Through the Mail Slot


Having just finished up an ASTRO CITY letter column, which’ll go up shortly, I figured I’d check and see what kind of non-Astro City mail we had here in the blog mailbox.


Looks like I haven’t answered any blog mail in a year. Aheh. Sorry.

Let’s do some, and at least make a start on digging out.

First up, from MIKE, on 12/11/12 (yes, just about exactly a year ago):

Just reread AVENGERS: ULTRON UNLIMITED. Masterful entertainment.


Thank you, Mike! And, um, sorry to be so delinquent in responding.

Next, from THOMAS:

Okay, so you get a brother hooked on ASTRO CITY, then it’s gone. I think it’s the best written book of the last twenty years. Please let me know if it will ever be back.

I’m an English prof at a small community college, and I’ve written a few small projects for small comic book publishers. Your work was not only entertaining; it was inspiring. I hope it will return soon.

Thanks, Thomas. Glad to have had an effect, creatively if not as an avatar of productivity.

I hope you’ve noticed by now that ASTRO CITY’s been back since June, and (so far at least) hitting all our release dates. Hope you’ve been enjoying it!

Next, LARRY:

Any DC plans in the near or far future? You’ve been away from the DCU (and the DCNu) for too long. I, for one, would like to see you writing SUPERMAN as I think you could return that book to the proper place it deserves. It has been floundering (to be kind) since the relaunch, I think.

I haven’t been keeping up on Superman lately, but from what I’ve seen online, people seem to be happy with what Scott Snyder, Scott Lobdell and Greg Pak have been doing with the books, so I hope it’s been to your taste.

No ongoing DCU plans for me, at present—though I am still slowly working on BATMAN; CREATURE OF THE NIGHT, the “thematic sequel” to SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY, for which John Paul Leon is doing a masterful job with the art. But beyond that, I’m hoping to concentrate more on creator-owned material, and have a few projects in the works that you’ll get to see begin sometime next year.

So I won’t be diving into the waters of the New 52, but I hope I’ll be able to do other books that’ll capture your imagination and attention…

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Through The Mail Slot


So, where were we? What, mail to answer? Okay, mail to answer.
First up, from CALVIN:

Hey, Kurt, we met at the Portland show and I bought SUPERSTAR and thought it was great. Any more of this coming out? Thanks and I am looking for more of Superstar.
Not soon, at least. But more Superstar is definitely something I want to get to—if nothing else, I came up with a big sprawling epic story for the character and haven’t been able to tell even that one, much less all the others. So someday, I really want to get to that one, at least.
And, uh, sorry for taking over a year (!) to respond…
Who’s next? Ah, DEAN:

I really hope this isn’t the end of Superstar! What can we do to revive his career? He has so much potential, not only to fight evil, but really change to world for the better by inspiring his fans to volunteerism and activism.
Captain Amazing, at one point in the movie, violently rips the Pepsi logo off his costume from among the many others festooning it. Does he wear the pink ribbon of breast cancer, the multi-colored one of autism awareness, the black one in memory of MIAs and POWs? Does he go on talk shows to defend against drinking and driving, teen pregnancy, racism, or illiteracy?
If it’s revealed that he can only take the life force of willing givers, that goes a long way to alleviating my former apprehension of his soul vampirism. Superstar is the first hero I know of who has the responsibility to use his power to support itself. Remembering that he uses life force, he has to use it in a way that his fans feel is appropriate or he will lose his fans. With great power comes great responsibility and that is no more true for any superhero than it is for Superstar.
Captain Amazing?
Yes, Superstar’s energy donors are all volunteers. And Superstar’s not devouring their souls, just absorbing some sort of bio-chemical energy, or something along those lines. It’s science, not spiritualism, and he doesn’t take it by force, like a vampire.
But that big epic story I mentioned above? It’s very much about the idea that if he doesn’t do what his supporters feel is appropriate, he loses his support—and thus, his power. What happens when his supporters feel he’s unworthy? Similarly, what happens if he doesn’t want to kowtow to popular prejudices? He’s something of a politician-hero, or needs to be, and that’s very much a two-edged sword.

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Through the Mail Slot


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.

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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Through the Mail Slot


Checking in on the e-mail…

Would love it if at some point you wrote a few things about Conan: Born on the Battlefield…the writing process, the goals you wanted to achieve and how you went about achieving them! For me Born on the Battlefield is like a Terrence Malick film, difference being that unlike Malick nature offers no sanctuary to the characters.
Also I’m loving your Facebook page, thanks!
My pleasure. Anyone who hasn’t checked it out can find me on Facebook at The Official Kurt Busiek Page.
As for Born on the Battlefield…I’m not sure what to say. We set out to do two things, really. First was to tell the story of Conan’s youth, based on the various hints and snippets and references made by Robert E. Howard in both his Conan stories and his letters. We dug up all the information we could—from the information that he was in fact born on a battlefield to things like his father being a blacksmith, his grandfather telling stories of raiding into the civilized lands in his youth, the bit about breaking a bull’s neck with his bare hands and so on—and tried to shape it into a set of stories that would show Conan growing into the person we meet in “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter,” a wanderer driven to see new things, unable to stay in one place, distrusting of authority but strong enough to lead, smart but moody, someone with so primal a core he stood out even among his own people and so on.
The second thing was that we wanted to use the arc as a way to save Cary Nord some schedule time. So it was done as a series of single-issue stories (except for the two-part finale), to be dropped in in-between the main story arcs. A way of doing fill-ins that wouldn’t feel like fill-ins, but as an event readers could look forward to. It was a little tricky, sometimes, to write it so that it’d work as standalone issues and still read well when collected into book form, but it was worth it. Readers liked it, and it’s gotten equally good reaction in book form.
Howard never really showed us Cimmeria, so building it from his references was fun, making it a relatively cheerless, almost Calvinistic place, full of grim purpose and unending work, building a culture that was primitive enough to be considered barbaric but developed enough to have blacksmiths, and so on. And Greg Ruth did an amazing job with the artwork. I think I drove him crazy sometimes with nitpicks obsessions about swords and terrain and kilts. But he really made it all come to life beautifully.

I understand a lot of writers don’t like to comment on writer’s block, but I know that it is a real problem sometimes. When you have a deadline, and have yet to nail something down, what do you do to get yourself inspired to write?
Who would be some of your dream actors for Astro City the movie?
Since I’m a producer on the Astro City movie, currently in development (knock wood), I’ll hold off on revealing my top choices, because I wouldn’t want to deal with people saying later, “You wanted Hartley Thrushlocks for that role and had to settle for Craigston Hardwick! Why don’t you like Hardwick?” when ol’ Craigston is in fact perfectly good for the role.
Also, these things tend to be about casting every role with familiar stars who look just like the character even if they can’t act the part, and I’d be perfectly happy with unknowns who can act the essence of the character even if they don’t resemble what Brent and Alex drew. I’ve said for years that someone like Denzel Washington could project what I see in Samaritan, so I’m not that worried about appearance. [Er, not that Denzel is an unknown, or anything.]
As for writer’s block, I’m not sure I’ve ever had it. There are times I find it hard to get going, but that’s usually physical—fatigue, allergies, sinus infections, whatever. So deal with the physical stuff and let the brain work. Or if I’m having a hard time making a story work, I’ll talk to my wife or call a friend and bat it around. I often find that just explaining the story to someone else lets me solve the problems I’m having, that my brain’s chasing things round and round fruitlessly, by forcing myself to articulate the problems out loud brings along the solution pretty easily.
Karl Kesel occasionally mocks me for calling him up for story help, explaining the problem and figuring out the solution without him having to say anything more than, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. That sounds good.” But I wouldn’t get to the solution without the process of talking to him. Whatever works.
From [Name Deleted]:

My name is [deleted again] and I am seeking a penciler,colourist/inker and a writer for my own comic book. Could you please send me an email to [deleted] with a quote for the following:
2 page origin story
22 page comic book &
88 page graphic novel like (example movie 300).
[here, a link was given to a YouTube slideshow of what seemed to be the entirety of Frank Miller’s 300 graphic novel, which is an interesting form of online piracy I hadn’t seen before]
Looking forward to doing business with you.
I’m deleting the identifying info because I’m not posting this in order to hold this person up to criticism, just using this as an opportunity to publicly respond to this kind of query, which I get every now and then.
The thing is, I’m not actually looking for work, and when I am I’m not just looking for someone to meet my rates, and will produce origin stories and graphic novels like yard goods. I’m plenty busy, and when and if I am looking for assignments, I’m going to seek them out from established publishers. Writing for a living isn’t just about getting paid a certain amount—everyone who writes for the public wants the material to reach an audience and be presented well, so we want to know that just as we bring talent, craft and creativity to the table, the publisher brings the ability to do their side of the job well, too. Can they produce a well-made book, promote it well, get it distributed to stores, and more? Will they be able to team me up with good collaborators for the art, the lettering and so on? Are they well-established enough that I can be confident they’ll pay their bills, and pay royalties on a steady schedule?
So I’m just not going to be available to be hired over the internet by an individual. Sorry. On top of that, I’m trying to concentrate on material I create myself these days, rather than working on someone else’s ideas. [I’ll make an exception when it’s Jack Kirby’s ideas and I get to work with Alex Ross, but that’s a special case, I think you’ll agree.]
I’m also forced to wonder: If other creators are going to be writing, penciling, inking, coloring and lettering the comic, what’s left?
In any case, no offense is meant to the person who e-mailed. I’m just not available on that kind of basis.
From BOB:

Are DC and yourself still going to follow up on the end of Trinity? Is there any timeframe if yes?
As I understand it, you’ve already seen a follow-up, though I’m not entirely sure which one. At one point, the “Earth-One” created at the end of Trinity was going to be the setting of the DCU Online roleplaying game, in which case the follow-up is the DC Universe Online Legends series that Marv Wolfman and Tony Bedard are writing.
Of course, it’s possible that plans changed, and the Earth-One you saw at the end of Trinity is the setting for J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth-One graphic novel. Or maybe it’s something else.
But when I finished Trinity, it wasn’t with the idea that I’d be following up that thread—it was put in at DC’s request, so they could take things onward as they chose. So it’s entirely up to them.
It would be nice to see someone pick up the Dreambound or Tomorrow Woman or Warhound and do something with them, but since I’m currently not writing anything set in the DCU, it won’t be me, at least not at present. Maybe someday.
From DAN:

I just wanted to say that I first read Astro City when I was 15. I’m 25 now and I’ve just started to gather all the paperback collections so that I can read them over and over again. I have volumes I-III and I’ve probably already read them five, six times over (this is considering I’ve only had them for a month!)
Thanks again for creating the best comic books that have ever existed.
My pleasure, Dan, and it’s Brent’s, Alex’s and the rest of the team’s, as well. We’re delighted you like it so much.

I don’t think I’ve ever written to you before, but I just wanted to stop buy and saying thank you for Thunderbolts. It’s my favourite comic ever published, and owes everything to your idea and groundwork. In fact, it was the comic that got me into comics in the first place, which is a hobby I have loved (and still do) for 10+ years.
I know it must be odd, getting a message like this after so long, but it occurred to me I have never expressed to your how much enjoyment and pleasure I have gotten from Thunderbolts. I truly hope it gets made into a film (trilogy) one day. Your work deserves it!
I don’t have much to say in response but thanks—it’s great getting mail like this, but hard to respond to.
I’m quite proud of the Thunderbolts, and glad of the time Mark Bagley, Tom Brevoort and I spent working on the book, and I’m very happy it’s still going today. Not sure it’ll ever make a movie property (so much background and context to explain), but it’d be fun to see someone try it…
From REO:

On page 188 of the trade paperback of Superman: Secret Identity (this would be in the 4th issue) Clark is contemplating what to do with his two daughters when he notices a Post-It by the phone. I was just wondering what was written on that Post-It or what the significance of that note was.
I know it’s been a while since Superman: Secret Identity was finished and released but this has been something that’s really been at the back of head for quite some time now.
Still waiting for the possibility of a Shockrockets Vol. 2 and even Superstar. 🙂 Thanks so much.


I didn’t remember a Post-It in the story, so I had to go check. No, there’s nothing important on that Post-It (or at least, not important to the story; it may well be important to Clark. It’s just part of the general clutter of his office. What he’s reacting to is the sound of the train derailing, as he notes on the next page. Sorry that was confusing!
And more Shockrockets or Superstar would be nice, someday. In the meantime, I’m just happy both are back in print and available for new readers to try ’em out!
Speaking of Secret Identity, here’s MATT:

I just finished reading all 4 Superman: Secret Identitys and I just wanted to say it’s a piece that really spoke to me. It just made me feel better about my own life. A lot of the things Clark dealt with I could absolutely relate to, I think a few times my thoughts matched his on the page. The books just left me with a very good feeling about life in general, and that for the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to what’s down the road for me. I’m ready to live my life and have my own adventure.
Thank you again for your wonderful work.
You keep writing them, I’ll keep reading them.
It’s a deal. Thanks for the note.
From KEN:

Is Astro City ever gonna come back out?
Yes, it is. We’ve been working on it steadily, but haven’t firmly scheduled its return yet, because (a) there’ve been a couple of waves of business upheaval that delayed things, and (b) we want to make sure both Astro City and the new book, The Witchlands, will be on a monthly schedule when we do return, something we haven’t exactly been great at the last few, uh, forever.
So we want to make sure everything’s going to work smoothly and stay working smoothly, rather than come back with promises of being monthly and then immediately fall off the rails. But we should be ready to make an announcement fairly soon.
And that’s another batch of mail answered!

Through the Mail Slot


A couple-three more e-mails…

I was wondering what your policy on sketches and autographs at conventions was:
1) Do you charge for autographs, if so how much and after how many, and do you have a limit?
2) Do you charge for any type of sketch, and how much and for what do you charge for (e.g. head sketches, mini bust type sketches, full body sketches: what would you charge per different one)?
3) Last one being, would you sketch anything or do you want me to ask you to do something you know pretty well and is it better to ask you ahead of convention time or wait til I get there and ask?
That’s all I think that I am wondering, if you could get back to me that would be great cause I would like to know before Emerald City Comicon.
I’m pretty sure I’ve answered this before—this very e-mail, not just the general questions—but just in case:
1. I don’t charge for autographs. I don’t have a set limit, either, with the following two caveats: (a) if you have a big stack and there’s a line, I may say I’ll sign some of them but you’ll have to get back in line after that, because I don’t want to keep the people behind you waiting, and (b) if you bring an entire longbox full of my stuff I may say hey, let’s not be ridiculous. I’m willing to sign a lot of books, but let’s not try to have me sign my entire output.
2. I’m a writer, not an artist, so you don’t really want to get sketches from me. I occasionally do sketches, but they’re very bad, so I don’t charge for them. But I’d rather not do them at all and you wouldn’t be impressed by the results. Generally I do them for sad-looking children who don’t really get the idea that not everyone sitting on the other side of those tables can draw, but I fear I don’t make them very happy.
3. Even bad sketches have their limits. I can do a few crappy-looking head shots I have some practice at, but if I try to draw something other than those, it looks even worse.
Here’s one of my sketches:


And that’s after years of practice, too. You really don’t want to pay me to draw.
Have you checked this out on YouTube? Tim reviews your book Superman: Secret Identity. check it out!

Thanks, Diane. I’m crossing my fingers that the video will embed properly; I’ve never tried to do this before.
[Side-note to Tim: Glad you like the book, and happy to have made you cry. It’s actually ‘BYOO-sik’ and “IMM-uh-n’n,’ more or less. And yes, that was an ending in Shockrockets: We Have Ignition, though Stuart and I would like to follow up on it someday…]

Big fan of Astro City and was just enjoying your “breaking in” piece, and tried to read the 3-part interview when I got to a broken link for Part 1 (and 2, incidentally).
Probably an easy fix.
As for the breaking-in piece, it interested me because last year I embarked on an experiment in podcasting after a more-than-twenty-year attempt to achieve success in music.
And I think you’re right. It’s best to concern yourself with doing, with MAKING something, rather than planning or struggling to figure out the WAY IN.
Thanks for the heads-up on the broken links. It was indeed an easy fix, and they should work just fine now.
And I’ll take this opportunity to remind other readers that there’s more to this website than the Notes section—the Read section has a smattering of stories, previews, interviews and essays (not as many as I’d like, but hey, some), the Find section has information on upcoming appearances, the Shop section has links to my books on Amazon, and so forth. Feel free to browse around.
I’m glad you liked the “Breaking In” piece, Geoffrey. It’s gotten a lot of attention over the years, and I can only hope it’s been useful.