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!
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.
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:
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.]