Astro City Mail – January 2015

AC_postmark_chesler_2014

Whoops! What’s the Astro City post office doing stamping this with a 2014 postmark? They must not have the new stamp in yet! What kinda Mickey Mouse operation are you running, guys?

Anyway. Let’s see what’s in the print lettercol for ASTRO CITY 19:

Here we are, chasing another deadline to bring you quality funnybook entertainment. We can only hope you’re enjoying it half as much as we are.

And for your aprés-comic text needs, here’s your Letter of the Month:

Zack Williams

I used to be of the mind set that whatever could get more ASTRO CITY into our hands, even if it meant other artists taking a swing at Astro City stories, I was for it. This was when ASTRO CITY was going through delays and after the first hiatus in the early 2000s and its return in 2003.

But then over those next few years, the more I came to realize how much Brent Anderson’s art was part of what drew me into the series, with his facial expressions and detail. I became more of the mindset that, no matter how long or painful the wait, ASTRO CITY by its core creators was worth the wait.

So, of course when you announced there would be guest artists I got my wish about ten years later with a little bit of trepidation. But I’ve come to trust you, Kurt, regarding this series. I thought you lost it when the next issue box told of a story about a cartoon lion in a world of superheroes. Then you delivered one of your very best Astro tales with “In the Spotlight.”

I’ve had a few artists that I’d like to see do Astro City stories, if you ever did go down that route, and one of them was always Tom Grummett.

And I have to say he did an excellent job.  I’ve always liked his nice clean style, and he didn’t disappoint. It would have been nice for him to do the full pencils throughout but for the most part the work stayed very strong. He’s not Brent, but there is something in the styles that make them seem very complimentary in continuing to expand this world. (Graham Nolan is a great artist too and I enjoyed his work, but his work is  more a cartoon style.)

I hope you can get Mr. Grummett’s services again down the line for a fill-in issue if need be. And naturally I’m curious to see the other potential fill-in artists.

Congrats too. 2014 is the year with the most ASTRO CITY stories/issues published in it. I think 2013 tied with either 1996 or 1997, but this year you guys got over the hump by far. Keep up the good work as always.

We’ll do our best, Zack.

I hadn’t realized that 2014’s been the Astro-est year in our history. That’s pretty cool. We had one skip month, so we had 11 issues out this year. We’re pulling for 12 in 2015! What better (if perhaps a bit embarrassing) way to celebrate our 20th anniversary year than full monthly publication for the first time in the series history? My god, it’s full of stars!

I agree, it would have been nice to have Tom do full pencils for the issue, but alas, things just didn’t work out that way. But I’ve always liked working with Tom, and even his layouts told the story solidly and well. As to the future, we’d love to have Graham or Tom back, but we’re also looking in other directions as well. I’m writing the next guest-artist issue now, and it’s going to look great, believe you me.

And you know the Letter of the Month drill, Zack: E-mail us your address, get back a signed copy of this issue. And as ever, more of all this can be found at the online lettercol.

More? There’s more?

We said there’s more, so there had just better be more, hadn’t there?

Well, yeah, okay. More. To start off, a note from JOHN BACON:

I was planning to use this, the next new issue of ASTRO CITY, as the “vehicle” for demonstrating the concepts of our still-in-prototype development Event-Driven-Timeline for Herocopia.

Given the amount of flashbacks, the steady stream of Honor Guard characters, the subatomica realms and realities…

Ummm…yea, not so much.

Sorry to overwhelm, sir! And if he rest of you haven’t checked out what John and friends have been doing at Herocopia, click the link in his letter and check it out for yourself!

Next up, a wholly-different JOHN:

ASTRO CITY 17 delivered another great story! It is always a pleasure to see you and Tom Grummett work together again. I am happy that there have been guest artists on this run of ASTRO CITY. It helps keep the schedule constant and allows us to see different interpretations of the growing cast of characters (maybe Alex Ross can participate one day on interiors? Am I the first to suggest this? :))

The main reason I wrote was due to the comment you made about not receiving too many letters. I really feel that the letters page is an important part of the comic book reading experience. By putting a creator’s voice in the comic letter page, I feel more engaged as a reader on a personal level. When letter pages disappeared I find that a key point of connection with the audience was lost.

Marvel knew this in the 60s with Stan’s Soapbox that captured reader and popular zeitgeist (as opposed to sterile and impersonal DC books from that same era).

This tradition continued later with Mark’s Remarks in the 80s. Mark Gruenwald was one of the first editors I felt I ‘knew’ growing up reading Marvel when I was a teenager. He had almost created a personal brand on the books he edited and I really enjoyed his musings and insider information.

Denny O’Neil’s column From the Den in his DC books was also a great view into process, coming attractions and some funny anecdotes about life in the publishing world and life in general for that matter. The regular letter writers (T.M Maple, Uncle Elvis, etc) of the 80s also contributed to what was an intelligent and fun discourse in the back of every issue.

I am happy to see modern day writers like yourself continue this tradition. Ed Brubaker’s letter pages (and back matter articles) are amazing and have helped me discover numerous new films, TV shows, and comics that I never knew about.

It is hard to define what exactly this adds to the reading experience but when it is not there, I do feel like something is missing. A personal touch that really resonates when it comes to the comic book community. Similar to the atmosphere in a good comic shop.

This even extends to television and radio. Remember when certain stations had people indelibly linked to them? Usually newscasters (Cronkite was the face of CBS) or late-night hosts (like Carson) or even people tied to certain shows (Serling on THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Hitchcock on his ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, Roger Ebert, etc).

When a lot of the new cable channels came on, I remember thinking the best ones where the ones that had an occasional host or group that introduced the movie or show and gave you some context and commentary (the History Channel did this). Again, this adds a certain something that is lacking in a sea of anonymous channels with no real ‘face.’ I think this also explains the popularity of shows about shows like TALKING DEAD or ANARCHY AFTERWORD. We like to chat with like-minded individuals about our entertainment.

I am happy to see a resurgence of letter pages and back matter recently (especially in creator owned books), so please continue the tradition in ASTRO CITY and on your website—it is really appreciated!

PS: Are you still working on the horror anthology series you had discussed a few years ago, AMERICAN WITCHCRAFT?

To answer you in reverse order: You’re thinking of AMERICAN GOTHIC (which was retitled THE WITCHLANDS (and no, Autocorrect, it was not called THE WATCHBANDS)). And that book is pretty solidly on the back burner these days, because as I started getting healthier, I wanted to do some new books. So we shelved that one for a while. But I do want to get back to it, or to stories like it, at some point.

As to lettercolumns, you don’t need to sell me on the value (and fun) of lettercolumns. I was a longtime letter hack as a teenager, right up until I broke in as a pro, and even here and there afterward. And I’ve got no intention of ending this column.

But a lettercol needs letters, so if readers don’t write in, that makes things more difficult. You’ll notice that these columns fluctuate in length, and that’s because I run pretty much all the letters we get (though I reserve the right to skip letters that are obscene or abusive), and the number of letters we get fluctuates. If the flow of letters were to dry up, then it wouldn’t much matter if I wanted to continue the column.

So reader, if you agree with John, write in! You supply the bulk of the content here—I just respond with answers, anecdotes and general foolery.

As to Alex Ross doing interior art for ASTRO CITY…as I’m sure you expect, you’re not the first person to suggest it, but Alex is generally pretty busy, so it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe someday.

Here’s BRIAN:

I have recently been corresponding with Michael Eury, editor of BACK ISSUE Magazine, regarding the current issue of that magazine which has the theme, “When comics were fun.”

The gist of our conversation has been the lack of truly heroic heroes in current comics. We have been lamenting that the current crop are as much anti-heroes as anything. Even the pillars of the heroic communities seem to be exhibiting some decidedly unheroic tendencies as of late. Almost all comic book superheroes currently have a dark, almost malicious bent to them. Almost as if we as a society find it impossible to believe in a truly good hero.

Then I read ASTRO CITY 17 and it renewed my faith in superheroes.

Thank you so much for writing a story that shows the superheroes we old fogeys remember and still love. Heroes who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good and who truly battle evil for all the right reasons. Heroes who are willing to forgive the failings of others because they believe in presenting themselves as an ideal we can all aspire to, not an outlet for our desires for revenge.

I still dream of a day when superhero comics return to the themes of heroism and self-sacrifice and give us a lineup of characters we can truly look up to and aspire to emulate as much as we can.

This issue put a smile on my face and reminded me of what I have always loved about superheroes, and for that I thank you.

You monster. Smiling at the death of a hero. How could you? And glad you liked it!

On to JEFFREY:

As Mel Allen might say, “How about that!”

Finishing off the touching AC 17, I found my email in the back of the book. Yumpin’ Yiminy!

Exercising my first right of refusal, I respectfully elect for you to offer the signed copy to another reader or in some future contest or promotion. I’m content you found the email entertaining enough to print.

I’ve never been one for signed comics. I never figured out why people wanted to “mess up” their copies with a signature (it’s not mint!). Even on my own books (yes, I’m a writer…isn’t everyone these days?), I shake my head on the few requests for signed copies (though on books, it’s at least less conspicuous).

Sure, I’ve gotten convention sketches from artists, but I don’t recall ever going to a writer’s table and being offered a couple paragraphs of prose for some money. And sure, I do still have a letter Walt Simonson wrote back to me (ah, the old days of real letters—told you it’s been a while since I wrote to comics) with a head and shoulders scribble of Hercules after I gushed over his run on the book, but, c’mon, that was Uncle Walt!

I figure that my recognition of writers’ work is that I reread it. ASTRO CITY falls in that group. Yes, I pick up the collections, but I reread them in regular form, too. I’m no sealed plastic bag guy (well, not anymore).

So, flattered as I am to be the “Letter of the Month,” I am quite satisfied with my unprotected, unsigned and infinitely re-readable copy.

I did chuckle reading your explanation of how you tried to avoid messing up your release schedule. It brought back memories of the fabled Dreaded Deadline Doom. I must say, I would rather have an occasional late book than those “cheats” of a couple pages and a reprint from back then.

Anyhoo, best wishes for a fun holiday season and a terrific new year!

Thanks!

So, who wants Jeffrey’s signed copy of ASTRO CITY 17? First e-mail (with mailing address) gets it. Who says this isn’t the Awesome Astro Age of getting free stuff out of reading the online lettercol?

[Edited to add: The book has been claimed. Thanks to all who e-mailed about it.]

And to finish up, here’s MAX:

Hi, Mr. Busiek.

Thanks for your entire body of work, but especially for ASTRO CITY. To this day, I think it ranks with the finest cross-genre storytelling in comics or any other medium. And no other episodic story has a first installment so clever, complete and mission-statement-capturing as the first Samaritan-focused issue. For a young teenager, there’s something a bit more valuable than frivolous diversion in the notion that Superman may be lonelier than you think. The series goes on to break genre borders and pull fresh humanity from familiar superheroic milieus. TARNISHED ANGEL was an epic fusion of character drama, noir adventure and superheroics. The Confessor’s arc is probably the greatest sidekick story ever told. You managed to build a fantastic, coherent world while also unearthing clever angles on familiar archetypes. These angles quickly came to feel more important than most of those icons’ canonized save-the-day tales. They got at what the experience of being a superhero might do to a person. I can only ever see ASTRO CITY TPBs as a fixture on my bookshelf. Of all the fiction I connected with at an early age, they may be the foremost example of work I reread today and pass on to friends. Truly great stuff.

Thanks again, Mr. Busiek.

My pleasure. And I’m sure I speak for Brent, Alex, JG, Sinc, Wendy, Kristy and more when I say, “Hey, what are we, chopped liver?!”

No, seriously, I’m sure they’re pleased, too, that the book has affected you so strongly, and that you’ve found so much to like in it. We’re all proud of it, and glad to have such a loyal (and discerning!) audience.

That’s it for this month, but we’ll see you next time, with your thoughts on the still-ongoing Quarrel story! It’s a date!

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