Astro City Letters – August 2013

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A new issue of ASTRO CITY is out (or is imminent, depending on when you get to read this), so hey, here we are with a new online letter column. As we did last time, and as we plan to continue doing, we started the column out in the comic, and are continuing it here on the blog.

And just as a reminder: The letters we pick to run in the lettercol each month—which we’re imaginatively calling the Letter of the Month—will get the writer an autographed copy of that month’s issue. Autographed by me alone, because it’d be too much of a hassle to have it mailed around to Brent, Alex and the rest of the gang. So if you want a crack at a signed comic, write us letters.

That said, let’s see what the rest of the comments on our new #1 look like.

First up, short and sweet, from THAD:

That was delightful. Welcome back; we missed you. (And great work by Brent, Alex, and the rest, too.)

Glad you liked it, Thad. We missed you, too, and we’re glad to be back on a regular basis.

Next, from DAVID:

Hey, hey! More ASTRO CITY after a too-long hiatus.

And how was it? Well…to be brutally honest, I found it a bit rushed. We get introduced to a bunch of new characters (at least three of whom aren’t named) and we get a brief look-in on several others AND we hear about a new threat AND we get an alien ambassador AND we get a man re-starting his life…It was all a little overwhelming, and I found myself wondering whether it might not have been better to re-introduce present-day Astro City at a slightly more leisurely pace in the first issue, and open those doors in the second.

It is nice to have a story that’s not overly decompressed, at least.

And with that said, I really liked the ambassador we got. A Kirbyesque giant who isn’t all full of himself! Aliens who are polite, intelligent, and respectful! Who knew such things were possible? The laws of narrative dictate that he’s hiding some dark secret, and I look forward to finding out what it is.

The Broken Man is intriguing. He’s visually interesting in himself, and his changing backgrounds are neat; his references to a creature called “Oubor” recall “The Worm Ouroboros”. We’ve been told that he’s someone we’ve seen before, and there are a couple of hints (I wonder…[name of guess redacted]?). His “break the fourth wall” schtick, though; the more I think about it, the less well it works for me. Captions suggesting that my thoughts are influencing the story don’t draw me in; they remind me that it’s a writer who’s arranging everything, without my input. When the Broken Man gets a word balloon saying that I can communicate with him, he turns into just lines on paper. The fourth wall isn’t wide enough to accommodate a two-way pipe; the attempt to install one just brings down the whole structure of the narrative.

I have to admit that on the last page, I did say to myself, “Just who does this guy think he is, anyway?” So it worked on me to that extent.

I’ve been buying ASTRO CITY since the very first issue (hey, I remember Kurt talking about it at the San Diego con back in 1994) and it would take a lot more than that to drive me away. I’m around for the duration. I’m confident that next issue will have a pace more to my liking, and hopeful that it’ll have a bit less metafiction.

It definitely had less metafiction, David, but since the ability to “see” the audience is one of the Broken Man’s powers, he’ll be seeing you again soon. Glad he intrigued you, at least.

And who were the new characters who weren’t named? There were superheroes who weren’t named—including the Confessor, Crackerjack and Winged Victory—but their names weren’t important to the story we’re telling, so there didn’t seem to be a reason to name them in this issue. And none of the costumed characters we didn’t name were new. You may simply not have recognized the members of Reflex 6 who were there from their debut in the ASTRA two-parter, but I didn’t think they needed to be named any more than the EAGLE agents they shared the page with. They’re superheroes, they’re making a fuss, but who they are individually isn’t germane to the story at hand.

When they next crop up in the foreground of a story, though, they’ll get referred to by name, I expect.

I wonder, though. Have we ever brought in new costumed characters and not named them? I’m pretty sure we have, here and there, just as we would with cops or doctors in the background of a crime or medical story.

Make with the clicking for the rest…

Next up, from ALEX:

It is wonderful to see new Astro City comics back in on the stands again. I have been reading some the trade paperbacks from my local libraries for about 3 years now. I have mostly read Life in the Big City, Family Album, and my personal favorite The Tarnished Angel. (I haven’t read Local Heroes, Shining Stars, or Dark Age Books One & Two…my libraries don’t have them.). I was sorry to hear about your health problems. I too have gone through a similar situation concerning my well-being—a cyst removal. (Someplace where the sun don’t shine…butt it’s almost behind me…literally). Recovery was a bit of a nightmare for about four months, especially since I was still in community college when I had it removed. Walking was a hassle for me.

Anyway, it’s great to see some of the familiar faces soaring to the skies and walking down the streets again. And I am amazed of some of new characters you have lined up. The new character—Telseth—reminds me of some the characters from your previous book, KIRBY: GENESIS, from Dynamite Entertainment (which was also a good read and absolute respect for Jack Kirby). I imagine we will be seeing more of Telseth and the Broken Man again. I also hope to see the return of Steeljack in the future and anyone else from Kiefer Square.

We do have plans to check in with Steeljack at some point, Alex. But then, we have plans for a lot of stories…

From STEFAN:

There it is, the new ASTRO CITY and the wonder and enthusiasm of a new comic book is back again. But lets start at the beginning—not the beginning of me, or you, or everything, but the beginning of ASTRO CITY.

It was an age of wonder for me. As a child in Germany comics mostly had existed as cheap MICKEY MOUSE books and ASTERIX. The German translations of things like SPIDER-MAN and SUPERMAN were seriously mangled versions of the originals so that reading them was becoming more and more painful the more I grew up. But with growing up came the understanding of the English language and so I discovered comics in a new way.

From mostly Marvel I naturally came over to Image when all those “big stars” founded it. I would like to say that I was young and it was normal that I would be drawn to those half-naked babes, big guns and high action, but by that time I wasn’t that young any more.

But then came ASTRO CITY and I was in love. It was a book about characters that you could somehow relate to—much more so then all those other heroes out there. It had wonder and heartbreak, it had high concepts and down to earth needs, it had everything an ongoing series ever needed. I was for a long time one of my favourite books out there and then something wonderful happened—I met the woman of my dreams.

She was very supportive of my hobby and was against the notion that I stop buying comics. So I continued to buy them, but had better things to do with my time to read them. The stack of unread books grew larger and larger and somewhere along the way I stopped buying them altogether.

Fast forward some years, a marriage and 2 kids laster and here I am, back reading comics (albeit not as much as I used to)—which is much easier since I discovered ComiXology. I’m mostly into Marvel nowadays but I did read TRINITY by DC (which I liked a lot) and some of your CONAN stuff (which I didn’t like at all). But still you where somehow under my radar.

This all changed yesterday when I downloaded ASTRO CITY via ComiXology. The wonder was back. The near-perfect mixture of high heroics, down to earth humans, world building and intelligent writing appealed to me right away. I wouldn’t consider it innovative to have a character talk to the reader, it has been down quite often by not, but still your “Broken Man” felt genuine and new.

I want to wholeheartedly thank you for such a great book. A book that makes me eagerly await the next issue. A book that makes me want to go up there in the attic and search for all the other ASTRO CITY books I have and may not have read yet.

Thanks, Stefan. Glad to have you back! And yeah, comics are a lot more fun when you get to read them.

From MICHAEL:

Hey, Kurt, long-time and avid fan of your work, in particular ASTRO CITY (since the very first issue, in fact). I’m very excited to see it back monthly. I greatly enjoyed the new issue. The Broken Man is a great way to involve readers, new and returning, differently, and I enjoyed the way you opened up and slightly torqued the “herald” archetype to readers by involving Ben, a familiar character. Although I rarely laugh out loud reading comics, your “Wait, hold on” moment with the Ambassador was genius and elicited a good chuckle. Truly, I loved that.

I did want to comment on an aspect of the comic that has a potentially disturbing reading. Having read and followed you for a long time, I don’t think it was intentional nor malicious. The comment the Broken Man makes about American Chibi, “Or worse, 35-year-old anime fan who got HIS heart’s desire?” There are multiple readings of this, and the Broken Man is certainly not, at least at this point, a reliable narrator, but this certainly read to me as verging on transphobic, or, in other words, dismissive of people who identify with a gender different from their own body. I understand that the comment could be read, and you may very likely intended, as being disturbed at a 35 year old wanting to be a 13 year old, or perhaps at an adult man desiring sexually the body of a 13 year old girl, or even (again, not likely) as poke at adult anime fans.

I certainly acknowledge these other interpretations, and I fully extend to you the benefit of the doubt, as I’ve never read anything by you that has bothered me before. But I am an ally to trans and gender non-conforming people, and I wanted to take the opportunity to provide information and a perspective which you may not have. Trans people face enormous discrimination, marginalization, and obstacles in our society. And representations in media are powerful–they can make a difference. So, I hope you will take this in its intended spirit as educational and not critical.

Again, I’m so happy to see the ASTRO CITY team back together again, and the title back on a monthly basis. Thanks for letting us all visit Astro City again!

No worries on this end, Michael—I absolutely take your letter, and your concerns, as helpful and educational, and I appreciate it.

I had to stop and think for a moment, about what the Broken Man’s instinctive attitude toward trans people might be, since there are reasons in his history that he might be dismissive of them, and other, possibly deeper reasons that he’d likely be very welcoming and supportive. As readers get to know his history, it’s something I should know, in order to get the character right whether it comes up on the page or not.

And that led me to think more about what he was saying with that comment, since I don’t think I’d have written that line if it was intended as a jab at trans people, or at least not written it without including some indication that he was being a jerk. What he had in mind, I think (and I’m aware that when I say that I’m talking about what I had in mind for him, since he’s not real, and I make up the thoughts of the characters whether I agree with them or not) wasn’t about someone who identified physically as a woman, but someone who wanted to play at being a simultaneously infantilized and sexualized woman. American Chibi isn’t only a woman (heck, we don’t know for sure whether she’s a woman at all, trans, cis or otherwise), but a chibi, and that—the fact that she’s childlike and sexualized all at once—is a big part of the Broken Man’s comment.

I’m also aware that I’m writing from an entitled position, so I’ll be keeping that in mind as we explore both characters in the future, and I hope I’ll do a good job of it. What American Chibi is, and how others react to what she is, won’t be something that just gets tossed off. I may end up tripping over my own feet, but at least I’ll do it carefully…!

From PHILIP:

Oh, Busiek. Thank you.

I was a little worried when I heard ASTRO CITY was going monthly. You know how you get nervous about new material from a past favorite? You want the old DICK VAN DYKE episodes to be as funny as you remember and you want your mom’s strawberry rhubarb crisp to taste just how it did when you were ten.

Well, happily, ASTRO CITY maintains its style just as well as it ever did.

I’ve been with your series for a while. Not “the very beginning.” No, I wasn’t that cool. My friend handed me a comic with an Errol Flynn-like character in front of a burning building years ago and I raised a skeptic eyebrow. “This… this isn’t DC. I only read DC!” I was equally horrified that I was expected to start with issue number 5 of the series, and not number 1. What was he thinking? I begrudgingly cracked open the issue and have been hooked ever since.

ASTRO CITY #1/2 is still the single best short story I’ve ever read. “No one forgets. No one.” Agh. Kills me everytime. How was your new series supposed to meet the bar you’d set years before?

Well, congrats. You did. I admit, the fourth wall-breaking narrator threw me a bit. But all the familiars were there. The odd superhero that’s interesting, but not nearly so much as those everyday mortals you write so well as they walk around on the city streets. There was the Ross cover and Anderson’s art which can’t be appreciated enough. In the end though, story is king. And I’m delighted to read a story about a middle-aged man who shrugs his shoulders, raises his hand, and hops onboard an adventure, not knowing what it holds for him.

Only one thing has changed. Now I don’t have to wait as long! Huzzah!

Oh, Astro City; you make it so easy to come home again. You’re just as high-quality as I remember.

Thanks very much. Let’s hope we don’t screw it up…

From REED:

Welcome back, and welcome to Vertigo! Reading the first issue of ASTRO CITY, I was intrigued by the new characters (American Chibi!) and happy to see the return of veteran characters like Samaritan. ASTRO CITY has such an eclectic cast, I imagine it is a challenge to write them as skillfully as you do. Which characters are easiest for you to write? Which ones are the hardest to write?

I don’t find the characters difficult to write. I find the stories difficult to write, at times, finding the right scenes, the right tone, the right moments to get he ideas we’re playing with across. That can be tricky, and along those lines, Marta’s story in vol. 1 #4 was very tricky to write, as were various aspects of The Dark Age. But it wasn’t the characters that made them difficult, it was the stories.

It may be that I don’t create characters I then find it hard to write. Or maybe I just haven’t noticed yet.

From PAUL:

One of the many things that has been on my to do list for a great many years has been ‘read ASTRO CITY.’ I’ve recently been getting into a few other series that I should have read long ago, but having a new series under the Vertigo banner—as the Vertigo editors will tell you, I’ll read anything with that label on it—was just the incentive required to make me jump on board.

Does this issue work as a jumping on point? Yes. Although the narrator is a little vague on those first two pages, I never felt out of place. And the characters hooked me from then on. The non superpowered people are just as interesting as those with powers.

The idea of an ordinary man getting to interact with powerful beings is intriguing. And the fourth wall breaking on the last two pages was fun. I looked, though. Sorry!

Can’t wait for next month. But good to know there are trade paperbacks out there that will make the wait bearable.

There certainly are! And I hope they keep you busy for a while…

From BILL:

So glad to see a new ASTRO CITY series and even happier to see you are doing better. I will not bombard you with questions of what is to come as part of the fun I have always gotten from ASTRO CITY and your work as a whole was the build and seeing the pieces fit, but I do have one question how long till “back issues” will be added to Comixology, if ever?

P.S. To this day when ever I think in my 37 year old fervor that it’d be great to be a super hero, one thought enters my head that kills said fervor dead. “In my dreams I fly”

Welcome back.

We’re glad to be here.

Back issues of ASTRO CITY started going up at Comixology the day the new #1 came out, and as I type this lettercol, vol. 1 #1-6 and vol. 2 #1-8 are available, plus of course the new series. There were supposed to be new issues added every week, until the whole series was available, but some sort of glitch threw that off, and there haven’t been new back issues uploaded in a while. But once they get it back into the schedule and moving again, we should make the entire series available, eventually.

And vol. 1 #1 is free! So tell your friends, if they haven’t sampled the book yet.

From MICHAEL:

I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to see ASTRO CITY back on the shelf at my comic shop. If ever we needed a book that celebrates classic superhero storytelling, it’s now and this was wonderful. The Broken Man was an intriguing character, using the old “I’m talking to you” cliché well (and I saw you taking on critics with “you spend so long talking about stuff that happened thirty years ago, you miss a lot” line). American Chibi was an intriguing addition and know you’re working on more newer heroes. Seeing Ben Pullman was terrific although it did make me feel older realizing it’s been so long since that original issue. And the idea of the massive entity having to adjust his volume was classic.

I know you had slams from some fans for stretching too far with The Dark Age and the delays (I’m sure you figured you’d be up to issue 150 or so by now). However, this book always pays off on the time taken and the care seen. I’m dying to see what’s next, especially that N-Forcer tale you keep talking about (am curious if it’s the same guy or not all these decades) and looking forward to you introducing new guys while picking up on older ones (would enjoy seeing a spotlight on the new Confessor). Either way, I’ve been with this book since the start and happy to know it’s finally back to a monthly schedule to let me enjoy what super-hero comics should be, something too many creators and companies are ignoring. So, welcome back to the City and I can’t wait for my monthly visit there.

You’ll get to see more of the new Confessor soon, Michael—and we really do have to get to that N-Forcer tell-all, don’t we?

From MARK:

Just a quick note to welcome you back! While it’s nice to be reading the book again, the most important news was to hear you’re feeling better.

Wow, this is the 60th issue of the title. After seeing glimpses of so many of the characters, my summer project may be to dig out all my issues and re-read them all and enjoy the series from where it started. It will be interesting to see how all the previous characters have aged and changed since we last saw them, and what new characters you have in mind. That was definitely a surprise ending, and really opens the door to who this new character is and whether what he narrates is real or all in his head. Should be a fun ride.

Here’s to a nice healthy run (for you and the series) of a couple hundred more issues!

From DOUGLAS:

Congrats on the new book, but I have to ask—what’s up with 6 pages of ads in the story? I appreciate the paper upgrade from the usual Vertigo crap but at $4.00 a pop there are far too many ads in the body of the book.

Sorry you didn’t care for it, Douglas, but I don’t think much has really changed. Used to be, ASTRO CITY stories were 24 pages long, and in a 32 page book that left 8 pages plus covers for the other stuff. But since DC has, on most books, cut the stories down to 20 pages (from 22), their books carry a page or two more ads. Since we didn’t want to cut the story length in ASTRO CITY, that meant making it a 40-page package instead of a 32-page package, but most of the additional pages are used for previews and such in the back. You’re still getting a 24-page story, and that’s what matters most to me.

Then again, I remember a time I could pull 12 pages of ads out of a standard DC comic (they were all printed on the same pages, so you could just tear ’em right out of the book), and still have the full issue’s story, the lettercol, the “Daily Planet” and another ad page. So the comics give you more story now. Price has gone up, though.

In any case, I don’t have any say over the ads, but I hope it doesn’t feel any more like an intrusion than during the Dark Age, when we were similarly $3.99 with ads interspersed in the story…

From MARC:

First of all, Kurt, I’d like to welcome you back to Astro City. Of course, you never really left. I’m really glad you are in recovery from that illness; I know what it’s like. Because I’ve been there.

I love ASTRO CITY and I have all 8 of your hardcovers, two of them signed & numbered. We all have favorites and mine is Confession. It was really great to get a glimpse of Altar Boy as the new Confessor. I hope he plays a part in the future adventures of Astro City. I really miss Jeremiah Parrish, the Priest who was the Confessor back in the day. I cherish my hardcover of Confession.

This was a great re-start of things. I don’t remember the Broken Man from before but I’m 67 years old and I have some slippage now and then. I think American Chibi is new also, but, she does have a taste of animé about her. It was a gas to see her team-up with the Samaritan. New doorways open all the time; I just don’t trust Telseth who arrived through that Door. Masks that smile all the time spin chills up and down my spine.

The Broken Man. That was a nice reveal on the last page. You’re up to your old tricks again; your pen is magical. Oh, it’s probably a computer now, like the one I’m writing on. I’m glad you’ve hooked up with the Vertigo line; they have nothing but quality.

Kurt, may you stay healthy and keep building Astro City. I’ll keep coming through the doors. And I haven’t been to Confession for a long time. Maybe…

But thanks for a great beginning, even though it is a continuation. You are now leaving Astro City. Please read carefully. “You can check out, but you can never leave.”

From CHRIS:

Nice to see Ben Pullam again, and how very appropriate to start the new series off with him in the spotlight. Can’t believe it’s been 17 years since…

…wait, how long? Are you jumping around in the timeline again?

No. This comic has been part of my life for almost twenty years now. And it’s as enjoyable as it ever was.

Welcome back.

From JOHN:

There’s a problem with visiting Astro City. When you get there, it’s too soon before you have to leave. I’ve had the first installment of ‘Through Open Doors’ with me now for three days. Not so ironically enough, I have read it exactly three times and with each reading I keep bumping into that miserable sign telling me that ‘I am now leaving Astro City.’

Darn it! I need a better GPS device, one that caters to me loitering on the street corners, gawking at the superheroes and chatting with the locals. Maybe if I buy that app that Ben Pullman wrote I won’t get pulled towards the exit signs so prematurely.

The highways around Astro City are complex, it seems. Once you leave, it takes a month to find your way back in…

From DANA:

I’ve been an Astro City fan from the very first issue, and have long championed it as one of the very best examples of Superheroes Done Right ™. So for me it was a little jarring to run into a “guy in a dress” joke in the most recent issue.

Specifically, I’m referring to the speculation about American Chibi, and how she might be a “male anime fan” and how this would be “worse” than her being a female anime fan.

I understand that characters sometimes say things that aren’t viewpoints shared by the author, but in this case it felt less like that and more like an attempt at characterization using a throwaway joke—a joke that wasn’t actually funny, and was in fact jarring enough to throw me out of the ongoing narrative.

As a trans-woman, I am fully aware that, culturally, I am sometimes a punch line. I generally expect your writing to be more deft than this joke felt, though, which is part of why I’m writing this note. This is far from the most egregious example of this kind of “humor” that I’ve come across, but it is the first time I can remember it showing up in your work. And while it isn’t a huge glaring example or transphobia, it has been like a pebble in my shoe all week, small but insistent, so I felt I had to say something.

Jokes at the expense of a minority group plagued by suicide and at risk for very real physical assaults are really not helpful, and are a very real part of the problem. “Guy in a dress” punch lines fall into this category, I’m afraid.

I appreciate the note, Dana. Thanks for speaking up, and letting me know your reaction. As discussed above, the line certainly wasn’t intended as a “guy in a dress” joke, and I apologize that it came across that way.

From RICK:

Welcome back! You were most definitely missed! ASTRO CITY’s absence from the shelves left a void to be sure. While the Big Two continued to offer more of the same month after month and year after year, I found myself missing the variety and uniqueness that AC had offered. I am so happy to have you back on the shelves and back on my monthly pull-list once more!

Issue number one (or #60, if you want to get technical) was a great read! And the art work was phenomenal! AC just as I had remembered it, top quality from cover to cover! Consider me a fan for life! Keep up the great work and I will keep on buying! Oh, and best wishes on your continued recovery. We need you around for a long time to come, there are so few pros like you around anymore! Peace!

From JOHN:

The Broken Man’s [name of guess redacted], right?

Seriously, I’ve missed this series a lot. Didn’t realise how much until I read this issue. This felt like real ASTRO CITY, in a way that the Dark Age stories didn’t, somehow. I think it’s the single issue stories—something that seems to be a lost art these days—rather than long and continued tales. The occasional two- or even three-parter, fine, but I think your strength is in the shorter, character-based material. And Brent’s art complements this perfectly; again, I’m not sure the long-form stuff works as well for Brent.

Surprised to see that Honor Guard seem to have almost the same line-up as when we last saw them. I know they’re the super-team archetype, but since the second issue of the original series and the pin-up in the Visitor’s Guide, I must confess I’ve always seen them as more the Avengers than the JLA—constant changes in membership.

Still looking forward to the promised Gorilla story.

I even outlined the gorilla story, at one point! One more to get to “soon.”

And Honor Guard’s membership has changed over the years—the line-up we saw in #2-3 isn’t the same as the line-up we saw back in vol. 1 #1, though there are a lot of characters who’ve stayed members (or rejoined) over that span of time. There’ve been lots of changes, but they’re perhaps not quite as volatile as the Avengers.

And we do have a 4-parter coming up in #7-10, and there’ll be other longer stories over time. But we want to focus on shorter stuff for a while, just to get to a lot of these “gotta get to that one soon!” stories that have built up over the years.

From STAN:

Kurt, love your first issue with Vertigo. I have read comics since 1960 and this present trend of DC52 have made the comics even more enjoyable. I have read all your ASTRO CITY comics and even got Brent Anderson to graciously sign all my copies at the last Wondercon in Anaheim, CA. There is so much good work out there from all the comic book companies that it is hard for me to keep up buying them and reading them. However, when I pick up my comics at my local neighborhood comic shop and see ASTRO CITY, it is like Xmas came early and I eagerly dig into that issue first. Keep up the great work.

We’ll do our best, Stan.

From D.J.:

Well, its so fitting that this is a new Vertigo title for multiple reasons. First, The Broken Man is straight out of ’89 DC! Guess he got shuffled off to the ether and into your mind, Kurt. Second, I’ve always said ASTRO CITY is an opus of comic history, equal and comparable to THE SANDMAN in many ways: Intelligently written, human and outworldly with equal depth, creating a large connected world and mythology.

I got on at the start of The Dark Age and ordered all the back issues from an OCS because I wanted to read individual issues.

Fan for life here! I’m so happy for you all!

New life to DC, Vertigo & most importantly ASTRO CITY!

From JOHN:

Just finished ASTRO CITY #1 (really? 60? Huh) and enjoyed it as much as all the previous issues.

Maybe more so since it’s been awhile since SILVER AGENT #2 and there haven’t been many books as well done as ASTRO CITY.

Thank Crom that you’re on the mend and feeling better.

Now, the one question I have is, when will The Broken Man’s version of the Astro City T-shirt be offered? My original black shirt with the logo has aged somewhat better than I have but could use a rest. Since I neither Twitter nor Facebook, I’ll look for a response either at this website or in the pages of ASTRO CITY.

Your note made me check out our contract, John, to see just what our options are regarding T-shirts. Turns out we’ve got those rights free and clear, so we’re going to have to look into setting something up so we can make and sell shirts—including the Broken Man’s shirt, if for no other reason than I want one too.

It may take us a while, since the first priority around here is getting the comics out. But we’ll get there, eventually.

From BRAM:

This is the first time I’ve sent a letter to a comic book author and I’d like to say that I love ASTRO CITY. The story is very interesting and unlike anything I’ve read before. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

Keep up the good work.

Thanks, Bram.

From ERIC:

Re: ASTRO CITY #1

It was worth the wait!

I extend a congratulations to the entire team on a amazing return!

My only hope is that you keep up the amazing high standard you have always set for this book.

Monthly? I’m pulling for you to succeed in that goal…

Us too, Eric! And we’re on track so far…

From ANDREW:

AC is a perfect fit for Vertigo! Change Nothing.

American Chibi? What’s a Chibi again?

I’m impressed every time I read ASTRO CITY, and am always left wanting more and more. But please, for those of us of whom this Isn’t our 60th issue reading, don’t leave out any of the details! American Chibi is a new character, right?

One thing I picked up on that none of the characters did in-story is: The door was indestructible…but they never actually attacked the big guy who came through. Generally, if KDB has any one failing it’s the dialog. It can be good, but I think you’re too plot-driven as opposed to character-driven (going way back to things like AVENGERS and THUNDERBOLTS, as well). A few more witticisms of the banter variety here or there, and things should be fine! I’m willing to see things play out as they may. Positive Vote.

Has Brent Anderson drawn Every issue of ASTRO CITY, like, ever?

And: Technically Striker Z Could have been named Transformer, back in the Power Company days! There’s a Group, obviously, called Transformers, but no single character; kinda like X-Men…X-Man.

As with Kirkman and his Skybound series, I’d encourage/request that you use names of characters more often, lest we forget; Remember, these characters are only in one series, tops. Unless…spin-offs?!

What’s a chibi?

Well, there’s this: Chibi

But more specific to what American Chibi’s name refers to, there’s this: Super-Deformed/Chibi

And yeah, we probably could have gotten away with calling Striker Z “Transformer,” though while Marvel certainly isn’t going to complain about Marvel calling a character “X-Men,” Hasbro might object to DC using the name “Transformer.” They might not, of course, and DC might be willing to find out, but it’s not as if Transformer is that great a name. I like Striker Z more, in the end.

No spinoffs planned—it’s enough work just doing the one book! And yes, Brent has drawn every published issue to date. Even the 8-pager in the Visitor’s Guide was finished art by Ben Oliver over Brent’s layouts.

From CHRIS:

It’s been a long time since I had the distinct and delightful pleasure of visiting ASTRO CITY (I missed the last trip because I wasn’t reading comics during the Dark Age or the SILVER AGENT follow-up) and it sure is good to be back.

Brent Anderson’s art always struck me as being very Silver Age classic, and seeing it again after such a long time brings me back to the Neal Adams’ Batman and the Walt Simonson’s Manhunter (in terms of tone), he embodies that style yet breathes his own aesthetics into conjuring up the heroes of ASTRO CITY with their own sensibilities.

Breaking the 4th Wall is fun way to bring us back into this rich and fertile universe, as it fits squarely with the walking-along-the-edges storytelling that has always been an ASTRO CITY hallmark.

Over the last 10 years when my own writing became more stringent (and then becoming a professional screenwriter), I came to find little joy in the heroes of Marvel and DC, and this, I think, has to do with so much of the baggage these heroes carry from decades and decades of being published (it’s very similar to remakes or new installments to long-standing movie franchises…how much thrill is available when the writer is just being the caretaker of a conglomerate’s property?). This is one of the reasons why I so thoroughly enjoy ASTRO CITY. Samaritan is crafted in the Superman mold, so we recognize his positioning the ASTRO CITY universe, but we don’t nearly enough about him for his storylines to become these ever-vertiginous flame hoops to jump through. Sure, guys like Alan Moore and the Milestone Media gang did this, but ASTRO CITY somehow feels more intricate and fully blown (even from the outset).

You mentioned that at least a year of issues is completed; this is very exciting news to hear—the bar is already high, and with no current deadline pressures for you guys, this has to be one of the anticipated 12-issues of comics that I can rightly remember.

Stay healthy, my good man, your imagination and skill bring joy to a great many.

From RAUL:

I cannot tell you how happy I am to see ASTRO CITY back, Mr. Busiek.

When rearranging my comic book collection (while dutifully changing their polybags) I can always look fondly on some of my favorite runs like the DeMatteis & Stern GHOST RIDER, David´s HULK, Loeb´s SUPERMAN and naturally, ASTRO CITY.

As you mentioned in your blog, it is astounding how fast time seems to go by, but the things that matter to us still shine as brightly as ever, perhaps even more sometimes.

ASTRO CITY is one of those things.

Just wanted to say hi, wish your current streak of good health to be as long as possible and all the luck in the world with this new series. I could name a few of the things I would look forward the most for the new series, like maybe a fully grownup Confessor (possible with a new Altar Boy) maybe a Hanged Man Lovecraftian story or another meeting with Infidel but I am pretty sure that whatever you come up with will be as great and entertaining.

You’ll be getting at least one of those soon, Raul. And some Lovecraftian touches even sooner…

From JAMES:

Welcome back! I’ve been with you since the very beginning, and this new return to the AC continuum is perfect. And I don’t use that word lightly. The Broken Man is an ideal narrator for the current series.

It’s almost unbelievable that you folks have kept the same team together, and maintained such a high level of quality, over all this time. (If only we could compress time and eliminate the gaps between issues and series, we’d be back… well, never mind that.)

No matter how you view it, it’s an amazing achievement. I have here all the previous AC issues, and the new one fits the continuity as though there were no interruptions in “our” time.

You’ve set the stage perfectly: The doors have opened. The great and small characters are present. The narrator knows his duty (or does he?).

Thank you for providing, for the first time in years, a story I can hardly wait to see unfold.

From MICHAEL:

Let me start off this letter by saying how wonderful it is to see an ASTRO CITY monthly series again. I first came to the series well after the initial run, discovering it through the collections, and found it to be some of the best superhero storytelling I had ever enjoyed. Ever since then, ASTRO CITY has always been on my subscription list, even if I knew I would eventually be purchasing the stories again in their collected editions. As I noted to you online, if I ever give up reading superhero comic books, the one book I will keep reading is ASTRO CITY.

I’m particularly pleased to be reading stories set contemporarily. Although The Dark Age did do a lot to fill in the history of the Astro City universe, for whatever reason I found it less compelling than the stories that were presented contemporaneously, even if I read them years after they were written and published.

As for the issue itself…

The Broken Man is a fascinating conceit, and the way he interacts with the reader makes me think of Grant Morrison’s run on ANIMAL MAN in the 1980s. I’m sure I’m not the first one to draw this analogy, and I probably won’t be the last. I do hope that his starring role in the story won’t come to overwhelm us, though. My first thought was that having the Broken Man interact directly with the reader was something of a violation of what ASTRO CITY is about, which to some extent is how superheroes would play out in the real world. But on the other hand, ASTRO CITY is also a commentary on the superhero stories we’ve seen for years, and since we have seen stories in which the characters do interact with the audience, it’s fair game.

I’m also very curious to know who he is, and I have two guesses. One guess is that he might be [guess redacted], based solely on his physical appearance. More likely, however, is that he is [guess redacted]. We already know that [redacted] is a mystical hero, and that he is aware of universes beyond the one he occupies. My guess is that he discovered the Oubor (which is connected to the word Ouroboros, I’m also guessing) threatening the universe, and his fight with it led to him to the state he’s in today. I hope that the Oubor doesn’t turn out to be you, Kurt, but if so, I’m confident you will make it work.

Seeing Ben Pullam and his daughters again was also a nice touch. Because ASTRO CITY isn’t a traditional series in which we follow one character every month, it sometimes feels as if we miss out on a lot of these people’s lives. Having you bring back characters we’ve seen before is like revisiting old friends, and finding out what they’re up to today.

American Chibi isn’t exactly my kind of character, but I loved the way she reacted when she realized she was teaming up with Samaritan. I’m hoping we’ll learn more about her origin soon.

Finally, I laughed out loud when the Kirby-like Telseth turned down the volume on his transmitter. Most amusing.

As you can see, we’re not going to give away who the Broken Man may or may not be, not until we’re good and ready. Some interesting guesses so far, but I’ve edited them all out, so the lettercol won’t become a guessing game, even one with no answers.

We’re delighted that the response has been so good, and we’re eager to hear how you like the subsequent issues. Let us know what you thought of #3, and we’ll see you next month with #4 (and comments here on #2)!

4 thoughts on “Astro City Letters – August 2013

  1. re: previous (not germane to ongoing storyline) character(s) on-panel but not introducted in script…

    First ones that pop into mind are several of the 1960s/70s Honor Guard members in the Tarnished Angel story, and I am pretty sure the first Ben Pullman story had lots of character (battling Thunderhead) that went nameless. The former an example of characters “new” to all readers, the later, new just to “new or relatively new” readers. ” There are others, they are just not popping into my mind right now.

    re: issue #3
    Not in hand yet. Still three hours to go…

    jb the ib

    • ^ It depends on if you’re talking about if they’re not named in their first appearance and are later on or if they have been named previously but not named in a current issue, like not all the characters(who we’d all seen named before) in vol 3. #1.
      I’m pretty sure all the characters that were in vol.2 #1 had previously been named with the exception of Juice of the Irregulars. And aside from Starfighter all the previous HG members during the El Hombre issue were named during earlier issues, The Loony Leo one.

      But off the top of my head, not all of the First Family and Irregulars were named in their first appearance,
      Starfighter, Cloak of Night, The Halcyon Hippie(y), Stumberjack, names were revealed elsewhere, in letter columns message boards, sketchbooks, etc.
      The only character that I can recall not having been named(that we know of) is the green guy who was carrying Supersonic’s coffin in Local Heroes #4 and in the big battle against Madame Majestrix…But as you said these were just background characters for a panel and nobody important to a story doesn’t go a while without getting named…

      Off day plans changed, so still waiting to make the trek to get my comics. Hopefully tomorrow…

  2. Okay, you got me on not remembering Reflex 6. I don’t feel all that guilty about forgetting three characters who appeared for all of two pages and didn’t actually do anything, four years ago — but they were indeed not new here. I certainly agree that there wasn’t time or space in this story to identify them, and didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  3. Thanks! Thanks a bunch! You made my eyes water and there was a very pronounced lump in my throat. Thank you! Thank You Thank you! The kids are pointing and laughing at the 57 year old cry baby and giggling. That’s okay though. I’ve read these “funny books” for 50 years now and I look forward to the issues that make my eyes water and my throat thicken. Those kids and their soulless video games be damned! Congrats on doing your job and doing it all so well! Marella’s plight was my own. I would have felt no more, no less guilty than she did! Would I have gone to the great lengths she went to to rectify the situation as best as one could? Well, I like to think so but really won’t know until Cincinnati gets a super-hero call center and I (doubtfully) pass the psych exam and begin working there.

    On a side note I want to extend my sympathy at the obstacles you’ve encountered and overcome as best as you can. I have also been through way too much. My 29th wedding anniversary was made oh so special by running myself over with a car on the way to a certain web-spinner’s movie premiere last year. (Ouch!) Than came the layoff from my job of fourteen years two months later and then losing my home of 12 years a few months later. (Big double ouch!) At this stage I am in the midst of reinventing myself (as I’m sure you are as well) to reclaim my destiny and looking forward to great things for myself and my family. It’s almost like being in a little comic book drama all my own. Once again bless you for making my eyes well up! Looking forward to a similar experience from your incredible writing skills real soon.

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