Through The Mail Slot
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.
And on to a BRIAN KINNEY:
Recently I was explaining to my niece that Kinney is a very common Irish last name and Brian is a very common name, so logic dictates there are other Brian Kinneys in the world. I did a Google search on my name. The saddest entry was a Brian Kinney who died at 911 in one of the planes. The coolest entry was a comic book character in your Astro City books. I've read and collected comic books since I was a kid, but sadly that tidbit passed me when it came out. I bought Vol. 2 collection and was tickled pink when I read it. May I ask how you come up with names for different characters? I do remember your work on Marvels, Avengers, and Thunderbolts. What are you currently working on?
I don't have a set formula for creating names; I just try to come up with names that feel appropriate to the character, in whatever connotations they have, as well as ethnicity and culture. "Brian Kinney" just felt right. [On a side note, you may also have run across the Brian Kinney from the QUEER AS FOLK TV series, who I've always suspected was named after the Astro City Brian.]
As for what I'm working on now—as I recover from some pretty extended health woes, I'm getting back into the rhythm of regular writing with more ASTRO CITY (including, in the script I'm writing now, more of Brian Kinney as The Confessor). I'm also working on the very long-gestating BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT with John Paul Leon, and prepping some new stuff that I hope I'll be able to announce soon, once things are going well enough to schedule them.
Have you read CODE OF HONOR, the 4-issue prestige series written by Chuck Dixon that was clearly a sequel to MARVELS?
If so (or if not so), what did you think of it? How does it compare to EYE OF THE CAMERA? Don't both cover the same territory? Are there any coincidences between both books?
Also, what would you think about this idea for a MARVELS Omnibus:
Your two MARVELS series, the original and the sequel, plus CODE OF HONOR, plus the 3 painted "TALES" one-shots from 1994 (one of them written by you), plus the 4 painted TALES OF THE MARVELS from 1995, including "Bizarro Marvels," aka RUINS.
Basically, MARVELS accompanied by all the books that were released in its wake as sequels to some degree or another, in a 1000 page book.
Would you approve of it or would you prefer an Omnibus of just MARVELS and MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA?
Incidentally, I'd like to know your opinion about all those sequels, especially RUINS, but also the other TALES OF THE MARVELS.
Thank you very much in advance.
I never did read CODE OF HONOR, Tony—at the time it came out, I didn't want to be influenced by it when I got around to telling the story I'd initially intended as MARVELS: CRIME & PUNISHMENT, which eventually became, much-altered, ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE. And now that I've written THE DARK AGE, I simply haven't gotten around to reading CODE; I don't have copies. As such, I can't really tell you what, if anything, is similar between CODE and EYE OF THE CAMERA.
As a MARVELS Omnibus, what you describe might be a pretty cool book, but I'll admit, my own selfish tastes would run to collecting the two MARVELS series by themselves, just because that way it's all by me! But it could certainly go either way.
As for the other Marvels-related stuff, I've read some of it and didn't read others, but I'd rather not rattle off opinions on my colleagues' work on request—if I didn't like something, I don't see any reason to make a public thing out of it, and possibly offend friends of mine. And if I only do reviews-on-request for stuff I did like, it's pretty easy to tell which stuff I didn't. So I'll talk about stuff I liked and occasionally stuff I didn't, but generally when I'm moved to comment on something, not because someone else asks.
I will note that those three TALES specials you mention (TALES OF SUSPENSE, TALES TO ASTONISH and STRANGE TALES) weren't really MARVELS-related. They were started before MARVELS was, but just took longer to do, because Alex is a faster painter than any of those guys were. So when they were ready to come out and MARVELS had been proven to be a hit, Marvel figured they're all painted books, so let's make them seem connected by slapping acetate covers on them. But they were completely separate projects to start with.
It would be nice to get those three collected into a TPB, though, just to have them available again.
I have a great idea for a DC comics Superman-based graphic novel, where Superman is not the main character but his actions influence the actions of the main characters and their surrounding environments. Please if Mr. Busiek or anyone from his writing staff could respond i would be much obliged.
Sorry, Daniel, but I don't have a writing staff, and I don't buy ideas from other people. And I'm not working on Superman these days, so even if I did, I wouldn't have anywhere to use it.
I'd suggest taking it to DC, but they don't look at ideas from unestablished writers, so I'm not sure what to suggest.
Thanks so much for your reply and clarifying that Kang by sheer force of will chose to not become Immortus. I personally love the idea that the Avengers’ biggest villains came from within, such as Ultron. Hence my preference for Kang being a future-version of Tony Stark…
…and my dislike that Kangortus had his origin so strongly tied to the Richards’.
I was also keen on the unsolved mystery leftover from Roger’s Avengers run of Nebula’s identity, and can’t believe no one thought of revealing her as the granddaughter of the Elder of the Universe, Grandmaster, what with their blue-skin and her similar mastery of strategy and tactics.
Or that Phil Sheldon was a sleeper Living Recorder. ;)
Heh. I always thought it was weird that the Collector, who was an Elder of the Universe, had a daughter, Carina, when Elders became Elders by being the last surviving member of their race, or something like that. If they can then just have more kids, it seems to defeat the purpose. But if they can, Nebula could certainly be descended from the Grandmaster. As it is, I think Erik Larsen revealed that she was the daughter (or something) of Zorr, the alien villain Nova first fought.
Hey Kurt, what's your favorite comic book character of all time?
Hmm. Maybe Hawkeye. He's my favorite superhero, at least. But there are so many others—Miz Mam'zelle Hepzibah, from POGO, would be pretty high on the list too, for instance.
I apologize to bother you with my e-mail, but I just finished reading one of your comic books (SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY) and I would like to say my big thanks to you for writing it. I tweeted you this morning, saying I was reading the second issue and that I loved it. After finishing all four issues of the book I have to say—it’s one of the best comic books I’ve ever read!
Clark/Superman is my favorite character in comics. And I love the way you wrote Clark in this book. (Okay, I know it wasn't the Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, but this Clark was so much as him though actually being human—I loved that!) It was amazing to see his inner thoughts, feelings and his POV of his life, his moments of fears and sadness as well as hope, happiness and love and all the process he’s been through since he discovered his powers and the way he’s been dealing with it. I’m a big fan of Clois and I enjoyed Clark and Lois and their family a lot in this book—they all were excellently written. The scene when Lois told Clark she was pregnant (and the way she did it) and the next one on the boat were my favorite scenes. Anyway, they both were absolutely amazing, loving and supporting each other through all the book. And of course I loved the part with Jane and Carol joining Clark, helping him with the rescue of the train and then going with him home to tell Lois and Clark everything about their powers. The way Clark and Lois raised their daughters, the understanding they had for them, the effort to do things with them right—it was all so wonderfully done!
I usually don’t like books with Clark/Superman becoming old and potentially dying. It’s mostly too sad and depressing reading for me. But not this time! Even this part of the book with Clark being close to the end of his life was outstandingly well-written. He was aware he was aging and losing his powers. But it didn’t sound sad or depressing in this book. He (and Lois) still were there for each other, with their lovely family, accepting all those changes in their life, but still looking ahead and making plans for the future—that was perfect!
I’m really glad I found and purchased this book. I enjoyed a lot reading it. Thank you very much for this marvelous Clark/Lois story.
PS - I apologize for my English. It is not my first language.
I'm very glad you liked it, Liběna. And your English is just fine.
Just a question regarding the IRON MAN: DEADLY SOLUTIONS HC: How much is Black Widow in it? I'm a Black Widow fan and seeing as she's on the cover, I just don't want to get my hopes too high. I'm getting this title, as well as AVENGERS ASSEMBLE sometime after the holidays.
Well, Dodjie, since you asked me this last December, the answer's doubtless too late to do you any good. You'll have already discovered she only appeared in two of the issues collected—but I hope you liked the rest anyway!
Hello, I'm a big fan of yours. I love your work, and last week I re-read a very good story, from Gorilla.
I always thought SHOCKROCKETS was some of your best work—I wonder if you still have interest in publishing anything else in this universe. It's so interesting.
I'm sorry for the mistakes, I didn't learn any English and I'm using Google Translate. So if you see any error, the culprits are the developers of google ... hehehehehehehe
I'd like to do more SHOCKROCKETS someday, yes, but I don't know when. And yes, Google Translate can produce very....interesting results. I cleaned up yours somewhat; I hope I kept the sense of it.
What happened to the ASTRO CITY: SHINING STARS TPB? I just heard it's been pulled from the schedule.
As fate would have it, it's recently been pulled from the schedule again, so this is a more timely answer, for a change. What they want to do is have the books come out when we're back on the schedule with new material, so the new series supports the books and vice versa, and we get a nice cross-promotional bang. Since it looks like the new series will be ready to schedule fairly soon, everything's being held until then.
Hope to have more specific news for you before too long!
This year I was at my friend's shop in Enfield, CT called Matt's Sportscards and Comics. It's a great shop, and I have known Matt for 18 years. I was going through the shelves and found the Astro City section. I was intrigued. Matt said it was a great series. So I bought LIFE IN THE BIG CITY. I was amazed if not baffled. So I went back and bought the entire run. I am reading them slowly but I have to say ASTRO CITY is the best run of comics of all time. The focus on the average guy on the street and superheroes from their perspective is brilliant. It surpasses WATCHMEN as groundbreaking. The series is a masterpiece. I feel like I am visiting Astro City when I read it. I hope an omnibus is in the works. Thank you for letting me visit Astro City, Mr. Busiek.
My pleasure, Jason. Thanks for the very high praise.
Your series MARVELS got me back into reading comics. The Silver Age material was gripping.
I was wondering if you have any information about new issues of ASTRO CITY. It is a great series. I miss it.
Thanks for many hours of entertaining reading.
Glad you've enjoyed it, Robert. As noted above, I'm hopeful we'll have news on new ASTRO CITY material soon.
Kurt, I missed getting the JLA/AVENGERS crossover a bunch of years back (kept waiting for it as it was delayed often) and then I saw the collection once at a B&N a few years ago. I didn't have the money then but never saw it again. It's on Amazon used for a hundred bucks but can I get it anywhere now cheaper? It didn't seem available very long. Please help. Thanks!! (lifelong Marvel/Busiek/Perez and Avengers fan)
I don't know how much help I can be, Darryl. There was a big fancy $75 hardcover version and then a couple of years later a $20 paperback, which is available used at Amazon for reasonable prices, I think. Hopefully DC and Marvel's contract will let them reprint it again sometime...
I've never actually written to a comics creator (at least not that I can think of. Maybe when I was REALLY young, but I doubt it.), but I found myself reading an article about the Thunderbolts just a few minutes ago and it made me think of the 90s and your absolute dominance at Marvel Comics. I can't help but be amazed now that I sit and think about how even as a kid who didn't fully "get" comics (as in the depth of a story, meaning, etc. I just knew I liked the characters and wanted to read them as much as I could), I always knew your stories were special. I remember to this day when you relaunched Avengers in 1998 thinking "I don't know who this George Perez is but I keep hearing he's an important artist, and I know this Kurt Busiek guy wrote those Astro City comics my brother reads. I'll give it a shot." And man-oh-man, those Avengers stories are still clear as day. Seriously amazing stuff (I'm sure this isn't news to you).
I also have to point out that I still refer to SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY as my favorite Superman story ever (I think it was the first comic that made me tear up as I read it.). Truly unique and great stuff.
I guess what I'm getting at is that not many writers from my entire "career" of reading comics have stuck with me like you do. I know this just sounds like I'm gushing, but this was more just me remembering how much joy your stories brought me as a kid and that while I haven't reread them in a long while, I kinda don't need to as they are just so memorable to me.
I don't know if you have any plans to ever do any more work at the Big 2, and don't get me wrong, I've loved all the independent stuff you've put out (admittedly, I haven't kept up with ASTRO CITY as much as I want to. But the trades of all the new stuff are on my list of books to get!) but I will say if your name is ever attached to anything from DC or Marvel, I'm there!
Sorry there wasn't much of a point to this. I just got excited thinking about this stuff. Nostalgia does that, I guess!
Keep up the great work!
Thanks, I'll do my best. And ASTRO CITY is published by DC—but I know what you mean.
Hello. Just wanted to say I enjoyed MARVELS back in the early 90's and wanted to sign up for the newsletter to see if or when you'll be doing any signings. Thanks.
One of these days, I've really got to get organized enough to actually get that newsletter going. John Roshell, who built this site, put that in—I've now been collecting e-mail addresses for years, but no newsletter yet! I yam a bum.
My next public appearances (and yeah, I've got to update that section of the website, too) will be next February and March at Wizard World Portland and the Emerald City Comic-Con in Seattle, if those are close enough for you to get to.
So Kirby Freeman winds up as the successor to Tiger 20, huh? I see what you did there.
Heh. Yes we did, didn't we?
I'm a huge fan of your work on ASTRO CITY. I've read every Astro City comic you've put out so far and thoroughly enjoyed them (My favorite being "The Nearness of You," honestly some of the best writing I've ever had the privilege of reading.) Perhaps I'm just bad at searching for information, but I can't seem to find anything about any upcoming Astro City stories, or whether there will be any, and was hoping you could clue me in to anything that might be upcoming.
I've been sick forever, alas, and that ground us to a halt for a while. But that seems to be ending, so as I say above, I hope to have more info soon!
Hi, Mr. Busiek. I'm expectant for your new work, BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT. When will the graphic novel be published?
Not for a while, Andrea. For one thing, it's a 4-issue, 48-page-per-issue series, like SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY was. And for another, it's been slowed down by me being so ill, just as ASTRO CITY has been, and on top of that, the artist John Paul Leon, while he's doing beautiful work, is almost as slow as I am! We're still working on #2, what with one thing and another, so it'll be some time before we're ready to schedule it.
But when it comes, I can promise you this: It's gorrrrrrrrgeous.
I deeply respect your work and it would appear that you've been known to dish out facts and critical thinking in several online discussions you've had, as opposed to simply making baseless statements that lack careful research. You seem to be one of the few comic book creators who has a considerable knowledge base about subjects you weren’t around or old enough to witness.
That said, what is your opinion on the controversy surrounding Stan Lee, mainly with him possibly hogging credit for books he did not write or characters he did not create, while demeaning the people he worked with?
I know you may have probably been asked about this subject before; I made sure to check Google to see if you commented on it, but I haven't been able to find anything you may have said.
I'll admit I grew up loving Stan and enjoyed hearing his voice on cartoons and CD-ROMs, but I then noticed that a lot of people didn't think fondly of him. I found out that he had a strained relationship with many of the artists he worked with: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Stan Goldberg, Steve Ditko, and Wally Wood come to mind. I’ve seen forum posters comment not favoring Stan regarding the legal controversy on Kirby v. Marvel, the history of Marvel’s comics, and his relationships with his artists with far more information (legally and historically) and knowledge than I could currently hope to gain.
Examples being the possible evidence that the artists he worked with would only be given a vague plot description, with several blank spots that required more input from the artists (who had to construct a 22 page story). Additionally, there's evidence from TwoMorrows and other comic magazines that the artists/plotters also provided margin notes in penciled pages to tell Stan what was going on in the panels; which, to me, indicated that he only had a vague idea of what would actually be happening in the books.
I've noticed that over the years, Stan seems to consider his artists to merely pencil what he told them to pencil, despite the early comics saying things like "produced by Stan Lee and ______________" and the fact that he often mentioned in the past that he would barely have to give Kirby, Ditko, and Buscema detailed plots.
One of the more jarring examples was when I learned that Jack Kirby wrote a script for a Silver Surfer graphic novel, according to Mark Evanier, that Stan Lee took credit for writing. Additionally he mentioned in an early Marvel comic from the 60’s that Dr. Strange was ‘Steve’s Idea.’
I was just wondering what your take was on the situation, or if you were able to point me to an essay you’ve written on the subject that I wasn’t able to find.
Ultimately, I realize that you may not be interested in discussing your opinion or take on another comic book professional, and I understand if you do not wish to reply to this question. However, considering a track record of being the namesake for “Busiek wins” as well as doing considerable research on subjects that even make some of your opposing sides respect you, I couldn’t resist asking.
(this isn't really much of an inquiry as it is a multi-layered question, I'm sorry if I overstepped any boundaries)
I don't really have the time to do an exhaustive overview of all this, Eric, but to correct you on a couple of things: I don't think Kirby ever wrote a Silver Surfer script that Stan took credit for. Kirby did create the Surfer out of whole cloth without Stan having any input before he turned up on the penciled pages, and Kirby certainly plotted stories featuring the Surfer than Stan scripted and left the details of who plotted the book vague, but I've never heard that Kirby wrote an actual script Stan took credit for. And that bit where Stan said Dr. Strange was Steve Ditko's idea was in a letter in a fanzine, I think.
But aside from that, I think that the Marvel artists often did more of the plotting and creation than they were fairly compensated or credited for, most notably Kirby and Ditko, but including the others. Don Heck once said that Stan would typically tell him how an Iron Man story would open, and how the villain would be beaten at the end, and then Don would make up all the rest of the story.
At DC, if Mort Weisinger or Julie Schwartz gave someone that much information to work from, the person who fleshed out the story would be considered the writer, and paid for it, with Julie or Mort as their editor. At Marvel, Stan was editor and head writer, and the impression readers got was that he was the writer. So which is right? Is that much input writing or merely editing? Somewhere in between, I'd say.
I think the artists who worked that way at Marvel deserved to be paid for their work, and credited for their work. And I think all of them—Stan included—should get a share of the millions upon millions Marvel gets from the movies and other deals. Stan gets paid for his role as "publisher emeritus," or whatever they call it, but he doesn't get a creator's share on the characters any more than the artists do, and I think that should be changed. I think they all deserved a share.
But in the end, I think it's missing the whole of the picture to focus on Stan versus the artists, as if Stan was the big boss. I think Marvel taking all the rights and not sharing in the characters' success can be laid at the door of Martin Goodman and his successors. I think Stan, Jack, Steve, Don, Dick, Gene and others created wonderful comics, and while the credit and pay was not fairly apportioned, over at DC there wasn't much in the way of credit at all, and working conditions were sometimes even worse. I think it's a worthwhile goal for comics historians to come as close as they can to figuring out the truth, not so people can be assigned roles as hero or villain, but because it's worth knowing what really happened, how that magic came to be.
So yes, I think the impression Marvel gave as to who was doing the work was often skewed, and in Stan's favor, but I think the better way to fix it would be to address the real problem, which is that none of the talent from back then gets a cut of the vast sums of money that their work generated. I think they all should (as should their families). And whether you consider Stan a great writer or a great editor, promoter and dialogue man, he played a big role in making Marvel what it was, creatively, and for all that he's done well from his staff role, he deserves a creative share along with all the others.
In the end, what they did may not be accurately apportioned in the credit boxes. But what they did, they did together.
Hope that suits!
I have been a HUGE fan of Mr. Busiek's work since I was a kid and was wondering how I might be able to go about having him sign a few of my favorite books he has written. I am not sure if he is attending any Cons soon or if there is a mailing address I could send them to or what.
Any and all help would be greatly appreciated!
And hey, this last one just came in this morning!
As I mentioned above, the next cons I'll be attending are Wizard World Portland (in February) and Emerald City (in March) next year. I don't like to sign books by mail, because (a) I'm disorganized and (b) the house is often a wreck, with lively kids and tired parents, and things get lost. If they're my things, well, too bad for me. But if they're your things, I'd feel much worse.
So I hope you can make it to one of the shows!
And with that, I'm caught up on blog mail. Hopefully I'll do another one of these before another year has passed...!
See you then!
Comment on this in our forum