Astro City 34 Online Lettercol

AC_postmark_chesler_2016

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…

* * * *

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…

22520806d41115c1199eaec577cba438._SX640_QL80_TTD_

Our apologies for the error.

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

* * * *

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?
Continue reading

Astro City 33 Online Lettercol

AC_postmark_chesler_2016

Yeah, okay, we’re pathetically late on the online lettercols. And when I say “we,” I mean, of course, Molly. No, wait, she doesn’t do the online lettercols. JG? No, he designed the blog here, and did out cool postmark, but he doesn’t fill the columns. Brent, then. Gotta be Brent!

Couldn’t be me! I’ve been wiped out and exhausted and allergy-y all Spring! It can’t be my fault!

Yeah, my fault. So let’s see what I can do about starting to catch up. First off, here’s the print lettercol from ASTRO CITY 33…

* * *

What, again? Another lettercolumn? It’s like I have to do one of these every month!

Okay, I’m tired and cranky and my dog has taken to murdering padded envelopes. Not that you need to know that, but it seemed worth sharing. I think he likes popping bubble-wrap (or bubble-wrap-lined packaging) as much as the next being.

So where was I? Right, the Letter of the Month! Letter volume was up, I’m happy to say, and this month we’ve got another LOTM repeater. Say hello (again) to:

MARK ZUTKOFF

Dear Astroids,

Hey, I figured I’d try a weird salutation for a change. You may also think of it as “astro-ids.”

Re issue 31: How? How does this book just keep getting better?

First, Brent’s art was truly stunning. Oh, wait—it was Jesús Merino! Wow. I think that’s the strongest work I’ve seen from him, and it fit right into ASTRO CITY’s normal look of art.

Second, the story just kept me turning page after page to see where you were going to take this unusual style of narration. For some reason, the script reminded me of Steve Gerber’s work—not just for the “Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch” feeling, but the personal touch that the narrative provided, coming close to what I think was Gerber’s masterpiece, GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING #4 way back when.

If I had any criticism, it would be for the name “Living Nightmare”, which seemed a bit too Marvel-like (“Living Laser,” “Living Vampire,” “Living Tribunal,” and of course, the Dr. Strange villain Nightmare), but I’m not sure what else you could have called him that got the message across: Fever Dream? Probably not.

The bit where Honor Guard is touting their new costumes to each other was hilarious; best sequence like that since the Wasp used to introduce a new costume every other issue of Avengers. (Can you tell I’m a child of ’60s and ’70s comics?)

Anyway, thanks for another gorgeous issue. Keep ’em coming!

P.S. Immediately after reading this issue, I went through my mail and found the signed copy of ASTRO CITY 30. Perfect timing, and thanks so much!

You’re uber-welcome, sir!

Got to give props to artists again this month—not only to Jesús Merino, who did a wonderful job and who we’re happy to have visit these pages any time (and please, check out his FLASH arc either out now or coming soon), but Alex Ross as well, without whom issue #31 would have been very different. Not only was it he who said that some of the Honor Guard members were starting to look a little dusty, so maybe some new costumes would be in order (and there’s at least one more coming), but if I’m remembering correctly, he’s the guy who suggested the Living Nightmare should return to Honor Guard, and when I said I was thinking of telling the story through the POV of whoever would be “piloting” the Nightmare this time, he said he thought it should be the Nightmare alone, developing an individual mind after all this time.

He ain’t just covers, folks.

As for the Nightmare’s name, I don’t mind names that resonate with all kinds of comics history—and it has been his name since our first issue in 1995.

Anyway. You know this already, but to let everyone else know: Them what writes the Letter of the Month are rightwise entitled to a signed copy of the comic. E-mail us your mailing address (again) and off it’ll go to you.

And now…what else we got?
Continue reading

Astro City Mail – February?

AC_postmark_chesler_2016

Okay, I’m way behind on letter columns, so let’s catch up a little. This is the one that should have run in February, but I had a very bad Spring, fatigue-wise. I’ll catch up as swiftly as I’m able.

Anyway, this’ll be another fairly short one. To start off with, the print lettercol from ASTRO CITY #32…

* * *

Fair warning. I have done something horrible to my back, and the doctor has put me on Valium and Percocet, so I make no guarantees about where this lettercolumn will lead us. It’s possible I’ll just fall asleep in the middle of it, because that’s the kind of debauched, exotic life this Vertigo writer leads. Sorry, team, if I’m letting the side down.

Anyway. We have a letter for you. It’s a nice letter and everything. Let’s call it the Letter of the Month, and pretend it’s from:

LEE K. SEITZ

I’ve been thinking about the Zirr since reading ASTRO CITY #30. I once told someone that, in the real world, people don’t actually consider themselves evil, even if we would apply that label. It’s only in comic books that people (or, in this case, aliens) do evil for evil’s sake. But it’s no surprise that in ASTRO CITY, being as nuanced as it is, that still doesn’t apply. Instead, the evil alien empire is actually a victim of a few bad individuals in control. And it’s a refreshing change from the stereotype.

But you know what I’m most interested to see now? I want to see how the Zirr priestlords work. Are they in control of themselves or also victims of brainwashing? In particular, who provides the lies, um, official version of the truth for the factcasts? Surely the Zirr Emperor is too busy to worry about the details.

Obviously Kurt can go back and revisit Zozat when he grows up to answer some of these questions. I suspect he left that thread dangling for just such a reason. But much like my seven-year-old daughter, I’m impatient and don’t want to wait that long. However, I’m also easily distracted and will no doubt devour the next issue’s story, forgetting, at least until the next reread of #30, about the Zirr. There’s so many stories to be told in ASTRO CITY and not enough Kurts, so I’ll take what I can get. Thank you for keeping them coming.

[Okay, before I answer, how good were you all at pretending this letter was from Lee? It should have been easy, since it actually is from Lee, so hey, there we go. Good job, everyone.]

As for you, Lee…

…yes, it’s quite true we can revisit Zozat and crew and see how they’re getting on at some point in the future. But even if we don’t, I think the story’s pretty well concluded, even if we never learn the details of Zirr society from the inside. Doesn’t mean we can’t, of course.

Mind you, I don’t think this sort of thing happens because of a few bad eggs pulling the strings on everything else. I think it’s more about earlier, power- and conquest-hungry emperors setting a tone, lying to the public when things didn’t go quite right, and then doubling down on that as needed. The priestlords are part of the system, and once a system gets going, it works to maintain itself rather than expose its flaws. We don’t need to go off-planet to find examples of that.

So how does one change a system that’s geared to maintain itself? That’s a question for another story. Could even be about someone other than the Zirr! You never know.

Anyway. Before the Valium has me thinking about the Brady Bunch again for some reason, I’ll do the bit about how as Letter of the Month writer, you get a signed copy of this comic. E-mail us your mailing address and we’ll poot one off to you, with our thanks.

* * *

So. What else we got?

Continue reading

Astro City Mail – January

AC_postmark_chesler_2016

Our first lettercolumn of 2016! Tra la!

Let’s see what it said in the comic…

As I write this, scrambling to make an early-December deadline before my wife’s company Christmas party and a flight to Florida tomorrow morning, we’ve only gotten three letters in response to ASTRO CITY #29, and one isn’t even about the story. So it goes, sometimes. At the very least, it’ll make writing the online lettercol a snap.

But luckily, one of those letters makes a fine choice for our Letter of the Month. Take it away, Simon:

Simon Bullivant

I’ve reached a time in my life (let’s leave it at middle-aged), where ever-quickening reboots and reinventions, not to mention endless empty promises that the world will never be the same again, no longer quite do it for me. As a consequence my superhero comics purchases have dwindled considerably in the last couple of years. Dwindled, but not disappeared completely. The reason for that is ASTRO CITY. The universe it depicts is free from the groaning weight of constantly-revised continuity, and concentrates instead on honest to goodness storytelling. Indeed, Astro City is a place where such stories—with beginning, middle and end—can still be told in the space of twenty or so pages. This month’s story, “The Menace from Earth,” will run a little longer, of course, but deserves to.

The story, told from the viewpoint of a complex alien culture, was essentially one of mistrust and misunderstanding. In such an atmosphere, the eruption of violence with which the issue concluded was almost inevitable. Arriving as it did in the wake of the terrible events in Paris, ASTRO CITY #29 felt astonishingly prescient. ASTRO CITY #30 can’t come soon enough for me. I just hope that when it does, the resolution doesn’t turn out to be too easy and straightforward. Such problems in our own world have no simple solutions, and despite the presence of superheroes, I imagine things are much the same in Astro City. Everything I have read in the last two decades leads me to suspect you will not disappoint.

As I write this, I can only hope that #30 delivered on what you hoped, Simon. As you read it, of course, you already know. So write in and let us know how we did!

We, of course, weren’t thinking about Paris (how could we be?) or any Earthly cultures when putting together “The Menace from Earth” and “Enemy of the Empire,” just messing with classic superhero comics tropes—in this case, the militaristic alien empire—and looking for a new angle on it, a way to explore a human story by looking at the lives of characters we don’t normally get to see in a story like that. It wasn’t one of the story concepts that went into the original series proposal, but it’s been kicking around for a very long time, and it was good to finally get to it.

So now that it’s out, I can certainly see echoes of current events, but can’t say that they shaped the story or the ending. If they had, I think I’d have tried to make the Zirran Empire more nuanced—but hopefully there’s nuance enough in Zozat, Ziriza and company, and the possibilities inherent in their hoped-for future.

That said, thanks very much for the letter, Simon, and like always, them what writes the Letter of the Month gets the goodies. Or in this case, goodie. So e-mail us your mailing address, and we’ll send you a signed by me) copy of this issue, as only the crack Juke Box Productions support team can.

And that brings us to the end, except for what will be a short online column, I expect.

Let’s find out!
Continue reading

Astro City Mail – December

AC_postmark_chesler_2015

If This…Be…Lettercol! Well, yes, so it doth be. Let’s start things in the traditional manner, with the text from the print edition…

According to the date up top, it’s Christmas Eve Eve, or should be when this issue hits the stands. I was wrong the last time I tried an opening like that, but hey, hope springs eternal. [ADDED: It’s not any more, but it was when the issue came out!]

For me, it it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet. There’s still Halloween candy by the front door, and today I discovered I was dead on Spanish Wikipedia. But someone fixed that, so I’m alive again, and happy to be here. Hope you are as well.

So. Letter of the Month? Yeah, Letter of the Month. And it’s from:

MARK ZUTKOFF

When I opened ASTRO CITY 28 and turned to page 1, my first thought was, “Uh-oh… what are they thinking?” Having the lead character of this book drawn on top of the word balloons? A cartoony style of art which is pretty far away from regular artist Brent Anderson? And then, page 2, which rips off Spider-Man’s origin with a twist? What’s going on here?
 
As I continued to read, I quickly got used to the art, and started getting into the story. Not only was this an homage to Spider-Man, but even more an homage to Kurt’s own creation, Thunderbolts! Neat! And set in Australia, which we don’t see that often in comics. Well done!
 
And then there’s that Australian dialogue. I cannot pretend to vouch for its authenticity, but it certainly seemed so. Except – isn’t “kookaburra” normally spelled with a K in the first position? Did the not-so-good Captain change it for a reason, or are all our northern sources incorrect for its spelling?
 
I was very pleased for an “uh-oh” to turn into “oh, nice!” Keep up the great work, with Brent or any other artists.

Glad you liked it, Mark. To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about Spider-Man in writing Wolfspider’s origin. Just how deadly all that Australian fauna is. And after all, the bite didn’t give him powers, it almost killed him. His mom gave him powers in the process of saving him.

I did notice the T-Bolts similarity, but since it didn’t involve redemption of any kind, it was just bad guys pretending to be heroes, which has got to go way, way back in comics history.

I can’t vouch for the Australian dialogue myself, but Gary Chaloner can, and he says it’s fine. As for kookaburras, yes, they spell their name (er, we spell their name) with a K. But Captain James Cook, explorer, cartographer and the first known European to reach the eastern coastline of Australia, spells his with a C. And Cap’n Cookaburra is kind of a mashup of both, with a fair amount of professional-wrestler-gone-to-seed mixed in there too.

[We had to do it that way. There’s already a Australian hero named Kookaburra in ASTRO CITY, established back in the Confession volume. Honest, you can go look!]

Anyway, no worries if you didn’t catch it—Queenslaw was a cartoon aimed at Australian kids, not Americans, so readers may not know what a numbat is, or why the hero of Victoria is named Goldrush, or why “Banana Bender,” but that’s not important. What’s important is that Wolfspider knows…

In any case, since you wrote the Letter of the Month, you get the reward. We’ve said it many times before, but we’ll keep saying it once an issue, as long as we do this thing: E-mail us your non-electronic mailing address, and I’ll sign a copy of this very issue and fire it off to you at a snail’s pace.

And that’s it, except for the online column!

So, uh, yeah. Online column! What have we got, Johnny?

Here’s BRAD:

Dear Kurt,

Wolfspider’s story was fair dinkum!

Too right! Thanks!

[Actually, Autocorrect tried to change this from “fair dinky” to “fair dinky”—which, if you think about it, could also be correct!]

So who’s next? Ah, ANTONIO:

After reading the latest issue, I have to say that Wolfspider is my favorite new hero. He’s very interesting and if he had his own series, I’d read it in an instant. My question is, would you ever consider doing a story on Max O’ Millions. I’m craving to learn more about him to get a better understanding. I’m hopeful that you will do an issue all about him.

My top 4 other characters I want to see get their own issue are:

1. Halcyon Hippie
2. Point-Man
3. The Green guy holding the coffin at Supersonic’s “funeral”
4. A day in the life of Deke McManus

If I ever come up with a story to tell about Max, Antonio, I’d certainly do one. You never know. As for the others, I can assure you we’ve got plans for at least one of them. Which one? Ah, that would be telling.

And then ANTONIO wrote in again with another thought:

I just want to say thank you. I’ve just read “In Dreams 2015” and am happy to see the return of my favorite Crossbreed member, Peter. It was a very cool surprise and it’s cool of you to keep giving us insight into the Crossbreed. I’ve always felt that they’ve been underutilized, which is a shame.

Glad you liked it!

And now, ANDREW:

ASTRO CITY #28 was another great spotlight issue in the Mighty Busiek manner! My question, since I have one, is this: With all the vast quantities of great characters you’ve created for ASTRO CITY, why did you give us Triathlon and Silverclaw for the Avengers? Not exactly break-out hit characters, no. There was Lord Templar and Pagan also, but not household names there either, not now. And another question: Any chance that Astro City and its vast pantheon of superheroes may come to the DC Universe someday? They could still have their own series: ASTRO CITY!

No, sorry, no chance that ASTRO CITY will ever join the DCU. They have their own vast pantheon, and do just fine with it. I’m happy to have Astro City on its own stage, where our characters get to be in the spotlight because they’re not trying to share a crowded universe with Superman, Batman and all that other riffraff.

As for Triathlon and Silverclaw, I think that’s a related answer. If I’d introduced either one of them in ASTRO CITY, I think readers would probably think they were cool, but introducing them in AVENGERS meant that they were occupying space that readers would rather have had used on characters they already knew and liked. Similarly, if the Confessor or Quarrel were introduced in the Marvel or DC Universe, I bet they’d have been forgotten by now, since they’d have been inevitably overshadowed by the already-famous heroes there. And you’d be asking me “How come you tried to have a nobody like Quarrel join the Justice League when you were spotlighting characters like that cool Triathlon in ASTRO CITY?”

It’s hard to get anyone to pay attention to new characters in the established universes. But here, they’re the stars, and they can get the space and attention they need to shine, without readers resenting them for not being Spider-Man or some other character they were hoping to read about instead.

That’s all we’ve got this month! Short lettercol, but I can only work with the letters I get!

See you next time!