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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Atlas, Amazon. Amazon, Atlas

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A few updates and corrections from yesterday’s post…
No sooner do I get a question asking me if I’d bring Triathlon back, were I writing an Avengers title, do we learn that Triathlon apparently is already on the way back, as a character in the new Atlas series by Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman.
He’s wearing a version of the 3-D Man’s original costume, and going by the name “3-D Man,” but since that’s clearly a black man, I think it’s safe to assume that’s Delroy Garrett, Jr., formerly Triathlon, and not Hal and/or Chuck Chandler, the brothers who made up the original 3-D Man.
Or…is it?
We can find out in May. Jeff’s been doing a great job with the Agents of Atlas characters from the start, and Gabriel Hardman’s a terrific artist, so it ought to be a fun ride, whatever the answer is.

In the last blog entry, I also put up a bunch of links to Amazon listings of various comics- and writing-related books, and said that no one has ever bought anything from Amazon via this site. And it turns out I was lying to you. It’s a foul, dastardly lie!
It would be more accurate to say I haven’t seen any money from putting Amazon links on this website. Yet. But I’m about to.
The way it works is this: I’m an “Amazon Associate,” so I’ve got an account that allows me to put up links to Amazon, and if any of you fine readers follows those links and goes to the Amazon site, I count as having “referred” you to Amazon for that visit. So if you buy the books I provided the links for, I get a tiny percentage of what you spend. Or if you look at those books, decide you don’t want them and poke around Amazon some more and find other stuff to buy, that still counts as me referring you and I still get a cut. Anything you buy during that visit to the Amazon site, I benefit.
The last time Amazon sent me an earnings report, they said I didn’t earn anything; no one had bought anything via the links here. But today, I went over and looked, and hoo boy, I’m gonna be rich! My current Amazon earning show up at the staggering figure of…$6.02!
The reason I didn’t know that is that the way my particular account works, every time my earnings hit ten bucks, Amazon will e-mail me a ten dollar gift certificate. And that hasn’t happened yet.
But it’s about to, it seems. Because I’ve earned another $6.65 this month alone, and it’s not even half over yet! I’m on a roll!
So presumably at the end of this month, I’ll be over ten bucks, and get a gift certificate (or two, if more people buy stuff). I suppose it would only be fair, in the light of recent events, to buy Macmillan books with it, in solidarity with my friends who work at (or are published by) St. Martin’s and Tor, but we’ll have to see.
But just for fun, here’s a Busiek.com report on just what’s sold through the mighty commercial engine that is this site:
Between July and September of last year, we were part of the sale of:

Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween (Jeph, Tim, you’re welcome)
Astro City: Life in the Big City (woo!)
Speak of the Devil by Gilbert Hernandez
Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies (Jeph again!)
Superman/Batman Vol. 4: Vengeance (Jeph, dude, you owe me a beer)

and

Skullcandy EH17-SKC34 Smokin’ Bud Earphone, Pink (schweet!)

Between October and December. we moved:

Astro City: The Dark Age, Book One
Astro City: Confession
We3 (great book!)

And all that together accounts for the $6.02.
Ah, but this year to date, here’s what we’ve “referred” some of you to:

Batman: Gothic (still my favorite Grant Morrison Batman story so far)
Just Kids by Patti Smith (cool!)
Paris Trout by Pete Dexter
Saga of the Swamp Thing: Volume 1 by Moore, Bissette & Totleben
Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Love and Death by Moore, Bissette, Totleben & McManus
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Liberty Project (woo-hoo! sold another one, Nat!)
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
X-Men: Mutant Genesis by Claremont, Byrne & Lee

Plus:

One Life Stand by Hot Chip
Stylo (Album Version) (feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack) by Gorillaz (yes!)

…which puts me up at a cool $12.90, and reassures me that Busiek.com readers have both excellent and eclectic tastes.
[And yes, I did put up active links to all of those books; who knows who might need a new Smokin’ Bud Earphone, or wants to read some Patti Smith, and just needs a nudge?]
I will stress, though, that I have no way of knowing who bought what, so if you feel like clicking through here to buy Playboy: Sexiest Amateur Home Videos, Vol. 2 or, say, The Greatest Love Songs of All Time, well, I’ll never know it was you.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go add a few recent books to the Shop page, like Spider-Man/Mary Jane:…You Just Hit The Jackpot and Marvels: Eye Of The Camera Premiere HC

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!