Through the Mail Slot

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A couple-three more e-mails…
From BRIAN:

I was wondering what your policy on sketches and autographs at conventions was:
1) Do you charge for autographs, if so how much and after how many, and do you have a limit?
2) Do you charge for any type of sketch, and how much and for what do you charge for (e.g. head sketches, mini bust type sketches, full body sketches: what would you charge per different one)?
3) Last one being, would you sketch anything or do you want me to ask you to do something you know pretty well and is it better to ask you ahead of convention time or wait til I get there and ask?
That’s all I think that I am wondering, if you could get back to me that would be great cause I would like to know before Emerald City Comicon.
I’m pretty sure I’ve answered this before—this very e-mail, not just the general questions—but just in case:
1. I don’t charge for autographs. I don’t have a set limit, either, with the following two caveats: (a) if you have a big stack and there’s a line, I may say I’ll sign some of them but you’ll have to get back in line after that, because I don’t want to keep the people behind you waiting, and (b) if you bring an entire longbox full of my stuff I may say hey, let’s not be ridiculous. I’m willing to sign a lot of books, but let’s not try to have me sign my entire output.
2. I’m a writer, not an artist, so you don’t really want to get sketches from me. I occasionally do sketches, but they’re very bad, so I don’t charge for them. But I’d rather not do them at all and you wouldn’t be impressed by the results. Generally I do them for sad-looking children who don’t really get the idea that not everyone sitting on the other side of those tables can draw, but I fear I don’t make them very happy.
3. Even bad sketches have their limits. I can do a few crappy-looking head shots I have some practice at, but if I try to draw something other than those, it looks even worse.
Here’s one of my sketches:

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And that’s after years of practice, too. You really don’t want to pay me to draw.
From DIANE:
Have you checked this out on YouTube? Tim reviews your book Superman: Secret Identity. check it out!

Thanks, Diane. I’m crossing my fingers that the video will embed properly; I’ve never tried to do this before.
[Side-note to Tim: Glad you like the book, and happy to have made you cry. It’s actually ‘BYOO-sik’ and “IMM-uh-n’n,’ more or less. And yes, that was an ending in Shockrockets: We Have Ignition, though Stuart and I would like to follow up on it someday…]
From GEOFFREY:

Big fan of Astro City and was just enjoying your “breaking in” piece, and tried to read the 3-part interview when I got to a broken link for Part 1 (and 2, incidentally).
Probably an easy fix.
As for the breaking-in piece, it interested me because last year I embarked on an experiment in podcasting after a more-than-twenty-year attempt to achieve success in music.
And I think you’re right. It’s best to concern yourself with doing, with MAKING something, rather than planning or struggling to figure out the WAY IN.
Thanks for the heads-up on the broken links. It was indeed an easy fix, and they should work just fine now.
And I’ll take this opportunity to remind other readers that there’s more to this website than the Notes section—the Read section has a smattering of stories, previews, interviews and essays (not as many as I’d like, but hey, some), the Find section has information on upcoming appearances, the Shop section has links to my books on Amazon, and so forth. Feel free to browse around.
I’m glad you liked the “Breaking In” piece, Geoffrey. It’s gotten a lot of attention over the years, and I can only hope it’s been useful.

Through the Mail Slot

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So, I seem to have been neglecting the blog. Sorry about that. Since last I posted, we’ve done Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve spent a week in L.A. pitching a movie, a week in Florida visiting relatives, written a mess o’ comics, read a ton of graphic novels and three quarters of a ton of novels, gotten very productive, gotten sick and unproductive, and now I seem to be getting productive again.
But anyway, let me answer some of the mail that’s stacked up, at least, and I’ll feel a little less neglectful. For a week or so, maybe.
From VICTOR:

I apologize if this question is at all out of line or a sore point and I’m even more sad I missed the opportunity to talk to you last weekend at Mid-Ohio, but I’ve been wondering if you felt any kind of way about Marvel’s use of your story beat from the Confessor arc of Astro City as the general concept for the Secret Invasion event from two summers back? As a fellow writer, I wholly subscribed to a “my ideas are for the world to use and explore,” but I know I’m in the minority on that one. Was this something that you were addressed with before or is it possibly another happy-accident of creative synergy?
Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and I hope I get to make your acquaintance on the con-circuit come next year!
I’ll confess to not having read Secret Invasion, but I expect what you mean is that there were shape-shifting aliens infiltrating humanity, right? If so, the idea wasn’t original to me—Skrulls have been disguising themselves as human at Marvel for years, going back to Fantastic Four #2, when they disguised themselves as the Fantastic Four. And of course, the trope goes back to stuff like They Live, The Invaders and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well.
I’ve also seen people suggest that Marvel took the Superhero Registration Act in the Civil War event from Confession, but that too has predecessors—the Mutant Registration Act at Marvel, the “Last Days of the Justice Society” events at DC, where the JSA heroes were pressured to reveal their identities to the government, the Keene Act in Watchmen, and of course they’re all inspired by real-world examples like the 1940 Alien Registration Act or the Nazi registration of Jewish-owned property, and so on.
What matters isn’t whether ideas are new—most aren’t, after all—but how they’re used. And I’m reasonably confident that Secret Invasion used its ideas rather differently from what happened in Confession.
From MARK:

No question, no inquiry, no request.
Just wanted to say thank you for writing great stories that I really enjoy reading and coming back to again and again.
Reread Astro City Vol 1 again and felt compelled to tell you how much I enjoyed it, again.
Very glad to hear it, sir!
CLICK THE LINK BELOW FOR LOTS MORE…

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Through the Mail Slot

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I had a wonderful time at the Mid-Ohio Comic Con this past weekend, hanging out with friends, chatting with fans, and signing what I conservatively estimate as nine tons of Avengers, Astro City, JLA/Avengers, Superman, Trinity and other such comics. And I’m not sure I’ve ever signed that many hardcovers in one place. I hadn’t been to Mid-Ohio in close to ten years, and I think some of you were saving up…
[I also bought comics…or, uh, comic. Having recently read G-Man: Cape Crisis by Chris Giarrusso, I bought a copy of the first volume, G-Man: Learning to Fly, from him, and enjoyed it just as much as I did the second one. A delightful all-ages book, check it out.]
But after three days (counting travel) of very little sleep, hotel bed, jet lag, cramped airplane seats, tight connections and a memorably-vile Cheez Whiz omelette (no, I’m not kidding. Why, Hampton Inn & Suites, why?!), I am stiff, sore, exhausted and broken today.
So what am I gonna do? Answer blog mail, that’s what I’m gonna do!
From KERRY:

I know you are a busy man and get requests like this daily, but your talent is worth the try. I was wondering if you have any writing tips or time to read some of a novel I am working on. I admire your talent and have met you at several comic shows across the USA. Each time you have been more than gracious to sign books and spend time with me.
If you don’t have the time I completely understand.
Alas, Kerry, I don’t have the time. Plus, even if I did, I don’t read unsold fiction for legal reasons. On top of that, I don’t much enjoy doing critiques, and don’t think I’m terribly good at it, so it’s not something I want to spend my time on—and then, of course, there’s the fact that I’m just some guy. I can’t sell your novel for you, or even introduce you to editors. You’re far better off showing your work to people who can actually buy it. If nothing else, when they say, “I liked this bit,” or “I think you should change that bit,” they’re saying it as the representative of a publisher, while I might be telling you to change exactly the bits that an editor might fall in love with and offer you a contract over.
That said, my best advice on writing and breaking in can be found at:
On Writing for Comics
Breaking In Without Rules
These may not be terribly useful to you, since they’re more about comics than anything else. But, well, that’s the only field I’ve done enough professional writing in to be considered any sort of authority.
Good luck with it!
From ERIC:

I want to create the awareness of comic in Ghana and some part of Africa. We can strike a deal on that.
No, sorry, I don’t think we can.
But it’s all right with me. I’m sure Ghana and parts of Africa could use more awareness of comics.
From ALBERT:

I just wanted to say that I have been a big fan of yours since I first discovered Astro City #1 back in 1995. To date, you are probably the only writer I look for specifically at the comic book stores. Thank you for all of the great writing. I just picked up your new Dracula series and I can’t wait to read it this weekend.
Hope you liked it!
From ELI:

I bought Robert Mayer’s Superfolks on your recommendation a few years ago and I just got around to reading it now. Thanks so much. I’ve already read most of the books that came after it, so reading the inspiration was fascinating. Some of the jokes fell flat, but the story still stands up. I was surprised when I found out how they were sapping Brinkley’s powers, didn’t see it coming. I also thought the descriptions of his feeling towards Pamela and Peggy were excellent.
Thanks very much.
Very glad to hear you enjoyed it, sir. It’s a terrific book.
From NIKKO:

I’m working on a complete Astro City collection for my own personal satisfaction and I was wondering if you could tell me if I’m missing anything. So far I’ve got every issue, including the 3-D variant of “Welcome to Astro City,” the 1/2 issue that came with a Wizard magazine, and the Visitor’s Guide. Just recently I picked up the Samaritan and Confessor “action” figures and I have most of the trades (and I know which of those I don’t have). Is there anything else? Some special variant I’m not aware of? Some promotional issue or rare figurine/t-shirt/beer koozie? I’d appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks!
Now I’m racking my brains, on a day when my brains don’t want to rack very well…
There was a variant cover to vol. 2 #1, and of course the Wildstorm edition of the Wizard #1/2 issue. And there were some promo posters here and there. Graphitti Designs did three (I think it was three) different T-shirts, and at least one refrigerator magnet set. And someone did a print of one of Alex’s covers—I want to say it was of vol. 1 #2, but considering the day, I wouldn’t want to trust me on that.
If I’m missing anything, someone let me know, either here or over on the message board, okay?
From JOHN:

I have a very serious question to ask you as a longtime comics fan. This is concerning a story you wrote circa 1986: The Legend of Wonder Woman issues 1-4 for DC comics.
My question is: Did you intend this story to be a tribute of sorts to the silver age (Earth-1) Wonder Woman, even though the art by Trina Robbins clearly has it as a Golden Age style, given the events of Crisis 12, where Diana (Earth-1) had been devolved and her history was reversed as well?
The reason i ask this is because I’m trying to support my claim that although the artwork is in the Golden Age style by Robbins, the story itself focused on the recently devolved Earth-1 Diana by the Anti-Monitor in Crisis, and as a result affected the surviving Earth-1 Amazons and Hippolyta her mother, who by the end of the story were turned into stars by Aphrodite, since she wanted to be spared the pain of forgetting she ever had a daughter (since the Earth-2 Diana had already been given her reward of being allowed to live the rest of her life alongside her husband, the Earth-2 Steve Trevor, on Mt. Olympus, by the Greek Gods, as seen in Crisis 12).
I’m not sure how much of that I can straighten out, but:
The Legend of Wonder Woman series has a framing sequence set during the final events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and that part, at least, was definitely supposed to be about the Earth-One Wonder Woman. The reason she appears on the splash of LoWW #1 as a statue, after being turned into formless clay in Crisis was editorial miscommunication—we’d been told she’d been turned into a clay statue, and started our story before that final Crisis issue was drawn.
The flashback story we told about Wonder Woman and bratty young Suzie, on an adventure involving Atomia of the Atom Galaxy and Solala and Leila from the Land of Mirrors—I have to say, I can’t remember at this point. The comics are somewhere in the basement, and it’d take forever to dig them up and check.
The real purpose of the Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series, though, was a legal one. Back then, DC’s deal with the Marston Estate was that if DC didn’t publish at least four issues of a series headlining Wonder Woman a year (and by “headlining,” that meant as the lead character, not in a team book), the rights would revert. When it became clear that the post-Crisis Wonder Woman revival wasn’t going to be ready to launch as quickly as DC would like, they needed to publish something headlining Wonder Woman to maintain the rights, and tapped Trina and me to do it.
The adventure we told was an artistic tribute to the post-WWII era of Wonder Woman, which was the era Trina had grown up on, and wanted to use as a strong influence. Atomia debuted in 1947, and Solala and Leila in 1948. Could the Silver Age Wonder Woman have met them? Sure, why not? It’s not as if Batman and Superman’s villains weren’t often duplicated in both Earth-One and Earth-Two. And Bob Kanigher did do a rehash of the Atomia story in the 1970s, but I don’t recall at this point which Wonder Woman that was supposed to have happened to.
Sorry if that’s not the answer you were looking for. But I really like that approach to Wonder Woman’s world—a world of fantasy kingdoms and fairy-tale concepts, of exotic, fanciful wonder, in contrast to the (somewhat, at least) harder-edged and pulpy crime/SF worlds of most of the male heroes. I’d love to see a modern-day take on that kind of thing.
I will note that we had to give Wonder Woman the double-W insignia instead of the classic eagle insignia, even though the story was set before she adopted that symbol, because, well, DC told us we had to. So we did.
From JACK:

I am a freshman English major at Kent State in Ohio. First off, I am a big fan of your work, specifically your work on Marvels, and your run on Avengers. I’m sure you get letters like this all the time so I’ll try and be brief. I want to be a writer. Specifically, I want to write comic books. I understand the career field for comic writers is highly competitive, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I was wondering if you had any tips/suggestions a budding writer like myself could use. I’m fairly clueless as how to break into the field. Thank you for your time, and your advice.
My best advice is at the links in the response to Kerry, above.
Plus, I’d recommend a few books: Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels with Peter David by, uh, Peter David, Alan Moore’s Writing For Comics Volume 1, by, um, Alan Moore, and The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Denny O’Neil. I haven’t read the David or O’Neil books, and I think I read the Moore as a two-part article in The Comics Journal years ago, but all three gentlemen know their stuff.
And then there’s Scott McCloud’s books, Understanding Comics, Making Comics and Reinventing Comics, which are all worth a read.
From my old friend LOU MOUGIN:

Kurt: Enjoyed the “Comics as a Mass Medium” article. You brought out some interesting bits there with the need for “lowbrow” or “middlebrow” culture to carry the medium…like Nik Cohn said, the Art Movie may be the upper-crust stuff, but it takes Hollywood to create the myth.
One thing that seems to get ignored in this is the importance of crossovers with entertainment that kids (or even adults) follow faithfully. Sure, the author of Kavalier and Klay is right in that not enough step-on titles for kids are being produced, and not distributed where kids can get them. But one thing he’s missing is this: when I was a kid, long before VCRs or DVDs or Blu-Rays were out of the realm of Buck Rogersish stuff, if I wanted to see Huckleberry Hound, I had to wait a whole week for the cartoon to come on again. But if I wanted to read Huckleberry Hound, I could take out a Dell comic featuring him and his supporting cast and read it anytime I liked. Those Dell tie-in titles got a lot of us hooked on comics.
Similarly, if you went to a movie back then, you saw it one time (maybe twice, if you were lucky, addicted, and had enough spending cash). But if it was adapted into a comic, and lots of them were, you could revisit Son of Flubber or Mary Poppins any time you opened up the comic.
This got me hooked on comics, and provided a first step, from which I eventually graduated to DC, then to Marvel. Without them, I wouldn’t have become a dyed-in-the-whatever comic book nut.
Don’t know if this hasn’t been considered, but it should have been.
Makes sense, Lou, though that’s another thing we’ve seen change over time. Nowadays, if you want to see, say, Hannah Montana, and it’s not on right now, there are those VCRs and DVDs and such. So spin-off comics have competition they didn’t used to, often from the original material.
But that doesn’t stop comics publishers from publishing The Muppet Show and Transformers and G.I. Joe and assorted other titles, which offer the reader more of what they like from TV and the movies. And in the time since I wrote that essay, we’ve seen more non-superhero titles that are still strong genre titles—one of which, The Walking Dead, is making a splash on TV, too.
Is that the answer? Well, no, there’s no one answer. But it’s a piece, I’d say.
From LARRY:

Just wondering if and when you’ll be returning to the DCU and, if so, what project(s)? I liked Trinity (although I was disappointed that Space Ranger wasn’t, in fact, Space Ranger) and most of what you’d done before that in the DCU. And seeing which writers are returning to the DCU now and in the near future, I was hoping to see your name on credits too. Thanks and I hope you are feeling well.
The only DC character I’m currently working on, Larry, is Batman, sort of, in the Batman: Creature of the Night project I’m doing with John Paul Leon. And that’s a follow-up to Superman: Secret Identity, and isn’t the Batman of the DCU.
After doing JLA/Avengers and Trinity (and before that, Avengers, Avengers Forever and others), I seem to have gotten the big universes “out of my system,” at least for now, and am happier working on books of my own creation, like Astro City and The Witchlands, or books where I get to define the world even if I’m working with existing concepts, as with Creature of the Night and Kirby: Genesis. I assume that after I do that for a while, I’ll start to feel the itch to play in the big sandboxes again, and will want to write the Fantastic Four or the Legion or some in-continuity series again, but for now, I’m content where I am, and am coming up with more ideas for standalone projects than for DC or Marvel’s storied casts of heroes.
So I’d guess I’ll be back someday, but no immediate plans, at least.
From CHRIS:

I’m sure I could have just asked this on a message board, but I figured I would try email first because I’m lazy and it’s quicker than setting up a forum account.
I recently read for the first time Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe. For years, all I read and knew of that ‘team’ was the original 12-issue maxi series, and the Avengers issues you wrote featuring them. After finally reading Gruenwald’s epic finale, I gained new appreciation for your issues featuring the team, and re-read issues 5-6 and the ’98 Annual. And with that new appreciation came some questions (and quite honestly, I’m sure you’ve been asked these same questions multiple times before).
Now I have still haven’t read the Quasar/Squadron Supreme stuff, so my questions may be answered there, but here goes.
1) Why keep ‘Arcanna’ in the Moonglow identity and costume?
2) Was there an explanation for why Dr Spectrum got his ‘color’ back, or did you and George just prefer is original look?
3) I noticed for the first time that Len Kaminski co-wrote the ’98 Annual, did you originally plan to co-write the New World Order special together as well?
4) Slightly off topic, but I love the Swordsman character, the original and the confusing parallel doppelganger, did you have any plans for him and Magdalene after the Annual?
5) And one last incredibly stupid question to ask a writer, but I haven’t read Avengers Infinity in years, and I have no idea where my copies are, but I remember Haywire was in it and he ends up with a new lover…..Who does he end up with?
Sorry to bug you, I just got the urge to ask you these questions as soon as I finished reading.
Thanks for all your incredibly entertaining work, and keep it up.
I’ll do my best, Chris.
I’ll note that no, I haven’t been asked most of those questions before, but since you ask:
1) Largely, I think, because Mark Gruenwald did. A number of the things he did with the Squadron were done specifically to make them less like the JLA, since while there was never a problem with the Squadron being used as parody, but if someone did straight adventure stories with them, DC tended to complain that such a use was too close to the JLA and thus unprotected by parody laws. So Mark took steps to make the characters distinct and different, shaking up their world, killing some heroes, changing others, bringing in new members who weren’t obvious parallels of JLA members, and so on.
One of those many changes was giving Arcanna Jones the Moonglow identity. I didn’t see any reason to go back to the Arcanna identity, so I stuck with what Mark had done.
2) Keeping in mind that I’m doing this from memory, I’m pretty sure there was an explanation, but that Mark wrote it. Had Doc Spectrum been still in that black-and-white form when we’d picked him up, I think we’d have used him that way.
3) No, Len helped me out on the annual for schedule reasons, but the New World Order one-shot was his from start to finish.
4) I didn’t have any specific plans for Magdalene or the Swordsman, no. I was just getting them off-stage in a dynamic way. As I recall, at the time they were living in a house that Tony Stark owned, somewhere in the NYC area, so it seemed to me that if there were crises in Manhattan involving the Avengers, they’d be likely to come running to help out. And I didn’t want that—I had a plenty big cast even without them. But I didn’t want to kill them off or anything, so rather than leave them, essentially, “parked” in an uninteresting situation, it would be better to send them off on a journey. That way, any time a writer wanted to use them, he could pick them up wherever he liked—they could still be searching for a home, they could have found one but now need the Avengers’ help to protect it, they could have fallen into the clutches of enemies…having them off on a journey opens up possibilities, while having them hanging around as Tony Stark’s houseguests just didn’t seem interesting.
As such, all I was doing was getting them off my stage…but in a way that would make it possible for me (or someone else) to do something exciting with them later. And if they never return, well, we can assume they found a happy situation somewhere, instead of just sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
5) I don’t think Haywire was even in Avengers: Infinity, was he?
He was another of the characters Mark had brought into the Squadron to differentiate them from the JLA, and Len Kaminski had planned to kill him off in the opening pages of New World Order, largely because Len was trying to shift the Squadron back to something more resembling the classic JLA, albeit in an altered-enough setting to avoid DC’s ire. I thought Haywire was worth saving, so I had him stay behind rather than go off and get killed, and sent him off on another “get him off-stage but dynamically” thing.
As I recall, he cropped back up in Avengers: Celestial Quest, where Steve Englehart continued his story. I think he was involved with Silverclaw, but ultimately was still obsessed with bringing back his old girlfriend Inertia, an obsession that led to his death (or transformation; you never know when you’re dealing with cosmic beings). If it was his death, though, at least it stemmed from his own character motivations, and not just out of team membership bookkeeping.
And finally, from MIKE:

Keep checking dccomics.com to see if a new issue of Astro City has been posted… and keep being bummed. Anytime soon? I miss AC.
Right now, in the wake of all that’s happened with DC’s reorganization and the closure of Wildstorm, we’re just working away at future issues, Mike. When we’ve got enough in the can, both of Astro City and The Witchlands, we’ll launch both books on a monthly basis.
Hopefully, that won’t take too long, but in the meantime, just hold tight. We’ll be back—and while I can’t speak for that no-account scripter, I can tell you that Brent and Alex are doing gorgeous work.

Through the Mail Slot

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I seem finally to be getting a handle on this cough (of course, I’ve thought that before), so let’s use a little of this returning energy and catch up on blog e-mail.
From NIKKO:

Okay, so my Silver Agent/Old Soldier prediction was off (and I suspected as much after you said about my theory, “It’s an interesting idea, at least.”), but after finishing the second part of the Silver Agent story I couldn’t have been more glad about being wrong. For the second time, one of your stories has brought me to tears (the first time was with “Shining Armor”).
Your writing is so rich and engrossing. I can’t fully express what your stories mean to me, so I’ll just say that if you ever need a kidney don’t hesitate to ask.
Thanks very much, Nikko. Any day I can bring a grown man to tears is my kinda day. Very glad you liked it.
And mmmmmm, kidneys!
From SHAWN:

Hi Kurt! We had a great time at Baltimore Comic-Con last weekend, but we missed you! I think it’s been a couple years since you attended and we’d really like to see you there again. Next year’s is Aug. 20-21!
I went to Tom Brevoort’s panel and suggested an Avengers Forever by you with the advert “Bendis Never Happened!” That got a laugh, but hopefully I planted a seed. 😉
By the way, loved Silver Agent and ASM Annual 37! Having another Untold was great! More please!
No current plans for either more Untold Tales of Spider-Man or an Avengers Forever by me, Shawn, but I guess you never know. Both would be fun projects, but at least for now I’m up to my gills in other work.
And Baltimore’s a great show. I’m not doing as many shows as I used to—I’d rather stay home and spend time with my family and with my deadlines—but I’d love to be back someday.
From ROBIN:

I get most of my comics bound into big books, and am about to bind my second Astro City book. I was wondering if you had any suggestion of order or should I just go by date is was released. What order would you do a table of contents as?
Here are the series I am binding together.
Local Heroes
Special
#1 (Supersonic)
Visitor’s Guide
Flip Book
Dark Age Book 1
Dark Age Book 2
Samaritan Special
Beautie Special
Dark Age Book 3
Astra
Dark Age Book 4
Silver Agent

It’s your book, Robin, so it’s entirely up to you. I’d be tempted to get all the Dark Age material together in one clump, rather than have the character specials in-between, but if you’re doing everything else chronologically, I can see why you might not want to do that. I will point out, though, that the Samaritan Special came out between Dark Age Books 1 and 2, not between 2 and 3. [And I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t remember when the Visitor’s Guide came out.
Anyone got any suggestions for how Robin should arrange the books? Feel free to make any suggestions on the Message Board.

Through the Mail Slot

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Ahh, five hours of fitful sleep interspersed with bouts of uncontrollable, painful coughing. Just what a fellow needs to meet the day. Well, as long as my brain’s foggy and concentration ain’t happening, let me guzzle herbal tea, slurp delicious homemade soup, go through several tissue boxes and answer the blog mail.
From MARK:

Do you have any memories of Uncle Elvis at the Dream Factory or in letter hacking in general?
I don’t think I ever met “Uncle” Elvis Orten, Mark. I’ve heard he worked at the Dream Factory, which for years was my local comics shop and a favorite hangout, run by the gregarious and enthusiastic Mike Raub. The Dream Factory was also where Ann was working when we got engaged—we’d known each other in college, and she’d gone to work for Mike when she was back home in Connecticut, and I’d drive up to the Dream Factory on Friday nights to get the week’s comics and meet up with Ann, and after closing up she’d drive back to her parents’ house, switch over to my car and we’d go out to dinner or to the movies or something.
In fact, I almost proposed to her in the Factory—I had a big bouquet of flowers in my car, and was planning to wait until closing time and propose in the store, when we were alone. But Mike, who knew I was planning to propose but didn’t know the details, wouldn’t take the hint and leave. He decided he’d close up that night, to give us more time with one another, and not all the “No, no, don’t bother, it’s fine”s would get through.
So we weren’t alone, Ann drove back to her parents’ house and switched to my car—which had a very large and fragrant bouquet of flowers in it, hard to miss—and said, “What are those for?” So I wound up proposing in her parent’s driveway.
Ah well. It worked.
But Uncle Elvis’s time at the Dream Factory must have been post-1990, after Ann and I moved out to the Pacific Northwest. I have no anecdotes, aside from reading his letters. Sorry.
From TORSTEN:

Longtime comic book fan from Germany. We’ve crossed paths at Comicboards a few years ago when JLA/Avengers came out (has it really been that long?). I’ve been one of the guys defending you over that dreaded Superman/Thor matter, and we ended up making fun of the complainers together. (I also bombed you with dozens of detail questions about the comic.) Still have all my various copies of JLA/A (US singles, US singles signed by Tom Smith, German singles, German variant cover singles, US hardcover).
I can’t believe you’re still getting angry comments about the Superman/Thor fight. I said it then and I say it again: I don’t care about superheroes fighting each other. I want to see them work together. The occasional conflict is okay as long as it comes from the story and isn’t just there for its own sake. “Who will win the fight?” got old when I was 17 or so. Was the first kind of topic to annoy me when I started posting on internet boards. So while I still liked the pairings in JLA/A #2 (Wonder Woman/Hercules, anyone?), I was even more happy to see less confrontative interactions in issues 3 and 4.
Anyways, I mostly dropped out of “mainstream” comic books around the time JLA/A came out. Too many retcons, reanimations, character regressions and multi-mega-giga-crossovers for my tastes. Only reading creator-owned and crossover-free stuff like Rising Stars, Supreme Power (yes, I know, it’s followed by Ultimate Power. I’ll ignore that one.) and Astro City these days.
Yes, Astro City. If I ever get around to do my own comic, Astro City will be one of the main inspirations (though I plan to keep the character focus a little more consistent). You’ve probably already heard all the praises I could think of, so I’ll give you a very minor bit of criticism instead: The ever-changing character focus makes it difficult for me to actually attach to any of the characters. Yes, it’s all very nice, but I still sorta miss the feeling of getting to know a character for a significant part of his or her life, like on ongoing character-specific titles. It’s all just glimpses here and there.
But, as I said, it’s a minor complaint. I’ve read Astro City through two German publishers (both of whom eventually discontinued the series), and I’ve resorted to English trade paperbacks now. Dark Age 1 was great, looking forward to part 2 and Shining Stars.
Thanks, Torsten.
When it comes to ongoing-character stuff in Astro City, my feeling is that, if I did a lot of that, I wouldn’t be able to do the other stuff we do—look how the focus on Charles and Royal left us not getting to see into the lives of most anyone else, during that run—and there are a lot more sources out there for ongoing character drama than there are for shifting-spotlight stuff.
But you will be seeing some recurring background characters—plus the return of some established characters you probably never expected to see again—as the series takes a (slightly) different focus in coming issues. Won’t be the same as following a single core cast in every issue, but then, if it was, it wouldn’t be the same as other stuff you like.
From ADAM:

I am a huge fan of your work: Marvels, Astro City, and Superman: Secret Identity is one of my favorite story arcs of all time.
Due to my work schedule, responsibilities as a parent, and geographic location it is nearly impossible for me to make it to any major comic book conventions.
I would absolutely love to get your autograph on my copy of Astro City #1
Is there any way that I could mail it to you and you could sign it and send it back to me? I would be willing to pay ALL shipping costs.
Alas, I hate saying no to this sort of thing, but here’s the problem:
We lose things.
I used to sign comics by mail, back before we didn’t have any kids and the house wasn’t a wreck, and if we’re ever organized again (something I suspect won’t happen until at least a decade from now, when the girls are both in college), I might go back to it, but in the meantime, mail comes in and a certain percentage of it gets lost in the drifting piles of paper that seem to fill the house unbidden.
Almost all my business correspondence happens online, and things like checks, contracts and Amazon packages get dealt with instantly when they come through the door, but envelopes with a single comic or two get lost in the drift, and may never be seen again. Sometimes I never see them at all.
[We had a recent episode—I have to/get to join the WGA as part of working on the Astro City film, and we talked with the Guild and e-mailed them things that indicated I’m qualified to join, and they sent off an application package. And a couple of weeks later we had a round of “Did that application package from the WGA ever show up?” “Oh, sure, it came in a few days ago. It’s…somewhere.” And it took three days to find it.]
Not the best way to go through life, but we haven’t found a working alternative yet, or at least not one we seem to be able to manage.
So after someone sent me a comic to sign, and I didn’t see it for over a year—and the guy who sent it was very patient and never complained, but still—I decided it was perhaps for the best if I stopped doing that for a while.
Thus, my apologies. I don’t mind losing stuff I paid for (or at least, I bear the responsibility for it, and if it’s important I can be dragged away from work to help search), I hate losing stuff that someone else paid for, and really doesn’t want lost. If comics could be sent for signature via e-mail, it’d be different.
But if we ever get organized around here…
From DAVE:

Hey Kurt, I’m a big fan of your work in general, and I have a quick question. I am really interested in getting the Astro City books in hardcover, I want to upgrade from my trade paperbacks, but to get the earlier books now is a fairly expensive endeavor and as a teacher I’ve got to watch my shekels. My question is, do you know if there are any plans to do nice new hardcovers, similar to what is being done with Y, Powers, Preacher, Fables, etc?
Thanks a lot buddy, and for all the years of great writing!
And thanks for the kind words, sir! No current plans to do new hardcover collections, though I’d certainly love to have them. And they’ve been discussed, at least. Maybe once (a) we’re back on a dependable ongoing schedule, or (b) the movie’s imminent, or (c) both.
But it’ll be DC who make that decision, and they’ll do it based on costs and terms like “sales velocity” and such. I’ve never understood fully how the process works, not since Superman: Secret Identity was changed from a hardcover to a trade paperback and moved on the schedule because another book had “fallen through.”
From DAN:

I recently bought the entire run of the 1980s fanzine Comics Feature via eBay. What struck me immediately as I recently began reading the set from the first issue was that you were apparently an early (and extensive) contributor. Seeing your name really excited me. I have been a fan of Astro City since the original limited series, which I picked up (like so many other people I assume) because I was so blown away by Marvels.
I’m not sure how long it’s been since you’ve had occasion to revisit your early work in Comics Feature. But in case it’s been a while, I thought you might enjoy that:
1. In issue 9, you wrote a ‘year in review’ of X-Men in which you characterized the Dark Phoenix Saga as an example of “bad writing,” and a “silly mess” with an “embarrassing ending.” (I actually agree with that assessment, and never fully understood the reverence with which many held that storyline at the time. But given your professional reputation today as an online ‘peacemaker’ among pros and fans, I thought that these youthful ‘harsh words’ were notable and sort of funny.)
2. In issue 8, you wrote of Bill Sienkiewicz’ run on Moon Knight that, “As an Adams rip-off, Sienkiewicz isn’t even a particularly good one… Moon Knight should never stand a chance in the market.” (I never read Moon Knight myself. So I don’t have an opinion that. But I thought it was sort of funny for the same reasons.)
In conclusion let me be the millionth person to congratulate you on the Astro City movie deal. I really hope that comes to fruition.
Best of luck and best regards from a long (long) time fan.
Thanks, Dan. I still have copies of those issues of Comics Feature (and its sister magazine, LoC) somewhere in the basement, but I’m sure it would take weeks to unearth them. They were edited and packaged by Richard Howell and Carol Kalish, and I was assistant editor on them for a summer, some of the last work all of us did on the fan side of the industry before Carol got a staff job at Marvel and Richard and I broke in as freelancers a couple of months later, selling a story to DC.
As I recall, I also predicted the certain and imminent failure of this just-debuted New Teen Titans thingie from Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, which shows just how good I was at prognostication. But back then, as a reviewer, my job was to make an analysis and support it, not be a peacemaker. So that’s what I did. I did positive reviews, too—of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s Tomb of Dracula and Jo Duffy and Kerry Gammill’s Power Man and Iron Fist, to name two—but as with most things, it’s the negative remarks that live on.
It was a treat to work on those magazines, and to get to do things like transcribe a long and genial interview with Don Heck, get a look at Joe Kubert’s samples for a proposed revival of Terry and the Pirates or have the inside track on the announcement that there was going to be a JLA/Avengers crossover, and George Pérez would draw it. And for the record, I think that Sienkiewicz guy got a whole lot better when he started experimenting and finding his own voice.

I’ll also note, as long as I’m here, that I’ve updated the “Find” section of the site with several upcoming conventions I’ll be appearing at, in Columbus OH, Portland OR and Memphis TN.
I’ll also note that that bit at the end where it says to sign up for the newsletter to be informed of future appearances is, well, optimistic. I’ve got a long list of names and e-mail addresses to send the newsletter to…once there is one. But we haven’t gotten that far in the process, yet.