Astro City Mail – November

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Lettercol lettercol lettercol. Here we go, first off with the text from the print edition…

First up, apologies to inkmaster Wade von Grawbadger, whose name was inadvertently left off last month’s cover. And a hearty welcome to Peter Pantazis, on his first trip to our fair city, as he steps in for Alex Sinclair and Wendy Broome, both of whom were too tangled up in deadlines to manage this story. Sorry, Wade. Yo, Pete!

And on that elegant note, time for the Letter of the Month. This month, it’s from:

KEVIN SEAN MAHONEY

I haven’t written in for a few months, but I haven’t missed an issue. I bought #27 the day it came out, and while I enjoyed it on its own, it synergized (can I use that word non-corporately?) with #25 to the point that they both got stuck in my head and forced me to write you again.

Those issues have a lot in common, on the surface. There are two female protagonists making tough choices. Each issue features guest spots by Honor Guard. There are two reality bending crises. Both stories have a mother daughter component to them. And of course each issue has a guest artist.

But there are plenty of differences too. The Hummingbird story really gives the reader a bird’s eye view (ugh!) of her whole life, where she’s come from and where she’s going. The Chibi story really is about one day, though it does reveal the past and sets up a new future for a couple of characters. The progression of the Hummingbird story focuses in more on how she relates to her heroic cohorts, thus she feels more complete and real. The Chibi story almost has that unreliable narrator feel, where her realizations are almost more important than the plot, but she doesn’t gain her emotional reality until the story’s close. The art in each issue couldn’t be more different. Mr. Merino has a similar look and feel to Brent, which helps sell the multi-era tale. Mr. Infurnari’s scenes set in the real world just jarred too much. The Chibi-verse looked great, as did the last couple of pages, but those first ten or so pages just didn’t sit right. If that’s his regular style and not a choice meant to evoke contrast with the other world, I guess I just didn’t like it. But I’m a story over art type of guy anyway, so it’s bearable because…

You made me cry, Kurt. Both times. Twice in three months. Dammit. Admittedly, there are certain tropes I’m a sucker for. Give me caring women sacrificing for a real goal and I’m a soft target. Combine that with young kids doing the right thing and I’m useless. I am sure it’s part of getting older and having nieces and godchildren in my life, hoping for them and helping them become good strong people, but when you hit that idea just right…well, I guess I had something in my eye. Yeah, I guess I’ll have to go with that.

So we get a story about Wolfspider next month? Cool. Was that story rescheduled? I want to say I saw a previews for it or something similar ages ago.

Always happy to make readers cry, Kevin—though I will say I doubt we could have done it without the tone set by Joe Infurnari’s nuanced character portrayals. I thought he brought the story to life beautifully. But to each their own. And no, this is our first time scheduling a Wolfspider story.

So you know the drill: E-mail. Mailing address. Signed copy. To you. Badaboom!

And boom chakka lakka boom, there’s more…
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Astro City Mail – October

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Hey, if I get this lettercol done tonight, it’s still October! Happy Halloween and all that stuff, and let’s go!

First off, the text from the print lettercol…

It strikes me that I’ve been remiss in not saying much about our guest artists. Last month, we were graced by the work of Joe Infurnari, who draws the compelling THE BUNKER at Oni, but whose work I’ve loved since I first saw ULTRA LAD (and the deliriously insane TIME F*CKER), and I was thrilled to design a story especially for his versatile art skills. This month, we’ve got Australian cartoonist Gary Chaloner, known for series such as RED KELSO and THE JACKAROO, and superstar American inker Wade von Grawbadger (currently working on a stunning run of STAR WARS with penciler Stuart Immonen). I’ve worked with both Gary and Wade before, and it’s great to bring them together for this look into the life of Honor Guard’s Australian member.

[Special thanks to Gary for backstopping me on Aussie dialogue, so I didn’t have to suffer the humiliation of having someone say something was “fair dinkum” when it clearly and obviously wasn’t.]

I’ll try to do better by our guests in the future, since it’s a treat to see their varied approaches and they’re crucial to getting you this book monthly. But speaking of monthly, let’s now segue to the Letter of the Month, why don’t we? This month, it’s from:

MATT SABONIS

So…it’s been twenty years since ASTRO CITY started, making it roughly eighteen since I started reading it. I was thirteen, we were on a family vacation in Arizona, we made a stop at one of the local comic shops (if I remember right, it was called Red Alert Comics) in Tucson, and the clerk said I should try out Life in the Big City, one of the best comics he’d read in years. I read it, I was awe-struck, and when I got home I started digging to find news on new trades.  Once I’d gotten the Family Album trade, I started getting the book in single issues and haven’t really turned away since.

It’s only a year and a half ago, though, that I started realizing why ASTRO CITY is something that’s stuck with me so much. As much as I love things like the mystery of the Hanged Man, or the sturm und drang of the Enelsian War at the end of Confession, or seeing Samaritan or any of a number of dozens of different characters saving the day, it’s the human moments that stay with me. It’s Rex of the First Family arm-wrestling a 19th-century robot (I’m still waiting for an Ironhorse story, by the way). It’s the Crossbreed, who don’t just want to save people’s lives, but their souls, too (I’m waiting for their story, too). It’s the way it’s a world where common goodness rules, whether it’s adventure in a game of hopscotch, courage in chasing down a killer even when nobody believes you, or heroism in choosing fatherhood over crime-fighting. This last one hit me really hard; my dad had died when I was 11, and he was the person who introduced me to comics at a very early age. I like to think that he and I would have read ASTRO CITY together, passed issues back and forth, talked about our favorite parts.

So thanks for twenty years of great comics, and I’m looking forward to twenty more.

Thanks very much, Matt. We appreciate hearing it. And we’ll have to get to some of those stories! Meanwhile, send us your mailing address, and we’ll send off a signed copy of this very issue.

And now…more.
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Astro City Mail – Late September 2015

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October 4th is way closer to September than September 18th is to August!

Anyway, let’s get this here lettercol done. Kicking off with the text from the print page:

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You say it’s your birthday…

…it’s my birthday too, yeah! Or, well, if this issue comes out when it’s scheduled, it will be my birthday [Edited to add: It didn’t. Got moved a week on the schedule without me knowing. Ha!]. Right now, it’s a couple of days before #26—which is ASTRO CITY’s birthday issue—comes out, so happy birthday to us in the past-that-is-now-for-me and happy birthday to me in the future-that-is-now-for-you!

Everybody dance now!

Or, well, enough about birthdays. They’re so last month, and I’m probably out to dinner with my family anyway. Stop dancing. Yes, that means you. I see you, with your feet. Knock that off, willya?

Let’s move along, and see what we’ve got for our Letter of the Month. Hey, look, it’s a fellow with the unlikely name of:

Vic DiGital

Happy 20! I got on board with issue 3 of the first series. Took me a couple of months to believe the hype. Been on board religiously ever since.

Like most older readers (I’m an ancient 47), my comic reading habits have changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Life interferes and suddenly you discover that even though you’ve been faithfully buying a comic, the stack of unread issues pile up month after month. One of my current favorites is Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT. LOVE IT. Last issue I read was #10. Looking forward to the final issue (#36?) to come out in a month or so and I’ll binge read the whole thing.

All that to say that with ASTRO CITY, I noticed a curious phenomenon. I’m not sure how long I actually was doing it prior, but starting around issue 14 or 15 of the current run, I consciously noticed that I wasn’t letting ASTRO CITY pile up. I was reading it in my car, either in the comic shop parking lot, or I would pull over somewhere in a shopping center and read it there with the motor running. This is the only comic I do this with.
It’s now a ritual, of course. Even before leaving the comic shop, I’m planning on where I’m going to read it. Sometimes it’s a park, sometimes just pulled over in a closed-down business’s driveway, but it’s always somewhere within five minutes of the comic shop. Never makes it back to the office or back home. It’s gotta be the car.

Anyway, just wanted you to know that ASTRO CITY remains the best comic on the rack, and is the only comic that’s car-worthy. BTW, loved this month’s issue with Hummingbird. While I wish for an entire line of Astro City comics, issues like this one give us not only a full issue’s worth or story, or two-parter, or even an entire story arc, but what feels like an entire (shorter) run of a title. I crave more, but I am sated…for now.

Glad to hear it, Vic. And I know just what you mean about car-reading—I used to do precisely that with Mark Waid and Greg LaRocque’s FLASH run, particularly during the “Return of Barry Allen” story. I’d leave the comics shop, get in the car, and read the issue before I could bring myself to turn the key and head home. Just too excited to know what came next.

So we’re all flattered that ASTRO CITY presses that button for you. And for writing the Letter of the Month, you get a copy of this very issue, signed by moi. Send us your mailing address, and we’ll fire it off to you at some unknown speed or another.

That’s Vic! What’s next?
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Astro City Mail – Late August 2015

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September 18th is late August, right?

So, lots of stuff from travel to a funeral to kidney stones and more conspired to make us (me!) very very late this time, but if I don’t get this done now I’ll slam into the next lettercolumn, and make ’em both late! So.

Let’s start with the online lettercolumn, which was all about last month’s big anniversary…

Twenty years. It doesn’t feel like it, not from this side of the keyboard, but our first issue came out in August 1995, a full score of years ago. Mind you, it may feel like it to Brent—he was drawing that issue when his son was born, and Bryce is now in college. To me, sometimes it feels like just a year or two since I was showing around my pitch, a batch of Alex’s character sketches and the first five pages of lettered pencils. And sometimes it feels like forever.

But it has indeed been twenty years, and I should thank a few people.

ALEX ROSS was the first to join me on this journey, agreeing to do character designs and covers, and I never expected him to stay this long. But he’s still here, making us all look better—heck, he’s now redesigning outfits he helped design in the first place, because they got dated!—still pushing me to think things through better, to build the universe and find new ideas in it.

I know BRENT ANDERSON wasn’t expecting to be around this long—when he signed on, he said he’d stay ten years, and we laughed because that seemed like so long. Joke’s on you, pal. I’ve always said Brent can draw anything, and boy, do I keep making him prove it. WILL BLYBERG inked a batch of issues, and we’ve had help from a few others here and there, notably GARY MARTIN, ROBBIE GEISS and BEN OLIVER.

RICHARD STARKINGS and JOHN ROSHELL were on board even before Brent, lettering every issue, designing new logos at the drop of a hat and repeatedly saving our asses, with the help of JIMMY BETANCOURT, ALBERT DESCHESNE and a few others.

ALEX SINCLAIR wasn’t our first colorist—that’s STEVE BUCCELLATO, who did a beautiful job on our first six issues—but he’s hung around, too, performing miracles of mood and hue and the occasional art adjustment. And WENDY BROOME’s joined us with great stuff in recent years, when Alex’s schedule has demanded it.

Our editors: ANN HUNTINGTON BUSIEK, JONATHAN PETERSON, JOHN LAYMAN, BEN ABERNATHY, SCOTT PETERSON, the redoubtable KRISTY QUINN and newcomer MOLLY MAHAN. Sorry, Molly. We do mean well.

We’ve had the pleasure of guest art by GRAHAM NOLAN, TOM GRUMMETT, JESÚS MERINO (and more to come!), the talented who’s-who that did pin-ups for the Visitor’s Guide, ART NICHOLS and a smattering of other fine folks.

Special thanks to the Image gang for taking us on in the first place, JIM LEE for offering us a new home, SCOTT DUNBIER for regular encouragement and support and the whole crew at Wildstorm, DC and Vertigo for keeping us out there. Thanks as well to SHIRLEY JOHNSTON and T.J. ROSS for aiding and abetting. And doubtless, to others I’ll remember as soon as this book goes off to press.

And naturally, to YOU the reader. You’re the reason we get to keep doing what we do, and the people we do it for.

Thank you, everyone. It’s been a rare pleasure to journey with you on this long road, full of comics, kids, gray hairs, illnesses, arguments, the occasional ultimatum or two, a ton of stories and a whole lot of fun. And we’re still going. Plenty of road ahead.

No extra-sized multi-cover holo-foil fifth-ink anniversary issue, I’m afraid, but we’re always fighting deadlines. We figured a regular-sized story about where we’ve been and where we’re going would do, hearkening back to that first dream of flight. Hope you like it, whether you’ve been here since 1995 or just joined us this week.

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Astro City Mail – July 2015

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Hey, I’m only 4 days late this time, assuming I can get the lettercol done this evening. My wife and half my children are out of town, the other half is ensconced-in-bedroom, though we’re going to have to do something about dinner shortly. Let’s see what I can do!

First up, the in-print lettercol to #25:

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And here we are with another gorgeous guest-drawn issue from Jesús Merino, hoping you like it at least as much as you did his first. We made him draw a lot more Astro Citizens this time around, and over the decades, too. “Sorry, Jesús, that was the 1980s N-Forcer! This scene is the 1990s N-Forcer! Yes, that kid sidekick is wicked old now. Whoa, awesome cats!”

I hope we haven’t chased him off, because damn, that’s some pretty art and powerful storytelling.

Anyway, it’s Letter of the Month time—most of you know the drill by now, I pick one letter per month and that letter-writer gets a signed copy of the issue—so this month, who gets to send us his or her mailing address to get the book? Why, it’s repeat winner:

Zack Williams

Woohoo! 15 years later we finally get an ASTRO CITY #23! And the talking gorillas!

And it’s a pretty solid story, continuing the great run over the last year or so. Like anybody else moving away to try and find themselves and their own world, Sticks comes off as very real. Well, as real as a talking ape can be. The irony is there, in that he leaves his home where he’s just seen as ordinary and is treated as such, but he can’t express himself. But with his apeness and abilities he’ll never be able (or so it seems) to blend into a world of humans and play drums like he wishes. I’m curious as to what his future will hold…

And those Reflex 6ers. How often do they change codenames? (Well, I’m assuming The Gorgon and Gorgona are one and the same…) And a minor detail I liked, was that Astra’s uniform features an A instead of the F of the First Family.

Now that we’ve gotten the talking gorillas, we just need the N-Forcer exposé. And why’d Penny Bright disappear? And what about the mysteries of the Old Soldier? Or of Air Ace? And whats the connection between Commando K and Slugger and All American? Or any of the other hundred characters. Or as evidenced in this story, ones we’ve never seen before.

Hopefully, #24 clued you in a bit on why the changing names, Zack—and yes, Gorgona and The Gorgon are the same person. The focus groups didn’t think her name was feminine enough, or something.

As to the rest—well, I’m itching to do that N-Forcer exposé, and I do mean exposé, just as soon as we have enough lead time in the schedule for Brent to handle another 4-parter. In the meantime, we’ll try to thrill you with tales of Samaritan’s dreams, American Chibi’s secret origin, Wolfspider’s favorite TV show and more.

Air Ace and Penny Bright are on the list, too, and the others—well, there are certainly some stories to tell there, and in other cases there are facts that might crop up in someone else’s story. But there are also all those people out there without codenames or masks, and their stories want to be told too.. So we’ll just have to see what comes, and in what order. Thanks for reminding us, though.

Next issue, Brent’s back for a very special story—ASTRO CITY debuted in August 1995, so #26 is our 20th anniversary issue! We’ll be revisiting that first issue and looking to the future as well, so if you want hints on where the series is going, next month is a don’t-miss issue. Of course, they’re all don’t-miss issues, aren’t they?

Here’s hoping.

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So what else do we have?
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