Astro City 34 Online Lettercol

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Moving right along…

Let’s see if I can get another online column done tonight, so I won’t be horrifically behind any more, just embarrassingly behind.

We’re on to…hoopty-doo, the online column for #34, which will mostly be covering mail that came in while #32 was on the stands. First, here’s the printed lettercol text…

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We had a little production mishap last issue, and the lettering got messed up on page 3. We were able to fix it for the digital edition (and will fix it for the book collection), but the printed issues had already gone out. So for you fine single-issue print readers (the salt of the earth and the backbone of the industry!), here’s the page you should have gotten…

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Our apologies for the error.

We’ll reveal the Letter of the Month in the online column!

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So. Not much text there, since we needed the room for the replacement page. We didn’t even have a Letter of the Month! I said I’d do it in the online column, so I guess I gotta do it now!

Can we have a drumroll for the potential LOTMers, please?

To start off, here’s DENNIS:

Second verse same as the first? Kinda got that feeling from in this next helping of Steeljack. I liked the first multi-parter with Steeljack and his more than passing resemblance to Mitchum, but even that one I felt was an issue too long.

This second appearance feels like too much of the ground we already covered. Bunch of low rent villains, Steeljack still mostly down on his luck, caught up in a mystery he isn’t smart enough to solve, a mystery he’ll hammer his way through anyway on guts and bullheadedness…if anything his return should have been as support in someone else’s story, because Steeljack is already so well established, I can already see the double and triple crosses and Steeljack on his back wondering how he got himself into this mess yet again.

In general, ASTRO CITY has started feeling like a writer’s idea book, which may or may not be a bad thing. You write down an idea, get inspired and then you’ve got an issue on botanical sorcerors, and then in the next book it’s time traveling alien colonists, which I imagine keeps things fun for you, the writer. I personally found a lot of your Marvel and DC stuff to be a bit more focused. Lord knows I’d love to get back to the whole Broken Man mystery at some point, but if this Steeljack story is anything like the last it’ll be a half a year before we even get close to another issue that might advance that particular storyline.

Sorry if this is a bit of a downer, but in addition to wanting some progression on the Broken Man, I also miss the human interest stories that really made me love this book, the stuff that stood out as not just super hero stories. I recall we discussed in some format, maybe your formspring account, about doing a riff on a husband keeping his superhero secret from his wife (as did many of the DC heroes in the sixties). I was pretty jazzed for your take on that because it’s so human and so real, and so devastating to keep a lie like that from someone you love but also has that fantastic element that adds even more to it. I’m still looking forward to that one…

I hope you prove me wrong and this Steeljack saga stays fresh and exciting and doesn’t wear out its welcome. I will say there was one amazing bright spot that I thoroughly enjoyed if what I believe is true– I used to work at 675 Hudson in New York City and that building looks exactly like Steeljack’s Hotel Morisi office. I might even still have the keys to that place. Any way, kind of cool if that was the art reference for Brent…

I don’t remember talking about a story about a husband keeping a super-identity secret from his wife, but I don’t remember that I didn’t talk about it either. I can say that if I did, no story that itches to be written has sprung into my head. But you never know, you never know.

We have a gazillion stories we want to tell, and even some of the story springboards in my original pitch are still waiting for a turn (N-Forcer, sigh…). Having the book coming out monthly helps on that score, but it’s still a whole universe and only one book, so things take time.

We will be exploring the Broken Man more as of #37, if that helps.

I think we’ve still been telling human interest stories, but I agree that we’ve slipped away from stories about the non-super inhabitants of Astro City. Part of that was that we were specifically using the guest-artist issues to tell stories about Honor Guard members, so they could all be collected in an HONOR GUARD trade. And part has been that we’ve had a lot of hero stories we’ve wanted to get to.

We did have the Zirr story, which was about an ordinary Zirran, albeit not a human. And Ike Johnson’s story in #35-36, though he’s pretty close to superhero activity, even if he doesn’t much take direct part (and when he did it didn’t go well). And we have two-parter coming up about Marta from Shadow Hill, as well.

But I’d like to do more, and will have to figure out how to juggle them along with the deadlines. In any case, hope you like what’s coming more than you liked seeing Steeljack again!

Hmm, botanical sorcerers…

Here’s ANTONIO:

I wanted to say thank you for this series. Whenever I go to my grandmother’s I bring my entire ASTRO CITY collection and we play a game called The Cover Game. This is where I put the issues in order of which cover she likes the most to the least. This helps us bond while also killing two hours. The cover she likes the most are the ones featuring Steeljack on them, though my personal favorite is the Mock Turtle one. Anyway, will we ever see Simon Magus as that Swamp Thing thing again?

Hey, speaking of botanical sorcerers!

[I swear I didn’t set that up; this was just the next letter in the queue!]

The Green Man is still out there, at least, so we may indeed see him again. Or we may see Simon Magus before that particular transformation. I can’t say when, but I’d bet he’ll be around.

And I hope your grandmother enjoys the three new Steeljack covers!

On to DEREK:

I am a new fan of ASTRO CITY. I just sort of stumbled upon it. I am really a big indy comic kind of person. Mainly SAVAGE DRAGON and ELEPHANTMEN.

But ASTRO CITY is very refreshing. I love something that’s a little different. And I like something a little more serious as well. I hope to maybe see a Savage Dragon analog style hero. Or maybe even a Spawn style character. Well maybe there already are some! I just read LIFE IN THE BIG CITY and issues 30 and 31. Im glad to see a monthly series because I really love this book. I only pull 4 books a month. But now there will be 5!

And just a suggestion. But I personally would love to see a serialized backstory, but within ASTRO CITY! Keep it up though, man! You got a permanent fan in me!

Glad you’re liking it, Derek. And you’ve got good taste—SAVAGE DRAGON and ELEPHANTMEN are excellent books!

I’m not sure what you mean by a “serialized backstory.” If you mean some history, you’ll enjoy what’s coming up in #37 and onward. If you mean a backup story, I think juggling the deadlines on multiple scripts per issue per month would kill me daid, and I always want the full 24 pages for the main story. But I won’t rule it out…it’d certainly be a way to have Brent involved in more issues, which would be good. But aiee, the scheduling…

And now, BILL:

While I often thought his story concluded in THE TARNISHED ANGEL, I’m delighted that you checked in on an all-time Astro City favorite, Steeljack. Had you simply found a way to return to the lives of the other Kiefer Square residents, I would have been pleased. But seeing Steeljack again has me downright euphoric.

Despite his mistakes, Steeljack often feels like one of Astro City’s moral compasses—far from the Samaritan or the Silver Agent, but the type of guy who wants to do right after a long career of bad choices. He’s self-interested, but staying out of prison trumps his baser urges. He’s not the brightest bulb in the lamp but he knows it and shines where he can. His flaws make him compelling.

The evolution of Steeljack feels organic—Steeljack’s a long way from just maintaining the cemetery, but the same conflicted soul with an supervillain past. It’s a great twist that having a P.I. license doesn’t mean anyone will hire for anything but muscle work. He still thinks like a criminal at times—watching his fight to avoid temptations, as with the vintage weapons he found in the Gaines River, was quietly intense.

In another comic universe, Steeljack might be a candidate to join a certain superteam that Mr. Busiek created in the 1990s. In ASTRO CITY, he knows isn’t a hero—he is just fighting for a better life, trying to stay on the side of angels.

Steeljack became my favorite ASTRO CITY denizen for another reason. Many years ago I left my hardcover copy of the Tarnished Angel at my parents’ house. Next time I stopped over, my Dad couldn’t wait to talk to me about “the steel-jacketed man.” My Dad has never been a superhero comic book fan. He was attracted by the man who resembled Robert Mitchum on the cover, and couldn’t stop reading his tale. To this day he still brings him up.

Needless to say, now that you have swung back to Steeljack, I’ll make sure he gets these issues in his hands. We’ll have plenty to talk about once we see where Steeljack goes next.

You’ve described a lot of what I like about writing Steeljack too, Bill. He’s an ordinary guy wrapped in an extraordinary shell, but the “ordinary guy” shines through. He doesn’t have a mission, or a calling, he’s just getting by the best he can. So in some ways, he brings together all of ASTRO CITY in one character—the human perspective and the super-stuff. But then, as Dennis noted, he’s not an ordinary guy, which means we’re missing out on what could be another perspective.

It’s all a matter of balance. But I do like writing Steeljack.

Hope your dad likes the new chapter, too!

Hey, it’s ALAN:

I’m writing this partly in response to ASTRO CITY #31, but also partly in response to your statement that said there weren’t very many letters in response to issue #29. All I can say is, maybe I would’ve written a letter at that time, but it was a busy time period for me: preparing for Christmas, marking final exams, grading essays, and changing over my fall wardrobe to a winter one. So, maybe a lot of people experienced the same lack of time. Oh, and just to let you know, the ASTRO CITY series is still being discussed among hardcore fans. Even in just the last couple of weeks I’ve heard it mentioned on two podcasts. On one it was mentioned during a Previews episode as a possible choice for readers and on the other the series was voted as Best Continuing Series.

Anyway, issue 31! I thought it was interesting, but I was a little bit lost. Had this Living Nightmare character really appeared before? If so, an editor’s note may have cleared things up. Or maybe I just missed something. Or perhaps you just wanted us to know that the character had appeared before in the Astro City-verse but you were only telling the story just now. Just to let you know, the confusion I experienced does not mean that I didn’t enjoy the issue.

I loved the narrative aspects of the mysterious character and how the other well-known Astro City regular characters reacted to him. It was nice too see my favorites such as the First Family and Honor Guard try to repel the threat. The art was at it’s usual great level even though it wasn’t series regular Brent Anderson. Jesús Merino proved to be more than an adequate replacement. The colors were vivid, too! Perfect for an action-filled story. Good job, Alex Sinclair!

What I also liked about the story itself was that there was an effect on the typical Astro City resident (they didn’t sleep well), so it wasn’t just a hero vs. villain thing. Overall, this was just your typical well-done Astro City issue! I hope it continues and I’m sure it will since another one of my favorites is showing up next issue! I’m looking forward to seeing Robert M—err…Steeljack!

We did get an upsurge in letters after I mentioned that, and while it’s quieted down again, I’m hoping that’s merely because I’ve been so sluggardly about getting these columns done. Hopefully, if I catch up and stay current, that’ll give people more reason to write in.

Anyway…yes, the Living Nightmare has been seen in the series before, going all the way back to our very first issue. He’s also been seen in cameos here and there (we saw him as a toy in THE TARNISHED ANGEL, for instance), and was most recently seen before this in #26.

But we do tell stories about characters who’ve been around in the world of ASTRO CITY for years, and just haven’t been seen before. So we try to do each issue in a way that’ll clue readers in, whether it’s a character they’ve seen before or it’s someone appearing for the first time. Hopefully, we can make the characters and whatever you need to know about them come alive without editor’s notes.

We’ll try, anyway.

And to wrap up, short and sweet, here’s STEFAN:

Don’t know what will happen next or how it will end, but this was a quintessential ASTRO CITY issue for me. Loved the intro, loved the worn out Steeljack character, loved the history and the intrigue. Thanks.

What can we say? Thank you.

And now we gotta pick the Letter of the Month. I think I’m gonna go with Dennis, for a thoughtful, critical letter that, while maybe others were happier to see Steeljack again than he was, brought up good and worthwhile points. Dennis, if and when you see this, e-mail in your mailing address and we’ll send you a signed copy of #34. Or, if you’d rather, I can pick an issue that doesn’t have Steeljack in it! Just let us know.

Okay, the next lettercolumn won’t come along quite as fast as this one did, but hopefully it’ll be soon…see you then!

One thought on “Astro City 34 Online Lettercol

  1. I just wanted to leave a thankyou note, for issue #44. I am AMAZED at how well the ‘super pets’ were handled in this story, no thought balloons, simply looks, and actions. And yet, both Kitty Hawk and Rocket Dog came across as characters, (and a cute little riff on Supes/Bats). That was nice, plus some more depth to the supergrrlz, Sunshrike & Nightingale. (and another nod to Hawk/Dove, or Eternal Champion, however you want to spin it.) What I have always admired about Astro City, is the telling of stories, where the fights were the LEAST important part of the story. Anyway, as you can tell, i’m not very good at this. I’ve only ever written thank you letters, and, indeed, this is what this one is. Thanks. I know you have had to deal with a lot in your ‘real’ life. I want to thank you for years, decades of fine stories in a consistently grand universe of graphic tales.

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