Astro City Mail – Late September 2015

AC_postmark_chesler_2015

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:

* * *

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?
Continue reading

Astro City Mail – Late August 2015

AC_postmark_chesler_2015

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.

Continue reading

Astro City Mail – July 2015

AC_postmark_chesler_2015

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:

• • •

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.

***

So what else do we have?
Continue reading

Astro City Mail – June 2015

AC_postmark_chesler_2015

Hi! Sorry to be about a week and a half late with this online letter column. I’ve been traveling, and also working on 5 issues of ASTRO CITY at once, as we strive to get on time production-wise and (fingers crossed, knock wood) stay that way. We’ve just gotten one issue off to press, three others are being drawn, and I’m writing the next one after those. So busy busy busy.

But that’s not your concern. You want letters? I got some letters. First off, here’s what was printed in #24…

• • •

So. What song do you think they’re playing? I keep thinking it’s “I Wanna Be Sedated,” but then, I’m hopped up on cold medicine, and it’s been running through my head all day.

I’m also caught in multiple-time—writing this lettercolumn about #22 as I balloon pages of #24, work on script for two other issues and get a cover rough in for yet another issue, all in the same day. I’m spread across at least six months (seven if you count yesterday, when we were lining up another terrific guest artist for an issue a little further out), and Even without the Delsym, I think my head would be spinning.

But soft. What Letter of the Month through yonder computer-window breaks? Hey, look—it’s everyone’s favorite guy named:

JOHN VOULERIS

Issue 22 was another great issue in the long-running ASTRO CITY series! In just one issue we are introduced to Starfighter, his family, his world, his mythos, etc. It immediately feels so rich and detailed and fires up the imagination. Reminds me of that feeling when I was a kid looking through back issue bins at the comic store and some awesome covers making me wonder about the crazy adventures inside (the NEW TEEN TITANS Pérez covers I remember distinctly making an impression years before I could afford to read them. And sometimes (but not often—usually when Perez did not draw the issue) the cover evoked a better story in my head that what was found inside.

You manage to bring the same feeling with ASTRO CITY—so many cool references, background characters, etc.—sometimes it is better to leave some mysteries untold, or adventures unchronicled and to let readers fill in the blanks (James Robinson did this to great effect in his STARMAN series).

The one item in this issue that I feel may be interesting to follow up on is the threat Starfighter senses on the periphery of his awareness…could it be linked to the Broken Man?

Keep up the great work and we will keep on reading!

It certainly could be, John…but is it? Ah, that’s another question for another day.

Then again, the Broken Man did say the Oubor had “gotten to” Astro City’s major heroes in some way. And if Starfighter’s cosmic abilities sense something out there but can’t quite get a hold on it, well, could be. Could be indeed. If so, that’s a reference we’ll be following up on, you bet.

I’m glad you like all the side-references and mentions of adventures that have happened offstage, too. We want the world of ASTRO CITY to feel like it’s rich and complicated and full of all kinds of history, just as our world is, and following any one character—or two, or seven, or ninety—through their days will still leave a ton of events unseen. The story we’re telling at the moment should work as a story, but it should feel like it’s happening in a world that should feel bigger and more…ooh, cold medicine…

Anyway. Thanks for the letter, John. Hope you like what’s coming. Meanwhile, as ever, them what wrote the Letter of the Month gets a copy of the issue in which their letter appears, signed by me. So fire us off your mailing address, and a copy of “Apeman Blues” will be on its way to you.

And now I’m going to go buy new comics! Wish me luck!

• • •

Just in case anyone was wondering, I safely bought comics and made it back home in one piece. I may have had dinner, too.

And now that your curiosity’s settled on that score, let’s see what’s in the e-mailbag.
Continue reading

Astro City Mail – May 2015

AC_postmark_chesler_2015

Let’s get this party started with the text from the print lettercol…

And here we are with part one of a story we’ve been promising for, if not decades, then close to it. I’ve always said that a superhero universe that doesn’t have talking gorillas in it simply isn’t done yet, so it’s good to get such an essential element established here, after almost twenty years. Hope you like reading it as much as we’ve liked making it!

And on that note, on with the lettercol. To mix things up, I’ll mention up top this time that every month we pick a letter for this page, using carefully-honed criteria (and when I say “we” and “using carefully-honed criteria,” I mean “me” and “by total whim”). Whoever writes our Letter of the Month gets a copy of the issue in which their letter appears, signed by a member of the creative team (okay, okay, it’s me again). But the other letters we receive aren’t discarded—we run them, too, in the online lettercolumn, so you get even more of my questionably-valuable answers.

Anyway. Who do we have for a Letter of the Month this month? Why, it’s:

Kevin S. Mahoney

Well that went sideways quickly didn’t it?  I know a big part of ASTRO CITY is the honest aging of everyone in it (except folks like Leo, Samaritan and Infidel, of course), but I didn’t figure it would sting quite this much. Still, there was plenty of sweet on top of the bitter pill that was this installment. Before I read it, I expected Jack was dead and I never thought Quarrel would reconcile with her dad, but now I’m glad both happened. Jack and Quarrel deserve each other, now more than ever. Their relationship never struck me as all that solid before, but it sure does after the last three issues. I’m a Jack fan from way back and I hope he realizes how lucky he is after this misadventure. And the Taggart reunion seemed honest and sensible. I wonder what took more guts, giving up her mask or starting a new relationship with Mack? Both proved she was a hero.

I can’t believe you guys don’t get many letters. ASTRO CITY is easily the most multilayered book I read.  Between the sophisticated stories and the amazing art, you’d think the mail would just flood in. I guess I’ll have to write more often, that’s all.

PS I know you love a random song lyric Kurt. Someone needs to remind Samaritan:

Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life
But love can break your heart

I don’t know that Samaritan needs to be reminded of that—after all, one of his key quotes, from way back in our first series, is, “There’s always hope. Well, there is.”

But Samaritan doesn’t just hope. He acts, to do his best to make those hopes come true. And that’s something we’ll be dealing with in a few issues, as we check in on Samaritan’s dreams again for our 20th anniversary issue.

In the meantime, yes, please continue writing in. We’re always eager to hear what our readers think—and while we make no promises to do what you want us to, we do at least listen.

I expect the dwindling of letters has to do with readers voicing their thoughts online, or waiting for the book collections, or DC’s overall lack of lettercolumns in general, or some combination of things like that. So it goes, in this cutting-edge world of the future. But we’ll keep doing lettercols as long as we keep getting enough letters to justify them.
Continue reading