Interview: Kurt Busiek on Returning to ASTRO CITY

Astro City returns, along with the original crew of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson. After some time off due to illness, Busiek takes us back to the city of heroes in June. As always, he’s one of the sharpest guys in comics, and we’re thrilled to have him answer a few of our questions.

Astro-City-1-2013iFanboy: Is there ever any learning curve to slipping back into Astro City after time away? Or is it always on your mind?

Kurt Busiek: I didn’t have as much time away as you might imagine — even while I was sick, we still kept working on ASTRO CITY, just more slowly. We’ve been stacking up issues so we’ll have plenty of lead time when the series starts coming out again.

There was a period of about 6-7 months where I couldn’t do any writing at all, because I was doped up on pain pills that left me too fuzzy-headed to write a shopping list, much less a story. But once I got the chemicals out of my system, the ability to write came back pretty smoothly. The hardest part was that I was in the middle of a multi-parter at that point, and finding my way back into the rhythms of that particular story took a little doing, a little playing around until I found the right groove. But there’s a kind of fun in that, too.

iF: Are there any particular characters who you’re excited to get back to?

KB: It’s exciting to get to write some stories of the “new” Confessor, or to finally get to tell Winged Victory’s origin, which I’ve known for close to 20 years now, but haven’t had a chance to share with readers. It was originally going to be in #6, along with Samaritan’s origin, but there just wasn’t enough room. So it had to wait…and wait…

But there’s also a ton of fun in finally getting to ideas that you the reader never knew anything about, like starting to delve into the secret history behind the Broken Man, or introducing the Silver Adept. Or the story behind one of Honor Guard’s greatest foes, and why he’s so determined to crush Honor Guard. Or the story set in the suburbs of an alien planet, or the secret government agency that fought the Great Old Ones in the 1920s, or… well, it’s a long list.

iF: Do you feel like there are different things you want to say about the superhero genre now than you did 18 years ago?

I don’t think of it as saying things  about the superhero genre so much as saying things _with_ the superhero genre. What’s fascinated me, from the start, is the question of what else you can do with superhero stories, beyond the action-adventure we normally associate with it.

And I certainly hope there are more things I want to say with it, both stories I’ve wanted to tell for years and new ideas I had last week. I’m a different person than I was in 1995 — I’m now a father, and my kids are in middle school, so I’ve had a lot of reasons to think about the world differently. Heck, Brent’s son was born just as we got started with the series, and now he’s headed to college. The world changes around us, and it changes our perceptions. That comes up, a little, in our new first issue, when we see Ben Pullam, the single father of two girls who came to the city back in vol. 2 #1, who’s now facing an empty nest, as his girls have grown up and left home. Plus, of course, there’s an alien invasion of sorts, to keep things lively.

But yeah, there’s change, there’s always change. It’s still a thrill to get pages in from Brent, to get covers in from Alex, because they’re both doing wonderful stuff. But like me, they’ve been through 18 years of experience, too, so there’s a different feel to it all, a different look, and the things we’re driven to do have a slightly different spin to them. Back when we started, there was nothing like Astro City on the stands, but since then there’ve been a lot of books that take an internal, reflective approach, or explore what it’s like to live in this kind of world. I like to think we’ve had some influence on the industry (though certainly it ain’t all us!), but it means we’re telling stories now in a different world, where Astro City isn’t as different as it once was. So we’re eager to see what else we can do, how we can make it all different still, and surprise people again the way we did in the early days.

iF: How far did the original road map for Astro City extend, and how does that compare to your long term plans now?

Heh. Don’t assume that original road map was linear!

Silveragent2Some of my earliest notes for stories are still there in my files, waiting for us to get there. So that original map extended a lot further than we’ve reached. But at the same time, we drove around and explored a lot of ideas we came up with along the way. So I guess there’s no road map in the sense of having a destination and having places to get to along the way. It’s more like a big open territory, and we wander around within, seeing the sights and what there is to explore. And sometimes that leads us to somewhere we wanted to go in the first place and other times we make new discoveries that lead to things we hadn’t considered.

And along the way, we get to build up things like the story of the Silver Agent, which gave us a kind of running background structure — a loose structure, but a structure — to the series as it’s existed so far. We’re starting a new one now, with the mystery of the Broken Man, but it’s similarly loose, and allows for lots of wandering around and making discoveries.

The map just gets bigger, but I don’t think we’ll ever get all of it covered. It grows faster than we can drive…

iF: What is it that sets Astro City apart? Both in your own work and in the full catalog of superhero worlds?

I don’t know that I’m the guy to answer that. I’m too far on the inside, so I just don’t see it the same way most others do.

For my own work, I guess, it’s the biggest, most complex and sprawling tapestry I’ve ever been able to play with that I don’t have to share with other writers. Series like Arrowsmith and Shockrockets have a tighter focus; it’s a blast to build those worlds, but they’re built to support a particular kind of story, a particular linear development. Astro City is built to go all over the place, to let me go in any direction I want for a while, and then head off in another direction in the next arc. Compared to other superhero worlds, well, there’s probably something to that, too — Astro City is as sprawling and complex as other worlds, but it’s got a particular set of visions — mine, Brent’s, Alex’s — that keep it feeling coherent, purposeful, in a way that maybe Marvel and DC don’t, when you try to take them all at once. And I think we’ve been lucky to work with John Roshell and Comicraft for the whole run, and Alex Sinclair for most of it — it means we’ve got a unity of vision that extends throughout the series, more consistently that any shared universe could.

But I’m just kind of guessing, there — if you asked readers, they might say something else entirely. And since they’re the ones we’re telling the stories to, I think it’s their reaction that really counts.

We want to think Kurt Busiek for taking the time to answer our questions so conscientiously. Astro City is a big favorite around here, and we’re very excited that the creative team will get a chance to keep going.


  1. I’ve read a couple random Astro City trades that were available at my library and I really liked them. I look forward to trying these ones out.

  2. Astro City 1/2: “The Nearness of You.” On my list of all-time best single issues in comic history, this is in the Top Three. We’ve seen this kind of ending in other media before, but no other story gets you there like this one. You don’t even have to read or like superheroes to feel the emotional impact Busiek hits you with on every page. Combined with Brent Anderson’s art, AC 1/2 is a short and bittersweet tale that begs to be read over and over and over.

  3. Wrkngclasshero (@joinedtofollow) says:

    Sounds intersting. How about an “Astro City: Where Do I Start” for the uninitiated?

  4. Omnibuses please!

  5. I’m not a fan of Brent Anderson’s work. It’s just a style that isn’t my cup of tea. That said I just can’t get enough of Astro City. The world is so vast and intricate and the stories have such an emotional and personal feel to them. Can’t recommend it enough.

  6. I am very excited to have a monthly Astro City again. I think this work has been some of the best comics in the last 30 years.

  7. I checked out in the middle of the seemingly never-ending Dark Ages arc, but I will happily return to Astro City. Those original 6 issues are damn near perfect.

  8. I’m excited for this. Astro City is one of the comics I’ve come to love thanks to iFanboy and I’m glad there’s more coming.

  9. Love me some Astro City. Busiek is the man. Glad to hear he’s on the mend and we got more AC to look forward to.

  10. One thing I always appreciated is the extra work the AC team did for the collected editions. Both the hardcover and softcovers had all new covers by Alex Ross. Introductions and a lot of extra material. Beautiful looking books. I have all the hardcovers except the very hard to find low print run of the Confession hardcover. Maybe with this new series DC will consider a new printing.