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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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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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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Here We Go A-Kirbying

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I should mention that I’m just back from three and a half days in bustling Chicago, where I met with artist Alex Ross, publisher Nick Barrucci and editor Joseph Rybandt to discuss our plans for the upcoming Kirby: Genesis project, building and launching a world of characters and concepts that comics great Jack Kirby created and kept the rights to.
I’d worked up an extensive list of characters we could use, from well-known heroes like Silver Star and Captain Victory to lesser-known concepts such as Galaxy Green, and even ideas and designs that have never appeared on the comics page. The Phantom Continent! Space Guardian! The Sorcerer’s Book! And lots, lots more, down to cool-looking characters Kirby tossed off in the background of a commission drawing, and the like.
And I’ll tell you, it’s fun to find yourself saying things like, “That floating brain—that’s never appeared before, right? So Kirby owned it and we can use it, right?”
I’d also roughed out a storyline that would bring a lot of this material on stage (and set up for more of it), in the course of telling a self-contained and hopefully very approachable story about ordinary people caught up in a world of wonder, fantasy and danger. We spent the last few days hashing over which characters were the most compelling, which we should introduce where and how, ways to flesh out unnamed characters or provide a proper context for interesting designs, arguing about what the very ordinary human lead should look like, where the instigating event should happen and the like.
It was a very enjoyable trip, and we got a lot done. To my surprise, most of my outline stayed the same as I’d written it to begin with, with only a few characters changed and structural elements shifted around. I think it’s going to be an enormously fun series, and the world it sets up is bubbling over with potential for exciting comics.
I should note this sort of thing more often on the blog, rather than just mentioning it on Twitter. So now I guess I have!
Plus, a warning to floating-brain fans. The floating brain in question will in all likelihood only appear in one panel of Kirby: Genesis. So don’t get all worked up that your dreams of floating-brain stardom are about to be realized. Still, he/she/it is part of something that could well support its own mini-series or ongoing series. So you never know.

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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
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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…