sik' and "IMM-uh-n'n,' more or less. And yes, that was an ending in Shockrockets: We Have Ignition, though Stuart and I would like to follow up on it someday...]
Probably an easy fix.
As for the breaking-in piece, it interested me because last year I embarked on an experiment in podcasting after a more-than-twenty-year attempt to achieve success in music.
And I think you're right. It's best to concern yourself with doing, with MAKING something, rather than planning or struggling to figure out the WAY IN.
Thanks for the heads-up on the broken links. It was indeed an easy fix, and they should work just fine now.
And I'll take this opportunity to remind other readers that there's more to this website than the Notes section—the Read section has a smattering of stories, previews, interviews and essays (not as many as I'd like, but hey, some), the Find section has information on upcoming appearances, the Shop section has links to my books on Amazon, and so forth. Feel free to browse around.
I'm glad you liked the "Breaking In" piece, Geoffrey. It's gotten a lot of attention over the years, and I can only hope it's been useful.
From my pal Nat Gertler, head honcho at About Comics, home to an eclectic and fascinating selection of comics and other material, comes some pretty terrific news.
Robert Mayer, the author of the brilliant Superfolks, has a new novel out. I haven't read it yet myself, but I'm eager to get to it—everything I've read by Mayer has been terrific, and Superfolks was a revelation, over time changing my outlook on both superheroes and on writing, and making it possible for me to write Marvels, Astro City, Superman: Secret Identity and more.
Here's Nat's press release:
Robert Mayer, the acclaimed author whose Superfolks changed the course of superhero fiction, has just released The Ferret's Tale, a serious, dramatic, psychological novel told from the point of view of a ferret named Cleo.
Ezra Wroth is a man of today, a master of science but facing his own mortality, struggling with an array of uncertainties. His children are adults with more exuberance than wisdom, his own past holds dark secrets, and the world around him has plans for him he cannot imagine. Into his life comes Cleo, a ferret who understands him better than he understands himself... or is what is happening not quite what it seems?
The Ferret's Tale is a story of the human struggle, of love and war, sorrow and joy, death and renewal, faith and doubt. That's probably more than readers expect from a book narrated by a ferret... but then, they probably also don't expect the robots in such a book, nor the Nazis.
Mayer has written for Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, GQ, and more. Best-selling author John Grisham called his The Dreams of Ada “a fascinating book, a wonderful reminder of how good true-crime writing can be.” Mayer lives in New Mexico with his tapestry-weaving wife, La Donna, and their people-loving pit bull.
This novel is the first effort of Combustoica, a new non-comics project of About Comics, a decade-old publishing and packaging firm. About Comics was the publisher who returned Superfolks to print after decades off the shelves (the book is now in print from St. Martin's Press). Further books from Mayer and other authors are in the works from Combustoica.
The Ferret's Tale is available for immediate downloading via the Kindle ($4.99), and the paperback edition ($14.99, ISBN: 978-1456358976) as well as editions for other ebook devices can be ordered through Combustoica.com. The paperback is also available through Amazon and will soon be available through other online bookstores.###
About Comics is a specialty publishing and packaging company with more than a decade in the field. Founded by writer Nat Gertler, About has published everything from totally blank comic books to books of work by mainstream best-seller Charles Schulz and comic shop favorites like Kurt Busiek and Gail Simone. About Comics packaging services have arranged for original material or for reprint rights for a broad range of clients.
Clicky links for ordering are up there in the press release. I urge you to give The Ferret's Tale a look.
So, I seem to have been neglecting the blog. Sorry about that. Since last I posted, we've done Thanksgiving and Christmas, I've spent a week in L.A. pitching a movie, a week in Florida visiting relatives, written a mess o' comics, read a ton of graphic novels and three quarters of a ton of novels, gotten very productive, gotten sick and unproductive, and now I seem to be getting productive again.
But anyway, let me answer some of the mail that's stacked up, at least, and I'll feel a little less neglectful. For a week or so, maybe.
I apologize if this question is at all out of line or a sore point and I'm even more sad I missed the opportunity to talk to you last weekend at Mid-Ohio, but I've been wondering if you felt any kind of way about Marvel's use of your story beat from the Confessor arc of Astro City as the general concept for the Secret Invasion event from two summers back? As a fellow writer, I wholly subscribed to a "my ideas are for the world to use and explore," but I know I'm in the minority on that one. Was this something that you were addressed with before or is it possibly another happy-accident of creative synergy?
Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and I hope I get to make your acquaintance on the con-circuit come next year!
I'll confess to not having read Secret Invasion, but I expect what you mean is that there were shape-shifting aliens infiltrating humanity, right? If so, the idea wasn't original to me—Skrulls have been disguising themselves as human at Marvel for years, going back to Fantastic Four #2, when they disguised themselves as the Fantastic Four. And of course, the trope goes back to stuff like They Live, The Invaders and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well.
I've also seen people suggest that Marvel took the Superhero Registration Act in the Civil War event from Confession, but that too has predecessors—the Mutant Registration Act at Marvel, the "Last Days of the Justice Society" events at DC, where the JSA heroes were pressured to reveal their identities to the government, the Keene Act in Watchmen, and of course they're all inspired by real-world examples like the 1940 Alien Registration Act or the Nazi registration of Jewish-owned property, and so on.
What matters isn't whether ideas are new—most aren't, after all—but how they're used. And I'm reasonably confident that Secret Invasion used its ideas rather differently from what happened in Confession.
No question, no inquiry, no request.
Just wanted to say thank you for writing great stories that I really enjoy reading and coming back to again and again.
Reread Astro City Vol 1 again and felt compelled to tell you how much I enjoyed it, again.
Very glad to hear it, sir!
CLICK THE LINK AT LOWER RIGHT FOR LOTS MORE...
I had a wonderful time at the Mid-Ohio Comic Con this past weekend, hanging out with friends, chatting with fans, and signing what I conservatively estimate as nine tons of Avengers, Astro City, JLA/Avengers, Superman, Trinity and other such comics. And I'm not sure I've ever signed that many hardcovers in one place. I hadn't been to Mid-Ohio in close to ten years, and I think some of you were saving up...
[I also bought comics...or, uh, comic. Having recently read G-Man: Cape Crisis by Chris Giarrusso, I bought a copy of the first volume, G-Man: Learning to Fly, from him, and enjoyed it just as much as I did the second one. A delightful all-ages book, check it out.]
But after three days (counting travel) of very little sleep, hotel bed, jet lag, cramped airplane seats, tight connections and a memorably-vile Cheez Whiz omelette (no, I'm not kidding. Why, Hampton Inn & Suites, why?!), I am stiff, sore, exhausted and broken today.
So what am I gonna do? Answer blog mail, that's what I'm gonna do!
I know you are a busy man and get requests like this daily, but your talent is worth the try. I was wondering if you have any writing tips or time to read some of a novel I am working on. I admire your talent and have met you at several comic shows across the USA. Each time you have been more than gracious to sign books and spend time with me.
If you don't have the time I completely understand.
Alas, Kerry, I don't have the time. Plus, even if I did, I don't read unsold fiction for legal reasons. On top of that, I don't much enjoy doing critiques, and don't think I'm terribly good at it, so it's not something I want to spend my time on—and then, of course, there's the fact that I'm just some guy. I can't sell your novel for you, or even introduce you to editors. You're far better off showing your work to people who can actually buy it. If nothing else, when they say, "I liked this bit," or "I think you should change that bit," they're saying it as the representative of a publisher, while I might be telling you to change exactly the bits that an editor might fall in love with and offer you a contract over.
That said, my best advice on writing and breaking in can be found at:
These may not be terribly useful to you, since they're more about comics than anything else. But, well, that's the only field I've done enough professional writing in to be considered any sort of authority.
Good luck with it!
I want to create the awareness of comic in Ghana and some part of Africa. We can strike a deal on that.
No, sorry, I don't think we can.
But it's all right with me. I'm sure Ghana and parts of Africa could use more awareness of comics.
I just wanted to say that I have been a big fan of yours since I first discovered Astro City #1 back in 1995. To date, you are probably the only writer I look for specifically at the comic book stores. Thank you for all of the great writing. I just picked up your new Dracula series and I can't wait to read it this weekend.
Hope you liked it!
I bought Robert Mayer's Superfolks on your recommendation a few years ago and I just got around to reading it now. Thanks so much. I've already read most of the books that came after it, so reading the inspiration was fascinating. Some of the jokes fell flat, but the story still stands up. I was surprised when I found out how they were sapping Brinkley's powers, didn't see it coming. I also thought the descriptions of his feeling towards Pamela and Peggy were excellent.
Thanks very much.
Very glad to hear you enjoyed it, sir. It's a terrific book.
I'm working on a complete Astro City collection for my own personal satisfaction and I was wondering if you could tell me if I'm missing anything. So far I've got every issue, including the 3-D variant of "Welcome to Astro City," the 1/2 issue that came with a Wizard magazine, and the Visitor's Guide. Just recently I picked up the Samaritan and Confessor "action" figures and I have most of the trades (and I know which of those I don't have). Is there anything else? Some special variant I'm not aware of? Some promotional issue or rare figurine/t-shirt/beer koozie? I'd appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks!
Now I'm racking my brains, on a day when my brains don't want to rack very well...
There was a variant cover to vol. 2 #1, and of course the Wildstorm edition of the Wizard #1/2 issue. And there were some promo posters here and there. Graphitti Designs did three (I think it was three) different T-shirts, and at least one refrigerator magnet set. And someone did a print of one of Alex's covers—I want to say it was of vol. 1 #2, but considering the day, I wouldn't want to trust me on that.
If I'm missing anything, someone let me know, either here or over on the message board, okay?
I have a very serious question to ask you as a longtime comics fan. This is concerning a story you wrote circa 1986: The Legend of Wonder Woman issues 1-4 for DC comics.
My question is: Did you intend this story to be a tribute of sorts to the silver age (Earth-1) Wonder Woman, even though the art by Trina Robbins clearly has it as a Golden Age style, given the events of Crisis 12, where Diana (Earth-1) had been devolved and her history was reversed as well?
The reason i ask this is because I'm trying to support my claim that although the artwork is in the Golden Age style by Robbins, the story itself focused on the recently devolved Earth-1 Diana by the Anti-Monitor in Crisis, and as a result affected the surviving Earth-1 Amazons and Hippolyta her mother, who by the end of the story were turned into stars by Aphrodite, since she wanted to be spared the pain of forgetting she ever had a daughter (since the Earth-2 Diana had already been given her reward of being allowed to live the rest of her life alongside her husband, the Earth-2 Steve Trevor, on Mt. Olympus, by the Greek Gods, as seen in Crisis 12).
I'm not sure how much of that I can straighten out, but:
The Legend of Wonder Woman series has a framing sequence set during the final events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and that part, at least, was definitely supposed to be about the Earth-One Wonder Woman. The reason she appears on the splash of LoWW #1 as a statue, after being turned into formless clay in Crisis was editorial miscommunication—we'd been told she'd been turned into a clay statue, and started our story before that final Crisis issue was drawn.
The flashback story we told about Wonder Woman and bratty young Suzie, on an adventure involving Atomia of the Atom Galaxy and Solala and Leila from the Land of Mirrors—I have to say, I can't remember at this point. The comics are somewhere in the basement, and it'd take forever to dig them up and check.
The real purpose of the Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series, though, was a legal one. Back then, DC's deal with the Marston Estate was that if DC didn't publish at least four issues of a series headlining Wonder Woman a year (and by "headlining," that meant as the lead character, not in a team book), the rights would revert. When it became clear that the post-Crisis Wonder Woman revival wasn't going to be ready to launch as quickly as DC would like, they needed to publish something headlining Wonder Woman to maintain the rights, and tapped Trina and me to do it.
The adventure we told was an artistic tribute to the post-WWII era of Wonder Woman, which was the era Trina had grown up on, and wanted to use as a strong influence. Atomia debuted in 1947, and Solala and Leila in 1948. Could the Silver Age Wonder Woman have met them? Sure, why not? It's not as if Batman and Superman's villains weren't often duplicated in both Earth-One and Earth-Two. And Bob Kanigher did do a rehash of the Atomia story in the 1970s, but I don't recall at this point which Wonder Woman that was supposed to have happened to.
Sorry if that's not the answer you were looking for. But I really like that approach to Wonder Woman's world—a world of fantasy kingdoms and fairy-tale concepts, of exotic, fanciful wonder, in contrast to the (somewhat, at least) harder-edged and pulpy crime/SF worlds of most of the male heroes. I'd love to see a modern-day take on that kind of thing.
I will note that we had to give Wonder Woman the double-W insignia instead of the classic eagle insignia, even though the story was set before she adopted that symbol, because, well, DC told us we had to. So we did.
I am a freshman English major at Kent State in Ohio. First off, I am a big fan of your work, specifically your work on Marvels, and your run on Avengers. I'm sure you get letters like this all the time so I'll try and be brief. I want to be a writer. Specifically, I want to write comic books. I understand the career field for comic writers is highly competitive, but it's something I've always wanted to do. I was wondering if you had any tips/suggestions a budding writer like myself could use. I'm fairly clueless as how to break into the field. Thank you for your time, and your advice.
My best advice is at the links in the response to Kerry, above.
Plus, I'd recommend a few books: Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels with Peter David by, uh, Peter David, Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1, by, um, Alan Moore, and The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Denny O'Neil. I haven't read the David or O'Neil books, and I think I read the Moore as a two-part article in The Comics Journal years ago, but all three gentlemen know their stuff.
From my old friend LOU MOUGIN:
Kurt: Enjoyed the "Comics as a Mass Medium" article. You brought out some interesting bits there with the need for "lowbrow" or "middlebrow" culture to carry the medium...like Nik Cohn said, the Art Movie may be the upper-crust stuff, but it takes Hollywood to create the myth.
One thing that seems to get ignored in this is the importance of crossovers with entertainment that kids (or even adults) follow faithfully. Sure, the author of Kavalier and Klay is right in that not enough step-on titles for kids are being produced, and not distributed where kids can get them. But one thing he's missing is this: when I was a kid, long before VCRs or DVDs or Blu-Rays were out of the realm of Buck Rogersish stuff, if I wanted to see Huckleberry Hound, I had to wait a whole week for the cartoon to come on again. But if I wanted to read Huckleberry Hound, I could take out a Dell comic featuring him and his supporting cast and read it anytime I liked. Those Dell tie-in titles got a lot of us hooked on comics.
Similarly, if you went to a movie back then, you saw it one time (maybe twice, if you were lucky, addicted, and had enough spending cash). But if it was adapted into a comic, and lots of them were, you could revisit Son of Flubber or Mary Poppins any time you opened up the comic.
This got me hooked on comics, and provided a first step, from which I eventually graduated to DC, then to Marvel. Without them, I wouldn't have become a dyed-in-the-whatever comic book nut.
Don't know if this hasn't been considered, but it should have been.
Makes sense, Lou, though that's another thing we've seen change over time. Nowadays, if you want to see, say, Hannah Montana, and it's not on right now, there are those VCRs and DVDs and such. So spin-off comics have competition they didn't used to, often from the original material.
But that doesn't stop comics publishers from publishing The Muppet Show and Transformers and G.I. Joe and assorted other titles, which offer the reader more of what they like from TV and the movies. And in the time since I wrote that essay, we've seen more non-superhero titles that are still strong genre titles—one of which, The Walking Dead, is making a splash on TV, too.
Is that the answer? Well, no, there's no one answer. But it's a piece, I'd say.
Just wondering if and when you'll be returning to the DCU and, if so, what project(s)? I liked Trinity (although I was disappointed that Space Ranger wasn't, in fact, Space Ranger) and most of what you'd done before that in the DCU. And seeing which writers are returning to the DCU now and in the near future, I was hoping to see your name on credits too. Thanks and I hope you are feeling well.
The only DC character I'm currently working on, Larry, is Batman, sort of, in the Batman: Creature of the Night project I'm doing with John Paul Leon. And that's a follow-up to Superman: Secret Identity, and isn't the Batman of the DCU.
After doing JLA/Avengers and Trinity (and before that, Avengers, Avengers Forever and others), I seem to have gotten the big universes "out of my system," at least for now, and am happier working on books of my own creation, like Astro City and The Witchlands, or books where I get to define the world even if I'm working with existing concepts, as with Creature of the Night and Kirby: Genesis. I assume that after I do that for a while, I'll start to feel the itch to play in the big sandboxes again, and will want to write the Fantastic Four or the Legion or some in-continuity series again, but for now, I'm content where I am, and am coming up with more ideas for standalone projects than for DC or Marvel's storied casts of heroes.
So I'd guess I'll be back someday, but no immediate plans, at least.
I'm sure I could have just asked this on a message board, but I figured I would try email first because I'm lazy and it's quicker than setting up a forum account.
I recently read for the first time Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe. For years, all I read and knew of that 'team' was the original 12-issue maxi series, and the Avengers issues you wrote featuring them. After finally reading Gruenwald's epic finale, I gained new appreciation for your issues featuring the team, and re-read issues 5-6 and the '98 Annual. And with that new appreciation came some questions (and quite honestly, I'm sure you've been asked these same questions multiple times before).
Now I have still haven't read the Quasar/Squadron Supreme stuff, so my questions may be answered there, but here goes.
1) Why keep 'Arcanna' in the Moonglow identity and costume?
2) Was there an explanation for why Dr Spectrum got his 'color' back, or did you and George just prefer is original look?
3) I noticed for the first time that Len Kaminski co-wrote the '98 Annual, did you originally plan to co-write the New World Order special together as well?
4) Slightly off topic, but I love the Swordsman character, the original and the confusing parallel doppelganger, did you have any plans for him and Magdalene after the Annual?
5) And one last incredibly stupid question to ask a writer, but I haven't read Avengers Infinity in years, and I have no idea where my copies are, but I remember Haywire was in it and he ends up with a new lover.....Who does he end up with?
Sorry to bug you, I just got the urge to ask you these questions as soon as I finished reading.
Thanks for all your incredibly entertaining work, and keep it up.
I'll do my best, Chris.
I'll note that no, I haven't been asked most of those questions before, but since you ask:
1) Largely, I think, because Mark Gruenwald did. A number of the things he did with the Squadron were done specifically to make them less like the JLA, since while there was never a problem with the Squadron being used as parody, but if someone did straight adventure stories with them, DC tended to complain that such a use was too close to the JLA and thus unprotected by parody laws. So Mark took steps to make the characters distinct and different, shaking up their world, killing some heroes, changing others, bringing in new members who weren't obvious parallels of JLA members, and so on.
One of those many changes was giving Arcanna Jones the Moonglow identity. I didn't see any reason to go back to the Arcanna identity, so I stuck with what Mark had done.
2) Keeping in mind that I'm doing this from memory, I'm pretty sure there was an explanation, but that Mark wrote it. Had Doc Spectrum been still in that black-and-white form when we'd picked him up, I think we'd have used him that way.
3) No, Len helped me out on the annual for schedule reasons, but the New World Order one-shot was his from start to finish.
4) I didn't have any specific plans for Magdalene or the Swordsman, no. I was just getting them off-stage in a dynamic way. As I recall, at the time they were living in a house that Tony Stark owned, somewhere in the NYC area, so it seemed to me that if there were crises in Manhattan involving the Avengers, they'd be likely to come running to help out. And I didn't want that—I had a plenty big cast even without them. But I didn't want to kill them off or anything, so rather than leave them, essentially, "parked" in an uninteresting situation, it would be better to send them off on a journey. That way, any time a writer wanted to use them, he could pick them up wherever he liked—they could still be searching for a home, they could have found one but now need the Avengers' help to protect it, they could have fallen into the clutches of enemies...having them off on a journey opens up possibilities, while having them hanging around as Tony Stark's houseguests just didn't seem interesting.
As such, all I was doing was getting them off my stage...but in a way that would make it possible for me (or someone else) to do something exciting with them later. And if they never return, well, we can assume they found a happy situation somewhere, instead of just sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
5) I don't think Haywire was even in Avengers: Infinity, was he?
He was another of the characters Mark had brought into the Squadron to differentiate them from the JLA, and Len Kaminski had planned to kill him off in the opening pages of New World Order, largely because Len was trying to shift the Squadron back to something more resembling the classic JLA, albeit in an altered-enough setting to avoid DC's ire. I thought Haywire was worth saving, so I had him stay behind rather than go off and get killed, and sent him off on another "get him off-stage but dynamically" thing.
As I recall, he cropped back up in Avengers: Celestial Quest, where Steve Englehart continued his story. I think he was involved with Silverclaw, but ultimately was still obsessed with bringing back his old girlfriend Inertia, an obsession that led to his death (or transformation; you never know when you're dealing with cosmic beings). If it was his death, though, at least it stemmed from his own character motivations, and not just out of team membership bookkeeping.
And finally, from MIKE:
Keep checking dccomics.com to see if a new issue of Astro City has been posted... and keep being bummed. Anytime soon? I miss AC.
Right now, in the wake of all that's happened with DC's reorganization and the closure of Wildstorm, we're just working away at future issues, Mike. When we've got enough in the can, both of Astro City and The Witchlands, we'll launch both books on a monthly basis.
Hopefully, that won't take too long, but in the meantime, just hold tight. We'll be back—and while I can't speak for that no-account scripter, I can tell you that Brent and Alex are doing gorgeous work.
In a feeble attempt at being efficient and practical, I've updated the Find section to note where I'll be and when, during this weekend's Mid-Ohio Con. Which I am attending. As a guest-type person.
You can click on the link to see that info (and more!), or heck, just read the MOC stuff here:
November 6-7, 2010
Columbus, OH midohiocon.blogspot.com Panels: MOC Presents: Kurt Busiek, Sun 1pm Signings: Hero Initiative Booth, Sat 1130am-1230pm Otherwise: Most other times than the above, I'll be at my table, booth 624. But I'll wander around some, so if I'm not there at some point I'm sure I'll be back soon. And I'll be leaving a little early on Sunday to catch my flight home. See you there, I hope!
I wish I could say I'll remember to do this more often, as conventions I'm attending approach, but I fear I would simply disappoint. So I'll remind you that you can always find my upcoming appearances listed in the Find section.
If you're in Columbus this weekend, stop by and say hi!
So THE WIZARD'S TALE looked gorgeous. And now I have in my hands (or more accurately, I have on the desk to my right) an advance copy of the SHOCKROCKETS: WE HAVE IGNITION hardcover from IDW. And as I said to editor Scott Dunbier, earlier today, "Damn, every time IDW reissues one of my books, it winds up looking better than before."
Scott immediately demanded that I Twitter and blog that comment. So here you go, Scott.
And for the rest of you, here's a look at the book that's making me so happy this afternoon, which should be in stores soon. Click on any picture to see it bigger.
Art's been coming in, and I'm more than a little bit head-over-heels about it. Above, the cover to THE WITCHLANDS 1 by the ineffable Zachary Baldus.
And as long as I'm showing off the cover, how about a peek at some interior pages, by the beguiling Conner Willumsen?
Consider it a look ahead at something off on the horizon, but headed this way, just a little closer every time you forget to look. If I can match up to what these guys are doing, it'll be an amazing book.
Click on images to see them bigger.
Richard Howell, a longtime friend and collaborator of mine (Richard drew my first published story, way back in Green Lantern #162, eight years or so after we first met, and we've worked together many times since) posted the following message on the Claypool Comics website, where he's the editor of the line, as well as the writer/artist of the Deadbeats online strip.
Anyway, I heartily approve of his message, which is about Classic Comics Press's line of volumes reprinting Leonard Starr's great On Stage newspaper strip, so I asked him if I could run it, too. Here's what he had to say:
For anybody who loves intriguing, enjoyable, literate comics (and that’s every Claypool reader, right?) I strongly recommend getting on the bandwagon to purchase each and every volume in Classic Comics Press’ ongoing reprint series of Leonard Starr’s excellent MARY PERKINS ON STAGE. The strip ran from 1957-1979, in both dailies and Sundays, and is arguably the best story strip ever produced by someone who wasn’t Milton Caniff. Single volumes are a bargain at $24.95 (for roughly 250 pages of terrific reading) and subscriptions are now being offered for four volumes at $100 (U.S. rate).
I can’t recommend these volumes highly enough (and would very much like to see them continued through the strip’s end). Leonard Starr’s mastery of narrative and draftsmanship was a big influence on me as I was developing my own talents, and I learned quite a lot from ON STAGE in terms of story development, pacing, presentation of themes, and delineation of character; I can’t quantify how much impact this strip had on me. (I never absorbed Starr’s gift for brevity, however.) Anyone who enjoys DEADBEATS is practically guaranteed to be mesmerized by the expertise on view in MARY PERKINS ON STAGE. Don’t hesitate! Order your copies now--and if you feel moved to do so, mention that you made your move due to a hard-sell from here.
Incidentally, Classic Comics Press also publishes reprint volumes of other notable comic strips, including THE HEART OF JULIET JONES, BIG BEN BOLT, DONDI, THE CISCO KID, and RUSTY RILEY. Visit their website and get all the information.
End of commercial.
I'll second everything Richard said. On Stage isn't just one of my favorite story strips, it's one of my favorite comics, period, in any genre. A new volume of CCP's series is cause for celebration in Casa Busiek on a par with a new volume of Walt & Skeezix from D&Q, or a new Steve Canyon volume from any publisher who saw fit to continue Kitchen Sink's late, lamented (but great) series of Canyon reprints (hint hint), and gets read before just about anything else in the stack.
Starr isn't simply a wonderful artist, but a terrific writer, with a flair for dramatic construction, and an unbelievable gift for making a character come to life as a distinctive individual in only a few words. I learned a huge amount about effective comics dialogue from Starr—both in terms of getting across a character's essence, and writing exposition in a way that doesn't weigh the story down. Anything he wrote is a must-have, but On Stage is his masterpiece.
There are seven volumes of On Stage out so far, which brings us almost to the halfway point in the series—and it's a series that just keeps getting better and better. Give it a shot. You won't regret it.
If it tips any scales for anyone, I wrote the introduction for Volume Two, and other volumes have intros by Walter Simonson, Joe Jusko, Eddie Campbell, Doug Beekman, Batton Lash and Sal Amendola. And Richard has a terrific essay in Volume Four. But we all pale next to the work of Leonard Starr.
Coober Skeber #2, the "Marvel Benefit Issue," has been talked up online of late, notably here. So I figured I'd add my tiny pittance of anecdote to the pile.
[For those who never saw it: Coober Skeber #2 was a completely unauthorized anthology of stories featuring Marvel characters, written and drawn by alternative/indy creators, and handed out free at the San Diego Con in 1997. A precursor to books like World's Funnest, Bizarro Comics and the recent Strange Tales, it was anarchic, irreverent and fun, a delightful breath of fresh air, as creators who wouldn't remotely be connected to mainstream superheroes (at least not then) ran riot with childhood favorite. Some of the contributors included Seth, James Kochalka, Ron Rege, Pete Cardin, Tom Devlin and more. Click the link and/or do a web-search to find out more.]
Anyway, I was handed a copy at the San Diego Con, and I loved it. I showed it to a ton of people, marveled at the audacity of these guys practically daring Marvel to sue them (though in the end, both Marvel and DC imitated them), and got a huge kick out of the book, particularly the Seth cover, a group portrait of the original X-Men and their villains, and a short Hulk story by James Kochalka where the Hulk fights the rain.
I liked the Hulk story so much that when I got home, I photocopied the story and faxed it to Tom Brevoort at Marvel (this was in those halcyon days before scanners were common), and urged him to get someone to buy it from Kochalka and have it colored and run it as a backup somewhere. It was too cool not to show to Hulk fans everywhere.
Tom wasn't editing Hulk at the time, but he took over the book a little later, and eventually did try to buy the story. Kochalka wanted to re-do it, so Tom hired him to re-do the story, in color, and it ran in Hulk 2001, that year's Annual. And as Kochalka has pointed out, sequences like that story cropped up in both Hulk movies. Did they get it from that story? Who knows?
Anyway, that's my story of my behind-the-scenes role in getting James Kochalka published at Marvel.
My other connection to Coober Skeber #2 is that I liked the cover so much I contacted Seth and asked if he'd sell me the original. He told me he didn't sell his finished artwork, but he'd done the pencils on a separate sheet of paper and inked them on an overlay, and he'd be willing to sell me the pencils.
And I bought 'em, and that's a piece of them you see above. Click on the image to see the whole thing.
Here's the cover to look for, in a couple of months, when Shockrockets: We Have Ignition comes out in hardcover for the first time, from the fine gents and ladies at IDW Publishing.
Full-size 168-page hardcover with gorgeous new design work, a nice sketchbook section with a bit of commentary, this snappy new cover treatment, and we even caught and fixed a few scripting/lettering errors from previous editions. New design work by affable Bostonian Bill Tortolini, from unbelievably-crappy design sketches by me. Overseen by the majestic Scott Dunbier. New cover colors by Jeromy "Sure, No Prob" Cox.
In the unlikelihood that your local comics shop or bookstore displays new releases spread-eagled, you'd be looking for this:
Click on the image to see it larger
Me and my new iPad!
So, here's what my blog in-box looks like these days:
I just read that Dan Didio and Jim Lee are shuttering Wildstorm. Will this affect Astro City? Will KBAC come out under the DC banner then?
i was wondering (and i probably missed something) with the new announcement about wildstorm shutting down where will new astro city issues be coming out of? will they be coming out of the dc banner or something else? i have similar questions about the future of the america's best comics line
I'm wondering what is the fate of Astro City with the end of the Wildstorm line?
...and so on.
One post at my Facebook page puts it quite simply:
Astro City Future????????????
That's a lotta question marks, for a sentence that couldn't afford a verb...
I've addressed this on Twitter and Facebook, but maybe to spread the word further (or at least have a nice linkable place to point people, here's the word, at least as it currently stands:
There won't be any news about the future of Astro City,the Arrowsmith novel and The Witchlands, my three Wildstorm projects, for a little while, but I don't think there's anything to worry about.
Here's what's going on: On Tuesday, DC announced that they'd be moving a large portion of the New York-based DC operations to Burbank over the next year (everything but the publishing division, pretty much), where it could more easily interact with the movie/TV operations of Warner Bros. And at the same time, they announced that the Wildstorm imprint, based in La Jolla, California, would be closing down, and that, after some restructuring, the staff there would be the core of DC's digital/e-publishing operations in Burbank. The news pretty much went out to everyone at once—I heard about it from Twitter, right around the time the Wildstorm staff was being told in the La Jolla offices.
This wasn't rude or short-sighted—they couldn't exactly tell me ahead of time, because the people who'd have been doing the telling were just hearing about it themselves. And they couldn't tell everyone on staff ahead of the announcement, because news travels at internet speed these days, and someone would have posted the news online and then bam, it'd be announced even if they hadn't announced it yet.
[One Internet commentator, the sagacious Tom Spurgeon, was wondering why the information rolled out in two waves, and I'd suggest the answer is time zones. The New York-related news came out of New York after everyone was in the office and could be told, and then the La Jolla-related news came a few hours later, after Wildstorm's staff was at the office and could be told.]
Anyway, the announcement from Wildstorm mentioned that the Wildstorm Universe line would be ending, though the characters would be cropping up again in the future, and that licensed Wildstorm books like Ratchet & Clank and Fringe would be moved over to the DC imprint. But they didn't say anything about creator-owned books like Astro City and The Witchlands.
The reason for that's pretty simple, too: They can't announce anything before they talk it over with me, and with the owners of any other creator-owned books in the works, and make sure we're cool with whatever the plans are, or discuss alternate plans, or whatever else needs to be done. And they weren't able to do that yet, because they'd just made the announcement.
They still haven't been able to talk to us yet. That's not rude or short-sighted, either—it's just a function of the fact that all the editors I work with, all the production people, all the support staff and so on, are all having individual meetings at Wildstorm to talk about each employee's future. Are they moving to Burbank? Are they leaving the company? Are they going to New York, maybe? I have no real idea what's happening in those meetings, but they're all about people's jobs and lives, so they're more immediately crucial than the question of where the next issue of Astro City will come from, when it's ready to go.
And everyone I deal with at Wildstorm is either having those meetings, or conducting them.
So let 'em get through that, and then they'll be able to talk to me and other creator-owned guys.
Who the hell is that?
I won't speculate on what the upshot will be, but I wouldn't worry about it. Astro City is a profitable series, and DC isn't going to be in a hurry for it to go away. [And frankly, even if they were, in the last few days I think I've heard from almost every American comics publisher whose staff isn't tied up in meetings, letting me know that if it should possibly happen that DC and Astro City part ways, there are safe landing spots.]
So don't worry. There won't be any news for a little while, but that's because we haven't had a chance to work things out. There's more immediately-important stuff going on.
But we'll talk. Things will be figured out. And announcements will be made.
In the meantime, hold tight.
As for the future of America's Best Comics—sorry, Robbie, I don't have a clue. Wish I could tell you.
I seem finally to be getting a handle on this cough (of course, I've thought that before), so let's use a little of this returning energy and catch up on blog e-mail.
Okay, so my Silver Agent/Old Soldier prediction was off (and I suspected as much after you said about my theory, "It's an interesting idea, at least."), but after finishing the second part of the Silver Agent story I couldn't have been more glad about being wrong. For the second time, one of your stories has brought me to tears (the first time was with "Shining Armor").
Your writing is so rich and engrossing. I can't fully express what your stories mean to me, so I'll just say that if you ever need a kidney don't hesitate to ask.
Thanks very much, Nikko. Any day I can bring a grown man to tears is my kinda day. Very glad you liked it.
And mmmmmm, kidneys!
Hi Kurt! We had a great time at Baltimore Comic-Con last weekend, but we missed you! I think it's been a couple years since you attended and we'd really like to see you there again. Next year's is Aug. 20-21!
I went to Tom Brevoort's panel and suggested an Avengers Forever by you with the advert "Bendis Never Happened!" That got a laugh, but hopefully I planted a seed. ;)
By the way, loved Silver Agent and ASM Annual 37! Having another Untold was great! More please!
No current plans for either more Untold Tales of Spider-Man or an Avengers Forever by me, Shawn, but I guess you never know. Both would be fun projects, but at least for now I'm up to my gills in other work.
And Baltimore's a great show. I'm not doing as many shows as I used to—I'd rather stay home and spend time with my family and with my deadlines—but I'd love to be back someday.
I get most of my comics bound into big books, and am about to bind my second Astro City book. I was wondering if you had any suggestion of order or should I just go by date is was released. What order would you do a table of contents as?
Here are the series I am binding together.
Special #1 (Supersonic)
Dark Age Book 1
Dark Age Book 2
Dark Age Book 3
Dark Age Book 4
It's your book, Robin, so it's entirely up to you. I'd be tempted to get all the Dark Age material together in one clump, rather than have the character specials in-between, but if you're doing everything else chronologically, I can see why you might not want to do that. I will point out, though, that the Samaritan Special came out between Dark Age Books 1 and 2, not between 2 and 3. [And I'm embarrassed to admit I can't remember when the Visitor's Guide came out.
Anyone got any suggestions for how Robin should arrange the books? Feel free to make any suggestions on the Message Board.
A few posts back, I put up a picture of myself at the San Diego Con with Citizen V and the Confessor. Well, the Thunderbolts were out in force at DragonCon in Atlanta, and Mike (Citizen V) Tuffley sent me a bunch more pictures!
Click on the pictures to see 'em bigger...
More After the Break...
Ahh, five hours of fitful sleep interspersed with bouts of uncontrollable, painful coughing. Just what a fellow needs to meet the day. Well, as long as my brain's foggy and concentration ain't happening, let me guzzle herbal tea, slurp delicious homemade soup, go through several tissue boxes and answer the blog mail.
Do you have any memories of Uncle Elvis at the Dream Factory or in letter hacking in general?
I don't think I ever met "Uncle" Elvis Orten, Mark. I've heard he worked at the Dream Factory, which for years was my local comics shop and a favorite hangout, run by the gregarious and enthusiastic Mike Raub. The Dream Factory was also where Ann was working when we got engaged—we'd known each other in college, and she'd gone to work for Mike when she was back home in Connecticut, and I'd drive up to the Dream Factory on Friday nights to get the week's comics and meet up with Ann, and after closing up she'd drive back to her parents' house, switch over to my car and we'd go out to dinner or to the movies or something.
In fact, I almost proposed to her in the Factory—I had a big bouquet of flowers in my car, and was planning to wait until closing time and propose in the store, when we were alone. But Mike, who knew I was planning to propose but didn't know the details, wouldn't take the hint and leave. He decided he'd close up that night, to give us more time with one another, and not all the "No, no, don't bother, it's fine"s would get through.
So we weren't alone, Ann drove back to her parents' house and switched to my car—which had a very large and fragrant bouquet of flowers in it, hard to miss—and said, "What are those for?" So I wound up proposing in her parent's driveway.
Ah well. It worked.
But Uncle Elvis's time at the Dream Factory must have been post-1990, after Ann and I moved out to the Pacific Northwest. I have no anecdotes, aside from reading his letters. Sorry.
Longtime comic book fan from Germany. We've crossed paths at Comicboards a few years ago when JLA/Avengers came out (has it really been that long?). I've been one of the guys defending you over that dreaded Superman/Thor matter, and we ended up making fun of the complainers together. (I also bombed you with dozens of detail questions about the comic.) Still have all my various copies of JLA/A (US singles, US singles signed by Tom Smith, German singles, German variant cover singles, US hardcover).
I can't believe you're still getting angry comments about the Superman/Thor fight. I said it then and I say it again: I don't care about superheroes fighting each other. I want to see them work together. The occasional conflict is okay as long as it comes from the story and isn't just there for its own sake. "Who will win the fight?" got old when I was 17 or so. Was the first kind of topic to annoy me when I started posting on internet boards. So while I still liked the pairings in JLA/A #2 (Wonder Woman/Hercules, anyone?), I was even more happy to see less confrontative interactions in issues 3 and 4.
Anyways, I mostly dropped out of "mainstream" comic books around the time JLA/A came out. Too many retcons, reanimations, character regressions and multi-mega-giga-crossovers for my tastes. Only reading creator-owned and crossover-free stuff like Rising Stars, Supreme Power (yes, I know, it's followed by Ultimate Power. I'll ignore that one.) and Astro City these days.
Yes, Astro City. If I ever get around to do my own comic, Astro City will be one of the main inspirations (though I plan to keep the character focus a little more consistent). You've probably already heard all the praises I could think of, so I'll give you a very minor bit of criticism instead: The ever-changing character focus makes it difficult for me to actually attach to any of the characters. Yes, it's all very nice, but I still sorta miss the feeling of getting to know a character for a significant part of his or her life, like on ongoing character-specific titles. It's all just glimpses here and there.
But, as I said, it's a minor complaint. I've read Astro City through two German publishers (both of whom eventually discontinued the series), and I've resorted to English trade paperbacks now. Dark Age 1 was great, looking forward to part 2 and Shining Stars.
When it comes to ongoing-character stuff in Astro City, my feeling is that, if I did a lot of that, I wouldn't be able to do the other stuff we do—look how the focus on Charles and Royal left us not getting to see into the lives of most anyone else, during that run—and there are a lot more sources out there for ongoing character drama than there are for shifting-spotlight stuff.
But you will be seeing some recurring background characters—plus the return of some established characters you probably never expected to see again—as the series takes a (slightly) different focus in coming issues. Won't be the same as following a single core cast in every issue, but then, if it was, it wouldn't be the same as other stuff you like.
I am a huge fan of your work: Marvels, Astro City, and Superman: Secret Identity is one of my favorite story arcs of all time.
Due to my work schedule, responsibilities as a parent, and geographic location it is nearly impossible for me to make it to any major comic book conventions.
I would absolutely love to get your autograph on my copy of Astro City #1
Is there any way that I could mail it to you and you could sign it and send it back to me? I would be willing to pay ALL shipping costs.
Alas, I hate saying no to this sort of thing, but here's the problem:
We lose things.
I used to sign comics by mail, back before we didn't have any kids and the house wasn't a wreck, and if we're ever organized again (something I suspect won't happen until at least a decade from now, when the girls are both in college), I might go back to it, but in the meantime, mail comes in and a certain percentage of it gets lost in the drifting piles of paper that seem to fill the house unbidden.
Almost all my business correspondence happens online, and things like checks, contracts and Amazon packages get dealt with instantly when they come through the door, but envelopes with a single comic or two get lost in the drift, and may never be seen again. Sometimes I never see them at all.
[We had a recent episode—I have to/get to join the WGA as part of working on the Astro City film, and we talked with the Guild and e-mailed them things that indicated I'm qualified to join, and they sent off an application package. And a couple of weeks later we had a round of "Did that application package from the WGA ever show up?" "Oh, sure, it came in a few days ago. It's...somewhere." And it took three days to find it.]
Not the best way to go through life, but we haven't found a working alternative yet, or at least not one we seem to be able to manage.
So after someone sent me a comic to sign, and I didn't see it for over a year—and the guy who sent it was very patient and never complained, but still—I decided it was perhaps for the best if I stopped doing that for a while.
Thus, my apologies. I don't mind losing stuff I paid for (or at least, I bear the responsibility for it, and if it's important I can be dragged away from work to help search), I hate losing stuff that someone else paid for, and really doesn't want lost. If comics could be sent for signature via e-mail, it'd be different.
But if we ever get organized around here...
Hey Kurt, I'm a big fan of your work in general, and I have a quick question. I am really interested in getting the Astro City books in hardcover, I want to upgrade from my trade paperbacks, but to get the earlier books now is a fairly expensive endeavor and as a teacher I've got to watch my shekels. My question is, do you know if there are any plans to do nice new hardcovers, similar to what is being done with Y, Powers, Preacher, Fables, etc?
Thanks a lot buddy, and for all the years of great writing!
And thanks for the kind words, sir! No current plans to do new hardcover collections, though I'd certainly love to have them. And they've been discussed, at least. Maybe once (a) we're back on a dependable ongoing schedule, or (b) the movie's imminent, or (c) both.
But it'll be DC who make that decision, and they'll do it based on costs and terms like "sales velocity" and such. I've never understood fully how the process works, not since Superman: Secret Identity was changed from a hardcover to a trade paperback and moved on the schedule because another book had "fallen through."
I recently bought the entire run of the 1980s fanzine Comics Feature via eBay. What struck me immediately as I recently began reading the set from the first issue was that you were apparently an early (and extensive) contributor. Seeing your name really excited me. I have been a fan of Astro City since the original limited series, which I picked up (like so many other people I assume) because I was so blown away by Marvels.
I'm not sure how long it's been since you've had occasion to revisit your early work in Comics Feature. But in case it's been a while, I thought you might enjoy that:
1. In issue 9, you wrote a 'year in review' of X-Men in which you characterized the Dark Phoenix Saga as an example of "bad writing," and a "silly mess" with an "embarrassing ending." (I actually agree with that assessment, and never fully understood the reverence with which many held that storyline at the time. But given your professional reputation today as an online 'peacemaker' among pros and fans, I thought that these youthful 'harsh words' were notable and sort of funny.)
2. In issue 8, you wrote of Bill Sienkiewicz' run on Moon Knight that, "As an Adams rip-off, Sienkiewicz isn't even a particularly good one... Moon Knight should never stand a chance in the market." (I never read Moon Knight myself. So I don't have an opinion that. But I thought it was sort of funny for the same reasons.)
In conclusion let me be the millionth person to congratulate you on the Astro City movie deal. I really hope that comes to fruition.
Best of luck and best regards from a long (long) time fan.
Thanks, Dan. I still have copies of those issues of Comics Feature (and its sister magazine, LoC) somewhere in the basement, but I'm sure it would take weeks to unearth them. They were edited and packaged by Richard Howell and Carol Kalish, and I was assistant editor on them for a summer, some of the last work all of us did on the fan side of the industry before Carol got a staff job at Marvel and Richard and I broke in as freelancers a couple of months later, selling a story to DC.
As I recall, I also predicted the certain and imminent failure of this just-debuted New Teen Titans thingie from Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, which shows just how good I was at prognostication. But back then, as a reviewer, my job was to make an analysis and support it, not be a peacemaker. So that's what I did. I did positive reviews, too—of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's Tomb of Dracula and Jo Duffy and Kerry Gammill's Power Man and Iron Fist, to name two—but as with most things, it's the negative remarks that live on.
It was a treat to work on those magazines, and to get to do things like transcribe a long and genial interview with Don Heck, get a look at Joe Kubert's samples for a proposed revival of Terry and the Pirates or have the inside track on the announcement that there was going to be a JLA/Avengers crossover, and George Pérez would draw it. And for the record, I think that Sienkiewicz guy got a whole lot better when he started experimenting and finding his own voice.
I'll also note, as long as I'm here, that I've updated the "Find" section of the site with several upcoming conventions I'll be appearing at, in Columbus OH, Portland OR and Memphis TN.
I'll also note that that bit at the end where it says to sign up for the newsletter to be informed of future appearances is, well, optimistic. I've got a long list of names and e-mail addresses to send the newsletter to...once there is one. But we haven't gotten that far in the process, yet.
I should mention that I'm just back from three and a half days in bustling Chicago, where I met with artist Alex Ross, publisher Nick Barrucci and editor Joseph Rybandt to discuss our plans for the upcoming Kirby: Genesis project, building and launching a world of characters and concepts that comics great Jack Kirby created and kept the rights to.
I'd worked up an extensive list of characters we could use, from well-known heroes like Silver Star and Captain Victory to lesser-known concepts such as Galaxy Green, and even ideas and designs that have never appeared on the comics page. The Phantom Continent! Space Guardian! The Sorcerer's Book! And lots, lots more, down to cool-looking characters Kirby tossed off in the background of a commission drawing, and the like.
And I'll tell you, it's fun to find yourself saying things like, "That floating brain—that's never appeared before, right? So Kirby owned it and we can use it, right?"
I'd also roughed out a storyline that would bring a lot of this material on stage (and set up for more of it), in the course of telling a self-contained and hopefully very approachable story about ordinary people caught up in a world of wonder, fantasy and danger. We spent the last few days hashing over which characters were the most compelling, which we should introduce where and how, ways to flesh out unnamed characters or provide a proper context for interesting designs, arguing about what the very ordinary human lead should look like, where the instigating event should happen and the like.
It was a very enjoyable trip, and we got a lot done. To my surprise, most of my outline stayed the same as I'd written it to begin with, with only a few characters changed and structural elements shifted around. I think it's going to be an enormously fun series, and the world it sets up is bubbling over with potential for exciting comics.
I should note this sort of thing more often on the blog, rather than just mentioning it on Twitter. So now I guess I have!
Plus, a warning to floating-brain fans. The floating brain in question will in all likelihood only appear in one panel of Kirby: Genesis. So don't get all worked up that your dreams of floating-brain stardom are about to be realized. Still, he/she/it is part of something that could well support its own mini-series or ongoing series. So you never know.
A dream I had, a little while back:
My mother in law was recuperating from surgery. For what, I didn't know. But she'd chosen to recuperate from surgery in a theme hotel in southeast Portland, Oregon.
What the theme of the hotel was, I wasn't sure, and I'm not sure they were, either. The hotel itself was an old Victorian building, practically an Addams-Family-style mansion, but it had seen better days. The halls were dingy and dark. The wallpaper and carpets were grubby. The walls kind of leaned in, like the hotel was thinking of entering its German Expressionist phase. It looked like it hadn't been cleaned in years.
My mother in law was upset with the place, not because it was so run-down and ominous, but because the brochures she'd gotten that sold her on the place promised the entertainment of Harvey Korman, and all they had was some crappy, grainy, black-and-white bootlegged VHS tapes of some of his comedy routines. This was an unacceptable bait-and-switch, she felt.
To make matters stranger, the staff of the hotel—this was all part of the theme, whatever it was—were dressed as Vegas showgirls, but they were all mannish pre-op transsexuals. The service, aside from the grubbiness of the hotel, seemed to be fine, and the staff was attentive and professional. The feathered headdresses and the spangly brassieres were a little strange, but that wasn't the issue. The issue was the inadequacy of the Harvey Korman videotapes.
Despite her need to recuperate, my mother in law wanted to leave, to find someplace that didn't lie about the on-site entertainment. But one of our relatives there was John Ritter—he was not a direct relative, but was someone's brother in law—liked the place enormously, and didn't want to leave.
I have no idea what this dream meant, or whether it's relevant that both Korman and Ritter are no longer with us. I just report it because it seemed memorable enough to share.
As long as I'm not getting much done today, let me deal with some blog e-mail. First up, from a reader named Paul...
I've collected comics for a number of years now and Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. Unfortunately, unlike with Batman or Superman (and maybe I'm alone on this), I feel the character has strayed the furthest from perhaps what was the creator's original intent. I mean, look at Batman now and when he was first conceived and he's essentially unchanged. Take Spider-Man from now and place him next to his 60's adolescent counterpart and...yeah.
Which saddens me, but more or less brings me to my point.
The other day I was fingering through a rough stack of my old comics and pulled out some Spider-Man books I snagged during the 90's (ugh!). Of these, only one took notice: Untold Tales Of Spider-Man #1.
I quickly thumbed to the first page...and again I was hooked!
It made me wish for something more. And I couldn't help thinking, oddly enough, of a graphic novel I'd re-read recently: Batman: The Long Halloween. And how it garnered such critical acclaim by stripping the character to its earliest roots, telling a story in-continuity, but expanding upon it, while giving the reader something new.
And then the other day I stumbled upon your site...
I think by now you probably know where I'm going with this. But really the main reason I'm writing to you is:
1) To give my unyielding appreciation to the stories that infected my youth (I was first introduced to both the Avengers and Iron Man during your runs. BTW loved, loved, loved Avengers Forever! And Superman: Secret Identity! Although I think you hear that one a lot.); and
2) To ask if you'd ever consider doing a Spider-Man graphic novel in the vein of Untold, with the only difference being that it wouldn't be a series in the traditional sense and would have a definite beginning, middle and end?
I know it's a little early for Christmas (and you probably have more than enough on your plate as it is), but you can't begrudge a guy for trying. Besides I can still dream, right?
You can always dream, Paul!
I think I'd disagree with you that Spider-Man's farther away from his roots than Batman and Superman—things got pretty strange during the 90s for a while, but I've liked a lot of what I've read recently, and think Dan Slott's upcoming bi-weekly run on the book should be something to see. And my memory of Batman: The Long Halloween was that it wasn't so much a return to his roots as a sprawling thriller set the early days of his career as largely defined by Miller's Batman: Year One.
Still, a Spider-Man maxi-series in the vein of Long Halloween, set in his younger days? That sounds like it could be a lot of fun, and something I'd enjoy doing. I'm way too busy with other stuff right now, but someday? I'd be interested in doing that someday.
Next up, Edward asks...
This new project you're teaming up with Alex Ross. Is he going to be doing the artwork as well? Or is he just going to be co-plotter and cover artist?
Alex will do some of the interior art for Kirby: Genesis, Edward, though how much and in what way, we're not prepared to announce just yet. But there'll be lots more information coming, as the series moves toward becoming a reality, and I'm sure that'll be part of it.
On to Andrew...
Not sure who this will reach but I'm hoping for some help. I love Astro City—it is simply the best comic I've ever read. It's like a great album you listen to—every time you listen to/read it again you appreciate another level, a different nuance—something new every time to appreciate.
Anyway, I'm having a terrible time verifying whats out there and what I need. I'm a TPB reader but it seems there are a number of one shots I've messed and unfortunately it seems very hard to get information on the TPBs—what's out, when they'll be out, etc. Is there some kind of definitive listing on the published Astro City material I can use as a checklist? Also some board that will give me a heads up to upcoming TPB releases (as opposed to shot in the dark Amazon searches)?
Astro City is everything I've ever loved about comics - I don't want to miss a page!
Glad to hear it, sir.
I'm not sure what to advise you—announcements as to what's coming up is the sort of feature we really should have going at our sister site, The Astro City Rocket, but frankly, we get so swamped we don't keep up. (As witness, the latest issue listed there is Dark Age Book Three #3.)
Going to the home page for Wildstorm and searching on "Astro City" will keep you posted on graphic novel publication dates—for instance, it says there that the next hardcover, Astro City - The Dark Age 2: Brothers in Arms, will be out this October.
And the fine volunteers over at Herocopia, our other sister site, keep an updated list of Astro City publications, so that'll list anything you're missing. And they're way less lazy there than we are here!
If there's a better way, someone let me know on the message board or in an e-mail, and I'll do an update.
For the record, though, the current list of book collections is:
1. Life in the Big City
3. Family Album
4. The Tarnished Angel
5. Local Heroes
6. The Dark Age 1: Brothers & Other Strangers
7. The Dark Age 2: Brothers in Arms (forthcoming)
What's missing from those titles is:
Astro City: A Visitor's Guide
Astro City: Samaritan
Astro City: Beautie
Astro City: Astra #1-2
Astro City: The Silver Agent #1-2 (#2 forthcoming)
My publishers would probably prefer that I sell a few more copies of those specials by not mentioning that everything but the Visitor's Guide will be in the next book collection, Shining Stars. But I hate to be incomplete. Still, you might want to track down the Visitor's Guide; we haven't collected that yet and I'm not 100% sure when we will.
Congratulations! I just heard about Astro City getting optioned for a movie. I know these things can change in the blink of an eye but I really hope this goes forward. Please please please keep us updated as often as possible on this (and any plot points would be really awesome). Best news I've heard in a while.
Anyway, that's all. I'm looking forward to the Silver Agent conclusion. Keep 'em coming!
That's the plan, Nikko.
I don't think we'll be able to keep you too updated—movie companies don't like to share the development process publicly, and I can't really blame them. Who wants the audience to wind up saying things like, "Aw, they didn't even get their third choice for the role" or "I liked the earlier plot better." For that matter, I'm notoriously close-mouthed about the stories I'm working of in the comics, even—I want it all to be as fresh as possible when you actually see it. But we'll see what can be said, and when!
[Oh, and just to note: Just this minute, my in-box pinged, and there was the very last page of Silver Agent #2 from Brent. And it's gorgeous! Plus, it's a fine resolution and a new mystery, all at once!]
Next up, we hear from Talon...
Hiya. Just wanted to say that how you came up with the original resurrection of Jean Grey was and is amazing! (Even though it was a little confusing at first.) And I am a big Iron Man fan.
So anyway, just wanted to say that I love your work and hopefully you'll be writing some more X-Men.
Thanks for the very kind words, Talon.
No X-Men for me in the near future, at least. But in the long run, you never know.
Next up, a note from André...
Eu estou escrevendo apenas para dizer o quanto admiro seu maravilhoso trabalho. Todos os gibis que eu leio, escritos por você, são simplesmente fantásticos. Sou fã incondicional de Marvels, Marvels II, Conan, Homem Aranha Ano: 1, entre outros.
Você é o meu roteirista favorito! Parabéns!
Google Translate tells me this says, "I'm just writing to say how much I admire your wonderful work. All the books I read, written for you are simply fantastic. I am an unconditional fan of Marvels, Marvels II, Conan, Spider-Man Year One, between others. You're my favorite writer! Congratulations!"
To which all I can say is "Muito obrigado, André. Espero que você gosta do que está chegando, também!" and hope Google got the sentiment across, even if it probably did so awkwardly.
Next, Ken writes to say...
I am not your biggest fan. But I am a fan, and deeply appreciative of the things you've done, the insights you've shared, and the characters you've brought to life.
Thank you for the hours of thought provoking entertainment.
My pleasure, Ken. I'm glad of all my readers, not just the biggest fan, whomever he or she might be. So I'm glad you've enjoyed what I've put out there, and hope we both keep it up.
Next up, a letter from a reader I won't name...
How's it going? I was just checking out your comic work and writings for the Green Hornet. Very cool! Man you have to have a creative mind to come up with this! hahaha...I love it!
I was wondering , I'm a model and have some photos that are comic geared. Would you know how to use me as a character so that Alex Ross can illustrate me? Not sure if I'm making any sense. Bottom line is I'd love to be one of your characters somehow. If you want to talk, email me back.
He included links to a self-published book about his modeling career.
Sorry, guy. But even if I did write Green Hornet, I'd just as soon let Alex find his own models, and would rather not create characters based on real people. Best of luck, though!
And lastly, Corum has some thoughts on a familiar subject...
Let me first off say that I love your writing, every story you write is brilliant.
Secondly, I am a fan of Superman, but I'm also a fan of Thor. I read JLA/Avengers about one or two years ago (I've just now built up the courage to type this) and loved it, but after thinking about it and talking with some fellow Thor fans (who are well versed in the Superman mythos) I've come to the conclusion that you must have not done your research because there's no way Superman could have beaten Thor at full power.
I've heard that you thought Thor wasn't bullet-proof and I almost believed it simply because you said it but then I found this video reminding me that wasn't true.
[Here, he links to a YouTube video presenting a case for Thor being bulletproof.]
I'm not saying you should apologize, I just think that you should let the fans know that you're not an expert on Thor and that JLA/Avengers is not a reliable source for gauging power levels.
So it's not that you want me to apologize for writing a story that didn't operate on the premise that there's no way Superman could have beaten Thor at full power, a position that's hardly unanimously held—you just want me to announce that I'm no expert, and that fans engaged in "battleboard" arguments should scrap JLA/Avengers as a reference?
I think the battleboarders are going to have to manage without me on this. For one thing, I don't have much interest—I'm delighted that those who engage in "who'd win" discussions enjoy them, but I prefer not to participate, and don't want to referee them even to the extent of declaring what is or isn't a reliable source. And for another, whether Thor's bulletproof or not is irrelevant, since Superman didn't shoot him.
[Thor's durability to being punched real hard is a different matter, since he's a mythic character, and not subject to consistent physics, even moreso than most comic book superheroes. He comes from a setting in which, after all, Balder was rendered near-invulnerable when his mother made everything in the world promise not to hurt him (though she forgot mistletoe, with tragic results). In a context in which rocks and plants can make binding promises, physics doesn't stand a chance.]
I will note that everyone involved in JLA/Avengers thought that was a reasonable way for the battle to go, so even if I declared myself "not an expert," you'd still have to get similar admissions from Tom, George, Dan and Mike. As an alternative, I'd suggest that if there's a fight you don't like in a comic, well, that's par for the course. Enjoy the ones you like and move on. You don't need a ruling from an author to disregard a scene you don't care for, and neither Thor fans nor Superman fans are ever going to prove to the other side's satisfaction that their guy's better.
That said, I'm glad you like my writing, and even loved JLA/Avengers overall. And I hope you enjoy what's coming up, none of which, at present, involves either Superman or Thor. Well, not Marvel's Thor, at least...
This is my "To Be Read" shelf.
It doesn't include pamphlet/floppy/single-issue comics; those are stacked elsewhere. It doesn't include GNs and TPBs I want to get to but know I won't be able to get to anytime soon, so I shelved them with the rest of the collection for "someday." It doesn't include everything (there are a few stacked on the bedside table) and doesn't come close to including all the prose, even if you don't count the fifty-some books on my Kindle.
It's just what's there in the "Read This Soon" category, at present.
Click to see it larger, if you like, but you won't be able to make out everything anyway.
[Excerpted and substantially expanded from a lettercolumn I just wrote...]
As I write this, I'm still getting over an enjoyable but exhausting San Diego Comicon. The big Astro City announcement there was that Working Title Films, who've made such terrific movies as O Brother Where Art Thou, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Billy Elliot, Shaun of the Dead and more, has optioned Astro City and is developing it as a feature film. It's a long process, and we're right at the beginning of it—and it feels very strange to type that, considering how long ago this whole journey started.
It was in 2002 or maybe even earlier that a young screenwriter named Jonathan Alpers contacted me about turning Astro City into a movie. I told him what I'd told everyone else who'd called: I wasn't interested, I was happy to have the book remain a comic book as it was intended to be, and I had severe doubts that the series could successfully be translated into movie form at all.
[To give you an idea how long I'd been saying that, at one time I had a little patter worked up, where I pointed out that what's important about Astro City are the characters, the relationships, the emotional connections of the story. The big superhero action and explosions and such were important too, but they were the context, while the humanity of the characters was the real meat of the story. So you'd be telling a story that's all about relationships and emotion, but you still have to pay for all those special effects. "Basically," I'd say, "in Hollywood terms it's a $200 million chick flick. No one's going to make one of those." And then Titanic came out and I had to stop saying that.]
Anyway, I told Jonathan that I wasn't interested, but unlike everyone else, he wouldn't go away.
He kept calling, talking me into the idea, getting me to see how Astro City might work as a movie after all. And he introduced me to legendary producer Ben Barenholtz—who, among other things, produced the Coen brothers film Miller's Crossing, distributed Eraserhead and Return of the Secaucus Seven, brought John Woo's The Killer to the US and even appeared in Night of the Living Dead (as "Cowboy Hat Zombie Hit by Sledge"). And Ben did the rest of the convincing. I remember sitting in his living room, talking about story structure, and saying, more or less, "No, no, if you took this issue, this issue, these parts of that issue and wrapped it all up like this, you'd...hey. You'd have a workable movie, wouldn't you?"
And once we got there, we were at the beginning of the journey. The second beginning, actually, since the first beginning was Jonathan not taking no for an answer.
And we started talking to people—to agents, to producers, to studio heads, to writers and more, and there was discussion of changing our ideas to make it an ongoing TV series or an HBO mini-series or an animated project, and every other different way you can imagine to approach it. And I found myself doing things I'd never once expected to be doing—pitching to Dawn Ostroff, getting a phone call from Ethan Coen, talking story with James Yoshimura (of Homicide: Life on the Street), touring Johnny Depp's office (it's nice!), making TV execs late for a meeting with Lisa Kudrow, having lunch at Bob's Big Boy with Frank Marshall (and snagging the check!) and on and on. It was all a bewildering experience, but Ben kept us focused, moving forward when that was the right way to go, backing out to try something new when that was smarter.
And there were two, maybe three more beginnings in there, somewhere.
Last year, in the wake of Watchmen underperforming and studios suddenly getting skittish about superhero movies (right up until an Iron Man or Spider-Man movie changed their minds again), I was thinking maybe I'd been right the first time and was perfectly content to go back to the idea that Astro City is a comic book, and that's what it should stay. And that's when Ben, on the advice of the Coens, showed Astro City to Working Title Films, and they liked it a lot.
In September, I met with Eric Fellner and Evan Hayes of Working Title in Los Angeles, and I'm not sure how much I can say about the meeting, because the contracts I've signed seem to value confidentiality a lot, and hey, it's not like "wait and see" isn't one of my favorite phrases anyway. So I won't tell you much of what we talked about, except that I liked them, they liked me, and we apparently said the right things to each other to make us all think going forward was the right thing to do. And after mulling it over for a while, and talking with Ben, they said yeah, let's do this.
And off it went to the hands of agents and managers and lawyers (notably the charming and ineffable Nick Harris of Mosaic Media, on our side), and nine or ten months later, here we are, at the beginning again. The fifth beginning at least, maybe the sixth. It all depends on how you count.
[I get the impression moviemaking is an ongoing series of beginnings. You winch yourself slowly, slowly up the hill to the top of the roller coaster...and then whoosh, calloo callay!, you're headed off on your ride very very fast, and there are no safety rails and most of the time you crash spectacularly. But some of the time you make it through, to the bottom of another steep steep hill, and you start winching up, slowly, slowly...
[Make it through enough times and you wind up with a movie. Crash along the way and you join the majority of attempts, and if you can, you pick yourself up, go back to the beginning and start up that first hill again. I admire the people who do it for a living, and it's been a thrill so far, but I'm not sure I could stand it full-time.]
Anyway, here we are at the beginning again, and I couldn't be more jazzed about it.
The people at Working Title are smart and visionary and their movies are built outward from character far more than from spectacle and action—which is one of the things we talked about at that meeting; I don't think anyone will mind if I let that slip—and I think that's just the right approach to Astro City. I'd been saying all along that what we needed was moviemakers who were great at character drama and emotion, and could add spectacle to the mix, as opposed to someone who was great at spectacle, and might not realize that character and drama were even necessary.
The next step is to work out what the story will be and how best to realize Astro City up on the big screen. And that falls to me, at least to begin with—I'm starting work on the initial treatment, and as I type this, am scheduled to have my first serious creative meetings on the matter next week.
And I've got several different versions of that outline we worked up years ago, but now that we're actually digging into it and there are real people on the other side of the table, everything's wide open again, too. Is this a multi-narrative film like Pulp Fiction? Is it skewed toward adults? Teenagers? Strong central adventure plot or a mosaic approach? Dreamlike with surface metaphors, or more realistic with the metaphors solidly buried? Can I do something with Mike Tenicek and the Hanged Man from "The Nearness of You?" Ben Pullam and his girls, from "Welcome to Astro City?" Brian Kinney and the Confessor?
[And hey, since Queer As Folk nicked Brian Kinney's name, would we need to change it?]
So right now, my mind's all full of, "Can we get the Hanged Man and Shadow Hill in there? Is animating Looney Leo too big an expense for a cameo appearance? Can I have Samaritan fly around buck naked in his dreams? Who's our viewpoint character? How do we keep it grounded in real human emotion?" and all kinds of other stuff.
And swirling around in all that are images from John Sayles and Marc Forster movies and Roches songs and bits from Breaking Away and Lord of the Rings and even the opening credits of Angel, and none of it's going to stop swirling until we have those first meetings and I have some solid ground to stand on and can start building a story that'll suit the terrain.
And I know this is only the beginning, and there's a long long road and a lot of high hills and roller coasters with no safety rails between here and your neighborhood multiplex, and the odds are that we're gonna crash, maybe several times.
But everyone faces those odds, and most of them don't do it with such intelligent and capable people at their sides. It's been a series of interesting beginnings so far, and here we are at a taller precipice, and steeper ride. Whatever comes, I'm sure it'll be a fascinating experience.
So that's what I've been doing, behind the scenes. Wish us all luck, will you? This is, after all, only the beginning.
[And let me say, just to wrap this all up, that for all the major reasons I'm happy we're working with Working Title Films, I'm also, in a very minor way, delighted to be in business with someone whose company acronym is "WTF." It adds a certain absurdity to the memos that reminds me to keep things in perspective.]
[Oh, and click on the picture at the top of all this for a much larger view. This isn't an image that's been seen much, but I think it's one of Alex's best.]
Have I mentioned how much I love working with J.G. Roshell? And this is just a first draft!
It's a detail from the next Astro City hardcover, The Dark Age 2: Brothers in Arms. Click the ticket to see it larger.
Yeah, I know I haven't been blogging much, and I should post something about the Astro City movie deal. But I'm still recovering from San Diego. What a fun—but exhausting—convention!
In the meantime, since Tom Brevoort just told me, I'll tell you: Next February, Marvel will collect Thor: Godstorm, the mini-series I did with Steve Rude and Mike Royer, in a spiffy hardcover! I'm very pleased—I'm proud of the book, it looks gorgeous, and it was well-received. It'll be nice to have it on the shelf. So thank you, Kenneth Branagh and Marvel Studios, for creating a situation in which more Thor collections in bookstores sounded like a good idea!
[And thanks to Tom and whoever else at Marvel chose this one.]
It's a series of interlinked stories—one from the era of myth, one from Thor's early days with the Avengers and one from then-current "Jake Olson" era—as an ancient mythic threat rears its head in multiple forms, goaded on by the machinations of Loki (who else?). Steve Rude set out to channel the spirit of Kirby, and did so really well. Tom tells me the story will be backed up with a 10-page "Tales of Asgard" story by Tom deFalco and Mike Mignola. So it ought to be a nice package.
Okay, back to digging out. Only 77 e-mails to go...
There's a new interview with me up at Comic Book Resources, along with a 5-page preview of Astro City: Silver Agent #1.
It's a pretty good interview with non-formulaic questions, and the preview looks great—Brent, Alex Sinclair and J.G. all did an excellent job—so I figured I'd link it here.
Whoops! Just to be complete, I'm posting to let people know about a change in San Diego panel plans.
Due to some sort of unforeseen circumstances, the Robert E. Howard panel on Saturday at 3:30 is no more. Crom ate it, or something. But I'll still be there, at the same time and in the same room. And I'll even be up there on the dais with Matt Gagnon of BOOM! Studios. But who else will be there and what we'll be talking about has changed.
The panel is now:
• 3:30-4:30pm - Editing Comics the BOOM! Studios Way, Rm 24ABC
"BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid and BOOM! Managing Editor Matt Gagnon talk with Kurt Busiek and Daryl Gregory about putting together their upcoming BOOM! series Dracula: The Company Of Monsters. Don’t miss this in-depth look into the editing secrets of one of the comic book industry’s leading independent publishers. Join moderator Mark Waid (author of the Eisner Award-nominated Irredeemable, BOOM! Editor-in-Chief) and panelists Kurt Busiek (author of the Eisner Award-winner Astro City), Daryl Gregory (acclaimed sci-fi writer, author of The Devil’s Alphabet), and Matt Gagnon (BOOM! Managing Editor) as they discuss editing do’s and don’ts of today’s comic book industry."
Tales of editors! Tales of vampires! And how to tell the difference between the two! Don't miss it, if only to hear Mark Waid say, "Ah, the freelancers of the night, what beautiful comics they make!"
ASTRO CITY: SILVER AGENT #1 (OF 2)
Written by KURT BUSIEK • Art by BRENT ANDERSON • Cover by ALEX ROSS
At last, the full story of the Silver Agent's fateful journey through time – including his origin, his greatest battles and his ultimate fate – can be revealed. It's all right here in a 2-issue miniseries spanning from the late 1950s to the far future. Guest-starring a constellation of Astro City stars and introducing the Silver Centurions, this very personal story will blow readers away on a galactic scale.
It actually delves back even further, but who am I to quibble? Especially since they're using the info I supplied them with, back before I started this story in the days before Astro City even existed, before Europeans had even set foot in the area...
The news hit this morning, and seems to be getting a lot of buzz. So I should link to this, right?
Yeah, I probably should. And look, I just did!
Galactic Rangers. Sigurd. Galaxy Green. Tiger 21. The Ninth Men. And lots, lots more.
This is going to be a lot of fun.
Click here to see that picture nice and big.
A little blog mail's stacked up, so I should deal with it, starting with this picture (and note) from Isidore...
Hello, sir. I'm a fan of Superman and a digital artist...I just wanted you to thank you for Superman: Secret identity. The story that you wrote is certainly the best Superman story ever told.
You were so inspiring to me that i made a picture out of your writing. This one is dedicated to you, sir.
Thank you so much!
And thank you, Isidore, for the very kind words, gorgeous illustration! Anyone who wants to see it full size can check it out at Isidore's DeviantArt page, along with the other cool art he's got there. Nice stuff!
And now, from Peter...
I've been a big fan of yours since the mid-90's, and I'm always looking forward to reviewing your stuff. (I write comic-book reviews for Spanish sites and magazines.)
I've liked Astro City: The Dark Age (though to be honest, I much preferred the brilliant in-between specials, and I'm really looking forward to more done-in-one stories) but there's one thing that is driving me crazy: The redacted original proposal in the back of the last issue.
I am a big fan of BTS stuff like that, and it was a nifty extra. Still, I've been thinking about it for weeks now, and although I think I got most of the Marvel references, there's some I can't make out. Mostly in issue 4, I've not been able to guess what are you talking about in the first paragraph, who "the new *******" or which big story is happening alongside the climax.
Any chance you can give us a hint about it? Or about the other redacted names? (I get #1 is all about the Punisher, #2 is about the gang war in Miller's DD and #3 is the Dark Phoenix saga, though I'm missing some of the details.)
In any case, thanks for the cool stuff, and keep it up.
Sorry, Peter, but if we were going to tell you what was behind those black markings, we wouldn't have blacked them out in the first place. I will say that we diverged so far from the original plans by then that there really isn't much left underneath—the first three books are very different from what they'd be if I'd done the story at Marvel, but the fourth one is even moreso.
I apologize if it kept you from sleeping. That wasn't our intent!
Next, we've gone from Secret Identity to Astro City, and now, Matt's got some comments on Power Company...
Just a note to say that I finally got to read Power Company. I wasn't sure what to think of it when I first saw it. I was afraid it would be like many books put out by the big two where they seem like they want to try something new but end up being very gimmicky.
It reminds of some of the group books I liked back when... similar to early JSA, and independents like Sentinels, Crusaders and DNAgents when I was growing up. It has what I love; character development, action and actual thought behind what makes the superheroes super in their powers as well as psyche. It involved it's own mythos, yet interacted with the DCU. If you can take this the right way, it's almost good to have it be a shorter run, like a tasty morsel. But I hope to see more of the characters if possible So, thanks for doing it!
Very glad you liked it, sir.
Here's a note I'll leave anonymous...
Hi. I have recently finished reading all the Astro City comics. I never read them all until now. I am sorry that I waited this long to do so. I love your stories, and characters. Please continue this great work. I like the storyline of Royal and Charles Williams. That's my favorite.
I have been working on a project of my own. It is a superhero story. I don't want to tell more because the story means a lot to me. I would like to know if someday I could pitch the idea to you. I know for a fact that you would appreciate the story. I would like to know what would be requirements to pitch the idea and who to contact. I wanted to talk to you first because of the stories you write. Any help would be appreciated.
I am looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your time.
I'm thrilled you liked Astro City so much. But alas, I'm not the right guy to pitch stories to.
I'm a writer. I don't buy stories from other people. I sell them. So in the first place, I'm not the guy to pitch stories to because I can't do anything with them. I have tons of my own story ideas, and those are the stories I want to write. The person who should write yours is you. And the people to pitch stories to are editors and publishers, people who can actually hire you to write the stories you want to tell, and publish them once you have. They're who I pitch stories to, and they're who any writer needs to pitch stories to.
In the second place, I'm not the guy to pitch stories to because, like many other writers, I avoid reading or hearing unsold stories for legal reasons. As I said, I've got lots of my own ideas, and I don't want to run the risk of having someone think I swiped their idea. If I've had a story idea in my files for twenty years, and someone pitches me a story that's sorta like it, what do I do? Do I scrap my story idea for fear someone will think I stole it from them? I don't want to have to do that, so it's safer all around to just avoid reading unsold stories.
Sorry not to be more accommodating, but I hope you have very good luck in developing your story into something you can write yourself—and sell to a publisher.
And to wrap up, from Pat...
So, Kurt, when're you gonna give us some more Dreambound? It was such a bizarre little group that I loved it. Plus, I really want to know how Swashbuckler got the slash on his neck? And how in the heck a dead guy dreaming can be resurrected?
P.S. Some Tomorrow Woman would be good, too.
I did work up a Dreambound mini-series, in the wake of Trinity, Pat, but it was—as you might expect—a very odd project. It was far more a fantasy series about these super-powered oddballs who were trying to find a way to make their dreams come true, and not really very superhero-y at all. As such, the artist I wanted to draw it wasn't interested, because there wasn't enough action, and I wasn't that interested in doing it without him. Plus, while I think something like that might have worked at Vertigo, I suspect at DC proper it would have had disappointing sales.
I tried coming up with other ways to make it work—at one point working up a whole intertwined set of mini-series featuring the Dreambound, Tomorrow Woman, Konvikt, Vartox, Intergang, the Odd Man, Live Wire, Commander Steel and more, and at another turned it into a freakish superhero series called The Odd Men—but while it turned into a superhero project that could have been really fun, it wasn't what I really wanted to do with the Dreambound, which was that quirky little fantasy series about making your hopes and dreams come true. Plus, it never really gelled into something that I thought would last long enough to tell the story I wanted to tell.
So I think I've probably let those characters go, and if anyone else at DC wants to pick them up, it's fine with me. A bunch of the ideas I came up with, I still want to use somewhere, so I'm folding them into Astro City, in various ways—when you see the Dream House, that'll be a big clue—and I think the only one I'll really regret not being able to do is Primat's packed-house pop concert at the Hollywood Bowl. But now that I think of it, maybe there's another way I could get at the ideas in that, too...
As for Swashbuckler, all I'll say is that he was buried near San Francisco, and he has that scar on his neck because he "died" by being beheaded. That ought to be enough to figure out who he was. Or was intended to be, at least. You never know, with comics.
So we went to see Despicable Me today. It's a lot of fun—not terribly deep, but a very funny knockabout 3-D animated comedy with lots of great gags, terrific voice performances and the best minions an evil villain could ever hope for.
While we were there, the girls made a friend.
He seemed to be a bit thirsty. But Sydney was prepared.
So, Comicon International/San Diego is almost upon us!
I've updated my schedule in the "Find" section of this site, where I list conventions, store signing and the like, but just to be thorough, I figured I'd list my schedule here, too. Things may be subject to change—I just added another panel about half an hour ago, and who knows what else is coming?—but I'll update this entry if things change.
So here's what up with All Things Busiek at SDCC so far:
Wednesday, Preview Night:
• 7-8pm - signing at the DC booth.
• 11:30-12:30pm - Spotlight on Kurt Busiek, Rm 8
Here's how SDCC describes it: "The Eisner Award–winning writer and Comic-Con special guest discusses his career—past, present, and future—in comics. With a résumé that includes Superman, Justice League/Avengers, Conan, and his own creator-owned projects Astro City and Arrowsmith, Kurt Busiek is one of comics most popular writers! Joining Kurt will be long-time friend and fellow comics creator Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics)."
In addition to having Scott moderate the panel, which means we'll be talking about our roots back in junior high school, when we started figuring out how to make comics, we may have an appearance by Brent (Astro City, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills) Anderson (or as I call him, "Brent (Somerset Holmes) Anderson") and if things go like it looks like they're going at present, a Very Special Announcement or two.
• 2:30-3:30pm - signing at the Hero Initiative booth
• 2-3pm - signing at the DC booth
• 11-12pm, signing at the DC booth
• 3:30-4:30pm - Editing Comics the BOOM! Studios Way, Rm 24ABC
"BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid and BOOM! Managing Editor Matt Gagnon talk with Kurt Busiek and Daryl Gregory about putting together their upcoming BOOM! series Dracula: The Company Of Monsters. Don’t miss this in-depth look into the editing secrets of one of the comic book industry’s leading independent publishers. Join moderator Mark Waid (author of the Eisner Award-nominated Irredeemable, BOOM! Editor-in-Chief) and panelists Kurt Busiek (author of the Eisner Award-winner Astro City), Daryl Gregory (acclaimed sci-fi writer, author of The Devil’s Alphabet), and Matt Gagnon (BOOM! Managing Editor) as they discuss editing do’s and don’ts of today’s comic book industry."
• 6:30-7:30 - WildStorm: Storm Front, Room 4
"What’s new in the WildStorm Universe? Vice President & General Manager Hank Kanalz and Senior Editor Ben Abernathy bring you up to speed with this inside look into DC’s wildest imprint. Joining Hank and Ben will be Adam Beechen (WildCats), Kurt Busiek (Astro City), Darick Robertson (Fringe: Tales From the Fringe), Tom Taylor (The Authority), Tim Seeley (WildCats), Adam Archer (Ratchet and Clank), Cruddie Torian (Gen13) and others."
• 10-11am - Jack Kirby Tribute panel, Room 4
"It's time once again to pay tribute to Jack 'King' Kirby, the prolific writer/artist who co-created some of the world's most famous superheroes, including the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, the New Gods, and many more. Kirby biographer and friend Mark Evanier (Kirby: King of Comics) hosts this annual Comic-Con tradition and is joined this year by writers Marv Wolfman (Tomb of Dracula, New Teen Titans), and Kurt Busiek (Astro City, JLA/Avengers) and other Kirby fanatics to discuss the King."
• 1:30-2:30pm - signing at the DC booth
• 3-4:30 - Comics Pro/Fan Trivia Match, Room 4
"Len Wein (Microbots), Kurt Busiek (Kool-Aid Man), and Mark Waid (Batman Electric Talking Toothbrush) face off against fans Tom Galloway (former Google employee), David Oakes (college professor), and Michael Grabois (rocket scientist) in a match on significant pre-Crisis DC events in celebration of DC's 75th anniversary. Peter David (Captain America's War on Drugs) will moderate."
On a more hate-filled note, it turns out that the intolerant chuckleheads of the Westboro Baptist Church, the people who like to picket the funerals of American soldiers killed in action and assure homosexuals that God hates them, are going to picket the San Diego Con this year. For 45 minutes, on Thursday afternoon.
Turn out they have a busy schedule of hate, going after the Dallas Holocaust Museum, the International Jewish Geneology Conference and more, but they're having a sort of hate double-header on the 22nd—hating Al Gore at the Grand Hyatt from 12:15-1:00pm, then hustling down the street to the Convention Center to start hating us at 1:15pm. Although I think they're being unrealistic to allow only 15 minutes to make it from one hate-spot to the other.
Oh, and after they're done with us, the following week they'll be off in Kansas City, hating Justin Bieber.
What their schedule says about us is, "Are you kidding?! If these people would spend even some of the energy that they spend on these comic books, reading the Bible, well no high hopes here. They have turned comic book characters into idols, and worship them they do! The destruction of this nation is imminent - so start calling on Batman and Superman now, see if they can pull you from the mess that you have created with all your silly idolatry." It's surprising how much some of that sounds like it could come out of the mouth of Lex Luthor, hm?
Anyway, I think the best way to hand them is to ignore them. What they want is publicity, and I suspect they're going to find themselves drowned out by the very volume of SDCC—it's easier to get press by being noxious and hateful at a family funeral than to try to stand out among 120,000 comics fans, including dozens of Darth Vaders, Slave Leias, Spider-Man and more.
But on Twitter last night, among the suggestions for counter-statements against the WBC's rallying cry of "God Hates Fags," this lovely response came up, coined by Lori Matsumoto and designed by Dane Ault:
I think that strikes just the right tone, don't you?
The Astro City Special Edition—described by DC like so: "The hometown heroes of Astro City were first unleashed on the world in this adventure that introduced Samaritan, Honor Guard and more! Reprinted for just $1.00, this issue is featured in the Astro City: Life in the Big City TPB."
By me, Brent Anderson, Alex Ross. And only a buck!
Plus, you can download a preview of it here.
And that's not all! You can also get...
Marvels: Eye of the Camera Premiere Hardcover—which Marvel plumps for thusly: "The long-awaited sequel to the award-winning publishing sensation that made Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross into stars! News photographer Phil Sheldon's back, with the man-on-the-street's perspective on the big events of the Marvel Universe, from the Avengers, the all-new X-Men and the Secret Wars to Dracula and the Werewolf By Night. But this time, Phil's world is going to be rocked not just by superheroes and super-villains—but by something far more personal, as well. Featuring the Marvel debut of artist Jay Anacleto, whose gorgeous, photorealistic pencil renderings give a new look at the Marvel Universe, and what it would be like to actually be there. Collecting Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1-6. Rated A. $24.99"
I'm pretty proud of both of 'em, and glad they're out and available. Give 'em a look, won't you?
Hey. Did you like How to Train Your Dragon? How about Lilo & Stitch?
If so, you're probably a fan of Chris Sanders, the artist/animator/director/voice-of-Stitch who co-wrote and directed them.
And if you don't know about Kiskaloo, you'd probably like that, too. [Actually, if you do know about Kiskaloo, you probably like it already, but don't need me to tell you about it.]
Kiskaloo is a web-comic Sanders did. one that didn't run nearly long enough (though to be fair, the man was busy with other very worthwhile things), but what's there is, as they say, cherce. It centers on the adventures of a young girl named Sesi, a troublesome one-eyed cat, and—
Well, it's far better to find out by reading it. You can start here.
I don't know Sanders. I've never met him. I just like his movies an awful lot. And I'm posting this because it's funny, and more people should read it.
I've been neglecting the blog lately—I've been having persistent allergy symptoms, so I've spent what clearheaded time I have writing and dealing with the multiple contract negotiations that all seemed to hit at the same time, and as a result there hasn't been much time to blog and hasn't been much to say anyway.
But it feels like the allergies are finally getting under control, except that for some reason this morning my right eye is streaming tears. Probably a reaction to the allergy shot I had yesterday, and it'll settle down over the day. But nobody wants me writing anything for publication right now (or more accurately, no one wants what I'd produce at the moment, peering through the bottom edge of my glasses through a bleary haze). So I figured I'd catch up on some e-mail. Pardon me if there are more typos than usual. And if there aren't, it's sheer happenstance.
First up, William Lukash...
I've been reading Astro City since day one, but I wouldn't say I'm a follower of your work. If you write a title I read, then I'm happy you are on board.
I tend to be a comic book archeologist, and by that I mean I like to read the old stuff. I just finished reading Essential Power Man and Iron Fist volume 2 and was quite pleased with your stories in that volume. I thought the confrontation with Master Khan was well paced and fun. Fera was interesting. I liked how she would not fight Iron Fist until he recovered his soul, because without that, he was not truly Iron Fist.
Also, although I can't recall the hero's name off the top of my head, I really like the neon guy on the flying disc. Mister Anderson came up with a neat design for that one.
I'm not 100% sure right now, but I think Alex may have had a lot to do with the design of Mirage. But glad you liked it, either way.
And glad you like the Power/Fist stories. Those were some of my earliest professional writing, and I was mostly just imitating Jo Duffy's excellent earlier run n the series for all I was worth. I figured out how to bring my own "voice" to the series somewhere along the way, and was going to start implementing it with #101, but alas, I got dropped from the book with #100, and only a few hints made it in to the issues I wrote (including the fill-in in #105, which would have been a building sub-plot, had I stayed on). I do recall that I wanted #100 to be a big event focused on Luke, since #75 had been a K'un-Lun/Master Khan story—but I couldn't think of one in the time I had, so I went with the ideas at hand.
Had I stayed on, I'd have done a lot more with Fera. She was going to develop into a lot more than just an animalistic wolf-woman. Maybe someday, somewhere, I can do something with those idea.
Next up, Victoria Koldewyn...
I have to stop reading Superman: Secret Identity for just a moment to send my regards! This is the first graphic novel of yours that I've ever read and I am utterly hooked. I generally don't crack open the superhero genre but as I was browsing the library shelves yesterday I found yours. Admittedly, it was Stuart Immonen's stunning artwork that captured my attention at the outset. You two make a great team.
I love that I am totally engrossed by the novel. I feel so....invested! It's fantastic. I feel so geeked out!
So, thank you.
I haven't yet browsed your website much but I am already loving what little I've seen and read.
Stuart did a fantastic job on Superman: Secret Identity. After the first issue, I felt like my job was just to match up to the excellence of the art, and try not to look too bad by comparison. It all worked out pretty well, and I'm thrilled so many people liked it. But it was Stuart's A-game, and me desperately trying not to look feeble next to his work.
Currently, I'm working on Batman: Creature of the Night, a thematic sequel (not set in the same 'world,' but a similar idea), drawn by John Paul Leon. And as of the latest batch of pages that came in from John Paul, I had the same reaction: "Uh-oh, I'd better rewrite all that dialogue, there, so it doesn't come off as shabby next to this stunning artwork." So maybe that bodes well for the series!
And last, I'll leave this one anonymous...
Have an Idea for a new Superhero already have him drawn out. Need to get comic script written introducing him with an origin issue either a 22 page or maybe a novel 100 pages or more. Let me know if you would be interested in doing this for me and what would be your fee. Or send this to someone who could be interested in writing it. Thanks for your time.
Sorry, but no. I have so many ideas of my own that I'll never get to them all, so I'm not in the market for other people's ideas.
I think you'll find this pretty consistent among writers—ideas are basically cheap, we come up with them left and right. It's what you do with the ideas that matters. And I'm booked up doing things with my own ideas—character ideas, story ideas, plot ideas. All the writers I know are pretty much the same. If you were a publisher looking for someone to write scripts for you for pay, you could probably find people, but if you've just got an idea you want someone to write stories for so you can then try to find a market for it, I wouldn't know where to send you.
If I were you, I'd write the script myself. Whatever you lack in experience, you are the person who understands your idea best, and is best positioned to realize it. So I'd say give it a shot. If nothing else, it's fun.
And with that, I think I'd going to sack out on the couch for a while, see if the world gets any less smeary-looking...
On Tuesday, June 8th, I'm doing something I've never done before. I'm taking part in an online book club. Specificaly, we'll be discussing Arrowsmith: So Smart In Their Fine Uniforms, the mini-series (and collected graphic novel) I did with Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino, Alex Sinclair and the fine folks at Comicraft.
The book club is run by Andy Schmidt, for years a Marvel editor, currently a Senior Editor at IDW Publishing, and the author of The Insider's Guide To Creating Comics And Graphic Novels. The Book Club is part of Andy's Comics Experience enterprise, which is focused on teaching the craft of comic book writing and the art of breaking in to the business, so I would imagine the book club isn't just a straight reader-oriented discussion, but will be focused, at least in part, on craft and presentation and will probably veer off to discuss other things I've done. But I can't say for sure—I'll be finding out myself on June 8.
Fair warning: Comix Experience is a business, and the book club isn't free. But I figured I should mention it, because some of you might be interested, and hey, I've already had to dig up two sets of headphones (and rescue one from my daughter, who absconded with it to use with the iPod as soon as I'd gotten it working) to make sure I can properly participate in the discussion.
I'm looking forward to it. For anyone who'll be attending—see you there!
So over at The Comic Reporter today, Tom Spurgeon runs the results of his latest "Five for Friday" survey. This time, he was asking readers to "Name Five Past Or Present Comics Titles You Think Should Always Be Published, Just Because It Would Please You To See Them On The Stands."
As is often the case with me, I saw his call for entries on Friday, thought, "Hey, that looks interesting," and then my brain didn't kick into gear until well after the deadline (something all my editors can attest to, badump-bump!), but I realized this morning that I had some unusual choices, because where my mind went to on this wasn't simply comics I like and want more of, but particular creative visions, writers and artists who say what they say distinctively and memorably, but more, they say it in a way that makes me want the results serialized. Where there are lots of comics and lots of comics creators where I want the results in nice book collections on my bookshelf, these are the ones where I want that 20-pages-or-so every month (or whenever), to have that particular joy of reading a chapter, a short story, whatever, and knowing the next part will be along soon, and that joy will be repeated and extended and deepened.
These are the comics I want to find a new instalment of on the spinner rack, when I bust into the eternal Colonial Pharmacy of my mind, transplanted from the corner of Mass. Ave and Waltham Street in Lexington and taking up permanent residence in my memories.
[And then after I buy my stash of comics, I want to swing by Alexander's Subs on Bedford Street, but never mind. Sigh.]
I'm not limiting myself to five choices, because having missed Tom's deadline, I scoff at his rules. Ha!
So here's my list, in no particular order:
1. USAGI YOJIMBO by Stan Sakai
2. SAVAGE DRAGON by Erik Larsen
3. THOR by Walt Simonson. Doesn't even have to be Marvel's Thor, and might even be better if it wasn't.
4. KAMANDI by Jack Kirby. This means we need an immortal Jack Kirby, but I ask you, is that such a bad thing?
5. TYRANT by Steve Bissette.
6. FABLES by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha.
7. AMY UNBOUNDED by Rachel Hartman
8. CRIMINAL by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
9. HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTARS by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle
10. SECTION ZERO by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett
11. SHE'S JOSIE by Frank Doyle and Dan deCarlo
12. BRAVO FOR ADVENTURE by Alex Toth
13. ZOT! by Scott McCloud
14. STIG'S INFERNO by Ty Templeton
15. LEAVE IT TO CHANCE by James Robinson and Paul Smith.
Okay, that's what's regularly on my imaginary newsstand. I'm sure there's plenty I'm not thinking of, and there's stuff that might be on the list soon, like Bunn & Hurtt's THE SIXTH GUN. And there's stuff I could just make up, like an ongoing magical-intrigue series set in San Francisco, by Chris Claremont & Graham Nolan or an ongoing TOPPER series by Roger Stern and Bob Oksner. But I'd be pretty happy with this. So, what's on your spinner rack?
So. I'm creating and co-writing a new series about a very, very old character, thrust into a modern world unfamiliar to him in a lot of surface ways, but very familiar underneath. I'm sure there'll be a lot more to say about it over time, but to start, here's what the publisher has to say about it this morning:
May 27, 2010 – Los Angeles, CA – This August, BOOM! Studios debuts a new ongoing horror series sure to make your blood run cold, Dracula: The Company of Monsters. Kurt Busiek, along with acclaimed writer Daryl Gregory and sensational artist Scott Godlewski, take you through the dark corridors of the corporate American boardroom and show you vampires aren’t the only kinds of bloodsuckers!
“Dracula’s a character who’s always fascinated me,” says series creator Kurt Busiek, “and getting a chance to build something firmly rooted in Dracula’s real-world (and Stoker-novel) history, but with a very modern edge, is the kind of creative challenge I love. It’s the world’s greatest vampire against the corporate world—and there’s no easy way to tell who’s the real villain, and who’s the hero. I’m thrilled to be working with Daryl, Scott and BOOM! on this. Putting it together feels like the early days of working on Conan, and I think the results are going to be a real treat for readers.”
Dracula: The Company of Monsters tells the story of a powerful, predatory corporation that acquires a valuable asset…Dracula! They think they own him, but no one can own the Son of the Dragon. There’s a monster in their midst that puts Hannibal Lecter to shame—and he plans to gain his freedom in blood.
It’s bloodsuckers vs. bloodsucker, as Busiek brings an incredibly modern spin to the Dracula mythos. Joining Busiek is award-winning author Daryl Gregory (Pandemonium) and rising star artist Scott Godlewski (Codebreakers). The epic journey starts here, so don’t miss the debut issue of Dracula: The Company of Monsters, the next breakout ongoing series from BOOM! Studios! Featuring covers by fan-favorite The Nocturnals artist Dan Brereton, and Ron Salas!
"The collective raw storytelling talent between Kurt and Daryl is boundless," said BOOM! Studios Managing Editor Matt Gagnon. "Readers should be prepared for a cracking horror story that’s intense, arresting, and explores the nuances between good and evil. Dracula is back from the dead, and in very good hands!"
Dracula: The Company of Monsters is written by Kurt Busiek (Superman, Avengers, Iron Man) and Daryl Gregory (Pandemonium) with art by red-hot artist Scott Godlewski (Codebreakers). Issue one ships with two covers by Dan Brereton and Ron Salas in a 50/50 split and a 1-in-10 incentive cover. This title ships in August and caries a Diamond code of JUN100841.
Just wrapped up another Astro City script—and just signed contracts for what used to be called American Gothic, but now has a new title, which I'm sure we'll be telling you about in time. But for now, let's see what's come in via e-mail.
Don't have a lot in common with you, except for one thing—Sept. 16, 1960.
'Twas a fine day, that day.
Well, I liked it! And it gave us Mike Mignola, as well. And, if I recall correctly, inker Keith Williams and Legion fan and onetime Marvel typesetter Brenda Mings. A pretty productive day, September 16, 1960.
Nikko Elliott writes...
I just saw my letter in the Astro City lettercol! That was awesome! What a beautiful cover on that issue. Give my props to Alex. And I loved that ending. Dark Age was a decent story, not my favorite, but that ending covering Samaritan made it worth while. I'm a big Samaritan fan.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for putting my letter in the lettercol and, also, I wanted to make a prediction. I think Old Soldier is the Silver Agent after years/decades/(centuries?) of time travel. I'm eagerly awaiting the Silver Agent specials (there are two, right?). Keep up the great work!
Thanks. The Old Soldier and the Silver Agent, hmm? It's an interesting idea, at least. And I guess you'll find out if you were right or not pretty soon.
Next up, Xiko de Couto...
I do not speak your language, then translate the Portuguese to their language by Google. Forgive me.
I'm 29 and I became a fan (of carterinha, as they say here in Brazil) when I read Superman: Secret Identity. For me the best Superman story ever written. I say this because I was tired of the sameness of the comics. Nobody grows old, no one dies (and remains so), nobody does child, very annoying. Unlike the manga, where the stories have a beginning, middle and end. No wear of the hero. Then comes before me this story his own, I wanted to film that turned the world to see his genius, proving that the character may be subject to major routes.
Well after this statement, I humbly ask if you want to do a similar project with other iconic characters from DC or another editor and if you use twitter, so you can follow more readily their future work.
I am indeed on Twitter, Xiko, and you can find me here.
As for doing another project like Superman: Secret Identity with a different iconic character, all I can tell you is to get ready for Batman: Creature of the Night, by me and John Paul Leon—along with letterer Todd Klein and editor Joey Cavalieri, who also worked on S:SI.
It's not the same as S:SI, since Batman's a different character and deserves a different kind of story, but it's definitely in the same territory—and John Paul is doing absolutely gorgeous work. It won't be scheduled until a lot more of it is done, but it's in the works, at least.
Who's next? Ah, Daniel Solzman...
I'm writing a paper on comics and politics and wanted to ask you a few questions.
Is it common for writers to inject their own political views in the content they are writing?
Is it fair to say that most writers tend to be liberal in views?
Also, I just now had a chance to read the Jefferson related post on your blog and I can't believe that someone would drop your books just because you made a comment relating to the tea party. Right now, my home state of Kentucky is in the national spotlight because of Rand Paul of the tea party—he doesn't represent Kentucky values—that much I know.
At some point, I'll stop answering questions for school papers, I expect, but that day doesn't seem to have come yet. To address Daniel's questions:
1. I think it's almost impossible for a writer to not put some sort of viewpoint—social, philosophical, political and more—into their work. It's their work, after all. It comes from them, and reflects who they are. But I suspect that's not what you mean—you're probably thinking about writers having characters serve as a mouthpiece for political speech. And there's been plenty of that in comics over the years, whether it's Cap socking Hitler, Bucky urging readers to buy war bonds, Stan Lee's anti-Communist stuff of the early Sixties, his anti-racism stuff on the later Sixties (and Bob Kanigher's, and Denny O'Neil's, and Roy Thomas's and more), Steve Englehart's politically-disillusioned Cap or feminist Wonder Woman, and on and on. Comics are fiction and fiction says things; it's unreasonable to expect them to be viewpoint-free. That said, I think good writers will write stories informed by their own sensibilities, while still respecting the characters' established personality. A conservative writer may think liberals are a bunch on nutcases, but he shouldn't write Green Arrow as a John Bircher, because that would be inappropriate to the character, just as it would be for a liberal writer to make USAgent into a knee-jerk lefty.
2. I don't get into that many political discussions with my fellow writers. I know more liberals than conservatives, and if I had to guess I'd guess that comics writers skew liberal, but I know folks on both the left and the right (and a batch of libertarians, too).
And hey, Rand Paul's going to be interesting to watch, at least.
Wrapping it up, we hear from Jim Arrowsmith...
My son and I have been collecting comics ever since Arrowsmith came out...I was trying to get him to read more, which he struggled at, when he saw 'our' name in Atomic Comics window on an Arrowsmith poster. He started reading and never stopped.
I am now in my mid 40's and he is 21 and we still enjoy comics...Astro City...Walking Dead are our favorites. Although we don't see each often...when we do...we always spend some of that time commenting on the latest editions.
He was wondering if you were ever going to do another Arrowsmith Volume 2 series? Thanks for your creativity and Imagination...
Thanks for the kind words, Jim.
There will indeed be a follow-up to Arrowsmith, though it'll take a while. We're doing it as a heavily-illustrated prose novel, sort of like Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess's Stardust (but instead of Neil and Charlie it'll be me and Carlos, and instead of Stardust it'll, uh, be Arrowsmith). But between my writing schedule and Carlos's deadlines as an exclusive artist for Marvel, it'll take a while. But we'll make it as good as we can manage, and I hope you'll think it's worth the wait.
And so goes the mail. More in a while, I'd assume!
The picture above is from Timespirits, by Steve Perry and Thomas Yeates.
You may have already been following the appalling and unsettling story of Steve Perry, who was dying of cancer without health insurance, until The Hero Initiative stepped in and got him the treatment and medication he needed. Which seems like a happy ending, until the most recent developments, in which it appears as if Perry may have been murdered, possibly by his roommates.
It's an undeniably sad story. But mostly, I'm posting to talk about the Hero Initiative.
The Hero Initiative is a not-for-profit corporation devoted to helping comic book creators in need. When I first heard of it, I thought it sounded like a very good idea, and imagined them helping out Golden Age creators who'd fallen on hard times. And they've done some of that.
But to my surprise, they've also been helping guys who I think of as contemporaries—Perry, Bill Loeb, Ed Hannigan.
This is an industry that, until very recently, chewed creators up and spit 'em out, leaving a lot of them in shaky financial condition, and in our current economy, it doesn't take much to go from shaky to shattered.
In Perry's case, the Hero Initiative helped him out a lot. They gave him hope, got him treatment, let him enjoy some time with his young son, time he wouldn't have had otherwise. And that's great. But wouldn't it have been nice to be able to do more? To maybe help before the crisis is life-threatening? Wouldn't it have been better if Perry could have been living somewhere where he wasn't in such bad straits that he was living with oxycodone addicts who may have murdered him and left his severed arm in his van?
I think The Hero Initiative were heroes for Perry. And heroes aren't always enough. But let's see if we can help them do more, for the people who need them.
Please visit The Hero Initiative's website. Check out their news, their auctions, contribute if you can. If you can't contribute, check 'em out anyway, and maybe you can contribute later.
Because too many of the men and women who brought you heroes need heroes themselves, from time to time. And we need their heroes to be ready to help.
So, yesterday I got my comp copies of the upcoming Wednesday Comics hardcover. And since I mentioned it (on my Facebook page, on Twitter), people keep asking how big it is. See the picture? That's how big it is.
Note: That's not me, that's the book's editor, Mark Chiarello.
Note #2: That's not the actual book, it's a mockup—the actual book has real art inside, not that blank page you can glimpse part of. But that's how big it is, at least.
Note #3: That's not really a window on the left, just a mostly-convincing poster on Mark's wall. No, seriously.
Note #4: The book is freakin' gorgeous. Even the endpapers are stunning. [And if you've never been stunned by endpapers, you didn't get the new edition of The Wizard's Tale. Shame on you!] The whole book is packed from cover to cover with gorgeous art, parinted nice and huge, printed crisply and beautifully. It's got two whole new extra strips—pages Mark had done just in case one of us stalwart creative teams blew a deadline, and I bet it came close—a very funny Plastic Man strip by Evan Dorkin and Stephen DeStefano, and a moody, chilling Creeper strip by Keith Giffen and Eric Canete. Plus cool sketchbook stuff, an intro by Mark, those gorgeous endpapers, stuff like that.
I'm proud to be a part of it. I love the way Joe Quinones's art on our Green Lantern feature printed. I think the story works well all in one wodge, instead of being broken up into chapters. And every time I look at it, I want to thank Pat Brosseau for going with borderless word balloons; it looks great.
And it's big. That big. See?
[But hey, Chi, about that sketchbook section—Kamandi is a 70s strip, not a 60s strip! Dude! What is wrong with you?! Ruined, I tell you! Book is ruined!]
This Wednesday sees the release of Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four #4. The grand finalé (or to some of you, the grand "finally!") of our biggest, longest, most ambitious epic. Years in the making! Crammed with characters new and old! More mean streets than Brent ever wanted to draw! Heroes! Aliens! Cosmic forces! Vigilantes! Lunatic kneaded-eraser men! Killers! Catastrophe! Conspiracies! And at the center of it all, two brothers, buffeted by the winds of fate and obsession.
If you've been enjoying it, here it is—the climactic episode!
If you haven't been enjoying it, here it is—over at last!
Either way, here's where it all ends. Charles and Royal find their resolutions. Will they be good ones? Or bad? It's a story so big Alex did two covers for it! Wednesday tells the tale.
So earlier today I was waxing rhapsodic about the many fantastic reprint projects we've been getting recently, and specifically delighting in the existence of Drawn & Quarterly's Thirteen (Going on 18) reprints and their Walt & Skeezix volumes. Between those, having nice full reprint sets of the Milt Caniff run of Terry and the Pirates, a long stretch of Steve Canyon (but not quite enough; I want reprints up through the early 1960s at least) and Classic Comics Press's Mary Perkins On Stage books, I'm in reprint heaven.
In fact, I noted, the one additional strip-reprint project that would put the cherry on top, as far as my particular comic-strip obsessions go, would be collections of Harry Haenigsen's Penny.
My friend Rob Clough said, "You should advocate for that publicly...someone might actually be listening."
So, okay, I'm doing it.
I first ran into Penny during the summer of 1978, when I was spending a lot of my off-days in the Boston Public Library's microfilm section, reading through the 1950s run of Steve Canyon by scrolling through microfilm copies of the Boston Herald, finding the comics page in each and then madly scrolling through to the next day's paper. It was an interesting way to go about it—the scrolling preserved the suspense of the daily strip, and along the way I'd catch the front page news, ads for clothes, cars, movies and more that gave me a strong sense of the period, and in the Sundays, the rotogravure section, full of photos that brought the period to life. [When I was reading wartime Terry strips this way, in fact, I was startled to find a rotogravure picture of a sleek young blonde in a skimpy red-white-and-blue outfit doing a "patriotic tap dance" for U.S. troops, and then discovered by reading the caption that it was our next door neighbor, who I'd only known as a pleasant, dumpy old lady...]
Anyway, while reading the Canyon strips in the comics sections, I'd see other comics as well—and the ones that kept catching my attention were Bob Lubbers's lushly-drawn Long Sam, and Penny.
Penny was a gag strip about the life of a confident, self-assured teenage girl, her oft-mystified parents and her friends, dates and such. It was amiably, breezy, funny-comfortable rather than edgy in any way—but the thing that made it stand out was the art. Harry Haenigsen, who also drew Our Bill, gave Penny Pringle the cheekbones of Katharine Hepburn, a chin that could cut glass, and a stylized coltish charm that just arrested the eye. Penny was fluff, but the graphics of it were bold and engaging, whether Penny's sprawling upside down in an armchair as she gabs on the phone, in a raccoon coat cheering on her school football team, wearing bluejeans in the bath to make sure they shrink right, or whatever else she did.
The strip is a charming portrait of mid-century suburbia and teen-agia, light as a meringue and crisp as autumn leaves. I want to see more of it. There was at least one book collection of it, back in the late 1940s, but it's the Fifties stuff that's really choice, and it'd make a delightful subject to be unearthed and collected, maybe along with samples of Our Bill and Haenigsen's magazine cartooning.
Anyone up for it? Any publishers out there?
[Hey, Tom Spurgeon! Spread the word, willya?]
You can see a gallery of Penny Sundays here.
And as long as I'm here, as it were, a couple of e-mails have come in. First, a note from a reader named Chris Cashel-Cordo, who writes...
I discovered Astro City last summer upon finding the first volume and thinking it looked cool, and since then I've collected as much of it as I can in trades. My question is whether or not the recent specials (Astra, Samaritan, etc...) and the upcoming Silver Agent special are going to be collected into a trade soon. I can't wait for next week and the end of the Dark Age!
Glad you're looking forward to it, Chris!
It'd probably be smart to say, "Gee, I don't know if those will be collected, you'd better buy the regular old comics," but after such a steady progression of Astro City book collections, no one would believe me. Those issues—the Samaritan special, the Beautie special, the Astra two-parter and the Silver Agent two-parter—will be collected as Astro City: Shining Stars, sometime in 2011. Alex is working on the wraparound cover already.
Next, a collegiate question from Nic Netzel...
As a graduate (2001, history) of Carleton College, I've always wondered why you chose it as Lois' alma mater in Secret Identity, and then, again, to be warped in Trinity.
And a very simple answer: My sister Amy went to Carleton. Nothing more to it than that. I've also made reference to Guilford, where my parents when to college. Don't think I've name-checked the schools my other sisters went to (UMass, Harvard, BU), but you never know.
After a long and frustrating day juggling the kind of things that have to be done but can get in the way of, y'know, writing, it's nice to have my daughter come in from the garage and say, "Hey, Daddy! You got comic books!"
A new mail-order shipment arrived today, and in it was:
Walt and Skeezix vol. 4: 1927-1928 (Drawn & Quarterly) - I'm in heaven when one of these comes in. Two solid years of great comic strip storytelling that brings to life an era before my parents were born, lovingly presented in a gorgeous package. Oh, man.
Modern Masters: Mark Buckingham (TwoMorrows) - I've been a fan of Bucky's for years, and I've been flipping through this book, full of wonderful art and a nice long and comprehensive interview, since it came in. Delightful stuff.
Captain America: Reborn hardcover (Marvel) - Ed Brubaker. Bryan Hitch. Butch Guice. Captain America. What's not to like?
Usagi Yojimbo #127 (Dark Horse) - Stan Sakai's wandering samurai rabbit has been a treat since I first met him in Critters, and one that's only gotten better, deeper and richer over time.
Savage Dragon #159 (Image) - Erik Larsen's unapologetic all-out, pedal-to-the-metal superhero series. Still bringing it, issue after issue, and leaving most of the rest of us in the dust.
Turf #1 (Image) - I love Tommy Lee Edwards' work. Don't know much about Jonathan Ross other than that people whose taste I trust think he's a good guy. But mobsters, vampires and aliens in the Roaring-and-about-to-explode Twenties? I'm there.
Phonogram: The Singles Club (Image) - I didn't think Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie's first Phonogram series fell together as well as it might have (it read a little too much like a repurposed John Constantine story, and I thought they missed the opportunity to make phonomancy—magic driven by music—distinctive and affecting), but it was very close, with interesting ideas, and they got more confident at it as they went on. So do I want to read the next round? You bet.
Jersey Gods: And This Is Home (Image) - Glenn Brunswick & Dan McDaid's Kirby-fueled cosmic-saga-by-way-of-the-Garden-State has been an engaging winner from the first issue. I've read all the issues in here, but I'm glad to have 'em in book form. Which reminds me—got to write the intro for vol. 3 pretty soon...
Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels (Dark Horse) - I don't know anything about it, really, except that it's written by Mike Mignola and looks like spooky Victorian horror-adventure. What else do I need to know?
Grimjack: The Manx Cat (IDW) - Ostrander and Truman. And more Grimjack. Again, what more do I need to know?
Getting any of these books would be a reason to be happy. Getting all of them at once is a real pleasure, tantalizing to the mind and soothing to the soul.
Comics are great.
A couple-three small items on a pleasant Saturday morning...
First, I should link to a new interview with me that's up at Broken Frontier. We talk about everything from my upcoming Marvel stories to Ixar and the Ultroids, and even discuss Woodgod, so proceed at your own risk.
That's art by Marko Djurdjević from my story in Age of Heroes #1, above.
Second, our spiffy website Contact Line scored this e-mail, from a reader named Dave...
Have been watching the final season of Lost and the "sideways memories" prompted me to go back and read KBAC 1/2, which still stands up as a really powerful and inspiring story for me. Just felt like letting you know you really hit it out of the park with that one.
...and I just figured I'd say "Thanks!"
I haven't watched Lost since early in the second season—I loved the first season, but just kinda slipped away from it after that. I hear it got back to being compelling and fascinating, but what with one thing and another, I never got back to it. But Dave's not the first to bring up Astro City #1/2 in comparison to Lost, so once it's all done and available on DVD, I may have to catch up and see what the fuss is all about.
And third, I figured I'd mention that I'll be bringing copies of the Superstar: As Seen on TV ashcan edition to the Stumptown Comics Fest this afternoon, to have at my 3PM signing in case anyone wants a signature but didn't bring anything I wrote.
The ashcan is a nice little package artist Stuart Immonen and I did up for when Superstar (as part of the ill-fated Gorilla Comics) was announced back in 19-aught-99, with a preview of the Superstar GN and a lengthy feature on how the character came to be, along with lots of cool art by Stuart.
On the one hand, I figure this means I'll have something to sign even for the empty-handed (and I'll charge a few bucks as a donation to the CBLDF, since that's what I'm there supporting). On the other hand, Stumptown's already on, so I figure most of the people going are already there or on their way, and won't see this blog entry.
But so it goes, on a pleasant Saturday morning...
From a reader named Gabriel...
Kurt, I don't know if you have ever considered this, or talked about this, or spoken to the fans about this, but the people who I have spoken to are all big Superman fans, and see the character a little too held back.
What do I mean? Lois Lane. I feel that Superman has always been held back by Lois. I feel that Wonder Woman would have been the perfect match for Superman to fall in love with. Perhaps it's my personal like for Wonder Woman, but as a long time reader of your work and a long time Superman fan, I always feel that the love and relationship the Man Of Steel deserves is not with Lois Lane, but with Wonder Woman. She, as well, deserves someone special, and the Man Of Steel, in my opinion, would be the perfect match for her.
I have spoken to a few people, and they and I would like to see a story arc written about "The Death Of Lois Lane." What would this story arc be about? It would be about Lex Luthor attacking Superman at his core: His love for Lois Lane!
What would this do? Open an opportunity for Wonder Woman and Superman to become closer, and eventually fall in love and get married. A story arc like this is one I would love to see happen as a canon, mainstream story for Superman, and I thought about no one better to create a masterpiece like this than the legendary Kurt Busiek. If you could make this happen, it would make a Superman fan's dream come true.
Superman deserves a child of his own, not raising General Zod's child. I feel he should have a child with Wonder Woman, who she as well deserves someone. I know the risks in making a story like this, and that is those that are fans of Lois. Perhaps Lois could do something else and fall in love with someone else? I don't know, but there are a lot of people out there, and I believe more, that would like to see Superman get together with Wonder Woman. Superman would never dump or cheat on Lois. It is not in his nature, but if she died it would open up the doors for Superman and Wonder Woman to get together.
I would really like to hear from you about your ideas and if you have ever thought about doing a story like this, and if so, would you create it? I really would like it if you did.
Thank you for your time Kurt. God Bless.
I'm not your guy, Gabriel.
First off, I like Lois. I like her as a character, and I like her in her role as part of the Superman cast. I think it's a very good idea, for the themes and context of the series for Superman to be romantically attached to an ordinary human. An extraordinary human, to be sure, but a regular, normal-type person, who grounds him in his human identity and connects hi to the adopted world he loves so much.
I think having Superman involved with a superhuman like Wonder Woman is a fine idea for what used to be called "Imaginary Stories," and now are called "Elseworlds," like Kingdom Come, where Clark and Diana did, as I recall, get married and have a baby. But I don't think it's a good idea for the ongoing series, because it removes Superman from needing to be connected to ordinary people, emphasizes the "super" part at the cost of the "man" part. I think both of those aspects should be important to the Superman series, and Lois, Ma, Jimmy, Perry and others are vital to the series for that reason.
I also don't think it'd be a good idea for Wonder Woman, for similar reasons. I'm not a big believer in the idea that the DC universe is one big story—it's a number of different series, all happening in the same continuum, more or less, but each series needs to work on its own, and needs to protect its core concepts. Superman should work as Superman, a science-fiction-y parable about a man from another planet who represents all that's good within humanity. And Wonder Woman should work as Wonder Woman, a myth-based series about a woman warrior fighting to show us the path of peace.
It's fine for them to cross over now and again, and for the characters to both be in the Justice League, and have connections like that. But Wonder Woman's core cast and basic series structure shouldn't have an alien superhero from Krypton in it. It messes up the series concept, which is about Diana of the Amazons and her place in "Man's World." And Superman's core cast and basic series structure shouldn't have a woman made of magical clay and brought to life by the Greek gods in it. Each should stand on its own, with a cast and structure that serve the basic series concept, not distract from it.
Plus, you don't really have a desire to see a grand story about the death of Lois, not really. You just want her dead, or in some other way out of the way, to clear the field for Superman and the woman you'd rather he was with.
I know there's a contingent of Superman and Wonder Woman fans who'd like them together, but I'm just not one of you, sorry. I like Superman and Lois. I think she's right for him in a way that emphasizes his humanity, which is important, because there's lots of supervillains, aliens and monsters to punch up that emphasize his superness. And I think Diana wouldn't emphasize his humanity anywhere near as much, while he, as her romantic partner, would undercut her mythicness by being an indigestible lump of SF in the middle of a myth-based structure. It's fun for short bursts or in non-continuity settings, but long-term, Superman and Lois just works better.
All this on top of the fact that I'm not writing Superman these days anyway.
So, my apologies, but if Lois is going to be killed, it'll have to be someone else wielding the rifle. Thanks for writing, though, and for the kind words.
This weekend, "all corners of comics" includes mine. I'll be doing a signing at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund booth this Saturday at Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, Oregon.
Here are the details:
Where? Stumptown Comics Fest, at the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel Exhibit Hall, 1000 NE Multnomah Street, Portland OR 97232.
No, I mean where? Like, once I'm actually at the show! Oh. In that case, I'll be at the CBLDF Booth, which is Booth #25.
When? Well, the show is Saturday and Sunday, April 24th & 25th, from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Yeah, yeah. I knew that from your first paragraph, pal. And the signing? 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM Saturday.
What else do I need to know? Like are they charging for signatures, or what? Gee, you're getting a little belligerent there, imaginary-reader-born-of-my-subconscious. Tickets for the signing can be had at the CBLDF booth itself. Tickets are free, though donations are encouraged. The CBLDF is a worthy cause, and deserves your support.
Any limits on stuff you'll sign? Just my usual. I'll sign pretty much whatever, but if you've got a big stack and there's a line behind you, I don't want those other people to have to wait through it all, so I may just sign a small chunk of 'em and then you can go back to the end of the line or come back later or whatever. If there's no line, I'm in no rush. I'll sign, answer questions, chat, whatever.
Why did you let Superman beat Thor? Don't you know Thor's magic? They paid you under the table, didn't they? Oh, shut up. And they mailed a check.
This is, I think, the first time I've done a signing at a show I haven't been a guest at. I go to Stumptown as an attendee, because it's jam-ful of great cartoonists and terrific comics, and I always find something new and cool there. But I'd feel odd if I had a table there, because it's such an indy-focused show and I've been such a mainstream-y kind of guy for the bulk of my career. So I'm more than half-convinced that I'll be sitting there for an hour looking sheepish, while Paul Pope fans breeze by, thinking, "Who the hell is he?"
So if you're at the show, drop by and say hi, even if you don't have anything for me to sign. The CBLDF could use your help, and it'll save me from twiddling my thumbs the whole time.
So, setting the stage:
There's been a lot of references to Thomas Jefferson used as support for "rebellion" of late—"rebellion" in quotes because people like Newt Gingrich seem to want to use it as red meat and then immediately walk it back, saying they meant only "political rebellion," like Jefferson meant, not any of that nasty shooting and killing that someone might do but Newt wouldn't want to be accused of fomenting.
I figured it was worth looking at what Jefferson really said, and posted a portion of this quote at my Facebook page:
The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?
One poster responded, "So basically, Jefferson's contention was that every once in a while you have to kill a couple of idiots to preserve the nation?"
My response was: "Pretty much. That uninformed morons will rebel every now and then, and that's okay, because it does remind the government that the people hold the ultimate power, and hey, it's no big deal if you kill a few morons in the process of straightening them out. Keeps everyone on their toes," adding:
"I don't think it's anywhere near close to the smartest thing Jefferson said. I just find it amusing that some people are quoting Jefferson as justification for 'rebellion' and they don't seem to know what he really said about people driven by misinformed discontent."
Minutes thereafter, this site got the following e-mail:
I just wanted to say that you're one of my favorite comic book writers and that I love Astro City. I've turned several of my friends onto the comics and consider the Confessor story-arc to be one of the best ever.
So it saddens me to have made the decision to not buy any more of your comics. I don't appreciate your comments on facebook about the "uninformed morons" that are "rebelling" against the government. But whatever. You won't care about losing one fan.
I figured I'd respond here for a couple of reasons:
1. Matt, the reader, sent it here rather than, say, responding on Facebook.
2. I'm in general opposed to the idea of economic punishment, which is what sending the e-mail here rather than responding where he read my comments seems to be aimed at: "You don't agree with me politically so I will reduce your income, and I'm letting you know so maybe you'll feel punished at having offended me."
So here's my answer:
Matt, thanks very much for the kind words about Astro City. I'm glad you liked it, glad you shared it with others, and I appreciate your letting me know.
But as noted, I'm not wild about the message you're trying to send, or at least that I think you're trying to send. I believe the proper response to speech you don't like is more speech, to vigorously debate ideas in the public square, as it were, rather than to try to silence people you disagree with by punishing them for that disagreement.
That said, you're absolutely entitled to stop buying my books, for any reason you choose to. You don't need to justify it at all; it's entirely your choice. Me, if I felt constrained to stop buying books by people who disagreed with me politically, I'd start off by losing one of my favorites, Bill Willingham's Fables, and I'd cost myself the work of Chuck Dixon, too, which I think would be a real loss. Bill rarely says stuff online that offends me, but Chuck does, Ethan van Sciver does...but I figure that's their right, and I'd rather read their work than try to curtail their speech. I'm not buying what they say online. I buy what they write and draw. If I didn't like what they write and draw, I wouldn't buy it, but I'll make my choice based on the material, not political opinions expressed outside the material. And if I felt moved to argue with them, I'd argue, pitting speech against speech.
But that's my choice, not yours.
I do find it a little sadly ironic that in objecting to me calling people—I assume you're referencing Tea Party people—"uninformed morons" who are "rebelling" against the government, you missed that I was summarizing Jefferson's position, not actually agreeing with it. He felt that there would be people who would not be "well informed," and that they would be "discontented," all the more discontented based on how important the stuff was they were wrong about. And he felt that the proper response was to "set them right" and "pacify" them, and if people died in the process, he didn't think that was too great a price to pay.
That was Jefferson. And I doubt he was referring to the Tea Party activists, because he's been dead for a few years.
But to be fair, I do think the Tea Party crowd fits the first part of his definition pretty well, myself, protesting taxes at a time they're at their lowest in decades (and while most of them feel their own taxes are fair), objecting to "socialism" without being able to define it, while they support Medicare and V.A. benefits, and so on. So if that's the part you object to, well, I'll stand with Tom, and you can refuse to buy either of our works. [His, though, are in the public domain now, so refusing to buy the Declaration of Independence wouldn't cost him anything.]
I don't agree with him that killing rebels is no great price to pay, though. I think anyone dying over this current political flap would be (and has been) a stupid and senseless tragedy, which is why I also see irony in people waving around the words of Thomas Jefferson to support "rebellion," without understanding that Jefferson thought rebellion and subsequent pacification, with blood spilled, was a pretty good way to shake out the misinformed and educate the populace.
As for whether I care about losing one fan—of course I do. I'm glad of every reader I've got, I'm sorry at every reader I lose, and I'm pleased at every reader I pick up, which is why I'm glad that you shared Astro City with friends. Where I draw the line, though, is at letting readers dictate to me what I can and can't say on Facebook, Twitter, this blog or wherever else. If I'm expected to muzzle myself rather than lose readers...well, in that case, yes, I'd rather lose the readers.
So thanks very much for your support, it's greatly appreciated. And sorry to see you go. I hope you'll reconsider at some point, and if you do, I hope you like whatever you pick up.
A quick blog entry, to answer a reader named Blake:
I was wondering if you might have interest in doing a series on your blog regarding how to go about writing a comic script, your methodology, and other things that might be helpful for those of us out there that want to write comics.
No offense, but that sounds way too much like work.
I don't think I'm especially cut out to be a teacher or an editor—for me, the joy of writing is in the doing, not so much in the explaining. And I'm very much of the opinion that writing comics is one of those things you learn by doing it, by practicing it, by experimenting and seeing what works for you, rather than by following someone else's rules. How I write comics may not be a way that works for you, and the best way for you to find out what works for you is to experiment, to do it, and to see what feels the best.
If I'm ever possessed by the urge to explain how to write comics the Busiek way, I'd probably do it as a book and get paid for it, working freelancer that I am.
That said, I can offer a few aids:
First, years ago, I wrote a memo on comics scripting for professional writers, called "On Writing for Comics." I haven't brought it over to the site yet, but Greg Morrow put in online and has had it upfor years.
Second, I can point you to two script samples that'll show you what script format I use—a Conan script, here at the site, or an Astro City script, available in Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers, published by the ineffable Nat Gertler of About Comics. I recommend Panel One in particular, since it not only gives you a script by me, but scripts by Neil Gaiman, Greg Rucka, Kevin Smith and others.
There are also books on how to write comics, including Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels with Peter David (Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels) by, uh, Peter David, Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1, by, um, Alan Moore, and The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Denny O'Neil. I haven't read the David or O'Neil books, and I think I read the Moore as a two-part article in The Comics Journal years ago, but all three gentlemen know their stuff.
Also here at the site, my essay, "Breaking In Without Rules," is mostly about breaking in, but touches on learning craft as well.
Also, I was wondering if i sent you a small script if you would be willing to look over it and offer thoughts. I respect your opinion a lot and you are my favorite writer. I could not think of a person more qualified to look at my work and critique it.
That I definitely can't do, sorry. I'll offer three reasons:
First, I don't read unsold fiction of any sort, for legal reasons. I used to be a literary agent, and I've seen and/or heard of too many cases where a writer read someone's submission or fanfiction or whatever, and was thereafter accused of plagiarism. If someone sends me a script involving a were-tiger who moonlights as a bartender, and I already happen to have a story idea involving a were-lynx who moonlights as a caterer, I may have to scrap it just to avoid any insinuation that I nicked it from that script. Heck, I don't want to know about that were-tiger, even if it's only because I might come up with that were-lynx story years from now. It's fair game if someone gets it into print before me, but I don't want to have unsold ideas parading in front of me and affecting my ideaspace.
Second, you don't need me to look at it. The people you want to look at your work are people who can buy it, and that's not me. Editors, publishers, those are your targets. Even if I were to read it, I'm no judge of what editors want to buy—they buy lots of stuff I think is mediocre or outright bad. So if I thought a script was mediocre and gave a critique on how to fix it, I might be telling the author to remove exactly what would make an editor buy it. Critiques are reassuring (or devastating), but they're not crucial—go forward with your best efforts and get the judgment of the people who can put you into print.
And third (fourth, fifth...), I don't have the time, I don't enjoy it and I don't think I'm much good at it. Critiquing other people's work is time-consuming, and I've got more than enough to do already, it's not any fun to do (there are doubtless people who like it, but I'm not one of them), and in the end, I can't tell you what to do with it. I'm not all that articulate about technique, most of my own writing tools are so thoroughly internalized that I use them without consciously thinking about them, and all I could really tell someone is what I'd do if I were writing it, which isn't useful information, because I'm not. There are editors who are wonderful at getting a writer to follow his own vision and do what he can do at the best of his ability, but I'm not one of them. I tend to get my own vision, and think, "Hey, wouldn't it be great if it was done this way?"
And that's my vision, not the writer's vision, and he or she probably shouldn't use it because it's not his or hers, and I can't use it because the project's not mine in the first place.
So my apologies. But in the words of Bartleby the Scrivener, "I prefer not to," for all the above reasons. And you don't need me anyway. I broke in without ever getting critiqued by a professional before submitting something—I showed my stuff to a friend or two, and I submitted it. And I got all the critiques I needed from the editors who bought the work.
So go to market. Fly on your own. Jump on in. And whatever other metaphors will serve.
And good luck with it.
The Lamazou Fact-Finding Mission has occurred, thanks to intrepid Busiek.com freelance comestibles agent 001, Chris Chiang, and here's his report:
: SANDWICH REPORT : NEW YORK MISSION : 4 9 2010 : LAMAZOU :
Arrived at store/deli [see Photo 1]
I showed the downloaded photo of the sandwich on my phone to the manager and counterman. Based upon the photo, they thought it was the #8—the Parisian [see Menu]. Unfortunately, my phone was not able to access the Internet and thus I couldn't look up The Beat and get the exact ingredients listed by Heidi in her comments.
Thus I order The Parisian—imported French ham [Jambon de Paris], aged Swiss cheese [no brand identified], cornichons [ie the little pickles], lettuce and dijon mustard [no brand identified] on a French baguette.
They graciously allowed me to take photos from behind the counter as they finished making the sandwich [see Photos 2-4].
I had a couple of bites in the store, but because they had no seating, I wrapped up the rest and took it home where I thoroughly examined it [see Photos 5-6].
The sandwich was very tasty, better than your average NYC deli sandwich. The baguette was fresh [soft in the center and crisp exterior]. The imported ham was great, I thought I tasted a little rosemary. The Swiss cheese was amazing, almost buttery like a brie. The cornichons added a nice contrast in both texture and taste [they were a little salty like regular pickles]. The dijon mustard was lightly applied and gave the sandwich a nice spicy undertone.
The sandwich was really good and it's a place worth going back and experimenting with the menu.
I hope this helps.
Next time, I'm going to try what Heidi ordered. I have to ask her if the photo is something she took or found on a website somewhere.
: REPORT ENDS :
Alas, Heidi didn't order that sandwich, Agent Chiang. Or at least, I don't think so. She was just guessing as to what was in it, and probably nicked the photo off the internet somewhere. I mean, this is Heidi MacDonald. You think she uses plates?
Anyway, it looks like what you ordered came very close to the sandwich in the picture. There's a white spread in there, along with the mustard, that isn't in yours, and it doesn't look like there's lettuce in the original sandwich. But we came very close, and the results look and sound delicious indeed. Next time I'm in Manhattan, I'll investigate myself, but in the meantime: Job well done, sir. Job well done!
[Plus, you got to eat the sandwich, so I'm jealous.]
Attention, MoCCA attendees!
Here's the thing. This morning, Heidi MacDonald posted a guide to good eats—er, "fine dining"—for those attending this year's MoCCA Festival. Among the places recommended was Lamazou, at Third Avenue and 27th, where you can get fine sandwiches, including the culinary wonder pictured above.
That sandwich looks delicious. I want that sandwich. I can't go to MoCCA, and can't duplicate Lamazou's own cheeses, sure, but I'd like to make that sandwich, or something like it. So my question is, what's in it?
Heidi guessed it's Serrano ham and Manchego cheese with cornichons and sundried tomatoes on ciabatta bread. The cornichons, I'll grant her. The ciabatta bread, quite possibly. But that doesn't look like Seranno ham to me, or to Ann. And is that very roughly ground mustard? What's the white spread? More cheese? Butter?
So here's why I'm saying all this:
If someone attending MoCCA is willing to go to Lamazou with that picture, order that sandwich, and then tell me what's in it (and how it tasted), I'll buy the sandwich. And a drink. And what the hell, chips, if they even do those.
This isn't an open offer—I don't want to buy 300 lunches. I need a volunteer, who's willing to do this. You'll need to get me the ingredients list for the sandwich, a report on how good it is, and a scan of your receipt, and I'll Paypal you the cost of your meal.
Please volunteer via the "Contact" link over to the left. First willing volunteer gets the gig, and the lunch.
I really want to know what's in that sandwich. It looks amazing.
The 2010 Eisner Awards nominations are out, and Alex Ross has gotten his umpty-millionth nomination for Best Cover Artist, for his work on Astro City and Project: Superpowers. And all of 'em have been well deserved!
Also, Alex Sinclair, our colorist-in-residence (though Wendy Broome has been stepping in for him recently to avoid him collapsing completely from overwork) was nominated for Best Colorist. For his work on Blackest Night and Batman and Robin, but hey, he's still part of the team.
So congratulations to both of our Alexes—great work, and you're both nominated alongside other terrific talents.
The full Eisner nomination list can be found here.
Okay, now to a couple of bits of mail.
To start off, Don Lee...
I was off on spring break all last week and my best friend sat me down with a huge stack of Astro City (which I'd never read) and I just finished. I am stunned beyond ... well, not stunned beyond words, since I'm writing, but holy moley, Astro City is very amazing. I haven't enjoyed anything so much since Tom Strong or Powers. It's the Winesburg, Ohio of comics. (I know none of this is news to you, but I just finished like 10 minutes ago.)
I am 47 and grew up reading comics in the Silver Age, and this is my new favorite thing.
Hope all is well in your world. I googled you and it said you had been ill. Anyway, thanks again for an overwhelmingly wonderful week out of my life.
Our pleasure, Don. Very glad you liked it all so much.
"The Winesburg, Ohio of of comics"? That'd make a great pull-quote, for the right target audience. I'll admit, I have a copy of Winesburg, waiting in my paperback shelves for me to get around to reading it, but I haven't got there yet. But Winesburg was an influence on The Martian Chronicles, which was one of the many shaping influences on Astro City, along with lots of other stuff, from Discworld to Superfolks to every superhero comic ever published and then some. I'll have to make time for Winesburg soon.
I hope what's coming up will similarly delight you.
And next, from Blair Kuhlman...
I’m taking a comic book class at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and we’ve been talking about representation of genders in comics. Like how women are represented compared to men and vice versa. A lot of the discussion has revolved around how the representation of women is sexist, but that is a messy subject I don’t plan on getting into here. I am more interested in how this relates to male protagonists. I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on the matter. Do you feel that the representation of men in comic books is sexist/exploitative in any way? Do you feel that you have the power to represent a male protagonist as you wish (maybe with a few extra pounds, or a healthy sized nose)? Have you ever experienced pressure in the industry to represent a male in a certain way? Have you ever been asked to represent a male in a way that you found offensive?
Any feedback you could give would help me out a ton!!
That's an interesting way to approach things, Blair—a counter-argument often made to the "portrayals of women in comics is sexist" argument is "well, men are idealized, too," which I think often threatens to beach itself on the shoals of that "idealization" being primarily a male idea of idealization—men are muscly and powerful and capable, women are soft and curvy and sexually posed—but exploring it from the angle of negative portrayal of men is one I haven't run into before.
I think that limiting your portrayals of anyone, male or female, is a problem. It sometimes seems as if most guys in comics are studly, trim guys who'd make great male models if only more artists knew how to draw clothes as well as they did muscles, and I think that's a problem. Not as great a problem as so many of the women looking as if they've just stepped out of a racy photo shoot and haven't gotten their hips adjusted back to normal yet, but a problem.
For my part, I've never been pressured to depict any character in an objectionable way, so whatever errors of taste I've made are my own. But I'm a writer, and I work with artists, which means that the visualization of the characters is largely (though not entirely) out of my hands. I can ask for a character to be carrying around a few extra pounds, or be scrawny, or beaky, or whatever else, and if I'm working with someone like Brent Anderson, that's what I'll get, because Brent has fun drawing a variety of people. In another situation, though, the characters may feel samey if the artist doesn't have Brent's range.
Or then again, there's the homogenizing effect of a shared universe, where characters drawn by multiple artists tend to become more generic over time. Women or men introduced as fat, skinny, ugly or even drop-dead gorgeous will become more and more like the others around them, as artists simplify, or focus on costume details more than body details. Crystal lost her exotically-tilted eyes early on, the Wingless Wizard lost his gnarled, horsey face. "Slim" Summers became a brawny guy who could easily play fullback. And on and on.
When I've worked on some books, I've tried to bring some of these elements back—in Avengers #1, George Pérez brought back Crystal's weird eyes at my request, and in Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Pat Olliffe brought back the Wizard's delightfully-ugly face. But this sort of change-back rarely lasts.
And in some cases, even artists seeking to make characters more distinctive lose elements that were important to them. One of Marvel's mutant characters, Tabitha Smith, was reworked by an artist to be very slim and small-breasted, which is a rarity among superheroines. But when introduced, it had been a part of her character that she'd matured early, had unusually large breasts, which got her unwelcome attention and led her to run away. Her first code-name, "Boom Boom," was a taunt she'd suffered because of her breasts, and she'd become defensive and hostile as a result of what she'd been through. So here was a character for whom large breasts weren't just a standard comics visual cliché but a key part of her origin, her psychological make-up, even her superhero codename. And so one of the few characters for whom it was important lost that bit of backstory (though not the attitude born of it) in the service of making her distinctive in a different way. [And since then, as far as I've noticed, she's become a generic female figure by superhero comics standards, neither unusually large- or small-breasted.
This gets to be a problem for portraying characters—what if you've got a character who is a bodybuilder? Or a sexbomb? How do you make them stand out? Make them even moreso, to the point that they look grossly-exaggerated? How do you do "brawny" or "alluring" when everyone in the case is either brawny or curvaceous? How do you do a character with chiseled features, like a Greek sculpture (if you need to) when everyone looks like that already?
This doesn't answer your question, I expect. I'm just rambling here. I haven't been pressured by editors or publishers to represent anyone in a particular way, at least beyond the general, "make 'em come across like their established selves" factor, but I do think comics tends to generify characters in a way that does create limits. That said, artists would probably be better people to ask than writers, because if anyone's being told to make the men studlier and the women sultrier, it'd be artists.
For writers, it's probably little more than the occasional frustration of seeing Wonder Woman pose like a sexy pinup rather than like a powerful Amazon, or writing characters who may be described as a 98-pound weakling, but whose chest muscles and biceps strain at their snug T-shirts anyway.
With the right artist and the right amount of control, you can address it, but there's no saying that however you address it will last. Or that the buying audience won't flock to a book full of studs and sirens in preference to realistic variety. But in the end, I think my frustrations are craft-based, while your questions are essentially sociological. Sorry.
1260 followers, by the way.
I've been letting the blog languish while I've been getting work done, enjoying the birth of a new baseball season and, um, discovering Twitter.
It's all Neil Gaiman's fault. Not the baseball, the Twitter. While I'd been recovering from surgery, one of the ways I passed the time was to read through Neil's blog, all howevermany years of it. I didn't hunker down and go through the whole thing non-stop, I just browsed through it here and there, filling the time while I wasn't up to doing other stuff. And Neil's got a little side panel on his blog with a Twitter feed, showing his latest tweets. So I got a double-dose of Gaiman, reading blog posts from years ago and tweets from minutes ago—and eventually, the blog posts and the tweets converged, as the blog reached the present day and therre you go, I was done. But I'd gotten used to seeing the tweets, and now I wasn't seeing them any more, except when Neil would post a new blog entry and I'd get that through Google Reader, and that wasn't quite the same thing.
So I started to think, hmm. Maybe I should check out this Twitter thing, see who else's tweets I'd like to keep up with.
And to be fair, TV's Craig Ferguson reading and replying to viewer tweets on The Late Late Show had something to do with it too.
So I signed up for Twitter, thinking maybe I could just law low and read, and within seconds, Heidi MacDonald was telling the world here I was on Twitter, and to follow my sad, uninspired tweetage. It must have been a slow news year, because it made Robot6 as well.
And now I'm following about a hundred people, and [checks] 1,237 people (or spambots) are following me, and I'm seeing stuff I never would have seen that I'm glad I saw and am in contact with people I ordinarily see once or twice a year at cons, if that, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. And there are delights I wouldn't have imagined, like Tom Hanks tweeting pictures from the production offices and location scouting of Larry Crowne, the movie he's currently making. [And his exposé of snack trays at the major talk shows was enchanting, and well, informative-but-not-really-useful-I'd-imagine, as well.] So I'm enjoying it, even now that I'm back to getting work done.
Oh, dear. I've responded to Gail Simone. New followers are appearing like bursting, fluffy kernels of popcorn. 1,239. No, 1,242.
Should you like to join in, I'm @KurtBusiek, and I make no promises.
This was going to be a "Through the Mail Slot" entry, but it seems to be long enough by itself, so let me pop in a different illustration, and I'll do the mail next.
Little Miss Muffet—that's Sandra Muffet, of the Nebraska Muffets, the curds and whey heiress, who'd recently gotten out of the state loony bin after long and delicate therapy for trauma she'd suffered at the Wild Arachnid Park during her Confirmation Party, which had been the talk of North Omaha—sat on a tuffet in the Beervana A-Go-Go nursing a beer. She'd been told by her therapist that she really needed to start mixing with people again and was giving it a try.
Several guys tried to strike up a conversation, including a bear named Cassaday, but she was too nervous for that her first night out, when along came a spider—and while the spider in question claims he had nothing to do with the infamous events of the Confirmation party, he's unable to account for his whereabouts during those events; he claims to have been catching and poisoning fireflies all night, but his web didn't show the kind of damage that takes.
Anyway, this spider, who goes by the name Spider Joe, sat down at the next tuffet and started to make what he claims was innocent small talk with Miss M. Other patrons of the Beervana A-Go-Go say that Spider Joe was a little drunk on liquefied grasshopper innards, and had mistaken Miss M for a hooker. Anyway, whether he was just passing the time of day or propositioning her, she took it badly. According to the bartender, she shrieked "Aaaah! Not you again! Haven't you ruined my life enough already, you disgusting eight-legged freak?!" and threw her beer right into his multi-faceted eyes.
She then fled, pursued by Cassaday, who has been known to do a little strong-arm work for Spider Joe from time to time. Cassaday swears she got into a late-model Volkswagen and sped off into the night, but she never made it home. Spider Joe did leave the bar for about twenty minutes after Cassaday returned, and at that point appeared to be in possession of a large quantity of curds and whey which he shared out among the patrons, particularly the more attractive ones.
Since then Spider Joe's been spotted in the company of Miss Belinda Muffet, who of course controlled the whole family business while Sandra was in the nuthouse, and who will inherit the whole thing if Sandra is declared dead. Spider Joe seems to have an unlimited supply of curds and whey to share with his friends or pass out in return for favors done by the Beervana A-Go-Go's trollop squad.
But they tell a story, in the Beervana, that anyone who sits on that particular tuffet hears an unsettling voice that cries, "Avenge me! Avenge me! It was Spider Joe! Avenge me!"
Police investigation is proceeding, but for information on that, you'll have to buy the book.
This was written five years ago, for reasons too odd and tangential to explain. Having run across it, though, I figured I'd share.
I'm just back from the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, and fighting off a sore throat while I try to catch up on sleep. Since I've sort of hit the wall for productive work today, I figured I'd attend to the e-mail that's been coming in to the site.
To start off, David Bieger writes...
Thanks for the insightful article about breaking in without rules.
I went to Syracuse back in the 60's and had trouble following the rules, too. In fact, we shut down the campus following the Kent State shootings. I lived on Marshall St. and worked part time at Siegel's Drug Store.
Fast forward, to San Diego. I've been here since 1977, and teenagers in a Korean church's youth group reintroduced me to the wonderful world of comics. They wanted to go to the comic-con but their parents would not take them, so I did.
And I was hooked. My first collection was Marvel's John Carter, Warlord of Mars. (Frank Miller actually drew one of those issues, before Daredevil.) I also have quite the collection of Marvel Age.
Fast forward again, and I am now on staff at the Con. I work for Clydene Nee in Artist's Alley. We have been friends for over 15 years. And I have a godson (Joseph, 16 yrs.) who enjoys comics almost as much as he enjoys theater. He's on staff as well.
We have a story we made up when he was around 7 years old. We call it "The Boy of Seven Wonders." We've also written "Zombies...Twice in a Blue Moon," and a short story about the Thing and a visit he made to the Black Panther for help with a personal problem.
Kids are great. It's easy to make up stories when you are around kids.
Your article has encouraged us to make the trip upstairs to the Sails Pavilion this summer and present our work to any editor who will read them.
Thanks for the boost. Hopefully, I'll run into you this summer at the Con.
Best of luck with it, David—though in my experience, while it's easy to show art samples at a convention, writing samples work better through the mail. But whatever works. I'll be a special guest at San Diego this year, so feel free to drop by and say hi to a fellow Syracuse attendee.
And from Sam Fitzpatrick...
I was recently given Astro City volume 1 & 2 for Christmas and thought they were brilliant. I was wondering, though, is there anywhere you can buy posters or prints of Astro City online because there aren't many comic book shops in Sheffield, where I live.
Thanks for any information you can give.
Very glad you like the books, sir!
But I don't think we ever did any Astro City posters for commercial sale. There were some promotional posters we did that might turn up on eBay now and then, and there was at least one lithograph—of Alex Ross's cover to vol. 1 #2, featuring the Silver Agent and Elliot Mills. It's long ago enough now that I can't remember whether we did it through Graphitti Designs or Dynamic Forces, though. I really should try to put together a list of all the stuff I've been part of—not just books, but things like the Astro City T-shirts, refrigerator magnets and promo items—and catalogue it here on the site somewhere.
In my copious free time.
I did take a quick look at eBy, though, and found these:
Hope that helps!
And the fine folks at ScoopThis.com, who were behind the mystery Avengers parody I posted about a while back, write to say...
Though ScoopThis.com isn't "officially" open, it could use more beta testers. So rather than wait for the official launch, why not give Kurt Busiek fans an advance heads-up about the two parodies we were discussing not too long ago.
Here are the links to them:
THE AVENGERS in "Is There A Doctor In The House?"
VISION & THE SCARLET WITCH in "Hexual Healing"
There's no nudity to either of them, but I would think the second on is Not Safe For Work, at least for certain workplaces. For mine, where I'm sitting here in a bathrobe, drinking lots of water to try to rehydrate myself and awaiting my wife's return from the puppy pokey with our dog, it's no problem, but you probably don't work here.
Ordinarily, I resist e-mails that fall into the category of "Can you answer these questions for my school report," on the general principle that writers shouldn't be doing students' homework for them, and the idea of the questions was probably to get the student to do their own research.
However, when I was asked if I'd answer some questions for a ten-year-old Girl Scout working on earning a badge in "Comics," I had to make an exception. My one specification was that I'd answer the questions here on the blog, so I'd have it to hand to point others to, if similar questions arise.
Anyway, here are the questions, from Breena, along with my answers:
1. What did you like about comics that made you start writing comics?
A lot of different things.
I liked the way comics are a combination of words and pictures, so the right line of dialogue, or caption, or even the right sound effect, combined with the right picture, can be more powerful than either of them alone.
I also like the way the superhero worlds of Marvel and DC Comics were sprawling, interconnected world where characters from one series could meet characters from another series, and a long ongoing history full of lots of different characters had been developed and could be explored.
But the thing that first got me to want to write comics was that they were short. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but writing a whole novel seemed like so much work, particularly if you got to the end of it and found out you weren't very good at it. Comics were a lot shorter, so I thought it would be easier to try to write comics and find out if I was any good at it without it taking so long.
So I did, and it turned out I really liked doing it.
2. How long have you been writing?
I started writing and drawing comics with my friend Scott McCloud in 1976, for fun and to get practice at doing it, and I sold my first professional script in 1982. So I've been writing comics professionally for twenty-eight years, and for fun for thirty-four years.
3. Do you have fun making new characters when you get to?
Usually. Creating characters is work, too, and if I'm trying to crate a character to fit a very particular role in a story, it can be a lot of work, but usually it's fun to come up with names, powers, costume ideas, personalities, histories and that sort of thing.
4. Are you just a comic book writer or do you write books too?
I've written some short stories, co-wrote a novel, and written articles and interviews and things, and I'm working on a novel now. But mostly, I've written comics.
5. Do you have a favorite character to draw or write about?
I always like writing Hawkeye, and there are other characters I have a great time writing, like Green Lantern, Thor, the original X-Men and some others. But I like writing my own characters, too. I like variety, so I wouldn't want to write any one character all the time, and whoever I'm writing, I can usually find something about them that makes me have fun writing them.
6. Do you have a worst character to write or draw about?
There are some characters that I don't enjoy writing, either because they have a funny speech pattern that I can't get right in my head, or I just don't enjoy reading about them so it's hard to get excited about writing about them. Probably the top of that list would be Gambit of the X-Men. There are lots of readers who like him a lot, but I'm just not one of them.
7. Do you draw or just write?
I just write. I used to draw my own comics, when I was learning how to write comics, and I think it helped me a lot because I developed a sense of how much space there is on a page, and what would be too much stuff to try to fit onto it. I can also sketch well enough to how someone what I mean in a tricky page layout, or suggest costume designs. But I don't draw well enough to want to do it professionally.
8. Did you enjoy comics when you were little?
My parents didn't let my sisters and me read superhero comics when we were kids, but we had other comics, like Asterix and Tintin and Pogo and Dennis the Menace in books, and I'd read the comics in the newspaper, and I liked those a lot. But I didn't start reading regular American comic-book type comics until I was fourteen. I liked them a lot then, though!
9. Do you write with other people to make good ideas?
Sometimes. It's good to be able to bat ideas back and forth with someone else. Even when I'm writing by myself, I try to talk with my editor or artist to make sure I'm able to test out my ideas and get their opinions as I go along.
10. Do you ever do comic book signings?
Yes. Just last weekend, I was at the Emerald City Comics Convention in Seattle, and I was signing comics there. And I've done comic book signings as far away as Spain, Australia and Singapore, and as close as a comics store in my home town. I like meeting the fans and hearing what they think about the comics.
EXTRA: My dad thinks Aquaman is the BEST. What do you think?
I like Aquaman, too. There are a lot of other heroes I like, so I'm not sure I'd say "best," but he's a very good character. I even wrote Aquaman in his own series for a while a few years ago, and in other series like Justice League of America and Superman as well.
Hope that helps!
I just wrote something over at CBR that I thought I'd repurpose here.
To set the stage—people had been discussing the new publishing set-up and DC, and concluding, among other things, that I wasn't writing anything for DC at presented because Mark Waid and I had both departed in a huff over Geoff Johns having too much influence, or that I'd had a falling-out with Dan Didio. This, I think, is the result of something Steve Gerber talked about years ago, where comic-book people (creators and readers) are used to thinking in terms of conflict, and then thinking of conflict in terms of fistfights. If something's happening (or appearing to happen), there must be a story behind it, and there must be a fight at the heart of that story.
But most people just muddle along. If you decide to go see Sherlock Holmes Friday night, it's not because you had a falling-out with the director of Avatar, it's that it looked interesting to you. Working freelance can be like that, too.
When you add to that a common reader assumption that if you're not working on something ongoing and currently out, you're probably not working on anything at all, this can result in interesting suppositions.
Anyway, I pointed out that I wasn't mad at Geoff or Dan, nor they at me so far as I know. I was asked if there were any DC books, either now existing or existing at some point in the past, I'd be interested in, and I answered:
Depending on the circumstances, plenty, from Superman: The Secret Years to Swamp Thing to Flash to Cassandra Craft (wait a minute, that one never was a book).
But a lot depends on the circumstances.
So I was exhorted to let people at DC know this, so I could start writing one or more of these.
I noted that listing a bunch of titles I'd be interested in someday doesn't mean I'm either available to write them now or not working on something else that might hopefully be equally entertaining.
The response was, in part, "'Can't wait to see what you and Brevoort have planned for over at Marvel."
This is partly due, I think, to the prevalence of exclusive contracts and the us-against-them vibe you get a lot in Marvel-and-DC areas. I've recently been announced as writing a story for Age of Heroes, part of the new Marvel event, and maybe doing some more. So naturally the assumption is that I'm "back at Marvel," rather than "non-exclusive and freelancing."
So, I rattled off (with edits, because I'm second-drafting it now):
Tom and I don't have anything specifically planned at present. We've talked about a few things, but not moved forward on any.
I'm working on Astro City and Batman: Creature of the Night for Wildstorm and DC. I have the Arrowsmith novel (Wildstorm again) to work on, an untold tale of Spider-Man to write for Steve Wacker, and I'm supposed to come up with a short Spirit story for Joey Cavalieri, but haven't yet.
I'm also waiting on contract revisions for American Gothic (Wildstorm again), was at one point supposed to do a Superman GN, but it seems to not be happening at all. And it looks like I'll be reissuing a couple of older books through IDW, and I'm talking to them about revamping and redrawing an old and little-known project of mine as a new OGN. Plus there are two other companies who want me to do large projects that would be interesting to do but I can't say yes or no while other things are up in the air, and another very major project that's been up in the air for a couple of years now, but could come down to Earth at any moment.
Oh, and a small-scale-but-fun Robert E. Howard-related (but not Conan) Dark Horse project we've talked about a few times over the years and I even outlined once, but we were never able to get going on it, but it might be doable now.
I'm also awaiting contracts on a movie-related project that were supposed to be in yesterday, and (in my copious spare time) working on a novel of my own. And I just recently talked to a book editor about a non-novel book project that could be a lot of fun.
But mostly, just at present, I'm getting ready for sinus surgery on Tuesday, so I won't be writing for most of next week, I'd think.
Still, of the stuff Tom and I have talked about, I think I know which one I'd want to do first, if we do something. And it's not one of the stories I actually described to him, though it falls in the general category of the stuff we talked about, and I think he'd like it. My wife did, when I ran it by her the other day.
And that, I think, makes a nice snapshot of my current workload, as sprawling and confusing as it is, so I figured I'd slap it up here.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm going to have to have sinus surgery, to deal with the return of the polyps that contributed so much to my health woes in the past.
What I'm amazed at is how quickly things are happening. In more than one way.
Back when I had this kind of surgery the last time, a little less than a decade ago, I had it done at the Oregon Health Sciences University, a teaching hospital and one of the best medical centers in the region. And everything took forever.
They were so jammed up that it was usually a month, six weeks, sometimes even three months before an appointment was available, and when we'd go in, it took a long time to get up the hill to where OHSU is located, a pain to find parking in the crowded garage, and then we'd check in at the ENT clinic and wait an hour or two beyond our appointment time to see the doctor. I can't complain at all about the quality of care, but everything was just interminable, at every stage.
This time, things have gone a bit differently.
Last Thursday, I saw my G.P., to discuss the CAT scans of my sinuses that had been done earlier that day. He said they my whole left side was pretty well swollen shut, but there didn't seem to be any infection to account for it, so I'd better see an ENT specialist. Where was I treated last, OHSU? That sounded good. I started to protest that maybe we should see someone else, it always took forever to get anything done at OHSU...
He picked up the phone and called down to them, explaining that this was an old patient of Dr. Hwang's (no longer with the university; he's at Stanford these days), and I needed an ENT consult, and when could they fit me in? Tuesday.
Tuesday? That's fast. Since Monday was President's Day, it's even a little faster than it seems.
Tuesday we go in to OHSU's relatively-new Center for Health and Healing (pictured above), which is down at the bottom of the hill, right off the highway. Very easy to get to. It's linked to the main campus by a ski-lift like tram that runs up to the top of the hill on cables, and I'd like to see the view from that thing sometime, but haven't needed to yet. There's a brand-new underground parking garage, and we easily found plenty of parking space on the second level.
In to the Center, and instead of being told that we had to trek to the Administration Building to be issued a new "burgundy card," a standard part of the old procedure, we checked in for the appointment and within ten minutes were seeing the doctor. He scoped my sinuses, confirmed they were full of polyps, recognized that I'd had previous surgery and that Dr. Hwang must have performed it, and discussed my options with me, confirming that I'd need surgery.
Probably two to three weeks from now, someone in Scheduling would call to set it up. Okay.
The next day, Lea in Scheduling called. The doctor had a cancellation. How did next Tuesday sound?
Well, okay, that's great! But Tuesday's now less than a week away, and I'll need to be on pre-op meds for a week before the surgery, is that enough time? She'll check.
She checks and calls back. It's fine. Just start the meds tonight.
So I'm having surgery a week after seeing the ENT surgeon, and only twelve days after being referred to him. That's the speed of light, compared to our previous experiences.
And today, I had to go on to the Center again, to do some pre-op stuff—a new CAT scan to use in the computer-guided surgery process, and a few other things. They tell me to get there at 2:05 for a 2:15 CAT scan, then I'll go to the Pre-Op clinic for a 3:00 appointment with a nurse practitioner there for the other stuff. I've got a little work to do, so I figured I'd bring my laptop and do some writing while I'm sitting around in waiting areas. Just in case, I have a book and my Kindle, too. Can't be too prepared.
We get a slightly late start, but traffic was light, we get there right at 2:05. By 2:10 we're sitting down in the Imaging Center waiting area, and I crack open the laptop. Half a sentence later, I'm being ushered in for my CAT scan, and five minutes later, I'm done.
It's not yet 2:30, and my next appointment's at 3:00. So should we sit where Ann's already settled, and head up to he Pre-Op clinic around 3? What the heck, we'll go up and check in now.
We go up, we check in, we sit down. I start typing. Three words later they're calling my name.
We're whisked into an exam room, where my blood pressure, temperature and pulse are taken all at once, and they ask a lot of questions about what medicines and vitamins and such I'm on, to make sure there won't be any anaesthesia problems. They need to do an EKG, though, so if I hang on, someone will be in shortly.
Great, no problem, back to typing.
Two words later, here's a nurse practitioner to do the EKG and answer questions about what I can/can't eat and whether Ann'll have time to ferry the family down on Tuesday, drop me off, ferry the girls to school and then come back and find me. No problems.
We're done and out by 2:55, five minutes before we were supposed to check in for our final appointment of the day.
I could get used to this!
Reality reasserts itself on the way home, as we run into traffic and construction, and what took 30 minutes one way taken almost 90 going back. I pop open the laptop a couple of times to add in a phrase or two before I forget it, but I can't really write in a moving car. Still haven't opened the book. Or the Kindle, and I have the new Joe Hill novel, Horns, waiting for me on it, too.
So that was the day. I finished the thing I was working on back at home, and it's printed out for Ann to proofread, but I'm still a little dazed by how fast everything's happening.
Or maybe it's the Predisone.
The best store signing I've ever done was in Perth, Western Australia.
Ann and I spent two weeks in New Zealand and Australia, first doing conventions in Auckland and Wellington with Devin Grayson and Mark Waid, with a memorable and enjoyable trip from the one city to the other in between, a trip involving blackwater rafter, go-karting, dry luge, para-sailing, jet-skiing and the discovery that if anything anywhere went fast, if you're with Mark Waid you have to stop and do it Right Now. Very good cons, a lovely country, friendly people, and we've taken one trip back since, to vacation in the Bay of Islands and Queenstown, and that's not the last time we'll go, either.
And then Ann and I went to Australia, where the original plan had been to do a convention in Sydney, but the convention fell through and was rescheduled, so we wound up arranging store signings in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. We also visited Ayers Rock (stunning, and we got to taste kangaroo and emu, but many, many flies) and took a side trip to Brisbane to visit Eddie Campbell, who had said come on out sure it'll be great and then wound up delayed in England so we had a delightful barbecue with Eddie's friends and prowled used bookstores for Australian editions of Nevil Shute. And Sydney's gorgeous and parts of it look like the Blade Runner production designer's idea of what New York would look like if New York was cool enough, and Melbourne was a treat, with the giant casino with the gargantuan gas jets that went off at odd intervals. And the signings were well-attended and friendly and enjoyable.
But when we mentioned we were going to Perth, what everyone wanted to know was, "Why are you going to Perth, of all places? It's a hell of a long way to go!"
We pointed out that we'd come here from the United States, so if going a hell of a long way stymied us, we wouldn't have come in the first place. Which was true. But mainly, I wanted to see as much of Australia as I could get in. I mentioned Nevil Shute, who I've been a fan of since I stumbled on his work in college and who was a strong influence on Marvels, so for years I'd been reading about all these fascinating-sounding places, and sure, I knew it was decades later than what he'd described but I still wanted to see them. And I wish we'd had time to get to Cairns and Alice Springs and Adelaide and Tasmania, but in the meantime I wasn't going to pass up the chance to see Perth.
And I've got to say, Perth is lovely. A pretty green gem on the edge of the Indian Ocean, with the Swan River snaking through it in arcs, very muck a mixture of British heritage and Indian proximity, making for a distinct and charming combination. I definitely want to get back someday, and not only see more of Perth, and see more of Western Australia, too.
But the signing.
The point at which I realized it wasn't going to be an ordinary signing was when we were at breakfast with the owner of the store we'd be signing at, and a reporter who was there to interview me for a local radio show, and we were up on a hill overlooking the city in a spacious and comfortable room with spectacular view windows (my memory says the restaurant was a converted colonial-era mansion of some sort), just chatting and enjoying good food, when the store owner's mobile phone rang.
It seemed there was a line, and it was in danger of blocking the entrances to other nearby stores.
So there was management stuff to be done, and I'm sitting there thinking, "There's a line?"
It was 9:30 in the morning. The signing was going to start at either 4:30 or 5:30 in the afternoon. And there's a line?
It turned out I was the first American comics creator to visit Western Australia and do a signing. Unless you count Neil Gaiman, I was told, who came for a science fiction convention, so that was books, not comics, and didn't really count. All those people who went to Sydney, or Melbourne, and then went back home...boy, were they missing out.
It was like being a rock star. When we did get to the store, which was below street level, the line wound round and about through the stacks in the store, out the door, up the stairs, around the corner and off far enough that I wasn't sure where the end of it was. I think every comics fan in Western Australia had turned up.
The store had built be a signing booth, with Astro City displays, including a 3-D re-creation of the Astro City logo, complete with electron-ringed rocket. And I chatted with people and signed for hours, and the line slowly snaked its way through, but it felt like there'd be no end to it. I'm sure that gets exhausting for people who get that sort of thing all the time, but I'd never had anything like it at that point, and I didn't have anything remotely like it again until a couple of years later when I was at a Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina and was signing books and looked up for a moment and realized the line went on forever and had an, "Um, guys, Neil's over there" moment, before realizing that, well, doing three monthly books for Marvel on top of Astro City did stack up the number of books to be signed as well as the audience that wanted signatures.
But even that, and the well-attended signings I've done since, were anything like that day in Perth.
The other thing I remember from Perth was the next morning, scuttling around in the rain, trying to find a pharmacy open early enough for us to get a pregnancy test before our flight back to Sydney, because Ann was having morning sickness and we wanted to confirm her guess. And yes, it turned out she was pregnant with our first child, Sydney.
[But no, she's not named Sydney because of Australia, she's named Sydney after my mother.]
Anyway. It was a great trip and a glorious signing, and one way or the other, I intend to be back someday. And maybe this time I can get to Cairns and Tasmania and Adelaide...
A reader named Rotem Cohen writes...
Just wanted to say a thing or two, having just finished reading the Marv Wolfman interview from the "READ" section.
Reading it felt a lot like going on a shopping spree in a supermarket when you're absolutely famished. I've always wanted to write, especially comics, but never had the guts to just go with it. Life always came up first. The bit in the interview about writing to describe an emotion, and not a "theme", made my eyes burst out of their sockets (the room was also a bit dark, and they ached frequently while reading, so wtf, who needs em). I've always felt that stories, whatever they are about, always came through to me when there was a coherent feeling behind it, and not just detailed events of some characters' life.
Anyway, just wanted to say that.
Oh, and good health (I'm one of those who came via the Jean Grey rumors. I'm staying a bit, though, thanks to Google Reader).
Glad to hear it, Rotem. Hope we don't disappoint.
Doing that interview with Marv was a real treat—Marv's years of experience as writer and editor, as well as his ongoing enthusiasm for comics, make him a terrific interviewer, and the whole set of interviews up at his website is worth poking through. And on top of that, the bit you mention—I can't say enough good things about The Fiction Editor by Thomas McCormack. It's the book that kicked my ass and opened up the doors I needed to open to start thinking like a functioning writer rather than like an uncertain beginner. Every writer should be so lucky—might not be that book they encounter, or it might not be a book at all, but for me it was like dawn over Marblehead.
[And yes, that's another Amazon link. Quick check—ha! I've earned another 60 cents, for selling a copy of Comic Book Lettering: The Comicraft Way. Clearly, it was worth getting on the phone with J.G. and figuring out why all the choices in the Shop section weren't showing, since that was one of them.]
Another e-mail, from BigWords88...
So... I've managed to register for the forum, and the registration has (apparently) gone through, but I'm still not allowed to post replies. Anyways, I just wanted to point out that if your sinus troubles are continuing, maybe you should look into the Chinese herbal concoctions which some people swear by. It isn't a replacement for conventional medicine, but there are some herbal remedies which can have drastic improvements in ailments.
Hope you're feeling better. :)
Oh, I've been on Chinese herbal concoctions of one sort or another for years, B.W., including a spray that we hoped would fix up my current sinus travails, but alas, it didn't do the trick. But my adventures into alternative medicine began when my regular Western-style doctor told me that there was clearly something wrong that I was suffering from, but allopathy just wasn't turning it up, and he recommended an acupuncturist and a homeopath. And while I'm not seeing either of the fine folk he referred me to any more, that was what led to things starting to turn around for me.
So I keep one foot in Western medicine and one in Eastern/alternative, and it seems to be heading me off in the right direction, at least.
[And we're hoping to oneday have the registration process at the message board be entirely automated, but in the meantime, I've forwarded your e-mail to J.G. to see what's up with that "can't post" thing.]
But as long as we're talking about my half-compacted head, I figured readers here might enjoy one of the side-effects from it, over at:
It starts out as a thread about the Age of Heroes mini-series, but since I've been dizzy and unfocused this weekend, thanks to pseudoephedrine and a vile anti-fungal nasal spray that's been like flooding my sinuses with acid that doesn't actually do anything but hurt a lot, I spent a fair about of time sitting at my desk, reading old bits of Neil Gaiman's online journal, following the early news from the Red Sox at Spring Training, and answering questions on that thread. And it ranges quite a way from the initial subject, covering things like whether anti-mutant prejudice was part of the X-Men series right from the get-go, whether I was ever Marvel's head writer, my upcoming "untold tale" of Spider-Man, the Silver Age Jon Stewart, whether the phrase "extremist Thor fans" shows proper respect for the audience, how comics from different eras feel like different worlds, a brief and unhealthy fascination with my scrotum, the value of trying to please everyone, political portrayals in comics, Wolverine as super-evolved-weasel, and more.
It's actually the sort of thing I'd like to see more of in our message board here, more or less (and I'll bet it'd be easy to separate out which bits are the 'more' and which are the 'less'), but it might be an interesting read, if people want to check it out.
Meanwhile, I'm off to shower and head down to the Oregon Health Sciences University.
UPDATE: Well, I don't have to take that vile anti-fungal spray any more. But the reason my head is blocked on one side is because the polyps are back, worse than ever on that side, and I'll be having sinus surgery again in a couple of weeks or so. The good thing is, we know this works, we did it before and it cleared things up for almost a decade. The trick, apparently, is not getting complacent and assuming that if they haven't come back for two years, we can stop the regular ENT checkups...
So about three weeks ago, I came down with a cold.
These used to be regular things, but as my health has improved, I've gotten colds less often and recovered from them more quickly. Having six or seven sinus surgeries to make my sinuses drain better probably had something to do with it, too.
But I got a cold, and it wouldn't go away. Or it wouldn't go away on one side, at least. For the last couple of weeks, the right side of my sinuses has been clear, and the left side so blocked that my head felt like it was filled in with solid wood. Irrigation didn't help. NyQuil didn't help. Even Afrin, which normally makes me feel like I've got a vast, windy cavern in my head, didn't do a thing. And worse, with my sinuses unable to drain, I was starting to feel like I had an infection of some sort.
So I went to the doctor. Two doctors, so far. I've had CAT scans of my sinuses and untrasound of my thyroid and neck (there's a mass in my neck that's probably a side effect of all this, but you never know), and I'm on antibiotics, and la di da. I've been diagnosed with "acute sinusitis on top of chronic sinusitis," which is medical for "Sheesh, your head just won't clear out, will it?"
Next week I go to OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University), where they did the surgery that ended most of my sinus problems close to a decade ago, and we'll see what they say.
And in the meantime, I'm on Sudafed (or, more accurately, its more generic-y cousin, SudaGest), which I don't like to take because all the way back to when I was a kid, it makes me dizzy and unfocused and kinda bleary, but I gotta do something to get my head to drain, and this seem to work, a little bit. I was unblocked enough last night to make a teeny little whistle through my left nostril, and open enough this morning to irrigate with a sinus rinse, and now I'm blocked up again but I get to take another dizzy pill in about ten minutes.
Fun, fun, fun.
So, what else we got?
The number of visitors here at Busiek.com sure skyrockets when I put up notes of how Jean Grey might have come back, or old Avengers pitches, doesn't it? Traffic multiplied forty-fold for a while there, and has faded back down to about four-fold. It's still kind of impressive to look at the counter at 10 a.m. and realize I've had more visitors that day than I had in an entire week not so long ago.
I'm sure it won't last—I don't have that kind of stuff in every blog entry—but I'll enjoy it while it's here. If you dropped by to look at one of those, feel free to poke around, look at what's in the "Read" section, register for the forum, whatever.
And hey, I made another dime from Amazon! Thank you, Insomniacs fan, whoever you are!
In the mailbag, from Derrick Johnson...
I see that you are coming back to Marvel comics to write for them again. I am a fan of your work and am glad to see that you are working with other companies now. I never was a fan of the "exclusive" writer artist contracts that the major companies have. Anyway, the reason I wanted to write you was to ask you what you think of the current state of the Avengers.
I myself, (prior to Avengers Disassembled) was strictly an X-Men guy. I had never picked up an Avengers comic before. I read Spider-Man, JLA and some various DC stuff, but outside of the random crossovers and character interactions, I had never bought an actual Avengers comic. I read Avengers Disassembled by Brian Michael Bendis and was immediately hooked. (A lot of this had to do with Spider-Man joining the Avengers). I've bought every issue of Avengers since then and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I've even found myself going back and buying older Avengers stories so that I could learn more about the history of the book and also just to read great stories.
I had a few questions about your feelings on the Avengers franchise right now. There have been many debates on what makes an Avenger, in the comic shops as well as online. What do you think of the current Avengers teams and story arcs? Have you kept up with the characters and developments (Civil War, Bucky, The Death of Cap, House of M, etc..)
I just wanted to get your opinion on all this because your opinion as one of the great Avengers writers is much valued to a fan like me. Thank you.
Thanks very much for the kind words, Derrick.
Unfortunately, I'm really not the best guy to comment, since I'm woefully behind the times when it comes to the Avengers. If find it very difficult, most times, when I leave a book I've written for a long stretch, to make the shift back from master puppeteer to audience member. So when I read those books, my reaction is too often, "Well, that's not what I wold have done." And that's not a valid critique, because the book shouldn't be "what I would have done." It should be what the new guy would have done, and be judged on that.
[If nothing else, if someone else could do "what I would have done," then what do they need me for?]
So reading books I had a long run on but am not writing any more feels like work, not like fun, because of my unique perspective. As a result, I generally just put that stuff aside, figuring I'll get back to it when enough time has passed, or when I need to read those books for research reasons. So I don't read much Avengers, Thunderbolts, Conan or Superman, not because I'm angry about anything, but because I can't really make the shift back to being just one more reader, not easily. And I have so much other stuff to read that I read the stuff I have to and the stuff I can approach as a reader and just plain enjoy, and the other stuff kinda piles up, if I'm getting copies of it at all.
And here I'll hang my head in shame and not that Brian Bendis very kindly gave me a copy of Avengers: Disassembled, in hardcover, no less, and I said I'd read it, and it's still sitting there in my very packed "to be read" bookcase, along with too much other stuff I have to get to. But I know right where it is, at least!
I do read Ed Brubaker's Captain America, and I've been enjoying that quite a bit. The return of Bucky is practically comic book blasphemy in concept, but Ed not only made it work, he made it thrilling.
And in order to write my Age of Heroes story, I was given a lot of notes and feedback (and got to read all of Siege), to make sure I was portraying the team right. And if and when I'm writing a major Avengers project, I'd certainly catch up and do my research, like I did when Fabian and I wrote the Avengers/Thunderbolts mini-series, and I read through everything he'd done with the characters since I'd been gone.
In the end, though, what matters most is whether you like it. And for the Avengers franchise, it's pretty clear that Brian, Tom and company have put a new spin on things that's gotten a whole lot of readers interested and excited, so that's a victory, for Marvel and for the reading audience. With luck, they'll be able to keep doing that, though this "Age of Heroes" and on to whatever new spins and surprises and upheavals come along beyond that.
And now the pill's kicking in, so I think I'll just watch the room rotate around me for a little while...
A preview of Marvels: Eye of the Camera #6 is up at Newsarama.
And copies of it have reached the Marvel offices, I'm told.
...I suppose I should be linking to coverage of this, too.
I'm back at Marvel, for at least 11 pages, and maybe some more. Interviews at:
A few updates and corrections from yesterday's post...
No sooner do I get a question asking me if I'd bring Triathlon back, were I writing an Avengers title, do we learn that Triathlon apparently is already on the way back, as a character in the new Atlas series by Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman.
He's wearing a version of the 3-D Man's original costume, and going by the name "3-D Man," but since that's clearly a black man, I think it's safe to assume that's Delroy Garrett, Jr., formerly Triathlon, and not Hal and/or Chuck Chandler, the brothers who made up the original 3-D Man.
We can find out in May. Jeff's been doing a great job with the Agents of Atlas characters from the start, and Gabriel Hardman's a terrific artist, so it ought to be a fun ride, whatever the answer is.
In the last blog entry, I also put up a bunch of links to Amazon listings of various comics- and writing-related books, and said that no one has ever bought anything from Amazon via this site. And it turns out I was lying to you. It's a foul, dastardly lie!
It would be more accurate to say I haven't seen any money from putting Amazon links on this website. Yet. But I'm about to.
The way it works is this: I'm an "Amazon Associate," so I've got an account that allows me to put up links to Amazon, and if any of you fine readers follows those links and goes to the Amazon site, I count as having "referred" you to Amazon for that visit. So if you buy the books I provided the links for, I get a tiny percentage of what you spend. Or if you look at those books, decide you don't want them and poke around Amazon some more and find other stuff to buy, that still counts as me referring you and I still get a cut. Anything you buy during that visit to the Amazon site, I benefit.
The last time Amazon sent me an earnings report, they said I didn't earn anything; no one had bought anything via the links here. But today, I went over and looked, and hoo boy, I'm gonna be rich! My current Amazon earning show up at the staggering figure of...$6.02!
The reason I didn't know that is that the way my particular account works, every time my earnings hit ten bucks, Amazon will e-mail me a ten dollar gift certificate. And that hasn't happened yet.
But it's about to, it seems. Because I've earned another $6.65 this month alone, and it's not even half over yet! I'm on a roll!
So presumably at the end of this month, I'll be over ten bucks, and get a gift certificate (or two, if more people buy stuff). I suppose it would only be fair, in the light of recent events, to buy Macmillan books with it, in solidarity with my friends who work at (or are published by) St. Martin's and Tor, but we'll have to see.
But just for fun, here's a Busiek.com report on just what's sold through the mighty commercial engine that is this site:
Between July and September of last year, we were part of the sale of:
Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween (Jeph, Tim, you're welcome)and
Speak of the Devil by Gilbert Hernandez
Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies (Jeph again!)
Superman/Batman Vol. 4: Vengeance (Jeph, dude, you owe me a beer)
Astro City: The Dark Age, Book One
We3 (great book!)
Ah, but this year to date, here's what we've "referred" some of you to:
Batman: Gothic (still my favorite Grant Morrison Batman story so far)
Just Kids by Patti Smith (cool!)
Paris Trout by Pete Dexter
Saga of the Swamp Thing: Volume 1 by Moore, Bissette & Totleben
Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Love and Death by Moore, Bissette, Totleben & McManus
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Liberty Project (woo-hoo! sold another one, Nat!)
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
X-Men: Mutant Genesis by Claremont, Byrne & Lee
One Life Stand by Hot Chip
Stylo (Album Version) (feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack) by Gorillaz (yes!)
...which puts me up at a cool $12.90, and reassures me that Busiek.com readers have both excellent and eclectic tastes.
[And yes, I did put up active links to all of those books; who knows who might need a new Smokin' Bud Earphone, or wants to read some Patti Smith, and just needs a nudge?]
I will stress, though, that I have no way of knowing who bought what, so if you feel like clicking through here to buy Playboy: Sexiest Amateur Home Videos, Vol. 2 or, say, The Greatest Love Songs of All Time, well, I'll never know it was you.
A few more questions and such, first from a reader named AbdulAziz...
I'm not sure how to read your last name right, is it Bu-Sa-yek, or read like Bos-Eik, or Bus-Ek?
It's BYOO-sik. Accent on the "byoo." Rhymes with "You sick."
If they make one Avengers book and you are to write the Avengers once again, will you bring Triathlon back? He's quite an interesting character, I enjoy characters who become heroes after a bit of a bad background like abusing steroids.
Well, first off, they're not going back to just one Avengers book. They've announced two so far, Avengers and Secret Avengers. And second, I'm not writing either, and if there's a third or fourth Avengers book I'm not writing them either.
That said, I wouldn't mind writing Triathlon again, somewhere. I like his powers, and I like him as a character. I think he's going by 3-D Man now—I used the name "Triathlon" because I thought "3-D Man sounded too much like a 1950s period character (which the original was, so it fit), but I suppose people just didn't warm to the name, judging by how no one seemed to be able to spell it right.
Who do you prefer of these two:
Thor or Hercules?
I like 'em both, for different reasons. I like Thor for his majesty and warrior nobility, and I like Herc for being kind of an Olympian good ol' boy carouser. I think Marvel's done a lot more with Thor and that's given him a richer cast and context, but then, I haven't read the recent Hercules series so that may have addressed some of it. Forced to choose, I'd pick Thor, but I've had fun writing both of them.
And in the off chance you were asking about the mythological figures rather than the Marvel Comics versions, then it's Thor all the way. I was a nut for Norse mythology as a kid, but never found the Twelve Labors of Hercules all that compelling.
And another e-mail, which I'll leave the name off, in case he doesn't want his name attached. But it's a question that's worth giving a general answer to...
I have read your work with the Avengers and have grown up with the characters and stories that Marvel has developed. I myself am aspiring to become a writer of Marvel books and would love and greatly appreciate some help or tips on how to get my career started or who else to contact to make a name for myself and fulfill my dreams. I still need to develop my writing style and story telling skills, but I see this as the only thing that I could do in life that would make me happy and am willing to work my butt off and do anything to achieve it.I have little experience in writing, but have written several small (unpublished) stories myself. I would truly appreciate any help that you could give me. Please write back and thank you for taking time to read this message.
My best advice on writing comics and breaking in to the industry can be found in the "Read" section of this site, in the article "Breaking In Without Rules," and in an essay I wrote years ago called "On Writing for Comics," which is hosted off-site, but eventually I'll have to get it archived here, too.
Beyond that, a few books I'd recommend:
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
Making Comics, by Scott McCloud
The Writer's Guide to the Business of Comics, by Lurene Haines
Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers, edited by Nat Gertler
The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, by Dennis O'Neil
And, not about comics, but good books about writing:
Adventures in the Screen Trade, by William Goldman
Telling Lies for Fun & Profit, by Lawrence Block
Characters & Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card
The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist, by Thomas McCormack
I didn't have any of the comics-focused books when I was starting out, but would have been delighted with them. The non-comics books were all very helpful to me, particularly the McCormack, which was a revelation that let me go from being a promising beginner to an actual writer, after almost a decade in the business. But all of them have good and useful stuff in them.
I should note in the spirit of disclosure that all those links take you to Amazon.com's listings for those books, and if you follow those links and buy the books (or anything else) from Amazon, I make a tiny commission on the sale. But (a) no one has ever bought anything at Amazon through this site to date, so it's not like this is a big profit center for me, and (b) I'm providing the links just for convenience; if you want some of the books but would prefer to get them from another bookstore, have your local comics shop get them for you, seek them out at the library, whatever, then feel free. It's what's in the books that matters, not where you get them.
And beyond that, practice, practice, practice. There's nothing that'll teach you about writing that works as well as actually doing it.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: MILESTONE
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, John Rozum, Kurt Busiek, Matt Wayne and Adam Beechen; Art by Denys Cowan, Howard Porter and others; Cover by Howard Porter
Don't miss the first meeting of Static and Black Lightning, Blue Beetle and Hardware, The Spectre and Xombi and more titanic team-ups from THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #24-26, plus stories from HARDWARE #16, STATIC #12 and XOMBI #6.
DC Universe 160pg. Color Softcover $17.99 US
That's DC's catalog description of the latest TPB collection of The Brave and the Bold. In this case, it collects a three-issue arc teaming DC characters and Milestone characters, backed up with three single-issue reprints from the Milestone line. My contribution to the volume is the Static issue, one of the two stories I wrote for Milestone (the other being Icon #11). I got to work with artist Neil Vokes, which is always fun, and like we did with Ninjak, we got to do a kind of young-Spider-Man-ish story, with a lot of personality, action, energy and ethical dilemmas, this one introducing the villain (or is he?) D-Struct. D-Struct also appeared in the Static Shock cartoon, though I never actually saw that episode.
I'm happy to see the story coming back into print—it's not that often that you see one-off fill-in issues from 16 years ago get a new life—but this was a story we were pleased to do and pleased with the results, so I'm glad it'll get seen by some new eyes. The rest of the book's good stuff, too.
The Liberty Project was my earliest take on super-crooks redeeming themselves as heroes, inspired by the era of Avengers that featured Captain America and the what-us-villains-that-was-yesterday lineup of Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. The Thunderbolts were the third try.
This was the second, an unsuccessful series pitch I did with Karl Kesel. The "H.I.T." stood for "Heroes In Training," and the picture explains the concept about as well as I ever could. Art by Karl, from a rough and inadequate sketch by me; click on it for a closer look. The guy at the top had nothing to do with the Shi'Ar, but was an Amerind mutant (I think), who had such natural talent that he was cocky and didn't feel he needed to train, which would have been an ongoing source of irritation for Hawkeye.
There was another never-sold series I cooked up about a criminal trying to go straight, Sirocco. But that was inspired by the TV show Alias Smith & Jones more than anything from comics. What can I say? I like redemption stories.
Here's a drawing James Fry, my old pal and collaborator on The Liberty Project and this'n'that else, did for Ann and me, for a "We're Moving!" postcard, back when we bought a house for the first time. I was writing Vampirella back then, see...
While hunting through my files for something, I turned this up. It's my typed notes to myself for the story idea that eventually got used at Marvel (by Roger Stern, John Byrne and Bob Layton) for the resurrection of Jean Grey:
Click on each page for a larger version. But in addition, a few notes:
• This wasn't the first version of the story. The first was entirely verbal, cooked up sometime around May or June of 1980. Richard Howell, Carol Kalish and I had heard through the grapevine about the impending death of Phoenix and then-editor in chief Jim Shooter's rules for what kind of circumstances it would take to resurrect her. We took that as a creative challenge, and came up with resurrection plans. Richard and Carol's involved the holo-empathic crystal Lilandra gave to the X-Men, as I recall, while mine involved the revelation that Jean had never really died. We had a pleasant evening wrangling over the clear superiority of our own version over the other version, and left it at that. It's all we'd really set out to do.
• Sometime between then and May 1982, when I graduated college and sold my first script, I started taking notes for various Marvel series I hoped to write someday, to make sure I didn't forget any of my "great ideas," few of which were great, or even memorable. This document would have been written sometime in there. I can tell it wasn't simply notes on the resurrection storyline, but plans for something more extended, what with that Wolverine plot-bit stuck in the middle, that if I remember correctly, was intended to start of a storyline to get Wolverine to try to stop killing people left and right, under what I thought was the dodgy rationale of, "He comes at me with a knife (while I'm invading his lair), I'll come at him with a gun," or some such. Somewhere I may still have my files of where I would have gone with it all, which I think involved the X-Men becoming teachers to a new generation of mutants. But they may be mercifully lost.
• Nobody at Marvel ever saw this document. In fact, outside of my circle of friends at college at the time, no one else may ever have seen this until now. The plot idea was transmitted vocally—I recounted a version of it to Roger Stern at a convention in Ithaca in 1983, he passed it on to John Byrne over the phone at some later point, and John passed it on to Bob Layton when he heard about the plans for the creation of X-Factor. So this version was never on the table. All Marvel had was the bare concept of how Phoenix could have existed while Jean was still alive at the bottom of Jamaica Bay, translated through a game of "Telephone." Although I do think the idea of the Phoenix Force behind it, which doesn't appear in these notes, was part of my original idea, or at least part of what I told Roger. But at this point I can't say for sure.
Anyway, here it is, for anyone who's curious about what the idea started out as...
I'm stealing most of what follows from a blog called The Hooded Utilitarian, largely because it's stuff I wrote in the comments section a year or so ago that I thought made the point I was trying to make reasonably well, so I wanted to have it over here, too.
The question at hand was about Batman, and how if he's a self-made man who does what he does on willpower, grit and drive, why shouldn't be come a Green Lantern? Their rings are fueled by willpower, so he'd be the most badass Green Lantern ever.
Since the blog entry was titled "Question for Kurt Busiek or Mark Evanier," it popped up in a Google search, and I threw in my response, which was:
"Whatever in-story answers are offered, the real answer is that Batman works really well as Batman, so he's going to stay Batman. Just like Tony Stark isn't going to build armored suits for all the Avengers as an ongoing thing, and Richie Rich isn't going to hand out millions to his pals even though he'd never miss it."
It was pointed out that Tony Stark and Richie Rich are dicks, and that Batman often doesn't work really well as Batman—bad Batman stories abound. So why not give him a power ring?
I noted that to be fair, the Guardians are dicks, too. And it's not as if there would suddenly be no more crappy stories if Batman had a power ring. I expect there'd be more—if for no other reason than that Batman would have a power ring.
What was really going on, of course, wasn't a push for Batman to join the Green Lantern Corps, a development that I don't think many people think would make Batman stories consistently terrific, but rather the more story-management-centered question of, "Well, if you don't want Batman to have a power ring, shouldn't there be an in-story reason for it?" It's not about giving him a power ring, but about explaining why he isn't given one. In a setting where it would be logical for Green Lantern to hand out rings to his JLA pals, if it doesn't happen, then should you be doing that kind of universe in the first place? If you're not going to do it "right," should you do it at all?
Me, I tend to think the reason Tony Stark doesn't armor up the Avengers isn't because he's a dick, but because it would make both the Iron Man book and the Avengers book less special if you turn all those characters into Iron Man variants (though it did make a dandy issue of What If, way back when). And to the extent that Richie Rich is interesting at all, it's in the contrast between his over-the-top wealth and his friends' comparative normalcy; giving them all millions might be logical for the characters, but would making it more logical actually make it a better comic book for the Richie Rich audience?
So why do that kind of world, if it's not logical? Well, ignoring for a moment that some of those problems still exists even if the books aren't part of a "universe"—Tony Stark could make armor for his supporting cast (and on occasion has, but it doesn't stick), and most of Richie Rich's friends don't have their own series anyway, the answer to the overall question, why put Batman and Green Lantern in the same universe if it creates illogical situations, is:
Because it's fun to have the characters meet.
It's fun to have Batman stories, and it's fun to have Superman stories, but it's fun to have Justice League stories, too. It's not really any more complicated than that. It's entertaining.
The stories are the cake, and the shared-universe stuff is frosting. Things tend to go horribly wrong when people start to think the frosting is more important than the cake, and then get better when they remember that it's about the cake after all.
The real answer to questions like, "Why doesn't the Flash clean up Gotham City, too?" is "It would make Batman's cake lousy. People read Batman because they like crimefighter stuff where Batman's cool, and don't really want to see Superman or the Flash or Green Lantern mess with that particular cake." On the other hand, people who like stories where Batman and Superman and Green Lantern work together have the JLA cake, and some people like both kinds of cake.
But if you start to tie it together with logic foremost in your plans rather than entertainment, then you need to explain why Superman doesn't help all the other heroes almost all the time, and why aren't the crimefighters turned into SF-type heroes to make them more effective, and you end up with everything being JLA cake, and no solo Batman cake left. Or you come to the conclusion that it doesn't work, so Batman shouldn't be in the JLA, which maybe preserves the Batman cake, but it messes up the JLA cake.
So in the end, the answer to all of these questions is: Don't mess with my cake.
Batman cake, when well done, is good. JLA cake, when well done, is good. But if you pay too much attention to the frosting, the cakes all start to taste the same, and that might be logical, but it's boring.
This is also known as the Go 'Way Kid, You Bodda Me school of comics continuity. Shared universes are fun as long as they make reading comics more fun, and not fun when they start to tangle things up and mess with or distort the individual series concepts. When that happens, you can either go with it even though it messes things up, in the name of logic and continuity maintenance, or you can sweep it under the rug and look the other way.
Much as I love continuity, I'm a big fan of sweeping it under the rug and looking the other way. If it serves the X-Men series better to let Kitty Pryde age while it serves FF better to have Franklin age a lot slower, then that's good—that's cake, and both the FF cake and the X-Men cake should be good on their own terms. You just don't have the characters talk about how they're aging at different rates.
And if Batman could solve most of his cases by getting on the JLA communicator and asking Superman or Rip Hunter or someone to use time-travel or super-powers to solve the mystery, then that would make for boring Batman comics, so you ignore it, because that's frosting, and the important thing to do is make it a good Batman cake, not to make the frosting all the same. Batman can do all that stuff with Superman or Rip Hunter in the other cakes, cakes where those flavors enhance the story rather than messing it up.
This isn't unique to superhero comics. Just like readers who don't let it bother them that Nero Wolfe was 40 years old for 40 years straight, or that Linus was in kindergarten when Sally Brown was an infant and later they were in the same class, there gets to be a point where you decide whether you want it to be strictly logical, or whether you want it to be fun.
Used to be, things sold better when they didn't tie in too much, and nobody asked why the Avengers didn't show up to help out with Galactus or where Spider-Man was that day. Nowadays, it seems like you can't do a big story without it sprawling over most of the other books in the line, and that's selling well...for now. But next year, or five years from now, who knows?
Maybe the individual cakes will be more important. Or maybe it'll be mostly frosting, and Batman will have a power ring.
I doubt that'll ever happen. If it were to happen, though, I'd be happy reading Hellboy and Fables and Scalped and Usagi Yojimbo and Girls With Slingshots and such.
If the frosting gets in the way, there are other good cakes.
[Art by Joe Quinones]
What you're seeing above (and click on the image for a closer look) is the final pages of Marvels: Eye of the Camera #6, drawn by the meticulous and amazing Jay Anacleto.
Not the last pages of the story, mind you, but the last pages of art to be finished. It's pages two and three of the issue; it was simply a complex enough shot that Jay saved it for last. It's already been lettered (from a partially-done version*), as has the rest of the issue. And most of the issue's been colored, as well, so once this last spread is as well, the book will be all ready to go off to press, and appear in comics stores and get collected in a nice hardcover and all that. It's been a long, long journey (even longer for this much-delayed final issue), but the end has finally arrived.
[*and I'll throw in here that when the partially-finished version came in, my reaction was, "This is only partially finished? It looks great! Why couldn't we just use this?" And then the finished version came in, and my reaction was, basically, "Guhh. Pret-ty." And that's why the difference; Jay sees more than I do, and then makes it real...]
It'll be weird not to be working on this book any more. We started it in 2002, with the initial idea that it could be a 10th anniversary project, celebrating the original Marvels series. It rapidly became clear there was no way it could come out for the 10th anniversary, and we started making jokes about it being a 15th anniversary book. Which is what it turned out to be—Marvels #1 came out in late November 1993, and Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1 came out in early December 2008.
And the first five issues came out more or less on time. They were moved on the schedule a couple of times, but when they started coming out, they came out monthly. Except this last one, which I suppose stands as a sterling example in the "Why didn't they get it done faster/bring in a new artist/wait 'til it was done before releasing any of them" free-floating Internet argument.
In the end, the quality of the artwork answers the "Why didn't they bring in a new artist" option, at least—this issue looks as gorgeous as the rest of the series, and when collected together it'll be so much better than if there was a sudden stylistic change along the way. Whether there were ways to speed up production or whether it was a feasible option to hold the whole series until now, I couldn't say.
But it looks gorgeous, it's finally done, I'll be proud to have this book on my shelf...
...and after eight years, it'll take some adjusting to the idea that it won't be in my "Current Projects" folder any more.
My pal Richard Howell, writer/artist of Deadbeats (along with many other fine projects over his long career) recently bought this Carmine Infantino/Frank McLaughlin page from the first issue of my 1984 Red Tornado mini-series.
And he kindly sent me a scan of it, so I'm putting it up here. No particular reason, other than that it's a nice page and I thought people would like to see it.
The pencil art on that series was amazing. Had it been inked by, say, Steve Leialoha, Dennis Jensen or Joe Rubinstein, people would still be talking about how good it looked.
As it is, it still looked pretty nice. Click on the image for a closer view.
ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE Book Four #1
by Busiek, Anderson, Ross, Sinclair & Comicraft
The final act of Astro City's most ambitious epic begins.
THE WIZARD'S TALE
by Busiek & Wenzel
A gorgeous new hardcover edition, redesigned, color-corrected, relettered and with a new epilogue. Printed beautifully, too.
A reader named Rick writes in:
If anyone can rival Tom Brevoort when it comes to their Avengers history, it's you.
I've been trying to identify what comic books the two attached jpgs were taken from. I thought I'd ask the master, as I'm confident that at least one of them was written by you.
Ideally, I'm looking for the exact issue #. But failing that, a rough guesstimate based on likely storyarc will at least point me in the right direction.
In this case, I don't think either Tom or I would have to strain our memories—that first page is page 9 of Avengers vol. 3 #4, by me, George Pérez and Al Vey, colored by Tom Smith, edited by Tom. The second is page 10 of #19, same creators. I'd add in the lettering of Comicraft, but someone's blurred it out for some reason, and what's under the blurring has been altered from the original script anyway (for instance, Thor doesn't speak in our version of panel 2 of the second page).
But the copyright notice for "ScoopThis.com" cracks me up.
Still, there's you answer, Rick. Hope it helps!
ADDENDUM: Rik writes back in to add:
"Both pages are the subject of parodies published on ScoopThis back in 1999 (hence the blurred text), and will be redone properly in higher res for an upcoming relaunch."
He also notes that the copyright notice is from back then, as well, when they didn't really understand what copyright meant.
I've seen the full parody now, and it was pretty funny. I'll post a link here when they're ready for their Grand Reopening.
So, Rob Lowe's leaving Brothers & Sisters.
I can't say it bothers me much. I liked his character, but I stopped watching the show at some point in the second season. But now that it's been announced that he'll be departing the show at the end of the season, it's got me thinking.
And I know the show I'm thinking about is never going to happen. It's sheer fantasy on my part.
But Lowe was originally intended to be the star (or at least, the lead actor of a strong ensemble) on The West Wing, as the smart, idealistic, committed but prone-to-personal-stumbles speechwriter Sam Seaborn. And the President character, Jed Bartlet, was intended to be recurring but not regular, as the show focused on the West Wing staff, not on the President himself. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the show, Martin Sheen was such a revelation in the pilot (best entrance in TV history) that the word came down to use him a lot more. So Martin Sheen became the lead actor in a strong ensemble, playing smart, idealistic, committed but prone-to-personal-stumbles Bartlet.
And a hit was born, but with the cast orbiting around Bartlet, there wasn't as much need for another smart, likable, straight-arrow idealist, and Lowe became something of a fifth wheel, playing his part well enough, but the Seaborn-centered plots tended to come off as side issues while everyone else was dealing with Oval Office-centered stuff. And in time, Lowe started to feel that the show had become something other than what he'd signed on for, and he negotiated an exit.
Much as I loved the show, I can't say I blamed him all that much. For Sheen, falling into a starring role on a hit show was a welcome surprise (and since he hadn't been contracted to be in every show, allowed him to secure a great contract). For the other actors, being ensemble players was what they'd signed on for, so when the show was a hit and was winning Emmys left and right, who wouldn't be delighted? But Lowe had been expecting the central role, and it didn't work out.
So he went on to The Lyon's Den, and that didn't work out either.
Wouldn't it be great if one of those new 10 PM dramas NBC now desperately needs was Seaborn, starring Rob Lowe as freshman Congressman Sam Seaborn? Created and written by Aaron Sorkin? Smart, committed, idealistic, drama-prone—and with the show built around him this time? I mean, we already had The West Wing, so it wouldn't be taking away from that. It'd be a way to get some of it back.
Yeah, yeah, it isn’t going to happen. Lowe wouldn't do it. Sorkin wouldn't do it. Not in a million years. But wouldn't it be great?!
I just received a comp copy of Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Volume 2, containing my second published "Tales of the GLC" story, penciled and inked by comics great Don Heck. This was the only time I ever got to work with Don, and I was thrilled with the job he did, and even more thrilled that he got to do full art on it. I own a couple of pages of original art from the story, and they're treasured possessions—along with a personalized convention sketch of Hawkeye Don did at a 1993 convention I didn't attend, but friends of mine got the sketch for me as a gift, and it now hangs on the wall to my left, watching over me as I fail to get enough done.
Anyway, the book also contains GLC stories by Alan Moore, Len Wein, Todd Klein, Mike Baron, Gil Kane, Dave Gibbons, Marshall Rogers and others, all under a Brian Bolland cover, so it's a very nice package. It must be on sale soon, if not available already.
My first GLC story—my first pro sale, even—was solicited as appearing in the first volume of this series, but didn't make it in, for some reason involving film availability, or something. So it's a treat to have this one. If they do a third volume, I've got another GLC story, drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Joe Rubinstein, and maybe that one'll get reprinted, too.
In the meantime, thanks to Geoff Johns, Pete Tomasi, Ivan Reis, and all the others who've made Green Lantern high-profile enough to support these books!
Katie, reading the new edition of The Wizard's Tale.
I'm thrilled with this book. As I told our editor, Scott Dunbier today, this is the way we wished it had looked when it first came out over a decade ago—only better. This is a bigger, sharper, sweeter volume than we imagined it could be, back then, and it's a joy to see it realized like this today.
I'm always happy when I get in a new book I've done, but I'm especially happy about this one. It feels like we've rescued something that had been lost, and made it new again, and better than it ever could have been back then.
Here's some more pictures, but believe me, it looks even better in person. The spine, the embossing, the new epilogue...I could have just kept taking pictures all night. [Except that Ann actually took the pictures, and she'd have gotten fed up with me.]
Dig those endpapers!
The new title spread.
More story pages...
The back cover!
I just finished a difficult script, so let me catch up on some e-mail that's stacked up.
First, a question from Brian Cunningham:
Sorry if you get asked this a lot, but I had a look on your website and I couldn't find the answer. My question is, will you be writing any more Conan tales for Dark Horse? And if so, will Cary Nord return to do the artwork? I certainly hope so!
Glad you liked our tenure on Conan, sir.
There's at least one more Conan project I'd like to do. When we started out, all that framing-sequence business with the Prince and the Wazir was setting something up, a big end-of-epic story we thought of as "Conan the Legend." And at times, we've talked about doing a big mini-series called (wait for it) Conan the Legend to wrap it all up.
I'd like to do it someday, Cary's expressed an interest, Scott Allie's brought it up a time or two...
So it's certainly possible. If and when it happens, I sure hope Cary will be available, along with Dave Stewart and Richard Starkings, so we can do it with the original team.
And I say "at least one more" because there are times I'd like to do a Janissa mini-series, to do the character arc I had planned for her, a Conan and the Bone Woman mini-series, maybe an adaptation of "The Scarlet Citadel" and/or Queen of the Black Coast"...
Nathan Thomas asks:
Any news on the final issue of Marvels: Eye of the Camera? Or did I miss it? (But I don't think I did...)
Hope all is going well with you, miss you on the Avengers. (But then, I miss the Avengers...)
No, you didn't miss Eye of the Camera #6. The good news is, we're only waiting on three more pages of art before it can go off to the printer and become a reality. The pages we do have are being lettered and colored, so once those last few come in, the fine folks at Marvel can turn it around fast and get it off to press.
So it looks like we're almost there. And thanks for the kind words on Avengers.
And to wrap up, Nick Stroffolino:
I was just writing to thank you for your column "Breaking in Without Rules." That was equal parts depressing and enlightening. I really appreciate your frankness, everyone else I've read seems more interested in sugar coating things. Really it was like Steven King's On Writing for comic books.
I haven't read much else of what you've written on the site yet but a friend passed me the link to your article and he was right I think I really needed to read it. After running submissions for over a year to various indy companies it was very enlightening. I don't know if reading it will get me close to being published or even if it really points me in the right direction but at least I know not to just spin my wheels aimlessly watching the mail box so I'm really glad you decided to write it all the same.
Also I love Marvels (I'm sure you get that a lot) and I'm an on again, off again fan of Astro City. I kind of felt like Astro City is the modern version of Wild Cards (yes, I know they started that up again lately but the books are not the same as they once were) and I really enjoyed your run on GL in Wednesday Comics (which my friends liked to call the hot sheets). I haven't read much of your other work but after reading your article I'll be keeping my eye out for your name on things. With the amount of mediocrity in comics right now it seems like you get a lot more bang for your buck to follow writers these days instead of characters.
Good luck in your future endeavors, thanks again for putting "Breaking in Without Rules" online and keep up the good work.
Thanks, Nick. I'll do my best. And good luck with your writing endeavors.
I can't wait to see the Wednesday Comics collection, myself—just seeing a photo of it here makes me all itchy to have one myself. And I'm told that a fresh-from-the-printer copy of The Wizard's Tale is on the way to me and should arrive Tuesday. I'll have to figure out my iPhone's camera, so I can put some pictures of it up here.
But for now, back to work.
...finishing the sentence, "When I think of comics in the 00s I think of..." over at The Beat.
Proving that the artist of V For Vendetta and many other fine comics (love those Night Ravens!) has just as much ability to make ideas visual and immediate as he ever did.
So right now, movies figure they can take their nerdy sibling off to the bright lights and make some fast cash off those freaky attributes, but as the story winds on, surely movies will come to realize the deep familial bond and love and value that exists between the two of --
Okay, no. But it was a nice dream while it lasted.
David Lloyd, ladies and gentlemen. Storytelling genius.
The talented Graham Nolan, artist of comics ranging from Hawkman to Batman to The Phantom to Rex Morgan, M.D., and writer/artist of the delightful Monster Island, is launching a new online comic strip: Sunshine State.
Check it out, won't you?
Back in September, I posted a note about Paul Levitz's departure from his position as President & Publisher at DC Comics, and in it, I mentioned seeing a quote from him, early in his career, to the effect that he didn't intend to make comics his career, but was just working in the field as a way to pay for college.
A number of people wrote in to suggest sources for that quote, and I discussed a couple of them here.
Since then, a couple more people have pointed me at an entry on Scott Edelman's fine site, noting another possible source for my memory—in this case, The Comic Reader #98, back in 1973.
That's very, very much like the quote I remember, so that may well be it. Except that I wasn't even reading comics yet in 1973, didn't start reading The Comic Reader until 1976 or 1977, and have never seen that issue.
But maybe it was quoted somewhere later on, and I saw it there.
In any case, enough has been turned up that I think we can put this one to rest. While I may never know exactly where I saw it, Paul said something like it for print at least a couple of times. We can all be glad he changed his mind along the way.
So, while ago, Harry Connolly, who knows me from an Internet bulletin board we both frequent, sent me a copy of his novel, Child of Fire: A Twenty Palaces Novel. It's his first sale, it's recently out, and he figured maybe if I liked it, I'd write it up here.
Well, I did, so will.
[A side note: This isn't a veiled request for review copies of stuff—I have way too much to read as is!]
To my mind, there are two major subdivisions of urban fantasy. There's the stuff the term was coined to describe—Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, Charles de Lint's novels and so on. Stories of ordinary people chancing into contact with an unseen world of fantasy and magic, and getting caught up in it. And then there's the burgeoning field of what I call "asskickers of the fantastic" (with due apologies to Jim Stenstrum)—stories of vampire slayers, wizards for hire, and other specialists in dealing with the creatures of fantasy, usually by kicking the crap out of them and preventing them from making dangerous incursions into the regular mundane world.
Child of Fire is solidly and thoroughly in the "asskickers" camp.
Ray Lilly is the "wooden man" for Annalise Powliss, a sorceress who's part of a society focused on keeping demons out of the mundane world. Powliss is powerful, but callous and brutal, and the whole Twenty Palaces Society seems like a pretty nasty organization. The best that can be said about them is that the demons they keep from munching on our tasty parts are worse.
As a "wooden man," Lilly is half dogsbody, half stalking horse—a chauffeur/aide/grunt worker who is expected to serve as a target for the bad guys so Powliss can get at them more easily. Wooden men don't generally survive long, and Lilly doesn't expect to be an exception. But he's the hero of the book, which is the first in a series, so I expect we'll see him defy the odds for some time.
Lilly and Powliss have come to a small town in Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, after a demon infestation that seems to be riven through the entire town structure. Their job is to root it out and destroy it, which they do with considerable pain, effort, damage and destruction. It's a real page-turner—it's exciting, the combat descriptions are very good, and the story has a lot of momentum. It feels as much like a hard-boiled PI novel as a fantasy, particularly one of those Chandleresque tales of the outsider PI coming into some family-controlled town and stirring up trouble until old secrets are laid bare and justice—but not peace—has been achieved.
But, you know, with demons and werewolves and magical boxcutters.
I liked the Pacific Northwest setting—I'd been driving around the area not long before I got the book, and it felt right. It's also a treat to get a book that takes you somewhere specific, but away from the usual stomping grounds of this sort of thing. And the magical systems and cosmology in the book felt nicely complex and credible—the history behind the conflicts, the way magic works, that sort of thing. There's a nice sense of benefit-coming-at-a-price to the magic, particularly Powliss's method of healing up from damage, and the protective tattoos both leads wear.
That's not to say the book is perfect. It felt like a first novel, where at times the characters seemed more like recurring attitudes than fleshed-out individuals, but that's the sort of thing that improves with practice. And for all that the details of the magic were intriguing, the actual context for this particular conflict seemed slight to me. We learn very little about the Twenty Palaces Society and their reasons for doing what they do, and we're (unfortunately) told at one point that the demons, who seem to be the bad guys of the whole series, are just a bunch of hungry unreasoning monstrosities who don't have any personalities or motivations beyond breeding, eating and spreading, so the fact that they have some very cool surface texture to them is undercut by the fact that what's under that surface texture makes them nothing more than Bad Things What Need Killing. And that feels bland to me, and leaves this first novel boiling down to: The heroes are pointed at the bad guys for reasons we're never clear on and told to kick the crap out of them, which they do. On to the next trouble-spot.
So for all that the action's well-written and the heroes are interesting and the magic's cool, there didn't seem to be enough underneath all that, either because we don't know enough to understand a larger picture, or it just isn't there.
But with luck, we'll learn more about the Twenty Palaces Society over time, which will take care of that half. And I hope the demonic antagonists will prove to have more character to them than Child of Fire tells us, or something with enough character to be interesting arises as a threat.
The bottom line: For all that I have criticisms, I enjoyed the book, recommend it to anyone who likes a good asskicker-of-the-fantastic read, and will pick up the next one, Game of Cages, when it comes out this coming August.
And yes, the presence of those active Amazon links mean that if you order a copy via one of those links, I get a tiny percentage of the take, the same as if you bought something from our "Shop" section. So I got a free book out of the deal and could potentially make money off it, too—are there no ethics left in this blogging dodge?!
A couple of interviews with me about the forthcoming new edition of The Wizard's Tale have hit the web, so I figured I should link to them here.
Today sees Busiek Concocts a "Wizard's Tale," at Comic Book Resources.
And a few days ago, there was Writer Kurt Busiek Tells "An Odd And Ironic Fairy Tale" at Newsarama. [Readers seeing this via my Facebook page already got this link back then, but I never got around to posting it here.]
I think that's it for the promo interviews on this one, but I'm never sure.
"I went back and looked at Iron Fist's origin, and the guy who killed his father had been dealt with, but his mother had been killed by wolves. And he couldn't exactly get revenge for that. What's he gonna do, kick some Gil Kane wolf in the chops and say, 'That's for Mom, you hairy bastard!'?"
So recently, I wrote about the long (and sometimes odd) list of characters I've created for Marvel Comics over the years, from Airborne (two of them!) to Zor. I thought at the time it was just a fun feature—I had the list, why not run it?—but it got picked up by a few sites, and was part of the biggest traffic spike this site has seen in its short history.
And now Newsarama has interviewed me about it, and you can read it all here:
The origin of the Thunderbolts! Secrets of Astro City history! A blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by Betty Brant's mother! More about Fera than you ever wanted to know! Now how much would you pay?
Yeah? Well, okay, me neither. But anyway, it's free.
The Trials of Sir Christopher, by Colleen Frakes
A 100 page graphic novel, created along NaNoWriMo rules, written and drawn between 12:01 AM November 1st and 11:59 PM November 30th, 2009. Finished with a bit over a day to spare, at 8:32pm on November 29th.
People should go read it. It's good.
I've showed off some design pages from the upcoming new edition of The Wizard's Tale, coming in late January from IDW. But now that it's all done and off to press, I figured I'd show off some of the interior pages—newly lettered, remastered, color-corrected by artist David Wenzel—in all their lush, painterly glory.
So here's the first eight pages. Click on each page for a closer view.
To be continued!
Just for good measure, here's the cover...
That's The Wizard's Tale, by me and David T. Wenzel. Reissued this January in a handsome new edition from the good folks at IDW. A bigger book, on better paper, relettered (and rescripted here and there) with completely remastered art color-corrected by Dave to ensure the best fidelity to his originals, a new book design by Comicraft's Senior Design Wizard John Roshell—and even a new three-page epilogue to the story, by me and Dave. And an updated, improved recipe for Sunshine Cake, to boot! Looks great, doesn't it? Ask for it by name, at comics stores, bookstores or (if you don't have local options) your favorite online retailer.
One of the greatest comics of all time: George Booth's Ip Gissa Gul.
Click on the link to see it in all its wonder and glory.
Well, nothing good is ever wasted. Ultimately, that piece led us to the design we're using on the cover, shown above. Embiggened version available here.
I am filled with buttery love for this cover. I can't wait until the gorgeous-looking design John Roshell's been doing on this book becomes a gorgeous-looking object. And the story and art ain't bad, neither!
A reader writes in: "I am currently a student at the Joe Kubert School in New Jersey. I will be graduating in May of 2010, when I hope to start my career as a sequential artist. Right now I'm working on sample pages for some established characters. I would love to do some Conan pages, but I haven't had any luck finding scripts online. I'm a fan of your work on the Dark Horse series, and I was wondering if it would it be possible to get a script from you for one of your issues?"
Sure, why not? Rather than e-mail one, though I'm putting it up here on the website, where any artists who want to use it for drawing practice—or writers who want a script example, or reader who just wants to read a comics script for the hell of it—can have access to it. I was particularly proud of this issue; I think it's paced well, has a lot of excitement and charm, and it sets up the sting at the end without foreshadowing it 'til the last minute, so Conan comes off looking smarter than anyone would predict.
Download the script here: Conan 9 script
A few questions from a reader named Davide Giurlando...
Approximately 10 days ago I registered at your Forum under the nickname "Myskin." Since then, I didn't receive any permission to start a topic or reply in the forums. I thought that I would be allowed to do it in a couple of days after the registration, but perhaps I made some mistake. Could you clarify my problem? In alternative, I report here some questions which I wanted to pose in a topic: I'd be happy if you could give me some answer even in this form.
We're working on adding "Captcha" software to the site to fully-automate registration, but in the meantime, part of the process is (as covered at the Forum):
"Once you've signed up through the site here, to COMPLETE your registration:
1. SEND AN E-MAIL to webmaster-at-comicworldnews-dot-com with the username you have chosen.
2. Check your e-mail for a registration message, and click the link in there to confirm your address.
We manually verify all registrations, so you will not be able to post or reply to topics until we have activated your account, which is usually within 24 hours."
Hopefully, things will be simpler soon, but in the meantime that's the only way to do it to keep the auto-spammers out. Still, as long as we're both here, the rest of your questions...
1-About your recent Superman run. I reread some pages recently, and I think that the beginning is an extremely interesting start, but it's intuitable that along way not everything went as planned. Some of the most recent Superman works (by Johns, Robinson or Rucka) apparently depart from the plans you had for the title. I remember that at a certain point you had some project for a Luthor mini with Guedes. More or less at the same time, in the pages of Countdown appeared this "Lex Luthor origin" which is completely different from the one Geoff Johns is dealing with in Superman Secret Origins.
Could I suppose that this "never realized origin" is the one you were proposing then?
I don't know which one you mean by "never realized origin," but that Countdown origin feature was one Geoff and I consulted on, to make sure it didn't conflict with our plans. So what would have happened in Lex Luthor: Strange Visitor would have matched up to the Countdown origin, though there was considerably more that would have gone on in that story that wasn't even hinted at in the Countdown feature.
As to how it matches or doesn't match what Geoff and Gary are doing in Secret Origins, I can't say—I'm way behind in my reading and I get my comics later than most readers anyway (I get a big box from DC every month that's generally a few months behind whatever's in the stores, and mail-order the other comics I buy, mostly), so I think I only have Secret Origin #1 so far, and haven't gotten to reading it yet.
2-The Toyman. In Up, Up and Away, you and Johns created the mechanical Toyman (similar to the one from the Superman Animated Series). My impression was that you wanted to establish this Robot as the one, final Toyman, heir to the classic Toyman, Schott, who was possibly dead. Am I right?
I liked the new guy, though I considered him mostly Geoff's character, as the new take on the Prankster as "distraction for hire" was mine. I don't know what his final role would have been—we'd talked about doing a "Toy War," as all three extant Toymen fought it out for the title, with Metropolis as the deadly playing field, but hadn't gotten around to working out details before I headed off to Trinity-land.
Winslow Schott wasn't dead, though—in that story, we established that Luthor was delivering Schott to the new Toyman as payment for his work on Luthor's behalf. Looks like the delivery went awry, though.
3-Why did you give Riot a cartoony face instead of the old skeletal one?
I'm not sure I remember fully. A minor part of it, I think, was that we had Silver Banshee in the same story, and we didn't want to have two skull-faces around for clarity's sake, but the major part was to set up Riot for a new approach. He seemed less like a scary skeletal guy and more like a scary crazy guy, so the cartoony face, meant to resemble a demented child's crayon drawings, that could shift to show his mercurial moods, would help visualize the new approach. I think.
4-Final one. Which were your original plans for "the big Brainiac story" which in the end was realized by Johns?
I almost never answer "what would you have done" questions, for one simple reason: If I didn't tell the story I set out to tell, well, the ideas for it might turn out to be useful in the future. My original plans for a Brainiac story are actually astory I'd like to tell someday, in some form. So I'll hang onto them for future use. Sorry.
And while I'm answering mail, let me toss in this, from Scott Edelman, writer of that Captain Marvel issue I praised in my George Tuska write-up—and, for that matter, the writer of the very first page of original art I ever bought, an Al Milgrom/Terry Austin Captain Marvel page where Mordecai P. Boggs shows Rick Jones a concert photo trading on Rick's relationship with the Avengers, and Rick tears it up. Someday, I'd like to commission Al and Terry to do a full-size piece of art of just that poster. Great stuff.
But anyway, Scott writes:
Nice Tuska piece. Thought you might be interested in this one.
At that link, Scott goes into the untold story of why that issue has one page in it drawn by Dave Cockrum, and shows off the original last page of the story, as penciled by Tuska. So it's more secrets behind the comics revealed, and a look at some cool unpublished George Tuska art. Go check it out.
And thanks, Scott!
In the unlikely event that you'd like to see this image larger, click here.
So I got food poisoning at Disney World.
It wasn't terribly serious, but my wife and I each spent an odd, gastrically-unsettled night mostly semi-conscious, drifting in and out of a not-quite-dream, not-quite hallucination state. At one point, during one of my more lucid periods, I asked Ann if we should get some soup or something from room service. She blearily responded, "Keep it charging...keep it charging..." She doesn't know why. I don't know why. But she said it, and then drifted off into unconsciousness.
I fell asleep and turned her odd utterance into a dream in which we were riding what I called The Food Ride. It was very much like Spaceship: Earth in EPCOT Center, with the train of little plastic pods you sit in and are taken past the sights and sounds of the exhibit, except in this one, you were taken past an endless buffet, where you could take whatever you wanted and eat it as your little plastic train-car pod went endlessly round and round, spiraling up the panorama of buffet units and down and around and up again. Prime rib, sandwiches, salad bar, fried chicken, desserts...you could put your credit card in a slot in your pod-car-thing, and just "keep it charging" as you selected whatever you wanted.
Later that night, after being awake for a while and then blearily passing out again, I had a very realistic dream in which editors at Marvel Comics—Mark Gruenwald and Tom deFalco, as I recall—offered me the writing assignment on Fantastic Four...the only hitch being that I had to take them back to their roots as a rock band.
I tried to explain that the F.F. had never been a rock band, but they didn't want to hear it. That was the job, take it or leave it. This was long enough ago in my career that I think my recent works included the Red Tornado mini-series, The Liberty Project and The Legend of Wonder Woman. I wasn't even writing What If fill-ins yet. So I really wanted to take the job, and I was working out an elaborate year-long story that culminated in a giant open-air stadium gig in Latveria, with attendant carnage, mayhem and killer robots.
I just couldn't figure out where to start, since, after all, the Fantastic Four had never been a rock band.
As I was trying to figure out how to make this bizarre editorial demand work, I slowly regained consciousness, and was still trying to figure out how to make the story work when I realized, with a certain amount of relief, that it had been a dream. A certain amount of sadness, too, since I would have liked to write Fantastic Four.
But the food poisoning was over, and my wife and I enjoyed the rest of our stay in the East Coast Happiest Place on Earth.™ But I remembered the dream well enough to draw the picture you see above, and my pal Richard Howell inked and lettered it. And I brought it in to the Marvel Offices and showed it to Terry Kavanagh, then the editor of What The—?!, Marvel's humor-and-self-parody comic, and he hired me (and Richard) to do a story about it. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life gives you bizarre food-poisoning-induced dreams of the Fantastic Four's recording career, well, you make do with what you got.
So I had to come up with a beginning for the story after all—but it was easier to do with a humor comic. I just had the editors at Marvel contact the Fantastical Four (as the What The versions were known) and demand that, because sales on their comic were bad, they had to go back to their rock'n'roll roots as a promotional stunt. The F.F. protested that they never had been a rock band, but the editors at Marvel were as implacable as they'd been in my dream—their contract with the F.F. gave them control over promotion, and this was promotional, so they had to do it. And Richard and I did the story, complete with Latverian open-air stadium battle of the bands against Dr. Doom. And it was published in What The—?! #17.
Secrets behind the comics revealed.
A little bit of (unused) design from The Wizard's Tale.
The Wizard's Tale is a graphic novel by me and artist David Wenzel (who did the Hobbit graphic novel), about an evil wizard who doesn't really have the heart to be evil, but it's a longstanding family tradition. It was originally done for Eclipse Comics, and originally published by Wildstorm after Eclipse went out of business. Now it's being reissued in a handsome new edition from IDW this January. A bigger book, on better paper, relettered (and rescripted here and there) with completely remastered art color-corrected by Dave to ensure the best fidelity to his originals, a new book design by Comicraft's Senior Design Wizard John Roshell—and even a new three-page epilogue to the story, by me and Dave. And an updated, improved recipe for Sunshine Cake, to boot!
This bit here, designed by the above-mentioned J.G. (art by Dave, of course), won't actually be going into the book—we went in a different direction with the title page—but it's so pretty I had to share.
George Tuska passed away a couple of months ago at age 93, after a career drawing comics that lasted almost 70 years. His life and achievements have been covered by people far more knowledgeable than I (including Mark Evanier, who discusses George here and here). But I thought I'd add a couple of thoughts, from the point of view of a longtime reader, a fan and a writer who had the pleasure of working with George once-and-a-bit.
Plus, it gives me the chance to show off some Tuska work very few people have seen.
I always liked Tuska's solid, sturdy storytelling—I heard for years that he wasn't suitable for superhero stories and was much better at the crime drama he'd drawn earlier in his career, but I barely got to see any of that material. What I saw was superhero stories, and that was more than enough to make me a fan. His art had heft and power and impact that served him well, whether he was illustrating Iron Man in combat with Ultimo or the Avengers reacting to a comatose, hundred-foot-tall (and growing!) Yellowjacket. It wasn't flashy, but it was good, solid comics, always a treat to see.
The other truism about George Tuska, back in the circles I hung out in, was that he regularly got the worst inkers. And while it wasn't always true, it often felt like it was. He seemed to be regularly teamed with Vince Colletta, Mike Esposito or others who, while capable of doing fine work over other pencilers, seemed to settle for "adequate" over George. One friend suggested that the reason Tuska was so often indifferently inked was that he wasn't considered important, so he got the leftovers, the inkers no one else wanted to work with. Another suggested it was because he was too much of a pro to complain. Me, I had a different idea. I thought it was because George's work was so solid, so clear and so direct that it was essentially inker-proof. Put a bad inker on Neal Adams and you've ruined so much of what Neal brings to the table, you've missed the whole point of hiring Neal. Put a bad inker on Gene Colan, and you'll mess up the textures that make Gene's work so good, and the art falls apart. Put a bad inker on George Tuska, though, and the result is solid, readable comics, even if it's not as pretty as it might be.
So Gene Colan would get the Palmers and the Leialohas, because Gene's work demanded it, and George would get the Espositos and the Collettas, because his work could survive it. At least, that was my theory.
But I always wanted to see what you'd get if George was inked as well as Neal or Gene. If that solid storytelling was matched up with sensitive rendering. We got to see it a few times—Nick Cardy inked George on some gorgeous Teen Titans stories, and Terry Austin inked a memorable Captain Marvel fill-in that for a long time I thought was the best-looking Tuska book ever. And George was an excellent inker himself, but by the time I was reading comics rarely inked anything; he was in demand as a penciler, and it didn't make sense to have him ink his own work when he could use that time to pencil another story.
Such was life for the professional comics artist of George's era. Or eras, considering how long he lasted.
George did two assignments that I was connected with, and they managed to demonstrate the heights and the depths of how pencils can be treated.
I wrote an issue of World's Finest Comics, back in 1984, that George was tapped to draw. I wrote it plot-style, meaning that I wrote a page-by-page, panel-by-panel breakdown of the story, George drew the pages from that, and then I wrote dialogue and captions to fit the art. And I was thrilled, seeing George Tuska pencils for the first time. They were rich, they were energetic, they were powerful—and every character, even the nobodies who were just there to move the story along, looked great. I started to understand why people had raved about George's crime stories, since some of the best stuff in the issue involved some criminals right out of Damon Runyon, squirrelly looking quys in flat caps, with wonderful character in their faces and expressions. I had a blast scripting from those pencils, and I wish I could show 'em to you, but I don't have copies any more.
I'd also stumped for George to get a top-notch inker on the job, and was happy when the assignment went to Rick Magyar, who had a nice crisp line that'd serve George's pencils well. I'd gotten to work with George Tuska, and it was going to look great!
Alas, Rick had to beg off the job after inking only one page. He was late on some other, more pressing book, and it had to take priority. So the book was turned over to a young guy who was just starting out, who I think had been working in DC's Production Department. And I won't name him here, because I don't want to beat him up. He didn't have much experience and he didn't have any time, because by the time he was handed the book to ink, it was very late. So he did the best he could under the circumstances, and went on to do better stuff later.
But the results weren't good. For all the people who complain about inkers who leave out backgrounds (and George suffered from any number of those), this time he had to deal with an inker who left out foregrounds here and there. One memorable moment was when Superman came down some stairs to see a gem sitting on a lab bench. In the first panel, he's coming down the stairs and there's the bench and the gem in the foreground. In the second, he picks the gem up. But the lab bench was left out when the page was inked, so given the perspective, it reads as if Superman's coming down stairs toward a boulder-sized gem sitting on the floor, and then presto, it's magically egg-sized when he picks it up. I mentioned above how I thought George's work was so solid that it could survive indifferent inking, but when the inking messes up the storytelling, that's hard to recover from.
I was crushed. I know it wasn't the inker's fault—he was essentially tossed into the deep end without time or preparation—but oh, that book could have looked so good. If you own a copy, check out that first page. That's Rick Magyar. The whole issue could have looked that good.
Ah well. Such was life for a professional comics artist—and a young, wet-behind-the-ears writer, to boot.
But the next time I got the chance to work with George, I made sure things worked out better.
In 1995, I was launching Astro City, and I wanted to make it as cool as possible. So one of the things I did was commission some classic artists to draw spot illustrations of the Astro City characters that I could use in the lettercolumns. Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson drawing Samaritan. Jim Mooney drawing Jack-In-The-Box. John Romita Sr. drawing Winged Victory.
And George Tuska drawing the Silver Agent.
George did four gorgeous pencil drawings of the Silver Agent in action. He actually exceeded the terms of the assignment—for our design set-up, we just wanted figures with no background, so we could flow the text around them, and George drew full panels that would have been perfect for a story. Vivid, energetic stuff.
And this time, I got to assign the inker. So I asked longtime Marvel great Joe Sinnott to do it, and Joe did a beautiful job. The kind of inking George's work deserved every time, not just on occasion. I'd show the finished art here, but can't find my copies. You can see what Joe did in Astro City vol. 1 #4, though.
Joe did leave out the backgrounds, at my request—so I suppose there's another inker leaving out backgrounds on George, though in this case it was a design requirement. But what that means is that the art shown here is the first time George's full drawings have been made public.
To see the image bigger—as well as the other three Silver Agent drawings George did—just click on the following links:
Great stuff, huh?
The Busiek.com mail slot brings me an e-mail of a sort I get semi-regularly, this time from a gent named Sean Heatherly:
I was recently turned onto Astro City by some friends. Rather than tracking down all the individual issues, I've been trying my best to grab all the hardcovers. The wraparound art done by Ross on each book is really beautiful.
I've been having a lot of trouble tracking down the 2nd hardcover volume. Did Confession have a very small print run? Would you happen to have an extra copy that you would be willing to part with? Or would you know of somewhere I could get one? Let me know. I admire your work and hope to hear back from you.
I'm glad Sean's liking the series, and to answer his questions:
1. Yes, Confession has the smallest print run of any of the Astro City hardcovers. The reason it worked out that way is because the first one, Life In The Big City, sold out like a shot and went to a second printing. That was how the way the publishing plan worked back then—we'd do a signed edition, and when and if it sold out, do a second, unsigned run. But Confession was done right around the time DC bought Wildstorm, and they do things differently. They rarely go back to press on hardcovers (or rarely did then), and so Confession never got that unsigned printing. As of the third volume, Family Album, DC did much bigger print runs, to keep the books in stock. So there's only 1200 copies of Confession, which is a respectable number for a hardcover of that era, but nowhere near enough to match the demand.
2. Alas, if I'd been selling my own copies, my stock of them would have been long gone years ago. It's dwindled as is, what with giving copies away to relatives and the like. And I don't know of anyone who's offering them for sale; they come up on eBay now and again, and get snapped up when they do.
But I'm trying an experiment here. I do have one or two spare copies left. And when I say one or two, I mean it literally—if I have a third, aside from my personal reference copy, I'd be very surprised. I can't just sell it to Sean, because that's not really fair to the other people who've written and asked. So I'm putting one up on eBay, to see how it goes.
The book can be found on eBay at: Astro City: Confession Hardcover Rare
And when I say "I," I actually mean a friend of mine has put it up, because I don't actually know how to go about selling things on eBay. I've bought things, on occasion, but I don't want to have to learn how to post something for sale and deal with the mechanics of it all. But there it is up on eBay, and it's mine. I'm very ambivalent about auctioning it, because it feels like I'm trying to profit off the collector's market, and I'd much rather there were just lots of copies out there at cover price for anyone who wants them. But there aren't, so I'm trying this to see whether I feel like, once it's done, I've made a copy available to collectors in a fair way, or whether I feel like a greedy leech and don't want to do anything like it again. We'll have to see.
But a couple of notes: This is a signed and numbered hardcover, with a tip-in sheet drawn by Brent, and signatures from me, Brent and Alex. I'll be happy to sign it again, or personalize it, for whoever winds up buying it. And we'll be including a bonus—the original run had dustjackets that aren't printed all that well, so the printer did a replacement run that was sent out to retailers, but few of the new ones seem to have made it to the people who bought the books. I have some of the replacement dustjackets, and we'll include one with the book.
And I'm announcing it here, to get the news out to people who are likely to want to buy it because they're fans of the series, rather than someone who wants to buy it and flip it, or whatever. I hope this sounds like a decent plan to the people reading this. Let me know by e-mail or on the message board if you have any comments.
That said, I'll move on to another e-mail about hardcovers, this one from Eric Doyle, who writes:
Are we going to see any more Astro City hardcovers?
I have them all and was wondering if they will continue?
That's a much easier question to answer.
Yes, you'll see more hardcovers. We've done hardcovers of every book collection yet, and have no plans to stop. Next one will be the second Dark Age volume, sometime next year, and after that a collection of the Samaritan, Beautie, Astra and Silver Agent specials, once those are done and ready to collect.
And who knows, maybe some day there'll be Astro City omnibus editions or Absolutes, or who knows what else?
...or, "I Created...Them?!"
Recently, the fine folks at Marvel Comics asked me (and others, I'm sure) to send a list of characters I've co-created for them, for some sort of new accounting purposes. So today, in between juggling phone calls and e-mails I've been meaning to catch up on, I put together a list.
It's longer than I thought. Especially given how fond I was of digging up and re-using forgotten characters from the past.
It was also hard to tell, sometimes, who to list. I didn't want to simply list every named character I'd ever created, because then the list would be choked with one-off SHIELD Agents, V-Battalion members, cops and talking heads on TV. So while I listed Dagny Forrester, since she's the super-villain Corona, I didn't list her brother, Dr. Cedric Forrester, because despite a nice Sal Buscema design, he's basically Snotty Scientist #3, nothing particularly notable. But I did list supporting cast members from Untold Tales of Spider-Man, because it seems some of them have already turned up on TV cartoons, and let's face it, you never know when someone Peter Parker went to high school with is going to turn into a super-villain.
Plus, as I made the list, with the help of the Grand Comics Database, the Marvel Universe Appendix and other sites, I made some odd discoveries. I knew that the Phone Ranger (pictured in his sterling debut above) had appeared in the Civil War crossover, but the Golden Gator was one of S.H.I.E..D.'s Howling Commandos? The Bobster had been considered for the Initiative? The mind, she boggles.
Anyway, having made the list, I figured I'd share it here, so you can see the panoply of worthwhile characters, adequate spear-carriers and hopeless gomers I've co-created over the years. If you notice that I've left out any I should have included, please let me know. Or if I'm claiming credit I shouldn't, drop me a line. There are a couple of borderline cases, but I'll throw in notes about them.
Full list after the break. Brace yourself.
Back before the sublime Tamara Drewe and Gemma Bovery—and if you haven't read those, you've missed some wonderful, wonderful work, particularly Tamara Drewe—British cartoonist Posy Simmonds did a weekly comic strip in the newspaper The Guardian that ran from May, 1977 until sometime in the late 1980s. Somewhere in the neighborhood of a full decade of Simmonds cartooning. I get all itchy thinking about ten years' worth of this stuff.
Wikipedia describes it thusly: "The strip focused on three 1950s schoolfriends in their later, middle-class and nearly middle-aged lives: Wendy Weber, a former nurse married to polytechnic sociology lecturer George with a large brood of children; Jo Heep, married to whisky salesman Edmund with two rebellious teenagers; and Trish Wright, married to philandering advertising executive Stanhope with a young baby."
There were four book collections and an original album featuring the characters, but the one book I have, the 1979 Mrs. Weber's Diary, is clearly chopped up and abridged, full of gorgeous stuff but an editorial mess.
The panels above are from that book, so they're early in the strip, and as you can see, beautifully drawn. And there's something like ten years' worth of this out there, this good or better.
Want to see more? Here's more:
Gorgeous, right? And smart. And there's ten years of that out there somewhere. Ten years!
I want The Complete Posy. Someone out there could do it. Fantagraphics? Top Shelf? D&Q? IDW? Someone else? I don't care. I want The Complete Posy. I am unreasoning on the subject. I just want it. I want to read it, I want to own it, I want to have it on my bookshelves in nice handsome editions. I want it.
Who's with me?
Today brings a press release letting me know that longtime comics pros Chuck Dixon and Gary Kwapisz have formed History Graphics Press, to publish "entertaining, historically accurate graphic novels set against the background of American history." Their first is Civil War Adventure, a 150-page graphic novel telling tales of The War Between the States.
This is very good news. Gary's a very good illustrator, best known for working on Conan and the Punisher. Chuck is one of my all-time favorite comics writers, who's worked on just about everything for everybody. They both make good comics, but they also both love history, and know how to tell informative and exciting stories that get it right. I fully expect that everything they do will be not only a good read, but well-researched, authentic and convincing.
Years ago, when Carol Kalish was a VP at Marvel Comics, she wanted to do a line of Civil War comics to be sold at the various battleground sites, as another way to do comics outreach—books that could be sold as souvenirs, that would also educate and give context to what visitors to the battlefield parks had seen, and, not-incidentally, get people reading comics who might not otherwise have tried them. The line fell apart as it went through editorial development and became something aimed more at comics fans than park visitors, but it was a good idea and I always thought it was something of a lost opportunity. This new line, from Chuck and Gary, seems like exactly the sort of thing Carol would have wanted to see—and even better, they won't be limiting themselves to the Civil War, but will be exploring all of American history.
You can check out a story from their launch graphic novel (plus samples of the other stories it'll hold, as well) at their website, History Graphics Press.
I'm eager to see the full book, and to see what else they have in the works.
I bought the latest issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction largely to get the story "Hell of a Fix," by Matthew Hughes. I've liked everything else I've read from Hughes, notably his satirical far-future SF adventures, such as Template, The Gist Hunter and Majestrum, set in the Jack Vance-inspired "Archonate." This begins a new series, and while it stands alone as a self-contained piece, it's also the opening of a novel, which itself will be the opening of a three-book series. So it makes a good way to sample what's coming, I'd think.
WHAT IT IS
A 16,000 word "novelette" about Chesney Arnstruther, a mild-mannered actuary for a mid-sized insurance company. Chesney isn't by any means a go-getter—he's an introvert, a man of only minor ambitions and modest dreams, with no lovers and no close friends (and few casual ones) but a job that suits his tastes, and a life that, if it's not satisfying, is at least comfortable enough that he's not spurred to change it, except in minor ways. It's while working on one of those minor ways that he accidentally summons a demon, and then refuses to sign over his soul on the ground that there was no intent and therefore no contract. This causes a labor dispute in Hell, with troublesome repercussions for the regular world. Chesney, caught in the middle, needs to broker a solution, involving a televangelist, Chesney's domineering mother, his "better angel" and Satan, among others.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT IT
Hughes calls this an urban fantasy, which is certainly true—it takes place in a modern urban setting and has loads of fantasy to it —but it's also of a genre I think of as "screwball fantasy," exemplified by the comic fantasy writing of Thorne Smith, Robert Bloch, Fritz Lieber, Charles Myers and others. Where most urban fantasy seems to be set in a world where there's occult danger all around us, and only the heroes who walk the shadows betwixt the world of daylight and dark mysticism can save us, screwball fantasy often has utterly absurd things happen, which are then treated in a straight-faced manner by relatively ordinary people who have to use logic against absurdity and somehow corral it, rather than simply beating the crap out of it with superpowers and manly derring-do. The characters tend to be simply (but deftly) drawn, caricatures that have enough charm to liven up the story, without being so nuanced and realistic that they bring what is essentially an airy confection crashing to the ground.
And I love screwball fantasy, so it's great to have a new story in the genre (and the prospect of a whole series), particularly one this well-written. It moves along at a rapid clip, clever and amusing, and does a great job dealing with the absurd and fantastic. The characters simply take the absurd as normal, and that makes it all the funnier. With some cosmetic changes, it could pretty easily have been published during the heyday of screwball fantasy—for all that there are modern touches like televangelists in the story, the setting it takes place in feels as timeless as the setting of Little Lulu comics. Chesney himself is an ideal screwball hero, an unassuming nebbish who finds himself over his head but rallies to the occasion. All the other characters are engaging—even Satan and the greedy evangelist have just enough rueful humanity to them to give them a likable charm in their particular roles.
It's also worth note that while most urban fantasy today avoids angels and demons in favor of vampires, wizards, fairies and werewolves (and those that do use Heaven and Hell seem to reduce them to the status of just more Powerful Supernatural Beings You'd Better Be Wary Of, not unlike the werewolves or a faerie queen), Hughes jumps right in to a classical view of Christianity, albeit one that seems modeled on mid-twentieth-century corporate structure, where the tempting and salvation and such are all essentially cosmic office duties. It's refreshing for not being overused, and a lot of fun.
I won't share how the story ends, since you should read it, but I will say that it ends well, in a way that brings the events to a workable close, and opens things up in another direction that makes it easy to see that there's plenty more to do in the novel to come.
It's a good story, well-conceived and well-written, and I'm eager for what comes next.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT
Chesney is a comics fan, and while I'd ordinarily like that, being a comics reader myself, there was stuff I just didn't like about it here.
Some of it is minor nit-pickery—Chesney is apparently specifically a superhero reader, but the story uses the terms "graphic novels" and "comix" in a way that most superhero fans probably wouldn't, but that's pretty minor.
But what mainly bugged me is that Chesney, like many screwball fantasy heroes, is the kind of stuck-in-a-functional-rut nobody who kind of needs a kick in the pants to get him up and out and doing, and much like Cosmo Topper being haunted by the Kerbys, it's the intrusion of the fantasy that's going to do it. So in that context, the fact that he likes comics comes across as shorthand for "he's an immature man-child." No romantic experience, still tied to his mother, and oh yeah, he likes them superhero funnybooks. Clearly, he hasn't grown up yet. It comes of as an easy way to infantilize him, which seems to build on an unstated assumption that what he reads is immature junk.
Chesney's favorite superhero—a super-UPS man called The Driver—seems to fall into the same pattern. While various characters in the story are figures of satire, The Driver's just a parody, a dumb take on a superhero for no apparent reason other than to show Chesney as a boy-man.
To be fair, Chesney's interest in superheroes does figure into the plot of the story in ways that affect the ending, so it's possible there's more to come, and I could well change my mind about The Driver when I read the full novel. And I may be oversensitive on the subject, of course. In the end, it's a minor piece of the story that, even though I don't care for it, doesn't change my opinion of the story as a whole. I liked Robert McCloskey's Homer Price, too, even though his let's-knock-comic-books character, the Super-Duper, was a pill.
[I will note that The Driver's secret ID, Ben Turner, has already been used, by DC Comics's martial-arts hero, the Bronze Tiger. But I'm nitpicking again]
It took more space to talk about what I didn't like than what I liked, but that's not a proper proportion—the good stuff is 95% of the story or more, and the bit I didn't like is a minor element. Overall, the story is a delight, a light and frothy cocktail of a story that's like nothing else I've seen coming out today—the obvious modern comparison is Pratchett, but this feels much more like Bloch's humorous fantasy of the pulp era than like anything in Discworld—and I heartily recommend it.
I'd recommend the whole magazine, but I haven't read much of it yet. I've only read one other piece, a moody high-fantasy adventure by Alex Irvine that was well-constructed and skilfully written, but didn't make me eager for more the way "Hell of a Fix" did.
And here's another Busiek/Philips collaboration.
Back in 1983 or 1984, Adam and I were rooming together in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, and had jointly joined CAPA-alpha, which I described in a previous entry as one of the longest-running comics apas, and which Wikipedia tells me is in fact the first comics apa ever, started by Jerry Bails in 1964. I think I knew that, but I don't like to make too-declarative statements for fear someone will immediately contradict me and worse, be right.
Anyway, for more on K-a (as it was abbreviated), see its Wikipedia entry.
This was the cover to our first joint apazine, which I think settled down shortly to being called "Kurt & Adam's Comments & Stories," with a logo shamelessly swiped from Walt Disney's Comics & Stories. What you see here was penciled and scripted by me, and inked and lettered by Adam, with the exception that the logo was penciled by me and rendered by Adam (I was always good with letterforms, but bad with any sort of permanent ink). Or such my memory tells me, anyway.
We were big fans of Frank Doyle & Dan deCarlos's Archie Comics work, including Betty & Veronica. Does it show?
[I'm an even bigger fan of Doyle & DeCarlo's pre-Pussycats run on She's Josie/Josie, which to my mind is lighter-than-air perfection, one of the greatest comics runs of the previous century, and should be collected in a nice set of hardcovers by Archie right now, but I'm not holding my breath. I'll have to be satisfied with owning the original art to a full Josie story, starring my favorite supporting characters, Pepper and Sock.]
Incidentally, the above-the-logo dialogue you see was stolen verbatim from an issue of Betty & Veronica Summer Fun. Such hussies, those gals!
This is Toar, my favorite Thimble Theatre character.
A hugely-powerful brute who once fought Popeye and then changed his ways and became a good friend and one of the supporting cast, Toar was a caveman who drank from "the pool of never die" and became immortal. After becoming a good guy, he started dressing nice, too. Strong, brutish, good-hearted and not-too-bright, but with a touching awareness of his own limitations, he was always a delight, whether center stage or in the background somewhere.
What I liked most about Toar was the way he talked, though. "Pooey to you from me" was his idea of harsh talk, and "Oh, you big fathead me" his general commentary on something stupid or destructive that he'd just impulsively done. Who can resist such a charmer? Not me, to be sure.
Back in the 1980s, after college and before I got married, I spent a few years rooming with Adam Philips, who also liked Toar a lot, for much the same reasons. I put up a couple of other pictures of Toar we did, earlier. This one, I'm pretty sure, is drawn by me—you can tell by the felt-tip-and-Sharpie inking and the inept poultry rendering. This one, I'd say, is Adam's work—that looks like Adam's lettering, and the figure is inked in actual India ink, with pen and brush.
The cover above is a collaboration, to some degree. It's from a joint apa-zine we did for a while back when we were both members of CAPA-alpha, one of the longest-running comics apas. I think my part in it is limited to penciling the logo and maybe suggesting the gag. I did a lot of the logo designing (but not the final rendering), and I think I remember working on that one. But the figure itself looks way too well-drawn for me to have had anything to do with it, so I think it's all Adam.
But I saved all these, because I thought they were funny, and I like Toar.
Back in September, I posted some comments about Paul Levitz leaving the President/Publisher chair at DC Comics and returning to writing. I mentioned in that entry that I remembered a text piece at DC—a "DC Profile" or "Meet the Staff" or some other such feature—where Paul was quoted as saying that he wouldn't be making comics his lifelong career, but was enjoying working in the field while he was in college. And that it was to all our benefits that his plans changed.
Since then, a few people have e-mailed me, telling me where I could find the 1977 "DC Profiles" entry on Paul. Glen Cadigan even sent along a handy link to where it could be seen online, and for those of you who can't (or don't want to try to) make out what it says above, you can see it here: DC Profiles #13.
But while I thank you all, I have to note: That's not the one I meant. That is, indeed, the "DC Profiles" entry on Paul, but it's not the text piece where he says he's not planning to make comics his career. So the one I'm remembering is from somewhere else. Others—and I apologize for not saving your names—have suggested in appeared in an issue of Amazing World of DC Comics, which is faintly possible, though I only ever read one or two of those. So if it's in the one with the "Golden Age" cover by Marshall Rogers, could be—but that's deep in the morass of the Basement of Comics That's Long Overdue for Organizing and the Great Cull (I mean, am I ever likely to need full sets of Blackwulf and Nightwatch?), and I won't be finding it any time soon. Dougie Clark tells me he has a vague memory of it appearing in Stalker #1, but that, too, is somewhere in the BOCTLOFOATGC, and, like that issue of Amazing Word, isn't in the mostly-kinda-sorta-organized part.
A couple of e-mails have suggested that it was in an interview in The Comics Reader or The Buyers' Guide, but I don't think so—the reason I remember it is that I ran across it at some point after it was quite clear that Paul was in comics for the long haul, and that's why it stood out as memorable.
So for now, at least, it remains a mystery. But thanks to all who've made suggestions, and if anyone out there has Stalker #1 in a readily-findable location, take a look and let me know, okay?
ADDENDUM: A reader named Bob tells me it's not in Stalker #1, so scratch that. John Wells turns up this exchange, from The Comic Reader #162, in 1979:
RB: Had it been your plan, while doing TCR, to try to get into the industry or was it just something that happened along?
PL: It occurred to me while doing TCR that the industry would be a nice place to work my way through college. It still basically is that to me. The process is taking a lot longer than i ever counted on because since Carmine's leaving DC, of course, my role in the industry has changed so much and the proportion of time devoted to college and work has sort of reversed. But I'm still going on with the education, and I still hope to be out of the business within a few years.
That's the sentiment I remembered, but I'm not sure that's the place I saw it. Still, nice to know I wasn't completely hallucinating!
Gandalf the Grey
Gandalf the Grey
Castin' lotsa spells 'cause he's a wizard all the way!
Rides around on Shadowfax
Faster than the breeze
Ladies all love Gandalf
And he never cuts the cheese!
First in a series. If the Other Characters in Lord of the Rings Went Around Singing Little Songs of Praise About Themselves, Like That Annoying Tom Bombadil.
There is no second entry in the series.
Marvel never collected my Iron Man run, not even back when it was first coming out and selling well. So I'm pleased to see this, in their latest solicitations:
IRON MAN: DEADLY SOLUTIONS PREMIERE HC
Written by KURT BUSIEK with RICHARD HOWELL
Penciled by SEAN CHEN & PATRICK ZIRCHER
Covers by SEAN CHEN
Back from the dead (again), Tony Stark's rebuilding his corporation from the ground up—but enemies old and new remind him his work is never done! With romance, rivalry and robots to keep him busy, can Iron Man still help Avengers teammate Warbird in her match against Stark's own worst enemy...the one in a bottle? Guest-starring the Black Widow and James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine! Collecting Iron Man (1998) #1-7.
I'd assume the decision to reprint it has something to do with the second Iron Man movie coming out, and maybe the way my run has a fair amount in common with the movies—Pepper Potts as a major character, the goatee, the "smart" house—or because they want Iron Man/Black Widow material out at the moment, and there's not as much as people might think. But for all I know, it could as easily be because they finally ran out of my Avengers to collect (on that front, they're reissuing Geoff Johns's first issues in hardcover that month as well), and are testing the waters to see if other Busiek material will sell. Nice to see it coming out in hardcover in any case, and who knows, maybe there's hope for the Thunderbolts run someday...
Just a reminder to let people know that I'll be at the 2009 Sterling North Book & Film Festival in Edgerton, Wisconsin this weekend. If you're in the area, feel free to come by, attend my panel, say hi, and so forth. I'll be doing a primitive slide show in PowerPoint format (my first time using PowerPoint; don't expect wonders) as I discuss my career and the craft of making comics.
Schedule, map and other such info can be found at the official site, which has been updated with this year's details (it still says "2008" at the very top of the window, at least in Safari, but the rest of it's right, I think). I'm still sorry I missed Edgerton's Chilimania! festival in September, but with guests including Malachy McCourt, Leroy Butler and others, this should be an engaging event on its own.
See some of you there, I hope!
In other convention news, I've just accepted an invitation to be a guest at Comicon International 2010 in San Diego, California, which runs July 22-25. More details as they become available.
I saw this in a bookstore, and liked the look of the book—it had a great-looking cover and trade dress that seemed to promised something rich and textured, a book that would take you somewhere and bring it to life well.
And sure, you can't tell a book by its cover and all that, but it was enough to make me pick up the book, read a paragraph or two, check out the flap copy. I downloaded the Kindle sample later, and wound up buying the book.
The book design was partly accurate and partly misleading—at least, to my sensibilities. The book did take me to an interesting, textured, convincing place that was worth going to, but the story it told once you got there wasn't the equal of the setting, I'd say. Still, it was a pleasant-enough read, and I'm not sorry to have picked it up.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, a first novel, tells a two-track story. The modern-day track is set in 1991, and deals with Connie Goodwin, a graduate student in American history, working on her dissertation. She winds up having to deal with an old house in Marblehead, Massachusetts that belonged to her grandmother, and while doing so becomes embroiled in a mystery that may well fuel her academic work—a mystery centered around a book, which may be a recipe book and may be a grimoire, written by a woman named Deliverance Dane, back in the days of the Salem Witch Trials.
The other track is the tale of Deliverance Dane and her descendants, enduring those days and the society that spawned them. The novel jumps back and forth in time, telling the parallel narrative as Connie researches the Danes and learns about the troubles they faced. Early on, the question is raised as to whether Deliverance is merely thought to be a witch by an ignorant and superstitious populace, or whether there's real magic going on—and this being the kind of book it is, of course there's real magic going on, and its effects finds its way through history to Connie Goodwin's present.
The worlds presented in the book—Connie's scholarly world and her tangles dealing with her grandmother's house, and the 17th century life of the Danes—are well-written, well-realized and full of interesting texture and detail. The plot of the novel, though, is less so. There's a villain, and you can spot him instantly, and see his schemes from a mile off—it would make you wonder why Connie can't tell, except that Connie's not aware that she's the lead in a fantasy novel, so she has no reason to be looking for a villain driving the plot (and, for that matter, no awareness that there's actually magic at stake here until the threat has developed pretty well). And there's a romance, and as soon as the guy comes on stage for the appropriate meet-cute, you know this is The Romance and you know how it's going to go, and sure enough it does. And there's a plot twist about the magic that feels like it came straight out of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, and it, too, is fairly obvious from the minute the story begins to hint at it.
But in the end, the book's not about the plot or the romance—they're there to give it a structure, to provide us with a compelling reason for why Connie's researching this particular past, and why it matters to the present day. So the fact that it's kind of mechanical and obvious doesn't damage the book all that much—this is one of those books where it's not the destination or even the specific journey that matters, but the scenery you get along the way. The plot may not be much, but the context is fascinating, the writing itself is reasonably accomplished and the places the book takes the reader are interesting; the plot's just there to provide some bones under the skin and keep the story from wandering aimlessly.
And there are some very nice resonances between the two threads of the story, and a touch or two that does work out to be surprising (or at least, that dawn on the reader appropriately and satisfyingly).
Overall, it was an enjoyable read, and the novel's strengths suggest that Howe knows what she's doing and should be someone to watch in future books, while its weaknesses are excusable in a first novel. With luck, she'll improve her plotting while continuing to write about interesting settings and situations. I'll be glad to check out her next novel, at least.
Put simply, this is the kind of book I'd like to read more of. A lot more of.
It's got swordfights and spaceships and sea-dwelling clan cultures. It's got murder and bureacracy and philosophical arguments and ruined castles and robots and masked aristocrats and dancers and secrets and feuds and more.
Template is one of Matthew Hughes's Archonate novels, set in a far, far future highly-reminiscent of and clearly inspired by Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories, but not quite that "dying" yet. Call it the Fading Earth, perhaps. A world where humanity is scattered to the stars, but where things are decaying and have been for so long that no one remembers a time when they weren't. Across The Spray, the sweep of human civilization, mankind is splintered into thousands of arcane and obsessive cultures, locked into rigid social, political and philosophical codes, often in stark disagreement with one another. The rich are sumptuously wealthy, the poor are desperately abject and the many worlds of humanity are places where idle play and the grueling fight for survival go hand in hand, all observed with an arch sense of wit and satire, an eye for detail and a deft and confident way with narrative.
Template concerns Conn Labro, an indentured-for-life "player" in a culture built around gambling. He's an expert duelist, combatant and strategist who plays games for the man who owns his contract, against anyone who can afford the game. But now he's adrift—his boss has been killed and so has an longtime gaming client, but the client has left him a fortune, enough money to buy himself free of indentured servitude. And enough hints have been scattered to make him realize that he's now a target himself and that there's something about who he is and where he comes from that puts him in danger, from unknown powerful and deadly forces.
What follows is a novel of adventure, as Conn Labro plays a no-rules game against unseen opponents, across multiple worlds. And a novel of ideas as well, as Labro seeks answers about who he is and how the universe works. And a novel of style, as Matthew Hughes plays with worlds and cultures and concepts in a lushly textured way, creating a rococo universe full of clever conceits, maddening difficulties, rich satire and more, all in clean, elegant prose that catches the reader's interest and carries you smoothly through a story that's by turns intriguing, exciting, amusing and in the end, very satisfying.
The way I'm describing it, it sounds messy and tangled, and that's definitely and deliberately true of the setting, but the story itself presents you with engaging characters and sends you through that world so easily that the messy and complex setting becomes simply the context for a story that establishes momentum and interest and never flags. And has a great battle at the end, to boot, with compelling action, worthy goals and excellent villains. In some ways it feels like Alexandre Dumas (the elder) writing swashbuckling far-future science fantasy with lots of comedy-of-manners to it.
All of the Archonate novels have this sense of a richly-textured, decadent setting with engaging human stories, but I think Template is, so far, the strongest of them, the one where the story carries the reader best and most smoothly through a fascinating world.
It's not out in the US yet—I got the British-published limited hardcover—but it's due to come out next year in trade paperback from Paizo Publishing. And there are more Archonate novels coming, for which I'm grateful. And I'd encourage anyone who's interested to check out Hughes's earlier Archonate novels, particularly the stories about Henghis Hapthorn, Old Earth's "foremost freelance discriminator." Hapthorn's adventures begin in the short-story collection The Gist Hunter and continue in the novels Majestrum, The Spiral Labyrinth and the upcoming Hespira.
[And the comics geek in me has to note: All the while I was reading it, I kept finding myself wishing DC's Legion of Superheroes series could be written like this, with such a smorgasbord of varied and textured cultures, that feel credibly like different settings, worlds that diverged from a common source but went down wildly different roads. I suspect superhero fans would begrudge the space it would take to show off the various worlds as distinct and unique cultures with their own philosophies, architectures, topographies and more—it's easier to make them all shorthand "hi-tech future" settings, and just get to the action—but I think it would be a treat.
[Ah well. As long as I get more Archonate novels, I'll be happy.]
UPDATE: The first chapter can be read here.
And to wrap up my comments on Lev Grossman's The Magicians, which I posted about earlier, before I'd finished the book:
It didn't crash and burn. Not in the slightest.
I don't want to say too much about the rest of the book, since it's largely the final act and I wouldn't want to blow the story for anyone who hasn't read it yet, but I will say that it delivers in fine fashion.
If the book was "Harry Potter for an adult sensibility" for the first half, then after that it spent a little time in "Bright Lights Big City/Less Than Zero with magic" territory, before slamming into its final act, which could be described as "Narnia for an adult sensibility." These are all shallow and hamhanded comparisons, and Grossman's writing is enough to make all of this clearly its own thing, and well of a piece with the rest of the work. But the Narnia influences are clearly present, with analogues to Cair Paravel, Aslan's How, the Deeper Magic and more.
But it's not Narnia. The characters go to their fantasy land, and it's not charming, it's not easy, it's not uplifting—it's a children's-fantasy world seen through the eyes of an adult. It's messy, dangerous and unpleasant. Bad things happen, truths are revealed, minds are changed, perspectives are widened...it's not clean or neat or pretty, but it's the kind of climax that's appropriate for this book, and it's compelling and credible and fitting.
And then comes the dénouement, which addresses and resolves the threads that have been running through the book from page one, and does so very satisfyingly. There are many points in the novel where things are bleak, where characters feel lost, or feel there's no meaning to anything they do, but that's not the ultimate point of things and Grossman handles it well. It's an at-times harrowing journey through a lot of fantasy tropes we're used to as comforting rather than harrowing, but in the end it's a worthwhile and satisfying journey.
A very, very enjoyable book. I recommend it highly.
I stumbled across this while prowling through Amazon recommendations, and it sounded intriguing, so I downloaded a sample to my Kindle. I read the sample last night and got the rest of the book post-haste, and have been reading it more or less all day, while waiting at the doctors' office and on a car trip and such.
I'm now halfway through it, and am suffused with "Why haven't I heard of this before?"
It's a real treat—an author I've never read before (never heard of, in fact), but right from the start I feel like I'm in good hands, being told a story worth telling by someone who knows what he's doing, who writes in his own voice, not an attempt at being someone else, and who has great confidence, playing with genre expectations, subverting them where he feels like it and fulfilling them where he feels like it.
It's set largely in New York, so far, so it has an urban fantasy flavor to parts of it, but since much of the action (again, so far) takes place at a hidden magical location that no one can reach but magician types, it also feels like hidden- or secondary-world material. It's chock full of well-written magic that's credibly strange and transporting and magical. It's the story of a kid who goes off to a secret magic school to become a magician, but it seems to have been written from the point of view that the Harry Potter books are unrealistic twee childish twaddle, and if there really was a school of magic, it would feel like X, and the kids in it would act like Y, and there'd be sense and logic to the magic as well as wonder. There's even a magical sport/game, but it makes quidditch seem terribly mundane. And it's all written beautifully, with magic that feels like magic and alienation that feels like alienation and a sense of wonder grounded in young characters who drink too much and have sex and fall in and out of friendship and wonder what the hell they're going to do with their lives.
There's a secondary plot—or, well, I expect it's about to become the primary plot for the second half of the book—about a series of Narnia-like books that turn out to be real and we'll discover that the magical otherworld has fallen on hard times since the books were published and our lead will have to do something about it, but aside from a lot of hints and portents, that hasn't really started up yet so I can't say much about it other than that halfway through the book I feel like I've already gotten a book's work of story, so the idea that there's yet more coming is a delight.
It's described in some of the Amazon reviews as "Harry Potter for adults," but I wouldn't say that—it's not adult so much as not-YA; it's too straightforward about sex and booze and the idea that adulthood isn't a resolution of anything to be comfortably YA, but it's still very much about young people figuring out how to be adults. It's sort of what Harry Potter might be if the basic idea had been filtered through the mind of filmmaker Richard Linklater; a well-executed blend of classic YA fantasy ideas with a semi-literary coming-of-age novel.
It might crash and burn in the second half, but given how good the first half has been, I'm expecting something good.
Art by Brent Anderson. From Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four #1.
Some years ago, while I was negotiating with DC Comics over their offer to publish Astro City after the initial 6-issue run at Image, I was in Paul Levitz's office talking over contract terms. I mentioned there were a couple of points that were troubling to me, and Paul told me he couldn't take them out of the contract, but he could assure me, if it had value to me, that as long as he was sitting in the Publisher's chair at DC those clauses wouldn't be activated. I said that no offense meant, but there was no guarantee that he was going to stay in that chair, so while I believed him and appreciated the gesture, I still had to negotiate as if those clauses could be triggered tomorrow. He nodded, and acknowledged that while he had no intention of leaving DC any time soon, that yeah, there were no guarantees. I wound up signing with Wildstorm—and then DC bought Wildstorm, and has published Astro City ever since. Though I'm glad to report that the contract doesn't have those two clauses that troubled me, because DC bought the Wildstorm contract along with the company.
And I've been glad to have Paul at the helm; had it not been for those two minor contractual terms, I'd have happily signed with DC then and there.
Well, today—over a decade since that conversation—the day came. The internet's abuzz with the news that Warner Bros. is reorganizing DC Comics, creating a new company called DC Entertainment to shepherd DC's characters and concepts more smoothly into movies, TV and other media. And as part of that restructuring, Paul is stepping down as President and Publisher and will return to writing, as well as being a contributing editor and a consultant to the new management.
As I've told a couple of the comics news organizations already, the DC Entertainment news, like the Disney-buys-Marvel news, doesn't much interest me—it's all about movies and video games and brand management, and I'm sure it'll change the way things get done in some ways, but the part of the industry I care most about, the comics—it doesn't seem to affect that much at all.
But Paul Levitz leaving DC management?
That's huge. That's the story that's going to change things.
Paul has been at the forefront of just about every industry development of the last couple of decades, and has been key to how the industry's shaped itself over those years. Shifting from a periodicals-only business to a strong backlist-oriented business with trade paperbacks and hardcovers, adding imprints like Vertigo, creating new opportunities for creators and for creator ownership, seeing that DC gave a fair (or at least fairer) deal to the creators who originated the concepts that turned up in DC-based movies, from Arkham Asylum and Lucius Fox to Robin's motorcycles (yeah, because they called Chris O'Donnell's ride the "Redbird" in one of the movies, Paul Levitz saw to it that Chuck Dixon got money) and more, Paul was an important part of a huge number of changes that DC's seen, and that the whole industry's seen. Some of them big changes everyone's noticed, some of them behind-the-scenes stuff few people know about.
And some people have been impatient that Paul was cautious, and wanted him to move faster, to leap into new things instead of easing into them. But in an industry where many publishers throw money into the latest cool thing, only to find themselves overextended and floundering, Paul was always careful that growth and change should be sustainable, doing things like building a backlist of trade paperbacks slowly, so the revenue from the existing books would fuel the addition of new ones, and a large library was built over time. And often, when other publishers' precipitous actions had made things unstable, DC Comics provided a backstop, a stability that let the comics industry ride out the rough waters and get to the next safe haven. To mix metaphors shamelessly.
Paul is one of a very few people who've been absolutely key in shaping the comics industry from what it was in the mid-Seventies to what it is today. Staggering changes, built slowly over time, so that DC (and the companies that adopted DC's innovations) could build from strength to strength.
I don't know who'll sit in that chair next, and I don't know what they'll do. But whoever they are, whatever their experience, instincts, skill and priorities, they'll be different from Paul's, and that'll change comics. In a good way? In a bad way? Probably a mixture of the two. But this, I'm confident, is where the big changes for comics publishing will be coming from. Not Disney deals and movie plans, but a new guy in what for a long time was the most stable, influential, skilfully-run office in the business.
On the other hand, while the freelancer in me braces for change, the reader part of me is delighted that we're going to see Paul Levitz writing comics again, starting with Legion of Superheroes, the feature that established his name for so many enthusiastic fans. No door closes but a window opens somewhere, and I can't wait.
And just to wrap up—I'm reminded of a text feature, back in DC books in the mid-Seventies, one of those "DC ProFiles" or "Meet the Staff" features, that gave a quickie bio of and interview with Paul. At the time, he was attending college and paying his way by working for DC in his spare time, and the bit of it I've always remembered is the part where Paul said that he couldn't see staying in comics after he graduated, that he loved what he was doing, but his career plans would take him elsewhere.
Well, maybe you didn't see it then, Paul, but your plans changed, and took you along a pretty damn cool career path. And comics has been better off for it. So congratulations on all you've done.
And now new possibilities open up, and we'll get to see what Paul Levitz does next. Whatever it is, it'll be worth watching.
[And I haven't been able to find that mid-70s DC text feature again, so if anyone knows where it ran, let me know so I can dig it out, huh?]
A couple of interview links, and some e-mail...
First, the interviews:
Scott Harris, longtime Avengers fan and newish blogger, has been doing some short industry interviews, and has done one with me:
And Gail Simone, writer, raconteur and bon vivant, has launched a new Wonder Woman focused discussion board over at Comic Book Resources, where people are celebrating all aspects of the Amazing Amazon's storied history. She's lined up some terrific interviews, with the likes of Mindy Newell, George Pérez, Trina Robbins and others, and I'm happy to be an "other":
And the mail...
From Scott Rowland:
Regarding the possibility of "Deluxe Editions" similar to those for Ex Machina and other series, I'd prefer to see the continuation of the hardcover format already in use. They look great, and the anal retentive comics fan in me would hate to see a different size being used for any future releases.
Just my two cents.
Oh, I wouldn't think that any new-format editions of Astro City would replace the existing formats, Scott, whether they're Deluxe editions or Absolutes or Omibuses or whatever the latest packaging sensations are. I think you can remain confident that you'll continue to see hardcovers and trade paperbacks like those we've been doing all along, and any new format would be in addition to, not instead of the existing ones.
From Eric Sellers:
I'm glad to hear Astro City is going to be on a monthly schedule.
Also a follow up question to one I asked years ago in the letter column. Will we get a new steady trade dress/logo on the title now that it's going monthly?
We'll get a steady trade dress, Eric, but whether it's new or uses one of the logos we've already got, I don't know yet. I like the volume 2 logo a whole lot. Then again, I like some of the alternate logos J.G. has done, too...
If anyone out there has strong opinions, feel free to let us know.
Did you know Peter Straub has written a superhero story? My kind of story, too.
Check it out at:
By Busiek, Anderson, Ross, Comicraft and guest-colorist Wendy Broome! The story of Astra Furst, superhero, interstellar celebrity and college graduate—and what happens on "Graduation Night"!
At supermarket checkout stands everywhere!
[At least, we wish it was on sale there...]
Plus: Take a look at some of this cover's development, here.
...did you know that "trivia" originally meant "where three roads meet"?
Roads? Series? Logos?
Okay, okay, so it's not much of a segue, but you get what you pay for.
Image nicked from Robot 6.
"The language of critics, and of artists of the kind who pay attention to critics, has become exceedingly odd: not talk about feelings or intellectual affirmations—not talk about moving and surprising twists of plot or wonderful characters and ideas—but sentences full of large words like hermaneutic, heuristic, structuralism, formalism, or opaque language, and full of fine distinctions—for instance those between modernist and post-modernist—that would make even an intelligent cow suspicious. Though more difficult than ever before to read, criticism has become trivial.
"The trivial has its place, its entertainment value. I can think of no good reason that some people should not specialize in the behavior of the left-side hairs on an elephant's trunk. Even at its best, its most deadly serious, criticism, like art, is partly a game, as all good critics know. My objection is not to the game but to the fact that contemporary critics have for the most part lost track of the point of the game, just as artists, by and large, have lost track of the point of theirs. Fiddling with the hairs on an elephant's nose is indecent when the elephant happens to be standing on the baby."
I haven't read this since about 1980 or so, but the turn of phrase has always stuck with me.
I can't really comment on the late-1970s state of literary criticism, or even its state today, but the overall point, both in terms of there being nothing wrong with the trivial but something wrong with focusing only on the trivial, is one that I find has resonated with me over the years. Even when writing Thunderbolts and The Power Company.
Something I saw online today reminded me of Gardner's point, so I figured I'd post it.
The Library of America is one of those wonderful and massive collections, like The Criterion Collection, that make me think I should read (or, in the case of the Criterion Collection, see) everything on the list, for my own intellectual and aesthetic betterment.
And then I realize I'll never have the time, so I just think wistfully about it.
But then something like this comes up on the horizon. American Fantastic Tales, a two-volume boxed collection of what they call "the American Gothic tradition" (so you can see where that'd grab my attention, but hey, even under another label it'd have the same effect), "from Edgar Allan Poe to today’s masters of terror and the uncanny."
Two volumes, 1500 pages. 86 stories. Selected by Peter Straub. Designed by Chip Kidd. Featuring:
Charles Brockden Brown, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Fitz-James O'Brien, Bret Harte, Harriet Prescott Spofford, W. C. Morrow, Sarah Orne Jewett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Stephen Crane, Kate Chopin, John Kendrick Bangs, Robert W. Chambers, Ralph Adams Cram, Madeline Yale Wynne, Gertrude Atherton, Emma Francis Dawson, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Frank Norris, Lafcadio Hearn, F. Marion Crawford, Ambrose Bierce, Edward Lucas White, Olivia Howard Dunbar, Henry James, Alice Brown, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Ellen Glasgow, Julian Hawthorne, Francis Stevens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Seabury Quinn, Stephen Vincent Benét, David H. Keller, Conrad Aiken, Robert E. Howard, Henry S. Whitehead, August Derleth, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, John Collier, Fritz Leiber, Tennessee Williams, Jane Rice, Anthony Boucher, Truman Capote, Jack Snow, John Cheever, Shirley Jackson, Paul Bowles, Jack Finney, Vladimir Nabokov, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Jerome Bixby, Davis Grubb, Donald Wandrei, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, T.E.D. Klein, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Fred Chappell, John Crowley, Jonathan Carroll, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Ligotti, Peter Straub, Jeff VanderMeer, Stephen King, George Saunders, Caitlín Kiernan, Thomas Tessier, Michael Chabon, Joe Hill, Poppy Z. Brite, Steven Millhauser, M. Rickert, Brian Evenson, Kelly Link. Tim Powers, Gene Wolfe and Benjamin Percy.
The second volume alone looks like an astounding collection of modern horror.
The first volume, though, looks like a treasure trove.
"The Moonlit Road." "Grettir at Thorhall-stead." "The King of the Cats." "Thurlow's Christmas Story." "In Dark New England Days." "For the Blood Is the Life." And on and on.
I don't know about you, but I'm hooked. I can't look at that picture above without wanting to pick up the books, heft their weight in my hands, page through them slowly, dipping into a story here, a story there.
I want them. Now.
From Nikko Elliott:
How much longer is the Sterling North Book & Film Festival going to be "Tentative"? That's your only possible appearance that's close enough for me to make the drive and this "Tentative" status is driving me insane!
Sorry about that, Nikko. The fine folks at the Sterling North Festival have invited me, and I've accepted, but there's some paperwork they need to send me and I don't have it yet. Once they send it, that "Tentative" should go away pretty quickly. In the meantime, I'd think you'd be safe in planning to attend. It's really just formalities that have to be dealt with at this point.
And now, two questions about Redhand, a series of two graphic novels I did with the amazingly-talented Mario Alberti for the French graphic novel publisher Humanoids.
First, from Alix Bergeret of www.bdtheque.com:
I was wondering if a volume 3 for your Redhand series was planned, and if so when is it due?
Thanks a lot for your time!
I don't know what the current plans are, Alix. Mario and I only had a two-volume contract, to start with, and we had intended to do more, but first I was too busy, with the DC exclusive, and then Mario was busy, with the Spider-Man/X-Men mini-series he did for Marvel, plus other work, to the point that we wouldn't be able to do a third volume on a schedule that was soon enough for the publisher. So we agreed that Humanoids could proceed with another writer and artist, and that's the last I know of any plans. If they are working on a third volume, I haven't heard about it.
From David B. Mitchell:
I contacted the publishers of Redhand and they said they have no plans to publish it in English. Do you know if that's likely to change?
The last I heard, there were plans to publish some of the Humanoids material in English through Devil's Due. That was part of the reason there was some time pressure to do a third volume—with each volume only forty-some pages long, the feeling was that a third volume was needed to have enough pages to do a trade paperback collection. So it may be that with only two volumes, they elected not to include it in the Devil's Due program, or perhaps something else happened to it.
Publishing rights are entirely with Humanoids, so it's up to them—and, of course, any American publishers they deal with—what they do with the material.
More art from the late 1970s, this time by me.
Above are The Phenomenals, a superhero team Scott and I created—I can still remember that among them are Striker, Cirrus, Thrombor, Kinetika, Starflare, Kilgore (the bad guy), Zero and...um, I don't remember who the others were. Scott created some of them, including Thrombor the Human Superball, Zero and the guy with the diamond-shaped goggles whose name I can't remember, and I created most of the others, I think.
This was drawn in 1977, it says here. I really liked Jim Starlin's elaborate montages, does it show?
And this is Falstaff, who I'm pretty sure was a character Scott created—a kind of a "holy fool" who charged into dangerous situations without much strategy or sense, but had a "luck" power that would have him do just the right thing, usually by mistake. This is probably from 1978 or 1979, and you can see that I liked Neal Adams's work at least as much as I liked Jim Starlin's. This was the part of doing the art that I liked—figures and costumes and explosions. And hey, look, I drew in my own Zip-a-tone, by hand! When I tried to get serious about drawing backgrounds, like curbs and fire hydrants and building foundations, I rapidly discovered that I wanted to tell stories far more than I wanted to draw illustrations.
Back when we were in high school, Scott McCloud and I made some comics together. One was a 60-page epic knockabout confrontation among Marvel superheroes in our hometown, called The Battle of Lexington, which destroyed our school and a number of area landmarks. That's the project that, more than any other, let us figure out what making comics was about, and how to approach telling a story visually. The other major project we worked on together was a benefit comic, Pow Biff Pops, done to help raise money for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I wrote it, and Scott did layouts for the artist, our friend Chris Bing, now an award-winning children's-book illustrator. That one was actually published and sold, and even done as a slideshow at the Pops opening-day concert the year we did it.
But that's not all we did. This, Once More With Feeling, was a story we did in 1978, the summer after graduating from high school and before starting college. We had decided, as I recall, that Jim Starlin's recurring champion-of-life characters were all far too grim and serious to be champions of something as energetic and fulsome as life, so we set out to show the world how it should be done, a champion-of-life-versus-champion-of-death story that actually had a lively, upbeat guy championing life.
I wrote it, Scott drew it, and I lettered it—with a Pilot Razorpoint pen, as I recall, at my parents' dining-room table. I don't remember the process of writing it, but boy, do I remember lettering it. You can see why Scott adopted a very simple, clean ink line after this—all that crosshatching must have been a hellacious amount of work. I'll also throw in here that Scott has always insisted that he liked my lettering on this story, and I should have done more. I have always insisted that what he really liked about it was that he didn't have to do it himself for once. Looking at it all these years later, I agree with my younger self. But then, Scott may still like it—who knows?
To see the first page larger—along with the rest of the first eight pages—click here:
The whole thing was 24 pages long, I think. Maybe we'll find a place to show off the whole thing, someday.
More of your mail...
Hi Kurt! Are you coming to the Baltimore Comic-Con this year? I don't see you on the web site's guest list! I hope you do come! Have a good one!
Thanks, Shawn. No Baltimore Con for me this year, sorry—it's a great show, and I always like attending, but maybe another year.
And you can always check out my upcoming appearances at the Find link, just to the left over there. It'll tell you where I'm going to be, and when.
From Torsten Adair:
"Two men apparently carried the five or six-foot-long animal to several fish markets and tried to sell it for $10. During the trek the men carried the fish on the city's Metromover downtown train, prompting calls to police."
Not as cool as the Watchmen squid in San Diego, but interesting...
Indeed! It seems that shark thefts are more common than you'd think. Let's hope they're not all Shirak worshippers...
From Wayne P. Bertrand II:
I just read the question about how many Legionnaires had letters on their costumes. If you discount Superboy & Supergirl and the first appearance costumes of the founders, I count seven (also assuming only the first reality versions are used).
1. Duo Damsel (Levitz-Giffen era) had a "D" hanging from her chain-link belt.
2. Phantom Girl had a "P" on her original costume.
3. Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg) had an "i" almost concealed by the styling of his costume.
4. Ferro Lad had the "Fe" symbol on his chest.
5. Element Lad had an "E" on his first costume (after the "?") and an Interlac one later.
6. Shadow Lass had a stylized "S" belt buckle on her classic outfit and an Interlac one on over the chest of her later one.
7. Sensor Girl has an Interlac "S" on her cape clasp.
How'd I do?
Fine as far as I'm concerned, Wayne—but I never did have a full answer key. I did count Superboy and Supergirl, mind you (why wouldn't you?) and the founders in Adventure #247 were the three that I figured were kind of a cheat and Paul Levitz agreed shouldn't count.
I think Duo Damsel counts, and Shadow Lass probably does (is that a belt-buckle? I just thought it was a design on her crotch), but looking at Invisible Kid's classic costume, I don't think that's recognizably an I. I didn't count Sensor Girl—or other costumes like M'onel's suit with the M on it—because I was sticking to the pre-Crisis era, and Sensor Girl, as I recall, was in that interregnum between Crisis and the cascade of revamps. Wasn't it hinted she was the dead Supergirl come back to life, before her secret was revealed?
The only other name that came up, from the era we were thinking of, was Tom Galloway's mention of Marvel Lad, a.k.a. "Legionnaire Lemon," a.k.a Mon-El. At least that I recall.
But as I said, I never had an answer key, so there may be others I missed!
Given the recent news for an ongoing Astro City, any plans from DC/Wildstorm to reprint previous issues in Deluxe HC format like Ex Machina or Fables?
I really hope so....
I'd like it too, Patrick. And it's come up for discussion, at least. We'll have to see how things go once we're back to ongoing monthly status next year. Plus, of course, if it were to happen, we'd have to decide how to do it. Strictly in publication order, or building the volumes around the longer stories?
Those volumes seem to be around ten issues long each, so it would probably work to do a first collection in that format as vol. 1 #1-6, vol. 2 #1-3 and #1/2, then the second collection would be the whole Confessor storyline (#4-9) and #10-13. The third would be the whole Steeljack arc (#14-20) plus #21-22 and Local Heroes #1—but I'm not sure it'd fit together so well after that.
It'd take some thinking. But I wouldn't mind...
I should remember to do this on Mondays or Tuesdays, I think...
ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE Book Three #4
A week or so back, I said this issue would be late, due to last-minute production problems. But it seems the problems got smoothed out, because I'm hearing from people that it's out and they bought it. So all of Book Three shipped monthly and on time. Woo-hoo!
WEDNESDAY COMICS #5
This week, the Green Lantern strip flashes back to look at Hal Jordan's NASA days—yes, that's right, NASA days—and his rivalry with fellow astronaut-candidate Joe Dillon. More gorgeous artwork by Joe Quiñones!
I suppose I should remember to put up a link when I'm interviewed somewhere on line, shouldn't I?
Here's one—a brief interview about American Gothic, launching next year from Wildstorm.
I don't think I actually said that bit about “a way of inventing an American mythology.” I think that's from the same online description of the panel that had me comparing the series of The Outer Limits, which I've never actually seen. But American mythologies, known, unknown and interpreted in new ways, are a part of the whole thing, so, well, I'm drawing a distinction that'll be better understood after people have seen the series, and I suppose I should shut up and let people find that out for themselves.
In any case, here's me not shutting up.
Something from the file cabinet.
This is early Scott McCloud artwork, an illustration he did in the very early 1980s, before either of us had broken in to the comics business. It was, if I'm remembering correctly, for an article I did for one of New Media/Irjax's magazines, either Comics Feature or LoC. The article was discussing Henry Kuttner's novel Mutant, and the ways it may have inspired the creation of the X-Men. There was a sidebar, done at the editor's request, discussing the then-popular Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean M. Auel, riffing off an oft-asked question in the original run of X-Men: "What did the last Neanderthal say to the first Cro-Magnon?"
This was our answer.
[If you'd like to see it larger, with all the age-staining brought into great focus for your edification and amusement, click here.]
I have a bunch of this stuff—early artwork by me, Scott, our pal Adam Philips (now in Marketing at DC Comics) and more, and I'll throw some up here from time to time. I asked Scott for the original to this back when he did it, and have kept it all these years because I've always liked the matter-of-fact expressions on these fellows' faces.
There was no Pro/Fan Trivia Challenge at the San Diego Comicon this year. There was, however, one question from last year's challenge, which neither Mark Waid nor I attended, that was offered up this year, and once asked, seemed to travel around by osmosis. There's nothing quite like walking into the DC booth and having DC President and Publisher Paul Levitz say to you, without preamble, "I only got four, but I agree that [those other three] don't count." And knowing what he was talking about.
So: How many Legionnaires can you name who had letters on their costume?
Naturally, the 'L' on the flight ring doesn't count.
I got five—or eight, depending on how technical you want to get.
Mark Waid got the same five, but agreed that those other three shouldn't count.
Paul Levitz got four, with the same caveat.
James Robinson got five.
Tom Galloway came up with a sixth, but then, as I understand it, he was at the Challenge last year, so he's had much more time to think about it. And I spurn his sixth name as a technicality anyway, while Mark grumbled that yeah, it's a technicality but he should have gotten it anyway.
How many can you name?
We also announced a new series, as well.
I talked a little about it at the con, but now that the con's over I'm not all that sure what I should say—both because it's kind of complicated (in a good way) and because it's not coming out until sometime next year, so now that the announcement's been made, it may be best to stay quit until we're closer to launch and there's more to show.
I will say that it's coming from Wildstorm, that it's an ongoing series, that the art you see above is by the astoundingly-talented Connor Willumsen, who'll be drawing at least the first arc, and that the spiffy logo is by John "Muss 'Em Up" Roshell of Comicraft.
And that the series will feature not only comics, but also prose fiction by Yr Humble Servant. So you'll get to see whether I can string words together without an artist to save my ass.
I'll have to check with the promotional specialists at Wildstorm and DC to see what more can/should be said and when, but for now—looks pretty interesting, doesn't it?
Back from San Diego.
Sure, Marvel bought Marvelman and DC bought the THUNDER Agents and Dark Horse is having Jim Shooter re-do the Gold Key heroes and Johnny Depp crashed the con and all kinds of stuff. I, personally, was thrilled to get a chance to talk with Peter S. Beagle and tell him how much his work has meant to me, am glad to have a copy of Darwyn Cooke's magnificent new The Hunter graphic novel, and had a very good time talking with old friends and co-workers—and new ones, as well.
But pff. It all pales next to the biggest news in comics.
That's right—we're going monthly. We were monthly for our first five issues, back in 1995, and we've been monthly for brief stretches thereafter, and now we're going monthly again. For longer stretches, I sincerely hope!
[What do you mean, that's not the biggest news in comics? Pipe down, this is my site!]
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Three #4 comes out next month. September and October will see the two-part Astra character spotlight. Then there'll be a two month break. Then 2010 kicks off with Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four, followed in rapid succession by a Silver Agent character spotlight tale, wrapping up all the Dark Agery—and then, at long last, Astro City #23. And onward from there.
It'll have been only a decade or so since #22, and a multitude of minis, specials and such in between, but it'll be good to get back to Astro City as an ongoing series. My health has been slowly improving, the yearlong Trinity proved that I can handle a large and sustained workload without my fatigue issues knocking me out for a week or two at a time the way it used to, and I've been able to write the kind of material Astro City needs to feature. Brent, on his part, is starting to shift to digital artwork, drawing his pages largely in the computer via a Wacom tablet, which cuts out a lot of repetitious in-between steps and will hopefully speed him up as well. The results so far look gorgeous, and he's got the rest of this year to get comfortable with it.
And we've got lots planned—from a look at the inner workings of Honor Guard to the origin of Winged Victory (as part of a story that involves Samaritan and the new Confessor as well), to an exposé into the secrets of the decades-long N-Forcer program, and even, at long last, that talking-gorilla story I've been threatening for years. Plus other cool stuff and some format surprises as well.
Mark your calendars!
[And since we love irony here at Busiek.com—no, really, we must love it, since it's around so often it's like one of the family—I have to report that no sooner did we announce that Astro City is going monthly that the news came in that Book Three #4 will be a week or so late. Not due to any schedule failure on our part, I assure you—Brent's several issues ahead, and cruising along. It's just one of those production glitches that leaps out of nowhere when you were wondering if there's any carrot cake left. It was Dealt With and Steps Were Taken, and with any kind of luck at all, will hopefully not recur.]
This week, Donald E. Westlake's last novel, Get Real, was published. I'm only a few chapters in, and it's fine and funny and entertaining, but I'm finding it impossible to read it without a bittersweet knowledge that this is The End. This is the last caper of the Dortmunder Gang, the largely-competent-but-ill-starred group of low-level thieves who nonetheless often find themselves in high-level trouble who've been entertaining us since The Hot Rock in 1970, and who now find themselves contending with reality television. And of course, the last caper of Westlake himself, who'd been publishing novels under his own name as long as I've been alive (and short fiction for longer).
This is the last time Andy Kelp will cheerfully explain common items of modern technology to a baffled and suspicious Dortmunder. The last time the long-suffering May will liberate groceries from the supermarket she works in as part of her self-appointed benefits. The last time Murch (and Murch's Mom) will brave New York traffic, the last time (presumably; he hasn't shown up yet, but I expect he will) Tiny Bulcher will make an entrance that makes him sound rather larger than The Incredible Hulk, or possibly Connecticut, and the last time Rollo will identify gang members by their drink orders and the regulars at the Amsterdam Avenue Bar & Grill get into a confused and hazily-belligerent argument about trivia as Dortmunder and company head for the back room.
I find myself hoping that Dortmunder and friends make a fabulous haul and get away clean, ringing down their career with one great victory, though I know they wouldn't know what to do with themselves in the wake of such success. [One novel, though I don't recall which one, ends with Dortmunder, having wound up with a decent payoff at last, in Bermuda, or somewhere like it, standing calf-deep in brilliant blue water under a bright Atlantic sun and feeling terribly, terribly out of place.] I'd even like to see a lot of the tertiary characters, like Francis X. Mologna, turn up one more time for a curtain call.
But I don't think Westlake knew this was The End, when he wrote it, so I'm not expecting a grand finalé, just another beautifully-plotted, wittily told ending. Which will make a fine coda for John Dortmunder and his circle of felonious acquaintances. The knowledge that this is the last time adds weight and poignance even without all that stuff.
But man, I'm going to miss it, the feeling you get when you've got a new Westlake in front of you, as well-built as an expensive German automobile, with that new book smell, ready to be taken out for a spin.
And I find myself reflecting on the fact that when I started reading Westlake, it was via battered paperbacks of The Fugitive Pigeon and The Spy in the Ointment that belonged to my mother, and went on to library copies, and then hardcovers of my own (wait for paperback? for a Westlake? geddoudaheah!). And now this latest arrived with an e-mail at midnight last night from Amazon.com, telling me that the next time I turned on my Kindle's wireless link, the book would simply appear, like magic. [And what would Dortmunder think of that, I wonder? And how would Kelp explain it to him?]
A lot has changed over all that time, even if Dortmunder, at his core, never did.
In a fitting bit of every-ending-is-a-new-beginning synchronicity, this week also sees the publication by IDW of Richard Stark's The Hunter, the first in a series of graphic novels adapting Westlake's tales (written as 'Richard Stark') of his other long-running lead character, the hard-bitten, expert and admirably-efficient thief named Parker. I don't have my copy yet, and it won't appear by electronic magic, but what I've seen of it so far looks wonderful. It's by the staggeringly-talented Darwyn Cooke, and is stunningly drawn and paced, capturing Parker in a way I wasn't sure could be accomplished.
So Dortmunder heads off into the shadows of a downscale Manhattan night, and Parker finds new life in a new medium. And Westlake isn't here for either, he's been gone since New Year's Eve, 2008. But none of it would exist without him, and five decades of pleasure brought to countless readers, moviegoers and more (pleasure that will live on, for new audiences to discover) is no small legacy.
One more time, Dortmunder. Let's see how much trouble you can get into, one more time.
Dear God, that's pretty.
So I'm talking logos with J.G. Roshell, for a new project, and we're poking around through Google Image Search over some early 20th Century approaches, and I hit this, and it just knocks me out. It's by F.G. Cooper, and I've seen his work before—he's usually terrific, both at type design and at drawing—but this one is just arrestingly good. So I had to throw it up here.
[And my mind tells me that Walter Simonson was playing around with Cooper-style type design in his "Captain Fear" backup story or maybe in a Weird War Tales short he did (or both), but my copy of The Art of Walter Simonson has neglected to be filed under S, W or A, so I can't check. But I'm willing to bet Walter's pretty familiar with Cooper's design work.]
More considered blogging will happen once I get another script done—I've got a couple of reviews I'd like to write up, and some old projects that I want to show off but have to get the artists' permission—but in the meantime, I thought I'd throw this up.
It's gorgeous, isn't it?
This is Fenway, our Welsh Corgi, in a moment of considered intellectual reflection.
The photo was taken by Erika Moen, at a shared birthday party for Colleen Coover and Rich Ellis this past Saturday. You can find more photos from the party at Erika's Flickr set, and at Colleen's blog. But be warned—if you're seeking more of Fenway's keen and penetrating gaze, you're out of luck.
[UPDATE: Fenway's having surgery today—Thursday—because in his ruminant brilliance he ate a rock, and it's blocking his digestive system. This is the third time he's done it and we're not sure why. He certainly doesn't enjoy the results. So think a good thought for him...]
[UPDATE 2: Fenway's come through the surgery fine. Looks like he might be back home tonight.]
[UPDATE 3: He's home. Dopey and dazed, but okay.]
You also might enjoy Erika's webcomic, DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary. But be warned there as well, it's NSFW.
photo stolen from paralada.org; hope they don't mind.
Many of you know John Ostrander from Grimjack, or Suicide Squad. From his wonderful run on The Spectre. Or his many Star Wars scripts. Or for, along with Kim Yale, turning Barbara Gordon from a wheelchair-bound ex-Batgirl into Oracle, and making her a mover and shaker in the DC Universe on a scale she'd never approached before. Me, I first encountered John as one of Supergirl's neighbors back when she lived in Chicago for a while, then as the guy who plotted Legends and wrote freaky stories for Wasteland, and eventually as a genial, gregarious guy I spent some time talking to on Karl Kesel's porch, and have been glad to count as a friend ever since. He's an excellent writer and a very, very good guy.
John's been suffering from severe glaucoma for years, and recently underwent eye surgery to help. It involved two week-long stays in Boston, two surgical procedures, and multiple trips for follow-up and adjustment. And it wasn't cheap. John and his doctors are hopeful of good recovery, but the medical bills have been staggering, and his health insurance can't come close to covering them.
But John's got friends, John's got readers who've loved his work for years, and John's not going to be in this alone. There's a fund-raising drive, for anyone who'd like to chip in, and with the assistance of Wizard Entertainment, there'll be an auction at this year's Chicago Comic-Con on August 8th, to help raise funds to cover John's medical bills.
There's more at:
I've made a contribution, and will be sending something in for the auction as well, and I encourage everyone to chip in. Send a few bucks, or bid on something, to help out a guy who's brought so many of your heroes to life over the years.
And if for no other reason, please chip in to keep those adventures coming, from John's mind and John's keyboard. Because it's hard to write comics if you can't see.
Like I said above, it's a worthy cause, for a very worthy guy.
I'll be at Comicon International at San Diego (I think that's the official name of the show, these days) next week—I'll be arriving Friday morning and leaving Sunday afternoon, but at least at present I'm not scheduled for anything Sunday other than having breakfast with Scott and Ivy McLoud and their family, which is always one of the high points of the trip. So other than catching up with friends and an editor or three, I may not be doing anything "official" on Sunday.
Friday and Saturday, though? Glad you asked!
• Fri 430-530, Wednesday Comics - "Wednesday Comics gives a fresh twist to a grand comics tradition by reinventing the classic newspaper comics section with today's top talent and characters. Learn all you need to know about DC's innovative weekly series from the title's mastermind, DCU editorial art director Mark Chiarello, and an all-star list of panelists." Room 5AB
• Sat 330-430, This is WildStorm - Get the inside scoop on what’s coming up at DC’s wildest imprint, from Wildstorm VP Hank Kanalz, Senior Editor Ben Abernathy, Fiona Staples (North 40, Trick ‘r Treat), Kurt Busiek (Astro City), Adam Beechen (Killapalooza), Christos Gage (Wildcats, Dante’s Inferno), Darrick Robertson (Prototype), David Tischman (Red Herring), Liam Sharp (Gears of War), Jason Craig (Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash), Brian Wood, Rebecca Isaacs, and more. Room 4
• Fri 11am-noon, Wednesday Comics signing, DC booth*
• Sat 12-1pm, Astro City signing, Wildstorm booth
This kind of information should always be available in the Find section as well, but whenever a convention's actually approaching, I'll do my best to put something up here, too.
Hope to see many of you there!
* I may be a little late for this one; I've got less than two hours from wheels-down at the airport to the start of the signing. Let's see if I can get checked in at the hotel and at the con by then!
Some of the mail that's come in since Busiek.com launched...
From Chris Wiedrich:
Will you be attending SDCC this month? If so, will you be doing any signings? I will only be attending on Friday but hope you might make an appearance that day.
Thanks for the time.
You can always see my upcoming con appearances and such by checking Find over on the left to see where I'll be. I will indeed be at the San Diego Con, Friday and Saturday at least. My schedule's listed there, but I'll put it up in a blog post as well.
From Paul Marrack:
I just wanted to point out that on your awards page you left out the Eisner for Best Single that Conan #0 won, or rather shared with an issue of The Goon, in 2004.
Really happy you finally have a website like this. Am looking forward to the announcements of your new projects.
Thanks, Paul. Fixed that award entry; much appreciated.
And there'll be at least one new project announcement (plus a welcome announcement about another project) at San Diego, at least, and more in time...
From Karen Beilharz
So glad to see you've got a website! Friends introduced me to Astro City a couple of years ago and I've been enjoying it muchly. Also, I thought 'Secret Identity' was one of the best things I read last year.
P.S. Would love to see how you write comic scripts!
Getting some script samples up in the Read section is very much on the things-to-do list. I was going to put up a page of my incomprehensible plot outlining, as well, but I'd just cleared out all the old stuff about a week before the blog launched, and the current outlines I have lying around are for as-yet unpublished work. So I'll have to do that, but after something's come out and before I've thrown the notes in the recycling bin...
From Crow Truett:
I don't normally write these things, and you probably don't read each of these silly fan letters. However, I felt compelled after reading your work on Marvels: Eye of the Camera (I just finished issue 5) to tell you directly (sort-of) that it is without a doubt the most beautiful and touching this I've read all year. Thank you for returning to Phil Sheldon. Your portrayal of Phil's decline is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. When I was younger and read Marvels for the first time I was captivated, and I wondered what could happen next; what would Phil Sheldon think of the "marvels" as the stories told during the eighties and nineties unfolded? Thank you for addressing that, and thank you for making it so human.
Very glad you've liked it, Crow!
And on that note, I'll mention that Marvels: Eye of the Camera #6 is still progressing—and as soon as it's all drawn, I'm sure Marvel will have the issue and the subsequent collections out post-haste. I'd have preferred it if they'd waited until all six issues could come out on time, but for one reason or another, they chose to get the first five out when they did and the sixth when it's done.
I do have to say, if there was going to be a delay between any two issues of Eye of the Camera, between #5 and #6 is the best spot for it. So I'm glad of that, at least.
"Kurt Busiek and Joe Quiñones serve up a beautiful retro Green Lantern, which looks so slick and stylish that I found myself wanting to put down the book to find out what else Quiñones has worked on. Even the logo for Green Lantern gets the retro touch, here, and it looks marvelous."
[More extensive blogging to come once I can sit up for longer periods; I threw my back out a couple of days ago and am still recovering.]
This Wednesday, DC's new weekly debuts. As they describe it:
"DC Comics gives a fresh twist to a grand comics tradition with Wednesday Comics, a new, weekly 12-issue series by some of the greatest names in comics today!
"Wednesday Comics is unique in modern comics history: Reinventing the classic weekly newspaper comics section, it is a 16-page weekly that unfolds to a sprawling 28" x 20" tabloid-sized reading experience bursting with mind-blowing color, action and excitement, with each feature on its own 14" x 20" page."
It's got Batman by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, Metamorpho by Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred, Kamandi by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook, and lots more, including a Green Lantern strip written by me with art by the astounding Joe Quiñones.
Don't miss an issue! Hey, where else can you get the Metal Men, as drawn by the great José Luis García-López—every week?
Earthling was another project that never took flight—or at least, hasn't yet.
It was a freewheeling high-adventure series in the mold of Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, but set in a region of outer space that was the farthest reaches of human exploration, in an area where various alien races came together, where the business and military interests of the Terran Empire were pushing up against the business and military interests of other cultures. Warships, merchant ships and more could get across the vast distances through warpgates, but faster-than-light communication didn't exist, so orders and communiques from the more settled parts of space took almost as long to arrive as the ships themselves.
And considering the nature of the day, what could be better than a link to the helpful, self-promoting cheeseheads of The Cheese & Burger Society?
I'm thinking The Waldorf looks good...
One of the odd things that occasionally happens when you're freelancing.
That, above, is a picture of Liana, the former Green Lantern of the planet M'Elu. She starred in my first professional comics script sale, where she was drawn by my friend and occasional collaborator, Richard Howell, in what was his first professional comics sale as well.
A while back, I got asked for some input on a project DC was doing . One of the ideas I occasionally bugged Bob Wayne about DC collecting as a TPB was being done—a collection of the very enjoyable Mike Barr/Len Wein/Joe Staton Tales of the Green Lantern Corps mini-series from 1981, backed up with enough stories culled from the subsequent "Tales of the Green Lantern Corps" backup series that ran in Green Lantern. The collections editor wanted to know if I had any thoughts on which GLC backups to use?
Well, sure. I put together a list of possible stories—and since this is me we're talking about, I gave him a list long enough to fill three TPBs, but hey, it woulda been good stuff—and among the stories I suggested, I included "The Price You Pay," Liana's, Richard's and my debut. I think it's a pretty good story, and I've got legitimate sentimental reasons for including it, I'd say.
So I was gratified when the book was solicited, and Richard and I were on the contributors' list. Great! Our debut story would be coming back into print!
Then the book came out, and I heard from some readers that the story wasn't in there. There had been two backup stories in the issue that story had appeared in, and it was the other one they'd collected, even though it had recently been reprinted in another Green Lantern collection.
I was curious as to why the story didn't make it—was the other one picked by mistake? [It was the one in the back of the book, so if someone simply grabbed the last story from that issue, they'd have gotten that other one.] Was there a problem? I wasn't upset, just curious. I was told that there was a problem with the film, one that wasn't going to be fixable by their deadline, so they went with the other one. No problem, so it goes.
A week later, though, I got a comp copy of the book, and so did Richard.
That was nice, but since we weren't in it, I contacted DC again to let them know that we weren't actually in the book, and maybe they should correct their records. But in the meantime, thanks for the book, I'm glad to have it. No problem, I heard back, they'd fix it.
Today, I got a royalty check. So did Richard. Not a bad check, either—it's less than I was paid for writing the story in the first place, but not by all that much. It'd cover a very nice dinner and a night out at the movies for the whole family.
I've let DC know about it, and I'm sure they'll fix it. But in the meantime, thanks, Liana—it takes some kind of ingenious hero to deliver free books and money without even appearing!
[And sorry, Todd Klein and Dave Gibbons—I'm sure your proper royalties will be on the way to you soon!]
Well, that'll do wonders to win over people who think she doesn't have enough experience.
[A cautionary note, for those who think that comics creators shouldn't have political opinions, or at least shouldn't express them: I'm also a Red Sox fan.]
Back in 1995, one of the major conventions—I want to say Chicago Con, but I'm not sure—had Peter David as a guest of honor, and asked various people to produce something about Peter for the con book. With the help of Neil Vokes, Richard Starkings and Comicraft, this is what I produced. Sadly, scanned from a somewhat-blurry fax.
That logo's long gone. They never did fix the Zip-a-Tone...
My one San Diego Con panel, Saturday afternoon, as described by the site http://supermanreturns.quebecblogue.com:
3:30-4:30 Wildstorm: This is WildStorm!
Get the viscera ladle on what’s upcoming from DC’s wildest imprint from WS-VP Hank Kanalz, Senior Editor Ben Abernathy, Fiona Staples (North 40, Trick ‘r Treat), Kurt Busiek (Astro City), Adam Beechen (Killapalooza), Christos Gage (Wildcats, Dante’s Inferno), Darrick Robertson (Prototype), David Tischman (Red Herring), Liam Sharp (Gears of War), Jason Craig (Freddy vs. Come determine unserviceable from the truly of the freshest artists in the biz! Room 4
I can understand why they translated it into French, but I'm not sure why they auto-translated it back into English rather than use the original. But by all means, come and determine unservicable!
My favorite bit of site-related correspondence so far:
And he signed up for the mailing list.
So, judging from the feedback so far, the new site is going over well.
We do have one hitch, and that's with the registration process at the forum. You'd think, me being a comics writer and all, we'd have comics fans signing up. But it's apparently astonishing how many devotees of Marvels, Astro City and Arrowsmith there are at domains like findyouradultfriend.com and pharmainstant.ca. All those eager comics fans with screen names like goodescort2 and hotlingerie4less.
And how could I leave out my new favorite in the "most unpromising e-mail address known to man" sweepstakes:
Eventually, we'll update our forum software to include one of those type-the-strange-word-you-see-here dealies, to separate the real actual genuine people who'd like to participate in our forum from those seeking to distribute their own brand of a delicious blend of pork shoulder and ham.
But for the present, if you're trying to register for the message board, please follow this inelegant-but-effective procedure, as described by our fine webmaster, John Roshell:
1. Click the "Register" link under the Bruiser's logo and fill out the registration form.
2. Send an e-mail to webmaster-at-comicworldnews-dot-com with the username you have chosen.
3. Check your e-mail for a registration message, and click the link in there to confirm your address.
We manually verify all registrations, so you will not be able to post or reply to topics until we have activated your account, which is usually within 24 hours.
Thanks, and please do register—we'd like to hear from you!
I don't think I'm speaking out of school by showing off this gorgeous Joe Quinones page from an upcoming issue of Wednesday Comics, the new weekly DC project that kicks off next Wednesday and runs for 12 weeks. I won't even tell you which chapter it is in the Green Lantern serial Joe and I are contributing to the project—and while not all of the dialogue has been suppressed, I'm going to guess that RUHH! and ARRARAHHH won't give away too much of the plot.
I will note, though, that you can see a larger version by clicking here.
Another blast from the past. Back when I was a high school senior or college freshman, there was an interview with Chris Claremont in The Comic Reader in which he noted that the "voice" he imagined when writing Cyclops was a young Henry Fonda. Those of you who remember Fonda's series of TV commercials for the GAF Viewmaster will understand what inspired this page. [Those of you who don't can check one out here, and take in the early analytical genius of Clarice Starling, as well.]
A few years later, I read in an issue of FOOM magazine (Friends Of Ol' Marvel!) that when Stan Lee co-created the team, he thought of Cyclops as a young Anthony Perkins. Which brings with it a whole different set of associations...
ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE Book Three #3
Written by me; art by Brent Anderson; cover by Alex Ross
The secrets of the Apollo Eleven! The inner workings of PYRAMID! An assault on the First Family! The return of the Silver Agent! A game of Jarts! Charles and Royal get dragged deeper and deeper into the darkness and turmoil of Astro City in the early '80s—only to come face-to-face with the cosmic threat of the Incarnate!
[There's even some stuff in there without exclamation points.]
He's the best there is at what he does.
And what he does, apparently, is savor a fine Cabernet.
This was put together during a slow afternoon while I was working in the Marvel bullpen, as assistant editor on Marvel Age Magazine. Logo rearrangement and paste-up by me, color possibly by Paul Becton. There was no point to it—it just amused me.
It seems de rigueur, when starting up this sort of thing, to do an intro post explaining what it is, who's perpetrating it and what to expect of it in the future. This has always struck me as a little odd, since it means you're doing your intro when you have, at least theoretically, the fewest number of visitors. And those who show up later don't need the intro so much—they can see for themselves what sort of stuff will be there, because there's a bunch of it already there.
[This is aside from the issue that many of these things start off announcing grandiose (or even modest) plans, peter out almost instantly and then wait, untenanted and unmourned, for any of those plans to materialize, which makes the intro post seem somewhat hollow.]
But what the hell, here I am.
I'm Kurt Busiek, a writer—largely of comic books—and you probably already know that, or what would you be doing coming here in the first place? More details can be found in the "About" section, along with at least one truly dorky picture of myself as a child (and pictures dorkier still of my adult form). I've long thought it would be a good idea to have my own web page, since much of my work is scattered around among various publishers, and while they're naturally interested in promoting whatever they make money from, they're not in the business to promote my other works. So having one central location where I can bring all the various threads and bits of my career together in one place seems to make sense, and I probably should have done it a lot sooner. But what with health issues and deadlines and such, there never seemed to be the time.
Now, in the wake of finishing the year-long Trinity, and while I'm in the start-up process on a few new things, there's enough time to put all this together, with the help of design wizard John Roshell, who does a gorgeous job of lettering and design on my Astro City series, and has done at least equally well on this site.
There are still some bits we're filling in, working on, revising and so on, but there probably always will be—there's a reason I call this an online "work in progress."
With luck, this'll be a good place for news, information, previews of upcoming projects, announcements of convention appearances, and things like that. I've already started putting some articles, interviews and stories in the "Read" section and there's a near-complete bibliography in the "About" section. We have a message board—have had it for a few years, actually, since it's been the board we set up to go with my other site, AstroCity.us—and we'll be reworking and redesigning it, to cover all my work, not just Astro City.
Beyond that, I'm figuring it out as I go along. I'm sure there'll be stuff I have to say that isn't about self-promotion or biography—things of interest from the file cabinets, links and recommendations about other stuff found around the web or on your local comics shop or bookshop shelves, passionate arguments on the evils of the designated hitter (no, wait, I tell a lie; I don't actually care one way or the other about the designated hitter, but as an American League fan I'm used to them), and whatever else might come up.
I hope people will want to come along for the ride, wherever it leads us.
[The illustration above was drawn while I was in college, I'm pretty sure. It started out as a sketch for a planned letterhead, but quickly went wrong in ways that I liked enough to save all this time.]