Astro City Mail – June 2015


Hi! Sorry to be about a week and a half late with this online letter column. I’ve been traveling, and also working on 5 issues of ASTRO CITY at once, as we strive to get on time production-wise and (fingers crossed, knock wood) stay that way. We’ve just gotten one issue off to press, three others are being drawn, and I’m writing the next one after those. So busy busy busy.

But that’s not your concern. You want letters? I got some letters. First off, here’s what was printed in #24…

• • •

So. What song do you think they’re playing? I keep thinking it’s “I Wanna Be Sedated,” but then, I’m hopped up on cold medicine, and it’s been running through my head all day.

I’m also caught in multiple-time—writing this lettercolumn about #22 as I balloon pages of #24, work on script for two other issues and get a cover rough in for yet another issue, all in the same day. I’m spread across at least six months (seven if you count yesterday, when we were lining up another terrific guest artist for an issue a little further out), and Even without the Delsym, I think my head would be spinning.

But soft. What Letter of the Month through yonder computer-window breaks? Hey, look—it’s everyone’s favorite guy named:


Issue 22 was another great issue in the long-running ASTRO CITY series! In just one issue we are introduced to Starfighter, his family, his world, his mythos, etc. It immediately feels so rich and detailed and fires up the imagination. Reminds me of that feeling when I was a kid looking through back issue bins at the comic store and some awesome covers making me wonder about the crazy adventures inside (the NEW TEEN TITANS Pérez covers I remember distinctly making an impression years before I could afford to read them. And sometimes (but not often—usually when Perez did not draw the issue) the cover evoked a better story in my head that what was found inside.

You manage to bring the same feeling with ASTRO CITY—so many cool references, background characters, etc.—sometimes it is better to leave some mysteries untold, or adventures unchronicled and to let readers fill in the blanks (James Robinson did this to great effect in his STARMAN series).

The one item in this issue that I feel may be interesting to follow up on is the threat Starfighter senses on the periphery of his awareness…could it be linked to the Broken Man?

Keep up the great work and we will keep on reading!

It certainly could be, John…but is it? Ah, that’s another question for another day.

Then again, the Broken Man did say the Oubor had “gotten to” Astro City’s major heroes in some way. And if Starfighter’s cosmic abilities sense something out there but can’t quite get a hold on it, well, could be. Could be indeed. If so, that’s a reference we’ll be following up on, you bet.

I’m glad you like all the side-references and mentions of adventures that have happened offstage, too. We want the world of ASTRO CITY to feel like it’s rich and complicated and full of all kinds of history, just as our world is, and following any one character—or two, or seven, or ninety—through their days will still leave a ton of events unseen. The story we’re telling at the moment should work as a story, but it should feel like it’s happening in a world that should feel bigger and more…ooh, cold medicine…

Anyway. Thanks for the letter, John. Hope you like what’s coming. Meanwhile, as ever, them what wrote the Letter of the Month gets a copy of the issue in which their letter appears, signed by me. So fire us off your mailing address, and a copy of “Apeman Blues” will be on its way to you.

And now I’m going to go buy new comics! Wish me luck!

• • •

Just in case anyone was wondering, I safely bought comics and made it back home in one piece. I may have had dinner, too.

And now that your curiosity’s settled on that score, let’s see what’s in the e-mailbag.
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Astro City Mail – May 2015


Let’s get this party started with the text from the print lettercol…

And here we are with part one of a story we’ve been promising for, if not decades, then close to it. I’ve always said that a superhero universe that doesn’t have talking gorillas in it simply isn’t done yet, so it’s good to get such an essential element established here, after almost twenty years. Hope you like reading it as much as we’ve liked making it!

And on that note, on with the lettercol. To mix things up, I’ll mention up top this time that every month we pick a letter for this page, using carefully-honed criteria (and when I say “we” and “using carefully-honed criteria,” I mean “me” and “by total whim”). Whoever writes our Letter of the Month gets a copy of the issue in which their letter appears, signed by a member of the creative team (okay, okay, it’s me again). But the other letters we receive aren’t discarded—we run them, too, in the online lettercolumn, so you get even more of my questionably-valuable answers.

Anyway. Who do we have for a Letter of the Month this month? Why, it’s:

Kevin S. Mahoney

Well that went sideways quickly didn’t it?  I know a big part of ASTRO CITY is the honest aging of everyone in it (except folks like Leo, Samaritan and Infidel, of course), but I didn’t figure it would sting quite this much. Still, there was plenty of sweet on top of the bitter pill that was this installment. Before I read it, I expected Jack was dead and I never thought Quarrel would reconcile with her dad, but now I’m glad both happened. Jack and Quarrel deserve each other, now more than ever. Their relationship never struck me as all that solid before, but it sure does after the last three issues. I’m a Jack fan from way back and I hope he realizes how lucky he is after this misadventure. And the Taggart reunion seemed honest and sensible. I wonder what took more guts, giving up her mask or starting a new relationship with Mack? Both proved she was a hero.

I can’t believe you guys don’t get many letters. ASTRO CITY is easily the most multilayered book I read.  Between the sophisticated stories and the amazing art, you’d think the mail would just flood in. I guess I’ll have to write more often, that’s all.

PS I know you love a random song lyric Kurt. Someone needs to remind Samaritan:

Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life
But love can break your heart

I don’t know that Samaritan needs to be reminded of that—after all, one of his key quotes, from way back in our first series, is, “There’s always hope. Well, there is.”

But Samaritan doesn’t just hope. He acts, to do his best to make those hopes come true. And that’s something we’ll be dealing with in a few issues, as we check in on Samaritan’s dreams again for our 20th anniversary issue.

In the meantime, yes, please continue writing in. We’re always eager to hear what our readers think—and while we make no promises to do what you want us to, we do at least listen.

I expect the dwindling of letters has to do with readers voicing their thoughts online, or waiting for the book collections, or DC’s overall lack of lettercolumns in general, or some combination of things like that. So it goes, in this cutting-edge world of the future. But we’ll keep doing lettercols as long as we keep getting enough letters to justify them.
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Astro City Mail – April 2015


Let’s see if we can get this lettercol up more or less on time. It’s mere minutes since I posted the last one, dinner’s not going to be ready for a little while, so let’s see if I can ride this letter-answering momentum into a shocking two columns in a row!

First off, here’s what the print lettercol had to say…

A hearty welcome to our latest guest artist, Jesús Merino! I’ve worked with Jesús before—he inked Carlos Pacheco on ARROWSMITH and AVENGERS FOREVER, and we did some SUPERMAN issues together, too. So I’m thrilled to have him join in on this issue and at least one more!

Brent’ll be back next month, but hey! Here’s this month’s letter!

Sergio Accioly

Let me tell you a conspiracy theory about ASTRO CITY that´s been cooking inside my head for far too long (note: I don´t claim rights to this theory. If it´s wrong but you like it, please feel free to use, no lawsuits will follow, only thank yous).

It’s about Crackerjack. Since “Reconnaissance,” way, way back in the first trade paperback, I’ve lived with this suspicion that Crackerjack is a) a more much likable guy than he lets on, and b) far more skilled than people give him credit for.

Too many of his stunts go just right for me to believe in blind luck. I’m always reminded of the Silver Age stories about Batman and Superman in their civilian identities using the “blind luck” and “I’m so clumsy” excuses to save the day without breaking cover. I think that the same principle applies to Crackerjack (implying that his superhero identity is a cover).

Circumstantial evidence for this is that he had a second secret ID ready to go when his first one was broken due to fire in his building, and that in “Confession,” he was the one that sprung the Astro City Irregulars.

That’s it for point B; for point A, I just point out that nice people, like he was described by his neighbors, can play the jerk role much more easily than an A-hole can pretend to be a nice person.

So, why does he play the incompetent, insufferable fool for the world at large? My guess is that he’s setting himself to be underestimated by his peers. If he’d been a villain, he’d try to be a charming fool, to gain their trust. An abrasive fool, on the other hand, would suit a man trying to uncover a dark secret in the superhuman community, gathering clues that nobody would give him credit to see, and generally paying him no mind.

So, how close to the mark did I come? The best answer, of course, would be an arc about him, telling his story. And if it wasn’t this the one you had planned but you like it, it would be my honor if you used it, free of charge (A thank you in the story would be enough—oh vanity).

That’s it. Sorry for the many disclaimers, but I always remember how Peter David used to get pissed when fans suggested storylines similar to the ones he’d planned, leading to all sorts of potential complications. I thought it would be better to cover these (very legitimate) concerns.

Finally, I do think that you still owe us some stories about the Gentleman. Please?

Crackerjack is (or was) certainly more skilled than most would guess, Sergio. But as for the rest, who knows? He doesn’t share much. I wouldn’t put much weight on his neighbors telling TV reporters he was nice after they knew he was a hero, though.

But he does seem to like playing roles. To what end? Time may (or may not) tell. Maybe he is the Gentleman!

Meanwhile, you wrote the Letter of the Month, so you get a signed copy of this issue. E-mail us your address and we’ll send it out. And there’s more lettercol online! Details below.

Details below? Heck, we’re online now—the whole rest of the lettercol is below!
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Astro City Mail – March 2015


So, when last we met, weeks ago, I said this lettercolumn would be up by the weekend. It wasn’t. Since that time, I’ve been scrambling to get things done, or ill, or in Los Angeles for meetings, or in Seattle for a convention, and so forth and so on. But now, with a new issue hitting the stands tomorrow, I really should get last month’s lettercol done. If I have enough energy, maybe I’ll get this month’s done, too!

But let’s got get ahead of ourselves.

Let me start off with the text from the printed issue…

And here we are at the end of the story. An end, and a beginning..of a few things. Or as Crackerjack would put it, “There used to be flying dogs in this town, y’know? There used to be flying dogs.”

But as we’re here at the end of the trail, or mail is in the middle of it, with comments about #19. So let’s take a look at the Letter of the Month for this go-round:

Kevin Street

“Oh, go deliver some damn mail!”


It’s the fashion these days for every hero to have a tragic backstory, to make them more…important seeming, I suppose. You can’t just be a rich guy who loves boxing glove arrows and feathered caps anymore. Instead you’ve got to rise up from a hellish ordeal that makes you super. Like a crucible.

Is Quarrel’s story a tragic one? It’s hard to say. There’s definitely some tragedy there, and a betrayal that marked her for life. But look what she did with it. Everything she’s done since she put on her father’s supersuit has been a steady climb to the peak of human achievement. As she might say, it pushed her. By pushing back she freed herself and her family from poverty. Maybe the real tragedy would have been if nothing happened and all her potential stayed unused.

The relationship with Crackerjack is similar. It could have gone to the creepy side so very easily, but she never let that happen. Her sense of identity is too strong to become submerged within someone else’s expectations, even when that someone else is almost perfectly suited to fit her needs. She’ll never just be a Mrs. Crackerjack, so instead of being creepy, the relationship became an expression of genuine love and a positive thing for both of them.

Quarrel is such a fascinating character! Thank you for telling her story.

I’ve been telling people for years that Quarrel’s my favorite ASTRO CITY character, and I was looking forward to finally getting to show people why. It’s not precisely true, I can’t really play favorites—I like whoever I’m writing while writing about them, because I’m in their headspace and their life and all that they deal with—but I have been itching to get Quarrel into the spotlight, because she fascinates me. She just wouldn’t make conventional choices, but built a life that worked for her anyway. So I wanted to get into her head and show off her background and impulses and contradictions and drives and triumphs and all that.

What I didn’t expect was how much I’d like getting into Crackerjack, too, into his secrets and dickery and loyalty and drive and charm and, ultimately, desperation, as what had worked for him for so long just didn’t work any more.

So I’m glad you’ve liked Quarrel’s story, and all the places her drive took her. And I’m thrilled to have had the chance to write such an unconventional romance. I don’t know for sure yet how much we’ll see of either of them in the future, but their stories may not be over, not yet—and even so, there’s always the past. Why, you don’t even know Jack’s real name! So who knows what may come?

Well, we know this, at least: You wrote the Letter of the Month, Kevin, so you get a signed copy of this issue. E-mail us your address and we’ll fire it off to you.

So. That’s Kevin. What else we got?
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Your Patience Begged…


So, with a new ASTRO CITY out this week, there should be a new online lettercol, yes? Yes.

The reason there’s isn’t, yet…well, I’m dealing with a sprightly, outgoing kidney stone that’s invited itself to stay with me for a while and doesn’t seem eager to go. So between pain pills and alpha blockers, I’m a little…vague at times, and am running a little slower than usual. So this week I’m scrambling to get two scripts done while dealing with the slings and arrows of everyday life (today, the cable guy and spending some time riding shotgun as my eldest got some driving practice in a local roomy church parking lot), and by the time the day cycles down, I’m not really in the right space to do a decent letter column.

So the lettercol will be here, but it might not arrive until the weekend.

In the meantime, all of us here at the Astro City Chamber of Commerce and Street Theater hope you enjoyed #21, and aren’t too tear-stained to be anticipating #22. Please write in and let us know what you thought of it!

As for me, I’m going up to bed to say hi to Dr. House’s friend Vicodin, and challenge my befogged brain with the complex mysteries of NCIS.

But I’ll leave you with a preview (of sorts) of #25…