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…

Godstorm!

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Yeah, I know I haven’t been blogging much, and I should post something about the Astro City movie deal. But I’m still recovering from San Diego. What a fun—but exhausting—convention!
In the meantime, since Tom Brevoort just told me, I’ll tell you: Next February, Marvel will collect Thor: Godstorm, the mini-series I did with Steve Rude and Mike Royer, in a spiffy hardcover! I’m very pleased—I’m proud of the book, it looks gorgeous, and it was well-received. It’ll be nice to have it on the shelf. So thank you, Kenneth Branagh and Marvel Studios, for creating a situation in which more Thor collections in bookstores sounded like a good idea!
[And thanks to Tom and whoever else at Marvel chose this one.]
It’s a series of interlinked stories—one from the era of myth, one from Thor’s early days with the Avengers and one from then-current “Jake Olson” era—as an ancient mythic threat rears its head in multiple forms, goaded on by the machinations of Loki (who else?). Steve Rude set out to channel the spirit of Kirby, and did so really well. Tom tells me the story will be backed up with a 10-page “Tales of Asgard” story by Tom deFalco and Mike Mignola. So it ought to be a nice package.
Okay, back to digging out. Only 77 e-mails to go…

My Own Private Newsstand

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So over at The Comic Reporter today, Tom Spurgeon runs the results of his latest “Five for Friday” survey. This time, he was asking readers to “Name Five Past Or Present Comics Titles You Think Should Always Be Published, Just Because It Would Please You To See Them On The Stands.”
As is often the case with me, I saw his call for entries on Friday, thought, “Hey, that looks interesting,” and then my brain didn’t kick into gear until well after the deadline (something all my editors can attest to, badump-bump!), but I realized this morning that I had some unusual choices, because where my mind went to on this wasn’t simply comics I like and want more of, but particular creative visions, writers and artists who say what they say distinctively and memorably, but more, they say it in a way that makes me want the results serialized. Where there are lots of comics and lots of comics creators where I want the results in nice book collections on my bookshelf, these are the ones where I want that 20-pages-or-so every month (or whenever), to have that particular joy of reading a chapter, a short story, whatever, and knowing the next part will be along soon, and that joy will be repeated and extended and deepened.
These are the comics I want to find a new instalment of on the spinner rack, when I bust into the eternal Colonial Pharmacy of my mind, transplanted from the corner of Mass. Ave and Waltham Street in Lexington and taking up permanent residence in my memories.
[And then after I buy my stash of comics, I want to swing by Alexander’s Subs on Bedford Street, but never mind. Sigh.]
I’m not limiting myself to five choices, because having missed Tom’s deadline, I scoff at his rules. Ha!
So here’s my list, in no particular order:

1. USAGI YOJIMBO by Stan Sakai
2. SAVAGE DRAGON by Erik Larsen
3. THOR by Walt Simonson. Doesn’t even have to be Marvel’s Thor, and might even be better if it wasn’t.
4. KAMANDI by Jack Kirby. This means we need an immortal Jack Kirby, but I ask you, is that such a bad thing?
5. TYRANT by Steve Bissette.
6. FABLES by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha.
7. AMY UNBOUNDED by Rachel Hartman
8. CRIMINAL by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
9. HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTARS by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle
10. SECTION ZERO by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett
11. SHE’S JOSIE by Frank Doyle and Dan deCarlo
12. BRAVO FOR ADVENTURE by Alex Toth
13. ZOT! by Scott McCloud
14. STIG’S INFERNO by Ty Templeton
15. LEAVE IT TO CHANCE by James Robinson and Paul Smith.

Okay, that’s what’s regularly on my imaginary newsstand. I’m sure there’s plenty I’m not thinking of, and there’s stuff that might be on the list soon, like Bunn & Hurtt’s THE SIXTH GUN. And there’s stuff I could just make up, like an ongoing magical-intrigue series set in San Francisco, by Chris Claremont & Graham Nolan or an ongoing TOPPER series by Roger Stern and Bob Oksner. But I’d be pretty happy with this. So, what’s on your spinner rack?

Through the Mail Slot

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A few more questions and such, first from a reader named AbdulAziz…
I’m not sure how to read your last name right, is it Bu-Sa-yek, or read like Bos-Eik, or Bus-Ek?
It’s BYOO-sik. Accent on the “byoo.” Rhymes with “You sick.”
If they make one Avengers book and you are to write the Avengers once again, will you bring Triathlon back? He’s quite an interesting character, I enjoy characters who become heroes after a bit of a bad background like abusing steroids.
Well, first off, they’re not going back to just one Avengers book. They’ve announced two so far, Avengers and Secret Avengers. And second, I’m not writing either, and if there’s a third or fourth Avengers book I’m not writing them either.
That said, I wouldn’t mind writing Triathlon again, somewhere. I like his powers, and I like him as a character. I think he’s going by 3-D Man now—I used the name “Triathlon” because I thought “3-D Man sounded too much like a 1950s period character (which the original was, so it fit), but I suppose people just didn’t warm to the name, judging by how no one seemed to be able to spell it right.

Who do you prefer of these two:
Thor or Hercules?
I like ’em both, for different reasons. I like Thor for his majesty and warrior nobility, and I like Herc for being kind of an Olympian good ol’ boy carouser. I think Marvel’s done a lot more with Thor and that’s given him a richer cast and context, but then, I haven’t read the recent Hercules series so that may have addressed some of it. Forced to choose, I’d pick Thor, but I’ve had fun writing both of them.
And in the off chance you were asking about the mythological figures rather than the Marvel Comics versions, then it’s Thor all the way. I was a nut for Norse mythology as a kid, but never found the Twelve Labors of Hercules all that compelling.
And another e-mail, which I’ll leave the name off, in case he doesn’t want his name attached. But it’s a question that’s worth giving a general answer to…

I have read your work with the Avengers and have grown up with the characters and stories that Marvel has developed. I myself am aspiring to become a writer of Marvel books and would love and greatly appreciate some help or tips on how to get my career started or who else to contact to make a name for myself and fulfill my dreams. I still need to develop my writing style and story telling skills, but I see this as the only thing that I could do in life that would make me happy and am willing to work my butt off and do anything to achieve it.I have little experience in writing, but have written several small (unpublished) stories myself. I would truly appreciate any help that you could give me. Please write back and thank you for taking time to read this message.
My best advice on writing comics and breaking in to the industry can be found in the “Read” section of this site, in the article “Breaking In Without Rules,” and in an essay I wrote years ago called “On Writing for Comics,” which is hosted off-site, but eventually I’ll have to get it archived here, too.
Beyond that, a few books I’d recommend:
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
Making Comics, by Scott McCloud
The Writer’s Guide to the Business of Comics, by Lurene Haines
Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers, edited by Nat Gertler
The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, by Dennis O’Neil
And, not about comics, but good books about writing:
Adventures in the Screen Trade, by William Goldman
Telling Lies for Fun & Profit, by Lawrence Block
Characters & Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card
The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist, by Thomas McCormack
I didn’t have any of the comics-focused books when I was starting out, but would have been delighted with them. The non-comics books were all very helpful to me, particularly the McCormack, which was a revelation that let me go from being a promising beginner to an actual writer, after almost a decade in the business. But all of them have good and useful stuff in them.
I should note in the spirit of disclosure that all those links take you to Amazon.com’s listings for those books, and if you follow those links and buy the books (or anything else) from Amazon, I make a tiny commission on the sale. But (a) no one has ever bought anything at Amazon through this site to date, so it’s not like this is a big profit center for me, and (b) I’m providing the links just for convenience; if you want some of the books but would prefer to get them from another bookstore, have your local comics shop get them for you, seek them out at the library, whatever, then feel free. It’s what’s in the books that matters, not where you get them.
And beyond that, practice, practice, practice. There’s nothing that’ll teach you about writing that works as well as actually doing it.
Good luck!