Through the Mail Slot

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Having just finished up an ASTRO CITY letter column, which’ll go up shortly, I figured I’d check and see what kind of non-Astro City mail we had here in the blog mailbox.

Ulp.

Looks like I haven’t answered any blog mail in a year. Aheh. Sorry.

Let’s do some, and at least make a start on digging out.

First up, from MIKE, on 12/11/12 (yes, just about exactly a year ago):

Just reread AVENGERS: ULTRON UNLIMITED. Masterful entertainment.

Thanks.

Thank you, Mike! And, um, sorry to be so delinquent in responding.

Next, from THOMAS:

Okay, so you get a brother hooked on ASTRO CITY, then it’s gone. I think it’s the best written book of the last twenty years. Please let me know if it will ever be back.

I’m an English prof at a small community college, and I’ve written a few small projects for small comic book publishers. Your work was not only entertaining; it was inspiring. I hope it will return soon.

Thanks, Thomas. Glad to have had an effect, creatively if not as an avatar of productivity.

I hope you’ve noticed by now that ASTRO CITY’s been back since June, and (so far at least) hitting all our release dates. Hope you’ve been enjoying it!

Next, LARRY:

Any DC plans in the near or far future? You’ve been away from the DCU (and the DCNu) for too long. I, for one, would like to see you writing SUPERMAN as I think you could return that book to the proper place it deserves. It has been floundering (to be kind) since the relaunch, I think.

I haven’t been keeping up on Superman lately, but from what I’ve seen online, people seem to be happy with what Scott Snyder, Scott Lobdell and Greg Pak have been doing with the books, so I hope it’s been to your taste.

No ongoing DCU plans for me, at present—though I am still slowly working on BATMAN; CREATURE OF THE NIGHT, the “thematic sequel” to SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY, for which John Paul Leon is doing a masterful job with the art. But beyond that, I’m hoping to concentrate more on creator-owned material, and have a few projects in the works that you’ll get to see begin sometime next year.

So I won’t be diving into the waters of the New 52, but I hope I’ll be able to do other books that’ll capture your imagination and attention…

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Through the Mail Slot

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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:
…Kang’s origin?
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.
From RICK:

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:
Diversity in the DCU
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.
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From PERRY:

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…

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The Online Experience

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On Tuesday, June 8th, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m taking part in an online book club. Specificaly, we’ll be discussing Arrowsmith: So Smart In Their Fine Uniforms, the mini-series (and collected graphic novel) I did with Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino, Alex Sinclair and the fine folks at Comicraft.

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The book club is run by Andy Schmidt, for years a Marvel editor, currently a Senior Editor at IDW Publishing, and the author of The Insider’s Guide To Creating Comics And Graphic Novels. The Book Club is part of Andy’s Comics Experience enterprise, which is focused on teaching the craft of comic book writing and the art of breaking in to the business, so I would imagine the book club isn’t just a straight reader-oriented discussion, but will be focused, at least in part, on craft and presentation and will probably veer off to discuss other things I’ve done. But I can’t say for sure—I’ll be finding out myself on June 8.
For more information on Comics Experience, on Andy or on the book club itself, click the hyperlinks.
Fair warning: Comics Experience is a business, and the book club isn’t free. But I figured I should mention it, because some of you might be interested, and hey, I’ve already had to dig up two sets of headphones (and rescue one from my daughter, who absconded with it to use with the iPod as soon as I’d gotten it working) to make sure I can properly participate in the discussion.
I’m looking forward to it. For anyone who’ll be attending—see you there!

Through the Mail Slot

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Just wrapped up another Astro City script—and just signed contracts for what used to be called American Gothic, but now has a new title, which I’m sure we’ll be telling you about in time. But for now, let’s see what’s come in via e-mail.
Hollis writes…

Don’t have a lot in common with you, except for one thing—Sept. 16, 1960.
‘Twas a fine day, that day.
Well, I liked it! And it gave us Mike Mignola, as well. And, if I recall correctly, inker Keith Williams and Legion fan and onetime Marvel typesetter Brenda Mings. A pretty productive day, September 16, 1960.
Nikko Elliott writes…

I just saw my letter in the Astro City lettercol! That was awesome! What a beautiful cover on that issue. Give my props to Alex. And I loved that ending. Dark Age was a decent story, not my favorite, but that ending covering Samaritan made it worth while. I’m a big Samaritan fan.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for putting my letter in the lettercol and, also, I wanted to make a prediction. I think Old Soldier is the Silver Agent after years/decades/(centuries?) of time travel. I’m eagerly awaiting the Silver Agent specials (there are two, right?). Keep up the great work!
Thanks. The Old Soldier and the Silver Agent, hmm? It’s an interesting idea, at least. And I guess you’ll find out if you were right or not pretty soon.
Next up, Xiko de Couto…

I do not speak your language, then translate the Portuguese to their language by Google. Forgive me.
I’m 29 and I became a fan (of carterinha, as they say here in Brazil) when I read Superman: Secret Identity. For me the best Superman story ever written. I say this because I was tired of the sameness of the comics. Nobody grows old, no one dies (and remains so), nobody does child, very annoying. Unlike the manga, where the stories have a beginning, middle and end. No wear of the hero. Then comes before me this story his own, I wanted to film that turned the world to see his genius, proving that the character may be subject to major routes.
Well after this statement, I humbly ask if you want to do a similar project with other iconic characters from DC or another editor and if you use twitter, so you can follow more readily their future work.
I am indeed on Twitter, Xiko, and you can find me here.
As for doing another project like Superman: Secret Identity with a different iconic character, all I can tell you is to get ready for Batman: Creature of the Night, by me and John Paul Leon—along with letterer Todd Klein and editor Joey Cavalieri, who also worked on S:SI.
It’s not the same as S:SI, since Batman’s a different character and deserves a different kind of story, but it’s definitely in the same territory—and John Paul is doing absolutely gorgeous work. It won’t be scheduled until a lot more of it is done, but it’s in the works, at least.
Who’s next? Ah, Daniel Solzman…

I’m writing a paper on comics and politics and wanted to ask you a few questions.
Is it common for writers to inject their own political views in the content they are writing?
Is it fair to say that most writers tend to be liberal in views?
Also, I just now had a chance to read the Jefferson related post on your blog and I can’t believe that someone would drop your books just because you made a comment relating to the tea party. Right now, my home state of Kentucky is in the national spotlight because of Rand Paul of the tea party—he doesn’t represent Kentucky values—that much I know.
At some point, I’ll stop answering questions for school papers, I expect, but that day doesn’t seem to have come yet. To address Daniel’s questions:
1. I think it’s almost impossible for a writer to not put some sort of viewpoint—social, philosophical, political and more—into their work. It’s their work, after all. It comes from them, and reflects who they are. But I suspect that’s not what you mean—you’re probably thinking about writers having characters serve as a mouthpiece for political speech. And there’s been plenty of that in comics over the years, whether it’s Cap socking Hitler, Bucky urging readers to buy war bonds, Stan Lee’s anti-Communist stuff of the early Sixties, his anti-racism stuff on the later Sixties (and Bob Kanigher’s, and Denny O’Neil’s, and Roy Thomas’s and more), Steve Englehart’s politically-disillusioned Cap or feminist Wonder Woman, and on and on. Comics are fiction and fiction says things; it’s unreasonable to expect them to be viewpoint-free. That said, I think good writers will write stories informed by their own sensibilities, while still respecting the characters’ established personality. A conservative writer may think liberals are a bunch of nutcases, but he shouldn’t write Green Arrow as a John Bircher, because that would be inappropriate to the character, just as it would be for a liberal writer to make USAgent into a knee-jerk lefty.
2. I don’t get into that many political discussions with my fellow writers. I know more liberals than conservatives, and if I had to guess I’d guess that comics writers skew liberal, but I know folks on both the left and the right (and a batch of libertarians, too).
And hey, Rand Paul’s going to be interesting to watch, at least.
Wrapping it up, we hear from Jim Arrowsmith…

My son and I have been collecting comics ever since Arrowsmith came out…I was trying to get him to read more, which he struggled at, when he saw ‘our’ name in Atomic Comics window on an Arrowsmith poster. He started reading and never stopped.
I am now in my mid 40’s and he is 21 and we still enjoy comics…Astro City…Walking Dead are our favorites. Although we don’t see each often…when we do…we always spend some of that time commenting on the latest editions.
He was wondering if you were ever going to do another Arrowsmith Volume 2 series? Thanks for your creativity and Imagination…
Thanks for the kind words, Jim.
There will indeed be a follow-up to Arrowsmith, though it’ll take a while. We’re doing it as a heavily-illustrated prose novel, sort of like Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’s Stardust (but instead of Neil and Charlie it’ll be me and Carlos, and instead of Stardust it’ll, uh, be Arrowsmith). But between my writing schedule and Carlos’s deadlines as an exclusive artist for Marvel, it’ll take a while. But we’ll make it as good as we can manage, and I hope you’ll think it’s worth the wait.
And so goes the mail. More in a while, I’d assume!