Through The Mail Slot

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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.
Captain Amazing?
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.

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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.

Through the Mail Slot

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As long as I’m not getting much done today, let me deal with some blog e-mail. First up, from a reader named Paul…
I’ve collected comics for a number of years now and Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. Unfortunately, unlike with Batman or Superman (and maybe I’m alone on this), I feel the character has strayed the furthest from perhaps what was the creator’s original intent. I mean, look at Batman now and when he was first conceived and he’s essentially unchanged. Take Spider-Man from now and place him next to his 60’s adolescent counterpart and…yeah.
Which saddens me, but more or less brings me to my point.
The other day I was fingering through a rough stack of my old comics and pulled out some Spider-Man books I snagged during the 90’s (ugh!). Of these, only one took notice: Untold Tales Of Spider-Man #1.
I quickly thumbed to the first page…and again I was hooked!
It made me wish for something more. And I couldn’t help thinking, oddly enough, of a graphic novel I’d re-read recently: Batman: The Long Halloween. And how it garnered such critical acclaim by stripping the character to its earliest roots, telling a story in-continuity, but expanding upon it, while giving the reader something new.
And then the other day I stumbled upon your site…
I think by now you probably know where I’m going with this. But really the main reason I’m writing to you is:
1) To give my unyielding appreciation to the stories that infected my youth (I was first introduced to both the Avengers and Iron Man during your runs. BTW loved, loved, loved Avengers Forever! And Superman: Secret Identity! Although I think you hear that one a lot.); and
2) To ask if you’d ever consider doing a Spider-Man graphic novel in the vein of Untold, with the only difference being that it wouldn’t be a series in the traditional sense and would have a definite beginning, middle and end?
I know it’s a little early for Christmas (and you probably have more than enough on your plate as it is), but you can’t begrudge a guy for trying. Besides I can still dream, right?
Um…right?
You can always dream, Paul!
I think I’d disagree with you that Spider-Man’s farther away from his roots than Batman and Superman—things got pretty strange during the 90s for a while, but I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve read recently, and think Dan Slott’s upcoming bi-weekly run on the book should be something to see. And my memory of Batman: The Long Halloween was that it wasn’t so much a return to his roots as a sprawling thriller set the early days of his career as largely defined by Miller’s Batman: Year One.
Still, a Spider-Man maxi-series in the vein of Long Halloween, set in his younger days? That sounds like it could be a lot of fun, and something I’d enjoy doing. I’m way too busy with other stuff right now, but someday? I’d be interested in doing that someday.
Next up, Edward asks…

This new project you’re teaming up with Alex Ross. Is he going to be doing the artwork as well? Or is he just going to be co-plotter and cover artist?
Alex will do some of the interior art for Kirby: Genesis, Edward, though how much and in what way, we’re not prepared to announce just yet. But there’ll be lots more information coming, as the series moves toward becoming a reality, and I’m sure that’ll be part of it.
On to Andrew…

Not sure who this will reach but I’m hoping for some help. I love Astro City—it is simply the best comic I’ve ever read. It’s like a great album you listen to—every time you listen to/read it again you appreciate another level, a different nuance—something new every time to appreciate.
Anyway, I’m having a terrible time verifying whats out there and what I need. I’m a TPB reader but it seems there are a number of one shots I’ve messed and unfortunately it seems very hard to get information on the TPBs—what’s out, when they’ll be out, etc. Is there some kind of definitive listing on the published Astro City material I can use as a checklist? Also some board that will give me a heads up to upcoming TPB releases (as opposed to shot in the dark Amazon searches)?
Astro City is everything I’ve ever loved about comics – I don’t want to miss a page!
Glad to hear it, sir.
I’m not sure what to advise you—announcements as to what’s coming up is the sort of feature we really should have going at our sister site, The Astro City Rocket, but frankly, we get so swamped we don’t keep up. (As witness, the latest issue listed there is Dark Age Book Three #3.)
Going to the home page for Wildstorm and searching on “Astro City” will keep you posted on graphic novel publication dates—for instance, it says there that the next hardcover, Astro City – The Dark Age 2: Brothers in Arms, will be out this October.
And the fine volunteers over at Herocopia, our other sister site, keep an updated list of Astro City publications, so that’ll list anything you’re missing. And they’re way less lazy there than we are here!
If there’s a better way, someone let me know on the message board or in an e-mail, and I’ll do an update.
For the record, though, the current list of book collections is:
1. Life in the Big City
2. Confession
3. Family Album
4. The Tarnished Angel
5. Local Heroes
6. The Dark Age 1: Brothers & Other Strangers
7. The Dark Age 2: Brothers in Arms (forthcoming)
What’s missing from those titles is:
Astro City: A Visitor’s Guide
Astro City: Samaritan
Astro City: Beautie
Astro City: Astra
#1-2
Astro City: The Silver Agent #1-2 (#2 forthcoming)
My publishers would probably prefer that I sell a few more copies of those specials by not mentioning that everything but the Visitor’s Guide will be in the next book collection, Shining Stars. But I hate to be incomplete. Still, you might want to track down the Visitor’s Guide; we haven’t collected that yet and I’m not 100% sure when we will.
Next? Nikko!

Congratulations! I just heard about Astro City getting optioned for a movie. I know these things can change in the blink of an eye but I really hope this goes forward. Please please please keep us updated as often as possible on this (and any plot points would be really awesome). Best news I’ve heard in a while.
Anyway, that’s all. I’m looking forward to the Silver Agent conclusion. Keep ’em coming!
That’s the plan, Nikko.
I don’t think we’ll be able to keep you too updated—movie companies don’t like to share the development process publicly, and I can’t really blame them. Who wants the audience to wind up saying things like, “Aw, they didn’t even get their third choice for the role” or “I liked the earlier plot better.” For that matter, I’m notoriously close-mouthed about the stories I’m working of in the comics, even—I want it all to be as fresh as possible when you actually see it. But we’ll see what can be said, and when!
[Oh, and just to note: Just this minute, my in-box pinged, and there was the very last page of Silver Agent #2 from Brent. And it’s gorgeous! Plus, it’s a fine resolution and a new mystery, all at once!]
Next up, we hear from Talon…

Hiya. Just wanted to say that how you came up with the original resurrection of Jean Grey was and is amazing! (Even though it was a little confusing at first.) And I am a big Iron Man fan.
So anyway, just wanted to say that I love your work and hopefully you’ll be writing some more X-Men.
Thanks for the very kind words, Talon.
No X-Men for me in the near future, at least. But in the long run, you never know.
Next up, a note from André…

Eu estou escrevendo apenas para dizer o quanto admiro seu maravilhoso trabalho. Todos os gibis que eu leio, escritos por você, são simplesmente fantásticos. Sou fã incondicional de Marvels, Marvels II, Conan, Homem Aranha Ano: 1, entre outros.
Você é o meu roteirista favorito! Parabéns!
Google Translate tells me this says, “I’m just writing to say how much I admire your wonderful work. All the books I read, written for you are simply fantastic. I am an unconditional fan of Marvels, Marvels II, Conan, Spider-Man Year One, between others. You’re my favorite writer! Congratulations!”
To which all I can say is “Muito obrigado, André. Espero que você gosta do que está chegando, também!” and hope Google got the sentiment across, even if it probably did so awkwardly.
Next, Ken writes to say…

I am not your biggest fan. But I am a fan, and deeply appreciative of the things you’ve done, the insights you’ve shared, and the characters you’ve brought to life.
Thank you for the hours of thought provoking entertainment.
My pleasure, Ken. I’m glad of all my readers, not just the biggest fan, whomever he or she might be. So I’m glad you’ve enjoyed what I’ve put out there, and hope we both keep it up.
Next up, a letter from a reader I won’t name…

How’s it going? I was just checking out your comic work and writings for the Green Hornet. Very cool! Man you have to have a creative mind to come up with this! hahaha…I love it!
I was wondering , I’m a model and have some photos that are comic geared. Would you know how to use me as a character so that Alex Ross can illustrate me? Not sure if I’m making any sense. Bottom line is I’d love to be one of your characters somehow. If you want to talk, email me back.
He included links to a self-published book about his modeling career.
Sorry, guy. But even if I did write Green Hornet, I’d just as soon let Alex find his own models, and would rather not create characters based on real people. Best of luck, though!
And lastly, Corum has some thoughts on a familiar subject…

Let me first off say that I love your writing, every story you write is brilliant.
Secondly, I am a fan of Superman, but I’m also a fan of Thor. I read JLA/Avengers about one or two years ago (I’ve just now built up the courage to type this) and loved it, but after thinking about it and talking with some fellow Thor fans (who are well versed in the Superman mythos) I’ve come to the conclusion that you must have not done your research because there’s no way Superman could have beaten Thor at full power.
I’ve heard that you thought Thor wasn’t bullet-proof and I almost believed it simply because you said it but then I found this video reminding me that wasn’t true.
[Here, he links to a YouTube video presenting a case for Thor being bulletproof.]
I’m not saying you should apologize, I just think that you should let the fans know that you’re not an expert on Thor and that JLA/Avengers is not a reliable source for gauging power levels.
So it’s not that you want me to apologize for writing a story that didn’t operate on the premise that there’s no way Superman could have beaten Thor at full power, a position that’s hardly unanimously held—you just want me to announce that I’m no expert, and that fans engaged in “battleboard” arguments should scrap JLA/Avengers as a reference?
I think the battleboarders are going to have to manage without me on this. For one thing, I don’t have much interest—I’m delighted that those who engage in “who’d win” discussions enjoy them, but I prefer not to participate, and don’t want to referee them even to the extent of declaring what is or isn’t a reliable source. And for another, whether Thor’s bulletproof or not is irrelevant, since Superman didn’t shoot him.
[Thor’s durability to being punched real hard is a different matter, since he’s a mythic character, and not subject to consistent physics, even moreso than most comic book superheroes. He comes from a setting in which, after all, Balder was rendered near-invulnerable when his mother made everything in the world promise not to hurt him (though she forgot mistletoe, with tragic results). In a context in which rocks and plants can make binding promises, physics doesn’t stand a chance.]
I will note that everyone involved in JLA/Avengers thought that was a reasonable way for the battle to go, so even if I declared myself “not an expert,” you’d still have to get similar admissions from Tom, George, Dan and Mike. As an alternative, I’d suggest that if there’s a fight you don’t like in a comic, well, that’s par for the course. Enjoy the ones you like and move on. You don’t need a ruling from an author to disregard a scene you don’t care for, and neither Thor fans nor Superman fans are ever going to prove to the other side’s satisfaction that their guy’s better.
That said, I’m glad you like my writing, and even loved JLA/Avengers overall. And I hope you enjoy what’s coming up, none of which, at present, involves either Superman or Thor. Well, not Marvel’s Thor, at least…