Okay, I’m running late getting this written, so let’s get right into the lettercol as published, which is coincidentally about things running late…
As you can tell by the credits list in the comic, it was something of a scramble getting this issue out, and much credit is due to editors Kristy Quinn and Jessica Chen for marshaling the squad of artists that got it out the door.
I don’t know yet, as I’m writing this, whether we’re going to make it on time, but if we don’t, we won’t be very late, which, frankly, is a miracle. It’s embarrassing to run so late on an issue, and all the more embarrassing that it’s on one of our guest-artist issues, specifically scheduled to keep the series from running late. Aiee.
[NOTE: We were a week late, as it turned out.]
We’ll do our best (such as it is) to avoid this happening again.
Meanwhile, where’s that Letter of the Month? Oh, here it is!
I stopped writing to comics decades ago. Not because I don’t enjoy them, I just kind of…stopped.
Occasionally, I get a nostalgic twinge (or maybe that’s just early arthritis) to contact one of my “oldies” and say how much I appreciate them and their current or past work.
But I don’t.
Still, early on Sunday morning, as I sat reading ASTRO CITY 15 and eating some cold Mallomars and milk (Sunday morning is my “eat something sugary and bad for me” time), I came across another reason I so enjoy your writing.
Sure, the plots are great, the characters engaging and the mythology exciting to see build, but there it was, innocuously but critically there in the middle of the book: Oksner College.
Having grown up on Superman, I became acquainted with Bob Oksner first as an inker. It wasn’t until later, during my expansive reading period, that I came across his spectacular humor work and more.
I love the fact that you continually find the opportunity (and the desire) to tip the cap to the greats of the industry, well-known and not-so. Mark Waid also seems to enjoy those chances.
Thank you for that little “game” within your stories. Oh, and thanks for ASTRO CITY, as well…it’s a terrific book!
Thanks, Jeffrey. Glad you enjoy it.
And to tip a cap to our cap-tipping inspiration: While ASTRO CITY has been mentioning the greats of comics history here and there from the beginning, we were inspired to do it by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers’s run on DETECTIVE COMICS back in the 1970s, which named bits of Gotham City after Batman writers and artists of yore (Finger Alley, the Sprang Museum, and so on). I liked the effect of it so much that I just lifted it whole-hog for ASTRO CITY, considering how steeped in comics history and influence the book was going to be.
And Bob Oksner, who drew adventure and humor comics from DOBIE GILLIS to SHAZAM, wrote the comic strip DONDI for years and co-created ANGEL AND THE APE, was name-checked in Ellie’s alma mater both for his skill at drawing attractive young women and for drawing “The Faculty of Fear” in THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE. Admittedly, they weren’t college-level, since they taught at dear old Benedict Arnold High, but it seemed like the right choice anyway.
Secrets behind the comics revealed.
For writing the Letter of the Month, Jeffrey, you get a signed-by-me copy of this very issue. E-mail us your address, and we’ll fire it off to you swiftly. Or slowly. One of those two.
And for the rest of you: What else we got?
Well, here’s a note from STEVE:
Great story. Great art. The solicitation for #18 looks great too.
Short and sweet. Glad you liked it, Steve!
Amazing that it has almost been twenty years since ASTRO CITY began.
I write for two reasons. One to let you know about a little, low key Astro City project. The other, questions for you for your lettercol.
So: One. I have been working on an Astro City Chronology. It started as an excuse to figure out how to make an ebook, something for iPads. All swooshy and swipey. But I didn’t have anything to work with, and thought of this. It didn’t take very long to put together (once I decided to base it on an old Star Trek book).
It is kind of silly and if you would like to see my work in progress, it is here.
[At this point, Danny gave me a link to his chronology, which was very cool. He asked me not to share it at present, though. I hooked him up with John Bacon at Herocopia, in the hopes that maybe the two of them could combine forces. We’ll have to see…]
I’m not sure what to do with it. I will probably put it up free online at some point.
Anyway, it’s brought up some questions.
1) In the first ‘Arc,’ it seems like you were very obvious with dates, as if you had a master timeline, everything mapped out. Characters would make a point of saying what year they were born, what year they became heroes etc. I guess it was all a master plan that included the Dark Age and where everyone fits.
In the latest series, this seems to have fallen away a little. Stuff like Winged Victory’s origin and visit to Paris. No dates? Has this angle lost importance? Is it just the evolution of your writing? Or—is there no master timeline at all?
2) I know George R.R. Martin hates this question, so please take it with a sense of jest: do you have a hit-by-a-truck plan for Astro City? If something happens, is there someone who knows that N-Forcer origin story and could tell it? Does Alex or Brent know everything? Is everything on file, written down?
3) By my count, we’ve had 75 issues of AC (as of 2014’s issue 15). Anything planned for the ‘100’?
I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about the big wider tapestry of Astro City. I would love to read another Visitors Guide. The main reason I keep reading is the city, and the more you give me about her history, her make up, etc.—the better.
To answer your questions, Danny:
1. No, there’s just as much of a “master plan” as ever, which is to say that we’ve got a large-scale overview of Astro City history, and we delve into it fractal, adding detail and incident as we go. The matter of dates is mostly a matter of who the narrator is, and whether it’s in their personality to be specific about dates, or whether they’d more likely talk about events a bit less formally. When Winged Victory was explaining her history to Delphi, dates didn’t come up because it was such a conversational scene, two old friends talking. That’ll naturally be more casual than, say, a TV host running down the history of the First Family for his viewers.
But there’ll be stories cropping up that have more dates in them. And even when a story doesn’t specify dates, it doesn’t mean we don’t know them—for instance, I know what year each of the clashes between Honor Guard and Krigari shown this issue happened. It just wasn’t data that someone like Eth would make it a point to specify.
2. No, if I’m hit by a truck, everything goes flooey. Brent and Alex know something about the origin of the N-Forcer, but they don’t know the full details, in part because I haven’t fleshed them all out yet. But we’ll be getting to them, so you’ll just have to hope that I look both ways when crossing streets until then…!
3. I think #15 was our 74th issue, and this one is the 76th. No current plans for our 100th, but I’ve got time to think about it.
And now, here’s ANTONIO:
You’ve done it again, Mr. Busiek. You made it seem like such a small story in issue 14, but I was greeted with yet another gem out of the 50 or so issues you, Alex, and Brent have churned out.
I must say that over the years I thought this was just going to be one of those comics that sooner or later was going to lower in quality over time, but to my utter surprise, you are still giving us all hit after hit of good material every month or so. I am still confused about somethings though.
1. What did the ending of 15 mean, was it another lead way to a bigger and better arc like the old miniseries.
2. How does the whole letter of the month thing work, is it, like the first person to email a letter, or is it a letter that builds up your thankfulness to the fans.
3. Are we ever going to get to see into the issues of another minor thug again (like Glue-Gun, a first live appearance of Dr.Saturday, mabye even another person wearing the best costume which is the mock Turtle).
4. Finally, since your heroes seem to be inspired by things but mostly only 1 percent and the other 99 is all your, have you ever got an idea for anything base around the works of Stephen King.
Thanks for answering this letter (possibly), I’m really sorry that I’ve asked you all these questions I’m just really curious about the serious. here’s to another 50 issues (hopefully)!
Ahh, more numbered questions! So easy to answer!
1. I’m not sure why the ending of 15 is confusing. Ellie says she’s got her own ways of getting by without Honor Guard’s help, and we see that her robots are now running a beekeeping, honey-making operation somewhere in the Appalachians. That’s how she’s getting by without outside help, and maintaining her privacy at the same time.
2. It’s entirely a matter of whim. I just look at the letters that have come in, and pick one to be the Letter of the Month. It’s not a contest, so there aren’t any rules. I just want to run good letters. And of course, there are practical factors—a letter that’s too long to fit in our print letter column is less likely to be chosen as a LOTM. And a letter that’s really short probably won’t be chosen either, unless I have a lot of other stuff to fill the space with, as I did an issue or two back.
3. We last saw into the issues of a minor thug (if that’s the right term for him) in #12, so that’s not that long ago. I’m sure we’ll see other criminal viewpoints over time. I wouldn’t call Dr. Saturday a minor thug, though—he’s pretty clearly in the ‘mad scientist’ category.
4. Can’t say I’ve been inspired by any specific concepts from Stephen King, though I’m a big fan of his work and I’ve been influenced by his writing style here and there. But I doubt you’re going to see anyone in Astro City who’s escaped a town of vampires or has to fight a rabid dog or anything. Still, you never know where an influence might crop up.
And that’s it for another lettercol. Not many letters this month, but hey, I can only publish what we get. I’d have been worried by the lack of mail, but #16 got a big influx of responses. I guess we’ll see how #17 does, lettercol-wise.
In the meantime, everyone have a good month! Next time: A Quarrel & Crackerjack story that’ll tell you a lot more about both characters begins. See you there!