Busiek is well known as a comic book writer, having
written the well received Marvels, teaming up
with George Perez on a relaunce of The Avengers,
turning a group of villains into the world's greatest
replacement heroes in Thunderbolts, and giving us
the creator-owned Astro City. His co-created
Gorilla Comics mini-series Shockrockets (with
Stuart Immonen) is about to be followed up by another
Gorilla project: Superstar.
We caught up with Kurt and asked him about life,
liberty, and the pursuit of amusement park rides. Please
join us for this interview which has the obligatory Astro
Questions with: Kurt Busiek
1) Kurt, how did you
manage to contact George Perez to work with you at
Gorilla Comics on WESTWIND for Section Zero #6? Did you
have any contact with him before? ;-)
I just kinda dialed numbers at random, and he answered
the phone. Lucky, huh?
I'll say. What is
WESTWIND about, Kurt?
WESTWIND is about Nicholas West, a young, successful
lawyer at a prestigious law firm in San Francisco -- a
rainmaker, in business terms. He likes luxury, likes
success, and likes things under control and
well-managed. But West is also the seventh son of a
seventh son, and born under a caul -- and that gives him
a mystic birthright; the ability to control the weather.
So he's a rainmaker in a whole different way, as well.
And when West comes into his birthright and realizes his
power, all the mystic things of the world that generally
hide from the eyes of normal humans recognize him as
"one of them" -- and stop hiding from him.
Which thrusts him into a wilder, more dangerous, less
controlled and less controllable world -- and he hates
WESTWIND is about how he deals with his new status, how
he copes with a world he wishes doesn't exist, but can't
ignore -- and how he deals with being at the bottom of
the success ladder in a whole new context. It's very
much an urban fantasy, mixing magic and folklore with a
modern, real-world setting, and a story of character,
taking someone who's not really all that nice a guy and
throwing him into the deep end of a confusing and
chaotic world, and seeing how he'll cope with it.
Will this be a new
ongoing series or a mini-series?
So far, it's just the one backup story in SECTION ZERO.
Karl offered us 5 pages to do whatever we wanted with,
so we figured we'd do a WESTWIND story, both to finally
get the concept out there and printed, and to make a
trademark claim, and all that good stuff.
We're hoping readers will like it, and that we'll be
able to do a full-on series at some point. But right
now, it's just the one story.
2) It's become almost
ritual by now to ask you in interviews "What's
happening with Astro City?"... so... What's
happening with Astro City now, Kurt?
[Issue] #23 is written, and in Brent Anderson's hands. I
hope to be writing #24 before the end of the year.
The current "arc" of one-issue stories runs
'til #26, so the plan is to see how steadily I can
produce scripts, now that my health is improving, and
then make a determination after #26 is done as to how
we'll proceed -- whether I'm capable of getting it out
on a regular basis, or if we should do it as a series of
mini-series, or what.
We want to make sure that in any extended arc, people
can count on it coming out regularly, no unpredictable
delays. If that means taking breaks between arcs, that's
a better place for the delays to hit than during arcs.
But right now, with my health in flux, it's hard to tell
what my capabilities will be in the future. So we're
using the rest of this "arc" as a test period
to figure that out.
Well, I hope you feel
3) What's next with the Avengers at Marvel? Alan Davis
is joining you, correct? Will there be any changes in
the team line up?
Alan's working on his
fourth issue already, so we're well ahead of the game.
And it looks great -- Alan's doing a stupendous job, as
is Mark Farmer, and Tom Smith's getting to do his own
color separations now, which'll make the book look even
As for the team line-up -- I don't want to give too much
away, but the changes will be making go quite a bit
deeper than a mere roster change. The Avengers are going
to be facing a different level of threat in the Marvel
Universe, and they're changing their approach to suit
it. We'll be seeing a much broader scope to the stories,
and a lot more heroes, in worldwide action. The Avengers
aren't going to become an army, but they are going to be
considerably more aggressive in dealing with
Alan's run kicks off with a three-parter that sets up
the Avengers' new approach, and involves the Hulk, the
only founding Avenger we haven't used much to date.
After that, we're launching a major epic, something
that'll be as sweeping (and at least as long) as
AVENGERS FOREVER was. Readers have been asking for
something that epic in the regular AVENGERS title, and
we're doing our best to deliver. It'll involve outer
space, Atlantis, Siberia, tons of villains, unexpected
Avengers, a threat to the future, two unlikely (and
unrelated) saviors, a new villain with an old legacy
(and some unsettling connections with at least one of
the active roster), Avengers leaving, Avengers joining,
cataclysmic battles, personal crises and threats to all
of life of Earth on multiple fronts. Nobody's going to
accuse us of taking things easy...
Anyone with a... red
skull showing up? When might we expect a resolution to
the X-Men/Red Skull storyline "Rage Against the
Machine" (Summer 1999) in which the Red Skull took
off with a SHIELD Helicarrier at the end of the
storyline? It seems to me that a glorified Nazi with a
resource like that would be a top Avengers priority...
Well, I wouldn't want to say who we'll be using, but
certainly, the Red Skull in possession of a helicarrier
certainly falls into the "clear and present
danger" category, and I'd figure that one way or
another, someone's got to deal with him. The likeliest
candidates would be Captain America in his solo book, or
4) Can you tell us a
little bit about your stint on MARVEL AGE?
Um... what would you like to know? I was Jim Salicrup's
assistant on the series for just over a year, and then
assistant-edited the next year's annual. I edited
articles, did design and some paste-up, wrote pieces,
did interviews, assigned covers, proofread, gathered
information on upcoming books when the regular guy who
did that couldn't, and generally did my best to get the
magazine out, making a pest of myself to editors who
didn't know what was happening in their books two months
from now, let alone four months down the line.
This was after I had written POWER MAN & IRON FIST
for a year. I wasn't getting enough writing work to pay
the bills, and in the process of looking for more, I met
with Jim. He didn't have any writing work to offer, but
he needed a new assistant, so he offered that. I did the
job freelance, and did some writing for DC at the same
time. It was something of a crash course in production
-- I learned a lot about the physical reality of putting
comics together, something I hadn't had a lot of
experience in before.
A couple of high points: I got to work on the issue that
promoted the launch of X-FACTOR, which kicked off with
the return of Jean Grey, a story that had germinated
from an ideas I'd come up with years ago, as a fan, and
had no idea was actually being used until it all
happened, and I got called a Nazi in print by Mark Waid.
Well, if I had just
outright asked which current comic pro called you a Nazi
in print, would I have gotten the other cool info?
What, you're not going to
ask for the story? You're just going to leave it hanging
like that? Mark'll kill you...
You know, you're probably
right, so ... would you mind filling me in on the
details on how one of the nicest guys I have ever met
could bring himself to call you a Nazi in print? Where
was this so we can all hunt it down at a convention?
5) Speaking of Mark Waid...
what is it like to go on thrill rides in foreign lands
with the man?
We did an issue of MARVEL AGE focusing on Stan Lee, and
I did an interview with Stan for the issue. It was an
article-form interview, not a transcript-form one, so I
summarized a lot of stuff. At one point, I said that
Stan had worked with numerous artists in creating the
Marvel Universe, including Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Gene
Colan and more.
Mark reviewed that issue for AMAZING HEROES and went
medieval on us, excoriating me, along with Jim Salicrup,
the book's editor, for being "good little
Nazis" and following along in Marvel's obvious
corporate policy to deny Jack Kirby any credit; look, he
wasn't even allowed to be listed with a bunch of other
Marvel artists in a puff piece on Stan's history!
The thing was, two paragraphs earlier, I'd mentioned
Jack as the major co-architect of the Marvel Universe.
He'd gotten a paragraph to himself, as the a-number-one
guy, and I'd been careful not to phrase it in any way
that'd imply that all he did was draw the books, since
Kirby's contribution went far beyond drawing. And if
there was a Marvel policy to deny Kirby credit, they'd
never mentioned it to me. But Mark had misread, and
mistook a list of "and here's some of the other
guys" as the only mention of collaborators, and
bitched us out for something we didn't do.
I was furious -- not only was I innocent, but my family
background is half-German, so I didn't take kindly to
being called a Nazi. Jim Salicrup didn't want to bother
with it, but I called AMAZING HEROES and demanded an
apology and a retraction, pointing out that I had
grounds for legal action. Not that I had any _money_ for
legal action, but I had grounds, at least. Shortly
thereafter, I got a call from Mark, who apologized for
the misreading and the Nazi crack, and assured me
there'd be a retraction.
And when there was, it had been written by someone at
Fantagraphics proper, and was the sleaziest sort of
retraction -- something along the lines of, "Well,
yeah, okay, he's not a Nazi and he didn't even fail to
mention Jack, but he works for MARVEL AGE, so he must be
a creep anyway."
And a few years later, after Mark had started working at
DC, I went out to dinner with Gerry Jones and a bunch of
DC folks. In the elevator bay of DC's building, he
walked up to me, stuck out his hand and said, "Hi.
You're Kurt Busiek. I'm Mark Waid. You don't like me
very much." I said, "Well, sieg heil,
Mark," and he dropped to his knees in the lobby and
said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! All right?
And we went off to dinner and have been pals ever since.
But it makes a good story, so I don't let him forget it.
Mark is the perfect, perfect, _perfect_ guy to have
written Wally West and Impulse.
While we were in New Zealand, on our way from Auckland
to Wellington, we stopped off at a resort town called
Lake Taupo, and we literally could not pass any activity
that involved high speed without Mark insisting we stop
and do it. Jet-skiing, para-sailing, go-karts, dry luge
-- dry luge, by the way, is like ice luge, but without
the ice. You luge down a steep concrete track in a very
low, virtually uncontrollable wheeled cart, something
like skateboarding down a concrete roller-coaster on
your back. The only reason anyone was able to beat Mark
was that he didn't like to slow down on the turns, so we
stood a chance of passing him when he wiped out.
But if it was fast, we did it. If it was dangerous, we
did it multiple times. At least Mark got to be the one
that got dunked while para-sailing...
I take it this wasn't
planned? The dunking, I mean...
No -- the boat that was doing the towing had some fuel
line problems, and slowed down to the point where it
couldn't keep him aloft. As luck would have it, he was
having fun on the para-sail, and was upside-down and
facing backward, so he didn't see the boat slowing or
the water rushing toward him. It must have been quite a
6) You know, I'm a weird
person, because when I think of Waid & Busiek, I
don't think "para-sailing" or Gorilla Comics
(we'll get back to that soon enough, though)... I think
Legion of Super-Heroes "End of an Era"... what
do you think of the new direction of the Legion
editorially, storywise, and visually?
I haven't been reading it for some time now. I thought
the reboot was a good idea, but I think they should have
stayed closer to both the spirit and the letter of the
original material -- give it a modern gloss, but don't
change so much that it no longer feels like the same
series. In my case, my emotional attachment is to the
Legion I remember -- for me, that's largely the
Shooter/Swan Legion and the first Levitz run -- but I'd
be happy with an "alternate" version if it
felt reasonably close to the source material. That's
where the rebooted Legion lost me -- it headed off in
its own direction, and it didn't feel like the Legion I
wanted to read about any more. It felt like reading a
continuing WHAT IF that strayed farther and farther from
the stuff I cared about -- that instead of _recapturing_
the spirit of the Legion, which was what I'd understood
to be the purpose of the book, it _negated_ that spirit,
because it rebuilt something else in its place and thus
in DC continuity, that spirit I liked "never
That's not a knock on the creators working on it -- when
I stopped reading it, Tom Peyer and Roger Stern were
writing the books, and I'm a big fan of both of them. I
thought the books were technically well-crafted -- they
were just about strangers who looked a lot like old
friends, but who kept reminding me that they weren't
those old friends.
These days, I don't know what's going on in the books.
The art by Oliver Coipiel looks striking and interesting
-- I don't know how well it serves the stories, since I
haven't read any of them, and it's not my idea of how
the Legion should look, but it's attractive art; I think
he's a fine craftsman. And I wish him, along with Abnett
and Lanning, the best of luck with it -- I hope they can
attract a large audience of readers who enjoy the book,
because I'd like it to do well even if it's not the sort
of thing I want to read.
I'm looking forward to the Alan Davis/Mark Farmer
Elseworlds project, though -- it looks like that'll be
much more in the spirit that I'm interested in.
7) Now, I did promise to
return to Gorilla... with Shockrockets done, I
assume Superstar is next on deck for you. What is
that about and will it be ongoing or will it be another
mini-series like Shockrockets?
We'd like to do a SUPERSTAR mini-series, but we're
kicking off with SUPERSTAR: AS SEEN ON TV, a 48-page
no-ads one-shot. It's about a young superhero who is
dependent on popularity for his power -- the more famous
and loved he is, the more powerful he is and the more
lives he can save, the more good he can do. So he's got
to walk a line between promoting himself as a celebrity
and doing the job -- he needs to be famous enough to
have the power, but he can't let chasing the spotlight
take over his priorities.
Luckily -- or unluckily,
as the case may be -- he's got his father, an
international media magnate, supplying the spotlight,
and trying to capitalize on his son's fame. So
Superstar's got to keep his father in line at the same
time as he needs his support. It's a nice character
dilemma, and I think it's working out pretty well.
SUPERSTAR's an idea I've been messing around with since
high school, and I'm very glad to be getting it down on
paper at last.
Stuart Immonen's doing the art, along with Wade Von
Grawbadger and Jeromy Cox, and it looks gorgeous. Image
has gotten solidly behind it, and I hope retailers and
readers will too -- I'd like to do plenty more with the
Sounds great! Any plans
for another Gorilla project in the works?
Nothing scheduled -- it's hard to plan too far ahead
when you're funding everything yourself. As I said, we'd
like to do a SUPERSTAR mini-series, we'd like to do more
SHOCKROCKETS -- and I wouldn't mind doimng a
SHOCKROCKETS trade paperback at some point -- and we've
talked over other projects, from crime drama to a comic
aimed at girls. But nothing's schedulable or
announceable at present.
8) Usenet. How much do
you enjoy the interaction? Some comic professionals
would shy away from 1000+ post "zombie
threads", but you... you seem to enjoy them to a
I'm a comics fan. I like to talk comics. It's as simple
I mean, I like the feedback on the work I do, but I
could get that just by lurking. But I like to talk to
people about this stuff -- it's enjoyable. Sometimes it
gets exasperating -- there's one mailing list I've quit
twice, in part because there's a guy who can't seem to
post without making the exact same complaints he made in
his last message, ten minutes ago -- but for the most
part, it's fun.
9) Is there an issue of Marvels
that you wish you could have done? This can be in
addition to the issues that were done, and I don't mean
as a sequel... just if it had been a five-issue
It's an awful big jump from #1 to #2. I would have liked
to do an issue set during the giant-monster era, maybe
involving the "Commie-Smasher" Cap, the
smart-ass Venus, Marvel Boy, Sub-Mariner and the
Do you see yourself
following up on those 1950s characters again in the near
future? What attracts you to that era?
10) Do you watch
cartoons? Which ones are your favorites? They can be
current or from days gone by.
At this point, I couldn't say if I'll ever do something
with the Fifties characters -- certainly not as a
MARVELS-implant, though. In the context of the question
you asked before, what attracts me is that it's a long
break between MARVELS #1 and #2, so it'd be nice to fill
the gap. But if I were to do a different, non-MARVELS
project, there's just a lot of stuff I like about that
era. Marvel was doing all kinds of books, from Westerns
to horror to humor to science fiction to superheroes to
monsters and more, Bill Everett was doing his zaniest
stuff ever, there was the Jack Kirby YELLOW CLAW, the
Joe Maneely BLACK KNIGHT ... what's not to like?
I'm not a real big cartoon-watcher -- I spend so much
time writing that I don't have much time left over to
watch TV, and when I do I tend to favor dramas like THE
WEST WING over animated shows.
But I liked BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES a lot...
Is THE WEST WING your
favorite? What do you like about it? (I liked BATMAN:
THE ANIMATED SERIES, too...)
It's easily my favorite current show. I think it's got a
sensational cast, and the dialogue and structure of the
scripts are both just top-notch. It's a smart show that
doesn't apologize for being smart, and it frames stories
around ideas and situations you just don't see on TV.
It's a fresh show; it's not retreading old ground.
11) A lot of your work is
for Marvel Comics and you appear to have a great
affinity for those characters. Hypothetically, what
would you do for the rest of your life if Marvel ever
Depends on what happened to the rest of the comics
industry, I suppose.
The short answer is "Write something else."
I've gotten inquiries about writing novels, screenplays
and TV animation, but haven't pursued them so far
because I'm too busy writing comics. I would like to
scrape aside the time to write that novel , at least --
I've written some prose fiction and enjoy it, and
wouldn't mind doing more at all. Maybe if and when I get
But much as I like Marvel's characters, I'm not wedded
to them -- I usually have projects going on that don't
involve them at all, and I expect I could do fine
What genre would do you
think you'd like to explore if you wrote a novel?
The one I have in mind at the moment is a fantasy novel,
but I'd like to write plenty of different kinds of
stories -- SF, crime, historical adventure, and more.
12) What do you think of
Marvel putting back issues of Ultimate Spider-Man
on their web site? Would you like to see other, older
material up and available to read online? Would you be
interested in writing original material that would be
I think it was a very good idea to put ULTIMATE
SPIDER-MAN on the web-site -- it made the story
available to reads even while the comic was sold out,
and since the purpose of the book was to snag new
readers, reaching 'em any way you can is good.
I wouldn't mind seeing older stuff put up, either --
maybe they could do it in a themed way -- that if, say,
the Molten Man appears in that month's SPIDER-MAN, you
could go to the website and read key Molten Man back
I don't know that I'd be interested in writing
Marvel-owned material that'd be published on the web --
I'd just as soon read (and write) my superheroes on
paper. But I do have a couple of ideas for web-based
strips I'd like to do someday, and have been exploring
ways to do them over the last few years. Haven't found a
way to do it yet that makes economic sense, but I'm
still thinking about it.
13) What is it that you
enjoy the most about comic books? Can that be translated
into other mediums to great effect?
What I like most about 'em as a reader is probably the
characters and the drama, and that can be done in any
medium. But what I like most about comics as a writer is
the dynamic you get in the juxtaposition of text and art
-- the way you can control pace, impact, tone and more
with the way the pictures and words are arranged
graphically. I think the only other medium that does
that well is print advertising, which really isn't
suited to telling an extended story...
On a tangent, what do you
think of product placement in comic books? For instance,
what if the only way to keep Avengers on the
stands would be to force Captain America to wear Nike
I don't care a whole lot about the idea one way or the
other, except that it, like anything else, can be done
well or badly. Captain America wouldn't be the kind of
character who'd endorse Nike, so that would be a bad use
of it. Hawkeye, on the other hand, walking around in his
secret ID wearing a Nike T-shirt and running shoes,
wouldn't be out of character at all, but it wouldn't
really add anything creatively.
So ultimately, I'd say that when done well it's neutral
and when done badly it's harmful. There doesn't seem to
be a creative upside.
But it's an economic argument, and I suppose on that
score, I wouldn't gripe about it unless it was done
badly. If we saw Jarvis in the kitchen getting a
delivery of meat from Boar's Head, then if that makes
the book possible, I don't care. If they told me to
change the plot to accommodate a scene with Jarvis
getting a delivery from Boar's Head, I'd be annoyed. If
they told me to change the plot to show Captain America
in a Nike T-shirt, I'd quit.
That's where I draw the line, I guess -- not on a moral
point, but on a craft point.
14) To date, what do you
think has been your best career move?
Probably it was right after getting a very large royalty
check for MARVELS and having to decide whether to pay
off the mortgage or fund this new ASTRO CITY series I
wanted to do. My wife and I decided to go ahead and do
ASTRO CITY -- less financial security, but more of doing
the kind of thing I wanted to do, and damn the torpedos.
And while it was a worrying choice to make, it sure
worked out -- MARVELS was the project that made my name
known, but ASTRO CITY was the project that said,
"Yeah, but he can do it more than once!" It
was after ASTRO CITY that the phone really started to
I'd say that was a pretty
savvy move. Which Astro City character do you
most relate with?
More and more, the father from vol. 2 #1. I'm not
divorced, but as of next year, I'll be the father of two
15) Is there an artist
that you'd like to someday work with that you haven't
had the opportunity to work with to date?
There are plenty, though I've recently gotten to work
with Jerry Ordway, John Romita, Jr. and Alan Davis, and
I've got a project in the works with Steve Rude, and all
of them would've been on that list. But I'd love to work
with Bruce Timm, Lee Weeks, Ron Garney, Dave Gibbons,
Greg Capullo and plenty more...
Past or present, who are
some of the writers that you've enjoyed reading?
From my formative years, I'm a huge fan of Steve
Englehart, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin ... and Milton
Caniff, who did TERRY AND THE PIRATES, the best comic
strip of all time (followed closely by Caniff's other
major strip, STEVE CANYON). In more recent years, I've
been a fan of Neil Gaiman, Paul Grist, Stan Sakai, my
ape-brothers Waid and Kesel, Chuck Dixon, Erik Larsen,
Frank Miller, Garth Ennis, Dylan Horrocks, Linda Medley,
Rumiko Takahashi, and the usual many more.
16) Ok... Acclaim. Ninjak.
Looking back, would you do it again? What did you like
about it or dislike about it?
From a pragmatic standpoint, I'd be smart to say I
wouldn't do it again -- barely anyone read it, there was
enormous resistance to the Acclaim launch at all,
Valiant fans were incensed that we were changing the
characters -- and that I was turning Ninjak into someone
"silly" -- and the editorial experience, aside
from dealing with Fabian, was frustrating. But
everything else was a blast -- it's always fun to work
with Neil Vokes, Fabian was supportive as hell, and it
was nice to take a swing at creating a new universe,
even if we were doomed from the start.
I also think our Ninjak would make a great movie
set-up -- and it was almost sold to the movies twice, so
Neil and I got tantalized with the possibility of our
Ninjak being played by Jackie Chan or Jet Li -- so if
I'd been really smart, I'd have kept the concept to
myself instead of doing it under a work-for-hire deal.
But heck, life's too short. The bottom line is, we had a
good time making some fun comics, so I don't regret it.
And I think anyone who enjoyed my run on UNTOLD TALES OF
SPIDER-MAN would have a good time reading it, so if that
description fits anyone out there reading this, and you
haven't tried NINJAK -- hey, the back issues are out
there for really, really cheap...
What I liked about it most was the energy -- the sense
of enjoyment and creativity that the VH-2 creators had.
That, and co-creating a character named Kraniak. What I
liked least about it was the way so many retailers and
readers didn't even try the books. If they had, it all
might still be going, because there was some real good
stuff in there.
I have nothing to add. I
just wanted to say the word "Ninjak."
17) Where did you
come up with the idea for Thunderbolts?
There are two beginnings there, essentially.
The first came during a long late-night car drive -- one
of the things I do to keep my mind active is mentally
"assign" myself some book or other, and try to
come up with ideas for it. On this particular car trip,
sometime in the mid-Eighties, I "assigned"
myself AVENGERS, and started playing around with ideas
One of my favorite Avengers teams is "Cap's Kooky
Quartet," from the Stan Lee/Don Heck days, when Cap
was leading a team of three ex-villains -- Hawkeye,
Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. In thinking about
that period, I started to wonder just what would have
happened if any or all of those three hadn't really
reformed, but was joining the Avengers under false
pretenses. And that triggered an idea for my
hypothetical AVENGERS run -- what if, over the course of
a year, existing heroes were cycled out, and brand-new
heroes were cycled in, until at the end of the year, the
team consists of Captain America (or maybe Hawkeye) and
a squad of what seems to be entirely-new characters? And
that's when the reader discovers that they're the
Masters of Evil in disguise, and it's all a plot to take
over the Avengers and use their security status to take
over the world?
That struck me as a fun, if impractical idea -- if it
was ever implement, how long would the readership stand
for seeing their favorite heroes pushed out in favor of
characters that they thought I made up? But it wasn't
like I was ever going to be given AVENGERS, right? So I
mentally filed the idea away, and that was that.
And then, years later, while I was working on
UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN, Onslaught happened, and the
core Marvel heroes were shuttled off to the Heroes
Reborn program. I was invited to attend a Marvel
creators' conference, to discuss what to do with the
Marvel U. post-Onslaught. I wasn't really looking for
more Marvel work at the time, and wasn't planning to
pitch anything, but as the conference approached, I
started thinking about the situation from the point of
view of the average Marvel citizen -- all their most
trusted heroes are gone, and the major guys left are
mostly scary or distrusted. They'd be desperate for
reassurance, desperate for heroes.
So what would happen, I wondered, if my old AVENGERS
idea played out without it being the Avengers? If a new
super-team showed up, claiming to be the guys stepping
up to the plate in the absence of the Avengers and the
FF? The public would embrace them -- they'd be so
pleased that _somebody_ was there to do the job, they'd
practically throw parades for these guys. And if the new
heroes were actually the Masters of Evil...
So I called Tom Brevoort and ran the idea past him. He
liked it, so at the conference, we braced Bob Harras in
the bar and pitched the idea at him. He heard it, was
quiet for about 15 seconds, and then said, "Great.
Let's do it."
So that's where it all came from.
Did you think he'd [Bob
Harras] ever go for it at first?
Sure. I thought it was a pretty strong idea with a good
solid hook, it did what I thought Marvel was really
looking for -- it made something positive out of the
loss of the core heroes -- and Tom thought it'd fly, and
he was there in the office every day, so he had a good
sense of these things.
I didn't think it was a lock or anything, but I thought
we had a good chance.
18) Looking back, is
there any story that you wish you could remove from the
collective memory that you wrote? Is there a story that
you wrote that you wish more people could have had the
chance to read?
There's certainly stuff I've written that I'm less
than proud of -- the SPIDER-MAN/X-FACTOR mini-series
comes to mind, and there was an Arsenal story I did in
DC SHOWCASE that just fell completely flat -- but
nothing I'd erase from people's memories. That's just
how it goes, so why be ashamed?
As far as stuff that I wish more people could have read,
we talked about NINJAK earlier, and there was an 8-page
Iron Man story I did with James Fry and Karl Kesel that
saw print in a MARVEL SUPER HEROES quarterly special
that I thought was nice work and I wish it had been seen
by more people. And REGULATORS, which I did for Jim
Valentino at Image, was supposed to be a 6-issue story,
but sales were so bad only three issues got published --
I think the published issues had some of my strongest
character writing, but it was virtually unseen.
And then there's SILVER STAR, which I'd love to get
fully into print in some form or other, but that's not
quite the same thing...
Whoa, whoa... hold on,
Kurt. SILVER STAR? What is SILVER STAR?
Silver Star is a Jack Kirby character, originally done
as a mini-series for Pacific. Back when I was writing
for the Topps Kirbyverse, I started two mini-series that
were never completed, VICTORY and SILVER STAR, both of
which got one issue published before the line collapsed.
VICTORY was a crossover, bringing together all the
established Kirbyverse characters and reintroducing
Captain Victory -- and the outline for it will be
published in the next Jack Kirby Collector -- but SILVER
STAR was a standalone project, one that was completely
plotted and mostly scripted. I had a lot of fun doing
it, and it would be nice to find a way to get the
project either finished or redone someday.
19) Can we assume you had
the opportunity over the years to meet Jack Kirby? Are
there any Golden Age or Silver Age creators that you
wish you could have met that are no longer around? Is
there anyone that's you'd like to meet, but haven't had
the opportunity to do so as of yet?
I met Kirby a couple of times, and talked to him over
the phone once, when I was doing the VICTORY
mini-series. I would have loved to meet Don Heck, and
wish I'd had the chance to work with Frank Robbins at
least once. As for meeting guys who are still around,
I've been pretty lucky in that respect -- I never
thought John Broome or Nick Cardy would do conventions,
but they did, as, it seems, have a ton of other comics
creators. So no names are coming to mind right now --
heck, I even had a brief conversation with Steve Ditko
once -- but I expect the next time Mark Evanier puts an
obit up on the web, I'll be thinking, "Damn -- what
a shame. I wish I'd had the chance to meet him..."
Are there any new writers
that strike your fancy?
20) What advice would you
give to an aspiring comic book writer? What pitfalls are
I don't know how "new" they are, but I'm a big
fan of Rachel Hartman's AMY UNBOUNDED stories. Like a
lot of people, I was amazed by GOODBYE, CHUNKY RICE, by
Craig Thompson. And Dylan Horrocks, who'll be
"new" to a lot of mainstream readers as of
NAMES OF MAGIC, is also terrific -- I can't recommend
HICKSVILLE highly enough.
I probably don't see as many new creators as I might --
I read so many books, both new books I follow, and
research reading of old comics, that I don't have that
much spare time, and thus don't do all that much adding
to my reading list. But I try to keep my ears open, and
when I hear something a lot of people are excited about,
I'll look it up.
Most aspiring comic book writers are looking for advice
on how to break in, not advice on how to write, but I'll
give it anyway: Learn to write. Keep learning. You'll
never be finished learning -- that's part of what makes
it so much fun.
Write for yourself, write for your friends, practice
like hell -- nothing will give you better practice than
writing stories. And finish them, no matter how lousy
you think they are -- if all you do is write beginning
after beginning and then give up, you may polish your
skills at openings, but you won't know what to do next.
And don't saddle yourself with rules -- there are
"rules" in writing, but they're all rules of
thumb, and if you try to follow someone else's system,
you'll never find out how to write your way, the way
that works best for you. So experiment, try lots of
different things, and see what works and what doesn't --
what you'll wind up with will be different from what
anyone else does.
That's not to say you shouldn't study -- both study
comics written by writers you admire, to see how they
handle exposition, pacing, transitions, introductions,
recaps, characterization, action, whatever; and study
the form and the craft of writing more generally. Just
don't feel bound by any of it -- what you're getting
from other sources is ideas you can play with, not rules
you have to follow. Some good books to read include
UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud, ADVENTURES IN THE
SCREEN TRADE by William Goldman, TELLING LIES FOR FUN
AND PROFIT by Lawrence Block, CHARACTER AND VIEWPOINT by
Orson Scott Card and STORY by Robert McKee.
And once you're trying to break in, the best advice I
can give is to follow the publishers' rules for
submissions. Write in and ask for a copy of their
submission guidelines, and follow them. Of course, if
you've just saved an editor from drowning, feel free to
presume on the debt, but for most people what you've got
to do is show editors samples they'll be impressed with,
and for all that the submission procedure is designed to
make it easier to reject you without spending too much
time on it, it's still the only consistent open door
there is, even if it's kind of shabby and not very open.
It may seem unfair that some big-name pro's gardener
gets a writing gig, and you're still wrestling with the
submissions editor, but keep two things in mind. First,
nobody ever said it would be fair -- it's a business,
not a sport, and publishers are out to put out comics
that'll sell rather than to create a level paying field
for aspirants. Second, all that guy got out of his
having a better personal contact than you do is that his
samples got to the desk of someone who could say yes
more directly -- the samples still had to prove he could
do the job, just like yours have to. So don't worry too
much about who else is getting what breaks -- there will
always be someone who has an easier time. Instead, just
make your work the best it can be and keep plugging away
at any opportunity that presents itself.
And study the market, as well -- if you're a freelancer,
you're a small businessman, and you've got to wear your
business hat as well as your creator's hat. It won't do
you any good to submit plot samples for X-MEN
maxi-series -- when was the last time you saw an X-MEN
maxi-series written by a newcomer? I broke in at DC by
writing backup stories, back when they regularly
published backup stories and needed people to write and
draw them -- specifically, I broke in on "Tales of
the Green Lantern Corps," which was a great
new-writer vehicle, because it didn't have a regular
creative team attached to it. And I broke in at Marvel
by submitting a fill-in for a book that didn't have a
regular writer. In both cases, I focused my attention on
the places where the editors _needed_ writers, not
simply on the books I _wanted_ to write. You may have
the greatest idea ever for a CAPTAIN AMERICA story, but
if they're full up on Cap writers, it won't do you any
good. Conversely, if they need someone to write AQUABABY
8-pagers, that's an opportunity. Look for what they
need, and where it overlaps with what you think you can
do well. That's the open door.
As for what pitfalls are unavoidable? I have no idea --
I probably stumbled into all of 'em, without seeing them
ahead of time, or even afterward. Just don't say, in
your first editorial conference with an editor who's
hired you, "You know, some day you're going to
leave [title of book editor is writing] -- and I'm going
to get to write it!" Speaking from experience, they
don't react well...
Heh. Imagine that. Is
there anything you'd like to say to your fans?
I'm grateful to everyone who reads my work -- that's
what makes it so I get to keep doing it, after all...!
Kurt, you've been a
scholar and a gentleman. Thank you for letting us turn
your brain to Slush!